I spent an enormous amount of time being borderline secretly crazy about Tough Mudder leading up to it. Signing up so far in advance gives you this false sense of never actually having to go through with it but – oddly enough – also a feeling of having already accomplished something.
I’m not sure what really drove me to be so obsessed with knowing everything I could about it. Researching online, reading all the blogs, looking through countless photo’s. All for the sake of trying to be as prepared as possible.
Lesson One: nothing prepares you for Tough Mudder
Don’t get me wrong. If you want to finish, you need to train – there is absolutely no doubt about that. It’s just that no amount of cold showers or hill repeats will get you close to what the real event is like. But that’s why it’s so freaking amazing! It will blow your socks off (or whatever is not tightly secured on your body).
Lesson Two: don’t underestimate yourself
I went into the event in Whistler last weekend (June 22nd, 2014) with an attitude of “just try your best”. I mean really, what else is there right? I learned that there’s just something about Tough Mudder Nation that brings out the Beast Mode in everyone. The thousands of people working through the same challenges with total focus and determination just makes you feel like nothing is impossible. Case in point: the two hardest challenges from a mental game perspective for me included the Arctic Enema and Everest. There is just something about cold water that turns me into a bubbling baby. My thoughts were to go around these and still feel good about myself for having completed 17 / 19 obstacles over a 19.2km course. Not bad right?
Whistler had the Arctic Enema as obstacle numero uno. This left me two choices:
1. Wimp out of the very first obstacle
2. Suck it up and giver
I opted, with some hesitation, for option #2. It was everything I thought it would be. So cold that by the time you completely submerge and got under the barrier to get out the other side, you can’t really feel your legs. You become increasingly aware that there is literally just melting ice around you and it takes all the grit and focus you have to pull yourself out of the water so your body will stop screaming for mercy. Then, all of a sudden, you realize that you just did something insane and the adrenaline kicks in and you do a few chest pumps and tribal noises and continue on for another 19km more.
Everest has always been intimidating to me mostly because it involves running really fast and then hurling yourself into the air and hoping that some really nice people grab some part of your body so you don’t land on the ramp and do the slide of shame. All the video’s online show really fit people running mach speeds and flying through the sky into the hands of some really ripped people who hurl them up like it’s just another WOD. The reality is that you do have to run really fast and you do have to throw yourself into the air and rely on the mercy of strangers to grab some reachable part of your body. But…it’s really not that bad once you give it a go. Promise.
Lesson Three: it’s about finishing
There are going to be those people who take two hours to finish the course and don’t even get dirty. But that’s not what this event is about. Every speech given at Tough Mudder is about teamwork, pushing limits and looking after one another. I saw that first hand several times and I tried to do my part. Getting a friendly boost over the Berlin Wall after hauling all my teammates over is what this event is about. After I made it up Everest I waited at the top and reached over to grab a hold of someone flying through the air so that they could make it over. Literally 80% of people who do Tough Mudder would not make it through some of the obstacles without some help. Balls to the Wall left me nearly falling backwards at the top of a 12 ft wall. My teammate reached out and willed me to grab her hand to get myself up and over. I literally was hanging on for dear life and thinking there is NO WAY I’m going to let go of this rope to grab her hand but the moment I thought that I was doing it and then I was at the top. That’s Tough Mudder. You doubt yourself and then you do the very thing you doubted you could do.
There’s 19.2 km and 19 obstacles with 790m of elevation to help you conquer fears, overcome mental barriers, build friendships, cry, laugh, almost piss your pants, face plant, sweat, freeze your ass off and do something you spent 8 months thinking that there was no way you could.