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My Very First Tough Mudder Experience (& how I shocked myself by loving it!)

My First Tough Mudder Experience

Yesterday, I did something way outside my usual comfort zone. And I completely surprised myself by loving it…

What was it, you ask? Well, I ran in and finished my very first Tough Mudder race.

Yup. I did.

For those of you who haven’t heard of the Tough Mudder race, here’s how they describe it on their site:

My Very First Tough Mudder Race Experience

Now here’s the thing you should know: I didn’t really know much about the race and only signed up two weeks ago on a whim.

Jesse had been signed up for it and anticipating it for months. He and his brother, Stephen, were planning to run it together and his parents were coming into town to cheer them on.

He and I have always wanted to run a race together, but we’ve never been able to work out childcare to make it happen. As I was thinking about the race two weeks ago, I realized that since his parents would be here, our childcare issues would be solved. And I knew Jesse would love, love, love for me to run the race with him

So I got rather spontaneous and out-of-the-blue asked him if he thought I could run the race. He gave me a rather shocked expression, but said he thought I could. So I blew him away by saying, “Well, I was thinking of signing up for it and running it with you.”

I wish you could have seen his face. HE WAS ECSTATIC and he literally immediately got online and signed me up (maybe he wanted to do it before I changed my mind?!)

My First Tough Mudder Experience

I didn’t have much time to train except to mentally prepare for it to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I decided to approach it like childbirth and I figured that if I had naturally birthed three kids without any pain killers taking one contraction at a time, this would be how I would approach this race, too.

I didn’t spend a lot of time researching the obstacles — I figured that would just scare me more. Instead, I researched what would be best to wear. I found out that good, lightweight shoes, leggings (not shorts — your legs would get really scraped up), rubber gloves with good grip with the ends cut off (so water wouldn’t get lodged inside of them), and a really strong hairband were the most important things.

My First Tough Mudder Experience

So I prepped by making sure I had the best outfit for the race, getting good sleep every night for the few nights before, and eating extra carbs the day before, and. It was the best I could do in that short amount of time — and I ended up being so glad that I had done so.

My First Tough Mudder Experience

We got up early yesterday morning to drive to a farm that was about an hour and a half away. The whole drive there, I wondered if I had made a big mistake in signing up. I wondered if I’d be able to actually complete the race. I wondered if I’d be the last person to come in. I wondered if I would keel over halfway through.

I second guessed my on-a-whim decision a lot, but I kept reminding myself: You’re committed now. Just go do your best. Pace yourself. Don’t let doubt get in your head. Don’t worry about the few miles ahead of you, just take the next step.

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As we stood at the starting line, Stephen, Jesse and I discussed our goals for the race and why we were doing this race. I said, “I’m doing this for my husband because I know that doing this with him means the world to him. My goal is just to finish. I don’t care about my time. I just want to finish.”

We talked about how we’d stay together, work as a team, encourage one another, pace ourselves, and just take one mile and one obstacle at a time. And that’s exactly what we did.

The first mile was uphill almost all the way and it was brutal. I wondered what I had gotten myself into and how on earth I was going to survive 9 more miles plus a bunch of obstacles.

Then we came to the first obstacle — the Mud Mile — where you have to jump into multiple 8-10 foot deep mud pits that are filled with about 2-3 feet of mud at the bottom and then you have to figure out a way to get out.

I stood at the beginning of it and saw all of the people completely covered in mud and thought, “This is INSANE!” But then I jumped in and started slowly working my way through the obstacle — with lots of help from the group. I quickly found it wasn’t all that bad. I got into a rhythm of sliding down the muddy side into the mud pit and then getting help with hoisting myself up to the other side and then doing it again.

It was at this first obstacle that I began to realize what the Tough Mudder is all about. There’s no way you can do this race without the help of your teammates. You just can’t — unless you are superhuman or something. You need a hand (or multiple hands) to help pull you up out of the pits. And you need people around you encouraging you as you do these seemingly impossible tasks.

As I watched everyone in our group — most whom we’d never even talked to before starting the obstacle — work together and encourage one another, I fell in love with the Tough Mudder.

To see people come together, work together, encourage one another, to see big muscular guys needing help just as much as small women like me, to experience the instant camaraderie, to witness how helpful and selfless everyone was, to see how committed everyone was to making sure no one was left behind and that everyone got through the obstacle… it was incredible, inspiring, and infectious.

My First Tough Mudder Experience

When I finished this obstacle, I was covered in mud, but I didn’t care because not only had I gotten through the first obstacle, I’d actually had fun doing it!

And right then and there, I realized I just might actually end up liking this whole Tough Mudder thing — instead of being miserable like I thought I’d be.

Over the next 4 hours, we faced 9 more miles of terrain — about half of which was uphill at a pretty steep incline. And we faced lots of obstacles, including the following:

It was hard, but not as bad as I’d expected. Jesse and Stephen stayed with me the whole time and were incredibly encouraging to me — pushing me on and motivating me to keep going even when I was tired.

I did things I never would have thought I was capable of (like the Cry Baby — where you had to crawl through a maze with blinding tear gas, Everest 2.0 — I made it to the top in one try!!, the Arctic Enema which was intense and freezing, and King of the Swingers — where you had to leap off a tall platform, grab a bar, and swing out into a lake of mud).

There were many times when I’d think, “There’s no way I can do that, but I’m just going to go out there and try.” And I did.

My First Tough Mudder Experience

I didn’t complete all of the obstacles perfectly, but I gave them my best shot. The only one that I completely bypassed was Funky Monkey — because I have never been able to monkey bars and I had already told myself I got a pass on that one lest I kill my shoulders and have to bow out of the race before it was over with.

But for all the rest of the obstacles, I made myself at least give them my best shot. And, I totally surprised myself when there were only two other obstacles that I couldn’t fully complete.

I jumped into, slid through, walked through, climbed on hands and knees through more mud than I’ve ever seen in my life. You should know that I don’t like mud or being dirty at ALL, but I got over the ick factor quickly and just focused on the task ahead.

One step at a time, one mile at a time, one obstacle at a time, we got through it and had so much fun in the process.

My First Tough Mudder Experience

And let me tell you, when we crossed under the finish line and got our finisher headbands, I felt completely exhilarated — WE DID IT!!!

Truthfully, I thought I would probably be miserable the whole race. My goal had just been to go out there and have a good attitude, give it my best shot, hopefully finish, and make a memory with my husband.

Instead, I completely shocked myself by loving almost everything about the race. In fact, I was already talking about signing up for another race before I was even to the finish line of this one! It might sound crazy, but it’s true.

My First Tough Mudder Race

{The girls (and Jesse’s youngest brother, Jon) did a Mini Mudder — I’ll share pictures of that tomorrow. We were SO proud of them!}

This race challenged me as a person and finishing it will give me courage and motivation for years to come to keep putting myself out there, doing hard things, not letting fear of failure hold me back. We are often so much stronger than we believe ourselves to be.

I am sore today. Like Can-Barely-Walk-Up-The-Stairs sore. But it was oh so worth it!

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59 Comments

  • Asheritah says:

    Crystal, this is so inspiring! I’ve always secretly wanted to do a Tough Mudder but I’ve been afraid of making a fool of myself. You had such a great attitude going into it and that makes me want to give it a shot, even if I don’t complete all the obstacles. Way to go!

  • tina says:

    Wow-way to go Crystal! That looks scary and yet exilerating. You should totally frame the photo of you and Jesse covered in mud-so cute!

    This I such good reminder that sometimes going out of your comfort zone pays big rewards. What fun memories for your family.

  • Chelsea says:

    Wow, girl! I am so impressed. I am the most uncoordinated person around, I’m sure this race would not end well for me. 🙂 way to go!!!

  • gabriela says:

    Great Job!!! What an amazing thing to have a great attitude. Looks so scary for me. 🙂 Congrats! Also I enjoy how you wanted to make your husband happy. For me one way to do this is to have blonde highlights. I really like my hair dark brown and don’t really care for highlights. But I do it for him…I am glad I can do something so insignificant that makes him happy. Sorry….got off-track. 🙂
    Congratulations again!!!!

  • Jennifer says:

    This is awesome! Congratulations!!!! This is a huge accomplishment, and I have found these things to be addictive 😉 I am big into adventure racing. I LOVE it, and it provides such a sense of accomplishment. Isn’t that the most amazing feeling?! You must feel like you can conquer the world right now. That is the most amazing feeling! Congrats again. Way to go!!!!!

  • This is awesome, Crystal!!! What an amazing experience.

    So glad you did it. I’m totally inspired to do one now!

  • Congrats on finishing the race! Completing it with your husband must have been fun. My guess is that you’ll be looking for another one to do once you can walk up the stairs again!

  • Antonella says:

    Congrats! This is so wonderful 🙂
    Reminds me of when I did firewalking (the fear is all in the mind).
    Keep up the great inspiration!

  • Jen says:

    Amazing job!!! I’ve always wanted to do an obstacle course race of some kind, but they are so stinking expensive! Health and fitness have been my life for many years, and it’s my profession (physical therapy), but I just can’t bring myself to spend enough money to pay for a week’s worth of groceries on a race. They’re pricey even through daily deal sites like Groupon. Any words of advice on how to participate in something like this and not break the bank?

    • I was planning to say this in the post and then ran out of space, but I was so excited to find out that if you volunteer for a race the day before or day after, you’ll get a HUGE discount on the race itself. One of the volunteers told us that for this race, you get 90% off the entrance fee if you volunteer! So I’d definitely recommend checking into that.

      • Jen says:

        Thanks for the tip! I also wanted to say that your kids are so blessed to have healthy, active parents. My parents were/are in poor health; my Mom was on disability at age 40. At least I learned at a very young age that it’s impossible to put a price on health and that our bodies are treasures to be taken good care of. What a blessing that your children have good role models in you and your husband in this area of life!

      • Thanks so much for the tip! I just went and looked for a Tough Mudder race in Virginia and was put off by the price tag. I will definitely check into volunteering!

  • Tzipora says:

    Thank you, I was so down today, whatever my ” race” is seemed tough and I wanted to stay in my comfort zone and say ” I cant sorry” instead… but I knew I would miss out on all the fun and the reward of doing it… my “race” is a discipline that I am undertaking, maybe it is washing the dishes and leaving the kitchen organized every night, maybe it is writing a to do list, maybe it is working on NOT criticizing my children…whatever the race is… I found inspiration in this post. Thank you!

  • Good for you for taking the leap and doing this! We have friends who do this every year (I think they are crazy) and my hubby has been contemplating joining in. I think to just go watch would be mentally exhausting, so I am uber impressed that you took the plunge, literally, and had fun to boot! Thanks for the inspiration. I may not do a tough mudder, but I can go for something else that is challenging! 🙂

  • Rebecca says:

    You’re the bomb, Crystal! Way to go! You have probably inspired lots of women to try something new and exciting!

  • Susan says:

    Okay, silly but serious question, I was wondering if you’ll ever be able to wear your race clothes/shoes again or is that part of the expense of doing a race like this? It just doesn’t seem like you could possibly get all the mud stains out of your clothes and shoes.

    • I’m soaking them right now and am hopeful I’ll be able to get the stains out — we’ll see. We both wore things that we were okay with ruining — in the chance that they did end up being ruined.

      • an says:

        Our local mudder races encourage participants to wear shoes that they would like to donate at the end of the race. They’ll take them as is, muddy and all, and wash and donate them.

  • sdr says:

    Endurance stuff like this is either something you love or hate. I was never athletic at all and after my second son was born in January of 2006 on a whim I signed up for a 15k that happened to fall while we were going to be at WDW. Honestly I thought I’d end up walking most of it and looked at it as motivation to get back in shape after having a baby. I didn’t even really train that hard…I not only ran the whole thing but I was hooked. Since then I’ve done five marathons (including WDW’s Goofy Challenge–half on Sat full on Sun–twice!).

  • kariane says:

    Fantastic! I love that you just jumped in and tried it. I think the attitude of just facing what you’re immediately encountering without worrying about what may lie ahead is a good way to approach most things in life. We can’t control the future, but we can go step by step through our present moment.

  • Lori says:

    I LOVE this Crystal! Congratulations!! You are such a rock star 🙂

    I hope to do one in the future as well.

  • Beth says:

    loved this post so much, very similar to the thoughts and feelings I’m having after finally getting my college degree.

  • Sara says:

    This is so awesome! I’ve thought about doing it but have always been terrified of it, especially the Electroshock Therapy :} My coworkers did it last year and I watched enviously as they showed off their muddy pics.

    Question: Is there a lot of running involved? I am okay with doing strenuous things, except for running, due to asthma and knee issues. I’ve done CrossFit and am currently doing Kickboxing. I love the endorphin high I get after a good workout.

    The race is coming to CO this September, so there’s still time to talk myself into it…

  • You are truly an inspiration. Now I’m considering tough mudder as one of my goals. I still need to do some research on the obstacles et all. Thanks for the good start.

  • Sarah says:

    I am so excited for you! And a bit jealous 😉 of how you are trying new things and putting yourself in stretching situations!
    I have really enjoyed the change in your blog. I’ve been noticing the difference for a while and have never commented here before, but just want you know I appreciate your honesty and your faith being more visible here now!
    Thank you!

  • Leah says:

    Such great pictures. And I love how happy Jesse was that you did it with him. What a great decision to make as a wife!

  • Angela says:

    So cool and motivational, Crystal! Thanks for setting a great example of loving your husband by doing something that meant a lot to him and also challenging yourself. Keep it up!

  • Sarah says:

    This is so small in comparison, but you mentioned bypassing the Monkey Bars…

    Every time I’m with my daughter at the park I thought to myself, “Gee, wish I could do those but I’m way too big and weak.” Then one day when nobody was at the park, I set my phone camera up and told myself to just do it. I recorded myself going across those monkey bars and I did it! And it was fun! And now I do it every time I’m at the park (if nobody’s looking)! LOL. Good for you for doing the race, sometimes a last minute decision is best because we can’t rationalize our way out of it.

    • I love this — and it inspires me to make myself work on my upper arm strength. I’ve NEVER been able to do monkey bars, but that doesn’t meant that I couldn’t practice enough and improve.

      {Though these on the course were supposedly rubbed with butter or something to make them near impossible to grip, so I probably couldn’t do those, but maybe I could at least learn to do regular monkey bars!}

  • Kelly says:

    Way to go! Not only can you be proud of yourself for not being so intimidated you gave up… but I also feel like this points toward the value of staying fit and exercising in general. Like, doing those “routine maintenance” things of exercising and being in shape, which probably seem kind of mundane to be disciplined with, end up allowing you to take advantage of opportunities like this on a whim.

    This is probably true of many situations – staying on a budget allows us the freedom to splurge every once in a while, or maintaining good boundaries/rules with our kids allows us to let them stay up late for a special movie night, or eating well most of the time allows for spontaneously eating an ice cream sundae. 🙂 Those boring things in the moment allow us to enjoy the exciting things when they come up.

    Now to think of what I can stay disciplined about so I can enjoy the “splurges” too. 😉

    • Oh, I LOVE this comment! Thanks for sharing — what GREAT perspective!

    • Zilly says:

      Kelly, as far as I’m concerned, you win the internet today for best comment about anything. Your comment is so well put and made me think about things in a different way. Crystal should have you write a guest post.

      • Kelly S says:

        Ha! Thanks for the kind and encouraging comments from the both of you. I think I’ll have to print out the one about winning the internet. 🙂

  • Laura says:

    This is just awesome, Crystal! I really want to try something like this once I’m back in shape (I had a baby three months ago and am s-l-o-w-l-y working back into things). I’d really like to try a triathlon…someday!

  • Charity says:

    You must be very fit to have made it through this. Amazing! You look great….even covered in mud! 🙂

  • Katie says:

    Well, thanks for blowing my “I hate dirt” excuse out of the water! Some friends asked my husband and I to sign up to do one of these with them in September and I’ve still been trying to summon the courage (and I write about bravery, that’s my gig! 😳). But if you can be convinced than I guess I can too. I’m in! Thanks for the push!

  • Jessica says:

    I’m doing one this weekend! Not tough mudder, but a different company. It’s only a 5K but I’m so nervous/excited for it.

  • This is so inspiring, not only because you went out and did something that was totally outside your comfort zone, but also because you knew it would be a way to bond with your husband. With two small children, I rarely ever feel able to handle everything on my plate let alone intentionally going outside of my comfort zone, and it feels as if there’s so little left for my husband. My husband is wild about sailing and I am basically terrified of it, but I know he would love it if I went out and had a positive attitude and gave it a try for our next date night. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  • Adrienne says:

    You go girl!

  • Meg Herriot says:

    That’s so cool! Congratulations on making it. Sounds like lots of hard work!

  • Lisa-Jo says:

    GIRL!! YOU. ARE. AMAZING!!!!!

  • Brittany Atkinson says:

    I am glad you guys had nice weather. My husband and I did a Tough Mudder in Utah in late October. It was about 35 degrees most of the race. Outside temps make a huge difference. It isn’t something I will do again, but it was an experience!

  • Bethany says:

    Crystal,
    This post inspired me so much! I’ve described myself as a very non-athletic person for so long and I am very out of shape, but when I looked at this race I though, “this looks FUN!” I was just talking to my Bible study about how in my season of life (single and living alone) I want to learn more about who I am instead of letting other people define me but didn’t know where to start. They told me that one step is to look for things that sound fun and just try them, whether anyone else wants to do it or not. Then I saw your post! I can’t believe how much I want to try one of these! I think I’m crazy and lots of other people probably will too, but I want to venture out and try something just for me! Thank you for the encouragement. I even went out and restarted my couch-to-5-k app last night, even though it rained in the Nashville area! I figured you get wet enough doing the Tough Mudder, this shouldn’t matter. I may be training for the next year, but I really want to do this! Thanks for sharing!

  • Emily says:

    Awesome! I saw this advertised nearby and meant to see what it was. I’m so going to do this, and my boys would LOVE it, and at least one of my girls. Thanks for the inspiration! I see muddy fun in the future, and some great photo opportunities.

  • Jennifer Abrams says:

    That is so, so awesome! I’ve always wanted to try something like this!

    You look like you are incredibly fit!! Do you think it is something that someone who is not so fit (like overweight and “runs” a 5k in 45 minutes and is exhausted afterwards) would ever be able to complete?

    • It DOES require a lot of stamina — especially mental stamina. However, judging by the wide variety of people in all shapes and sizes who finished the Tough Mudder, I really think that it’s possible that more people can do it than some would initially believe.

      I *would* recommend training for it — especially endurance and mental endurance training — because it’s a long race and you’ll need a lot of endurance to pull it off. But I totally believe you can do it!!

  • sal says:

    I know this is an older post, but I’m considering doing a tough mudder with a group for my 40th bday. My question is, how did you do it without doing the extensive tough mudder training that is recommended for several weeks prior to the course? Do you think it was because you already are a runner and in good shape?

  • Allison says:

    I know this is a year old now, but read it after one of your daily posts had it as a reminder. I am so impressed! I talked my husband into doing a tough mudder half with me next month and am very nervous but excited! I did have a silly question, but is important to me. I wear contacts and was wondering what to do about that. Would I lose them in some obstacles, or get mud in my eyes and not be able to clean them off ? I just don’t see how I could wear my glasses and not have them covered in mud and not able to see. Thanks so much!

    • I wore my contacts… but I brought a few extras in a little bag we carried with us, just in case something happened to them. I was shocked I didn’t need the replacement pair!

  • Karen says:

    This is a super old post but I just ran across it – I was searching online for Tough mudder experiences and your blog post popped up! I already follow you so I was excited to read your account! If you happen to see this – are the electricity obstacles bad?? That’s what is holding me back from signing up right now – I know I could skip but I feel like that defeats the purpose.

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