If you like to take on things that are tough and you’d prefer to do that neck deep in mud when you do them we can highly recommend the Tough Mudder. https://toughmudder.co.nz/
Our team took on the full distance event on Saturday the 4th of November 2017. We had secured a spot in the eighth wave starting at 10:20am and had hoped that would mean we would complete the 18km course with 20+ obstacles in time for lunch. We met at Hampton Downs and navigated our way through the gates and began to prepare ourselves for what lay ahead, including using up a roll of duct tape to ensure our shoes would stay on our feet and not in the mud. The ‘before’ photo makes for an interesting comparison to the ‘after’ photo at the end of the story.
The team was 15 members strong, including a couple of ring-ins. Because there are no individuals in a team they’ll be referred to as members A through N, and team member Zed. Team member A rallied us together at the start line where everyone associated themselves and each other with the mud, and undertook the start line health and safety briefing, which was cleverly disguised as a start line ritual and oath, with many “hoorahs.” Now fully pumped and with backing music to send us on our way we set off at a gentle jog with about 10 other teams.
Zed was not so sure of our initial tactics and questioned, “Really? Running? Already?” But the first few obstacles; Bale Bonds, Berlin Walls and Creek Crusade were easily negotiated by the whole team, as a team, although several photos by team member B, our main supporter, show that the team were already understanding the “mud” part of Tough Mudder.
The Blockness Monster presented the team with its first of many mental tests, but it was quickly figured out that once you had team members on the other side of the rotating blocks you could hoist more over by pushing from their side and pulling from the other. As the photos show there were various dismount techniques used, with varying degrees of success and submergence. Team member C was the first team member over and would seem to have the best technique for avoiding a nasal cavity full of foul smelling water. Although, our resident lifestyle farmer, F, was as happy as a pig in mud walking through the many Cowpat Soup Waterways.
Kiss of Mud and the Mud Mile were an unfriendly welcome to the trenches but the team found some creative ways to get through these time consuming and challenging obstacles. Techniques such as the super woman used by Zed, dive bomb by team member D and the hall ‘n fall, accidentally created by E and H, all had their place. Unfortunately at this point team member M received his team name by getting mud in his eye, possibly for the first time, but definitely not for the last time.
Team member F was encouraged to lead the way through the next obstacle, Skidmarked, because it bore a striking resemblance to one of his nicknames. Tyre Mountain was aptly named and was time consuming because there was a cue to climb it. G was last over the obstacle and was “warmly encouraged” by the team on his descent. A cruel twist of the course saw us back at the Mud Mile heading in the other direction, but in the interests of speeding things up D accidentally shot-putted a poor young woman over one of the mud humps with his good arm and she was plunged into the murkiness on the other side bewildered and mud logged, and M got more mud in his eye.
Rain came as a welcome reprieve from mud as we headed away from the Event Village. Although, our photographer would beg to differ because she had to hide under an umbrella for the next few hours awaiting our return. The endurance part of the event was starting to kick in with longer runs between obstacles, much to the vocal disgust of Zed. Large portions of the remaining track had ankle brutalising holes, which were well negotiated by most, except H who had an ankle injury and had declared three days beforehand “I’m out,” only to toe the line on race day.
Up ahead, the Quagmire presented some confusion as some crazy teams crossed our path like a T intersection, but the obstacle presented no other challenges and the whole team proceeded to the Birth Canal. This presented a major fear factor for two of our ring-ins I and J who struggled with having to slide through the confined space under the tubes of liquid above. But with encouragement and help from the team they emerged on the other side, born again! It’s hard to tell, but M probably got more mud in his eye.
As we crossed the netting of Stormy’s Bridge we were surprised to see Richie McCaw walking with his team of rugby youths below us. Everyone around us was suddenly abuzz … “Is that Richie McCaw?” … “Hi Richie!!” … “Oh isn’t he gorgeous.” We’re not quite sure who in the team uttered the last phrase, but no judgements were made. The Go Pro Paparazzi pounced on the opportunity, but our team instead encouraged a man dressed as Spiderman to improve his climbing skills to get out of the ditch and then we marched onwards again. Zed would possibly have called it running or jogging, but what’s in a name? She now also had the company of E, who had developed a knee injury but to his credited continued to move at the same speed as the rest of the team for the remainder of the course.
It was also around this time M found a medical tent and with much relief had his eyes cleaned. However, shortly afterwards Haha Ditch provided no laughs at all because H put his foot down in a puddle to lend M a hand, and you guessed it, M got mud in his eye. Even though we felt it had already happened we soon reached Richie McCaw’s Pass. This provided a bit of light relief as we kicked and passed rugby balls to teams on the parallel tracks. It soon became apparent that a little, “heads up” was necessary to avoid other people spending a little face-time with the ball.
Possibly the most clever obstacle was Shawshanked. To paraphrase the movie, after we slid under barbed wire we … “hoisted ourselves to freedom through three pipes of shit smelling foulness you can't even imagine, or maybe you just don't want to.” In reality, the barbed wire and pipes were the nice part, it was the two metre drop backwards out of the pipes into the reason the government wants to clean up our waterways, which left a bad taste in the mouth for this writer. There was much laughter as we clambered out the other side, but to this point the whole team had completed every obstacle and were still together.
Pitfall provided team member I with a proud moment when her husband, H, “Bravehearted” the fire crew, or encouraged them to clean the mud out of his shorts depending on whose story you believe. Skidmarked 2.0 was easily navigated and nutrition and hydration were now being taken in regularly by the team because endurance limits were now being well and truly tested. Zed was heard to utter, “I’m not running anymore,” whilst she continued to run, and at times at the front of the rest of us mudders.
Killa Gorilla was a good old fashioned run up the hill and slide down it on your backside obstacle, with the only difference being there were no broken down boxes or Punga leaves to be seen. The Cage Crawl also offered little obstacle to the team and the writer soon figured out that an upside-down swimming technique worked best on this obstacle that doubled as a body wash. But given the name of the event you don’t stay clean for long.
After a wander through another Cowpat Soup Waterway we arrived at Storymy’s Bridge again, but this time we were underneath it in the footsteps of Richie. The climb out up the clay bank using ropes was one of the more difficult exits of the day so we encouraged those teams ahead of us, help our own and then also helped those teams behind us. As we approached the Quagmire again we released that those other teams weren’t quite so crazy earlier and we were now the ones cutting through the T intersection from the other direction. It’s fair to say we were all now well and truly in our hurt zones and wished we could just cool down a little.
Wish granted! The event organisers boasted that 40 Tonnes of ice would be used in the Artic Enema – The Rebirth obstacle over the weekend. But as we slid down the pipes one-by-one we all came to the same conclusion that they had obviously used their quota before we had even got there. Our personal paparazzi could see us again and snapped a variety of facial expressions for your amusement. Zed was expertly channelled into her fear factor obstacle and we all emerged without any issues and went to proceed on our merry way … or so we thought!
A distant, “Hey guys, I’m stuck” could be heard from the top of the platform. The, up until now, quiet achieving team member K discovered that a knee bent at exactly the correct angle can turn your leg into a fishhook. Helpers at the top duly obliged in the experiment by pulling him backwards as hard as they could. As you can imagine the rest of the team were helpless at the bottom and shouted various phrases of encouragement that seemed to help the situation less. K was eventually de-wedged and dispatched down the tube, only to emerge to a raucous round of applause.
Reunited and feeling jovial the team jogged off in search of the next obstacle. But the mood soon changed as we rounded a blind corner and Everest 2.0 rose up above us in our line of sight. We got the feeling we had arrived at the front line after fighting our way through the trenches. War cries could be heard as people bolted towards the ominous and slippery ramp and burly men and woman grabbed them from the top and hauled them to safety. Well, at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
Team member A lead from front and steadily gained pace nearing the bottom of the ramp. Propelling himself upward he found the waiting arms of several randoms. Sorry, that should read, “momentarily” found the waiting arms of several randoms, before they dropped him eyebrow first onto the wall. Appreciating the potential for further injury, A took a second run at it but this time grabbed the easier rope option. We all followed suite and one-by-one scrambled our way up the rope to waiting arms, but we had lost a few team members somewhere on the front line.
It was a sobering moment, which showed that we not only have team spirit but also human spirit, when a number of our team helped an unfortunate victim of the wall to a waiting ambulance. After this brief delay the remainder of the team, all except D who has an elbow that is more machine than man, clambered up the rope to the top of Everest. But there is always going to be that one guy and for us it was K. It may have been that he was trying to redeem himself for becoming a human fishhook or possibly he just wanted to give Zed a rest from running, E’s knee time to recover or M the time to get mud out of his eye; but he now aimed to go straight up the middle of the ramp where there was no rope. His first attempt was unsuccessful, so he tried again, and again, and sorry, again until with much encouragement from the shivering team members on the side-line he reached the summit.
But the cruelty of this event was only just beginning to be felt and the Warrior Carry seemed about the cruellest part so far. The team tried to figure out how to pair up for this “carry your mate to half way and then swap” obstacle. E had no desire to be carried by the mismatched D but he found a better match in H and everyone made it through despite the teams growing list of ailments and it was onward to another aptly named obstacle.
The Ladder to Hell was one of the trickier, and higher, climbing obstacles. If any of the team had a fear of heights it certainly wasn’t revealed because we all came over it without much of a delay. The same can’t be said for other teams that found themselves stuck in between the planks at the top. We stayed around to shout encouragement and instructions and then set off for Kong. It is at this point we can introduce another one of our quiet achievers, L. He had been a ring-in for a number of past team “adventures” so seemed to show up very well prepared and looking lean and keen. Unfortunately being lean, soaked in water and Cowpat Soup and standing in a bitingly cold wind for half an hour in Kong’s two lane bottleneck brings on feelings of hypothermia.
But luckily the lines got moving and after a Donkey Kong style climb to the top the team took turns two-by-two to swing from hoop to hoop across the waiting air mattress below. Some of us, including the writer, found that mattress quite quickly and quite comfortable to land on. Others however made it across in style and several others went for style points on their dismounts. Team member I’s pancake, nose first, dismount earned a bit of laughter but also a hug from husband D. However, J’s dismount a few seconds later only earned the laughter for being so ironically identical to I’s painful experience. But nobody wanted to hang about and our wait at Kong had given us a perfect viewing platform over the last obstacle on the course … Electro Shock Therapy!
We had watched some YouTube videos and now witnessed in person as people ran through the mess of potentially live wires and then inexplicably hit the deck to crawl. Logic said to push on through the pain and get to the other side quicker. Well, that was a nice theory at the anyway, but as we ran through ourselves a number of the team took bolts of shock that felt like a sledgehammer hitting every joint in our bodies simultaneously. It was at this point we realised that hitting the deck was not as much of a decision as it was an inability to stay upright. Much like my half my teammates I locked up, dropped and then scrambled as quickly as I could through the thick clay.
Suddenly we were there at the finish, our ‘Hard Woman’ award winner, Zed was not dead and we had stayed together as a team to earn our finishers t-shirts and headbands. As the ‘after’ photo shows we had all received our fair share of mud therapy, which was not all well received and over the next few days most of us considered visiting pink-eye, ear, mouth and nose specialists. After the photo we enjoyed a pleasant outdoor cold shower. Despite all of the mental and physical challenges of the day it was enjoyed by all and captured expertly by our photographer. Lunch time had well and truly past and our multiple car pool exit was speedy. Various reward food options were sourced on the drive back to Auckland and the cars fell quite silent, but be assured that the war stores of Tough Mudder will be told for a long time to come.