by Bethany M. Dunbar
If obstacles with names such as the Arctic Enema and the Boa Constrictor — which involves muddy water, barbed wire, and culverts — sound like fun, then maybe the Tough Mudder is for you.
On Saturday at Mount Snow in Dover, a team from the Fortitude Fitness Systems of Derby and Lyndonville, and an individual local competitor, joined throngs of thousands to see what they were made of.
The Tough Mudder credo says it’s not a race; it’s a personal challenge. People are challenged to put other competitors — teammates or otherwise — ahead of a desire to complete the course in a particular time.
Still, anyone who does Tough Mudder is likely to have at least some competitive streak and is probably thinking about how long it’s taking.
Tyler Gosley of Barton completed the course in four hours and ten minutes. He had done it the year before with a big team in six hours.
“It’s really not a race,” he said. “It’s about leaving no one behind.”
He said random people helped him through some of the obstacles, and he helped others. It’s just part of the dynamic of the event.
Tough Mudder raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project, which Mr. Gosley said helps disabled veterans. He knows of one case where the project built a house for a veteran. It was set up with amenities that particular veteran needed.
The course goes up and down on Mount Snow. Parts of it have water, some parts have wires providing electrical shocks. The Arctic Enema is an obstacle with ice water and boards the competitors must swim under. One obstacle requires climbing hand over hand over a muddy pool of water with the use of monkey bars. Competitors must carry logs and climb curved walls, running up and down the mountainous trail in the meantime.
Mr. Gosley, who is a certified personal trainer, said he did not know how many people participated this year, but last year he heard it was 14,000 in one day. Competitors were started in waves of 600 each.
“It was awesome. The crowd, the energy was top notch. The weather — you couldn’t have asked for a better day.”
Kim Swett of Derby Line, a member of the Fortitude Fitness Systems team, did the Tough Mudder for the first time and wrote about her efforts in a blog: onemoosersjourney.blogspot.com.
Here is an excerpt:
Saturday morning dawned and the butterflies fluttering in my stomach ramped up the fluttering to break dancing. It got worse as I registered, had someone write my number on my forehead and my forearm, pinned on my number and approached the start. Luckily Carole had thought to tell me that before we got to the start we had to go over a wall. With help from Logan, Eric and Tyler I made it over. Hailey and Carole were waiting on the other side to remind me to lower myself with my arms before I jumped so it wouldn’t be as far.
The fear let up a little at this point and I got into the spirit at the start. The MC led us through, “The Star Spangled Banner,” ten seconds of silence for military personnel and then we all recited the “Mudder Pledge.” Everyone was pumped up, it was infectious. Suddenly for the first time I didn’t want to cry: I wanted to put my training and hard work to the test.…
It wasn’t easy, and she describes her successes and attempts in some detail. In the end, she is glad she took the challenge:
We made it to the top of the mountain near a chair lift and Hailey led me through some yoga stretches, though honestly in extended child’s pose I mostly hunched over and sobbed. My back hurt, I was exhausted and I was afraid I was going to fail. At that point I reminded myself where I started, I reminded myself of my training and I heard my coach’s voice in my head. “Do it! You can do it! Dominate this!” echoed and I pushed back to my feet. My team believed in me, my coach believed in me: I had to believe in myself too.
I’d love to tell you the rest of the course was a breeze, that I did it with no more tears and no more moments of wanting to admit defeat and ask for a medic. That was not the case, but every time I wanted to quit, my friends were there to coax one more step.
To make a long story a little shorter: I finished Tough Mudder. I have the T-shirt and orange headband to prove it. A friend who completed Tough Mudder last year told me it was life changing. She was right. I hurt when I finished, I won’t lie about that, but I felt better. I found the mental and physical stamina to go on when it would have been easier (possibly even wiser) to stop.
The little voice that belittles and berates me was silent and has been silent since a Tough Mudder volunteer put that orange headband on me. I know that voice probably is not gone for good, it will sneak back in at some point, but now I will silence it. I’m strong, I’ve always been strong I suppose, but I didn’t believe it before now.
contact Bethany M. Dunbar at firstname.lastname@example.org