Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Tough Mudder Montreal 2013

Aside from a quick stint in the Dead Sea, I’ve never really been the type to enjoy putting mud on my body. Apparently it’s quite good for you though, and is supposed to even be relaxing. The Tough Mudder is anything but. On July 7, I participated in the TM just outside of Montreal, alongside a small airport landing strip. Though I’ll be calling this a race report, TM is quick to point out and remind participants that it is a challenge, not a race, and that completion is the point of honor. To that end, there are timing mats, no pacer bunnies, no prizes for finishing faster than the guy next to you.

I’m going to try to cover most of the obstacles in the order that they appeared on the course, to the best of my memory.

My wave started at 10AM, a pretty late start for a race but fine by me, since I had to drive an hour to get to the site. Check-in started a bit late in my opinion but was fairly fast, with many tables to check in at depending on the first letter of your last name. Some quick body-marking and bib-attaching later and that’s it. Actually, not quite. In order to get to the starting corral, participants have to first make their way over the 10 foot  tall “Wall of Pain/Shame”, a kind of warm-up and quick physical test.

After reciting the National Anthem and TM code of honor and much cheering, the “race” began. The off-road nature of the course meant that you had to be careful how you stepped, or easily risk spraining an ankle. With around 20 official obstacles, and a 16km course, there was a good mix of running and obstacles to keep you entertained even if you find running boring.

The first obstacle, Arctic Enema, involved jumping into a cargo container filled with ice-water and swimming to the other end, bobbing under a couple of planks at surface level along the way. For the first few seconds it wasn’t so bad, then I realized just how cold it was and breathing started to become difficult, but by then I was almost out.

After that was some more mud-covered ground with some natural hill/mud pits. The next major obstacle involved crawling in mud under barbedwire while being sprayed with water. Not really challenging per se, but I had to make sure to really hug the ground to avoid some low hanging wire. Muddy for a few minutes, Iquickly came up to the next obstacle, the Boa Constrictor which had me crawling and sliding down a pipe into a water hole, then trying to make my way up another pipe, which was a bit more difficult since the wetness made finding a grip pretty tough.

OK, at this point I’m gonna start forgetting which obstacles came in what order, but basically there was a fair bit of crawling through mud, running/walking in mud, and general mudiness. There was the “Berlin Walls” obstacle, with 2 10-foot walls, which participants were generally very friendly and were helping each other mount. Same goes for Everest, where you had to run up a half-pipe ramp. Though theoretically possible to do on one’s own, most were helped along by grabbing the arms of waiting mudders. In general, participants across the course were very friendly and helpful to each other.

The most memorable (and painful) obstacle was by far the Electric Eel. This obstacle has participants crawl in the mud and water under dangling wires that electroshock you if you get to close! According to TM, the shocks can be up to 10,000 volts. The craziest part is that because you are wet, you don’t even have to be touching a wire to get shocked. I started as low down as I could get, but still got shocked quite a bit. I was expecting it to feel like a jolt, the way you sometimes get when touching someone after walking on a shag carpet. Instead, the shocks felt to me like punches, and for some reason they focused on the left side of my lower back. I really wanted to get out fast.

Aside from the Electric Eel, some obstacles were actually pleasant, like Walk the Plank, where you climb up some angled scaffolding and then jump about 15 feet into water. Unless you’re really afraid of (average) heights or water, there was really nothing to it. According to the TM website, there was supposed to be some fire-jumping and obstacles involving smoke, but I guess due to local permit restrictions these obstacles were left out.

At the end of the course you had to jump some 5 foot pits, and then face off against a larger version of the Electric Eel, with two valleys with wires divided by a small hill. In this one you could actually stand and run, or risk crawling through. I chose to scream, cover my head and charge, somehow making it to the hill without feeling any shocks before diving under the second set. The I just mud-crawled my way under the remaining and came out unschocked (but completely covered in mud).

After crossing the finish line, I was awarded with the staple Tough Mudder orange headband, finishers t-shirt, and a can of Dos Exes beer. Then, courtesy of Samsung I got a giant bubble bath before hitting the shower (actually a bunch of high pressure garden hoses lined up.

All in all, a fun “race”. Maybe not quite the toughest thing in the world as advertised, but definitely challenging. Make sure to bring along a few friends if you are going to do a Mudder, because it makes the experience way more memorable.


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