Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tough Mudder Norcal 2011 Recap...

What have I done???
As I rolled out of bed at 6:30am, I noted that the temperature was a brisk 28 degrees out.  Holy crap!  What happened overnight??  A moment of panic washed over me as I realized I would soon be starting the Norcal Tough Mudder at Squaw Valley...complete with water obstacles.  No longer was I debating if I should wear long sleeves and capri length running pants.  That decision was made by nature!

The fireplace was already going for us when we arrived!
Our view, the next morning I would scale that mountain, and others!
Thanks to my wonderful fiance, we spent the night before at the very impressive Resort at Squaw Creek.  This was not only a gorgeous place to stay, with awesome views and a comfy fireplace, but was conveniently located near the Village where registration was located.  Since my start time was 8:40am we arrived with plenty time to garner a free parking space before the lot filled and traffic was diverted to Alpine Meadow Ski Resort (at 9:30am).

Registered and trying to locate the rest of the team!
I was fortunate to have been asked to join team Stupid Mudder Fudders, consisting mainly of our local police department's officers.  Although this was the first time I met some of them, they would prove to be instrumental in my completing the course.  We also had a pretty good cheering section and my fiance turned out to be an awesome event photographer!

Team Stupid Mudder Fudders
After registering, getting our numbers written on us in PERMANENT marker, and taking group pictures we assembled at the start to take out Tough Mudder oath (and a brief safety briefing).  Then the gun went off and our group of 600 (out of 10,000) was released into the wild.  The first part of Norcal Tough Mudder...a 3.5 mile climb from 6200 feet to 8200 feet.  Oh, and doing this while Marines threw huge 6 foot rubber balls at us!!  

Part of the Death March as seen from my fiances view from the Gondola ride to High Camp.
This trek was pretty brutal as most of us did not have the luxury to do any training at elevation.  But we preserved and were soon upon the first water obstacle...Kiss of Mud.  This involved an icy cold pool of spring fed water {mud}, about knee deep, with a barbed wire covering...meaning we had to belly crawl through the mud.  Did I mention that is was only 28 degrees when I woke that morning?? 

A picture of Kiss of Mud via the Tough Mudder web site.
After much more uphill climbing we came across out next water obstacle which was a huge vat of water about 15' long and 10' wide...filled of course with ice cold water.  We had to jump into this chest deep water, wade to the middle and then dive under a submerged board to the other side...then wade through and climb out.  Okay, it was seriously cold and THIS time we had to get completely wet.  My body temperature began to drop noticeably at this point and I was actually looking forward to the "Death March" just to try to sweat again.

My teammate, One-Legged Bob, coming through the Chernobyl Jacuzzi.

via Youtube

Of course, just as I felt that I was beginning to dry out we found our next challenge...the Chernobyl Jacuzzi.  Now, this was almost exactly like the previous obstacle but the folks at Tough Mudder were nice enough to have just added a bulldozer bucket load of ice into the water.  I sucked it up and entered to vat of ice, mud, and who knows what (since we had yet to pass any port-o-potties) to the center board as fast as possible, grabbed the bottom of the board and pulled myself through to the other side as quickly as possible.  "Take you breath away" does not begin to describe the cold feeling.  My head instantly hurt, and not just because I seemed to have found an iceberg on my way to the surface...but because it really was THAT cold.  An ice-cream headache would have felt better.  I tried to get out as quickly as possible but my limbs were not very cooperative.

Trying to thaw out and keep moving we finally reached 8200 feet (a 2000 foot gain in elevation from the start) and came out to a beautiful meadow located at High Camp.  Our next obstacle was Everest...a 14 foot quarter pipe wall we would need to scale some how.  There was quite a crowd there as other participants were making their attempts to get over the wall.  There were also tons of spectators as this was located right outside of the Gondola drop station.  It was so nice to see my fiance and the others who came to cheer us on.  Across the top of the wall were a bunch of other participants reaching down to lend a hand up...truly a wonderful display of teamwork and camaraderie as they sacrificed their own finish time to help strangers over this massive obstacle.

I tried...but no go...
I tried to make it over by running as fast as I could and jumping towards the hands aching to pull me over...but I couldn't get the height needed.  Thankfully, my teammates created a human chain which allowed me to crawl over and just barely reach the fingertips of the guys at the top.  Somehow, I managed to swing a leg over and haul myself over the wall...and it was then that I started to shiver uncontrollably.  

Getting a hand...and leg up!

I spotted a few people with those wonderful silver warming 'blankets' over there shoulders and took off to the aid tent.  After getting wrapping in my beautiful tinfoil warmer I grabbed some fuel and found my team and supports.  Kissing the fiance goodbye, we took off at a slow jog up the hill to find our next challenge, which came too soon.  Next up...the Funky Monkey...a long set of monkey bars that peak in the middle, and with more cold water below for those who couldn't hold on.

Just hold on!!
Well, I surely did NOT want to get wet again since I still hadn't gained the feeling back in my hands.  I mounted the platform, gripped the first bar and realized that not only could I not close my hands (my fingertips were blue) but the bars spun.  But there was no turning bar, 2 bars, and SPLASH! Into the cold water yet again!!

Made it up the Rope a Dope!!
I swam out a quickly as possible and regrouped with my team...just a few feet away was our next challenge, the Rope a Dope.  This was about a 12 foot rope climb which I managed half way decently. I stripped my gloves off afterwards in hoped that I could warm my hands back up by shoving them under my fiances armpits {he is a saint}.

After this there was much more uphill {steep} terrain as we gained another 700 feet of elevation.  It was pretty rocky terrain and not conducive to speed.  At this point I should mention that one of my teammates and new hero, Bob, only has one leg.  He wasn't just doing the Tough Mudder with a prothetic leg, he was doing the TOUGHEST Tough Mudder, for the first time, on a prosthetic leg!!  We had also made a pact that we would finish this competition together, come hell or high water. There was no way I was going to let Bob down, and no way I was going to complain about being cold or tired while he tackled these obstacles with one leg!!

My hero!!
We trudged up that massive mountain top only to encounter snow and ice! And if that wasn't bad enough they decided to stake a cargo net over the snow and ice and have us crawl underneath this net for about 20 yards.  Let me tell you, those nets are person can't lift them which means, wet and cold already, I had to crawl, hands and knees, through the snow.  On the other side was a cool slide down back to the trail.

Bob and I somewhere around mile 8
A little was down one of the only declines I remember and we had the Log Jammin' which was basically a series of log walls which you either had to climb over or under.  I think this was my favorite obstacle, mainly because there was no water, snow or ice involved!!  

It seemed we must have climbed for several miles on sole bruising rocks and gravel before we summitted yet another peak where we then had to pick up and carry a log around a quarter mile loop.  We went down a shale path and then back up witha few extra pounds on our shoulders...all at about an elevation of 8700 know, right above the tree-line but just slightly below the elevation airplanes are required to pressurize??

After this was a treacherous decent called the Rock Slide which lead us to the Berlin Walls.  These were 2-12 foot vertical walls which we had to scale.  Again, my teammates were awesome in giving me a leg up...pretty important when you're only 5'4"!  Soon after (and at these point I can't remember the terrain but I can only imagine it was uphill) we came to Walk the Plank and the Underwater Tunnels.  This was a 15 foot jump into a freezing alpine lake followed by a 50 yard swim to shore...but right in the middle were barrels in which you swam under.

Some teammates about to Walk the Plank!
I confess, I skipped this obstacle...I had still been unable to raise my core temperature of getting feeling back into my fingers.  I had yet to sweat at all even after all of our exertions and the ambient air temperature reaching over 70 degrees.  I had learned that several people had been pulled from the lake with hypothermia, which on top of being life threatening, also meant they could not complete the race.  For once, I took the common sense approach rather than drowned, die or quit.

The middle of the Boa Constrictor
Next up was the Boa Constrictor which was basically a water obstacle with one pipe leading into the water and one pipe out.  The pipes were half full of mud and rocks and it was necessary to belly crawl through them.  There was no way to get out without getting completely submerged.  Cold and wet again I almost kissed the volunteer who was handing out the 'blankets' again!

FYI: Norcal Tough Mudder was advertised as a 10 mile race...from here, the end was no where in site.
Around the corner from the Boa Constrictor I had a wonderful fiance was waiting for us along the trail to get pictures.  He not only met us there, but he hiked the rest of the course with us from mile 8 to mile 12!!  After this it was quite a blur.  I know we scaled KT22, the volcano at Squaw.  I know we were told that "this is the last hill" about 18 times until we realized that SOMEHOW this 10 mile race became a 12 mile race with practically NO downhill.  I know we climbed through and got covered in hay, climbed over a giant net like hammock thing and then faced our last water challenge...Twinkle Toes.  

A nap on this giant hammock would be nice right about now!
I'm smiling because I'm dry...but only for a short time.
Stupid Mudder Fudders trying NOT to get wet AGAIN!
Now, for the first time since we started I was finally dry...and surely I could cross about 15 feet of water while walking across a 4" board that began to sway back and forth as soon as I got about 5 feet on it...ummm, no, I couldn't.  And it was deeper than I thought...I went ALL the way under and lost my hat!!  Luckily, the last obstacle, Electro Shock Therapy was only a few feet away.  Wading through knee deep water I managed to avoid getting shocked as I jogged out to the finish line to claim my Tough Mudder head band!!

Cheers from the Stupid Mudder Fudders!


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