So here we are, what started as my End Game. The Holy Grail. The maguffin that propels every action movie plot forward towards the next ridiculous action scene. I’m of course talking about the Tough Mudder Philly 2017. All the training, the running, the dieting, and the “minor” bouts of anxiety I subjected myself to the first half of 2017 was coming to a head one cloudy and slightly damp morning in May. But before I start having flashbacks to Pyramid Scheme and the way I walked with a limp for the better part of a week, a little backstory is in order.
I first heard about the Tough Mudder back in freshman year in college. My buddy Alex ran it and just hearing about it piqued my interest. All the talk of jumping over flaming logs, running through a ton of obstacles and then given a complementary beer for my troubles sounded like the adult version of Global Guts every 90’s kid dreamed about. Damn shame that the mere thought of running for an extended period of time gave me a migraine at the time. So I went back to playing God of War in a folding lounge chair that I got at Target for about 20 bucks and didn’t give the Mudder much thought after that. Then more time passes, I eat and drink with the reckless abandon of a typical college kid away from home for the first time and only towards the end of my four years at school did I realize that maybe working out and not being 240+ pounds was a solid life plan. It would take another 6 years and the threat of friendship disownment for me to tackle the Mudder but hey, baby steps.
My interest in the Mudder was piqued again when my two friends Vinny and Nick ran the Philly Mudder a couple years ago and the more I heard about it, the more I wanted to do it to say that I did and know that I could. But the motivation was still lacking and it existed as a fun mental exercise rather than an actual plan. However, a funny thing happened on the inevitable march towards the end of my 20’s. The Mudder became the end goal of this renewed focus on being a generally healthy and fit member of society. It was my athletic Holy Grail, mostly because I never got onto Guts, Legends of the Hidden Temple, or Double Dare as a kid and this seemed like the next best bet.
Staring down this borderline Herculean task with me was my two buddies John, Kevin and Kevin’s sister Katie. Team My Patronus is a Mudkip was ready to wade through mud, climb over every gigantic stack of hay, run up an obnoxiously high half-pipe, and even form a human daisy chain (Goddamn you Pyramid Scheme) that the Tough Mudder course could throw our way.
Over the 10 mile course we experienced the most physically tasking day any of us ever gone through. And speaking solely for myself here, I had the time of my life pushing my limits. John may slightly disagree since I did accidentally launch him over a trench thing face first into a pool of cold muddy water. Sorry buddy <3. I mean, Karma did come back and dropkick me in the face on Pyramid Scheme. I know, this is the third time I’ve mentioned this obstacle and how much I loathe it and now you’ll know why. The obstacle is a slippery ramp at an insanely steep incline. The only way to scale this beast is to form a human ladder with your fellow Mudders and make it to the top. I get about half way up the ramp and try to reposition myself to try and help others up. The was mistake number 1. Mistake number two was trying to catch myself, failing miserably and then go sliding down the ramp and landing hard on the 2×4 at the base of the ramp that people used to brace themselves. Did I mention this obstacle was at the half way point of the run? It was and I ran the rest of it with a limp. Thank the Fitness Gods for adrenaline. However, the very next obstacle was the perfect summary of the Tough Mudder and captured the exact reason why I put myself through this and have every intention of doing it TWICE in 2018.
Everest 2.0 seems like a simple obstacle on paper. There’s a half-pipe. You run up the half-pipe. Grab a hold of the ledge at the top and hoist yourself up. Cake walk right? Hahaha. Hahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. You sweet summer child, you have no idea. Not only was this immediately after Pyramid Scheme gave me the love tap from Hell, it was the exact mid-point of run. At this point I’ve run about 5-6 miles depending on who you ask, no one really knew. I was told 3 separate times that we were almost done and each time there were still about 5-7 obstacles still to go. Needless to say, the tank was running low and as with a couple obstacles before Everest and more than couple after it, I asked myself “Why are we doing this again? You stupid idiot!” John runs and makes it to the top and I have my mark. First attempt- almost made it but couldn’t get a good grip and I slide down. It’s all good, I’ll try again. Second attempt- I start running, make it as far up as I can and leap, just missed John’s hand and a fellow Mudder at the top by inches. Attempts 3-5 were mostly the same. Frustration was mounting as a group of seasoned Mudders, as noted by their snazzy different colored headbands, gave me some pointers I resolved that this attempt was the last, one way or the other. I get a good head of steam, run and jump at the highest point of the wall I can get to and grab the hands of John and our good Mudder Samaritan who stayed until I got up that wall. The fact that I didn’t have strength left in my arms didn’t help our situation. Props to the guy on my left who grabbed my legs as I started swinging them over in my last ditch attempt to get up that damn wall.
That feeling I had when I made it to the top of Everest 2.0 is one I will never forget. The elation, the relief, and the triumph of finally scaling that way made me forget that we still had the back half of the course to finish and that’s where most of the ridiculous obstacles were found. But after beating Everest and earning that warm fuzzy feeling in my guy, nothing was going to ruin my day. Not even running through a field of electrified wires for the last obstacle.
I accomplished the main goal of this particular fitness adventure. I survived the Tough Mudder, got my orange headband and my complimentary beer. One of the best beers I have even drunk in my life. I rode that high for a couple weeks after the Mudder until I had to face the eventual question that comes after you finish any difficult challenge in front you; Now what? What’s next for this Recovering Fat Kid now that I tackled my white whale and got my commemorative t-shirt and coffee mug?
Find out next time on The Diary of a Recovering Fat Kid! Sorry for the cliffhanger but it is almost 1230 AM and I’ve already gone through my writing playlist twice. A man has sleep related needs people.