August 19, 2017

Tough Mudder – Beaver Creek

Team BLW: Me, my wife, Molly and Greg Londo (the "W" participant, Eric Worthan is absent).

Early this month I joined one of my clients, Greg Londo, along with his wife Molly and my wife, Hope, for the 2012 Tough Mudder. Both individually and collectively, this was our first attempt at this type of endurance event—one that presents 23 obstacles scattered over a 12-mile course. The Tough Mudder is a different breed of “race” and, the Beaver Creek venue provided the opportunity for the race directors to provide an especially challenging course—the starting corral at the base of Beaver Creek, which could be accessed only after scalling an 10-foot wall (we each certainly caught a hint of things to come with that one), starts athletes out at 8,100 feet.

Our team, team “BLW”: Beatte, Londo, and Worthan … oh yes, the Worthan participant bailed, perhaps wisely electing to attend a “surprise” family event, a graudation, instead of facing the challenges offered by the Mudder event, rolled out of the Westin and headed up the mountain at 7:15 a.m., well in advance of our 8:40 a.m. start time. After checking in where we dutifully turned in our “death waivers,” received our race numbers (having them etched in semi-permanant ink on our foreheads), and our Dos Equis “free” beer wristband, we collected ourselves and made the obligatory restroom break prior to heading to the starting line. We watched as the first two waves, the 8:00 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. were realeased downhill (the only downhill on the course for the first 6 or so miles) and headed out to face the Tough Mudder obstacles. Once called to the starting corral, that’s when we faced the wall—get it, a wall that you had to scale before even getting to the starting line! Our wave consisted of approximately 200 other participants, and we were reminded of spirit of commaraderie that sets these types of events apart (the MC directed us that we would be unable to complete the various challenges on the course without enlisting the help of both our teammates as well as other racers, before leading us in an oath to put other racers before yourself)—this certainly proved true for me (thanks Greg … as well as the nameless others)! After some additional instructions (i.e., “Take care of yourselves out there,” … “Be smart,” etc.), we were also reminded of the “Wounded Warriors” that would be participating alongside us during the event and who would be the beneficiaries of a percentage of the money raised by our support of the Tough Mudder event. The National Anthem and we were off …

What followed over the course of the next four hours was a challenge unlike any that I had faced before. As we headed down the mountain away from the staring corral and onto the course, we joked as we jumped over a “speed bump”-type haybail, that we had only 22 obstacles left to go—FYI, the haybail was NOT one of the obstacles! Instead, the “real” challenges boasting names like “Trench Warfare,” “Shocks on the Rocks,” “Artic Enema,” and “Electroshock Therapy” would soon meet us. For the most part, we worked as a team, although Molly and Greg’s youth and conditioning allowed them to move faster than me and my wife. Greg is a veteran US Army Ranger and West Point graduate—those skills also served him well. We repeatedly relied on him to assist us in scaling walls … he graciously gave us all a boost, then he would propell himself up and over unaided.

I puposelly want to leave some of the details to the imagination; however, a couple of the obstacles are deserving of a bit of commentary. This is especially true of the electroshock challenges. Although I am a bit rusty on my physics principles (Is it amplitude or voltage that is modulated to allow you to receive a substantial, but non-lethal jolt?) several challenges along the course delivered significant electric shocks to participants. As our team approached the first “live” shock challenge we were unsure about the seriousness of the shocks that would be ultimately delivered. After hitting the mud, face down, and crawling under the barbedwire laced with electric tentacles (each carrying 10,000 volts) I at least had no doubt … the first shock hit me hard, I yelped, and felt seized as the shocks wrapped around my chest. You see, I was wearing a Polar heartrate monitor strap (I had listened to the warnings that those who had metal “in” there bodies should not complete the electroshock challenges and the thought had at least passed through my mind that wearing a HR strap was perhaps not a good idea—it was NOT), I quickly pawed at my chest while staying low to avoid getting zapped again and pulled the strap away from my chest. Relieved, I proceeded through the remainder of the challenge getting hit 3 additional times. I could hear my teammates shout as they got zapped … this first round was serious, one jolt sent my chin so hard into the rocks and mud that my chin remained bruised and tender for several days following the event! We survived … I surveyed the mood of our teammates and it was surprisingly upbeat! We made some off hand jokes about ECT therapy (electroconvulsive therapy) and how we each felt eerily better after beign shocked, but the truth of the matter was that we did. Needless to say, we worked espcially hard on the subsequent electrified challenges to avoid the shocks … more came, but far less than the initial round!

Many of the obstacles featured a water element—either as an integral part of the challenge or as a consquence for failing to complete the obstacle. Perhaps the best example of the former, was the “Artic Enima.” When I approached the large pool divided by a plank wall and noticed the two refrigerator trucks standing by, I figured this was going to be COLD. It was! A quick plunge off the deck into a deep pool of freezing water, another quick check of the divider to assess the depth that I needed to dive, down and under, only to emerge on the other side through layers of ice cubes, then up on a the other side and down a steep and slick set of stairs. Hope came through immediately behind me and also felt the chill … she emerged, descended, and staggered on down the mountainside toward me sputtering something to the effer of “Never, ever, again!” (exhibiting class signs of Stage 1 hypothermia).  We gathered up our team (this was something we repeatedly did both before and after obstacles) and assesed our general well-being … we were “good” … on to the next challenge. In contrast to where the water was THE challenge, obtacles, like “Funky Monkey,” “Twinkle Toes,” and “Hang Tough” all featured an icy pool where competitors would end up if they failed to make it across on whatever apparatus was suspended over the water. I missed the final haning ring on “Funky Monkey” and took another icy plunge (Molly and Hope joined me in taking a swim, with only Greg making it through without getting wet). We all managed to stay dry on the balance challenge “Twinkle Toes.” “Hanging Tough” resulted in another swim for all but Greg—way to go Greg!  What do they teach you in Ranger school anyway?

Other challenges scattered along the 12-mile course included steep and muddy ascents, scrambles across frozen and slick snow mounds, log carries, tunnel and tube crawls, cargo net climbs, and scaling high walls, among others. The log carry challenge presented competitors with the choice to carry individual logs or to tackle a “team” log. We elected to pair up and each husband and wife team carried their own log. Molly and Greg finished well ahead of us and I jokingly suggested that they had carried a log that was hollow inside (perhaps a lodge pole pine that had fallen prey to pine bettle infestation)—they assured me that their log was just as heavy and unrully as ours … good fun!

As suggested by the event promoters, the Tough Mudder course provided many opportunities to work both as a team and to support other competitors. We extended hands and pulled heavy bodies over obstacles, hung on the base of cargo netting in order to allow other athletes a better shot at getting up and over, and pushed and encouraged others up and across the steep and slippery snow fields. As for me, I would still be on the wrong side of the “Berlin Walls” challenge if it had not been for Greg boosting me up and over … thanks Greg! I can’t even commment about the assistance both Molly and Greg offered on the vegetable oil covered half-pipe near the finish!?

Participant queue up in order to run through the "Electroshock Therapy" which comes at the end of the Beaver Creek Tough Mudder.

As was our habit, we checked up before the final obstacle and elected to push through the final shock challenge, apptly named “Electroshock Therapy” (aptly named, see above) and emerged on the other side of the electrified mud pit with big smiles and reporting on the number of shocks that we had endured: Hope, “0” me, “1,” Molly, “1,” and Greg, “1”—it was over. We scrambled to the finish line to a mass of spectators and collected our Tough Mudder headbands and other SWAG (and our free Dos Equis beer).

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