Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tough Mudder Dallas- My Spartan Ultra Beast

Well, Tough Mudder Dallas is complete.  These things are getting more and more fun every time. I got to run with a great guy that seems to enjoy bodily abuse as much as I do. The weather was perfect. The course was a complete muddy / soggy mess.  All in all, an almost perfect day.

This one ended up being even more fun and more challenging than any of my previous two. The course was laid out on and around a bmx motorcycle course. This gave us plenty of muddy tracks filled with hills but the official track part of the course was very limited. A vast majority of the trail was nothing more than knee high grass that they didn't even bother to mow. Given the large amount of rain they had received in the week or so before, the ground was extremely soft. Ever tried running 11.2 miles through tall grass after a major rain?

So this time I ran with a friend from work. He is a former Navy F-14 Navigator, about my age, and basically thought it sounded like fun when I told him about it. I tell pretty much everyone about Tough Mudder and Crossfit...not too many people share my passion. :-(

Before the race...

Anyway, after getting through a ridiculously messed up registration process where they lost our paperwork, etc. we were still able to catch our 8:00 a.m. wave. The first wave of the day. Like last time, the strategy was to stay ahead of most of the crowd before the first obstacle. Usually this means a 400-800 meter run. Unfortunately, this time we did about a mile before we came to the first one...underwater tunnels. I hate starting out fast but we managed. Overall, the course was pretty tough compared to my previous two. I ran my first TM in Austin in October and most of the running path was hard packed dirt as the area hadn't seen rain for weeks. My second was the Texas Coast event this January and it had a lot of soft ground and a lot of water given its location. This one, however, was either this soft muddy grass or muddy motorcycle track for the entire course. You could never just get comfortable and run as you were constantly dealing with slick as ice mud or uneven soft terrain. It was pretty hard on the legs. In fact, my right knee kept popping out of place for some reason. I have never had that happen and I have no idea what that was about. It would hurt when it happened but when it popped back in place it was fine.  I guess it had to have something to do with the terrain and how I run?

So what to say about the race itself. Not much really. They had one new obstacle that I hadn't seen that involved traversing a wall by holding yourself up on a continually narrowing handhold and  foothold (1 1/2" at the beginning, 3/4" at the end).

 Due to the terrain, neither of us seemed to be able to get any type of speed but at the midway point there was about a mile loop where we ran along a fence and then came back on the other side. We could see the leader and at that point I counted 19 people ahead of us. That would have put the leader less than a mile ahead of us so I know it wasn't just the two of us that were slow...usually the leader finishes one of these in 1:40 or so.

Given my hatred for electricity, I tend to try to start psyching myself up for the coming torture around the half way point.  Lucky for me, the Shocks on the Rocks was replaced with the Electric Eel. Basically take the obstacle from the previous event and remove the ice and plastic underneath. This time I could take my time and actually stay low enough to not get shocked. SO HAPPY! In fact, I was able to stay under the wires for the final obstacle as well. Sorry crowd. No Oohs and Aahs at my expense this time!

We finished the course in 2:28. My friend's girlfriend watched the whole thing and thought there were 15 people ahead of us. Regardless, it was a pretty decent time given the course. So lap #1 was done!

So lap #1? Does that imply a lap #2?

I have been wondering what doing two laps back to back would feel like. The thought didn't cross my mind until after my last Tough Mudder in January. Then a few weeks ago the competing obstacle race organization, Spartan Race, announced that they were going to hold what they are going to call an "Ultra-Beast". The Ultra Beast is a full marathon length (26.2 miles) obstacle race with limited support (meaning bring your own food and water with you).  Hmm. I haven't even run a marathon on pavement yet but why not create my own Ultra Beast? Since I have my first regular marathon in two weeks, and since I was still ramping up my weekend long runs (I had only run 18 miles the week before), and since this Tough Mudder still had waves going out after I finished lap 1, and since I was driving home alone afterwards and didn't have anyone waiting on me this was the perfect opportunity! To top it off, I had some friends that were running at 11:00 a.m. (a bunch of crazy roller-blade chicks and a friend that used to live in our neighborhood and is now in the Air Force).

As good as I felt, I almost wimped out.  I mentioned my knee and all day I kept telling myself I probably shouldn't keep running if I didn't need to. Ultimately, I figured it looks way cooler finishing two laps of a Tough Mudder than it does to finish a marathon so I figured why not? So we grabbed some water, grabbed our beer, and Keith's girlfriend stuffed a protein bar in my face and we started walking towards the start line. On the way I decided maybe I should hose myself off a little bit so it wasn't so obvious I had already ran (there isn't any official way to pay and run a second lap). So I hosed myself off a little and said goodbye to Keith. I jumped the wall to the staging area and there I stood ready to go for lap #2! Of course by then my left calf started to cramp up a little. I looked around. No crazy roller-blade chicks (they were stuck in traffic and ended up running later). Hmmm. Oh well. By then, I had a couple of people come up to me and tell me how crazy I was for doing another lap so I certainly couldn't leave now! We went through the standard pre-race hype and off I went again!

I couldn't believe how much the course had changed from 3 hours earlier to my second lap. It was completely destroyed. Dirt that was just soft and slow was now slick as ice. It was pretty bad. Of course everyone else is all happy and energetic and jumping and splashing in the mud in the beginning. I am just trying to keep my legs moving. No doubt, my pace was much slower during the second lap but I was able to run the entire course where running was possible.  The one upside is that much of the grassy area was faster during the second lap as the grass had been packed down quite a bit from the thousands of people that had trampled it. Overall though, the course was much slower and we hit a 20 or 30 minute backlog during a stretch of course that followed a small creek bed.

So all in all, lap two was tough but it wasn't horrible. My legs were pretty heavy but there were enough waits at obstacles that it broke things up a little.  Everything was going perfectly for the first 10 miles. I made every obstacle and I was hanging with the core crowd of people in my wave and passing plenty people that couldn't run the whole course. Until I got to Everest.

Everest is the quarter-pipe looking ramp that almost beat me in Houston due to a leg cramp. Keith and I both made it no problem on the first lap but Everest was at mile 10 and by the time I reached it a second time I had run 21 miles through nothing but soft terrain. My legs and calves were pretty tired.  I waited my turn in line and watched a group of Marines help each other up. It was now my turn.

I chose my path right between two Marines and pointed to them so they knew I was aiming for them. I gave it a good run, kept my feet under me and was able to grab the top without help.  All I had to do was pull myself up.  Before I knew it, the bigger of the two Marines got on his knees, grabbed my left hand and gave it a good yank. Rip! Umm thanks dude I just felt something tear in my shoulder could you please let go of me so I can slide to the bottom and go cry like a little girl!?! Ugh!!! As I slid to the bottom of Everest I recollected a conversation I had with Cammie where I told her that surely I will get injured eventually doing one of these things. I even set aside a little extra money due to my high deductible medical plan just in case.  I guess it was my time!  The front of my shoulder was burning and I knew I had a crawling obstacle (electric eel), a swimming obstacle (walk the plank) and a hanging obstacle (monkey bars) as my next three obstacles. All three were going to require my left arm. I probably could have gotten through electric eel but I didn't really feel like learning to crawl with one arm while repeatedly getting shocked so I decided I was done.  I lowered my head so that no one would see me and walked back to the finish line (where the first aid station was) with my tail between my legs. EXTREMELY ANGRY AND DISAPPOINTED!

So that was it. I was done. I had come so close to finishing but I failed. I could have run the last mile and bypassed the obstacles. Plenty of people bypass obstacles or fail obstacles but I didn't see any point. I had failed. No second orange headband for me. I had failed!  Of course I had to walk through the finish area and see everybody's stupid happy smiley faces to get to the first aid tent too!  By then I had completely forgotten about finishing my first lap in what was very likely a faster time than them. All I could think of was that I failed! Ugh!

In hindsight, I had done what I came to do. I had run 21.35 miles in course conditions that were more challenging than I expected. I did my own Ultra Beast or at least something kind of similar.  The longest I had ever run before yesterday was 18 miles. At this point, my marathon in two weeks is going to be a walk in the park compared to yesterday (assuming I can move my arm while running). The reality is that up to my injury I was having a blast! This was my favorite Tough Mudder so far. Keith was a perfectly matched teammate with an awesome attitude and we had a blast on the first lap. The second lap was fun because you get to talk to so many people while waiting or helping at the obstacles and just enjoy the fun. My shoulder is injured but as far as I can tell, it is nothing but a muscle tear. If I had to choose an injury, my injury would be a pretty good choice I think.  My guess at this point is that I will be fine in a couple of weeks or so. I hate I am going to miss crossfit for a while. I suppose I could go to a gym with mirrors for a few weeks but I just don't see it happening. My next Tough Mudder isn't until May (Twin Cities) so I have plenty of time to heal.

Overall, I just feel blessed that I am in good health and that 15+ years of being fat and lazy didn't seem to do any long term damage to me. I can run a decent distance at a decent pace. That is about it but I am content with what it is.  While I will continue to train to see what else my old body can do, I don't want to lose focus on the fact that many people would give anything just to be healthy enough to try this nonsense.



  1. Thanks for sharing the videos, my daughter and I enjoyed watching them. I never knew there were Tough Mudder events until your posts. Good Luck in your next Tough Mudder in the Twin Cities.

  2. Great run, Marti, you were an awesome teammate, let's do it again!

  3. Um, so I've run through the metro in rush hour with a bunch of Ukrainians....

  4. LOL, Tara!!!
    Ummm Loren, you're nuts, but you know that. Congrats for all you have done- it is truly worth being proud of! Even if you are nuts....