By: Taylor Hornney
There’s something a bit morose about signing your death waiver at six a.m. on a Saturday morning. We’d all watched videos of the Tough Mudder obstacle course online. We’d heard horror stories about fatalities and paralyzed legs. We’d even watched “Tough Mudder Fails” on Youtube. Needless to say we eleven Gonzaga students plus two University of Washington students and a parent braced ourselves for the “toughest event on the planet” last Saturday: the Tough Mudder.
Tough Mudder is a ten to twelve mile obstacle course inspired by military training methods. It is designed to be both mentally and physically exhausting. The course was just that for our team, the Dirty Dogs.
Upon our walk from the parking lot to the start line, three ambulances and an abundance of bleeding finishers sporting orange headbands crossed our path. A bit daunting? Yes. But perhaps the most intimidating factor the start line had to offer, (besides a checklist including “sign death waiver”) was a crystal clear view of the “electroshock therapy” obstacle. Mudder participants were sprinting through a field of mud, hay bales, and electrified wires, some carrying 10,000 volts of electricity. While some made it through this obstacle with only a few jolts, others were knocked to the ground and others even blacked out for short periods of time. So this was the only path to the finish line, meaning we had the entire race to think about our approach to the “therapy.”
Finally, after a fair amount of loud music and warming up, the Dirty Dogs took the oath to not complain and leave no mudder behind. Then, we were off.
The first task was fairly mild, in comparison to the rest of the course, that is. Two ten foot high walls stood in front of the Dirty Dogs and the finish line. After hoisting our teammates up one after another we were definitely fooled into thinking the whole race would be that easy. Oh, were we wrong. Our next obstacles included running up and over mud walls, army crawling under barbed wire, and climbing up a twenty foot high wall then jumping off of it into ice cold water. All these obstacles were conquered while running through slippery mud between each one. They were physically challenging, but the adrenaline high from the start line made them, almost fun. It was when we reached the “cliffhanger” when our limits were first tested.
I must admit, there is nothing more terrifying than climbing on all fours up a forty five degree vertical incline with nothing to grab on to. The cliffhanger was essentially a mountain with only mud for traction. Without digging your feet properly into the hill it was all too easy to fall backwards. This was where camaraderie really showed through. The only way to make it up the hill was to work together and push off one another until we reached the top, no matter how heavy someone was, or how unstable you currently were. Sometimes there was literally nothing to grab except for the very tastefully placed thorn bushes which lined the entire race course. Even after reaching the summit of the mountain, the slide down was more treacherous.
Many more obstacles and miles of running challenged and hurt us. We got our first taste of electricity at an obstacle called the “electric eel.” Here, mudders are required to slide on their stomach’s through mud, cold water, and electrified wires. Before entering this tub of torture, cries of agony could be heard as mudders experienced their first shock. It felt like someone has slapped you on the back and your muscles ceased to work for a matter of seconds. The electric eel was only a warm up for both the electroshock therapy and the arctic enema.
The enema is one of the most highly anticipated obstacles. Strategically placed after one of the longest stretches of running, the dumpster full of ice would appear to be the perfect obstacle to cool you off, but it wasn’t. Jumping into ice up to your shoulders is bad enough, but swimming under a wall topped with barbed wire and immersing your whole body in it can only lead to hypothermia. If it hadn’t been for the Dirty Dog’s pulling each other out of the ice bucket after completing the task, many of our dogs would have remained standing in the tub for a dangerous amount of time. The enema doesn’t only require mental tenacity, but timing. The stranger who was swimming next to me under the wall prematurely lifted his head in an attempt to escape the ice, causing a potentially broken nose and very bloody face.
The enema was followed by more muddy and tough tasks. We carried our teammates, logs, and even crossed a stretch of monkey bars. Oh, and we did lots and lots of running.
Finally, one task stood between the Dirty Dogs and our electroshock therapy. Everest, a quarter-pipe in which you can’t conquer alone. Other fellow mudders were stationed at the top of the pipe while we sprinted up and took a leap of faith into their hands, hoping to be caught and pulled up to safety. Not all of us were so lucky. One teammate slipped at the last moment and slammed face-first into the wall. Everest required teamwork, timing, and physical agility. But the real challenge of the day rested with the therapy.
There was no hesitation for the Dirty Dogs. Team captain Matt Alley counted down from three starting the moment our team reached the field of wires, and we all ran at once. Each of us twitched and spazzed as we sprinted through mud and bales of hay. We yelled, we cursed, and we laughed. If the electric eel had felt like a slap on the back, the therapy felt like a car. My last shock was so strong it knocked me over, and thankfully, into the finish line.
The feeling that followed was indescribable. We all looked at each other, tired, muddy, wet, shocked, but most of all relieved. There was no better moment in the world, than seeing the Gonzaga Kennel Club tshirts cut up and ruined, and an orange head band atop every single one of your teammates. The Tough Mudder may be dangerous, fatal, and painful, but the Dirty Dogs did it. We conquered the mudder, and we have the scars and mud caked fingernails to prove it.