Tough Mudder: Part 1

So 6 months ago I agreed to be part of a Tough Mudder team comprised of a bunch of folks from my gym. To put this into perspective, most of the people on the team are fitter, faster and stronger than me.

Those 6 months went by very fast. I should have done some extra things to prepare, like running hills or running, period. Thankfully my cardio wasn’t totally shot since we made ample use of the rowing machines at CrossFit during the winter. I also signed up for the O Course (again) 2 weeks prior to the Mudder Event to get some distance running in (8km) along with some practice with obstacles. I was surprised by how well I handled the run and I finished in the top third of people there.

This takes us to the few days before the event. I took a few days off of going to CrossFit to rest up. I also went to Mountain Equipment Co-Op and picked up some Merrell TrailGloves and snacks (gels) to consume while on the course. Stupidly, I also started watching YouTube videos of people doing the obstacles. Bad Idea!. I started worrying about getting electrocuted. There are tons of videos of people doing epic faceplants while getting zapped running through Electroshock Therapy… the last obstacle. I didn’t worry about the walls, water or mud.

My family was supposed to come with me but Cooper had a birthday party to go to on the same day and it had a cool murder mystery theme… so they stayed behind and I set out solo.

I drove out early… way earlier than needed since I thought the drive was going to be bad. It really wasn’t. We were directed to park in a huge field and then we’d get bussed to the final location. It was COLD and RAINY and my feet got soaked waiting for the bus. I didn’t see any of the team yet and didn’t expect to until a little later on. The bus ride was around 30 minutes long and there were lots of people making nervous jokes about the days upcoming events. I could have been the oldest guy on that specific bus.

We got to Mount St Louis Moonstone… a ski hill, where the event was staged. A SKI HILL… nice.. We filed out of the bus to the entry stalls where they checked our ID, made sure we signed our 4 page Death Waivers and then they put our bracelets on… one for entry to the beer tent at the end, one for my bag drop and one for entry to the starting gate. I’m guessing that the folks there to cheer people on got some other color.

Once inside the gates, the place teemed with energy. It had the feel of a very, very small Olympic Village… tons of port-a-potties, a huge tent with merchandise (where people went to get warm) and tents with vendors set up… who offered tons of free samples. They also had a closed off Beer Area set up along with a stage where some DJ was making announcements and playing music.

I walked around for around 2 hours trying to stay warm… I had time to kill. Our team’s start time was noon. We were in the second to last group to head up the mountain… did I mention we were on a SKI HILL? Anyways… I hung out around the Start/Finish line. I managed to catch several of the earlier teams head out and was eager to see someone come across the Finish line. There were some interesting costumes on display. Tons of teams got dressed up. Some like their favorite superheroes, some like bees and some like Chippendale’s Dancers. I was cold and I had leggings, shorts, a long sleeve moisture wicking shirt and a Dri-Fit T-Shirt over that. I couldn’t imagine how cold those folks were. I kept bouncing around between the Clif Bar Vendor Tent and the starting gate. Eventually I bumped into a bunch of my teammates and we stuck together until the start time.

We headed to the Starting Line and started stretching… last chance to warm up a little before the Big Show starts up. By then we started to see more and more people go through the finish line.. some faceplanting did occur. Also noticeable was that the mountain that was once green just a few hours before was now turning brown, as hundreds of people chew up the course.

As we readied ourselves and take a group “before” picture, Matt from our box comes by. He had done the run earlier in the day… around 8:30am or so and finished in 1 hour and 50 minutes… he also volunteered to run it again with us. Not a knock on Matt… who I now believe is some undercover superhero, but when someone tells you they ran it in under 2 hours and had enough energy to run it again, I start to think that this thing is actually not as hard as I thought it was.

So there we were.. Navin, Syd, Matt, Sarah, Karl, Michelle and myself heading to the Start Line, our numbers pinned to our shirts, not saying too much. We collectively scale a wall to get to the starting gate (yeah… an obstacle on the way to the starting gate) and the announcer starts his speech. As he does so… I can’t help but think that we’re on a freaking  SKI HILL! Click here to see the race announcer get everyone psyched up… same guy but different speech for us. He was awesome. Off we go!


The O(MG) Course

So I’ve been humming and hawing about doing this Endurance Course called the O-Course. It’s touted as Canada’s first and only Obstacle Training Course based on US Marine Fitness courses. People I’ve talked to liken it to training for Spartan Race, Warrior Dash and the Tough Mudder. More have come back and said it’s harder than Spartan Race and Warrior Dash. It was developed by the folks at Fit Factory Fitness. Tony A runs it and I refer to him in a post from over a year ago when I tried to make it through one of his fitness classes with my wife. Re-cap… wife was fine; I couldn’t speak for 45 minutes for fear of hurling. This guy gives Freddie Kruger nightmares.

I signed up earlier this week, feeling pretty good about myself. The CrossFit workouts were hard in middle of the week and really burned my legs out. I was on the fence about going to the O-Course on Saturday morning… I went to bed super early and I think the anxiety got to me. I was up at 4am; 5am and 6am… you get the picture. At 7am, I finally made the decision I was going to go. The Course starts at 9am, but they ask you to show up at 8am for registration. My wife and two boys went with me.

I started off with signing-in at the indoor soccer dome also known as “the Barracks” and tucked my change of clothes and water bottle behind the short bleachers. Then I started stretching a little. The kids occupied themselves by also stretching (showing off their kid-like flexibility) and running from one end of the field to the other. While I was stretching, other people were coming in… you could tell some were veterans of this course and others were first-timers like me. Some had headbands they picked up from completing Tough Mudder the previous weekend. While we were warming up, the O-Course Team was finishing setting things up for the morning.

We’re all ask to go pick out our rifle… which was actually a 4lb length of 4×4 wooden fence post. Cooper (my 8 year old) picked one out for me. If you do the course 4 times, you get to keep it… like a badge of honor; otherwise you have to return it. You can decorate it, you can make it heavier but you cannot add handles or subtract weight.

At 9am sharp, we started. Tony got on a platform and gave us some basic instructions and reminded us why we were here. How we made the decisions to step away from the Playstations (Xbox 360 in my case) and cartoons to show up… and how we train harder than the actual fight is going to be. The instructors and folks keeping people in line all had “Show up. Man Up” t-shirts. He went over some basic ground rules covering safety and respect. I got the sense that some people get offended when the trainers get in their face about their efforts. I’m fine with it…. whatever gets me over the finish line. We formed up in columns and rows. And then it began… 45 minutes of holding that 4lb piece of wood over our heads, in front of us and then overhead again. We did presses with them; we did squats and held them straight ahead… we did push-ups when someone failed. A few people chatted at the back of the class… we paid for it in the form of 25 push-ups per infraction. It felt like a CrossFit class with a massive focus on arms and core. We must have done a total of 150 push-ups in that 45 minutes… on top of the squats and presses… my arms have never burned like that.  Mercifully, it was over after 45 minutes and we were given a water break and we were on to the next phase. At this point I wondered if anyone would notice me sneaking away… I figured that the hard part was over. It wasn’t.

At the start, no problem holding these “rifles’ overhead









Tony going over the rules.







Now it’s starting to hurt. How can 4lbs hurt so much!

I’m guessing there were 150 people in attendance and we all went and grabbed our water bottles prior to starting the next act. Vega was here giving out some Endurance Gel and I grabbed a raspberry flavored one… it wasn’t that awesome… but they had other flavors and I’d try another flavor the next time. We all filed out of the soccer dome and congregated in the parking lot for instructions on the run. I’m guessing the run was around 5km and we had 6 stations where we stopped and did some fitness work. Five of the stations were in the water (Cherry Beach).  It went a little like this:

  1. Run from parking lot to Cherry Beach
  2. Get in the water and do 50 V-Ups
  3. Run through the sand to the next station… in the water do 26 push-ups
  4. Stay in the water (rifles overhead) and make your way to the next station (was a long walk)… in the water do 26 squats
  5. Run through the sand to the run course
  6. Run to water station… guessing 1.5KM on winding run path
  7. Turn at station and run back
  8. Detour to outdoor soccer field (Cherry Beach) where we run to the far side and come back but need to do 26 push-ups, feet on ledge before we continue
  9. Back to the beach and repeat steps 5,4 and 3 in that order
  10. Run back to the parking lot and drop off the “rifle”
  11. Start the obstacle course….and complete 16 different obstacles… won’t go through all of them but you can see several in action if you go to the O Course website. They have some videos of people doing the course. The worst ones involved dragging, carrying or lifting very heavy things through sand and back.

Pick up heavy item and move it!

The water was a nice break since it was super-hot out… good chance to get cooled off.  I suck at running but the main focus was to just keep putting one foot ahead of the other. I looked up the distance on Google Maps and it looks like the run portion was roughly 4 miles or 6.5km. Now I know what that feels like.

I finished the Run and Obstacles in 1 hour and 40-45 minutes or so… that put me in the middle of the pack. Not bad since I was hoping to not come in last… which I changed to “just finish” after the run.

All in all it was a great course. I understand that the organizers will continue to add stuff and make it tougher. It’s going to run all year, although it’ll be interesting to see what they do in the wintertime. I fully expect them to turn this into an epic event next year with prizes and add it to the schedule of Obstacle/Endurance races out there.

I won’t lie and say I can’t wait for the next one… because I can wait. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically. My muscles were aching mightily. I had dirt in my ears. I felt like I was made of rubber. I’m glad I did it but I’m in no hurry to rush back. I’ll definitely try it again. Maybe as part of a Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, “O” Course trifecta. Next time, I hope I’m in even better shape and will shoot for a time to beat.