The Road: 12/7/11: Pearl Harbor…Never Forget and Two Tough Mudders

Posted: December 7, 2011 in The Road

Pearl Harbor

I want to give a quick shout to my grandfather, a Pearl Harbor Survior…a badass. It’s December 7th. Pearl Harbor Day.

On this day in 1941, 8 U.S. Navy battleships, 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer were damaged. 180 U.S. aircraft were destroyed. 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded. Take a moment to remember those that lived and died to defend our nation on this day.

Tough Mudder

My friends, James and Matt, had a go at Tough Mudder in South Florida over the weekend. I had hoped to be there for support and to see just what these guys had to endure but gigs kept me stuck at home for the weekend. Thankfully, James took lots of photos and wrote about their adventure. Today you get a guest post from my friend, James, that will give you a close glimpse at what they went through! Everything below the next break was written by James Jessup.

Tough Mudder is aptly named. I think because Crazy Mother-#@&*er was already taken. The event is billed as “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet”. With the possible exception of the Ironman and the Eco-Challenge, I think this is true.

Matt Greenwald and I did not go into this blind. We read the website, the reviews. We had done Warrior Dash in January, Muddy Buddy, and Matt did Spartan race. We’re both in pretty good shape, jogging regularly. I’ve been steadily training (if not strenuously training) for a while for an Ironman, so I’m no slouch.

In a word- Damn!

Matt got us a hotel room in Brooksville, a little north of Tampa. The hotel was ful of Mudders. You could tell from the look of them. Toned, confident…a little nervous, but with that energy that seasoned veterans of Endurance events have. They had their ritual coffee in the morning, wore their lucky compression tights, and didn’t complain about the 40 degree chill in the air.

We rolled to the event itself, in Dade City at the Little Everglades Ranch. Nice ranch! Too bad a zillion Mudders are here to jack it all up! After a half-mile walk from the car to registration (which we knew we would curse on the way back!) we got signed in and numbered. They write the numbers on your arm, and your forehead. I guess if your head’s not attached to the rest of you, it’s not so urgent to identify you quickly.

The event was very impressive. There were games, Tatoo artists and head-shavers, for those inclined. Lots of Porta-Potties (this is important!) A large stage for a live band, and many food options. Many participants came in costume. Some looked colder than others! We arrived early by about 3 hours, so we had plenty of time to wander. We felt pretty warmed up by the time our corral was called to the starting area. Everyone listened attentively as the Hype-man got us raging to surge into a maelstrom of adrenaline and testosterone-fueled awesomeness, then he had everyone take a knee and administered the Tough Mudder pledge:

I understand that Tough Mudder is not a Race, but a Challenge.
I put teamwork and Camaraderie before my course time
I do not whine- Kids whine.
I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
I overcome all fears.

At the time, I though to myself, “Who’s got fear?” I would learn, and I would overcome. The Star Spangled banner was sung, and she hit the high note. Then, it was upon us, and the crowd roared and surged forward through orange smoke, howling to break ranks on the first obstacle…which was 3/4 of a mile away. A brisk jog brought us to two dumpsters full of orange and blue ice water…with the ice still floating in it. We climbed up one side, slipped in and blasphemed mightily at the frigid liquid.

A barb-wire beam made sure we submerged fully in it, and we scrambled to the other side, where the more hypothermic Mudders were having a tough time getting back out again. We heaved them over the rim, and then tried to clamber out ourselves. With shivering, muttered curses, we all had the group thought, “These guys aren’t f#@king around!”

The next obstacle was a lake. The 65 degree water was so much warmer than what we had just endured, we laughed as we sank in, until we realized that we had to go UNDER a series of barrels floating on the surface.

Now we were entirely soaked, head to toe. At this point, I realized the cotton T-shirt and BDU-pants were an error; Nylon is the fabric to wear.

We fell in with ‘Shree, a 51 year old military vet, whose teammates had left her. She cursed them energetically and fell in with us. I’m sure we would have continued jogging between obstacles, but Shree set a pace that neither Matt nor I would have. Neither of us was going to be the wuss to ask her to slow down for us. Four events later, she would complete the obstacle first, and leave us in the dust.

There were mud-holes. Yeah, you say, so what? I think they took a telephone-pole auger, and drilled 5-foot deep holes below the surface, because the bottom would drop out at random, and everyone would fall. This continued for some time throughout the course, whenever there was muddy water, you could count on losing your footing to a submerged pit.

Eight-foot walls met us. No problem! We climbed over those, and helped other people over, too. We climbed sandy cliffs, covering our mud with a fine layer of grit. A wobbly balance beam gave us a chance to fall off into some cleaner water.

Sewer pipes, led down into a pond, then half-submerged pipes led back out. Ever tried to climb up a plastic pipe while your soaked in mud? No traction. I had to inch-worm, using my toes. I hadn’t worked those muscles. They feel it, even now!

As we went below ground, so we would ascend to the sky! We climbed a sketchy ladder to a 15 foot high platform, then we were supposed to jump from this into a pool of water. I had visions of leaping grandly, decrying something inspiring. I had forgotten my fear of heights. I’m not used to feeling afraid. I’m not a big guy, but I’m tall, and smart, and skilled. I can overcome most of the obstacles in my life, and I’m aware of this. I cannot take away the fear of heights.

Not with a bang, but a whimper, I fell off the platform with all the grace of falling feces, and slogged my way out of the water. I did experience something akin to joy as I realized that that would have to be the scariest thing I faced that day. I dug into my pocket for a mud-soaked package of Shot-bloks (food) and ate the muddy, gritty blocks on the run, thankful for the calories. We jumped hay bales, dodged attractive women with tattoos (another dangerous obstacle!) and went deeper in mud that I can fathom (see what I did there?)

Twelve foot walls greeted us. I needed help to get over this. My upper body strength just can’t pull me over. But it can help someone else go over. With help, I made it to the top, and brought a couple other Mudders over, then moved on.

A lake appeared, and along with it, a line of Mudders, carrying heavy logs, walking into the lake, and back out again.

I am amazed at the temperature variations that can occur so close together. The lake was cold! Of course, carrying a log does not help footing, and a few missteps threatened to submerge us in a bad way. A job to dry off brought us to a strange house of monkey bars, going up at a 15 degree angle for about 20 feet, then down again. Against all odds, I made it. My simian arms finally had their moment to shine.

Walls to traverse appeared, with a horizontal foot-board 3/4” wide and a 2×4 at the top to hang onto. I laughed. Rock climbing skills to the rescue!

A large cargo net (I think King Kong last occupied it, by the smell) was challenging, but not tough. A 30-foot pile of haybales was structurally frightening to climb, and scary to descend, but done with alacrity and trepidation.

…Then came the nasties.

A 16-foot tall 1/4 pipe was a challenge. You had to run as fast and as high as you could, and try to grab the outstretched hands of the people at the top. Some of them were able to reach the top by themselves. If you missed, you slid back down, and tried again. The crowd was frenzied. The finish line was in sight! We cheered each victory, and roared in frustration when victory was postponed. Eventually, it was overcome. At the top, was the battle line. People lay on their bellies and tried to catch the outstretched hands that would rocket up the ramp. I thought this might be a bad idea. I envisioned being pulled back down the ramp. One guy almost went over, but two of us grabbed his legs, and pulled him and his catch back to the top.

Then only one thing left: Electro-shock therapy. How much could one car battery hurt? The answer is: A LOT! They hit you with a water truck on the way into a pergola full of dangling strings. Some of them are electrified.

I’ve played with Tesla coils and VanDerGraff generators. I’ve been zapped by 110 volt current before. This was painful and debilitating. I think I look like I’m smiling at the end of it, but the truth is, it might just be a rictus snarl from the spasming torment.

Then it was done! What trophy did we get? What medal was heaped upon us? What laurel decorated our brow? An orange sweat-band, with the words “Tough Mudder” written on it. That’s how it is at the Mudder. Then they give you a Dos Equis beer, which was a wonderful reward. Matt and I hoisted them high, and toasted ourselves; the Toughest Mudders occupying that space.

Were we slow? Hell yeah! Did we cry? Naw, that ain’t me. Did we finish? Like a BOSS! I’ve got to say that the camaraderie at this event was just as epic as the obstacles. I was as sore from this as from ½ Ironman. I would almost rate this as a similar difficulty. It far surpasses a ½ marathon. I couldn’t have done it without Matt. I’m a Tough Mudder on my own, but with my teammates, we’re unstoppable. Matt’s a hell of a Tough Mudder, too.

A shower, a massage, a beer and a pizza brought me back to life. Seeing the family again brought me back to reality. Here at the house, I’m the Dad and Hubby. Part repairman, part jungle gym. But deep down, I know when I need to be, I am one Tough Mudder.

Two Tough Mudders (Left: James, Right: Matt)

Thanks, James! The story and the pictures help me to feel like I was there to see it all. I’ll stick to Warrior Dash. If you’d like to write a guest post, email me at to discuss a relevant topic you’re interested in posting about. There are some good links coming up tomorrow so stop back!


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