Heads up, this is kind of a long post. Epic event.
Saturday morning was very cold and very dark, but I dragged myself out of bed anyway. I fumbled around looking for the clothes I had picked out the night before and a few extra items of warmth. I kissed my husband good-bye and left to go hang out with a bunch of crazy people playing in the mud.
When I arrived at Raceway Park it was starting to hum with activity and buzz with anticipation. The volunteer check in tent was full of people chatting and munching on breakfast sandwiches. Most were talking about why they were here, and thinking about doing it next year. There was a sign-up sheet being passed around for different volunteer posts. As cool as it would be to do an obstacle, I passed it on and decided to let the coordinator just put me wherever needed help.
I was assigned to “Bag Check”. At first it sounded stupid, and I was a little disappointed. Our job was to check in participant’s bags and hold them, because obviously you don’t want to go splashing through the mud with your keys and cellphone on you.
The first wave of Mudders was due to start at 8am. By 7:30 they were coming in droves. As chilly as it was, nobody seemed to care. There were huge smiles, laughing, and joking. Lots of hooting and hollering. Crazy hair cuts and wacky costumes. Supportive families and wide-eyed kids.
There was a band of super heros. The cast of Sponge Bob. A group of “flying pigs”. Some came dressed in military uniform. Some came dressed in very very little. I even posted to Facebook about the vet I saw wearing a camo kilt…and two mechanical legs.
It was about 35 degrees F and these crazy and brave men and women were about to embark on a 12 mile course with 32 obstacles that included cargo nets, hay bales, fire, water, a half pipe, electric shocks, and tons and tons of mud. The estimated time to finish is about 3 hours, and the goal is just to finish. The top 5% will later go on to participate in World’s Toughest Mudder next month in the same location.
Just as it seemed like we were starting to slow down with “check in”, the first few Mudders were returning triumphant. They came bearing the orange headbands of honor, soaking wet, and shivering. It’s a damn good thing they get their bib number written on their forehead, because the ones on their wrists and bib are in tatters or soaked in mud.
We scrambled to get their bags back to them. That’s when I realized why some of them were so heavy; they were full of dry, warm clothes. Screw the changing rooms, they stripped off wet shirts right there and put on dry ones. Then they left to join the party that was starting back at the finish line.
As the day got brighter and warmer there was less shivering, but more mud. There was a quite a bit of limping and even a little blood. It was a little worrisome to see such well muscled and active looking guys in such condition. It certainly gave me second thoughts about doing it next year. It also made me a little worried for my brother and his friends who were due to start at 11:45.
My shift was over around lunch, so I grabbed some food and headed out to the course to try to catch a shot of my brother’s team and take in the sights. The Everest was set up around mile 8. Because of waivers I signed, I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to tell, but you can see for yourself what is going on and what the objective is.
The best part was the sense of camaraderie. Of course team mates were helping each other out, but they were helping perfect strangers too. It was clear some of the participants were in this thing solo. But really they, weren’t. They were all in this thing together.
While I was standing there watching with the other spectators, a linebackeresque guy yells “Hey purple! Bring it!” So this young woman in purple under armor takes a running start at the obstacle and throws up her hands to these strange men. They grab her hands and pull as her feet attempt to climb the muddy rest of the way. Another guy reaches down and pulls her up by the leg. Not graceful, but it works. One guy moves on and Purple kneels down to recover and help the next person.
I couldn’t seem to figure out where my brother was at that point in the race so I headed down to the grandstands where the finish line was. It was amazing to see these people crossing the finish line to music and cheering for hours. People of all shapes and sizes and ages. Despite everything they had been through they were still running and smiling as they received their orange headbands of honor.
Just as I was starting to worry, and get tired, I saw the “Cheese and Crackwhores” come around the bend and down the home stretch. I think Ray knew I would be there. They slowed down just long enough when I yelled so I could snap pictures of them. I was so impressed and proud to see them finishing strong.
I could probably go on for pages about all the things I saw and thought while watching just part of this event. But that would just be a spectators view. I can do better.
Yes, I do want to do this.
If you read this in search of more photos, I snagged the link from my brother for official photos. You’ll need your bib number to look it up.http://www.brightroom.com/view_event.asp?EVENTID=79521&PWD
Here is a link to more photos, including Purple and mechanical leg man http://toughmudder.com/event-photos/tri-state-2011/