Saturday November 21, 2010
Picture this: New Jersey in November, a freezing cold lake, 12 miles of running, 10 foot walls, glops of mud, a raging fire, and let me reiterate…NEW JERSEY. This just might have been one of the most challenging items completed on my bucket list! To say it was tough is an understatement…it was grueling. But it was totally freakin’ awesome, and I now qualify as a hardcore bad ass. I guess I am my father’s daughter haha.
I must first thank a few people for allowing me the opportunity to participate in this event, thus checking the item off my list. First, Mike Cerrone, for pressuring me multiple times to join the “Tough Mudder Tinkerbells” until I finally caved in. Second, Allan Damkilde, for without your car, I would have had no transportation to Englishtown, NJ.
We embarked on our journey early Saturday morning, driving out to Dirty Jerz as a team. To give a little backstory on Tough Mudder, it’s basically a 12 mile race filled with 18 different military/boot camp style obstacles and a ton of mud. I have a lot of respect for those in the military, but I would never want to join myself. However, I have always wanted to do the military obstacle courses, and figured this would be a great place to get a similar experience (minus all the red-faced screaming military officers harassing me). The race was designed by the British army, and is not designed to be an every-man-for-himself-let’s-see-how-fast-I-can-go kinda race. Instead it is supposed to be a team effort–you help people through and make sure that everyone crosses the finish line. Upon arrival, it was exciting to drive up and see people already completing the course, and totally caked in mud! They staggered the start times so people wouldn’t get too backed up at each obstacle. We were surprised to find that not many other teams dressed up for this race, (I guess they were insistent about looking super tough) but the ones who did dress up were pretty funny. There were tons of HUGE dudes standing around either already finished or about to start the race, and some bad ass chicks (including the three on our team) were sprinkled in as well.
Our adrenaline was pumping when we heard the horn at the starting line, and we took off to see what would await us! While we had an idea of the course map beforehand, we really had no idea what to really expect out of this race. The first part was the “Monster Chase” where we started off running after a monster truck to get warmed up. The second obstacle was called the “Ball Shrinker” and our first foray into the water. Basically, it was a tightrope to walk across with your feet, but you had a rope up top to hold onto with your hands. The problem for me was that there were a bunch of huge guys weighing down the bottom rope, so while walking, all the sudden the rope disappeared from under my feet! I ended up having to monkey my way across the top rope using only my arms! After I successfully completed the obstacle, I thought “Damn, that was the first real thing we had to do, and already my arms are shot!” But there was no time for crying, it was time to press on…
Obstacle 3 was “Walk the Plank”, which was the HARDEST part of the day. Prior to the race, I was extremely nervous about the temperature of the water, and turns out I had every right to be! Mom, you should stop reading and skip to the next paragraph now…Okay, for the rest of you, we jumped off a 15 foot plank into the freezing cold lake, and HOLY SHIT was it ever cold! After plunging in, I swam to the top gasping for air. It was so frigid that my heart was pounding a mile a minute, and I couldn’t seem to catch my breath. Some might say my body went into shock. My teammate, Paul W., jumped in after me, and he looked excited until he saw my gasping self. His look then turned to horror! I was immediately thankful that I decided to wear my swim cap, and I flipped over on my back to get my face and chest out of the water. Paul thought I was drowning and grabbed me, and helped to pull me while I swam backwards toward the shore. Luckily, it wasn’t that long of a swim to where I could stand, but we then came to Obstacle 4, which was the “Underwater Tunnels.” Three times we bobbed up and down into the water until we were finally out. My entire body was numb when I got out. I was running, but couldn’t feel my feet, and just when I was starting to feel good again….we had to swim back across the lake. NOOOO!!!!! Luckily, I made it through this time with minimal shock. I just swam on my back the whole way and was so happy to be finished with this part of the race!
I thought I would be shivering the rest of the race, but I was too numb to feel most things, and kept running happily along. Although the race was extremely tough, I thought our team kept a really good pace, and we pretty much had smiles going the entire time. The next few obstacles consisted of the “Mud Mile” of which we had to trudge through the muddiest and stickiest of water, “Cargo Nets” (which conveniently fell down right before we had to climb them–although I would have happily climbed them!), “Kiss of Mud” which was crawling on our bellies under the cargo nets through the mud, and a bunch of motorcross hills that had been sprayed with sprinklers for three days straight including a huge hill called, “Cliffhanger.”
We crawled through the “Boa Contrictor” which was a long skinny tube. Being small actually worked to my advantage in this one! The “Berlin Walls” were nice and high, so most of us used our team help to get over them. Although I do remember my teammate Warren superhero-ing himself over a wall or two on his own. I had done enough high knees in my soccer and basketball career throughout my entire life, so “Tired Yet” was actually pretty fun for me! Tons of tires were laid out football style and we had to step through them to get to the end. “Rubbernecking” was a little bit more difficult, because each person had to CARRY a tire around, and they were NOT light!!! My teammate, Dave, unfortunately chose the tire that happened to be full of water, making his even heavier! Whoops.
The “Fire Walker” was pretty intense, and Mom, you might want to skip this paragraph too! I was definitely really nervous for this one, and I told Dave “I’m grabbing onto you for this one!” Smoke was everywhere, firefighters were on deck, and 4 foot flames surrounded the path we had to run through. I covered my eyes/face, put my head down, and grabbed onto Dave while we ran through this mess. It was so hot and hard to breathe. At one point, I thought I might pass out from inhaling too much smoke, and it was at that point when we were through! Whew! Thank God! The second hardest part was now behind me.
The “Log Bog” wasn’t too bad, jumping over a bunch of fallen trees, although we did take a big spill in the swampy muddy mess! “Funky Monkey” was near impossible, as most of our hands were completely caked in mud at this point. On top of that, some of the monkey bars were greased up with butter (plus leftover mud) to help us fall more quickly. I did see a few tough guys make it across, but most people were falling after the second or third bar. I on the other hand, couldn’t even reach the FIRST bar!!! I stepped on the wooden bar, and reached up, realizing that I was too short to reach the first bar. I figured “I guess I have to jump,” so I jumped once–slipped off. Jumped twice–slipped off again. I decided to jump ONE more time, and gave it all I had. Third jump–BOOM!!! Slipped off and came crashing down on my right butt cheek. Holy cow. At the time, it hurt, but my body was pretty numb, so I shook it off and kept going. Later that night though, I realized there was a bruise as black as night and the size a grapefruit on my bottom! It stayed there for over a week, and it was so ridiculous that I just had to show it off to my friends and family so they could see how tough I am.
The last three obstacles were “Twinkle Toes”–walking across the wooden log that was on the water, the “Mystery” obstacle which ended up being that we had to run through live wire…yes electrically charged wire…and “Insane Bolt” which was a sprint to the finish line!!!
The entire event lasted about 2-2.5 hours, and the firefighters were there at the finish line to spray us down with a fire hose. Once I stopped running, I started shivering, and don’t think I got warm until I got back to Manhattan! Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the after party, as I had 35 Italiano family members waiting for me back in the city for dinner. They had all come to town for Grandma Guaragna’s 80th Birthday! So they got to see me in Zombie mode pretty much after this race haha.
Before Tough Mudder, the coolest thing I ever did was the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, but I definitely think Tough Mudder takes the cake on this one! I am so proud to have completed this challenge, and I also congratulate my teammates, Paul Macknis, Paul Warner, Warner Hardwick Siebert, Mike Cerrone, Lori Dooley, Jim Yellion, Dave Ford, and Nadia Schwartz for taking on this endeavor! Special thanks to my fiance, Zack Notes, for being an excellent photographer and camera man. He must have ran about 2 miles tracking us down on the course!
I have taken the time to edit together some footage of our experience into a 2 minute video, so please take a look and let me know what you think!