Monday, September 29, 2014


Yesterday I completed one of my 2014 goals: Complete the Tough Mudder. The Tough Mudder is an 11 mile challenge with a variety of obstacles along the way. The "race" is all about teamwork and camaraderie, so come with a group and be prepared to get muddy. This was not my first Tough Mudder but it was a great experience, in fact I had more fun than the last time I did it, and I can't wait to do it again! Not convinced? Let me tell you about my experience.

Early Start
The race was in Black Diamond, WA about and hour and half from Seattle and even farther for the rest of my family who live north of the city. But they picked me up on their way down and we were headed out of Seattle by 6:20am. When you arrive you just need to check in, get your number, check your bag, and you are ready to go. Tough Mudder assigns you a start time (and if you sign up as a group you will all start at the same time, hopefully) but no one ever checks, so you can start the race whenever you are ready. They send the runners in groups every 20 minutes after some pep talk and warm ups and I would highly recommend starting as early as you can, later in the day lines start to build up at some of the obstacles and bottlenecks and standing around is not much fun.

The Race
As I mentioned above, Tough Mudder is all about teamwork and helping each other out. So, come with a group and decide how you are going run it before the start. Both times I did the Tough Mudder after the start of the race I immediately got separated from my group and didn't find anyone for quite some time. This weekend for instance, I started off on my own but waited until one member of the group caught up so for the first 1/3+ of the race I was running with just one member of my group. While we made great time, I signed up for the race to do it with my family which wasn't happening. Eventually we were able to connect with 2 more of my group and the four of use completed the race together. Lesson for next time: decide beforehand who is going to run with who and stick together!

Rinsing my Clothes After the Race

The Obstacles
Here is a list of the obstacles we faced and my brief thoughts about them.
  • Quagmire - A very muddy section. The Tough Mudder took place on a coking site and this mud was foul and toxic smelling, not my preferred type of mud.
  • Glory Blades - Walls angled towards you that you need to climb over and slide down. Because of the angle its harder to use your feet to help you up but they are not as tall as some of the walls later on so this was a cake walk.
  • Hold Your Wood - Stacks of logs are waiting for you at this obstacle with the goal being simply to carry the log on a short loop. There are smaller logs for individuals and larger logs for groups. This obstacle was bit of a log jam (pardon the pun) due to group having a hard time moving quickly. We cared logs individually and were able to snake around some of the groups.
  • Lumberjacked - Logs are secured horizontally several feet off the ground and participants must jump and scramble to get over. For tall people this one is a piece of cake but I saw quite a few people clothesline themselves because they were trying to pull themselves over like they were doing pull ups but the better approach is to try to swing you legs over. This one is fun but very quick.
  • Warrior Carry - You have to carry one of your team member for a short distance before switching and continuing. Those few minutes of moving forward without having to put forth any effort in were glorious.
  • Pole Dancer - Parallel bars that force you to go uphill and then down hill using just your arms. This one was rough, one of two obstacles I could not complete. I think my problem was swinging forward too far, slow and steady is a better bet.
  • Killa Gorilla - A short, steep, and very muddy hill that you have to go up and down three times. This is a fun one but a bit of a bottleneck.
  • Devil's Beard - A heavy cargo net tied to the ground that you have to go though by holding the net up for youself as well as others. At the Seattle Tough Mudder, the net was places over some tractor tires you had climb over but at other events the net will be placed on a slippery hill.
  • Balls to the Wall - A tall wall that you climb with the assistance of a rope. I saw one guy power up it without using is legs but another guy tried and found the rope so slippery he ended up just spinning his wheels, so to speak.
  • Creek Crusade - A short section of trail through a creek, pretty trivial.
  • Bushwacked - Think this was just a section of trail through the woods, I don't recall much so it must have been pretty trivial.
  • Pitfalls - This is a short section with lots of water, some electric wires, and a couple of logs. You have to first drop under one log and through some wires landing in the muddy water below. The next log also features some wires but you must go over it. This is first obstacle that go EVERYONE truly muddy. Most groups wear the same color, but after this obstacle everyone was team brown.
  • Walk the Plank - After getting so muddy they wanted you to wash off by jumping off a 12' platform into the Gatorade-green water below. I thought this water was cold but then...
  • Arctic Enema - Apparently they thought we were still dirty so they sent us through a chest-high ice bath which requires you to go under a barrier ensuring that you get a brain freeze. The guy in front of me rudely stopped at the end of the tank barring me from exiting until I could work around him. Its weird how cold can be both painful and numbing at the same time.
  • Cliffhanger -  This was a very steep, very muddy, and extremely slippery hill. There was a cargo net staked down on the top 1/4 of the hill but a lot of teamwork with strangers was required to reach that point. This one was fun but it was a major bottleneck, so many people that you couldn't find a place to even attempt a climb.
  • Sewage Outlet - Here you had to crawl 20 yards under barbed wire (and in the mud of course) followed by a shimming your way through some corrugated pipe and ending in a four foot drop into muddy water below. This one was fun and the pipe had a rope in it so you could lay on your back and pull yourself through pretty easily. The drop into the water however is anything but graceful, you have to lean yourself out backwards and let yourself drop but it turns into a half back flop half head-first dive.
  • Berlin A-Frame - A steep A-frame wall/ramp with ropes and 2x4's to help you up and over. This one is pretty easy.
  • Swamp Stomp - A short trek through some muddy, grassy water. This one was very trivial and and unnecessary log jam as people felt the need to walk single file.
  • Mud Mile - This was series of troughs of 3' water and 4' tall strips of earth, requiring you to pull yourself in and out of the water several times. Despite its name, it is not a mile long and wasn't as muddy as other obstacles, but was still a fun obstacle. This is the point were a couple of my team members started cramping up.
  • Climbax - A series of three walls of increasing height. The first wall everyone was able to do on their own, the second and third I had to give other Mudders (including my brother and my dad) a boost but I was able to get myself over.
  • Abseil - Here we had to traverse down a long steep hill but we had largr ropes at our disposal so it was quick and easy. On our way out of the area after we finished the race we noticed that the line was huge for this obstacle, probably a 1/4 of a mile long. It pays to get there early.
  • Pyramid Scheme - This was my favorite obstacle. The obstacle is simple, a steep and extremely slippery ramp with a pit near the bottom making a running start very difficult. Successful groups had people at the top of the ramp and at the bottom. Those at the bottom acted as a ladder for people to climb and the Mudders at the top reached out and helped them the rest of the way. The problem however is starting out with no one at the top. One member of my group stood at the bottom as the base. My brother then climbed on his shoulder, and I climbed on my brother's shoulders. Because we were leaning against the ramp the guy at the base was not holding all our weight but he was stopping us from sliding so he was holding some considerable weight. As my dad started to climb, the base started to slip and we were sliding down as much as we were pulling my dad up. But, with some help from another Mudder, my dad got up and pulled me up. We were then able to pull my brother up. The last member of the group was at the bottom so my brother and dad held my legs and slid me as far down the ramp as possible so I could reach the last member of our crew. I've never been a human rope before, and I must say, it was actually quite fun.
  • Berlin Walls - 3 meter walls that you inevitably need a boost for, luckily Mudders are always ready to lend a hand.
  • Funky Monkey - Monkey bars that ascend and descend and bane of my existence. The was the second obstacle that I could not complete and in fact I barely made it anywhere, two rungs maybe. I'm going to have to hit some playgrounds before the next Tough Mudder.
  • Everest -  Everest is a hulking half pipe, participants run full speed up the ramp and taking a soaring leap into the arms of Mudders reaching down from the top. A fun obstacle and staple of Tough Mudder.
  • Legion - For those that had completed a Tough Mudder previously there was small section just for us. It involved a slide down Everest and then a lot a crawling, not a big deal but a good way to get extra tired and muddy right before the end.
  • Electroshock Therapy - The final challenge for all Tough Mudders; Mudders charge through a field of dangling electric wires already to put you on the ground. I put my head down and my arms over my head to protect myself but as the shocks came I stumbled started running head first leading to me getting shocked right on the noggin right at the end. That was NOT fun. It felt like getting punched in the face and instantly gave me a headache. Keep those arms up!

Mission accomplished
Welcome to the Tough Mudder legion, don't forget your t-shirt, your headband, and your beer, and be sure to donate those muddy shoes if you don't plan on using them again. After the race we hung around awhile as we all hosed off and got changed and beofre we were on our way, and of course we stopped for pizza on the way. I can't wait for the next one!

Man I had a lot of fun and I will definitely do it again. I really enjoyed all of the obstacles that require teamwork and I wish there were more, I think it's what sets Tough Mudder apart from other races. Without the teamwork its just running in mud. My biggest complaint is all of the bottlenecks and most of them were completely unnecessary. For instance at one point the race came to a screeching halt because the trail was not wide enough and people were attempting a small muddy hill one at a time. They could have easily quadrupled the size of the trail at the spot without batting and eye. There is nothing worse than just standing around getting cold when you have many miles and obstacles ahead of you.
The Participants

 How about you? Ever done a Tough Mudder? Would you want to?


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hello World!

Hello World!

Well this is the beginning of a brand new blog and I thought it would be appropriate to start with the phrase commonly used by programmers to try out a new programming language. But that is neither here nor there. Welcome to my new blog!

My name is Nick, I'm 28 and work as an engineer at a huge aerospace company. I am financially stable, well educated, and very healthy. However, I want to be better in all aspects of my life and that is why I started this blog, to share my hopes and desires and hold myself accountable to the world. 

What can you expect from this blog?
As the title of this blog implies, there are three aspects of my life I would like to improve: Mental, Physical, and Intellectual.

Financial - on this subject I hope to discuss my path to financial independence including discussions about investments, budgets, living frugally, and so on.
Physical - here I will be discussing my physical goals and progress, physical achievements, weight loss, and I hope to add recipes that are good for both your waistline and your wallets
Mental - here I hope to discuss new knowledge and skills that I learn, resources for learning, and interesting books and articles I've read.

I have several post ideas in mind and I am very excited to share them. One of my first posts will be a series discussing resources for taking online classes and my experience as I work through a class. I can't wait to get started and I hope you will join me on my journey. 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you will come back soon.