Don’t Think, Just Do: Tough Mudder Chicago 2013


This was another event that I was exited and a little worried of, and it was a great time partly because of the event and partly because of the awesome CFS crew running it with me.

Getting to the event was an obstacle course in itself (off-site parking, bad Googlemaps info, shuttle driver got lost, etc.). I finally got there, got my bib number, checked my bag and found the rest of the team. Some new faces, some people that I had met online but never in person, and the Cornfed group that I have run with and honestly consider my family.

There was a minor pep rally before the send-off, then we started off, went over a 7′ wall, and found ourselves in the actual starting corral. I will say that the MC’s speech to get everyone revved up is something that everyone should experience firsthand, I cannot even attempt to do it justice here. I will note, however, that when he made the point that Midwesterners really get the sense of teamwork and camaraderie, cheers of “CORNFED!!!” drowned out the TM “Hoorah.”

We were given the go-ahead and started out, high-fiving the MC as we passed. I stayed a little closer to the group on this one than I habitually do, both to offer and receive help on the obstacles.

First obstacle was the “Arctic Enema” ice bath. I went through it as quickly as I could and it was not as bad as feared. With all the cold water my past few races I doubted this one would be much different.

I had always been told to make certain I had a team for this event, but as usual, team lines were blurred quickly. I helped and was helped by more people than I can count, maybe a quarter of whom were my official teammates.

The electrified obstacles were a new experience for me, but not all that tough if you keep pushing through it. The first, called “Electric Eel” is a barbed-wire crawl with electrified wires dangling about 8″ apart. As my Sensei used to say, “Always move. When it hurts, move MORE.”


Toward the end, I got tagged in the left ribs and left calf at the same time, causing that side of my body to lock up, but I was able to crawl the rest of the way with my right side. We regrouped the team just after this obstacle (which ended in some seriously sloppy mud) for a group picture.


It was about this time that I realized that, while we were still hardcore about completing the obstacles and the course, none of us were in any mood to take ourselves or our finish time at all seriously. I high-fived a friend with both of our hands coated in mud, splattering it everywhere. One of the team who was wearing a backpack opened it, distributed cans of beer, and ran on drinking one (and still outrunning me).

We got to the one obstacle on which I had doubts about my ability (Walk the Plank, where you dive off a platform into water) only to find that it had a half-hour wait, so the entire team muttered a collective “screw that” and went on to the next.

There was a banner at the 5k mark, noting that this is where Warrior Dash would end. Myself and the two battle buddies I was keeping pace with were amused enough to stop for a photo-op.


I was a bit ahead of the team when we hit the buddy-carry obstacle, so I teamed up with a group that was there. It is rather amusing to have a pretty young lady on your back and exchange names along the way. She tried and failed to carry me the second half, so we switched out teammates with another group that was having trouble.

I accidentally faced my doubts of jumping into water a few obstacles later. The intention was to swing between gymnastic rings over a pool of water. I am still nursing a shoulder injury, so I stood a moment looking at the rings, then said screw it and jumped into the water, expecting it to be chest-deep. Not sure how deep it was, because I didn’t touch bottom, but did bob back up and dog-paddle across.

A special moment for me was receiving a team nickname, or at least what I am claiming as one. I again found myself using Bujinkan rolls to clear certain obstacles, being met with shouts of “Style points!” and “Yeah Parkour!”. After seeing this a few times, one of the team called out, “Okay, Ninja.” Ninja is going on my next jersey.

One of my battle buddies and another member of the team started having trouble with their knees and had to walk the remainder of the course. I and several others slowed our pace to stay with them. No one gets left behind.

“Everest” was a really cool obstacle, running UP a halfpipe roughly 15′ high. I got in the staring pen, sprinted as fast as I could, touched the hand of the person on top to pull me over… and promptly slid back down. Next course. I’m training at the skate park and I will be back.


The inverted V monkey bars were an obstacle that I had been intrigued by, but I knew I could not do it now without further damaging my shoulder. Again, next course. It was cool to see one of my injured teammates complete it.

The last obstacle was where I learned likely my greatest lesson from this event. You have to run through several curtains of electrified wires, with earth berms in your way that you have to go over. While I was waiting for the runner in front of me to make it so I would have a clear path, my brain started saying, “This is stupid. This is STUPID stupid. Why in the hell are we doing this?” Then the path was clear, I engaged GAME ON mode and charged through.

It wasn’t until I was walking from the showers to the changing area that it hit me. I heard the MC at the finish line saying, “We are backing up too much. If you are just thinking about how much this is going to hurt, step aside and let some runners through!”

I can realize that this is going to suck, but caring about that is optional. If you think about the pain, the cold, the heat, the failures, it is all to easy to frighten yourself into giving up. If you focus on the task at hand, and just do what needs done, damn the cost, then soon the accomplishment will be yours and the pain will be a fading memory.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Think, Just Do: Tough Mudder Chicago 2013

  1. I think the last paragraph is a strong point for anyone looking to accomplish something. Be it something physical, like us in the OCR world, or something entirely different. Focus on what needs to be done and soon you’ll be reaping the rewards.

    Great read!

  2. Reblogged this on I Am a Spartan and commented:
    Reblogging this post from within my Cornfed Spartan family because it gives great insight into the camaraderie of the OCR community and the last paragraph delivers a strong message on life.

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