As most endurance athletes have probably experienced at some point in their lives, hitting the “wall” and continuing on is a pure battle of mental grit; a true test of what you are made of.
Last year, on a chilly overcast day in May, I took part in the aptly named event called the Tough Mudder at Mt. Snow, Vermont. It was pretty tough, and very muddy. For those of you who have never heard of the Tough Mudder, it is a 10-12 mile long obstacle course designed by the British Special Forces. It has more than 25 different military style obstacles that consist of walls, tunnels, barbed wire, water, fire, ice, snow, electricity and of course, lots of mud.
The first half of the race was really fun, but by around mile 7, it was turning into a hurt dance. I was freezing cold from the many water obstacles, having been wet since an ice-bath plunge at mile 1, and my skinny self was finding it hard to stay warm. I was also becoming pretty tired and slightly delirious. By mile 8 or 9, I hit the “wall,” and hard. I had to stop on the side of the course to vomit. My body was shaking uncontrollably from the cold, unable to produce heat anymore from lack of blood sugar. I felt confused as to where I was along the course. My body was screaming at me to stop.
But I pushed on, slowly. Up the mountain one last time through an ambush of snow-guns blasting cold water from each side. It was cruel torture in the state I was in. We came to a pond and had to jump off a 15-foot platform to swim across the frigid water, the last thing I wanted to do. Then we were back into the woods, wading through thick, muddy water, under logs and barbed wire. Back down the mountain through a mound of snow and across monkey bars over another pit of water. Luckily I made it across, I was not going back into any water. The fire obstacle came as a blessing, but way too short lived as the smoky air burnt my lungs and forced me to get through quickly.
At this point, I was in real bad shape. Delirious, hypothermic and exhausted. But just as I thought that “the wall” had beaten me for good, I looked up to see the second to last obstacle (ironically a massive wall) with giant letters on the front spelling out “NO QUIT IN HERE.” I summoned the last of my reserves to run, jump up and grab the top, helping my teammates up after. One final push through a tunnel of live wires charged to 10,000 volts of electricity, and then the finish!
There was no trophy or medal or participation ribbon waiting for us at the end. Just a slap on the back and a cold beer. Mental grit. When you put mind over matter, it is truly amazing what you can put your body through.
TOUGH MUDDER <—- Video