This past Sunday, my wife and I ran the Philly Tough Mudder. This was her second, and my first experience. We volunteered on Saturday, and ran Sunday (only cost $20 to run it because of the volunteering). The course was 12 miles long on hilly terrain, with a number of obstacles to overcome. This is an account of my experience during the day.
(First of all, sorry about the big lack of pictures here. I would have loved to take some, but there was no way my phone would have survived the journey. Next time I'll try to see if I can make it through with one of those disposables.)
Mud Mile 2.0: This was my first experience with mudder obstacles. This consists of a series of ditches, about 6 or 7 feet deep, filled with muddy water that was waist to chest high. To get out, you need to climb up mud walls, making it pretty much impossible without boosting your fellow mudders up and/or getting a hand from those ahead giving you a helping hand. Had a lot of fun on this one. Also immediately found out what it’s like to run while covered in mud up to my shoulders.
Skidmarked: There’s a large wall, angled toward you as you approach. It’s high enough that you can jump and grab the edge with your fingers, so you can get over this on your own if you’ve got the upper body strength, but everyone else running is more than willing to help push you up or pull you over. (This and many other obstacles is a great excuse to be grabbing my wife’s butt all day long, not that I need an excuse normally).
Hero Carry: This is a two part obstacle. You and a partner take turns carrying each other through a wooded area. The second half where I carried my wife was uphill, so I’m glad she got the slightly easier half.
Berlin Walls: Similar to Skidmarked, but the walls are vertical and higher (also there’s two of them). You aren’t reaching the top without help unless you can run straight up a wall. Teamed up with some cool guys to get by these ones.
Devil’s beard: This one wasn’t too tough. There’s a very large cargo net over muddy ground, and you simply crawl underneath it. Doing a bear crawl where you’re up on hands and feet instead of on your knees made it easier to complete.
Hold your wood: This was a real bitch, and I’ve got some sore shoulders today thanks to it. You and several others pick up a log and carry it for maybe a quarter mile or so, around a bend and uphill. After this was a water stop and they had bananas! It was the best one I’ve ever eaten.
King of the Mountain: If you’re allergic to hay, stay away! It’s a mountain of hay bales. Relatively easy to climb up and over.
Kiss of Mud 2.0: Back into the muck. Get on your hands and knees, and crawl through mud underneath barbed wire, including a dip into a watery/muddy ditch toward the end of it. Still a nice break from the running! Gave the wife a big muddy kiss afterwards.
Block-ness monster: This was my favorite event of the entire run. First you jump into a pit of waist high water. There are a series of long rectangular blocks, and you have to grab an edge while it spins to be taken up and over. These blocks are VERY heavy, so it takes several people to get them moving. Once I would get over, I’d jump up and hang on the back end to try to help pull down and get other mudders over. My wife was awesome at coordinating team work on this event.
Pyramid Scheme: This was fun as well. There is a very long, slick angled wall. You must build a human pyramid and climb over your fellow runners to get up to the top. My wife and I teamed up with three other guys. To get the last one up, we had to dangle a human chain down to grab his hands, and then he was able to climb over his friends to join us at the end.
Everest 2.0: This was the end of the line for those running the half mudder. You’ve got a sloping wall, slick from the mud of those that have come before you. It’s possible to run up it and grab the lip at the top, but the vast majority of folks need to grab a hand or two of mudders at the top. I wasn’t able to make it on my first two attempts, and banged the hell out of my knee, but was able to make it on the third. My wife tore a big hole in the side of her pants while trying to scramble up, and opened up an previous cut on her knee. We came away from this banged up and bleeding a bit. Still, we were having a great time and ready for the second half!
Pitfall: Slide down a muddy embankment into waist deep muddy water. The pit is littered with a number of holes, so you’re going to find yourself tripping and getting dunked if you proceed quickly. Absolutwife and I went slowly, hand in hand so that we could keep each other from getting tripped up.
Quagmire: Like pitfall, minus the holes. The bottom was a bit muddier though, so needed to make sure those shoes were on tight or you could risk losing one!
Balls to the Wall: This consists of a vertical wall, with a rope which has several knots on it. Pretty straightforward, climb on up and over. There’s a rope on the other side to get back down. I’m far better with upper body strength than distance running, so I like stuff such as this.
Stage 5 Clinger/Reach Around: Stage 5 Clinger is for legionnaires (those who have run tough mudder before), while Reach Around is for first timers (aka, me). Reach Around was basically a ladder with “rungs” made of 2x4’s spaced about 4 feet apart, give or take. This ladder of sorts was at a 45 degree, angled toward you, so you were hanging out over nothing at the edge. At this point you must pull yourself up and over. I was first in line here, so I could at least help out those behind me at the top. The difference with Stage 5 Clinger is that you first climb vertically to the ceiling of a platform, then go across monkey bars to the edge before pulling yourself up.
Funky Monkey – The Revolution: The first half is an ascending set of monkey bars over water. Once you reach the end, you have to grab onto a horizontal wheel, followed by a large vertical wheel, smaller vertical wheel, and then a straight bar pointing away from you, hanging from a chain. I managed to make it to the first vertical wheel, but couldn’t hold on as it spun downwards and went into the water.
Birth Canal/Black Hole: Birth Canal consists of several sets of tarps filled with water that you need to crawl under. These are heavy and it makes for a very claustrophobic experience. Black Hole is for legionnaires, and the difference is that everything is enclosed, putting you completely in the dark. I was huffing and puffing after doing this one.
Arctic Enema – The Rebirth: Slide down a large pipe into a big dumpster, filled with 35-degree water. It takes your breath away when you hit that water! Obviously, you want to move as fast as humanly possible through this. At the end, you need to completely submerge to get under a wall. What a shock to the system! Once I got out, for some reason my balls felt way more frozen than the rest of me. Very weird. It was good to get moving again to warm up.
Augustus Gloop: Jump into even more water (luckily not freezing cold)! There are pipes stood up almost vertically, and you need to climb up inside with water constantly pouring down on you. It was challenging, but fun.
Ladder to Hell: Misleading name on this one! I didn’t find it very challenging, as it was a wall of boards, about four feet apart or so. Climb up, climb down, done.
King of the Swingers: Climb up onto a platform, 15 – 20 feet (?) or so above a large pool of water. You must jump out over the water, grab a bar, swing out over the water, and attempt to ring a bell once you jump off. Not going to lie, I was VERY nervous about this, as I’m not a great swimmer. My heart was pounding at the top, but the volunteer at the top counted down, and I just went for it. My wife says my face showed total panic when I was thinking “OH SHIT!” after leaving the bar and missing the bell. Started trying to swim, but my mud filled shoes were heavy as hell, and I didn’t have much left in the tank at this point. Instead of letting my pride get the better of me and looking like a complete idiot, I called for help from the nearby diver. I’m glad I tried it, but I don’t think I’m going to attempt this one next time I run.
Kong: I had seen this one yesterday, and I was all ready to do it. You had to swing from ring to ring across a big pit that had a big inflatable bag at the bottom in case you didn’t make it. We arrived and I found out it was legionnaires only. I was bummed that my last major obstacle was the previous less than stellar one.
Electroshock Therapy: This was the very end of the line. You’ve got to run through a muddy area with puddles and hay bales to jump over. There are a lot of cables hanging down, that periodically give you a jolt of electricity. My wife and I put our arms out in front of our faces, and ran for it. She stumbled after taking a pretty good jolt, but we quickly made it through. Thought I was going to go down at one point when I got a chock in the shoulder. We had a good laugh about it though.
After that, we crossed the finish line, and got our headbands. Grabbed some chips and water, and headed off to grab our free beer. Then we got changed, and made the two hour trip home, which consisted of the best Five Guys meal I ever ate.
Maybe I can see some of you guys there next time! Don’t be too concerned that you can’t do it. There were plenty of people there that you might think “THAT person was able to do it?!” You can walk the whole thing if you want, and you can skip any obstacle if you can’t make it. Everyone else is incredibly supportive and wants to help you succeed in any way possible.
If you do go, I could give a couple pointers. The most obvious one would be to do at least some training ahead of time! Of course the better shape you’re in, the easier things will be. As I stated before though, some mostly out of shape folks can do it, and have done so. Secondly, eat, eat, eat the night before and that morning. We had McDonalds for dinner and then breakfast to load up on sodium and carbs. This GREATLY helps cut down on your muscles cramping up. That and you’re going to be burning a couple thousand calories. You need the fuel. Late in the course, we came across a guy we had stood in line with originally who was down with a cramped up leg. He hadn't eaten all that much, and couldn't eat the bananas given out during the run (he hated them). Luckily, another person had some salt tablets to get him back up and moving, and we saw him again after the run. He finished successfuly and we congratulated him. Last, find a good bunch of people to team up with, and you’ll go far.
The happy couple, a little worse for wear and a lot dirty
I had a fantastic time, and am looking forward to doing it again next year. Today, I’m sore as hell. My arms are all scratched and scraped up, legs are sore, shoulders are bruised, and my right wrist feels like I punched a brick wall. It was totally worth it! The thing I loved the most was the focus on team work. Complete strangers were all helping each other out, and when someone was starting to look like they were in trouble, there was no shortage of others there to encourage and lend a hand. It’s already scheduled for the Philly area (Coatesville actually) May 19th and 20th. I’ll be volunteering for the Saturday and running on Sunday, so look for me if you want to take the plunge!