When I first heard of Tough Mudder, it had already exploded into mass popularity in the US. Similar events, like the Tough Guy Challenge, were popping up all over the world, but I could not say which one really came first. Tough Mudder is a 18km+ obstacle course with 25 British Special Forces style obstacles along the way. There seemed to be an almost insatiable desire for people to put themselves to the test in this wild and dirty type of challenge.
Me and my friends were equally tempted by the physical challenge, the camaraderie and the pure dirty adventure, so when the first Australian Tough Mudder event was announced to be on Phillip Island near Melbourne, we decided to give it a shot.
After watching a few videos from the US, everyone ramped up their training in anticipation of an endless, gruelling and painful track. Especially Electroshock Therapy looked absolutely insane with people screaming their heads off and dropping like rocks into the mud after getting zapped! Have a look at this crazy one:
Why we didn't change our minds after seeing that video is beyond me. I think we just wanted to see how far we could push ourselves and on Saturday the 31st of March, Tough Mudder was finally upon us.
15,000 people were scheduled to participate in Tough Mudder on that day and we drove down to Phillip Island to get there 2 hours early for our 2pm start time. 600 people starting every 15 minutes from 8am to 2pm onwards. You do the math! It was a LOT of people
The organisation of the event was amazing! Parking was quick, easy and well instructed. Registration was broken up by last name so we were done in 5 minutes. Within 30 minutes of arriving we were all ready to go with our numbers pinned to our clothes and went "now what?"
Left to right: Luke, Dave, Emma, Me, Tim, Franco
We had some food, listened to some of the live music and watched people run through Electroshock Therapy. Surprisingly less people were screaming at the Electroshock Therapy obstacle than at Arctic Enema, a big tub filled with ice and water to dive through. The most feared obstacle didn't seem so bad any more.
At 1:40 we were done waiting and simply joined the next start group. No one checked that we were part of our designated group and so, at 1:45, after taking a very corny Tough Mudder pledge, we were on our way.
A lot of the Tough Mudder obstacles were not much of a challenge and simply more dirty fun than anything.
Most of the Berlin walls except for the last set were fairly low and had steps to boost yourself over, the barbed wire on Kiss of Mud was actually all blunted, Boa Constrictor did only have a few centimetres of water in the pipes (rather than being up to your neck), Fire Walker was a walk through a short stretch of smoldering hay and many other obstalces turned out a lot less scary than we expected.
Most of them were simply great fun. We did Walk the plant to jump 4-5m into water, trudged, pulled, rolled, crawled and pushed our way through a variety of sticky mud pits, up and down slippery dirt slopes, through water obstacles and across ropes and monkey bars.
For me, the killer was the running.
We were up to about Kilometer 5 or 6 when my knee started to hurt
I am not a strong runner, mainly because my knee seems to loathe the mere thought of running. My dad (a doctor who loves running marathons... cazy man!) told me I have a short tractus iliotibialis (band running from hip to side of knee) that heats up when I run and gets incredibly painful. I've been training and stretching for 3 months, but I can't seem to get it fully under control. I knew it would act up during Tough Mudder, but I had hoped it would take a little longer than 6km.
I started to walk or powerwalk for short distances to give my knee a break. My team mates slowed down a little so I could keep up with them, but as the kilometres went by I got slower and slower. By kilometre 10, I was more walking than running, kilometre 13 was when walking started to hurt and by kilometre 15 or so I was limping along slower than most people would walk. Every step was like a hammer to my knee, but I was determined to finish the Tough Mudder challenge.
Towards the end of the Tough Mudder course however, we paid the price for not being in the 8am start group as the track filled up with people. Moreover, the weather changed and the sun vanished. A cold sea breeze was coming up onto Phillip Island and we were getting increasingly cold as we made our way towards the finish line caked in wet mud.
We had a volunteer tell us to climb out of a waist deep water filled trench to avoid sitting in the queue for Twinkle Toes for another 15 minutes. So we got up and ran along the muddy bank instead. I think this was around kilometre 14 so my knee was hurting like hell and I am glad I still managed to keep my balanace and not drop into the mudpit below. After Twinkle Toes my method of movement deteriorated to a limp and the rest of my team started to move ahead of me. I didn't mind. I didn't really want to hold them all back anyways
I was getting frustrated with my painful knee, but many people who passed me encouraged me to keep going
However as the kilometres went by, I started to get very, very cold though simply because I was no longer running and the sun was gone. But with 'only' a few kilometres to go, I didn't want to give up.
After Funky Monkey (where I slipped almost instantly because my gloves and the rugs were all slimy with mud), a tire mountain, a few more mud pits and the Turd's Nest, I could see a crowd appearing in the distance. As I limped closer, I could see it was a large number of spectators and Tough Mudder participants waiting in front of the second last obstacle: Everst, a half pipe covered in mud that you need to run up and somehow reach the top.
Besides a large number of spectators there was also a humongous crowd of Tough Mudders waiting to attempt Everest. Cold, shivering and wrapped in thermo sheets we stood there a while but when word got around that it might be a wait of up to 1 hour, we decided to skip Everest and go straight through to Electroshock Therapy.
Electroshock Therapy was not nearly as bad as I had feared. Limping a bit behind I went through the wires after all my team mates had already gone through. A friendly volunteer had a hose with water aimed at me the entire stretch through Electroshock therapy so I probably got a few extra shocks, but besides some pinching and some muscle twitching I made it through within maybe 10 seconds
I believe that the level of voltage for Tough Mudder in Australia may have been a lot lower than it is in America simply due to health and safety regulations - for which I am very grateful I didn't really want to flop and collapse face down into the mud after being zapped!
Straight after Electroshock Therapy we got a group shot taken by the Tough Mudder camera crew and I will post it up once I get my hands on it
Then, 3.5h after starting Tough Mudder, we went through the finish line to receive our headbands, T-shirts and free beer
All of us except Franco skipped the shower at the end simply because the lines were too long, but the shower I had in the hotel afterwards was probably one of the nicest I've had in my life
Left to right: Emma, Luke, Dave, Me, Tim (Franco went to shower)
Tough Mudder was great fun and even if you're not overly fit I am sure you can make it
Don’t get me wrong, there were some nasty obstacles in there. When I jumped into the ice and water of Arctic Enema, my whole body went numb. After diving under the board and pulling myself out the other end I felt 10kg heavier because I was soaked with freezing water. We were lucky that it was a fairly mild day.
But the only thing that posed a real challenge to me was my painful knee. My team mates however did not have much trouble finishing the 20km and the 25 obstacles.
Maybe we will all do it all over again next year if Tough Mudder returns to Melbourne