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Inside The Tough Mudder - Extreme Challenge or Complete Lunacy?

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BS: The day was kind of surreal. Since I had told everyone that I wasn't going to make it, they all had planned on leaving without me, in one car. But I absolutely had to drive myself/have access to my own transportation in case they all wanted to stay later than I did, or in case I got word about the baby, or whatever. So I texted one of the guys, showed up at his house, and we drove together. He couldn't believe I was going through with it. As I mentioned before, I stopped along the way to get some medication, and then we arrived in Seneca.

Tough Mudder does a remarkable job at hyping/pumping people up for this. Arriving at the site was just surreal - great music, great setup, great registration process - we were pumped and ready to go. They send participants out to the course in various waves, and in order to be sent in a wave, you have to climb up and over these five-foot walls to enter the course. Kind of like an obstacle before the obstacles. Once I did that without any pain, I figured I'd give the rest of them a try...which I did. The only thing I did not do was "Walk The Plank," a 15-foot jump into mudwater. I felt that I might collapse a lung or something if I did that, so I stayed away. But I did everything else. They had water and banana stations every few miles, so we obviously stopped for a bit. They had some ibuprofen there too, which I happily took.

The obstacles vary in scope. I encourage anyone interested to look online or watch youtube videos or something; probably more effective than me outlining them here. The five that stood out most were:

1) Artic Enema - basically a dumpster completely full of ice and water. The body just becomes numb instantly when you jump in - and in order to get out, you have to swim underneath it all because they have a section in the middle blocked off with barbed wire. So you have no choice but to go quickly.

2) Everest - an enormous half-pipe that's been slicked up with oil. You have to run up it - unassisted - and try and reach the top. Usually someone at the top will have to hold your hand and pull you up, but it's difficult.

3) Funky Monkey - A set of inclined monkey bars over a deep pool of water.

4) Mud Mile - Literally a mile of ankle-deep mud. Doesn't sound so imposing but it's nearly impossible to walk in, let alone run in something like that. If you're lucky enough to keep your shoes on, the mud adds about five pounds of weight to them. Otherwise, you lose your shoes.

5) Electroshock Therapy - This is the big event that people freak out about. It's the final obstacle at every mudder event, and it's a field of dangling live wires (10,000 volts!) with small mud/hay hills interspersed. What you're looking at in the picture above is my team from 2013 running through the wires together. The thing about this is that it's not really something you can train for. It's all mental. You just go for it. And yes, it really, really hurts.


Electroshock Therapy, TM 2013
(image by courtesy of Brad Sugar)


JB: I bet! I'm presuming that electroshock one is not fatal; it would cut down on potential return customers. How long does this whole thing take? How long do your badly treated bodies take to recover? And how about that baby, cooling its heels, waiting patiently to be born?

BS: Yeah, certainly not fatal. For all of the literal shock and awe, I think only one person has died from a Tough Mudder race, ever. And that was from something that I believe the company wasn't at fault for. When you compare that to the fact that people die in marathons quite constantly, it's not as menacing. About the electroshock therapy in particular, I'd almost compare it to the pain of a paintball being shot at you at close range, but because of how many wires there are - you have no idea when or where to expect the pain. So it's definitely bad, but not too bad.

In 2013, we finished in roughly three hours and fifteen minutes. 2014 was closer to under three hours. From what I'm told the range is two to five hours. There's a mixture of pure elation and exhaustion at the end, with a lot of cramping interspersed. In 2013, when I was rushing to get home I literally dragged my right foot the whole way to the car in the parking lot. My left one kept spasming while driving and I had to constantly pull over to ensure I got home safely.

Prior injuries notwithstanding, I'd say it took me a good week to be able to walk up and down stairs without any pain and probably two weeks to eliminate mud from all the random places in your body that you find.

The baby, along with mommy, was a trooper and was born two days later in 2013! He's over a year old now, and his name is Asher.

JB: Now that you have two TMs under your belt, is it time to let it go? Or are you hooked and already planning 2015? And what about your teammates? Are they on board for another go?

BS: After last year, I said I wouldn't do it again. Then, something inside me was itching to do it - especially to see what it would be like completing it without cracked ribs and an impending newborn on the way. After I finished this year, I said I wouldn't do it again...but never say never. If I got a good group of friends together - some that would do it for the first time with me on board - I would consider it. But I definitely won't go overboard on the training next time around, if there is one.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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