Since this was going to be the year of me trying new races, another one of those was going to be a Tough Mudder. There was one close to me this past weekend outside of Philly so I signed up for that. I had signed up early, but I remember being confused with all the different options. I didn’t want to run “pro” my first time since i had no idea what to expect. But the Tough Mudder Half seemed way too short of a race, so I signed up for the Full. I also paid an extra $15 for what they call “First Mud” because I had heard horror stories of people waiting in lines for over 30 minutes just to try an obstacle. I didn’t want any part of that!
Did my normal pre-race routine and headed to the parking area. It had rained for 3 days straight prior to the race, and was still raining the morning of the race, so I knew this race was going to be very muddy. It was also very cold and windy! My start time was 8:30. Got to the parking lot and into the shuttle bus around 7:30. We’re driving about 10-15 minutes before I realize the bus driver is lost. Took a wrong turn apparently. It happens. So by the time we get to the venue I know I’m probably not making my start time, but it wasn’t a big deal. Figured I would just go off with the next heat.
Check in was fast and easy. They gave me a bunch of stickers which I had no idea what to do with. Asked other racers and apparently the one sticker is your start time. You wear that so the volunteer can see it before you enter the corral. The second sticker was a digital scan code. This is supposed to be able to help you find your pictures after the race. Now I’m no rocket scientist (surprise surprise) but in a race where you are going underwater and being covered in mud, do you really think stickers are going to stay on peoples clothing? Spoiler Alert: There were many lost stickers all along the course during the race. Mine were already falling off after the second obstacle so I ended up putting them in my pocket so I didn’t litter.
So I went to check my bag in and realized I had made a crucial race mistake: I didn’t have any cash, just my debit card! Bag check was $10 cash only! So now I’m wandering around the venue hoping desperately for an atm. Finally find one up by registration thankfully. Got my money and checked my bag in. Was pretty upset with myself for making such a dumb mistake. One thing I did like was that the bag check was in a tent, so I didn’t have to worry about my bag getting soaked. Definitely something I think other races should do.
So I head down to the starting corral in time to see the 8:45 heat go off. So I was like ah well I’ll just go with the 9:00 heat. Walking down the hill and these kids near me are slipping and sliding and almost take me out. I look at their feet and they’re wearing flat running sneakers! They kept saying “Man this is slippery!” Needless to say I walked passed and ahead of them. Didn’t want them falling and taking me out during the race.
The announcer starts his speech. Very inspirational. Talks about helping each other and how we’re all a team. Also I forgot to mention since I’m not running in the pro wave, there is no timers at all. So he says the only goal is to finish. He keeps mentioning about helping each other and being one team. I didn’t realize he meant that literally! Guess I should’ve done more research. National Anthem plays which I liked. Although I gotta be honest, since a lot of the race you are circling back to the festival area, I heard the Anthem probably 5 or more times that day and it just feels weird to me to not stand at attention every time it’s being played. Just something that kept popping into my head.
Just a note: Most of the below photos I got from Google. Some of the obstacles are hard to describe, so I wanted to be able to show them to make it easier to explain.
Starting countdown and then we’re off. This race was on a farm, so mostly flat with some rolling hills. Not much elevation, but there was some technical trails. First obstacle was Bale Bonds, a couple hay bales to climb over. Then Quagmire, a mud pit you dropped into and then climbed out of. Pretty standard OCR obstacles. Berlin wall was a wall climb but it had boards across it for climbing. Think it was like a 7 foot wall, not too high. Kiss of Mud was next. It consisted of a barbed wire crawl with mud pits to navigate through. Definitely designed to get you as muddy as possible. The wire was pretty low so you really had to crawl on your stomach to get through.
After that was the first carry in the race: the Hero Carry. So basically you carry another racer on your shoulders to a halfway point, then switch and the other person carries you. Well when I got to this point the only people that didn’t have people to carry where well over my body weight. So the one guy offered to carry me to the halfway point and I told him there was no way I was attempting to carry him! He laughed and said that was fine he understood. Pretty sure he knew I wouldn’t be attempting that. Kinda sucked not being able to “do” an obstacle, but it is what it is.
Down a couple hills and then I was at Mud Mile 2.0. This consisted of some really deep mud pits followed by muddy walls to climb over. Not sure if it was because of all the rain but the water when i got in was up to my chest. Not that I’m some tall giant, all 5 foot 5 of me. The walls to climb were well above my head. I tried several times to jump out of the water and pull myself up, but I couldn’t do it. Having the water so high meant I wasn’t getting much of a jump and there was nowhere to really climb. I watched other Mudders and they’re all getting assistance from other people, either being boosted up or being pulled over from the top. This is where I realized what the announcer was saying about being one team. There was no way I could physically get over these walls by myself, and I can get over the 8 foot walls in other OCRs. So another racer helped boost me up and over. I tried to help other people get over as well, but I don’t know if it was my method or just cause I’m so light, but I wasn’t able to offer much help. Felt like I was going to fall back in most of the time. So eventually I just kept moving on.
Through some more hills and up to Skidmarked. This is a flat inverted wall. Because of this you basically have to try to jump straight up and get your hands around the top enough so that you can pull yourself up. Most of the racers were getting help from people that were on the other side pulling them over. Unlike the picture above, there was no horizontal boards to step onto. Luckily there was lots of hay at the bottom. I jumped up, grabbed the top, then fell flat on my back. Damn that was embarrassing. Tried again but still couldn’t get my hand enough over the edge. Felt like I was jumping scared, not trusting myself. The volunteers were like “You can have someone help you”, but I was already annoyed with needing help earlier at other obstacles. I really wanted to be able to get it. Did a third leap and was finally able to get my fingers over enough that i could pull myself up. Wasn’t easy but I got up and over. Felt pretty good about that.
After that was King of the Mountain. It’s a pile of hay bales you climb up to the top, then back down. Pretty nice view at the top but I was only up there for a second due to the volume of people climbing up. Probably makes for some good pictures though. Following that was Hold your Wood, basically a log carry. Again the terrain was fairly flat so it wasn’t very difficult. Pitfall came up afterwards. It’s a big mud pit that has deeper pits dug into it. So you can’t run through it because you never know when the floor is going to drop out. Plus there’s tires in the water to trip you up.Took my time and walked through it.
Next was The Block Ness monster. Now this is a pretty cool obstacle. Basically you get into a mud pit and have to roll this long block to get yourself up and over while its still rotating. When I got there, the pit was full of other racers, so we just all kinda went together. No idea how I would even handle this obstacle solo. I guess the idea is to start it rolling then jump up and grab a corner so the momentum would take you over. How exactly this works when you’re racing competitively, I have no idea.
Up another hill, then as I was going down I came up to the Devils Beard. It’s a large heavy fishnet you go under. Not really much of an obstacle, I barely had to duck while holding the net up. Then came Everest 2.0, a huge warped wall with ropes hanging down. There was quite a backup and crowd at this one. With all the rain it made it really hard to just run up. I watched many people try and not succeed. I opted to use the ropes and pull myself up. Tried to get over without help, but my arms just weren’t having it. Ended up having to ask one of the racers at the top to give me a a pull so I could get over. Very humbling experience. Wanted to be able to do it myself, but after watch taller and bigger racers be unsuccessful, I figured it was better to at least get through it. Definitely something I want to work on for the future.
So we’re 14 obstacles in and I finally get to the first grip strength obstacle, Just the Tip. This was a long 2×4 hanging by a chain followed by a transition to another 2×4 with a peg and door knob handles. Was able to get to the middle transition, but once I grabbed the door knob, it was over. Slipped right off. Was going to try again, but my hands were so cold and frozen I felt like I could barely close them. No excuses I failed, and it’s something I have to work on. Not used to racing in those temperatures.
After that was Funky Monkey. A long monkey bar ladder climb up, then a transition to a horizontally spinning wheel, followed by 2 vertically spinning wheels, then a bar to the other side. This is an obstacle I think under normal conditions I would have no issues. But because of the time in the rain and the cold, I had nothing in my grip. Made it to the horizontal wheel, but then the vertical wheel pulled me off into the water. Really sucked no only failing it but then also the shock of that cold water.
Went up and down several hills and came up to Artic Enema. Its a dunk tank filled with water and ice with 2 different sections you need to dunk yourself under. I took one look at it and said no thanks! My hands were frozen as it was so I had zero desire to do that obstacle, and frankly felt like doing it would have proved nothing. I said to the volunteer “Not happening” and kept moving. The way my body was feeling, I felt like that was the best decision.
Another grip strength obstacle was next, Kong. A very unique obstacle. It consisted of a rolling barrel with rings. As you grab the rings the momentum rolled the barrel to the other side. You have to keep going without losing the momentum or else you would roll backwards. Once you get to the end you then have to climb down a row of monkey bars to the other platform. I tried to get the barrel moving but I slipped off pretty quickly. Luckily there was no water at the bottom, just an inflated pad. Still really sucked not being able to give that obstacle my best attempt, but I had nothing left in my hands.
After walking up and down some more hills, I came up to ElectroShock Therapy. I had heard some crazy things about this obstacle. It’s basically long strands of wire hanging down from a rig that you have to run through. There’s decent gaps though so a skinnier person can fit through fairly well. I got through it only getting zapped twice, and they were fairly light. Wasn’t sure if maybe I just got lucky or I just happened to only touch weaker wires.
Headed back into the venue and towards the last obstacle: Happy Ending. Its a water tub with a vertical wall and rope that you pulled yourself up and over into another water tub. Then you slide down the other side into a big pool of water. Very cold water. Got up and out and crossed the finish line. Learned something new there as well: no finisher medals. Instead you get a finisher headband. Apparently the more races you do, you get different colors. The tshirts seemed to all be the same though, the only difference being if you did the Half or the Full.
So like I said in the beginning, this was definitely a learning experience for me. I saw myself struggle with a lot of things in the cold and wet temperatures. Also I learned a lot about the format of Tough Mudders. Afterwards I found out from other racers that Tougher Mudder is the way to go if you’re looking for a solo race. Next time I’ll have to do more research before signing up for a new race.
Pros: Despite not being able to complete them, I enjoyed all the unique grip strength obstacles. Most of them were things I had never tried or different variations of standard grip obstacles like monkey bars. There was lots of water stations with even bananas and Gu at one. Very nice. Plus they had port a potties along the way. That’s something I’ve never seen before. There was lots of volunteers and they were pretty quiet, although that’s probably because they were soaked and freezing as well. Would be hard to be enthusiastic. All the tents were clearly labeled and finding different stations was pretty easy. Finisher beer being a Guinness Blonde was a nice touch, pretty good beer. Finisher shirts were a good quality polyester type shirt.
Cons: I’m not gonna say having it as a team race is a negative, I just wish the website had more details so you know what you’re signing up for. There was nothing on there saying that obstacles were going to require help from other people, and unless you’re 7 foot tall, there’s several that will. Also the hero carry? Cmon man! Putting a sign in the ground that says “hey now it’s time to carry the person next to you” is not an obstacle. That’s just lazy in my opinion. The finisher headband: meh. Not for me. But I can see a lot of people like them so to each their own. Stickers for start time and finding yourself in pictures: dumb. There’s gotta be a better way.
I haven’t received the pictures yet so I’ll hold judgement on the difficulty of locating them and the quality. Since there’s no timing chip, and everyone’s stickers were falling off, I have a feeling it’s going to be a crapshoot!
Anyway thanks again for reading this. Please message me on Instagram or my Facebook page with any questions or comments. I’m always happy to help!! 🤡👍🏽👍🏽