I have been wanting to write this blog post for just over a month now. I could have tried to write it during my time working at Stonehill, but I didn’t want to half ass it. I apologize now to my PCC friends who heard nothing but students screaming “TOUGH MUDDER” for the last 4 weeks of the program. I taught a workshop about the philosophy and training for the event and it lead to kids screaming it obnoxiously all summer. Regardless, it was a very significant event in my life that I won’t forget anytime soon and absolutely something worth writing about. From hearing about it a year ago to crossing the finish line, this was a process and challenge that really put me and my friends to the test. This is a long story, definitely worth telling, and I think worth hearing.
Part 1 – Discovering and Deciding
Last summer, a year ago, I received a message via Facebook chat from a close friend. It was a link with a comment that said, “Check this thing out. This is absolutely nuts.” I clicked the link which brought me to the Tough Mudder page on YouTube and watched the trailer for one of the events. I watched the muddy display of pain and struggle before me and was hooked. She was right, this looked insane. But I wanted in. My friends know I am not one to turn down a challenge any time soon. I picked up my phone and quickly called my oldest friend David Muir. I told him I was sending him a link for a video to this event I just learned about and that we were going to do it. If anyone was crazy enough to join me in this insane venture, it was him. After about two minutes of hearing the faint sounds of the intense video through the phone, Dave laughed and just said, “YES”. At the time we were both working at Stonehill. We slowly started to spread the word around that we discovered this race and we were going to do it next summer. We found ourselves obsessed with training videos and occasionally did little spurts of training for it.
One day in particular we were at the beach swimming and drinking with friends and he looked at me and said, “Let’s run to the end of the beach, it’ll be good TM training.” I agreed. A belly full of beer, a three mile run, on a beach…not a good combination, nor a good start to the “training” we engaged in.
The summer ended and we both went back to school but both promised not to forget the race. As the Fall semester began, I spent a decent amount of time in the gym, but never focused on any specific race training. Winter break came before I knew it and we were out at a bar and after a catching up and reflecting on the fact that we were about to have our last semester, we talked about the summer. TM was brought up and we both quickly agreed that it was still definitely going to happen. We agreed that when we went back for spring semester, we would train hard so that by the time summer came, we would be in great shape to run the race. While in Ecuador, I became friends with two girls who ran track at Assumption. They gave me great advice for training to run. I got back to Assumption and ran for about three weeks. But as the semester went on, like every other semester, it became harder and time spent at the gym was limited.
A few days after graduation I called Dave. His was a week after mine so he was still engaging in senior week activities. I asked if he was serious about running the race. It was late at night and he was a bit drunk, but screamed yes into the phone. I could hear him screaming in the night air of his actual location that we were going to be “Tough Mudders soon enough”. About a week after his graduation, I called him and said we needed to register. It finally came time to decide. Were we going to do this? Commit to this insane event? After some back and forth, I got a phone call from a good friend from high school who we remained close to over the years named Greg Grillone. Dave called him and chatted and he was calling me to ask if he could run it with us. The three of us thought about it, talked it out and made our decision. We registered and we were officially, TEAM RAGE FACE. If you are an imgurian or redditor you will understand the reference. If not, it’s a comic strip. Time to train.
Part 2 – Training
I’ve been an avid gym goer for about four years now. But never have I trained as hard as I did. I did a lot of thorough research about the event. I read blogs, watched videos, analyzed obstacles. I probably over obsessed in preparing for the race a lot, but I wanted to be prepared. I was not in any way going to show up on event day and leave without finishing this thing. For the first two months of summer, I spent every day in the gym for about 3 or 4 hours. If I wasn’t lifting in the gym, I was running.
On top of the research that went into training for the race, I changed my diet to support myself for heavy lifts and long runs. I didn’t lose much weight in this time period, but I gained a lot of muscle.
SIDENOTE – When I get into talking about obstacles, I had little trouble with them because I had an immense amount of body strength to get through them, however I wish I ran more in the training period.
The tough mudder training site recommends being able to a minimum of the following before running in the event.
- Run 5 miles
- 30 Push Ups
- 6 Pull Ups
That was it? After running this thing I can say, I’m glad I trained harder than that. But by the time I had to slow down my training I could run 5 miles and was plenty satisfied with it. After I finished a four week intensive weight training regime, I switched over to the tough mudder endurance training workout. This was a 50 minute workout that had me crawling out of the gym the first week of doing it. It was an interval based workout that rotated between hard cardio and hard strength training for 50 straight minutes.
But after a week, I could finally do it pretty decently. It still had me keeling over by the end, but I was definitely feeling prepared for the race.
Part 3 – Keeping fit at Stonehill
I was well aware that my job was going to be an interesting obstacle before the event even started. I had been training hard for two months and I was starting a 24/7 on call job two weeks before I would run this race. Would I still be able to train during the program? Would I go without any kind of training and just have to show up the day of and hope I was still at my peak condition?
My two weeks were interesting. Some students remembered from the year before that I would be running in it and were quickly interested in hearing updates. At PCC, it is pretty hard to keep something quiet if a student knows about it, so naturally within the first week, I had a lot of students asking about it. I tried to organize my days to force me into hard activity to keep my body conditioned. I kept in as much tough with Dave during the first two weeks and confided that I was nervous about the lack of training to which he responded, “a day at PCC is harder training that anything you could do in a gym.” Sad thing is, he was kind of right. But I kept positive and did well keeping active. Any spare time I had during the day I would work out in my room trying to just keep up.
In all my time of ruthless training, I was very cautious to not get hurt. I started the summer off boxing a lot and despite it only being against a heavy bag, I slowly strayed away from it to not get hurt. I was very aware of pains and aches and treated them thoroughly. But then the worst happened. My race was Sunday morning. It was the Wednesday before. The REC directors asked me the night before if I would be interested in hosting the proctor/student kickball game that afternoon. I agreed and showed up to a very popular event. We played for about an hour and a half and had a lot of fun. After our “at bat” we ran to the outfield and I hopped on first base. A few students went and then one walked up to the plate. The balled was released and he gave it a light bunt right back to the pitcher. Keeping my foot on the base, I reached out to her and shouted for her to throw me the ball. With my eye on the prize, it happened, the most searing pain. In an instant, I fell to the ground. I didn’t see what happened. My boss explained it to me later.
The student was running to first base and saw that I was about to catch the ball and decided his best option was to throw his body at the base. In doing so he slid / fell / THREW HIS FREAKING BODY on my foot.
I quickly climbed to standing position to make sure I could, but it hurt. The pain just wouldn’t give up and I felt the blood drain from my face as the pressure built up. My boss who was playing with us ran over to me and asked if I needed the nurse. I nodded and hobbled to her golf cart. I put my name tag in my mouth and bit down until we were out of earshot from any students and just started screaming in pain. She said the second I fell she knew it had to have been painful. I went to the nurse and after taking my shoe off, blood was just draining from my toe and my nail was welling up. The nurse just shrugged and said, you are going to lose the nail, just a matter of time. I quickly snapped back that I was running a 10-mile military obstacle course in 4 days and “a matter of time” wasn’t going to be good enough. After some back and forth, I went to the ER where I had a hole drilled in my toe to drain the blood so I could run without pressure.
I called Dave to tell him the story and he asked if I could run still, I said I didn’t care if I had to walk, I was finishing this race.
I returned a bit disheartened. All this time training and it seemed like it might all go to waste because of this accident. But I still tried to stay positive. Two days later the kids were packing up to leave class when my fellow intern screamed out loud that there was one more thing to do before the weekend. I had no idea what she was talking about and out of her bag she pulled a big card signed by all my students.
A card from my fellow intern and wonderful students.
Thank you Ms. Grab and company!
It definitely cheered me up after a disheartening week. I felt good and ready. That night I went to a bonfire at a friend’s house. Dave was there and as we left to go home and get a good night sleep before this crazy adventure, our friends hugged us, wished us luck and begged us to not die and come home safe. We said goodnight. The next day, the adventure would begin.
Part 4 – Getting to Tough Mudder
I awoke the next morning around 10 am. Filled with nerves, I double checked I had all my gear.
- Waterproof under armor shirt
- Light weight shorts
- Running shoes
- Energy drink
- Protein bar
Check, check, check, I was good. I printed off my team’s death waivers and confirmation papers, kissed my mom and sister goodbye and drove off. I pulled into Dave’s driveway around 11 am. I walked in and he looked off. He was flustered trying to get his gear together. I stood in his kitchen with his girlfriend Krystal who would be joining us and asked if he was alright and she said he seemed a bit nervous. Could I blame him? I had his freaking DEATH WAIVER in my car. We packed up his big van and headed out. We stopped for coffee and he admitted to the two of us that he felt like puking and just wanted to get there. We then stopped at Best Buy.
The reason we were at Best Buy was so Dave could buy his camera. This is a story that goes on through the rest of the post, but I’ll say now, it doesn’t end well. The camera was a Go PRO, a head-cam which videos what you see. With insurance, this thing cost $350. It was a really cool gadget. Lightweight and it shot HD video.
We got back on the road and it was pretty smooth seas. We listened to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on audio tape on the way up. Everything was chill and fun until about half way up.
About a month previous to this, I asked if he was interested in getting a motel across from the mountain. It was going to cost extra money but was a ten minute drive from the base of the mountain where the race would start. When Greg had decided to join our team, the motel idea was dismissed because Greg lives in Vermont. I asked how far he lived from Mt. Snow and they assured only about 45 minutes. While I didn’t want to wake up too early on race day, this seemed reasonable.
As we continued driving, I said I was going to map out the next day’s drive to see what we were looking at for directions. I plugged in Greg’s address and Mt. Snow’s…
“No, that can’t be right…Dave, it says Greg’s apartment is 4 and a half hours from the mountain…I must have entered something wrong, let me try again…um, still 4 hours.”
Dave and I in a quick panic decided to call Greg.
“GREG, hi, we pulled up directions to the MT. from your house and it says 4 hours…that’s wrong? Can you check it?”
I listened to Greg’s increasingly heavy breathing as I heard him typing into his own map quest the two addresses and after a few moments just heard, “FUCK!” He quickly started apologizing. He was convinced it was under an hour. I hung up and looked at Dave. We were both letting it sync in that we would be waking up at 4 am to make it to the race on time. Absolutely. GROSS. After a few hours, we arrived to Greg’s apartment right outside Burlington, VT. He showed us around and we walked around the city for a little while. We then feasted on a big pasta dinner, as is customary the night before any big race. I had gotten a hair cut a few weeks before the race and decided to get a mohawk in good fun for the race. I brought my clippers and sure enough, Dave and Greg wanted hawks too. So I cut their hair and we passed out around 10pm. Before we knew it, the alarms were going off and it was time to leave.
Hawks at 4am. From left to right, Dave, me and Greg in the apartment before leaving for Mt. Snow
We ate some light breakfast, loaded our bags, piled into the cars and we were off. There really is NOBODY on the road at 4am. We flew down to southern Vermont and after some dirt roads and questionably sketchy towns, we arrived at Mt. Snow.