Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tough Mudder - I'll never be in the military

They don't call it "Tough" for nothing. I would never make it in the military.

Warning: A long recap coming. There are too many aspects to talk about.

As I was laying in bed last night trying to wind down while nursing my wounds I wrote this blog post in my head. You see trying to sleep even though I felt like I had been beaten senseless was impossible. Even on only 4 hours sleep the night before. I was overwhelmed with the experience I had. There aren't really any pictures since it would be ludicrous to take any sort of camera. I highly suggest you go check out the pictures of the Toronto event on the TM website HERE.

I wasn't supposed to do this race because of my clavicular dysfunction (HA, I love that term) injury. I quit running over 2 months ago because it was just too much pain. The only thing I've been able to do for exercise is cycling and the occasional escarpment stair intervals. Not to mention I'm moving all this week so I've been hauling crap and boxes and generally just aggravating my shoulder.

I signed up for Tough Mudder with my friend and her team not totally realizing what I was getting myself into. Well with me injured and her running a marathon the very next weekend, we both tried selling our bibs but to no avail since you have to show ID to register at the race. I found this out a week before the race. I had two options. Lose out on the hefty registration cost +$100, defer to next year at a cost of $30 or suck it up and do it. I'm sure most of you know me by now so there's no surprise that I did it.

Firstly: Tough Mudder is an obstacle course race that is long known for being THE toughest obstacle race. There are a lot of these kind of races out there these days. They are increasingly popular. The Warrior Dash, The Spartan Race, The Mud Run and many more. Most of them are tame (or so I've heard) and maybe around 5km in length. The Tough Mudder far exceeds other obstacle races as far as distance and difficulty. Most of them are around 10-12 miles (16-20km). This event was 16km. We figured it may have had something to do with climbing up and down the ski hills and fear of too many people dying (jokes) and rolling down double black diamonds. Or maybe they ran out of space, I don't know. Toronto Tough Mudder was held at Mt. St. Louis Moonstone - a SKI HILL for cripes sake.
The course route map

Secondly: I was NOT trained, at all, for this.

Off the TM website:
"Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. Tough Mudder is the premier adventure challenge series in the world."

So let's get this straight... You're signing up to be dunked into a dumpster full of ice. Zapped with electricity at 10,000 volts, crawl through mud under barbed wire, thrown over walls and into mud pits, up and down ski hills, in cramped spaces surely to make even the non claustrophobic scared and get your a$$ handed to you on a platter for 10-12 miles. And thousands of people across the country are willingly signing up to to this?! It does take a certain kind of person though I didn't think I was one of them.

In order to get into the start corral the first obstacle is a wall. I climbed this wall (got pushed up and over it actually) and that was stupid. I immediately regretted it as my collar bone screamed back in horror. Okay, I can see how this is going to play out. They did a phenomenal job of psyching us out and pumping us up with the energy, music and power of the MC. I was getting shivers!

Then we took off. We were almost immediately faced with our first climb. I will say that I lost count how many times we were climbing up the ski hill. There was very little actual running involved in this race. We were either scaling UP the ski hill or tumbling down. 

I had to opt out from most of the obstacles because they required hauling and launching yourself and others over walls, hanging from monkey bars or running full speed up a quarter pipe praying for someone to grab your hand. Most of the time I had my one arm glued to me which made doing everything else including running with one arm strenuous and annoying. If you go and watch the video on the TM website most of the obstacles are the same at every event so it's worthwhile to watch to see what we did. Unfortunately due to the fire ban in parts of Ontario there were no fire obstacles. I think they just replaced it with extra mud and maybe another hill to climb.

Of the obstacles I did partake in, the Arctic Enema and Electroshock Therapy were by far the most horrible.  Those links take you to the official obstacle youtube videos which are totally worth watching! The arctic enema was only the 2nd obstacle so there was an entrĂ©e of "throw yourself into it" or crap your pants. This obstacle consisted of jumping into a huge dumpster filled with ice water that we couldn't see through because of mud and some eerie food colouring or something. We were then faced with a wall that was too high to go over with barbed wire so we had to submerge ourselves and go under the wall and come up the other side. I couldn't breathe. The ice cold water shocked my body and I almost took a big gulp of water. Getting out wasn't any easier. I was looking at my legs and telling them to crawl down the other side but they weren't moving. Probably because THEY WERE FROZEN!

The event was phenomenally organized. I was SO impressed. Most well organized event I've ever been to. I liked that you weren't overwhelmed with "safety". I mean, there were organizers and first aid watching everywhere but nobody was treating us like kids as you often get at these things. Then again, we are choosing to torture ourselves so there has to be some element of stupid responsibility on ourselves. Plus we did sign a 2 page waiver which probably stated (as if I actually read it) that we were responsible for everything including death. There were participants breaking bones, dislocating shoulders, suffering concussions and a lot worse.

I was there with a team of 5 other people who I didn't know until that day. They were all really great and amazing to be with. I was by far the weakest link. They waited for me at the top of hills and through obstacles I struggled with. They waited for me to catch up running with one arm. They were AWESOME.

One of the incredible things about this event was the camaraderie of all the participants. I mean seriously. Hundreds of people helping hundreds others. Once you face an obstacle you automatically help whoever is around you whether they are team mates or not and everybody else follows suit. No.Matter.What. At one point I was trying to crawl out of a slippery pipe half submerged in muddy water and it just wasn't happening. The guy on the other end stuck his hand down as far as he could and said, "just reach my hand, it's all you have to do" while the guy behind me pushed my feet. It sounds like war which thankfully it was not. The point is, even though it's a small little challenge, everybody comes together. No one gets left behind even if they're strangers. Mind you the dude behind me was probably his friend he was waiting for and well, I happened to be in the friend sandwich. The point is still the same.


I had no clue what I was going to do. We heard the course would take us about 3.5-4hours to complete. That's far too long to be without insulin. I thought there would be a lot of standing around and waiting so a low temp basal was a bad idea. Turns out there was very little waiting and I was pushing hard the entire time. Still though, I managed it all while leaving my pump on and no temp basal. Two ziplock bags and duct tape was my waterproofing solution. I then shoved it down my cleave in my sportsbra. I was on day #9 of the sensor so it was on the fritz. I was happy to report NO water damage! I had my site on my arm (not the best place) and brought a replacement for the end which was necessary because there was so much mud I couldn't even unclip it. I carried a Camelback which was annoying as all hell. I don't know how you do it Lindsay! I didn't know where else to shove gels and my meter while crawling around in mud and swimming through nasty brown ponds. My meter got nestled into a small Otter Box which worked like a charm. I probably could have gone without the meter and just shoved gels in my bra but I also had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was afraid I might lose those gels.

Thanks to a reliable Otter Box

I went almost entirely based on feel which is not something I've ever relied on. I tested a couple times but it was hard being wet, muddy or sweaty 90% of the time. I was in no way able to comprehend what was going on. I wasn't paying attention to carb intake, timing, exertion, nothing! It was like distraction city. I went a bit low twice but nothing requiring even a beeg check and I was able to keep it up. I had a gel, half a banana and 4 shot blocks during the course. After the first few kms I was certain I would crash hard the whole time because let's face it, that was way harder than I expected it to be! Much to my surprise though I stayed even keeled. Magic? Went a bit high post race but perhaps that was the adrenaline from being electrocuted. Can't say I have experience with that.

The last obstacle, "Electroshock Therapy" was thoroughly awful. A field of innocent dangling wires that held 10,000 volts of electricity? I thought that was a joke. I wish I took a video of other people going through it so you could see. There were too many wires too close together to avoid. It was the end of the race. The finish line was on the other side. Initially I had said I wasn't doing it after a couple friendly D-folks told me not to (with my insulin pump). I skipped the other obstacle with live wires. However, emotions got the better of me and my stubborn side kicked in. I basically said "to hell with it" went through it with my team, insulin pump and all. I thought I would just hunker in behind someone but that failed, miserably. Also, I was thinking, "how bad could it really be?" referring to my statement above about "safety".

Well let me tell you, I got shocked 4 times and it terrified me. You are running through mud pits so there's an intentional tripping hazard.

It went like this: (I'm sorry but the "F" word is all that came out of my mouth)
*ZAAP* then I screamed "F@*K!" *ZAAP, "F@*K! *ZAAP*, "F@*K" and the last one? *ZAAP* and I went down into the mud almost unable to move as I rolled and crawled away, with my knee bleeding. Each zap knocked the breath out of me and stopped me. I stood up holding my chest. I couldn't breath and tears were welling up in my eyes. That was horrible. One of the medics ran over asking why I was holding my chest. I pulled out my insulin pump, the screen was fine so I told him I was just in shock. I am still not sure if I am fine today, I'll just say that. But the pump? seems to be A-OK!

How's that for you Medtronic?

Diabetes devices took a beating. Mud, water, electric shock? Far more hardcore than metal detectors and body scanners at the airport (of which I go through both). I was nervous and risked a lot taking my expensive medical devices into the unknown but what else was I to do? I surely proved that it put up with me.

It was not without it's difficulties though. I am in so much pain. My shoulder is brutal and I hurt in places I didn't even know existed. It really does feel like I went through a human sized pin ball machine. It hurt lifting my coffee to my mouth. I'm glad all I ended up with was sore muscles and scrapes. People get seriously hurt doing TM events.

Overall, it was pretty miserable! (I say that with a smile). Not gonna lie. Climbing up a black diamond ski hill was like a battle field. People falling over. People crawling and complaining and swearing. I saw muscle cramps and tears and friends trying to carry friends. Surprisingly I saw no hurling. Black diamond ski hills are not meant for hiking up. I'm glad I did it even if it wasn't good for my shoulder. I met a great group of strangers who quickly became my team mates. I witnessed stuff I'd never see any where else. It was hard. It was really hard for someone who hasn't even run in 2 months never mind not doing any other sort of training either. Totally unprepared for this!

The "after" picture. Thanks again Ashley!

In a nutshell? I can't wait to do it again next year.
Also? If you ever get the chance to try it, don't pass up the opportunity! It's less about the macho and more about the team work and camaraderie. Just be careful and maybe wear long pants or something.

Goodbye shoes!

This was awesome. I have to admit I felt like an animal in a car wash. The dudes on the side were scrubbing people down with brushes on sticks. Those things hanging? More scrubbers. It did the trick though.

Replacing my infusion set on the school bus ride back to the parking lot. 

I call these the "day-after-tough-mudder" knees. They look bad and they feel bad.


  1. you are my hero, I'll see you there next year for sure.

  2. Hey Scully,
    very cool. I'd love to do a mudder (I was in the military and always liked this kind of thing - and without full gear it's much more fun) but I don't know of any around me.
    I would have taken my pump off for the race, or not even entered (too scared to lose or break my pump). You did a fantastic job protecting your pump - maybe it;s time to get a waterproof pump or a omnipod?

  3. Dear Scully,

    Just a little note from your DBFF, who thinks you're awesome. Um... Two things:

    (1) Good for you for doing this and not dying.

    (2) Y'all are [F-ing] nuts.

    That's all!


  4. Holy sh&t. Yep, there you have it - I swore. I did the a 5k Mud Run, and seeing some girl break her leg after falling off one of the climbing walls was enough for me. BUT, 10 miles of that? And ice water?? And electroshock????? I'm game for a lot of things, but NOT that.

    I am super impressed.

    And if you must know- carrying around a Camelbak is no easy feat. It annoys the hell out of me and makes my back sweaty, but I try my best to ignore it. I have never been able to find a waist pack that agrees with me....

  5. I've always wanted to do the Tough Mudder (always at least since I first read about them). I don't know which would test me most - the fire obstacles or the electriciy ones. I guess there's only one real way to find out.

  6. You are awesome!!! I laughed the whole way through this post! So proud of you for just saying "F-it" and going for it!! Hope your body heals up quickly! :)

  7. You know, I like to think of myself as a pretty tough chick, but I sure as hell ain't that tough! Maybe it has something to do with the electric fences around my parents' farm property growing up, that I had an unhealthy (read: stupid) relationship with where I would repeatedly touch the fence thinking that this time it wouldn't zap me. It always did. And now, decades later, the fear of the zap lives on.
    You, my dear friend, with that mucked up shoulder of yours, are tougher than She-Rah tough – my gawd!

  8. I have to agree with Jeff's comment above. As I read through this, one paragraph makes me think "Hey, I should try this!", but the next one makes me think "That's F'ing insane! No way in Hell would I do that!". And back and forth it goes.

    I'm 99.9% confident I'll never do it, but I am so damn proud of you that you did.

  9. OMFG!!!! you are one crazy lady!!! i can't even begin to imagine doing something like this!! not even when i was young, strong, athletic, healthy!!!

    it's great i can live vicariously through you!!

    YOU ROCK my friend!

  10. You are f'ing awesome! I too read through and kept flitting through "I totally want to do that" to "not a chance in hell I am ever doing that". Love how you jumped in and just did it! You are a tough chick, I admire that! Hope those knees of yours heal up soon! Ouch!

  11. You are so bad-a$$!!!! Diabetes has nothing on you!

  12. Wowsers Scully! You are fucking nutso!! But you're the most loved nutso I've ever known. :-)

    1. I was about to write this - so umm... ditto.


  13. AHHH!!!! LOVE IT!!!! I have a friend who did the Tough Mudder in January and ROCKED IT!!! Love the pics and I LOVE your waterproof case!!! So happy you had a great time :)

    My husband did the Warrior Dash a couple years back -- not nearly as much of a challenge, but still a muddy good time!

  14. Dear Scully,

    I've just read your blog - its fantastic! My co-authors and I are writing a paper on Tough Mudder for a marketing Journal and we would like to ask your permission to use a quote from your blog in our paper: "II hurt in places I didn't even know existed. It really does feel like I went through a human sized pin ball machine. It hurt lifting my coffee to my mouth. I'm glad all I ended up with was sore muscles and scrapes."

    If you wouldn't mind emailing me back to let me know if this is OK: rebeccaoliviascott@gmail.com that would be wonderful, keep up the great work!

    Best wishes



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