Toronto Spring Tough Mudder 2013 – Race Recap

*This race review has been written for Obstacle Racing Magazine USA. You can view the original post at 

Beep. Beep. Beep. Alarm rings. “Ugh. Just die already”, I think to myself. My bed is so warm, and from keeping the patio door open overnight, I feel the chill in the air. I bury my head in the pillow.

An eager waker-upper, and a sunshine in the morning I am not. Especially before coffee… Insert a picture of Grumpy Cat here.

We drop by Tim Hortons before hitting the road. Large coffee in hand, my functionality goes up a notch. The urge to run up a mountain in this shitty weather is still at its ultimate low. “Why I am doing this again?”, I think gloomily. Finally I nod off in the back, snuggled under my puffy winter jacket.

I wake up as we line up to park – it’s still chilly, but already light, and excitement is in the air. The energy is contagious. We park, and head over to the shuttle, which will take us to the actual race venue. A long 40-minute bus ride is spent swapping stories about prior Tough Mudders and other races – I like this part! As we arrive, it’s almost quarter to eight. If we are to make the first wave, things will have to happen very quickly. Consent forms signed, racing packet picked up – I peel off the top layers and check my bag. Sprint to the start line and jump over the first wall to join the crowd in the corral – whew, now I can actually tighten my shoelaces and take a breath. Made it.picture 2

Startline Sean is already firing up the crowd.

I love Sean. I want to be him when I grow up. I’ve never seen such boundless energy and love concentrated in one person.picture 3

After singing the national anthem, reciting the pledge and going over the basic guidelines (hands in shape of cross over head in case of emergency, don’t be stupid, etc.), we are OFF.

I know we are about to hit the first hill, so I’m not really sprinting.  However, being the first wave, the course is still empty, there’s only a small group of guys ahead of me. Loving it. For those running later in the day, the start line can become quite crowded, and you have to slowly walk/jog for the first 500m or so, until the path clears up and you can charge ahead.

In my morning grumpiness I forgot the one piece of gear that I would need – my watch. Ugh. Tough Mudder is not timed or chipped, so if I want to know what my time is I have to remember to ask someone at the finish line what time it is as soon as we finish. My quasi-religious energy gel schedule is also going to hell – good thing I’ve practiced random feeding during a recent Goruck challenge.


Berlin Walls slanted towards you at a 20 degree angle. I’ve actually never had to do this one before, and it was quite a bitch to complete. Two of these in a row – I have someone help me as I drag my butt over awkwardly.


One of the first obstacles as usual. Given that we are the first batch of Mudders to go through, the water is nice and cold. There are ice cubes floating on the surfaces. I make a mental note of how much easier the obstacle is now that I’ve done it a number of times. I do not hesitate before lunging myself into the pool of murky ice cold water. Familiar tightness momentarily grips my chest. I dive under the bar, and start climbing out. The one advantage of doing Arctic Enema in relatively cold weather is that by comparison the air is actually warm, and once you get out of the water, you are not cold. Now it’s just harder to run as water is dripping from my hair, clothes and shoes. This is where a tight fitting gear definitely helps. As I jog away from the Arctic Enema, I am expecting monkey bars next. Or maybe rings. Some sort of hanging / balancing act. I shake my palms in the air, trying my best to dry out the skin. In conditions like today’s I’ll need all the grip I can get.


Yep, I was right. I can see the neat rows of droplets of water, hanging from every bar. I do my best to dry off my hands, take a breath, reach for the further bar, grip tightly with both hands and let go of my feet. Immediately I realize that this will be harder than usual. Why on earth did I think it was a good idea to practice this particular move yesterday??? My grip feels tired. The bars are so wet that I need to grip extra hard simply to hold on. I reach out towards the next bar and grab – I am now firmly hanging off the next bar. However, the process is taking too long. I’m wasting time securing myself on each bar before going on to the next one. About half way through I realize that I’m not making it across. My grip finally weakens, I slip and fall into the water below three bars away from the end. Ugh. I rarely miss this particular obstacle, and this is a little disheartening.


Wow. As we approach the barb wire crawl, it is completely dry. And flat. And empty! I look around to make sure I’m not in anyone’s way. Nope. I proceed to lie on my side and roll through the whole thing – this is the fastest “crawl” of my life. As I get up, I have to pause – the world is spinning wildly. Finally, I’m good to go, and as I take off, I catch a glimpse of fellow Mudders who follow suit, rolling under.


Slow, slow crawl. I make it through without being shocked. It’s either a miracle, or the obstacle is not yet activated. I don’t ask questions, and keep running.


A hill of slippery mud. Not too bad, but this will be brutal in about an hour or so. Just give it few thousand people. Yay for running early.


Task? Jump over a trench of fire. A nice surprise is that there is actually a drop on the other side into… you guessed it, water. I wonder how much of an ankle twister this is…


With a name like that, what’s not to like? The “heavy” logs mentioned on the Tough Mudder website are actually really dry and really light. I run with mine.


Do not underestimate this obstacle. Jumping over 4 feet mud pits sounds easy enough. However, the key is not to stop, and after five or six of them, you realize that you are absolutely and totaly gassed. Holy moly. I actually need a breath. Bonus – watching other Mudders jump, I realize that they really do look like dirty ballerinas. Big, strong, muscled ballerinas. Awesome.


Crawling through a narrow, dark trench – any claustrophobic’s dream. Last year I broke down crying after completing this one. This year I ask a fellow Mudder to talk me through it. We crawl, and he talks. I can also see a bit of light on the sides. Done. Easy.


We jumping from a 15+ foot drop into the water. This obstacle tends to get crowded later in the day as well, however, you have multiple professional divers standing on guard.


Instead of slushy mud, this one consists of hills. Up and over. Into the water. Up and over. Into the water. The edges are really crumbly, and there are no foot tracks yet.


We are running through snow at this point. I feel totally badass. Ahead – downhill covered in plastic, with running water. This will be slippery. “Should I go head first or feet first?”, I think to myself, stepping on the plastic. “SWOOSH!”, is the sound as I slip and land on my behind. The decision is made for me, and I’m rapidly accelerating towards the bottom, praying that I do not hit anything. “SPLASH!”, the water at the bottom is somewhat unexpected and seems to be even colder than in Arctic Enema. I climb out, cursing.


Man. I forgot how tall these are. Need all the help I can get.


Seriously? More water? I waddle through, and pull myself under the bobbing barrels. At least the water is warm.. My legs are starting to cramp up. I rarely cramp up during an event, but the temperature makes a huge difference. “How are you doing?”, calls out one of the EMS workers. “You know… keeping dry”, I mumble.


Wall rope climb. Easy peasy.


Where are petite women and scrawny guys when you need them? This ends up being one of the tougher obstacles for me, as I carry an 180-lb guy on my back. Thank God for squats.


This one has first appeared as a mystery obstacle at Tri-State Tough Mudder 2012. Climb the ladder, face the narrow chute. Go down feet first. Hope that you don’t hit your head on the way down. Water is waiting for you below.


Another new one for me – we have to crawl into a water-filled trench and swim on our backs with only few inches of breathing room. Essentially, you are moving through a narrow cage filled with water. Given my claustrophobia, this is not my favorite obstacle, but I manage to get through, humming “Eye of the Tiger” to myself.


Crawling through a tight pipe never creates the same issue as other tight spaces for me, because I can usually see the other side. However, pulling yourself along is a challenge this far into the event. I try not to bend my limbs too much, fearing another cramp.


Probably the most hated obstacle of the Tough Mudder (apart from Electroshock Therapy).

Couple of guys make it to the top and wait for me, lying on their stomachs. It takes all three of them to drag me over the edge, as I start cramping up at the top. Whew. Now to return the favour… A fellow Mudder sprints up Everest with all his might, and slides down. Once… Twice… “Listen to me!”, I shout from the top. “Do NOT run fast. You need to jog up at a leisurely pace, and reach out.” He nods and follows instructions, and we easily pull him up. He smiles appreciatively. “So THAT’s the secret!”, says another guy. “We gotta listen to the veteran here”. He refers to the three Tough Mudder headbands that I made into armbands.


Don’t think. Run through. Quickly!

“And… we have… the first lady to cross the finish line!!! Represent!”. That’s a first! Spectators cheer. I walk through a bunch of friendly pats on the back, and wide smiles. It’s an awesome feeling.

While the initial plan was to attempt three laps, I realized that this was not happening as soon as the wave start times were posted – the last wave started at 12.30pm. Two laps then? After completing two laps back to back at the Toronto Tough Mudder last year, it hardly had the same novelty appeal. It was cold, and was only getting colder. And this was by far the wettest event I have ever done. Splash, dip. Dip, dip, splash. Drip, drip, swim.

I couldn’t bring myself to do the second lap. Very content with being the first female to finish, I was thinking a warm sweater. Or three. And food. ASAP. Maybe in September… 🙂

See a detailed map of the course here.

Videos of most of the obstacles recorded by one of the fellow Mudders can be found here and here.

Signing off,

posted: May 21, 2013