It was Tough.

#59 Complete a Tough Mudder.

34° F at sunrise, frost covered the grass and our cars. Our start time was set for 10:40am, and the location was an hour and a half away from the warm comfort of home. To be on-time and moving early, we cracked the ice off the car doors and backed out of the driveway at first light.

We grabbed gas, some coffee and stopped for clean, flushing toilets before parking 20 minutes outside the ATV park where our mettle would be put to the test. School buses ran shuttles from the lot to the course, and we crowded on board with two dozen other lunatics. I knew we would need duct tape for our shoes and Kaity did not disappoint:

The ladies wanted one final shot showing their pearly whites with spotless, yellow, bearded banana uniforms.

Having run two Tough Mudders this year, I was thrilled to experience this event with Afsi and friends. My first race was in Georgia this past April and after experiencing the camaraderie of a team event, I completed another 2 weeks later on my own. Regardless of skill or athletic level, each obstacle and every mile builds a substantial mental challenge. You will be wet, tired, and- in two of my three races- extremely cold throughout the entire race. It takes a certain type of resolve to keep trudging through, attacking each challenge with a smile. The hours spent on the course are more than uncomfortable, but there is no discounting the satisfaction upon completion. 

Our team was built by Afsi's cousin, named the Bearded Bananas (I don't know), and had 12 total whiskered tropical fruits. The irony is that Afsi absolutely despises bananas, which would turn out to be disheartening during the race. The 12 of us stuck together like the Mighty Ducks; all corralling around the soulful cry of "BANANAS!", which could be heard echoing along the trail. The Bearded Bananas battled rocks, logs, injury (and age), and kept chasing the promise of a hot shower and full stomach after the race. For some, that was sesame chicken. I couldn't stop thinking of pizza, and poor Afsi had it worst of all: every hydration point had run out of every type of food except for bananas. There were Cliff Bars and Gatorade Chews advertisements surrounding each station, but all that awaited the Sunday teams were bananas, halved for easy peeling. So while the rest of us filled the hole in our stomachs, Afsi settled for water and a longing look at the Cliff Bar photograph tied to the table. 

Four obstacles crowded the final half-mile of the 11-mile course. The first was a monkey bar ladder which only two of our teammates could complete without splashing into the water. Then came the 15' "Walk the Plank', followed immediately by the Tough Mudder signature obstacle, Everest. This half-pipe gets slick with mud and water with every participant and it takes a village to get everyone hauled up. We lost a few good teammates on this obstacle but caught up with them around the bend to race together through the final mud-filled pergola, decorated with dangling taser cord, Electroshock Therapy. 
Some of our photos were snatched off of the official photographers website. "Why on earth," you may ask yourself, "do all of the photos have such an obnoxious watermark?" Well, dear Reader, the official photographer would like $30 per single photo or $70 for a download of all 13 photos. I don't believe in extortion, and so am reduced to stealing photos of myself off of a website. 

I could not have been prouder of Afsi for facing each mile, each under-stocked hydration station and each obstacle with a determined look in her eye. She swallowed down complaint and faced challenges well outside her self-admitted comfort zone. This Tough Mudder weekend came just 7 days after she spent the weekend sleeping on the ground in the Smokies and I told her she is well-deserving of a few months of pampering. 

There will be other Tough Mudders- I think the next one will be someplace warm. No complaints from me.