“And if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you too?”

Mom, I’m sorry to report that, after all these years, I finally have a definitive answer to that question.
Mind you, it was a slippery slope – in more ways than one: started months ago when Jenny asked if I’d heard of “Tough Mudder“. A kind of 10-mile crazy mountain obstacle course race, where the obstacles consist of stuff like crawling through cold mud under barbed wire, swinging hand-over-hand on monkey bars above a pit of cold mud, squeezing through a claustrophobic 30-foot long tube half filled with… you get the picture. And the second of the 20-odd obstacles was leaping off a 15-foot cliff wall into…. Yeah.
It’s framed as a team-building thing, not a race per se. Just before you begin the initial uphill run (on dry land, mercifully – no mud yet). But with mid-mountain Northstar you’re starting at 6800′, where the oxygen is already scarce, and trudging, slogging your way up to the 8600′ summit, then back down again, overcoming two dozen infuriating obstacles as you traverse the mountain from one side to another and back again. Anyhow, before they launch you across the starting line, you all shout out the Tough Mudder creed, which is that this is a challenge to be endured, not a race to be won. And that helping your fellow mudders up, over and across was a far greater good than anything you could accomplish by yourself.
Morning of the run we were still arguing who it was that brought us to that point, in spite of my pointing out that our double-entendre team name of JMUDI stood for “Jenny made us do it.” Yes, in my heart, I knew we were all culpable.
Myles shares my sentiments
about the “Electric Eel” (but
braved the final zap that
 I bailed on)
But once – bang! – we were across the start, it was enormous fun. Challenging, but fun. Except when it wasn’t. Fun at all. Except when it was horrifying. After “Electric Eel” (crawl across, yes, cold mud, while getting shocked at random intervals by wires dangling a hand’s-breadth above) I declared – in dead earnest, that while I’d begun intending to scale every obstacle on the course, I saw absolutely no point in ever experiencing that pain again. Zach – the moral compass of Part 1 of the two JMUDI squads – had no argument with this. He also said something about being surprised that I could utter the particular choice of expletives that came out every time I got zapped. Criminy, that was unpleasant.
Ed twisted his ankle about a third of the way into the course (coming down over the “scale the Berlin Wall” challenge), but soldiered on to the top of Northstar and through two more obstacles to the halfway point before a First Aid worker pulled him aside and convinced him that it was in his best interests to Stop Now.
For 11 miles and four and a half hours we were frozen, scraped, soaked, cut and stretched. After crawling out of the underwater icewater swim challenge (breeeeathe! breaaaaathe!) with leg cramps, I grabbed one of the spare mylar space blankets and wore it as a heat-retaining cape for the rest of the course. It fit in well – the costumes weren’t as extreme as Bay to Breakers, but people were running with some crazier outfits than I would have thought advisable for such an ordeal.
It really was a communal challenge – wrapping a shivering contestant in our spare mylar, donating the last of our much-needed stash of “Chocolate Outrage” energy goo to a couple who had run out of steam near the summit. Helping lift strangers twice my size over the wall, then getting hauled up myself when my arms just plain gave out after the fourth try.

In the end? I don’t think I’ll ever do it again, but I’m glad I did it. I’m fairly certain that I have not been this sore in at least 25 years, and I learned a lot about what I can push myself to do. Also learned that I can decide what I don’tneed to push myself to do. Rope wall? Loved it, and felt the love. Electric Eel? How-OUCH-bad-CRAP!-could-[expletive deleted]-it-Oh-[same expletive; ed:wasn’t feeling particularly creative at this point]-I-AM-NEVER-DOING-GAAAH!-THIS-AGAIN! (and I was only halfway through the wires). And my team mates? Learned enough about them to know that, the next time I find myself doing something immeasurably stupid, I want them by my side to help, once again, haul my sorry posterior over the finish line.

Many more pics online at

(And many thanks to Jenny, Jeff, Pete, Miles, Zach, Adam and Eric for getting me through this. And thanks to Gwen Shen – who’s running in next week’s Mudder – for the awesome Google Tough Mudder shirts!)

One response to “Inadvisable

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s