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Tough Mudder challenges body and mind

Competitors at the Tough Mudder event held at Northstar Saturday crawl through muddy water and under barbed wire in the Kiss the Mud obstacle.
Submitted photo by Micah Warner |

There I was covered in mud, soaked in sweat and writhing in pain at the top of beautiful Northstar resort

Surrounded by the majesty that is the Sierra Nevada, I could do nothing but focus on the pain that was firing through my legs. My calves had locked up with cramps, and down to the dirt I went.

One after another, I yelled for help, calling to my teammates by name.



“Greg, Brett, Coffey,” I hollered the best I could, but with a mouth dry and filled with dust, I got no response. With my energy sapped and my legs drawing my mind’s attention, I gave one more yelp for help.

“Muck Rakers!” I belted with what little energy I had.




All at once, my teammates turned, saw me on the ground grimacing in pain and ran to my aid.

They helped me work through the cramps, get back up and finish the remaining five miles of the most daunting physical task I’ve ever encountered.

That moment right there is what the Tough Mudder is all about. Teamwork and perseverance.

It’s no wonder calling out individual names didn’t garner a response — because on that day, we were a team, unified in everything.

Thousands of participants took on the 10 mile Tough Mudder course littered with 19 obstacles last weekend with the prize being pride, a free beer, a T-shirt and an orange headband.

It was worth it.

The atmosphere was one of the best I’ve ever been a part of as the Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge with a heavy emphasis on helping your fellow “mudder.” There was no animosity, no taunting, no pushing and shoving in lines and no hard looks from fellow competitors, only a helpful boost if needed, followed by words of encouragement and support.

I, myself, encourage anyone who likes to test their limits both physically and mentally to take the Tough Mudder challenge, and with another event taking place at Northstar in September, there is an opportunity sooner than later. So in the spirit of Tough Mudder, I am here to help by giving some tips on some of the more trying obstacles.

Kiss the Mud — One of the earlier obstacles and the first to get you covered mud. Stay low as you army crawl under barbed wire and over rocks and mud. When you come out the other end, you will be covered mud and a few pounds heavier depending on how much muck sticks to your apparel.

Arctic Enema — This 10-foot-long ice bath shocks the system, instantly sending pins and needles throughout the body. The key to getting through this one before hypothermia sets in is jumping in as close to the barrier as possible, which is set in the middle of the tank, going directly the bottom and slipping under the barrier and out the other end. This event will stick with you for miles as the body slowly thaws. There is no prepping for this, but if your a member of a polar bear club, you may have an upper hand.

Just the Tip — In this test of finger strength, competitors are asked to shimmy along a fence using only their fingers to grip an inch-long ledge at the top. If you can’t make it, a pool of muddy water awaits those who fall from the wooden wall. Upper-body strength and hand and finger toughness are a must in this one.

Lumberjacked — This one is difficult for even the toughest of mudders. A giant log rests about 7 feet in the air and competitors need to go up and over, not one but two sets of logs. Most need a boost or a helping hand, some made it on their own, but this obstacle takes a combination of great jumping ability and impressive upper-body strength. If you can’t do it, don’t worry; there are plenty of fellow mudders who are happy to help hoist you over.

Trench Warfare — This is not for the claustrophobic. In Trench Warfare, mudders crawl through dark cavernous paths on their knees for about 30 feet. The key to this one is to just keep going until you see light.

Electric Eel — This is the Tough Mudder’s first chance to electrocute its competitors. This obstacle combines Kiss the Mud with dangling electric cords. There is no avoiding the live wires as they are everywhere, but the faster you army crawl through it, the less you will be exposed. Don’t stop when shocked, just keep going, the shocks are minor, but if you linger, they can build up.

Berlin Walls — Multiple walls that rise straight up 12 feet seem pretty intimidating, especially at mile 5 and not to mention the first 5 miles are straight up the side of Northstar. This is another obstacle that counts on team work and upper-body strength.

Boa Constrictor — This obstacle combines Kiss the Mud and Trench Warfare but with angles. First you slip into a tube and slide down a muddy runway into a pool of water. When you come out, remember to stay low as barbed wire looms just inches above your head. Now comes the hard part. After you army crawl through the muddy water, now you have to wiggle yourself up another slippery tube that is at a 30 degree angle.

Funky Monkey — Remember being on the playground and swinging from monkey bar to monkey bar. Now imagine they rise from rung to rung and if you fall, it’s into a waist deep pit of water. Upper-body strength and flow is paramount for this obstacle. Pull-ups will help you prepare for it, but as important is the fluidity and pace with which you go from bar to bar.

Mud Mile — The Mud Mile is closer to 20 yards and is a series of mud piles over which you need to climb. They do get tedious, but it’s over before the body starts to feel the effects.

Hold Your Wood — The strategy here is simple. Grab the smallest log possible. My teammates and I made the wrong choice, and we paid dearly. Once you reach the Hold Your Wood obstacle, you have the choice of grabbing a small log as an individual or a massive log to be carried by two. We chose the latter, and while we struggled to carry this massive tree log up a very steep hill, several other mudders passed by with small logs looking no worse for the wear.

Walk the Plank — This was my favorite obstacle because it is very similar to jumping off a rock at the river. You simply climb a wall then jump off of it. The fall is around 15-20 feet, and when you hit the cold water it refreshes you for the back part of the journey. If you are afraid of heights, it will be daunting, but there are several life guards on duty, and the fall is simply exhilarating.

Everest — The second-to-last obstacle on the course is running up a massive half pipe and making a lunge for the top. Again, the team aspect comes into play as each mudder makes that desperate leap for the top of Everest, a helpful hand is always there to help you over the last little bit.

Electro Shock Therapy — The final test for a Tough Mudder competitor is charging through knee-high muddy water while traversing through dangling electric cords. The shocks in this one are no joke as they sent jolts through my body that caused involuntary movements, but when you are that close to the end, nothing stops you.

Now these are just some of the many obstacles that await a Tough Mudder, but if you can get through these, you can do any of them.

Again, I encourage anyone who embraces the adventurous kid in them to try to take on the Tough Mudder. I also encourage finding a good team with which to do it.

Not only is it satisfying to complete it but also satisfying to know that a portion of the entry cost went to a great cause, the Wounded Warrior Project. As of press time Tuesday night, the Tough Mudder event had raised more than $5 million for the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors of the U.S. Armed Forces with a vision to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.

The Tough Mudder is hosted all over the U.S. and the world with competitions scheduled year round. For information on the Tough Mudder or to sign up for September’s event at Northstar, visit http://toughmudder.com.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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