If you were at Tough Mudder Wisconsin 2012, you probably saw my team before, during, and after the event. We were the ones with the Yoda backpacks. First, let me thank any and all Mudders who helped any of us along the way, as this event is all about camaraderie, and absolutely everyone on the course helped or encouraged everyone else. In that spirit, this page is dedicated as a blow-by-blow of the event to offer future Mudders advice and to admittedly show off pix of us having fun.
We were Team Dagobah, named after the Star Wars planet and system that Luke traveled to in search of Master Yoda. Our team leader thought the challenge of running around in the woods and mud was a lot like Luke having to train with Yoda on his back, so we went with the idea. About half of our team wore the backpacks, and we’re glad we did! Everyone loved our costume, and the backpack was ridiculously useful throughout the course. More on that later.
My husband,Jeff, and I got there two hours early for our 9:20 start time. Parked easy peasy. We took a few minutes to duct tape the top of our shoes because we’d heard they’d otherwise get sucked into mud and lost for all time. It proved to be a smart move. After, we walked to the course nice and clean, and here are pix to prove it.
We bought souvenirs, got noticed and given a shout out by the super funny MC on stage, and climbed the first short wall to get to the starting line.
TM Wisconsin had 21 obstacles planned, and the first for us was Kiss of Mud. We managed to clear the barbed wires even with our backpacks. The core of our team trained for months, and we prepared for this obstacle by crawling through the sand of Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan shoreline. I’m so glad we did that because it taught us that crawling through sand is WAY tougher than crawling through mud. The obstacle was easy, but we were all properly muddy now, so we were happy.
We moved on to High Steppin,’ which is hopping over a serious of chest-high wooden walls (well, waist-high for most Mudders, but I’m a shorty). Those were the only walls I could navigate without help, and that was the case for most people.
Next came Mud Mile, which I think was the sloppiest, most slippery obstacle on our whole course. You cover an area of land (not a whole mile) that’s got a series of deep dips filled with muddy water. By the way, by now, I was starting to discern the many different types of mud there are in the world. There’s the very watery, grainy, splashing mud which filled the gaps at Mud Mile and then there’s the thick, creamy, pay-a-lot-for-it-facial-mask mud of later obstacles, and everything in between. I’m a mud expert now. Where you must walk on mud, I suggest you do it tippy-toe; you’re springier, and your shoes have less of a chance of getting stuck. Anyway, Mud Mile is extremely sloppy. We came out soaked and everyone was left blinking to keep in their contacts.
Next came the first of two sets of Berlin Walls, very high wooden walls with small crossbeams to place a foot but not high enough to actually help you launch over the top. Teamwork was critical here; very few made it over the top without help. The good news is that everyone wants to see others succeed, so everyone helped. I loved that about this event, and it makes me proud to call myself a Mudder.
The Underwater Tunnels obstacle was broken when we got there, but we still had to cross the cold pond; we were just spared having to dive under a series of large plastic tunnels. Don’t feel like we were coddled; Arctic Enema was next.
There are no words to describe the horror of Arctic Enema nor how cold that water was. My freakish, cold-water-loving husband found it refreshing and hung out to push me out of the vat. He must have known how my limbs would stop responding almost immediately; I didn’t think I needed his boost until I had to finish the job of climbing out. I did it, but it only confirmed how much I dislike the cold. Yes, yes! I know! I can hear my friends laughing at me now. True, I’m a speedskater who’s in the cold all the time, but my defense is that I’m used to cold air, not being submerged in cold water. So nyah. Anyway, I survived.
Bale Bonds is climbing over bales of hay. My teammates and everyone around us were surprised at how much our feet sunk into the bales. I guess other Mudders before us must have broken them up a bit. No biggie. It was fun crawling up, and, as usual, those at the top helped others. Did you know how much better hay sticks to you when you’re covered in mud? Oh, my! We ran away looking like escaped scarecrows.
We’re at mile three of almost 12. So far we’re thinking it’s pretty easy. There are spectators everywhere cheering everyone on and taking pictures. Kids are waving at us and shouting about our backpacks. We’re running through fields and then forests and then rocky trails to reach Trench Warfare, in which you crawl through underground tunnels. Think Forest Gump being told to check out a foxhole. I kept talking in the trench to warn of the huge rocks that would eventually beat up all our knees and to give those in the group with claustrophobia something else to worry about than being in dark, cramped underground tunnels. The challenge here was psychological.
On to Logjammin.’ This was a series of logs tied atop each other to make a series of short walls to climb over and under. Flexibility is a good thing.
And here is where I would like to tell all future Mudders that the one obstacle that you won’t find on your map is the course distance itself. You’ll want to run it, of course, because your adrenaline is pumping and you’re tough and all that. Super! – because if you and your team are smart, you won’t focus solely on obstacles during your training. Anyone signing up for Mudder should consider that they need to be able to simply cover the course distance without obstacles. I’m a runner, and I regularly train on hills, so I actually really liked the chance to open up here and get the blood flowing again, but there were plenty of people who clearly hadn’t covered that much distance in a long time. There were also plenty of people who walked to encourage a suffering teammate, including me, so don’t think that every walker out there couldn’t handle it. Everyone encouraged everyone through it, but I’d simply advise in the nicest possible way to try to get in some miles because you’ll tire less easily and thus have a lot more fun.
Okay, next was Firewalker, in which no one walks. They should call it FireRunnerHoldYourBreath. And that’s what you do. Don’t slow down.
Walk the Plank. It’s where you climb a slanted ramp to a tall plank and jump into a deep pool. Sounds easy, but the plank is high. I stayed up a bit too long trying to encourage a teammate who’s scared of heights, and, while I’m so glad to have had the chance to help, it gave me a little too much time to analyze the height. Bad move. I got scared, too. But I got mad at myself and tossed myself into the air out of pure frustration. I got kicked in the face underwater by someone. I probably had it coming; you know, karma for psyching myself out. But the water is deep, so there’s really nothing to fear. Just don’t dawdle. That was mile five.
After a series of zigzagging runs, we got to Hangin’ Tough. This is where you swing on rings over water. Going into TM, I was most concerned about obstacles that required upper body strength, not because that’s the usual concern of most women, but because I’d suffered a rotator cuff injury following a fall while skating last season. I felt strong, but the injury wasn’t healing too well. In the end, I held onto the ring just fine, but ones further on were slippery, and down I went along with most of the guys. My advice would be to try to dry your hands as best as you can on whatever grass you can find. Your clothes won’t be any help, as they’ll be caked in mud. Ah, well. I still held on for awhile, so I was happy about that.
More running. More ponds.
Right after that was Cliffhanger, in which you climb a rocky cliff. Just keep your feet moving and you’ll be fine.
Mile seven and people were clearly tired. There were water stations with bananas along the way, so people were taking care of themselves. Yoda carried our provisions for us: a nice, sweet-yet-salty electrolyte drink, a Cliff bar, an extra pair of contacts, whatever we chose to carry or put in there along the way. I even put stuff into Yoda: a layer that I took off, but the course was littered with gloves and socks and shirts, what have you. I also brought a face towel (sealed in ziplock) to dry my eyes, which I needed right after the next obstacle: Boa Constrictor.
You crawl through metal tubes half-(or more) submerged in muddy water. You had to dunk your head, which means, when you came up, muddy water poured down your face and got into your eyes. Here’s where the contact issue came in. I took the contact out on the run to the next obstacle and was lucky that Jeff spotted a water station to clean it. I would have continued the course even with just one contact, but I was glad not to.
Mile 10. We never saw the Spider’s Web net climb. Huh.
But we did get to Electric Eel. This is a crawl through muddy water with live electrical wires dangling down from cross wires. The crowd here was huge. Apparently watching people scream as they got shocked is great entertainment. Well, it was funny. Even other Mudders couldn’t help but laugh at themselves or others as they twitched and screeched. Well, I’m happy to say that I deprived everyone of laughter at my expense. I rocked that obstacle! Got on my belly and launched myself right in. Did my sand-type crawling so fast that I left a wake! No shocks, and I was out on the other side in record time. And the crowd went wild. There I am getting out, a teammate smiling and my husband on the right trying to figure out how that happened.
We’re at the home stretch, and my most worrisome obstacle is next! The Funky Monkey is a monkey bar climb up and down over a water source. Unfortunately for others (but not for me because I really didn’t want to test my shoulder anymore), that event was closed! Someone said the liner for the pond underneath had sprung a leak, so the water level could not be stabilized. TM doesn’t want people injured, so closing the obstacle was the right thing to do.
Mile 11, and rounding the bend, the crowd is bigger than ever for Everest. You can’t complete this obstacle without teamwork. I saw no one get to the top on his own. You run up a quarter pipe to catch the hands of those waiting at the top, but the pipe is slippery, and the athletes are tired. I ran up once, and my fingers slipped through my teammates’ hands. I ran up a second time, and yet again, Yoda came in handy. While two teammates held my hands, another reached over both and yanked up Yoda. I came along for the ride.
Final obstacle, Electroshock Therapy. Running through a gauntlet of live, electrical wires with the maximum shock value being 10,000 volts. The MC from the stage was there and started shouting for Team Dagobah! How cool is that?! The crowd started rootin’ for us, so Jeff and I both took off our Yodas and put him in front of us. Our shield. Our 21st teammate. How I love him. Yoda valiently took the brunt of the shocks for us. Jeff got none. I got three small hits, probably because I held Yoda lower. A teammate who chose to not carry Yoda (and therefore it’s totally his fault) got the mega-zap and was knocked out cold. Face first into the mud. When he stumbled out, dazed and confused, he was totally and completely re-soaked in black mud. He looked like a cake that a kid had frosted really thickly in chocolate.
After hours of hard work, we made it! We crossed the finish line, got the famous orange Tough Mudder headband, cool T-shirt, and an ice-cold beer. Whoo hoo, Team Dagobah! No beer ever tasted so good. And we were sad to leave.
So that’s Tough Mudder. I hope you enjoyed the pix and this recap. If you want to leave a comment, click here. It’s much appreciated. Link at will.
Congrats to all Mudders and thanks to all who keep the spirit of camaraderie alive! We are all TOUGH MUDDERS!