While I was unable to perform a number of the obstacles such as wall climbing due to a recent biceps injury (Dr. Park’s orders!), I did conquer the first objective. As we stomped into the first pool of mud, also no indication of the mess to follow, we proceeded to crawl under barbed wire, a task that provided a good look at the risks involved. Fears would have to be conquered, pounds would have to be shed, banana halves, warm from a day in the sun would have to be devoured, but there was no stopping.
One particular obstacle that truly tested me was the plank walk. As you may remember from columns past, I do not enjoy water, and I do not enjoy heights, so you can probably guess what “Walking the plank” entailed. Once you get to the end of a plank, suspended 25 feet above water, there is no turning back. With a row of people behind you, you don’t think, you just do it. I lost my headband, I got a nose full of mud-stained water, and I got the heck out of the pool, but in a way, I conquered two fears at once. Another thing I don’t care for is cold temperatures (see “Jack Tries Cold Things”), so the “Arctic Enema” didn’t sound too appealing. Being in ice water was not so bad at first, but once you submerge your head, your lungs are screaming “Why,” and you’re scrambling for the ladder. To put it mildly, the Arctic Enema lives up to its name, creating an unmatched sense of discomfort. There was a never-ending series of uphill battles, and mudders were stopped along the trails to work out cramps, or just to breathe. But my teammates and I plodded ahead. We occasionally jogged, but there were few opportunities, and teammate Chris Mays and I passed the time by talking about work. Sure, it sounds boring, but you need some normalcy when you’re ankle deep in mud for hours on end.
Another event that took a good deal of team work was the human pyramid scheme, in which mudders had to make a pyramid of bodies on a white halfpipe to reach the top. Having just started to bleed profusely from my left arm, I caked mud on the wound to stop the bleeding, and while teammates Keith Brigley and Mays held his legs, teammate Steven Mays hung himself halfway down the pipe to grab my hand. One push with my foot off some poor dude’s shoulder, and I was there.
In all honesty, the obstacles, the conquering of fears, and the awful bananas were not the hardest part. Simply having to march up Mount Snow in mud up to your ankles was enough. The last two miles were especially brutal, because the kind folks at Tough Mudder saved the worst for last. The nastiest, thickest path of mud up the steepest possible incline topped off the whole event. Being a history buff, I sometimes found myself thinking about the tough times our soldiers had on Guadalcanal or on the Bataan Peninsula. What I was involved in was nothing close to World War II, but remembering all those stories I’ve read helped me draw inspiration.
I’m sorry that I can’t tell you about my experience going through the famous electric wires at the end of the course but a piece of metal in my body saved me from having to endure the torture. But I can tell you that finishing the Tough Mudder in four-and-a-half hours was not only hard, tough, and tiring, it was one of the most rejuvenating experiences of my life. Eleven miles of mud, water, and teamwork got it done. The brothers Mays and Brigley were “Legionaries” in their second year of the event and received green headbands, I received my orange one. While I’m sore this week, I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself ankle deep in mud again next year, but first, it’s time to get focused on the task at hand. Sitzmark volleyball begins this week.