On Sunday before the crack of dawn at 4.30am I made my way towards Whistler Olympic Park for Tough Mudder not knowing what sort of upcoming insanity the day will hold!
After about 16km and 3.5hrs of crawling through mud and snow, climbing over walls and logs, jumping into a lake that was still partially frozen, almost losing my shoes to hungry mud pits and being zapped with electric wires, I finished with a giant grin on my face and pumped full of adrenaline, feeling a little crazy.
I have never had so much fun at any physical event before. Every summer I try to register in something that would get my heart pumping and give my brain some mental toughness to chew on. My sister had done the Warrior Dash and told me about how much fun it was. Last September I googled “obstacle course race Vancouver”, almost hyperventilated with excitement at finding that Tough Mudder was being held in Whistler for the first time ever, and signed up to go solo with the satisfaction of paying the early bird registration fee.
I plan on doing it again next year with a team. This year going solo was fine as everyone helped each other out to complete the obstacles. A team of burly gentlemen kindly tossed me over the 12ft “Berlin Wall” – a helping hand was not in short supply! The weather on Sunday was on our side with the sun out but it wasn’t exactly summer conditions with plenty of snow still around some parts of the course.
I’ll try my best to describe the obstacles but my memory might be a little fuzzy from all the ice cold plunges I took that day:
1. “Death March”
This was the start of the race going uphill with lots of loose rock and gravel.
2. “Kiss of Mud”
On your knees crawling under barbed wire. This obstacle wasn’t particularly muddy but it was more dry, gravelly and cold. My knees are already beginning to sting and it’s only the beginning.
3. “Artic Enema”
The water is supposed to be neon green – that is what I saw from most of the official Tough Mudder photos on their website. As I climbed to the top of the dumpster, however, it looked more like very dark sludge green. I had a feeling the 14,000 participants that did the challenge yesterday used the same water and all the mud that washed off them made the Artic Enema more sludge-like than usual. There was a wooden board installed in the middle of the dumpster which forced you to dive under it to come out on the other side. Wearing contacts I was glad I didn’t get all that mud and sand floating around in my eyes.
4. “Log Bog Jog”
Climbing over and under stacked logs. This was still early in the course so my legs and arms still had lots of juice to complete it without struggle.
5. “Walk the Plank”
Walking across lots of logs, be careful not to slip.
6. “Berlin Walls #1”
These walls were about 8ft I think. I was able to climb over them myself thanks to a piece of wood near the bottom that stuck out so that I could climb it and grab the top of the wall.
7. “Devil’s Beard”
A cargo net tied down on opposite sides that was heavy and a struggle if you tried to go through yourself.
Literally being whacked by bushes this was a steep muddy and slippery downhill with lots of branches sticking out to whack you in the face.
Climbing up a mound of snow.
10. “Boa Constrictor”
Crawling through a tunnel – again my knees were shouting in protest.
11. “Snow Ramp”
I think this is referring to my favourite obstacle in the whole course – sliding down snow and jumping into a lake that still had some parts frozen.
12. “Spiders Web”
Climbing up a suspended rope net. My body was getting tired at this point and I was thankful for the dudes that weighted it down so that it wasn’t as high a wobbly climb it would have been.
13. “Berlin Walls #2”
These walls were definitely taller than the first set and I needed help to get up. A team of guys gave me a boost over as well as a nice catch on the other side. Yay fellow Mudders!
14. “Log Jammin”
I don’t really remember what this one was… probably something to do with logs…?
15. “Electric Eel”
Crawling in a puddle of icy water with electric shocks above. I got a zap in the face. Ouch.
16. “Kiss of Mud #2”
More crawling on your knees in mud.
17. “Trench Warfare”
Small wooden box tunnels on top of a snow mound. My knees were subject to more grating against snow and dirt on top of almost faceplanting as they dug some deeper parts in the middle but it was dark in there so you can’t really tell what’s going on.
A climb up a slippery mud hill, again the helping hand at the top got me over this obstacle.
19. “Hold your Wood”
Pick a log and carry it up and around a short loop. My pride didn’t allow me to choose a broken off piece of log that looked light and hollow. But then my brain didn’t let me be stupid enough to try and carry a solid chunky log which would only have me end up in tears and a bad back halfway. So I comprised with a solid piece about half the size of my torso. It was still a heavy bugger and my neck and shoulders the next day were uber stiff from carrying it.
I would say this was my second favourite obstacle. Sprinting up a quarter-pipe with all the energy my legs have left (it was slippery from all the wet bodies that didn’t make it and smacked/slid chest down), leaping and thanks to some mighty arms at the top that grabbed my hands I was able to make it up and over.
21. “Funky Monkey”
Climb across the monkey bars to the other side with a pit of ice cold water below. This was the only obstacle I didn’t complete. I fell in about halfway as my arms just ran out of juice. My goal for next year!
22. “Electroshock Therapy”
This was the obstacle that psyched you out the most. Right before the finish line I trampled through and only got zapped once but also realizing that some of the hanging “wires” were rope visually designed to freak you out when you see it.
For clothes I recommend tight fitting clothing in general. I wore tights that covered my knees (which helped protect them a little from all the crawling) underneath a pair of running shorts, and a sleeveless quick dry top. Don’t wear lots of layers – it will only retain water and keep you cold. I wore old running shoes that were soggy and unrecognizable by the end of the course so if you’re attached to your sweet kickers don’t wear them to this. Also I would wear gloves, I’m pretty sure it saved me from many splinters from the Berlin Walls and logs. I did it on the Sunday which only had about 1,300 participants compared to yesterdays’ 14,000 so it was also nice that you didn’t really have to wait for any of the obstacles and it wasn’t crowded but still filled with lots of crazy energy.
I felt that Tough Mudder brought out the best in us. I got lots of encouragement and help from fellow Mudders, and it was fun to see spectators at obstacles cheering us on. It didn’t feel like a race where everyone was competitive a-type personalities, it was a good challenge but only as much as you would challenge yourself (you are allowed to walk around obstacles if you are not comfortable doing it). It’s good to note though that Tough Mudder Vancouver is only open to those 19+, sorry to the youngins’.
If you’re contemplating doing it next year my advice is don’t think, just do! And have a hell of a lot of fun in the process!
Update! Here’s an official Tough Mudder Whistler video that shows some of the obstacles (unfortunately the “Snow Ramp” obstacle is missing):