A Personal Challenge

A personal challenge, as in, the kind where i challenge myself. Last year, I got my friend Tamba a birthday gift of entry into the Tough Mudder Colorado. Since I was not in appropriate shape, I signed up as a spectator and ended up photographing the event. Two nights before the event, Tamba broke his ankle. Undeterred, he iced it on the drive up, wrapped it, and ran the race. After seeing that, I figured I should challenge myself.

This year, I got him the same present and signed up myself to participate. If you aren’t familiar with the Tough Mudder, or similar events, it is designed to test your endurance and physical ability. It isn’t enough to run the course, which is 11 – 12 miles in Colorado. You face 20 or more obstacles, some of them quite brutalchallenging.

This morning we got out of Denver on time but ran into a slight problem. During our philosophical discussion of post-apocolyptic planning and survival options, we missed our exit. Before we realized it, we had overshot by some 25 miles (the next exit happened to be many miles from the last). Our 1:20P start time was looking grim. By the time we turned around, parked, took the shuttle, checked in, and dropped our bags, we joined the final starting group of the day at 2:00P. This was a concern to me because the Mudder has a ‘cut off’ time (4:30P this year) where you may get sent down the mountain a much quicker way, out of the event. This meant I had to do about 5 miles of uphill, from 7,400 feet to a summit of 9,600 feet, in 2.5 hours. Given my asthma, that didn’t look feasible. Having been sick the entire week with a bad cough and serious congestion, that didn’t bode well either. This also meant that I started the race on about 350 calories, as we didn’t have time to get a bit more food in Avon, CO as planned. Doh! Clearly not my ideal circumstances for running the Mudder, but I didn’t have any other option.

This year’s course:


Of the 11 miles, I ended up doing about 9.5 of them. At the top of obstacle 6 (The Gauntlet), because it was right at 4:30, we barely made the cutoff (or were minutes late). Instead of cutting us off, we got moved directly into the downhill part of that obstacle, going over huge snow/ice ‘ramps’. These were rough as the ice was jagged and cutting many hands trying to slide down them. Upon reaching water station 3, I was dizzy and light-headed, and it didn’t go away with rest and water. Over ten minutes later, it was clearing up a tad but not going away completely. I sent Tamba up a brutal half mile+ uphill while I cut over to where water station 4 is (but it wasn’t really there). This gave me another 20 minutes to recover so I could continue the course. While we were only at ~ 9,000 feet, the lack of oxygen was affecting me and I am sure it was mild altitude sickness as well as dehydration. By the time Tamba got around that loop, I was ready to go on. From water station 5 to obstacle 15 was the final uphill push of the course, or so I thought. I slowly made it up that one, but didn’t have the energy for the very last uphill between obstacle 17 and 18. From just past 17, I took the access road down to obstacle 19 before finishing the course.

Ultimately, the lack of food as well as the amount of uphill (more than last year) sapped me completely. My legs were a constant dull pain by halfway through the course, and my back had a sharp pain from mile 2. Usually a solid hike does not hit my back at all, even in similar trail conditions. While I didn’t quite do the full course and had to skip some obstacles, we were on the course for over 4.5 hours.

Starting at 2P, we were able to catch up to the other 2 people running from Tamba’s gym (Amy and Lecia) who started at 1:20P as planned. Despite my very slow pace on the uphill, we ultimately passed some people and finished about an hour before the final person. While recovering, we also watched as an 80-year-old man crossed the finish. That is hardcore. Team Up Gym:


An exhausted, hungry, bruised, and sick me:


The one upside to all this? Post-Mudder dinner! This was the first time I was able to eat a plate of Nachos without Tamba yelling at me about fat and calories. The other thing? Biggest plate of nachos i’ve seen in my life, from Dillon DAM Brewery (note the fork for size reference):


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