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Lessons from Tough Mudder, 2012 Edition

December 3, 2012

As I write this, I am less than 24 hours past completing my second Tough Mudder event. For those of you who aren’t so inclined–that is, sane people–Tough Mudder is a long run with extreme obstacles. Because there are no ski area in Florida to force you to run up and down, the run is 12 miles here. The obstacles are…unique.

Last year it was called the Chernobyl Jacuzzi. This year they call it the Arctic Enema. Basically, it’s a big dumpster filled with ice water. You have to jump in, then walk through, going underwater at some point, then come out. No big deal, right?

This year’s Tough Mudder was in Sarasota and I am intimately familiar with I-75 and Clark Road because we spent about four hours there waiting for the traffic. Given last year’s times, I was concerned we’d finish. We went off at 1:40, and last year for various reasons, it took about five hours to complete. It gets dark at 5:30 or so. You do the math.

I-75 and Clark Road, I knew ye too well.

I-75 and Clark Road, I knew ye too well.

This year, you had to scale a wall to get to the staging area. It’s the way they keep the different waves at a decent size. Going over the wall, I pulled a muscle in my back. In an event you know features twelve miles of terrain with a lot of hardcore obstacles, that’s not a good thing.

Then, about a mile in, I cramped up in my right calf. Uh-oh, right?

Actually, between my calf and my back, I had to perform. If I stopped moving, I would stiffen up and basically not finish. So we ran, the two other people I wound up with and me. And made really good time. It wasn’t as hard this year–partially because I trained a lot harder, and partially because there weren’t as many obstacles.

In the name of full disclosure, I skipped the wall obstacles because of my back. If I tweaked it going over a small wall, a higher wall didn’t seem like a good bet.

And then we got to the end. The last obstacle is called Electroshock Therapy. It’s pretty much what you might imagine. You run through a muddy area with standing water, and there are wires hanging down and they zap you.

I went down five times. Five times. Five. Times. Forward to the very last guy on the clip. That was my experience, too.

And then I ran about twenty yards where someone put an orange headband on me and I got a couple bananas and an energy bar and a t-shirt and the best beer I’ve had since last year’s event. The rush made the working out, the traffic, the back pain, the calf pain, and all the electricity seem like minor inconveniences.

Uhh, dude. Nice story and all, but this is a writing blog. I want to read things about writing, you know? And you’re a loon to go through those things.

Right. Writing. I will do all this stuff again just to feel that few fleeting seconds of adrenalin rush and accomplishment going through the Finish gate. I will get up a four-thirty to work out. I will not spend money on other things so I can spend it on this. I will do things that are hard and unpleasant, like push-ups and pull-ups. I will risk physical injury–and probably injure myself and go through the pain and doubt of rehab. I will grind through a difficult set of tasks just to achieve that fleeting moment.

I haven’t achieved that in writing–yet. But the process is the same. You bust your butt on something and you go through heavy duty doubt and at the end, if everything goes right, you get that moment. The call when you become published or the RPLA award or the e-mail someone really likes your work.

What are you willing to do? And how will it feel.

  1. December 3, 2012 10:43 am


    Congrats to you for not only completing this epic event, but for having the dicipline and perseverence required to train for it! As a former RPLA award winner and published author, your tie back to writing is dead on–all the sacrafice is worth it for those cool writing moments.

  2. December 3, 2012 12:04 pm

    Chris I thought you were nuts trying to blog daily, but now I realize blogging daily is a walk in the park for you. My son-in-law just completed this event in northern Kentucky about a month ago. His experience was made worse by several days of rain leading up to the event; rain on the day of the event and temperatures cold enough you could see your breath. He is a professional firefighter and in good shape but it was still a challenge. He too, can’t wait until next year!

  3. Chris Hamilton permalink
    December 3, 2012 12:26 pm

    Thanks, both of you. Just for fun, someone got me going through the last obstacle. Keep in mind, I am not that uncoordinated. It’s the electricity.

  4. December 4, 2012 3:21 pm

    Chris, you rock. From all of the work you do at the FWA Conference to the Tough Mudder, you always face a challenge with a smile. Congrats on the TM! I can’t compare writing to the Tough Mudder because I’m not a Mudder (yet) but I *can* say that I feel the stops and starts, triumphs and pain many describe after this race. Maybe one day I’ll join your ranks, but until then, keep rockin’!

  5. Chris Hamilton permalink
    December 4, 2012 4:51 pm

    First week of November 2013, Shannon. That’s 11 months of getting-ready time. And as you saw, it’s all about teamwork. If you want, you can do it. (Where’s that long e-mail you promised me?)

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