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Inside The Tough Mudder - Extreme Challenge or Complete Lunacy?

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JB: That makes sense. Did this show come to Chicago or did you have to travel a long way in order to participate? Also, I understand you personally faced a tricky time element/conflict regarding the big day. Can you share that story with us?

BS: 2013 was in Seneca, IL. 2014 was in Richmond, IL - obviously not "Chicago" - but I suppose it's tough to find a location that can accommodate land being pretty much destroyed and 36,000 people trampling through it. Seneca was a bit of a ways away, but Richmond wasn't too bad in terms of distance.

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As to your question - yeah, for 2013's Mudder, "scheduling conflict" would be a pretty big understatement. I also had a major physical setback in addition to the scheduling conflict. So, first the setback - I cracked two of my ribs playing basketball about a month before the scheduled race date. Having cracked ribs before, I was devastated because I knew that the recovery timeline was at least six-eight weeks before the pain would go away. So at that point, I had already begun to tell myself that it was pretty unlikely that I would be able to do the mudder. If I recall, I got relatively depressed, because as you can imagine I had put so much effort into getting ready, that to not do the race was going to be such a huge disappointment. More on the cracked ribs later.

I don't remember the specific timeline, but I think I had made up my mind that I wanted to train for this in September of 2012, and had started doing so early October of the same year by getting a group of guys together, hiring the trainer, etc. My wife and I had known at that time that we were expecting our third child, but about a week into the training, we discovered that the baby's due date was 5/19/2013 - the exact day of Tough Mudder. Knowing that these things aren't always entirely accurate, it didn't bother either of us. The baby would come a week early, or a week late, and it'd be fine. No big deal. I wasn't going to fret over it. We had both said that in the event of the date actually being at the same time - of course the baby would take preference.

So. Fast-forward to Saturday, May 18th, 2013. Mudder is the next day. My ribs are on the mend, but still nowhere near healed. The baby hadn't been born yet and there were no signs of imminent labor. That afternoon, I attempted to run for the first time since injuring myself, just to test the waters and see what I could handle. I ran about a mile and my chest was on fire - but if I paced myself, it wasn't too terrible. I had decided that if the circumstances allowed for it, I would go to the race and just run alongside my team, and not do any of the obstacles. That way it wouldn't be a total letdown. So I prepared for bed that evening under the assumption that all systems were go.

And then, before I hit the mattress...the contractions came.

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My wife and I packed a bag, called a sitter for our other kids, and headed to the hospital. In a way, I was relieved because for sure there was no way I'd be doing the race now that the baby was coming. And I wouldn't have to deal with the possible letdown of not having done it - because hey, if there's any legitimate excuse to miss something, it's for the birth of your own kid.

Having been through this twice before, my wife and I knew we'd be in for a long night - her labors are not short and they cut off all food once they admit women in these circumstances - so we quickly stopped at Dunkin Donuts and ate about 8 donuts and a few bagels/cream cheese between us to prepare for the night ahead. I chugged a coke or two for good measure, and she was admitted. We got settled into the hospital room at about 9 PM, and had a revolving door of doctors and medical staff until 11 or so. She wasn't dilated much, but that was sure to come. So we both kind of got comfy; I grabbed the nearest couch and started to sleep until things progressed more. At 11:30, a nurse came in for one more check. Things hadn't moved at all, and they were fairly certain that no baby was to be expected for the next two days unless she was given drugs to be induced.

False labor.

So we packed up, unhooked from the machines, and headed home. We walked in the door at a little after midnight - exhausted - and went straight to bed. Neither of us could sleep. We both tossed and turned until 2:30 in the morning, when my superwoman spouse said to me: "You need to do the race tomorrow. The doctors say the baby isn't coming for a day. Set your alarm, wake up, and do it. You'll always regret it if you don't."

Set aside for a moment the fact that I have the best wife ever, but how in the hell was I going to pull this off even if I wanted to? I had never done any race or anything like this before. I had broken ribs. I hadn't eaten anything remotely proper or healthy that would prepare my body for a race. The baby still might come the next day...and I had to wake up in three hours in order to get ready to leave for it, leaving me with almost no sleep.

Certainly, a less than ideal set of circumstances for an event like this. But the idea was crazy in the first place. So I did it. I'm not even sure I slept at all that night.

I got in the car, drank probably four liters of gatorade on the way there, stopped at a Walgreens and purchased some topical numbing cream, and basically dumped the entire container out on my chest so that I wasn't in pain. That, along with 800mg of ibuprofen, and I was good to go. As I mentioned before - the intention was just to run the whole thing, and not do any obstacles. However, when I got there my adrenaline took over, and I actually did the whole thing minus one obstacle. It was, in a word, insane.

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JB: What a woman! What a story! So, what was your day like? And what kind of obstacles are we talking about, anyway?

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.

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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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