15 or so people (from our 19-person Tough Mudder team) met up the night before Tough Mudder to really get to know each other and to build team unity. Many people were, after all, meeting for the first time.
The next day we were to embark on a 12 mile course together, wrangling electric wires and barbwire, crawling through long black tiny tunnels, and getting all up in each other’s business. Getting to know each other first seemed like a good idea.
“Let’s play a game. Let’s go around and each of us tell our biggest fear for Tough Mudder tomorrow.”
“Arctic Enema” was an obstacle which was mentioned multiple times, and with reason. It’s a giant tank of water with more than a foot of ice floating on top. You jump in, you swim underneath a wall, and you emerge on the other side into even more water and even thicker ice. Then, you gotta think straight enough to climb out of the dang thing.
Another obstacle mentioned was “Electroshock,” the final obstacle, at the very end of the course. Electroshock features hundreds of hanging live wires which zap you at random as your barrel through them to the finish line. And they’re not just little zaps. They’re enough to knock you sideways a bit. 10,000 volts, they say. Only a true masochist would enjoy such a thing.
Ashley had two big fears. “Mud Mile,” a vicious little obstacle with four-foot deep mud trenches which Mudders (us people participating) had to wade through, climb, and repeat. Several times. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, there were two long and narrow black, slippery, pipes (filled partway with water) throughout the Mud Mile which us Mudders had to somehow maneuver ourselves through from one end to the other. These things were a true claustrophobic nightmare. Ashley’s other biggest fear was the “Walk the Plank” obstacle. This was a 12-foot high platform, about 12” x 12” where participants had to stand and leap into the murky water below.
The discussion came around to me. I confessed my biggest fear. Heat cramps. Remember when I had to be rescued by helicopter a couple years back? Remember how just about every muscle in my body simultaneously seized, causing me to collapse and then black out? Well, that was caused by extreme overexertion in the hot sun… the very thing I was setting out to do the next day at Tough Mudder. And, once you get such heat cramps the first time, you are far more susceptible to them for the rest of your life. My fear was valid. I would need to watch myself closely, and I would need to rely on my team to watch for signs and symptoms I couldn’t feel.
A couple members of the team, like Rick, had done Tough Mudders before. In fact, this would be Rick’s sixth Tough Mudder, and he flew in just to join our SDLHC team even though he swore after his last one that he’d never do another Mudder again. Rick had no fears when it was his turn to share. He was an old pro. Just having him there, able to explain why our own fears weren’t as scary as they seemed, was comforting.
Emily, a tiny, fierce, and young member of our team (the youngest, actually), had a very real fear which most of us had had leading up to it. “I am just afraid I will hold you all back,” she said. Many heads nodded in sympathy.