Frank Francis: Conquering The Tough Mudder

By Frank Francis Trainer Fitness Together North Andover

I woke up the last two mornings feeling like I’ve been through a war.  Thanks to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness); this morning was worse than yesterday.

Like so many of us, I’m really sore after a very tough workout.  It doesn’t happen to this trainer very often to have this level of soreness.  But this was no simple run or strength workout in the gym.  This is the result of climbing a massive mountain about 20 times. So my calves, hips, hamstrings, and my ass are killing me.  In addition to my muscles aching, I have cuts and bruises on my elbows and knees.  My ankles are very unstable from twisting them both; I rolled my left one once and my right one twice.  My right knee is tender after jumping off of a 12 foot wall that I had to scale with no rope or things to hold on to.  My back feels like I did a back flop into an empty pool.  The soon-to-be scar on my shoulder is from crawling through mud while under barbed wire.  And lastly, I have a massive gash on my left shin from when I fell running through electrical wires that zapped me with about 10,000 volts of electricity.  The crazy part is I signed up for this!

This is the incredibly difficult event known as the Tough Mudder; a 10 mile obstacle course consisting of around 25 physically and mentally draining obstacles on Mt. Snow in Vermont.

These adventure obstacle courses (or mud runs) have grown in popularity over the last few years.  Nothing against running, biking or triathlons, but these courses attract everyone from athletes to weekend warriors to those of us who just want to relive our youth and play in the mud.  It’s a challenge but it is also different.  I think that is what the appeal is.  Many of the courses are around 5K (3.1 miles).  Several of my friends and personal training clients have done the Warrior Dash in recent years.  Last year, the bug bit me when I did one called the Spartan Race; which I will be doing again on August 11th in Amesbury, MA.  Back in May, I did a unique twist on the obstacle craze called Run For Your Lives; the same idea as Warrior or Spartan, except you are being chased by “zombies”.  But Tough Mudder was a different animal.  As a personal trainer, it was the most physically demanding activity that I have ever done.  My high school football coaches may not want to hear that.  But it’s true.

You started by getting a massive pep talk from one of the TM staff members.  He told us that the Tough Mudder is not a race, but a challenge.  He wasn’t kidding, but on a competitive level I still cared about my time.  For us all to put teamwork and camaraderie before our own individual course time.  To help my fellow Mudders complete the course.  And most of all, overcome all fears.

Then you run up the massive mountain.  For one, Mt. Snow is very steep and I was running up that bad boy several times over.  After the first climb, I saw many people dropping to a knee trying to catch their wind.  It’s going to be a long day for them.  After reaching the top, you start your first run back down.  At the bottom lies your first obstacle aptly titled “The Arctic Enema”.  Picture a 20 foot long dumpster filled with ice cold water and a plywood wall with barbed wire on top of it in the middle.  Now this wouldn’t be so bad given the 85-90 degree heat.  Dump trucks are unloading hundreds of pounds of ice into it, keeping the water at a brisk 35 degrees.  You then must jump in, submerge yourself completely underwater and swim through a hole in a wall, then pulling yourself up.  I jumped in and it wasn’t too bad, given that I was the temperature of a super cold Coors Light.  When I had to dive underwater and go through the man-size hole in the wall, my arms tensed up where I couldn’t move them as my muscles just seized from the cold.  One of my fellow Mudders said it was like
eating an ice cream cone while getting kicked in the nuts.  After pulling myself out, I started back up the hill again.  And this was only the first mile.

Throughout the course, there were pits of thick mud you had to tread yourself through.  Then there was barbed wire that was only about 12 inches above the ground so you had to army crawl under it to get past it. Later there were small bodies of water that you must get over.  One had monkey bars as the only way to get across the lake.  If you haven’t been on monkey bars since you were a little kid, they are incredibly difficult to do as an adult.  Another had a vertical cable that went from one side of the lake to the other and you must wrap your legs around and pull yourself across.  Another had a balance beam you must walk across, once again, over ice cold water.  Then you had to Walk The Plank as you jump off a 20 foot high platform into water and swim to shore.  I’m a good swimmer, but even this was tiring after everything else that was thrown at me.  There were also cargo nets to climb.  Dark tunnels you had to crawl through.  A quarter mile trek up and down the mountain while carrying a massive log.  Walls to scale without the aid of a rope.  In addition to the cold water, there was fire you had to run through.

The two most difficult obstacles were ironically the two final obstacles.  The first was Everest.  Picture a large 15 foot high half-pipe like you would see Tony Hawk skateboarding on during the X-Games.  You had to run up this thing!  It was slick from the mud, water, and God knows what else from your fellow Mudders.  Since all Mudders help each other, you made some fast friends as they could help you best the obstacle by helping you if needed.  You then return the favor and help someone else up.

The last was called Electroshock Therapy.  Now I had already been zapped by some electric wires already today.  Once while army crawling through watery mud in an event called the Electric Eel and once again in a pitch black room called Dark Lightning.  This last obstacle was simple: run through the hundreds of wires dangling down as you ran through about 12 inches of water and some small foot hills and cross the finish line that was just a few feet after the obstacle.  The electric current was cranked up to 10,000 volts.  I covered my face with my scraped up arms and ran full speed through it.  As I got zapped over and over again, I just kept my feet moving.  Finally I reached the end of the obstacle and got a jolt so strong, that it knocked me right on my ass.  It must have looked like I ran into a brick wall.  I got a huge gash on my left shin, but I picked myself up, ran across the finish line, and let out a massive war scream as I completed the course.

Now as I mentioned, your time wasn’t kept for the race and your goal was to just complete the damn thing. But I went in with a more specific goal regardless.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for time.  A former client of mine ran one in May and told me he completed the course in 5 hours.  I went in with the goal of going in at 4 1/2 hours.  My race group started at 12:20pm, I crossed the finish line at 3:47pm; 3 hours and 27 minutes.  I was impressed.  More than that, I was exhausted.  I pounded an FRS energy drink, a banana, a half-gallon of water, 32 oz. of Gatorade, and a Myoplex protein shake upon completion.  I then drove 3 hours home and woofed down an entire pizza and passed out in bed not long after.

Tough Mudder may have been my most difficult obstacle course I have attempted, but it will not be my last. If I can conquer this, I can do anything!!!!  I still have Spartan next month and am already thinking about how I am going to challenge myself even more next year!

To read about our other FT participants in the Tough Mudder, Team Boom Factor, and see more pictures from the earlier event, check out this previous post.


Frank Francis is a personal trainer and small group fitness instructor at  Fitness Together North Andover located at 73 Main Street North Andover.   |  Facebook  | Twitter: @FT_NorthAndover  |  #978.659.0047

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Filed under aerobic, Exercise, Fitness, Fitness Tips, Meet Our Trainers, Tough Mudder Challenge, Trainer Info, What We Do For Fun

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