Tough Mudder Lake Tahoe 2013

My Team

Team Skid Marx was full of incredible people that I hope I get to spend more time with. I could fill a whole blog post just talking about how strong, determined, and fun these folks are. We stayed at a cabin before and after the race, and made a weekend of it – was way more fun than a one-day drive-and-race. David, Cerena, Vince, Carolina, John, Bernadette, Rick, Matt, and Paul (who wasn’t available for the team picture)


The Race

Cage Crawl The race at Tahoe started a few thousand feet over sea level at Northstar, and climbed a couple thousand feet more during the course. It was an uphill hike and a climb over a 6′ barrier just to get to the start line. It was steep uphill from there and would continue up for 5 miles. We scaled Glory Blades (obstacle #1/18) with little issue, and then hit Cage Crawl. The water was freezing and we were trapped upside-down in that submersed channel under cyclone fencing as we pulled ourselves through. I had thrown away 1 Walk the Plank shirt, realizing I was just carrying more water with more layers. Next, walk the plank wasn’t high – maybe 20′ ? but it was descent into dark icy water, where it’s hard to fight back to the surface first when the cold makes your body try to gasp for air. It was somber for us when our teammate dislocated his shoulder in the struggle.  He was a former TM finisher, but with a previously injured joint that re-separated in the strain of the obstacle. Medical returned him to the start and we regrouped and headed for obstacle #4, adjusting our memorized headcount we’d been using to ensure we are all together.   We sloshed through the Mud Mile without much comment, but I threw out my gloves to help my cold hands dry off, and then reached Funky Monkey. I used a “wedding march” swing on the bars, getting my hands together on one bar before swinging one hand to the next. It was conservative and slow but I made it and stayed dry. We had 3 teammates get close, but slip into the cold water, with dire consequences later.


We crawled through Boa Constrictor, though we had no ropes (some other competitors did) so wiggling up out of the tunnels was real rough. Boa constrictorThen Kiss of Mud tore us up – the barbed wire you crawl under is so low that we had to scrape and tear our skin on the rocks to stay under it, or get cut if we raised too high. I was getting cold with my still-wet cotton shorts, and threw them out. Modesty was out, I’d have to finish in my speedo. Berlin Wall was maybe 16′ feet high? Some young mudders were trying to time a run, then leap, then kick off of a board to grasp the top and clear it without teammates. It was hard because the walls leaned away from us on an incline, so when you leap, gravity pulled you away from the wall. Forward momentum before the double jump could make it work though. tm-berlin-wallA few of us cleared it, and started using teamwork and hoisted each other over the walls. That’s when we finally reached our first electrocution obstacle. Electric Eel makes you crawl through water and high voltage lines, getting zapped on the way. This was it for one team member – all the cold water, cold air, cold wind finally turned to hypothermia, and we called in the ski patrol to get her off the mountain to warmth, her husband sacrificing his finisher’s headband to take her back to the village. It was demoralizing to lose 2 more members. We scoured for metal manhole covers to sit on to pick up some heat before we continued. I threw out my nutrition belt, continuing to learn how much I valued lightness.


At Lumberjacked we saw lots of mudders getting leg cramps, and our own teammate cramped while flinging himself over the log. Something about this obstacle, at this time in the race, was cramping people up pretty bad. We did a simple mystery obstacle, then simple LogJammin, and then our ranks were struck again – shredded foot soles from thin and pebble-filled shoes caused us to lose 2 more members, who were otherwise strong and energetic enough to continue, but just couldn’t walk on torn up feet. WoodCarryThey ended up finishing later without us, but at that point we pressed on with only 3 mudders left. It was a LONG hike after that to the next obstacle, one of many long hikes that day, and one of our three started to check-out mentally. We were beat, cold, the sun was going down, our team was shattered, and it was hard to stay motivated. I kept calling out our obstacles finished/obstacles left (“14 of 18! woo”) and Carolina started a military marching song about our team to raise morale. Our next event, Hold your Wood, was one of my day’s higlights. We put a log on our shoulders and started climbing the hill, but made it a race, trying to pick off (pass) other teams one by one. on the way down we ran out of nearby teams to catch, I said “If we run we can get that couple” and my teammate said “I’m too tired to run, sorry”. …but when we caught them by speedwalking, they said “hey! they’re passing us” and sped up. we sped up, then they jogged, we jogged, then they ran – and then my too-tired-to-run partner found the will to start sprinting. We won our impromptu race, shook hands with the other mudders, and faced the challenge I was most afraid of next.


Arctic EnemaArctic Enema is a dumpster full of ice-dense icewater, with a barrier in the middle you have to swim under. I trained for cold-water triathlons in the past, and learned it was impossible for me to control my breathing when the water was cold – without a wetsuit, at least. After a long freezing day on Northstar, with the sun behind the horizon, I didn’t think I could bear going in, and certainly not *under*, that water. It was worse thinking that, even if I succeeded, I’d be frozen for the next 3 miles. A teammate helped – “if you take your dry shirts off and get it done, your skin will dry when we run and then you can put your dry shirts back on.” I dove in, ducked under, and came out pumping my fists. A teammate followed, and the dry clothes trick worked. There were 4 obstacles left, despite my miscounted assurances that we had only 3 to go. We wiggled through Kiss of Mud again, having already learned the drill on this duplicate obstacle. We descended some steep difficult terrain, slipping a bit and getting nervous we’d lose another member to an unfortunate stumble or twisted ankle. At Warrior Carry, two of us hoisted the third, since our numbers didn’t make sense for 1-to-1 partners. TM Matt FinishJust everest and Electroshock remained, but they were both a blur, because they surrounded the finish line, where the second highlight of my day awaited. All the able team members that we’d been seperated from who’d had another path down the mountain were on the green and cheering for us. The announcer even called out on the loudspeaker about how Team Skid Marx had started with many but was down to these few at the finish. I was so pumped when we charged through Electroshock Therapy, I barely noticed the high voltage and couldn’t lower my fists from the air. We got our TM headbands, our shirts, our beers, and were reunited and ready to get to serious business – what were we going to eat after all those hours of competition? This was one of the most unique and memorable races I’ve done – and the only one that included teamwork and obstacles.

Tips – apparel

Minimalist shoes are not great. I ran in 5-fingers and they didn’t keep the mud & pebbles out, and didn’t protect my soles from the rocks and roots. Next time I’ll try trail shoes, athletic socks, and maybe tape around the top to my ankle to keep mud out. Gloves are great if they don’t hold any water. I liked my climber’s tape better. Tape around every finger joint at least, maybe the palm too. Not too tight, though – you need circulation. Wear as few clothes as possible. A triathlon suit may be perfect – you don’t want lots of baggy wet clothes keeping you cold and weighing you down. …but keep in mind that exposed skin will scratch and tear in Kiss the Mud, so long runner’s tights might protect those legs better than shorts. Carry a water belt with nutrition and water if you need it – TM has some aid stations and bananas, but not much. I ditched my water belt halfway through because I didn’t like the weight or having it catch on things.

Tips – fitness

I’d suggest a finisher should be able to do all of these in a workout before the race:

pushups – 15 reps x 5 sets |  pullups – 5 reps x 5 sets | plank – 60 seconds | trail running – 10 miles in hills | Interval sprints – develop quickness for at least 20 yards | farmer walks – carry your own body weight ~30 yards | jump in a very cold lake/pool and swim out | get your BMI under 24 | Understand how TM electrocution works

Why you need the fitness tips above

I really felt the need for pushups & planks on Kiss the Mud, Electric Eel, Boa Constructor – it was hard to get up out of the Kiss the Mud because I hadn’t done strong enough pushup work. Pullups helped climb walls, swim out, swing from ledges/bars – Glory Blades, Cage Crawl, Walk the Plank, Funky Monkey, Berlin Walls, Just the Tip, Everest.

Trail Running just gets you through the course. Quickness gets you up Everest – the only obstacle that required leg speed. Farmer Walks are for hauling things – Hold your Wood, Warrior Carry.

Cold water prep was big for Cage Crawl, Walk the Plank, Mud Mile, Electric Eel, and *especially* the dreaded Arctic Enema.  being low BMI/low weight will help your partner on Warrior Carry, and help you on climb over and suspension obstacles.

You don’t have to prepare for the electricity – all you have to do is understand how it works. The electrical wires are not always hot – there is a rolling charge through all of them that lights for an instant. …so you don’t try to dodge wires exactly, you just keep them off your most sensitive spots, keep moving forward, and pray you have lucky timing.

Thanks for reading!  This is our team getting omelettes the morning after the race.

TM team breakfast

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