-me, after looking at pretty much any one of the climbing obstacles in Tough Mudder, of which there are several.
Yesterday I “did” Tough Mudder. I write that “did” in quotes because I skipped four obstacles of the 24 on the course, and it’s a coincidence that there were two planned skips (arctic enema and electroshock therapy were listed verboten by the doc) and two were unplanned skips (Everest and Stage 5 Clinger). Arctic Enema is where you dive down a tube into water that has floating ice in it and is shockingly cold, and have to swim under an obstacle to get out of said water — so you are completely submerged. Electroshock therapy is walking through about 15 feet of dangling electrical wires that will zap you. Everest is a 20′ high slippery slope that you have to run at, run up (hope you don’t slip), and grab your team’s hands so they can pull you up. Stage 5 Clinger is an inverted ladder (so the base is farther away from you than the top) that you have to climb and then pull yourself up and over.
I tried Everest. I tried it three times, and the third time I landed square on my right shoulder, and told my self enough was enough. I’ve got an impressive welt and a jammed feeling; I can lift it but it hurts when I lift it just so. I should have tried Stage 5 clinger more than the bit that I did.
My pull up game is *not* strong, although it’s getting better, and I struggled with many of the other obstacles that required me to do various forms of lifting my body weight with just my upper body.
Which gets me to this point: unless you are the kind of person who can do 25 effortless pull ups from hanging on your fingertips to pulling yourself up and over something with no foot support, you will have to rely on other people in Tough Mudder.
This is hard for me (and others), and there’s usually one of two competing reasons behind it:
- You don’t want to rely on others because you don’t find others reliable.
- You don’t want to rely on others because you don’t want to inconvenience them.
I don’t have the first problem and once you finish your first few TM obstacles you won’t, either. Random strangers will pull you up, grab your leg to help you get over an obstacle, come to help you, and encourage you to overcome your fears. Yes that was me whimpering at the top of an obstacle because I couldn’t get a toehold and some completely strange person came up and coached me where to put my foot and reassured me he’d catch me if I fell. Your team will also be there for you; I had only met one of my team members before this but every single one of them gave me a folded hand or a leg up at one point. This was not my problem.
My problem is that I kept feeling like I wasn’t pulling my weight (no pun intended). I’m still not sure I did. The Abseil and similar exercises– where there’s at rope or rope ladder — were no problem. But anything that required team-provided-footing left me to feel guilty, like I hadn’t trained enough. And in theory I had “trained” more than my team — following the guidelines, doing the runs (mostly — I only got two 8-milers in), etc. As mentioned previously I can’t do a pull up but I was doing weight-assisted ones in the gym; that proves to not have been enough.
I can say with absolute and utter confidence that I would NOT have signed up for Tough Mudder if I had known the volume of obstacles around heights. Heights for me — particularly ones where I’m sure I’m going to injure myself but not die — are a trembling phobia that surfaced about twenty years ago and hasn’t gone away. (For those of you worried about enclosed spaces: there’s a few of those, too, but they aren’t bad at all– not even MineShafted). Had someone walked me through the course in advance I would have bailed, then and there. But having spent the last 3 years regretting the Tough Mudder I didn’t do, I’m very glad I didn’t talk myself out of this one. I’m glad I had to work through a series of heights challenges, I’m glad I had a supportive team and was reaffirmed in the kindness of strangers, and I’m glad to be back in “regular” training again. Except this time maybe I’ll do some more upper body work.
Those who know me are probably shaking their heads because they think this means I signed up again for next year: NOPE. This was one of those beautiful, shining days that sits on its own. My legs and forearms are thoroughly scratched and bruised, I have the aforementioned shoulder welt and a matching one on my hip. I have met new and awesome people. I have my orange headband.