Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder Report - Part Two

Continued from Part One which can be found HERE.

We blasted out of the starting gate into the crisp Sunday morning air with a couple hundred other screaming Mudders.

Braveheart Charge - I like this one better when you charge downhill. In NorCal it was an uphill and usually within a few minutes the wild, screaming hoard turns into a walking, panting mess. Downhill feels more untamed and sadly, if you lose too much control and are not careful you could turn an ankle and end your run before it even started. Ramon and I stripped off our garbage bags and we ran into our first snow cannon of the day. The air temp was in the low 50's (F) so all that was being spewed from the snow cannon was a cool mist that chilled to the bone. Now we were awake.
After a long uphill run came the first...

Berlin Wall - Ramon and I both remarked how this wall seemed higher than all the previous Mudders we had completed. Not sure if that is an accurate statement but it sure seemed that way. Now, you can have other Mudders help you over the wall or you can use the strategically placed block that is bolted into the wall just below waist height to get a foothold and boost yourself over. Ramon went first and used the block and vaulted himself over. Without using the block I jumped as high as I could and grabbed the top of the wall and pulled myself over. We both repeated the same process for the second wall.
I have one note of caution/advice for future Mudders out there when taking on this obstacle. When you reach the top of the wall with some assistance from a friend or stranger be aware of your flailing legs please. I've seen too many selfless Mudders get a face full of feet for their act of kindness. Check out the pic below of some poor sucker's rearranged face.

We then ran another downhill, which are bittersweet because it usually means another torturous uphill is just around the corner. Since the start of the run I had been struggling with my cargo shorts and my Vale Tudo shorts underneath. Both were determined to slide down just far enough to give the fine people of Virginia an eyefull of my untanned ass. While I ran down the steep slope I held out my left arm for balance while my right hand was firmly clamped onto my waist band. It was all I could do to keep my shorts from falling down around my ankles. Near the middle of the hill I heard "Nice plumber's crack!". I turned around to see a smiling Marine running behind me. I laughed. Immediately I spotted a discarded long sleeved compression shirt on the ground and with Ramon's help fashioned it into a lovely makeshift belt. Problem solved.
At the bottom of the hill we made a hairpin turn and ran into...

Bale Bonds - A few rows of huge cylindrical hay bales separated by mud and all being doused by another snow cannon. Not a very difficult obstacle, but a fun one. This was followed by another crazy ascent up the mountain that was broken up by...

Devil's Beard - This is a tightly strung nylon cargo net that is bolted into the ground that you have to crawl under. Easy enough. It's always helpful when other Mudders stand by the start and finish of this obstacle and hold the net up for easier navigation like my man shown below...

Hold Your Wood - It was right around this obstacle that I noticed I was nervous. My hands and legs were shaking like I had just drank a pot of coffee. My stomach had butterflies and I wasn't sure why. For this one we each grabbed our own logs and walked a good distance over some rolling hills. The lap was punctuated by one of those pesky snow cannons again. The mist was building up a fair amount of mud which made the walk a little more dangerous.

Funky Monkey - The infamous monkey bars over cold water obstacle. Ramon and I are both undefeated with this obstacle and planned to stay that way. This one is tricky. Each of the rungs tend to spin a bit so you have to make sure you have a good solid grip before proceeding to the next rung. Act like Tarzan and move too fast on this one and you're getting wet. I've heard of many big injuries here when people fall into the shallow water and break parts of themselves. For that reason I never approach this obstacle overconfident. But alas, today was again our day. We agilely defeated Funky Monkey again. The record stands at 5-0.
There was one new development that we saw with this obstacle that I have to applaud. There have been some people who take this on by climbing on top of the rungs and crawling up and over to the other side. Well, Big Mudder was watching and this morning we saw a TM worker with a staple gun and barbed wire creating a barrier that prevented any sneaky Mudders from taking the easy way out. Nicely done Big Mudder.
Another bit of advice for future Mudders; don't wear gloves on this one. They are usually wet and slick with mud which make it harder to get a good grip. What I have found works best is when you spit on your bare hands and rub them together vigorously to create that tacky, stickiness. It's never let me down.

Twinkle Toes - After a long trail run came this one. F'n Twinkle Toes. The balance beam over muddy water. Did I ever mention how much I hate F'n Twinkle Toes? Not sure what my record on this one is but I'm pretty sure I've failed more times than I've succeeded. My nervousness was really kicking in here and my legs began to quiver as I approached the beam. There wasn't a huge backup here so it was pretty much one person at a time. It can get tricky when you have more than one person per beam. The wobbles can get nasty. I tried the slow and steady method and felt fine till about the midway point. Then the beam and I got the wobbles. Without turning my head I shouted over to Ramon on the other beam. "How's it goin' over there?!". He said all was well just as things for me started to become unwell. I crouched down as the wobbles got worse. Then, I did the biggest pussy move ever. I sat down on the beam, straddled it and inched my way across to the other side. I really hate admitting that. I should have just toughed it out and either gone for broke or taken a mud bath like a man. It's the second time I have used that method on Twinkle Toes and I vow that it will be the last. Ramon made it across bone dry like a champ.

Cherynoble Jacuzzi - This was it. If you've ever been through this one then you know. It's the worst. It's a dumpster filled with ice, water and red or green dye and more ice. It's not just the cold that gets you, it's the aching pain your muscles feel when you enter this. It's like your body knows this type of environment you've voluntarily thrown it into is wrong and violently fights back in protest. I talked to Will, the founder of Tough Mudder about this and he described the feeling perfectly. He said, "It's like a brain freeze, but over your entire body." Pretty sure this picture below captures the feeling accurately...

Another pat on Big Mudder's back here is the way they "fixed" this one. I did an earlier version of this obstacle (which you can read about HERE) where we were to eat a hot pepper and jump into the dyed dumpster water and then jump out. Besides the hot pepper nearly killing me it was easy as cake. I first experienced the newly mutated version of Cherynoble at NorCal where there seemed to be more ice than water and, to prevent you from wading across the water submerged only up to your chest, they bolted a wooden barrier adorned with barbed wire across the midway point which forces you to get completely submerged. What NorCal had that Virginia didn't was a team of volunteer Marines busting your chops while you were suffering. Love that.
We approached the obstacle like dead men walking. The butterflies in my stomach were in a frenzy. Ramon and I climbed up the side and stood on the edge of the dumpster and shared some funny words with the volunteer workers who were using a big old bulldozer to dump the ice into our jacuzzi. Ramon looked at me, "You go first." he said. The dumpster is just wide enough for two people to go at the same time so I figured he wanted me to go first for safety reasons and that he would be right by my side as soon as I got situated. The shock of hitting the water was as expected. Pain. The goal was to move as fast as possible. I ducked under the wooden barrier and found something strange when I popped out the other side. The (at least) two foot thick layer of ice on top of the water created an unexpected barrier between me and the surface world. It wasn't deadly or dangerous or anything like that, just unexpected. My head slammed into the ice and broke through. Amid screams I scampered for the side and and hoisted myself out and onto the ladder and then turned immediately to offer a helping hand to my partner Ramon who was no doubt feeling the same pain as me. I looked across the dumpster and my good buddy was still perched on the opposite end of the dumpster like a giggling little prima donna. What the fuck?! "GO!" I yelled. This made Ramon laugh harder. He was trying to ask me something while standing there bone dry but I guess the sight of me and his fit of laughter made it hard for him to talk. The bitter cold was making the adrenaline surge through my veins and my patience was non-existent at this point. I didn't have a mirror with me but if I did I'm sure I would have been reminded of Bill Bixby from the great 1970's TV show when the iris's in his eyes switched to white right before going into Hulk mode.

With a primal scream which even shocked myself I silenced my laughing friend, "JUST FUCKING GO!!!!!" Looking like he had been hit with a cattle prod, Ramon jumped into the jacuzzi and the results were the same as mine. Screams and four-letter words filled the air.
As we were leaving Cherynoble I had noticed my butterflies were now gone and my nervous shakes were no more. Was this what I was worried about? Not sure if I'll ever know. We both made our way to the next obstacle sharing the heartiest laughs of the day.

After a quick cargo net climb a heat shield was offered and declined. It's amazing how invigorating an ice bath can make you. All the exhaustion from the previous hill climbs seemed to disappear. Next came another hill climb, and then...

Greased Lightning - I always thought this was pure fun. Just a big old water slide. What's strange is that I've heard of many injuries stemming from this one. Hell, at the very first Tough Mudder in 2010 they had to shut this one down because people were getting jacked up. My wife shot this pic of some unlucky Joe who had the back of his head opened up for him after playing on the Mudder's version of a Slip-N-Slide...

In another case, one of my earliest childhood buddies contacted me and told me he was planning on doing the Vermont Tough Mudder this year. I told him to call me when he had finished and to no doubt tell me how much he loved it. After waiting until nightfall and still hearing nothing I texted my friend to see how everything went. I received a text that read, "leaving emrgcy room now, call u soon.". We later spoke and he told me how he gathered up too much speed and careened wildly off the side, completely missing the pool at the bottom. He tumbled end over end down the ski slope and dislocated his shoulder.
No such drama for Ramon and myself here today. Once again, fun-fun-fun. Just look at us silly kids...

Boa Constrictor - This one is one of those that went from worst-to-first. The early versions of this were a joke. Crawl through a tube. Big deal. Set the same tube on an angle, fill tube with mud and sharp rocks, have tube spill out into cold water followed by another tube and you have a completely different animal. This day's version wasn't that bad though. They spared us by not having so many sharp rocks in the tube (as (not) seen below)...

Underwater Tunnels - Kind of like an above ground pool full of filthy water straddled with logs and barbed wire that you have to duck under. Fairly easy. Just another excuse to keep you cold and wet. Here we are exiting this one...

As a bonus, here's one of Satan's children that did this obstacle as well...

Death March - This one was official. Not like there weren't about a dozen other "death marches" on the course, this was the real thing. It's just plain tough. Every now and then I would walk backwards to alleviate the stress on my calf muscles but it hardly worked. Making my way up this one was a bitch. Check the ball of energy below...

Kiss of Mud - Your standard belly crawl in the mud under barbed wire. Trenches were carved into the ground by all the previous Mudders. If you aren't properly hydrated this is one of the obstacles where cramping will occur. Ramon made it through easily but I (like an idiot) got my makeshift belt hung up on a barb and couldn't free myself. With the help of a fellow Mudder I was good to go.

After a long run we came upon "Tired Yet?" which is a field of car tires laying on their sides which you have to hop across like an old school football drill. Easy enough, but if you are already exhausted it's less quick hopping and more big stepping. Then came "Log Jammin'", "Bale Bonds" (the official version) and "Berlin Walls" (part 2). Each of these are one of the up-and-over type obstacles which again, are easy enough but contribute to your overall exhaustion. Another run uphill brought us to the...

Mystery Obstacle - We approached the top of the hill and there was a watering station that was blasting some tunes. As if on cue the kick-ass song "Jessie's Girl" by the immortal Rick Springfield came on as we rounded the corner and caught a glimpse of the strange construction. The sight, coupled with the music created quite a surreal scene to say the least. I happily sung along with Mr. Springfield as I went to get doused with water by the TM worker holding the hose (seen below)...

We were instructed to climb the ladders and lift the black flaps. When we saw a light we were supposed to count to three and then go. Huh? After lifting the black plastic flap and looked down. With a small amount of sunlight that was peeking in the bottom which was mixed with smoke I could see about a 4-6 foot vertical drop. At the bottom was a tight transition that looked like it would eject you down the mountain. Now heights don't scare me but this drop straight down gave me pause. I hesitated for a beat, and then jumped feet first making sure to hold my hands out in front of myself so as not to whack my head against the opposite side of the chute. I spilled out onto the black tarp through a cloud of smoke. Here is what the exit looks like...

I turned and looked for Ramon and saw nothing. Around five seconds later he came flying out laughing. We talked about how we were both hesitant of that first drop straight down. Another good one Tough Mudder.

Next came "Kinky Tunnels" which was a plywood constructed series of zig-zagging tunnels which are probably really tough if you are claustrophobic. I'm not, and they weren't. Next was a clever obstacle with an even cleverer name called "Shake and Bake". First we were to take a dip in some muddy water and then military crawl under some barbed wire across a field of sand. We emerged from this obstacle looking crispy-coated. Funny stuff. I grew concerned about being covered with sand and having to run. If you've ever run a considerable distance I'm sure you know about chafing. Sand can only make things worse. Not to worry though, because next up was...

Turd's Nest - This gets my vote for the day's "most improved". Basically it's a cargo net strewn across two platforms that you have to go across. No big deal, I've done it before. This time Big Mudder added an antagonizing Marine holding a water cannon who would blast you in the face while you tried to make it to the other side. Funny stuff. This one was great but I'm not sure the poor guy/girl below thinks so...

Everest - This is the one that typifies true Tough Mudder camaraderie. It's basically a skateboard 1/4 pipe that you need a running start to run up and either grab the lip or an outstretched hand of another Mudder to help you up onto the deck. The other way is to create a human ladder like shown in the picture below (which is my favorite shot of the day for obvious reasons)...

I got into a crouched stance and spotted a helpful Mudder on the top deck and pointed at him. He pointed back and it was go time. I ran, jumped up, grabbed the lip and the hand of the helpful Mudder and was up with no problem. I thanked the guy who happened to be with Chris and the crew who were the guys blasting the Rollins Band who parked next to us earlier that morning (which I wrote about in part one). I then turned and lay down on the deck and reached out to help Ramon and other Mudders make it to the top. Ramon failed on his first try but blasted up and over on his second. Then came the one guy who just couldn't make it up. We kept reaching for him and shouting words of advice and encouragement but with each failure you could see the exhaustion on his face. Me, Ramon and the guys around me weren't going anywhere. We would stay there all day until this exhausted knucklehead made it to the top. Eventually we devised a way that our legs were anchored by other Mudders so that we could get more of a lean and longer reach over the side. The dude grabbed onto or hands which caused the surrounding crowds to erupt in applause. The stranger thanked us and we told him that he wasn't going anywhere. "You lay your ass down and pay it forward." He smiled and started helping other Mudders up the obstacle.
If I could take a moment to rant (not like this isn't long enough as it is) I would like to say a few words about the Tough Mudders who fly through the course with a time of 1 hour and 50 minutes or less. I really applaud your physical prowess and all, but there is no way you are doing any of the shit I just wrote about. I kind of feel sad for you really. To me, it's moments like this that make me love Tough Mudder as much as I do. I assume your motives are more self centered, which I guess is fine. Seems shallow to me though. That's it, rant over.

Firewalker - The iconic run through flaming bales of hay. Depending on the wind (or lack thereof) this can be a breeze or very dangerous. Today the smoke was thick as pea soup and had me choking from the burning sensation in my throat and lungs. Ramon had to use the assistance of a fireman standing nearby telling him which way to go because he nearly ran straight into a wall of fire. Toughest version of this I have ever faced right there.

Electroshock Therapy - The last obstacle. I was there in Jersey for the first version of this and a lot has changed since then. You are now doused with water before entering the field of electrically charged dangling wires. The ground is slick with mud and littered with hay bales to prevent you from running through this as fast as possible. Take your medicine like a big boy. Ramon and I went through getting blasted three times each. When people ask me what it feels like I usually say that it is akin to being stung by a wasp or a hornet. It sucks.

We crossed the finish in around 3 and a half hours and collected our orange headbands, tshirt and complimentary beer. We both decided to go to the car and get changed and come back to enjoy the post-run party. After using the outdoor hoses provided to wash off the mud we made the slow walk to Ramon's car. I was a little self conscious as I was stripped down to my wet, yellow, white and green skin tight Vale Tudo shorts that left little to the imagination. I hardly cared though. We had been through a war and you couldn't say shit to us.

We got back to the party nice and dry and grabbed another beer. For the first time we tried the keg toss which was fun. Distance was fine but accuracy was not. The live band finished playing and the very energetic emcee grabbed the mic and announced a pushup contest was about to begin. The participants were already lined up and they needed official counters. We volunteered and I found my guy. He had a huge set of pecs and a thin waist. It looked like all he did was pushups. As they got down into starting position I kneeled down in front of my guy. When they began, the music was pumping so I had to lean in a few inches from the face of my guy and shout the numbers out loud so he could monitor his progress. His pushups were very short and very quick, definitely not the kind I like to do when I work out. After a couple minutes people started dropping out. Coincidentally it came down to Ramon's guy and my guy. In the end, my guy won with 252 pushups. He got a free pass to any upcoming Mudder for his win.
After the contest I turned and saw the face of some guy smiling at me. "Are you the guy from the video?". Yup. "My kids just love watching that, can my wife take your picture with them?" I was honored. The kids were probably around 4 and 6 years old and looked up at me with big wide eyes. Not sure if it was inappropriate but I tussled the hair on both of their heads and smiled a big smile for them. They laughed and we took a nice picture. I thanked the nice family and Ramon and I walked off for or last beer of the day.

I noticed that my mother had died exactly one week ago at around the same time it was then, 1:20 pm. What is incredibly ironic is that Ramon's father had died exactly 10 years ago on the exact date, October 16th, and the exact day, Sunday. Not sure what Ramon was thinking and I didn't ask, but I silently toasted my mom that day. I'm not going to say anything like I felt my mom's presence that day or she gave me strength from the great beyond to overcome all obstacles. I hate all those sappy, hollywood, bad drama movie cliches that get people all teary-eyed. I will say though, that if she were alive she would have told me how wreckless I was being for doing such crazy shit on a mountain in Virginia. I wish you were there to see me mom, you would of hated it.
I love you.


  1. Great write up! Thanks for all the inspiration you pass along.

  2. Awesome. Thanks for taking the time to post this.

  3. I'm sorry for your loss. Thanks for all the information and inspiration.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, I look forward to your future posts!!--Dee, Toughest

  5. P.S.: Love that rant ..." I would like to say a few words about the Tough Mudders who fly through the course with a time of 1 hour and 50 minutes or less."--reminds me of something we just posted on Sportsmanship!

  6. Great article Dee! The part about the pledge says it all. There's a reason we speak those words before every wave. ..."fairness, ethics, and respect".

  7. You're a beast, Mustache Man! Keep it up

  8. Mustache Man! You friggin Rock! Welcome to Virginia. Virginia is for Lovers.... of Pain! LOL. I wish I could have run into you, but you probably just ran right past me. That Death March was! I hope to see you in PA on 4/28!

  9. Awesome summary. I'm a 19 year old who just started preparing for my first Tough Mudder in March. Breakdowns of the terrain like this make it seem less impossible. Also, my condolences for your loss. Thanks, Mustache Man!

    P.S. - Rollins is THE MAN!

  10. I've watched your video no less than 20 times. Each time I watch it I get even more excited about my run with TM in January in Phoenix.

    I'm glad to have found your site and this blog. You truly are an inspiration and I greatly appreciate all the knowledge you have passed on to your readers.


  11. This is great stuff. I, as many others, truely dig your style, Mustache Man. I would be honored if you gave me some feedback on my blog at . It's essentially a play-by-play annotation of my journey to The Spartan Death Race. Thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Dude, that is fantastic. Thank you so much. My friends and I are going to run our first TM in Minnesota on May 20, and the useful tips you provide give me more prep than I've seen anywhere. God bless you and your family.

  13. I liked the posts and cool layout you have here!

    Tubal Reversal