Pioneer web profile: Tough Mudders tough it out

Aleida Fernandez

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The Tough Mudders celebrate before the race. Photo courtesy of Little

The self-proclaimed “toughest event on the planet,” the Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12-mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test participants’ all-around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. On Sept. 30, after months of training, juniors Kenna Little, Michaela Lambert, Claire Vezie and McCaulay Singer-Milnes and senior Johanna Otico drove to Seattle, Wash. to partake in the toughest challenge in the world. The Pioneer sat down with them to have a chat about electroshock therapy, bruises and Tahoe:

Pioneer: How did you find out about Tough Mudder and why did you decide to participate in it?
Kenna Little: I found out about Tough Mudder while I was working in Uruguay last June. One of the women that works at a fire department where I volunteered in high school posted it on Facebook. I had been looking for a goal to motivate me to work out and it seemed like the perfect thing!

Claire Vezie: Kenna emailed me over the summer telling me about it and that she was trying to get a group together and the group sounded great and I like training for things and I like trying things I haven’t tried before that are maybe a little more obscure! So I thought I’d go for it, and having something to motivate me to train always works out better than if I wasn’t training for anything!

Johanna Otico: I participated in a mud run early in the summer and was searching for another one online and came across Tough Mudder. I was originally planning on doing the Southern California event in the summer of 2013, but then I got too excited and decided to try and get a team together for Seattle.

Michaela Lamnbert: I found out about the Tough Mudder originally from my CrossFit gym at home. A group of gir-

Little climbs over an obstacle. Photo courtesy of Little

 

ls had competed the year before, and I remember thinking to myself “I could never do something that crazy!” When McCaulay invited me to join I figured it was a sign that I should attempt it. I wanted to do something that pushed me beyond my comfort zone and would give me an opportunity to train with incredibly strong females.

McCaulay Singer-Milnes: Kenna contacted me in June asking if I was interested in forming a team for the event. I was in Nicaragua at the time so I remember briefly looking at the website and descriptions but essentially saying “yes” immediately.

Pioneer: How long did you train prior to Tough Mudder?
KL: The day after I signed up, I mapped out workouts for the next 98 days and started training right away. I was pretty terrified of the race so it made for some great motivation over the next three months.

ML: I started training in July.

CV: About three months.

JO: Three months.

MSM: I trained for about three months. One of the best parts of training for Tough Mudder was incorporating weight lifting into my workout routine. I was able to focus on strength training far more than I had prior to training for the event.

Pioneer: What was the hardest obstacle?
JO: Physically, the hardest obstacle was Everest, but mentally, it was definitely Electroshock Therapy. That was the obstacle I was worried about going into the race.

KL: Physically, the hardest obstacle was probably the Berlin Walls. They are 12-foot-high walls and required a lot of teamwork and upper body strength in order to get over them. Plus, they left some pretty nasty bruises. But more than the physical toughness, there were many obstacles that were mental challenges. The biggest one for me is what they call Everest, a 16-plus-foot half pipe, greased down with water and oil, that you have to sprint up and get over. Standing at the bottom looking up at it was really intimidating, and it was easy to get psyched out. It took me three tries to get up it and after both of my falls, I became a little more unsure if I could do it. That made it the most challenging, but that also made it the most rewarding when I got over!

CV: The second to last one was called Everest and it was at the very end when I was tired. There were a couple other ones that weren’t as physically challenging but hard because they required me to do things I wasn’t as comfortable doing, like crawl through dark enclosed spaces and be up high in the air!

MSM: I think the Arctic Enema was the hardest obstacle. The Arctic Enema involves jumping into a dumpster filled with icy water––about 35 degrees––and swimming under a plank, thus fully submerging your body in the coldest water imaginable. My entire body went numb, making it very difficult to pull myself out of the water in order to exit the dumpster. I experienced the strangest disconnect between my body, which was virtually immobile, and my mind, which was filled with expletives and the reoccurring thought of “I need to get out of here right now!”

ML: I thought the hardest obstacle was the Electroshock Therapy. It was the last obstacle and definitely the most painful. I learned that the body can do amazing things. I think that I blacked out for a bit from the pain and don’t remember the first part of the obstacle but somehow kept pushing. The finish line was so close and we all weren’t willing to let some shocks stop us.

Pioneer: What was one thing that you didn’t expect entering the competition?
ML: I didn’t expect the level of camaraderie and support along the course. Everyone was so willing to help each other out, whether that included offering a hand to get pulled out of a mud pit, getting a boost to get up a 12-foot wall, or simply a high five along the course. It made everything so much more enjoyable.

CV: To finish! No I’m just kidding, I knew we’d finish, but I thought it would be a much bigger struggle. I also thought that even though Tough Mudder advertises the race as more of a challenge and less about the finish time that people would still be going for speed, but that was not the case at all. There were guys that helped over 10 people over a wall after their whole team had gone through before they got over themselves and people encouraged each other along and were patient.

JO: I didn’t expect to be in such high spirits the entire time. No matter how much an obstacle hurt I’m pretty sure I smiled the entire way, there was just such a great atmosphere and sense of camaraderie between all of the participants.

MSM: I didn’t expect to spend the entire time giggling and smiling. I had more fun than I ever thought imaginable.

KL: I didn’t expect it to be so fun! It was tiring, of course, but I was happy throughout the entire run. I had heard about the camaraderie among participants, but I didn’t realize how true it was. Our team gave and received a lot of help along the way and were able to laugh with perfect strangers about how ridiculous the obstacles were or cheer on people as they conquered an obstacle. There was so much positivity and encouragement; people genuinely wanted you to succeed!

Pioneer: Did you perform better than you expected to?
KL: I think we all performed better than we expected. We crushed our anticipated finish time, and I assumed we would have to walk parts of the course and be completely dead by the end, but we didn’t stop running and all felt strong when we crossed the finish line.

ML: I honestly didn’t expect to feel so good. The energy of the people around me and all of our training helped pump me up and before I knew it we had already gone through five miles and I was feeling great. I was not a big runner prior to training for this event, so completing 12 miles was a big deal for me.

CV: I am proud that we all went through every obstacle. I definitely thought there would be some point where we all had a bit of a mental breakdown, but that never happened and we really honestly just enjoyed it the whole way through!

JO: I was really proud of the amount of obstacles I was able to complete on my own.

MSM: I fully expected to have a major meltdown or injure myself. I was thrilled that neither of these things occurred.

Pioneer: Would you participate in it again?
KL: I’m already signed up for the Seattle one in May and hope to do the Tahoe race in July––they’re addicting!

JO: Already planning on it.

CV: Definitely, I am about to sign up for another one next year!

ML: I am already planning on signing up for the Tahoe event in July. If I could, I would do it again tomorrow!

MSM: I’m registering to do the July 13th Tough Mudder in Tahoe, Calif. I wish I could do one every weekend.

Pioneer: On a scale of one to 10, how bad do you hurt right now?
KL: The day after the race I was at about an eight or nine. Only a few of my muscles were sore, but the bruises that covered my legs and arms made it painful to move.

ML: As of yesterday I was at about a seven since I chipped a bone in my foot and felt every part of my body was bruised.

CV: Three. I don’t actually hurt that much; I have some bruises; my knees hurt the most afterwards and my arms, but I’m fine now!

JO: Probably around six, but the day after the race it was a ten.

MSM: I would say about a two. I thought my muscles would hurt more, but my bruises are the causes of any minor, lingering pain.

Singer-Milnes, Otico, Little, Lambert and Vezie keep smiling while running. Photo courtesy of Little

Pioneer: On a scale of one to 10, how badass do you feel right now?
CV: Eight-and-a-half! The feeling crossing the finish line and after the race was incredible, complete satisfaction; I loved it!

JO: 10.

ML: Definitely a 10––the greatest I’ve felt in my life!
KL: The day after the race I was feeling off-the-charts in terms of badass-ness. Now, a week later, I’m still hovering around a nine or 10, not in comparison to anyone else, but purely because i conquered a lot of my fears and self-doubts and proved to myself I could train my ass off for something I wanted and accomplish it!

MSM: 47––This entire week I’ve felt incredibly empowered and find myself walking around in a cloud of Tough Mudder euphoria. I think the adrenaline is still in my system.

(From Left) Little, Singer-Milnes, Lambert, Vezie and Otico celebrate after the race. Photo courtesy of Little

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