Tough Mudder Toronto 2014
I'm easily peer pressured into events. My friends know this.
Two weeks before Tough Mudder Toronto I was convinced to sign-up (they had a discount code!). I did want to do Tough Mudder eventually, but I had always wanted to train up to it. But I also knew that thought process could just become procrastination, and never doing it. So why not just do it? What better time than after not running a single km in 2 months?
Fortunately I used to climb regularly, and if there's 2 things you need for Tough Mudder it's some climbing ability and cardio. Felt okay about the climbing part, and so I just went hardcore with running over 2 weeks until I got back up to doing 10km.
Tough Mudder is 16km, but I knew we were probably going to walk a lot so I felt decently prepared. It came up fast.
The forecast wasn't great. Mid teens, right around 15C, overcast, and strong likelihood of rain throughout the day. Nearly the worst conditions we could ask for in the middle of August.
The course in Toronto is also categorized as "Mountain". There are a variety of categorizations, as courses differ through the world, but this is Toronto's. I thought it'd be more hilly, but my teammates filled me in on the grim details.
It took place on a ski hill, and you end up running up and down various hills. Steep, long, and incredibly slick with rain ski hills. Even if I had trained up to 20k I wouldn't have been close to running this thing. It was nuts.
First, we lined up for an hour in the cold before we could even register. The whole thing was a organizational disaster. By the time we were getting to line up some of us were already shivering from the cold, and the rain had already started.
Before you even get to the start line everyone has to scale a wall. I think it was 7 or 8 feet. I admit that it was intimidating, but also a smart move on their part. It's a solid ice breaker, and actually pretty easy once you do it, so once you do reach the starting line on the other side you're sort of amped up.
The start line is placed at the bottom of a ski hill, and once we were cleared to go the whole crowd of us started running. So much energy!
After a few minutes pretty much everyone had dropped to a walk in the face of the massive incline. One more smart move was placing a simple obstacle about 1/3rd of the way up, just climbing over a 3 foot high pipe. It sort of gave everyone an excuse to stop running, but with dignity.
The next obstacle that I remember was called the "Blades of Glory". It was a set of short walls that are set at an incline angled towards you. These walls were also perhaps 8 feet high, and again not too difficult, but doing several of them in a row was a good warmup.
The Mud Mile
But the first really tough obstacle was the "Mud Mile". This was another of the ice breaker variety, placed to just get everyone used to something. In this case it's being 80-100% covered in mud.
Repeating hills and troughs purely made of incredibly slipper mud, with the troughs filled to 5+ feet of completely opaque, muddy water. The scary part is that when you're about to slide down into it (8 feet down) you have no idea how deep it goes. If you slip, you submerge completely before you regain your footing. That means for a lot of people that muddy water pretty much blinds you temporarily, and it's a lot worse if you're wearing contact lenses, like some of us were.
I slipped once, and when I rose up I felt like JCVD in Bloodsport. Blinking wildly, arms out trying to see where the wall was.
As filthy as the Mud Mile is, it's also a great team obstacle since most people need help to get over each hump. It's just so damn slippery that getting a foot hold is nearly impossible. The rhythm seemed to be you get helped up, that person moves forward, and you turn around and help someone else up. All for one, one for all. Strangers or not, it was pretty fun (excluding my eyes feeling like they were being stabbed by tiny knives).
As we continued the weather only got worse. It went from a drizzle to pretty heavy rain several times, and by then we were soaked to the bone. Every strong breeze seemed to cut through us. The huge amount of extra precipitation loosened most of the ground making every hill pretty treacherous.
On every hill we had to climb the grass was completely slicked upwards with patches of just mud that was dangerously slippery. It was slow going and a huge burn on our legs.
But even worse was going down, as again the grass was slicked in the direction we had to go, there were large patches of every more slippery mud, and slipping could make you tumble down, potentially hitting difficult to see rocks on the way.
It was exhausting. Way harder than just running on flat ground.
It was so cold that when we did have level ground, we frequently opted to jog just to feel warm again, and even the level ground was going through deep mud and puddles sometimes a foot deep. That was the pleasant stuff!
Nevertheless we soldiered on.
We were nervous about this one. This is an obstacle that one of our teammates had tried last year (in May! At 0C!) which finally gave him hypothermia, causing him to drop out. So we heard it was bad.
Fortunately 15C is relatively toasty in comparison.
Arctic Enema drops you into about 5 feet of ice water, making you wade another 5 feet, and then duck/swim under a barrier (felt about 3 feet tall), and them coming out the other side. Completely submerged.
The ice bucket challenge doesn't seem so bad in comparison to swimming through ice water. Ice water that is also filled with muddy sediment so you can't see anything.
But all in all it wasn't bad! Once stepping out you suddenly felt pretty warm. At that temperature, while shocking, it wasn't dangerous. We got through it, took a team photo, and kept on moving.
There were several more climbing obstacles of increasing difficulty, with the most difficult being 12ft high, called the Berlin Wall. There was a 12 foot half pipe you had to run up and jump to a ledge as well, but usually to grab the hands of someone already on top.
There were a few easy ones too, like 2 people carrying a log for 5-10 minutes through the forest, and jumping over bales of hay.
In the end it was a hell of an experience, with plenty of opportunities for teamwork and camraderie. If the organization of the event was better I'd absolutely do it again.
I still might, but it's their clumsy organization that bothers me.
After the finish line
First thing to get done after the race is to rinse off in "the shower". At this point most are 95% covered in mud at least. Layers of mud are caking on. You gotta get some of it off before going anywhere.
The solution they provide is maybe 8 shower frames with a bunch of cold water hoses, and a crowd of people large enough that it looks like people raiding a grocery store at the beginning of the apocalypse.
I feel like we were in that line-up mess for 45 minutes, getting colder and colder.
Showering got us clean, but was also damned cold. That whole process was way worse than Arctic Enema.
At some point they also brought out a firehose, which some people cheered for, and I thought was horrible. I got out of there as it hit.
Took awhile for us to get a shuttle bus back to the parking lot as well since they said they couldn't get enough of them. Which is just inexcusable. They know how many people signed up, so this was just poor.
Glad I did it. It's a real sense of accomplishment. I think many people could finish it, and training really just alters how quickly you do it, and how much suffering you endure.
The 2 days after I was incredibly sore, and for the week after I was genuinely more tired all day. I also caught a cold, which I sort of expect was due to my body feeling weaker by being cold and soaked for 8 hours while exerting myself physically.
But I'd still consider doing it again. Nothing much like it!