For many hunters a physical training program is an essential part of being successful in the field. This spring, I was talked into participating in an endurance race that would test my physical condition and intestinal fortitude. During the summer months I spend some time on a bicycle to stay in shape. I have always said that I am not a runner, or at least that is what I always have told my wife. That has all changed because of a few text messages from my good friend and hunting buddy. The method to his madness was to point out that I needed to train for our upcoming elk hunt. Once he used the words “elk hunt” he had me.
The Tough Mudder endurance race was created by a member of the British Special Forces as a way to test athletes in a whole new way. The founder was bored with seeing athletes compete in repetitive races such as triathlons and marathons. Now a few years later, Tough Mudder has turned into one of the hardest challenges on the planet and has been attempted by over 700,000 participants worldwide. This past June, I became one of the many that have attempted and completed the race.
The easiest part of the entire race is the 10-12 miles the participants have to run just to get to the finish line. For a non-runner who had never run more than 4 miles at a time, this honestly was the easiest part of the challenge. While waiting for my group to get started, we saw the group ahead of us trying to get over the 6 foot wall and one participant had to be taken off on a stretcher because he got hurt before crossing the starting line. Seeing that made me question just what I was getting myself into for the next 3 hours.
Once you are able to get into the starting area, the MC of the event is there to get the adrenaline flowing. Participants are required to repeat the Tough Mudder pledge which revolves around being a team player and leaving no Mudder behind. The idea behind the challenge is to do it all as a team and help your fellow athlete complete challenges. Most challenges actually require teamwork to get past time. Once the starting horn is sounded, the hell that awaits the Mudder’s includes 20 different obstacles and 10-12 miles of running.
In order to complete the entire challenge, a Mudder needs to be in excellent condition both physically and mentally. Some of the obstacles are more mind over matter and are designed to test your fears. I started my training program by doing the P90x program. This helped to build some strength as well as work on my cardio. Once the weather started to get better I hit the road running. My training runs were not very long or as often as I would have liked, but I was doing it. Prior to completing the course, I had honestly only run 4 miles at one time. So I was extremely worried that I had bit off more than I could chew.
My biggest fear is that of heights. On the challenge called Walk the Plank, athletes jump off of a 15+ foot high platform into muddy water. While standing at the top, I froze. I almost had to be pushed off, but I did it and conquered that fear. Some people fear confined spaces. Tough Mudder has a few challenges that will force you to overcome their fear of claustrophobia. I am sure most people know that water and electricity don’t mix. Well, Tough Mudder must not have gotten the memo. The Electric Eel requires Mudders to belly crawl in water through dangling electrical wires. I saw numerous people get shocked and face plant right into the ground. I am here to tell you that this challenge hurts.
While the obstacles with electricity hurt like hell, probably the most painful of all of the challenges was the Arctic Enema. Mudders jump into a large pool of ice water only to have to dive down under a board to come up on the side of inches of ice on top of the water. This ice bath is painful and requires a lot of mental toughness to not let your muscles shut down. Once out of the water it is very difficult to start running again because your muscles don’t want to function properly. But don’t worry; you will eventually get back to normal only have to other challenges ahead.
For the race I did in Michigan, the last three challenges really took the air out of my sail. My team and I were dead tired but had yet to skip any obstacle and weren’t about to start. The Berlin Walls requires team work to scale two 12’ walls. After that was Everest with thousands of people at the finishing line watching. Mudder’s have to run up a large half-pipe that is very slick from all of the mud from other contestants. Those that fail to get up must do the walk of shame in front of the crowd only to try again. For me, I finally made it up with the help of my teammates on my third attempt. Once up and over, you finally get to the final obstacle called Electroshock Therapy. Mudder’s are forced to run through electricity one last time. Some of the wires have up to 10,000 volts running through them. Many athletes don’t make it all the way without getting shocked and falling straight down into the mud. The key is to run fast and don’t stop.
Once I crossed the finish line I felt a serious sense of accomplishment. I have never attempted anything like this before. Never in my life have I pushed myself through such hell for something that all I get at the end is a t-shirt and a free beer. I was very sore afterwards and vowed to never do it again. However, we are already talking about doing a Tough Mudder in 2014. A large number of Mudder’s that start the event don’t finish, either because of injury or the realization that they were not going to be able to make it to the end. This honestly was both the hardest and the dumbest thing I have ever done. But it was also one of the most fun and rewarding things I have ever accomplished. This was a great training tool for my hunting season and I feel more ready than in years past.
Are you ready to push your body to limits they have never seen? Are you willing to sign the “death waiver” that is required of all Mudders? Are you willing to help your fellow Mudder’s if they need help? Are you ready to tackle the toughest challenge on the plant? If you answered yes to all of these questions it is time to accept the challenge and sign up for a Tough Mudder in your area. I can promise you that once you cross the finish line you will feel the same sense of accomplishment that I did. And for those of you looking for a reason to get into shape ahead of your next hunt of a lifetime, this is a great reason to get off the couch.