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The Summer of Mud


Mud Teamwork

Tough Mudder – Twin Cities 2014 – done!

I am calling the past few months, “The Summer of Mud”. Not like in the old days when I was a boy and played in the mud every single day with my friends. This is different. I am older now and I know better. Or, do I?

This Summer I wanted to challenge myself and decided to commit to several mud races and a challenging backpacking trip to Yellowstone National Park, even though my knees have been professionally characterized as “incompetent”, in addition to the recent, painful lower back injury I sustained that sidelined me for some time. I did, however, focus on recovery when needed and leveraged several programs to get in top shape including Insanity, P90X3 and Body Beast combined with interval runs.

Given the challenges, I would call this Summer a “raging” success as I finished the Mud Games race #12 out of approx. 1,000 competitors and just completed the popular Tough Mudder course with a strong performance!

Tough Mudder Grad

The Mud Games and Tough Mudder are two COMPLETELY different races and both difficult from different perspectives. The Mud Games is a TIMED 3.1-mile mud race with obstacles while the Tough Mudder is NOT timed and more focused on teamwork to complete the obstacles in the rigorous 10+ mile course. I was exhausted in the Mud Games given that it was a sprint through the mud and obstacles to get my best time, while I was exhausted at the end of the Tough Mudder from the longer course and more taxing obstacles. However, both were a lot of fun!

Tough Mudder Log Carry

“Hold Your Wood” Challenge !

I was so excited this year to run the Tough Mudder with my sister, Julie. She is a veteran of mud races and very athletic, also a certified Crossfit trainer.  I couldn’t have had a more motivated teammate for the Tough Mudder, and it was really special to run the race with family. With that said, it was an amazing experience and we did very well! Athough the Tough Mudder is not timed, I estimate that it took us a couple hours to finish the 10+ mile course. It is hard to gauge given all of the lines at obstacles and general traffic on the course. But, we had limited breaks and pushed through the challenges with intensity and focus.

The Twin Cities 2014 course map overview is shown below. We completed the main course as well as the Legionnaires’ loop for Tough Mudder veterans…

Tough Mudder TC Course

Insane. Loved the course. At times I was thinking that the course was really easy, while at other times I was surprised at how I was outside my comfort zone and had to focus on the challenge. For me, most obstacles that required handling my own body weight went very well as I train specific to sports performance, while the extreme cold, electric shocks and heights from some of the others were certainly different. Ha. The obstacles I will always remember include Electroshock Therapy, Fire in Your Hole, Arctic Enema, Berlin Walls and Hangin’ Tough. These ones were either the most difficult for me or memorable during my Tough Mudder experience.

Fire in Your Hole:

Official Tough Mudder description…

“Only Legionnaires can take on the beast known as Fire in Your Hole. This stunner stands high above the course and has a drop that’s nearly vertical. Every step you climb up to the top of the obstacle serves as a reminder of how hard you’ve worked and how far you’ve come. Conquering it is proof that you Bleed Orange. Fire in Your Hole is so badass, we tend to save it for last. But don’t take our word for it – earn your Legionnaire headband and come try it out for yourself.”

My review – Insane. Seriously. I was shot off that slide VERY fast and landed about 22 feet into muddy water. Insane.

Fire in Your Hole

Electroshock Therapy:

Official Tough Mudder description…

“Run through a field of live wires that sure as hell don’t tickle. Watch out for hay bales and deep sinkholes, or you will face-plant into some electrifying mud. Some Mudders try to stealthily wind their way through the wires, while others barrel forward to get through as quickly as possible. Just keep your eye on the prize: this is the last obstacle you face before you cross the finish line.”

My review – After some research I found that the wires were live with 10,000 Volts. I also read the horror stories of people getting injured and other controversy around this obstacle. Many even pass it up. This made me nervous, as well as our water-soaked clothes after doing Fire in Your Hole just prior… but, we decided to give this Tough Mudder all we had so we sprinted through the wires in order to grab the beer on the other side. So, I got SHOCKED by the wires. I was surprised, although I don’t know why I was surprised! My right arm was hit by two live wires and was numb for some time after the race. Ha. I survived, it did not hurt all that bad, kind of like finger in light socket without as much time under shock. I later found some marks on my chest that I think were from the shock therapy as well. I will never forget this obstacle for as long as I live. My sister made it through without any shocks.

ElectroShock Therapy

Hangin’ Tough:

Official Tough Mudder description…

“This obstacle holds the title for the lowest completion percentage. You’ll need a strong grip and precise coordination to conquer it. Swing Tarzan-style across a series of hanging rings spaced 1.2 to 1.8 meters apart and suspended over a pool of muddy water. For those of you who talk a big game, this obstacle will show you just how tough you really are. Obstacle Stat: Only 30% of Mudders successfully complete Hangin’ Tough.”

My review – Okay, this was HARD. Only 30% make it across the rings, but we even raised the challenge by selecting a lane that had one of the center rings several feet lower to the water than the others. This meant that it was even harder and you essentially needed to power through the water to make it to the other side. The good news, I made it! Wow, that will be something I will always remember. I didn’t see anyone else make it.

Hangin' Tough

Arctic Enema:

Official Tough Mudder description…

“This obstacle arguably takes the most mental grit of them all. Some athletes use ice baths for recovery, but your muscles aren’t going to be relaxed after a swim in this freezing skip. Climb right into the floating iceberg abyss—don’t overthink it. When you’re submerged, find the mental and physical strength to swim through the ice, under a wooden plank and pull yourself out on the other end. You’ll come out feeling like shrink-wrapped leftovers straight out of the freezer. Emphasis on the shrink.”

My review – Dude. That was cold. This is the obstacle I was actually most nervous about. But, to be honest, it was quite refreshing as we had worked up some heat in our body heading toward the fourth mile. But, it was very cold.

Berlin Walls:

Official Tough Mudder description…

“Teamwork is key for this obstacle. Climb a set of 3 meter wooden walls that our Course Designers have strategically placed for when you’re at your weakest points during the event. Some Mudders℠ will be strong enough to make it over Berlin Walls alone, but most will need a boost from a fellow Mudder, whether it’s a teammate or someone else. There’s never been a better time to make friends with a stranger. Obstacle Stat: 80% of participants require teamwork to get over Berlin Walls.”

My review – This one was near impossible without 2-3 people unless you cheated by using the frame support on the sides of the walls. It was really high. And, even once you got to the top, you had to help others up to the top while balancing on a narrow wall and then get back down by jumping. Pretty crazy stuff. We made it, but needed a stranger to help.


Funky MonkeyOther than that, I thought Funky Monkey was going to be really difficult with a long series of monkey bars (only 40% of Mudders complete), but, fortunately, we train with a lot of pullups and upper body strength so this one was easy for us. I even added some pullups at the end!


It was a great Tough Mudder experience and I am sure it is not our last mud race. The Summer of Mud continues with our trip to Yellowstone National Park to take on some challenging hiking in the backcountry.


Tough Mudder 2014


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Premiere 5 Star Diamond Independent Beachbody Coach, CEO and Founder of TEAM RAGE, Mike Nowak Fitness, and How Do I Get Ripped, LLC. You are about to learn how I went from out-of-shape busy dad with significant travel, 2 kids and a wife to losing 20 pounds, 16% body fat and 7" off my waist while getting paid more income from home than my Ph.D. in Science & Engineering. Retired my Ph.D. career to focus on FAMILY & FITNESS!


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