One very big item on my bucket list was to run a Tough Mudder. I’d been hearing about the event for a few years and always came up with reasons not to sign up. “I puke too much.” “I’m recovering from my second GI surgery.” You know, things like that. But it was time for a comeback and I needed a goal, so signing up for Tough Mudder Pittsburgh was it.
I had to train. You can’t NOT train for a 12 mile, 22 obstacle mud race. I was invited in to a group that trains on homemade obstacles in the back of a landscaping supply company. We call ourselves the “Bulkers”. (The business name is “Bulk-N-Bushel”, so, there ya go.) Joining in for our weekly sessions were anywhere from 3 – 11 people. Rain. Shine. Cold. Hot. Cold. Freezing cold. Weather didn’t matter. We met religiously each Sunday. (#punny)
Bulker obstacles include: tire flip, monkey bars (including “Wheels of Bott”), rings, “Pink Floyd” (the wall we climb up and over), “The Engagement” (a set of pegs you move along via a set of rings), log ladder, salmon ladder, chain & bucket drag, log flip, sang bag pull, “Carry Your Wood”, atlas stones, “PegAssist” (a series of holes along a vertical board that you pull yourself up on with pegs), “Dumpster Dive” (cost of admission each week is a bag of ice that we fill a dumpster with and jump into), and “Cliff Hanger” (hang from a piece of wood 2 inches wide and try to make your way to the other side). And to keep up that cardio, we throw in a 1-2 mile run in the middle.
It’s grueling. It’s muddy. (On the good days!) It’s physically exhausting. And I sometimes end up barfing at some point. (When that happens, I call it “Setting a PR”, where the PR stands for “Puke and Rally”. Gotta keep things light.) Now I don’t throw up from being out of shape. I swear! It’s from “GI Journey” hang over stuff. Sometimes when my body gets worn down and tired, if affects my gut and, well, thar she blows. I can get worn down from something as crazy as a Bulk work out, to something as simple as a crazy-busy day at work. My body definitely reacts to things a bit differently since my recovery. But, ok, that’s enough about that.
So I trained up for my very first Tough Mudder. My team was phenomenal. Eleven of the craziest, kindest, most supportive people I have ever met. Through some injuries, including both of my IT bands that seemed to hate running the hills of PA, we all stuck together… and for all 12 miles.
I hyperventilated in the cold water of “Block Ness Monster”, had a small panic attack climbing up the claustrophobic tube of “Augustus Gloop”, had both calf muscles seize up after sliding into “Arctic Enema” (I had to get out briefly to calm them down, but did jump back in to finish the obstacle), fought my fear of heights on the “Ladder to Hell”, and suffered through the last 3 miles of the course with ITBS and knee pain that had me buckled at the finish line. (I had to be carried down a hill or two from the pain.) Sounds like fun, huh?! Well. IT WAS.
And I also smiled the entire way. Looking at the official pictures that the Tough Mudder photographers took, there was a common theme. If i was in a shot, I was grinning from ear to ear. I’ve never had so much fun in my life as those 12 painful miles. It was a blast! From the very first obstacle, “The Mud Mile”, I was hooked. Strike that. From the very first step into the campground where it was being held, I was hooked. But “The Mud Mile” had me at hello. Crawling up and over piles of mud. Plunging into cold, muddy water, and then climbing up the next pile, all the while putting your hand out to help the Mudder who was behind you. I mean, it doesn’t get any better! The camaraderie of this group of strangers is amazing. I remember looking up to one of my teammates about half way through and mouthing to him, “This is awesome!” I was hooked.
My first Tough Mudder hurt. (A lot.) And it was the most physically and mentally challenging thing I’ve ever done. But it was also by far the coolest thing I’ve ever accomplished. And yep, I’ll see y’all again in Pittsburgh for Tough Mudder 2018.