Race Report : Tough Mudder Half Pittsburgh

I supposed since it’s clearly important and meaningful enough to be my header image on my Facebook fanpage I should complete my report regarding the Tough Mudder Half I finished on September 10th.

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Originally I have zero intention of doing this event. Not because I didn’t think I COULD, but because I knew I didn’t feel like doing the full and my friends (Liz, Aaron, Becky & Jill) were all doing the full this time around. Staring at my discount codes from volunteering last year (thank goodness I took a picture because those paper slips are lonnnnng gone) I contemplated for what felt like forever if I should sign up.

After my great experience with The Burner though and a few more weeks of training under my belt I realized there wasn’t any reason I SHOULDN’T do the event. Sure it’s a team oriented day, but don’t I always make friends at events? Besides when was the last time I was able to stick with my team anyway? The decision was made and I was signed up for my 2nd TM and hopefully I wouldn’t pout and skip this one like last summer.

Race morning arrived and I drove out to PA by myself. Don’t take that to mean more than it does, I LOVE driving by myself in the mornings. Working at 10 am has spoiled me and getting up early was always a struggle. I find myself driving the 90 minutes in silence and partial darkness and it’s wonderful while I slowly creep to life.

To my complete shock and amusement I made it to the site before Beck, Liz and Aaron, if only by a few minutes.

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Putting the final touches on and in my pack and changing into my trail shoes I hustle to catch up to them at the entrance. Always nervous about the start the three of them rush around to get in line. Becky and I drop bags off at the gear check and it is then one of the volunteers breaks terrible news to me…I can’t start with my “Team”. Despite being different distances we assumed (incorrectly so there ya go with assuming) I could start with them and meet them along the course. The three of them are in the first or second wave after the elite wave though, and the half participants aren’t allowed on the course for another hour.

Everything in me wishes they will agree to wait and start with me, but they don’t and I have to respect that choice. Besides we would have been together a whole half mile anyway if I’m being honest. Reluctantly I wander around the festival area. After volunteering three times last year I am probably the most comfortable of any event in the festival area for a TM. I find myself at the Merrell tent talking OCR shoes and looking at their “testing site”.

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Having more than enough time to kill I agree to try the shoes. In a fun twist, you don’t just wear the shoes, you’re also strapped to a bag on your back with 40 pounds of items inside. Once arranged I am lead over to 4 “hills” representing different terrains found on a mud run course. Giant rocks to gravel to slick man made walls. Starting at the bottom I use a rope to climb about 10-15 feet up and ring a bell. It amazes me I can haul this pack, but then realized before losing weight I was carrying HALF this load daily. When I finish and take the pack off I’m even more resolved to keep losing weight as I can physically feel the relief all over.

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The shoes are AWESOME as Merrell shoes always seem to be for me, and I enter for a chance to win a pair by pulling out two balls from a bag. I don’t win. I put my own gear back on and eye the crowd for other teal “half” bibs and wait to start.

Once we start I immediately am frustrated because we enter by jumping over a wall. I HATE when races so this because I RFUSE to do walls, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do like 90% of everything else and I it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be allowed. The edges are so closely roped off I almost can’t get onto the field. We run for about a mile before the first real challenge Kiss of Mud 2.0. Sliding down on my belly I shimmy over rocks bumps and mud and under barbed wire. I’m a mess and I’m all smiles.

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According to the map TM Half includes 5.9 miles of fun and 13 different obstacles. Along the way I encounter the following and much more:

Mud Mile 2.0 – This was tiring and fun. I let go of my self-doubt and allowed others to help. Men and women, but mostly men helped lift me from chest high mud and water onto rocky hills and back down into the same for about 5 or 6 repeats. At one point one of the guys was so strong he tossed me and I flew up and over the rocky hill and onto my back and butt on the other side. I couldn’t stop laughing. Of course this is also the obstacle where I shredded my watch band. Photo credit TM website.

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Berlin Walls – I have no idea how tall these suckers were, but I skipped it.

Devil’s Beard. Crawling on the ground, uphill, under a net. I made it about ¾ of the way before the tiny gravel rocks and sticks were hurting my knees. After I stood at the top and lifted the end of the net as help to the others since I didn’t have a team to keep up with and many others did.

Hero Carry – another I skipped even if I didn’t want to skip it. Taking turns with a partner you do a piggyback ride or Fireman carry and make it across a field. One of the volunteers offered to let me carry him, but I didn’t want to be carried and told I was too heavy to lift. It would have devastated me.  Shortly after this one and another “can only be done with two or more people” obstacle I started to feel sorry for myself because with the way the course broke away from the full TM I wasn’t just without my own friends, I was truly by myself for large stretches of time. I realized though pouting didn’t help and kept on walking.

King of the Mountain – THIS was a ton of fun and scary! At first I tried to walk away after being unable to get myself on the chest high hay stack. A group of guys and girls where behind me though and refused to let me walk away. Looking at the image and remembering the day I’d say the bales were 15-20 feet high and when I got to the top I wanted to puke from fear of heights. Slowly though I wiggled my way back to the bottom and thanked everyone who helped. Along the way I begged “Please no one laugh at me”. In true disbelief another girl asked why anyone would do such a thing. We’re all here to have fun and help each other. No one is supposed to judge. It made me feel really good.

Ladder to Hell – another really high thing I skipped but I mention it because the guys who walked up to it with me made me laugh. As we approached the one looked at his friend and asked “If it’s the ladder to hell shouldn’t we be going down not up?” Oh, moments like this make the day grand.

The Block Ness Monster – Easily my favorite of the day. There were two long “blocks” I think they were actually three sided, in a giant pit of water. The water was about chest to throat high for me at 5’1” and not easy to tread when wearing trail shoes. The “blocks” could rotate and essentially a group of people would attempt to climb on and then spin the block forward to move into the next section. The groups with taller men and women would send those over first and they would pull from one side while others pushed and kicked their way from the start. Turn to the next and repeat. I LOVED it. Photo credit TM website

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Skidmarked – You will never believe it, but I did a wall! I stood there forever, well like 10 minutes which should be forever and stared at the inverted wall with tires on the other side. Wave after wave of people attempted and accomplished it, but when I saw a girl roughly my size totally fail I tucked my tail in and started to shuffle away. As I left I noticed what I thought was an official race photographer. Thinking “This would make a great pic!” I went back around the corner. Before I knew what was happening the volunteer called for a group of guys to help me. Up onto two of their thighs and being hoisted into the air by two more standing on the tires I was lifted up onto the end of the wall. I panicked and wanted to go back down, but before that was even an option I was pulling myself up and over. I actually “did it”. Go me. Also, there was no photographer or their pics didn’t make it to the TM people because NO ONE from that obstacle was on the photo site.

When I finished I was very tired and very worn out, but felt like I could have kept going if needed.

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More than likely because I didn’t fuel while out there (I suck at this lately) I started to feel sick within the next hour. I made it to the showers and mostly rinsed off and changed. I also caught my three buddies as they were leaving. We exchanged hugs and well wishes and I headed back home where I promptly took up the couch with my existence and slept.

Will I do back to TM again? Honestly I don’t know. I had fun, but at the same time I was “forced” to miss several things I wanted to try because I didn’t have a team. If I went back I would either be in condition to do the full AND have a team OR I’d do the half later in the day so more people are on the course to “make friends”. I will say I would totally recommend this event to ANYONE interested in trying it and who has a group to go with because it’s probably one of the most fun and positive attitude races I have ever attended. At the start they straight up tell you it’s about teamwork not about a finish time, for a girl who’s blog subtitle has always been “It’s about an active lifestyle, not an elite performance” could there be a better match?

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