Event Recap: 2016 Tough Mudder Tri-State
Date: October 9
Location: Englishtown, NJ
Event: Tough Mudder Tri-State
Wave: Full: 10:45am
NOT THE NORM
Whatever residual effect New Jersey received from Hurricane Matthew occurred on October 9 during the day. It just so happens that Tough Mudder was holding one its signature events on this day at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, the same location as the Terrain Race in August. My designated start time was 10:15am, but I slept in due to wanting to fully recover from the Brooklyn Rock 'n' Roll Marathon (my first ever), so I didn’t start until 10:45am. When I arrived, it was raining and it wasn’t THAT cold (maybe 40-50 degrees), but cold enough to make the rain annoying. This would be the first-ever non-Stadium obstacle event I would brave in the cold. The only other cold event I’ve done was the 2014 Fenway Park Spartan Sprint. Here’s how I completed my third ever Tough Mudder.
After picking up my packet, I heard someone say there were no more pins for the bibs. I didn’t even bother asking around for pins and I didn’t care that I wouldn’t have any images for this article. All I wanted to do was start running since it was raining and I was cold. I was wearing an RYU long sleeve compression top and and a loose polyester short sleeve shirt over it, Under Armour heat gear compression pants with Reebok running shorts over them, and Reebok All-Terrain Extremes (which I wound up donating because I didn’t wait to spend time cleaning them afterwards). I was adequately dressed for this event yet I was being soft about the cold.
TEAMWORK WAS KEY
At the Hero Carry obstacle (carry someone a few hundred feet), I carried a guy named RJ (Raymond Jones Jr). After that obstacle, we started talking and for some reason we stuck together the rest of the course. After mile three, we approached a water station but afterwards, I wanted to go one way and RJ said that was the wrong way and led us in a different direction. Turns out, I was right and we did the Cage Crawl obstacle unnecessarily during our misdirection. Basically, we went from mile three to seven by accidentally cutting the course. Once we realized we went the wrong way, we went back to mile three to start the course again. That cost us a good 20 minutes in the freezing hail/rain. Plus, the Cage Crawl obstacle had the fences extended longer than they were the second time we reached it. What makes Tough Mudder unique, as I explained in my previous article about Tough Mudder, is that you want to stick around and help others with obstacles. This want stems from the fact that some obstacles require teamwork, such as Pyramid Scheme and Everest 2.0. RJ and I helped people up the wall for Pyramid Scheme and Mineshafted. When we got to Everest 2.0, I kind of panicked.
“I can’t stay back help and people, I have to keep moving,” I told RJ. Since I never run in the rain, I wasn’t sure how to filter my words during times my body was reacting a certain way. In other words, I thought that I had to keep moving to deal with the uncomfortable feeling of being cold. Another interesting scenario was the Berlin Walls.
RJ had climbed to the top of the wall and started to hang his leg over for me to grab it and climb up. I thought, “Why won’t he throw his other leg over the wall, and climb down? He needs to finish so I climb this wall.” While I was standing there waiting, I started shivering and RJ said, “I see you shivering, come on.” Of course, I replied, “Oh, I thought you were struggling up there.” I don’t remember if I needed his leg to get up the wall, probably not, but it demonstrated that if for whatever I had to stand still in the future, I shouldn’t shiver. And then there were the two most dangerous obstacles: Mud Mile 2.0 and the rope climb.
WHAT I COULDN’T DO
During Mud Mile 2.0, which is essentially wadding through muddy water and over mud mounds, it was hailing/raining freezing rain. There was barely anyone actually doing this obstacle as I approached it, since it was so cold, and most people just ran the trail to the right (out of the mud). At first, I tried to conquer the obstacle but again, I panicked and bailed. RJ was doing just fine but and this point, we were a team so I told him, “Let’s bail on this one, it’s not worth it.” It’s not like my opinion was unpopular, as there were literally a handful of people trotting it out the hard way, but I did feel bad when RJ bailed on the obstacle when he possibly could’ve completed it.
With that said, I later learned that RJ was having trouble with upper body obstacles, as he skipped King of Swingers, Funky Monkey 2.0, and the rope climb. At King of Swingers, I held on to the swing but was unable to ring the bell. My grip was completely lost for Funky Monkey 2.0, and that was the first time I’d ever failed any type of Monkey Bar obstacle in any OCR event.
WHERE I EXCELLED
During the running portions, I was pacing RJ a bit, and his strength clearly lied in hiding the fact he was hiding his coldness. After all, RJ had lost 100+ pounds naturally, without surgery, just from going to the gym and eating right. On a day like this, his strength of not complaining about the cold or shivering at all was better than my willingness to turn on the heat and just finish the course. My legs felt relatively fresh on the course which was odd considering I just ran my first half marathon the day before. I could’ve kept the same pace I did at the half-marathon (my good old 10-minute mile) during this event if I wanted to. For the rope climb, my hands were SO slippery, but I muscled myself up using my feet. I saw other Mudders attempt this obstacle and just say “Screw it, too slippery.” Not me. When I somehow got to top, I shouted down, “That was so hard!” to Mudders that were unable to complete it. Anyone that started the course after 10:30am can attest to the fact that getting up that rope must’ve felt awesome, and it did. What is becoming my favorite part of Tough Mudders is Arctic Enema, sliding into a freezing ice bath, going under a dunk wall, and climbing out. Here’s an interesting story about that obstacle.
As I approached Arctic Enema, I saw a female Mudder contemplating whether or not to do the obstacle. There multiple voices telling her what to do:
Spectator (not sure if her mother, but definitely older than her): “Don’t do it. This is stupid, get down from there.”
Mudder friend on the course: “It’s up to you. It is cold out here but do what you want.”
Tough Mudder Volunteers: I’m not sure if they spoke up during the scared Mudder’s hesitation but after this Mudder was talked off doing Arctic Enema, the volunteers were talking amongst each other, expressing the fact that spectators should not be negative like that.
I didn’t think twice about doing Arctic Enema and luckily this obstacle was around mile eight or nine, and by then, the rain had stopped (it stopped raining around mile five or six for RJ and I). The scene of the Mudder, who likely paid for this event, being scared by a SPECTATOR, into skipping an obstacle represented the exact reason why I do OCRs. Close-minded worriers are often unable to think outside of their “boxes” and consider the fact that people enjoy accomplishing new things and pushing themselves to the limit. Our TV-obsessed parents couldn’t imagine sacrificing luxury to find their purpose in life. I signed up for a Tough Mudder, so unless it’s myself that’s getting in my own head, no one else will be getting in my head.
After earning my blue Tough Mudder headband (3x Legionnaire), I knew it was time for me to hustle and change into warm clothes. Everyone was so wet that volunteers were handing out those aluminum blankets at the finish line. In fact, I saw a bunch of those blankets, being used by Mudders ON THE COURSE. I’d never seen one of those on any course before. I stayed cold for the entire day as I reflected on what was an epic event in NJ. I wondered what I would’ve done if RJ and I didn’t stick together to conquer the course. Would I have told myself to quit, thinking I was too cold, when clearly, I was in good enough shape to run? I do know that I ate two GU gels on this course, and I think those were pretty necessary. I was getting out of focus and my mind was getting blurry at certain points.
Overall my main lessons learned were:
1. Pack more than two energy gels for a Tough Mudder.
2. Tough Mudder = Teamwork. In my three Tough Mudder events, I’ve either started or completed 90% of the course with someone I met on the course. I’ve never been alone during a Tough Mudder. And that’s saying something because I often enjoy being alone.
3. Don’t talk about being cold, even if you’re cold. This will only cause yourself to get in your own head.
4. Obstacle events can be dangerous. According to some comments on social media, a man passed away during the Saturday Tough Mudder as a result of a heart attack. I have not verified this with any news organization or hospital. Saturday was perfect weather, so if this is true, cold didn’t play a factor.
5. World’s Toughest Mudder must be INSANE. I couldn’t imagine running that course nine more times in 24 hours, not to mention at night and with swimming obstacles. World’s Toughest Mudder 2016 is November 12-13.