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The full team with our leader, Doc a.k.a. “Richard Simmons”

I’ve run five marathons and ten times as many half marathons. I’ve given birth without drugs twice. (For you male readers: imagine crapping a cantaloupe and you’ll know what it’s like to give birth drug free. You’re welcome for that visual!). And STILL I would say the hardest physical feat I’ve ever accomplished was the 2014 Ohio Tough Mudder. That thing made 26.2 miles of hills look like a freakin’ cake walk.

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This was pretty much the entire course (these were poor spectators…who ended up doing their own mudder that day)

Course & Conditions

The conditions in Ohio (Saturday, May 17) were extreme. Even the veteran Mudders (also known as “legionnaires”) were, like, WTH and OMG and this-is-the-hardest-one-ever. It had rained for days prior to the event. It rained so much and so hard that up until Friday morning, the event organizers weren’t even sure if the race was going to happen.

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So the entire course was a quagmire. And I don’t mean it was sloppy and slippery, I mean, it was shoe-sucking, soul-crushing, shin-deep mud for 10 miles. TEN MILES, which translated into TEN miles of high knees. (And we thought 16 miles of sand at the ’13 Beast on the Bay was bad.)

And it was also cold – in the mid-50s, which is a perfect temp for a 10-mile run, but not one in which you’re forced to get wet every 15 minutes.

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I’ve never been so cold in my entire life…and I’ve run through every Erie winter since 1997. Halfway through the event, our team of 20+ was huddling  like a waddle of penguins (you know a group of penguins is called a “waddle”, right? See how committed I am to educating you?). We were just one big shivering mass. Like the penguins would probably tell you if they could speak, it’s lovely when you’re in the middle – kinda sucky when you’re on the outside of the waddle.

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The Obstacles

There were 23 obstacles in Ohio. I won’t give you the full run down because, unless you’re a big die-hard Tough Mudder, A.) the obstacle names won’t mean anything to you, and B.) You probably don’t care that much anyway.

So I’ll just tell you about a few:

The obstacle I dreaded the mostTrench Warfare (crawling underground through a trench full of mud and water. Verdict: It was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be because I had teammate Matt right in front of me, telling me everything to expect up ahead — “we’re turning left…the water is getting deeper here…” Teammates really do get you through a mudder — I couldn’t have done this one without Matt K.

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The obstacle I totally underestimatedArctic Enema (jumping into, and swimming through a storage container full of ice water). I was all…whatever…how bad can it be? It’s bad. Very, Very, very bad. I was so disoriented and shocked after ducking under the wood in the middle (they force you to put your entire head under), that I just stood there, paralyzed until I Matt K (to the rescue again) stuck his hand out and yelled at me to get over there and put my feet on the rungs to get out.

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Jumping into Arctic Enema

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There was an ice truck parked next to this obstacle & they added ice continually.

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This is not me, but this is pretty much the face I made.

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Here’s the teammate  — M Kleck himself, who works months to grow out his hair to pull off the rad ‘stache and mullet you see there — who saved me more than a few times.

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Matt pulling Jen out of Arctic Enema.

The obstacle that was surprisingly scaryWalk the Plank (Jump off a 20-foot ? platform into the muddy water below). I’m not afraid of heights and I’m a strong swimmer, but I felt my knees start to shake a little when I stood at the top of Walk the Plank, looking down at the brown “pool” below. I didn’t think too long, just stepped off. I wish now that I’d done a cannonball.

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Me…clearly not amused by Walk the Plank.

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The view from up there.

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The plank

The obstacle(s) that were nearly impossiblePole Dancer (angled parallel bars over water) and Funky Monkey (inclining monkey bars over water). While I managed to work my way up to getting across the monkey bars and parallel bars at the local playground…it was nothing compared to doing them on angled and wet metal with exhausted muscles).  I fell in the water on Pole Dancer and just jumped in and swam across Funky Monkey.

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Pole Dancer….or another pool to swim across, if you’re weak armed like me.

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I don’t think any member of our team made it more than half way on the Funky Monkey.

The obstacle I should’ve been afraid ofBalls to the Wall (climb a rope, climb over the wall, get back down). This was much more difficult than it looked and, with a rope covered in mud, the entire area in front & behind the wall a quagmire…an impossibility for me. Some of my teammates made it over…many skipped it and huddled with me.

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The obstacle I wish I’d have had strength forEverest (Run up a “half pipe” and launch outstretched arms to people on top of the wall). This was the 2nd to last obstacle and none in the group I was with had the strength to run, leap, etc. I’d bet that 80% of the participants that day skipped this one. Would be fun to try on a dry day (as you can imagine the area in front was a quagmire…so you couldn’t get any footing/speed to run).

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The obstacle that f$%# hurtElectroshock Therapy (Run through a field of live electrical wires). It only took one jolt for me to hit the ground and belly crawl the rest of the way out of this obstacle. That f#$@ing hurt.

This is not me, but yes, I did Electroshock therapy and, yes, it hurts.
Those yellow wires (well, some of them) are live …and, yes, it hurts when they zap you.

The Team Concept

My team—Run Hard, Finish Wet—was huge (we filled an entire school/shuttle bus ourselves).

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Were not for my teammates, I’d never have done half the obstacles and I’d probably still be in the Arctic Enemy, bewildered and sputtering as I spit out ice.

I think it would be nearly impossible to do this race without teammates and, that’s just what the Tough Mudder founder intends (ignore the idiotic reporter in that interview…what an amateur). Tough Mudder is not a race. It’s not timed and it never will be. The point is to get through this hellish thing together and finish with a solid (albeit muddy) bond.

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Parting Thoughts

The race organizers do seem to care about your opinion. They sent out surveys and offered a pretty sweet discount on your next event if you filled it out (I did fill it out, but let the offer go because you had to buy it within 24 hours and I just wasn’t ready to commit yet).

Also, when I got home, I was hugely disappointed to find that my hard-earned Tough Mudder finisher shirt was too tight. I wrote to them, offering to pay shipping to exchange and they said they’d just send me a new one “considering the circumstances” — I think even they felt sorry for the hell we all went through in Ohio (couldn’t have been easier for the course set up and volunteers though, too).

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The Verdict

After the Arctic Enema (which was obstacle No. 9 of 23 in Ohio 2014), I was telling myself I’d never do another Tough Mudder again. I was still saying that the day after, but…like childbirth and marathoning…you eventually forget the pain and only remember the good parts and you think, well, maybe just one more…..

I will, however, never do one in a northern location in spring. Hell to the no. Weather was the biggest, toughest obstacle in that race.  I wasn’t able to really enjoy this T.M. because I was so cold. Many of the obstacles — Muddy Mile, Warrior Carry, Quagmire — would have been a blast in warmer temps.

Headband Monday

The fun continues. After you do a Tough Mudder, you’re supposed to wear your finishers headband to work on Monday because you earned the braggin’ rights. It’s officially called “Headband Monday” and photos are encouraged. Of course…we couldn’t resist:

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“This is how I’ll be entering my office every day now — up & over, baby” I posted on FB

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Giving new meaning to climbing the (cubicle) walls.headband monday1

Kristen wore her band (green because she’s a legionnaire) on a field study on Lake Erie.

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Bethany practices her Pole Dancer technique.

My friend owns a daycare, so they had all the kids make orange headbands!

Brenda is co-owner of an early learning center and all the kids made orange headbands for Headband Monday.

Picture pages

No doubt this will suck up the last of my “free” memory in WordPress, but how can I not share these awesome mudder photos which I stole from all my friends and the Tough Mudder Facebook page because — believe it or not — I didn’t even TAKE my camera to Ohio this weekend. You’re shocked, I know.

These are in a rather random order, but…putting them in sequential order will take toooooo much time and effort.

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