Trail Running

Tough Mudder–Seattle

This last Saturday I spent a wonderful day with some friends completing the Tough Mudder in Seattle.  What exactly is the Tough Mudder?  To quote their web page:

“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”

Note that this is an event, and not a race.  It isn’t timed, and you aren’t required to do all of the obstacles.  Helping out others along the course is part of completing the event, and adds to the overall sense of accomplishment.

We met at 7:30a to carpool over to the event.  Our goal was to arrive 2 hours early for our 10:20a start wave so that we had plenty of time to park and register.  It is a good thing we gave ourselves that much buffer as getting to the parking area was one of the tougher obstacles of the day – we sat in line to park for nearly an hour.

Finally we were parked, and then had to walk about a mile to the registration desk.  As we walked along, we could see portions of the course with participants from the earlier starts.  At this point we saw the funniest event of the whole day – there was a large rock in the middle of the course with 3 feet of open space on either side of it.  One of the Mudders on the course ran straight into it!

After checkin, we prepped for the race.  We debated going shirtless due to the cool weather.  Figured that having a wet shirt on would be worse than no shirt at all.  Most of the team started out that way, I did not, but I did ditch my shirt part of the way through, although I wish I would have waited for one more obstacle Smile.   The most important part of our prep was getting the camo face paint on!

Event Videos and Commentary

The  following videos were made with my ContourROAM helmet cam.  I used a couple of velcro straps as a headband (so I could adjust the tightness) and the goggle mount to attach the camera to the straps.  I also have a ContourGPS , which takes a better picture than the ContourROAM, but the battery life is significantly less and it is not water resistant (although I do have a dive housing for it).  Overall the videos came out better than I expected – I’m sure I exceeded that camera’s specifications for water exposure, but it seemed to hold up ok.  There are times with a little mud or water spots on the lens, but audio was the main issue.  When the microphone gets wet, the audio quality goes down (or is non-existent).  If I were to do this again, I might choose to use a dive housing which would give more consistent, although lower quality audio.

Time for the eyebrow cam and my thoughts on the various obstacles we encountered!

Kiss Of Mud #1

This was the first obstacle of the course.  Designed to get you muddy from early on in the race.  There was a woman in our lane who got her ponytail stuck in the barbwire.  I didn’t catch it on camera though.

Arctic Enema

This appropriately named obstacle was one that I was not looking forward to based on the videos I had seen.  Nothing like going through ice water to wake you up at the beginning of the race.  To make things interesting, in the middle of the tank, there is a board that you have to duck under.  You can’t tell from the surface that the board goes fairly deep under the surface – I banged my head on it trying to get through.

The water in this one took out the microphone on the camera for a bit.

Dirty Ballerina

This was a fairly easy one…once I was running and jumping I just kept my rhythm going.  The sound in this video is pretty bad due to the water in Arctic Enema.

Mud Mile

Up and down over muddy mounds.  While not super difficult, it was one of the messier obstacles.  Audio is not great on this one, but is improving.

Berlin Walls #1

Going over 8’ walls.  This one wasn’t too hard either, although I think this is where I ended up getting a big welt on my shin.

Spider’s Web

Climbing a cargo net up to about 15’ in the air.  The tough part on this one was swing the first leg over the top of the net.  This was the first obstacle where other mudders made a big difference helping out.  When you got done with the climb, you held on to the bottom of the net to help keep the tension high, making it easier for mudders to climb.

Electric Eel

Yes, those yellow wires will shock you! and yes, it hurts when they get you.  I made it about 2/3rds of the way thr0ugh before I got zapped.  If you listen closely around 45 seconds into the video, you can actually hear the spark arcing off of me.

Killa Gorilla

Time to get muddy again.  Up and down those mud hills.  I managed to spray one of my teammates with mud while I was going up the hill.  The key was to keep those legs pumping while going up (you just don’t want to be behind me).

Lumber Jacked

This was probably my least favorite of all the obstacles.  Part of it has to do with the fact that this was the first one after I had ditched my shirt.  Rolling over the top of the logs created a little friction on the chest.

Berlin Walls #2

This time around the walls were 9’ tall and they were much, much harder to get over.  Definitely needed help from my friends.  This obstacle was the most backed up of the entire course for us, and we really only had to wait 5 minutes or so.

Logjammin’

I found this to be a fun one.  It wasn’t hard and the music was blaring.

Timber Tantrum

Another quick one, although I found it a bit intimidating.  The logs that you climb up seemed like they were spaced far apart.  Didn’t end up being an issue though.

Hold Your Wood

Carry a big piece of wood for 1/4 mile.  Good thing I taunted one of my teammates for picking up a little log…the video is sped up because it isn’t too terribly exciting to watch.

Trench Warfare

This was another one that I was dreading. I can get a little claustrophobic, so crawling through a tunnel with no end in sight does not sound like a good time to me.

Funky Monkey

I admit that I have no upper body strength.  Add on a bad left shoulder and I was doomed on this one from the start.  You are allowed to skip obstacles, but I was going to try even if I was bound to fail.  At least it cleaned off the mud.

Cliffhanger

Another one that wasn’t too difficult.  The treacherous part was getting your feet place correctly around the cargo net – since there were people coming up behind you the net would swing in and out slightly, which could cause some footing issues.

Hangin Tough

Ugh, another obstacle where I have to hang from my arms.  Maybe if I had improved my attitude about these I would been more successful.

Kiss Of Mud #2

This one did the most damage to my body out of them all.  There wasn’t much mud in the lane I picked – it was more like 1” gravel covered in water.  Probably the most painful obstacle for me aside from the electric shocks.

Walk the Plank

I think this was my favorite of all the obstacles.  I was fine until I got to the top of the wall, but then wondered what I got myself into.  Once up, there was only one way down Smile.  This definitely gave me the biggest adrenaline rush of the entire event.

Boa Constrictor

More tunnels…at least I could always see a light at the end.  The plastic piping was slick, which made it easy on the downhill side and a little more challenging on the uphill side.  I did finally figure out at the end that there was enough clearance for me to crawl rather than just pull myself through with my arms.

Wounded Warrior

Carry a mudder for 100 yards and then switch.  We ran past this one earlier in the event, and it looked tough.  I didn’t think I could carry another person that far.  We paired up with teammates of similar weight (I should have gone on a diet!) to do this one.  It turned out that it wasn’t that difficult.  In fact, I got beat up more being carried than I did as the carrier.

Everest

How hard can it be? Much harder than it looks.  Even once you latched on to someone helping from the top of the wall there was no guarantee that you’d make it to the top!

Electroshock Therapy & Race Finish

How does 10,000 volts sound? It sounds painful to me! Remember it’s the amps that kill ya!

How tough was it?

Well, if you are a couch potato, I would not recommend doing the race. You need to be in good enough shape to run or walk 10ish miles. Most of the obstacles I did not find physically challenging, mostly due to the help provided by my awesome team. There were a couple where my poor upper body strength was an issue, and I ended up getting wet. For me, the biggest challenges were mental. After watching some of the videos on the event web site, just getting to the starting line was hard. I had a few doubts as I approached certain obstacles (Arctic Enema, Trench Warfare, anything with electricity, walk the plank). Having a good team was key to getting through these – it gave me an “all in it together” attitude that really helped me from a mental perspective.

We did have one person on the team get hurt – I won’t get into the details, let’s just say he made a poor choice and ended up spraining his ankle about 1/2 way through. We helped him to a first aid station and then ditched him. To his credit, he got the ankle taped and ended up finishing the course solo.

I ended up with with a nasty welt on one of my shins, and some minor scrapes on my legs. Other than that, I was a bit sore the next few days.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely.  It was a blast!

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Rainier Mountain Festival

Last weekend we drove down to the Rainier Mountain Festival.  The festival lasts for two days and features a big sale on new and used rental gear, presentations by world class climbers and hikers, a trail race, and much more!

Getting down to the festival was a bit of a commute.  It should have been about a 2 hour drive down from the Seattle area, but Friday afternoon traffic was nasty and we drove through the Puyallup Fair area.  All of this added about an hour to the drive.  Taylor complained that she was going to be car sick the entire way, so we gave her a plastic bag and told her to suck it up.  About 1/2 mile from the cabin we rented she decided it was time to puke and didn’t use her plastic bag.  The joys of having kids.

We stayed at the Three Bears Lodge with our friends Trent and Michelle and their kids.  The “lodge” was a nice little cabin just outside the Nisqually entrance of Mount Rainier National Park .  It was the perfect size for the eight of us staying there (four adults, one teenager, three kids)

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Saturday morning we went to the festival to check things out. There were lots of things to keep the kids entertained – inflatable slide and obstacle course, face painting, and rock climbing.  Taylor really had never done any rock climbing before and really took to it.

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At lunch time, they had a panel of climbers that had summited Mount Everest speak about their experiences.  One interesting comment that stuck with me was that one group ate 10,000 calories a day and still managed to lose 11 pounds in a month!

In the afternoon, after ditching the kids back at the cabin, we went to a presentation on The Wonderland Trail.  The trail is 93ish miles long with 22,000’ of elevation gain and goes all the way around Mount Rainier.  We are planning to attempt this trail next summer, so this was perfect for us. The talk was given by Tami Asars who has just released a book – “Hiking the Wonderland Trail”.  She was a great speaker – the presentation gave an overview on what to expect on the various sections of trail,  a little bit about the permit process, and had lots and lots of photos.  By the end of the talk we were all ready to go!

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On Sunday, the adults all participated in a five mile trail race.  The course was brutal – the trail was a one mile loop that you did five times (funny how the math works out like that).  The first half mile of the loop was entirely uphill, while the second half was downhill.  The total elevation gain for the race was just under 2000’.   My average pace was 14:11 min/mile (right now my flat race pace is about 9 min/mile).  Even with that horribly slow pace, I managed to get 2nd place in the men’s division and 4th place overall!  Trent won the race, and we both got free stuff!

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After the race, we relaxed for a bit before heading back to the cabin to clean up and head home.