Me and my ‘Tough Mudder’
A personal account of the trendy new challenge
The Tough Mudder is not a race: It is a personal challenge. That is what you are told before you begin.
Fifteen miles up a mountain, 16 army style obstacles involving, barbed wire, ice water, fire, electricity, confined spaces, walls, bush-whacking, and of course — lots of mud.
My Tough Mudder endeavour began the morning I left for Whistler. My team of six and I had trained for four months. I had lost over 20 pounds and was preparing for one of the greatest personal challenges of my life.
4:45 am mountain time I woke up prepared to hit the road for a 15 hour exodus to Whistler, BC. I had read the reports and watched the early-morning news on Global about the highways being shut down west of the city, but we had to try. We hit the road with high spirits and met just west of Calaway Park to assess the situation.
The rain was hard and had been all night, and with the confirmation of Highway 1 being shut down and washed-out at Canmore, we had to decide on what was the most viable option. We decided to press on south towards Turner Valley and try to take highway 3 through Fernie.
When we arrived at Black Diamond, I saw a side of Mother Nature’s wrath like I had only seen on television. The torrential river, sickly mud brown and filled with massive uprooted trees floating like tiny branches in a creek. Pieces of the river bank were crumbling, and there were firemen yelling to us that our journey south had ended. We headed back toward Calgary destined for the airport.
We rushed to catch our flight, which was delayed of course, synonymous with the rest of our day and we landed in Vancouver around 1 p.m. not knowing the gravity of what was going on in Calgary.
We went out for dinner and tried to make the best of our experience, but as more and more updates surfaced and our calls home were centred on the flood, it seemed surreal. We slept, knowing in the morning what we were in for.
I woke up at 7 a.m. local time, prepared breakfast, tried not to think of Calgary and stayed focused on the task ahead of me. It was freezing, our start time of 8 a.m. was early, the sky was cloudy, the fog on Whistler Mountain had not yet lifted and the mud was freezing.
We crawled, we swam, got cut, froze, were zapped, were soaked and left utterly filthy. After team injuries including a calf muscle seizure, a dislocated shoulder, sheer exhaustion and four hours of hell, my team and I completed the Mudder, received our head bands and coveted beer at the finish line. The feeling I can relate finishing to, is winning the “big game”.
In spite of all the road blocks (literally) in front of us, I knew that quitting was not an option. Training for something like the Mudder cannot prepare you for what you will endure. It made me a better person and I cherish the memory.
But I have been asking myself, why are these races so intriguing? Why was this my summer escape and not a festival of leisure? Why did my only vacation getting my ass kicked feel more gratifying than any all-inclusive getaway? It’s because races such as the Tough Mudder unleash our primal instincts. The rawness of the mud, water, fire, blood, bruises all are links to our inner animal.
The Tough Mudder, the Spartan Race and Mud Hero, all provide stages for average people to challenge themselves and forget inhibitions to the extent that no drug can replicate. I tried to play hero, it was painful yet so sweet. Proceeds from the Tough Mudder go to the Wounded Warriors project which helps war veterans with amputations or not, financially. Trying not to sound cliché, but the real heroes are those that Tough Mudder assists.
There are more Mudders every year across North America, the UK, Australia and around the world. There were 1 million Mudders this year and thousands of others participate in similar challenges across the globe.
By assuming personal risks, even death, there is a part of the psyche that is rarely utilized. A man died competing in the Tough Mudder in Virginia, I asked fellow Mudders if this was an issue, the answer was unanimously no. Being fit is a lifestyle, a mentality and can be exemplified by these challenges. Critics say it is an unnecessary, people do get injured and my opinion is people get hurt every day, doing mundane things. It is more gratifying to sprain your ankle crawling through a snow cave, or get cut running through the woods then slipping on the front step. So find your challenge and embrace it.