Close to 10,000 adventure seekers, including many from Dixon, headed up to North Lake Tahoe this past weekend, but it wasn't for snow, the lake or relaxation.
It was to participate in an 11-mile obstacle course called Tough Mudder, a two day event, hosted at Northstar Ski Resort, Sept. 22-23.
Officially touted "quite possibly the toughest event on the planet", the course was designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. More than a half million participants have participated in Tough Mudder events nationwide, raising more than $4 million for the Wounded Warrior Project, the event's charity recipient.
"At Tough Mudder, we want to test your all-around mettle, not just your ability to run in a straight line," states the Tough Mudder website, but they also believe Mudders shouldn't take themselves too seriously, "As hardcore as our courses are, we meet you at the finish line with a beer, a laugh, and a rockin’ live band."
I just so happened to be part of one of those Mudder groups looking for a challenge. Our team of Dixonites, appropriately named, Love the Pain, included Sara Long, Brittany Stell, Josh Algood, Julie Jimenez.
Are you a Tough Mudder? Please share your Mudder story below!
With official death liability waivers printed and signed, we made the drive up the night before, discussing how we hoped our months of running, yoga, kickboxing, swimming, weight lifting and other training would prove enough to take on the course. Knowing it would take more than a couple weeks to truly acclimate to the 8,600ft. elevation at the top of the mountain, we tried to put that fear out of our minds.
Upon arrival Sunday morning, we were relieved to find well organized logistics, which made parking, walking, registering, and bag dropping effortless, despite the drones of people.
A crisp 50-degrees greeted us mid-mountain where we formed with our wave at the start line. Surrounded by mostly young, fit, energetic athletes, the Master of Ceremonies rallied us with the Mudder Pledge: "As a Tough Mudder I pledge that... I understand that tough Mudder is not a race, it is a challenge. I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time. I do not whine – kids whine. I help my fellow Mudders complete the course. I overcome all fears," followed by the National Anthem, and we were send off with a countdown from 10.
We were challenged from mind to toes. Climbing from 6,800 feet elevation to 8610 feet (Dixon sits at 50-feet), we took a 90-second bath in a dumpster full of ice, jumped from a 20-foot platform into a deep, freezing cold, man-made lake, scaled a half-pipe, climbed five 12-foot walls and rope walls, crawled under barbed wire and live electrical wire through wet sandy mud, dirt, and rocks.
We heaved ourselves over huge suspended logs throughout the course, hiking what seemed to be straight up the rocky mountain for the first five miles. We watched at least seven unlucky Mudders fall victim to the tough terrain with what appeared to be broken ankles, hypothermia, and exhaustion.
There was an ice cold pool to catch your fall from monkey bars, swinging rings, one-inch wooden tight ropes, and inside of tiny black tunnels. We were met with smiles, encouragement, advice, boosts, compliments, and helping hands from all of our fellow Mudders.
As we approached the finish line, four and a half hours after we began, we had one more mental challenge. A 40ish-foot mud pit with hundreds of dangling live electrical wires, pulsing 10,000 volts through it veins stood between us and our rewards. The phrase mind over matter repeated in my head, as all five of us managed to stay on our feet for the length of the dash, with only minimal zaps.
We were crowned with orange Tough Mudder headbands, bandanas, and vitamin chews, handed our t-shirt and beers, and congratulated on our accomplishments. We are now Tough Mudders.
The Next Day
Although today I am bruised, scuffed, and achy, I am proud and cannot wait to do it again. In fact, there is a Tough Mudder event in Patterson, Ca., on the hills of Diablo Grande, this coming weekend Sept. 29-30 I considered joining in on. There is a large group from Dixon headed for their Tough Mudder experience, and I am excited to hear reports of their challenge.
I feel like the course drove home my belief that your body can do anything you set you mind too. We proved to ourselves how tough we really are. It challenged our psyche; we often reminded each other 'one foot in front of the other' and 'no quit in here'.
It reminded us that people are good, and in tough situations can put others before themselves. We learned more about our personal strenghs and weaknesses. Most of all, we now understand the honor of the headband because we are part of the 78% of participants who have been able to finish the course, and of which only 24% have been women.
Below is an explanation of each obstacle we battled, described according to the official Tough Mudder website. Click each name to view photos and descriptions.
Kiss of Mud - Eat dirt as you crawl commando-style under barbed wire set 8 inches from the ground. This obstacle is true to it’s name – Mudders must belly-crawl through mud in order to avoid getting snagged by the barbed wire above. On some courses, the Kiss of Mud is set on an uphill, increasing the level of difficulty.
Walk the Plank - Test your fear of heights and cold all in one with our 15+ feet high jump into freezing water. Don’t spend too much time pondering your leap – Marines at the top of the platform will push you into the freezing depths below.
Hold Your Wood - Make like a lumberjack and carry a heavy log through a section of the Tough Mudder. If the area is hilly or mountainous, get friendly with your wood because you’ll be hauling it up a steep and challenging ascent.
Arctic Enema - This obstacle is all about mental grit. Many athletes use ice baths for recovery, but you’ll have a difficult time relaxing your muscles in this frigid dumpster. First you must bravely jump into Big Mudder’s floating iceberg abyss. Once submerged, find the mental and physical strength to swim through the ice, under a wooden plank and pull yourself out on the other end before you become hypodermic.
Hangin' Tough - Swing Tarzan-style across a series of hanging rings suspended over a pool of ice-cold water to catch you when you fall. Rings are placed 4 to 6 feet apart.
Boa Constrictor - Crawl through a series of pipes that force you on a downhill into some freezing mud, then a slippery uphill to the other side. Your legs will be useless in the narrow confines of the Boa, so use your arms to pull yourself through this obstacle. There really is light at the end of the tunnel.
Berlin Walls - This obstacle relies on teamwork. Scale three 12′ wooden walls with the help of your teammates, strategically placed for when you are at your weakest during the event. While some Mudders have worked up the strength to ascend the walls alone, most need a boost from a fellow Mudder — they got your back, literally.
Electric Eel - Slide on your belly through frigid water or, even worse, a layer of ice and beware of the shocks overhead. Should you try to crawl on your knees, you’ll be smacked with live wires and your body will compulsively contort. Be sure to protect your head, otherwise you might experience what Big Mudder calls a brain reboot.
Side Note- *Water also becomes electrified when fellow Mudders touch a live wire. Talk about sticking your entire body in a light socket. Bzzz, ZAP.
Just the Tip - A brand new obstacle that Tough Mudder hasn't even added to their website. Horizontally shimmy yourself across 1" wood by your toes and fingertips across 6 sheets of plywood. An ice cold bath waits for you below.
Trench Warfare - This military-style obstacle requires Mudders to crawl through narrow, dark, muddy trenches. Watch out for rocks, obstructions, and the occasional splash of muddy water from the Mudder crawling ahead. These trenches will test the stamina and mental grit of all Mudders, especially those who fear dark, confined spaces.
Lumberjacked - Jump over and crawl under large logs strewn across the course. This may not sound very difficult, but with fatigued muscles and logs placed at varying heights, the Log Bog Jog has proven to be a challenge for Mudders. To prepare for this obstacle, find a bunch of fallen trees to scale & crawl underneath.
Funky Monkey - Sure monkey bars were easy when you were 5 years old, but you’ll need to hold on extra tight to these. Some have been greased with our finest mixture of mud and butter and if you slip you’ll fall into an icy pond below. Bars are spaced 1.5 feet apart and you will be on an incline upward for the first half of the Monkey and then descending downward for the second portion.
Spiders Web - Crawl like a spider up and over a cargo net suspended between two trees – keep a good grip or you will fall into a tangled web (er, cargo net) below! The net is fastened with tension at the top only, leaving the bottom of the net loose and unsteady.
Slosh through up to a mile of waist-deep sludge as you try not to lose your shoes in the mud. Balance and coordination are required if you want to make it through this obstacle without face-planting… but what’s the fun in that? Real Mudders eat mud for breakfast.
Everest - Snowboarders and skate boarders have the half-pipe. Mudders have a real obstacle: Everest. A quarter-pipe that you’ll have to sprint up and enlist the help of other Mudders to hurl you over this beastly summit. Everest is coated in mud and grease, a combination which will likely send you right back from where you came.
Electroshock Therapy - Sprint through a field of live wires — some carrying as much as 10,000 volts of electric shock. You are guaranteed to get zapped with as much as 10,000 volts of electricity and it does NOT tickle.
To see more photos, read all about the organization, and sign-up to test your grit, visit www.toughmudder.com or like Tough Mudder on Facebook for updates. Register early to save, and join us in Tahoe July 13-14, 2013.