Tough Mudder- Atlanta 2015


5:25 AM, Atlanta – What the hell? Was I drunk last night?! This race bag looks like it was packed by an amateur! No change of clothes, no trash bag, no packets of GU.

6:45 AM, Fairburn – “Take a right” she said. “You have arrived at your destination” she said. “Oh yeah Google Gail? Then where in the hell am I, and why do I not see one flippin’ Tough Mudder sign?!”

6:46 AM, Fairburn (I think) – I see a sign that reads “Purple Spectator Route.” Confusion permeates the car like my friend’s fart from 10 minutes ago. Stopping in the middle of this gravel road seems the best course of action. I take a pull from my delicious smoothie (I would like to thank TretschStretch Smoothies for giving me the fuel I need to race at peak performance.) and ponder our predicament.

6:47 AM, Random gravel road – I turn around, go a few yards and turn into a gravel drive and pull up to two barns. A mystery man appears from nowhere. “You here for that Tough Mudder?” “You bet your sweet ass orange headband we are!” “Go back down that road, veer right at the next fork. You’ll see it”

6:49 AM, Random gravel road – We are on the right track! I see Funky Monkey through the trees!

6:50 AM, Fairburn – Pull into a spot in a grassy field. We have not gone through the official parking entry. We are completely on the DL, but alas, it does not matter; I paid for parking online.

6:58 AM, Forever Fields – Will we ever get to Mudder Village? It’s cold. I fear we did not bring enough supplies for the journey.

7:01 AM, Endless gravel road – All hope is lost. We must now ration our dwindling resources. I take smaller sips of my prerace 20oz. of Dunkin’ Donuts magic elixir (Tretsch runs on Dunkin’).

7:03 AM, Endless gravel road – We make out the faint outlines of tents on the next rise. Glory! The end, or the beginning really, is in sight.

7:24 AM, Mudder Village – Starting to herd the cats, I mean team members, as they trickle in. It’s cold but the sun is fast rising from its slumber. It’s going to be a spectacular day. Time for a warm up jog.

7:45 AM, Mudder Village – Bag check separates me from my money. I get to place it in a horse stall myself. This will prove to be a prescient move.

7:53 AM, Mudder Village – As we head to the starting line, we run into two late arriving teammates. They have to bail on starting with us as they will not be ready in time. I am extremely bummed as I was looking forward to these two knuckleheads joining us for much merriment.

7:55 AM, Starting line area – 8:00 am wave has been closed. Shit! Can’t complain though, it’s not the one any of us were assigned to anyways. We are a team of bandits, so we gladly enter the warm-up zone for the 8:15 wave. We are still missing two teammates. In no time we are invited to enter the starting corral. I’m pretty excited. My FIRST Tough Mudder!

Observations on the run:

1. This M.C. is hilarious. His banter is a welcome change from the last two Saturdays of serious chest thumping, blood pumping rah-rah. Hey, our missing teammates, and they have brought a friend! We are now 6 scruffy men and 3 refined ladies.

2. The surrounding rolling fields are beautiful. Look at all those fucking hills………..
3. We immediately get all up into these rolling fields and my legs let me know they are not happy about being abused for a fourth week in a row. Power walking the hills are the rule of the day.
4. We cross over what looks to be a fun subterranean crawling obstacle.
5. Kiss of mud starts things off with an easy barbed wire crawl. That first layer of filth going on smoother than a mineral mud body wrap at Spa Sydell.
6. Look at that glorious lake! Picture perfect with the early morning sun highlighting the mist coming off the surface of the water. OOOO! Look at that tree fall going into the lake! Can we climb it?
7. Pitfall is where the mirth starts as I lead the team into a watery, muddy pit and immediately drop waist high into a hidden hole. This obstacle is perfectly named. I can hear the laughter of my teammates behind me. It’s gonna be a good day. I’m grinning like a jackass eating cactus as I exit at the opposite end.

8. The bucolic setting is invigorating as we continue running along the lake on a flat gravel road. Images of genteel afternoons spent in Burberry tweed whilst pursuing the equine arts trot through my mind.
9. Hey look there’s Balls Out! 8 foot+ A-frames with thick ropes, spaced 4+ feet apart, and hanging from the top; this is a variation on last week’s tip of the spear. I stay low to get as much rope as possible to run to the next rope. I wish the A-frames had been longer.

10. The first hydration station appears up ahead. Never have I seen such huge coolers. Multi-spigoted monsters sitting on spindly steel legs; the stuff of nightmares for any football coach. We get our cups and go to the “trough”, I get some water and then decide to try the electrolyte drink. Fucking nasty doesn’t even scratch the adjective surface in describing this blue liquid. It seems like some fearsome combination of pedialyte, the horrific Robitussin from my youth, and the milking of Satan’s anal glands.
11. Hey look a dumpster! Bonus obstacle. The volunteers yell at me, my teammates laugh.
12. Into the woods we go. Time for some trail running! UGH! And hills!
13. Warrior Carry appears in the middle of nowhere. We are an even number of men, but an odd number of women. And then just like that a lone female, mysterious in her old school aviators, happens upon us just at the right time. We assimilate her like the Borg. Any animals still around are surely scared off by our general foolishness and horsefuckery, all at maximum decibels. All manner of carrying styles are employed.

14. We come out of the woods after a beautiful but hilly and long trail run into an open field with a substantial hill leading us to Mystery?
15. It is a mystery. It’s a mystery as to why they didn’t put water into these pits dug into the ground. It’s a mystery why they didn’t make them wider. It’s a mystery why they bothered hauling a huge ass water tank up that hill.
16. More running. More beautiful surroundings. And then off in the distance, the faint sound of a bell. YES! King of the Swingers was nigh! THE obstacle I had been waiting for after watching stupid numbers of hours of TM YouTube videos! The team was very excited.
17. It is ginormous. A wonderful bricolage of wood, scaffolding, steel and plastic sheeting. I quickly climbed up to the platform 12’ (?) up. Holy crap the tiny little handle bar at the end of the swing bar looks even tinier in person and it’s WAY further away than it looks in the videos. There will be no leaning over and grabbing it; this is a full-on-you-gotta-commit kind of jump. Why do I hear calliope music in my head? Enough standing around…JUMP! Grip is good! Swinging….wheeeee! Release! Go for the bell! Now, here is where I messed up. I swing at that bell as if I’m Hakeem Olajuwon swatting the very soul out of John Starks. So as the bell makes the pretty, tinkling sound of success, I’m tumbling toward the water in my best imitation of a rag doll thrown by a petulant toddler. I hit the water with an impressive smack, taking almost the full brunt with my bald-headed giggle stick. The frog-lady in the water looks at me with concern. I think it was concern. Who can really tell given the goggles and the regulator? Fear not lady, I am quite used to the many ways I can inconvenience my wife’s best friend during an OCR.

18. HOLY SHIT! That was awesome. I need to do that again!!!
19. There is cheering and support for other members of the team and then it’s off for a second swing. The bell went ‘ding-dong’ again without the dong being dinged.
20. I go off course and run downhill through the wild flowers, flapping my arms and acting the fool. Life is grand.
21. The second hydration station offers up gummies. Yum! I feel guilty, as if I’ve raided Lil’ B’s stash of princess fruit snacks; they are delicious. Then I remember sage words of advice I once read from more seasoned OCR runners; “don’t try anything new on race day”. OOPS! We’ll see how these little gelatinous morsels of modern chemistry affect me. I avoid the blue piss of Beezzlebub.
22. The team continues to remark how beautiful the surroundings are. “Still doesn’t make the fucking hills any flatter”, I mutter.
23. The damn bars on Funky Monkey (…..2.0 even) are small. I’m talking old school, 1970s era playground small. I HATE small diameter bars. You engage your thumbs the bars can tear your hands apart, hook them with just your fingers and you always have a chance of slipping. The trapeze thingy and the bars make for a cool variation. I stay dry today. It’s a great atmosphere at this obstacle and we are cheering on our ladies to be the first females of the day to get across. The grit they showed was tremendous, they hung in there like a hair in a biscuit. But alas, it was not meant to be. Next race!
24. Back into the open meadows and oh joy………more hills.
25. One of our young, OCR newbie teammates (exactly why in the hell are we letting two 18 year olds set the pace wonder the grey powers of the group?!…..) standing at the holes of Mineshafted asks, “Do I go in feet first?” “No! Head first!” was the resounding answer from the more seasoned (weathered, aged, well worn, grizzled, wizened….) members of the team. Sliding downwards you really feel like you are going deep underground. We pop out into a deep pit with a small but slippery slant wall. There’s just enough room to get a good two step run up to it.
26. As we drop down into the wide open spaces of the main meadow, we can see Everest up on the hill to our right. We should be there in no time……
27. Toilets and bananas; these water stations are no joke! It’s no use. I can’t fight the need. I’m worried about my calves. I must drink the blue bile of Nosferatu. I do a 50-50 mix with H2O.
28. I crouch down low to ease myself into the Birth Canal. As there has been no mud or water for quite some time, I feel inadequately lubricated. I plunge inward on hands and knees with ease. This ain’t so bad at all! And then WHAM……the inescapable reality of Hydrodynamics comes crushing down on my neck and shoulders, and I narrowly avoid planting my proboscis in the pampas. I had merely been pushing the water forward and when it could go no further it stacked up and squashed me. The last few feet I become one with the grass.
29. There is much laughter as the team makes all manner of indelicate comments regarding birth. We have no class.
30. The problem with open field running is you can see how fucking far you have to go.
31. My knees are starting to ache with the previous 3 weeks of competition still fresh in the muscle memory banks.
32. As we stare down into the pits of Mud Mile 2.0, I think we all had a collective “oh crap!” moment. These monsters were deep! “She puts the lotion into the basket” kind of deep. And there were 4 of them. Unless you punked out and went to the edges (and even that looked sketchy) there was no way you were getting out of those pits alone unless you had:
a. A jetpack. I left mine at home
b. Toe picks and a grappling hook
c. Strange mutant powers of the levitating/flying kind
d. A small dog for a hostage
33. The water was deep and the squelchy muddy bottom was constantly sucking at your feet. The pit walls were sheer cliffs. The dirt mounds offering nothing but handfuls of loose soil. Between the heaving and ho’ing, there was more ass grabbing then at a Tailhook convention. The air was filled with the sound of people having serious amounts of fun despite the serious amounts of effort being expended. We finish and one our teammates says, “Look we get to do it again on the way back!”
34. Back into the woods and it’s a slippery, muddy muckfest of a trail. I start to twitch as my memorabrarian (you know…..your memory librarian) goes and retrieves the Savage Race and Battlefrog replay reels. At least it’s flat. My hips and knees tell me to fuck off.
35. Beached Whale seemed to be underinflated as everyone gravitated towards the center and we became a scrum of bodies just trying to get to the other side. The fine mud grit between body and vinyl doing exfoliating wonders on exposed skin.
36. At mile marker 6 I looked at my watch and it said 7.5 miles. This kind of discrepancy had been the case for many miles. Clearly Tough Mudder miles are longer than mere normal human miles. My legs cried “but HOW will we know WHEN it will end?!?!”
37. The Berlin Walls were tall. Escape from New York kind of tall. The tallest of any race I have done. Even using the slippery 2x a couple of feet up with a weird step hop move, I barely got fingers over the greasy top. Myself and a couple of teammates camp out on top of the wall and help hoist people up, legs and ass going all over the place, while one of our other gentlemen helps from below. Ahem!

38. For the next million miles it’s a slog of nasty mud; slicker than a harpooned hippo on a banana tree. My knees really are starting to hate me.
39. We stop at a water station after climbing the world’s tallest mound of mulch. A volunteer is greeting us with high fives and boundless enthusiasm. I’m now at a 3:4 ratio of Vulcan piss to water. Fifty yards away we can see the second loop of Mud Mile 2.0
40. MM2.0 second round is even worse than the first time. We hump it through with as much grace as a herd of water buffalo on rollerblades.
41. The running is flat but tiring through the thick grass.
42. I vowed not to do Cry Baby because of the multiple surgeries I have had on my left eye and not wanting to do anything to my remaining good eye. Besides, like Electroshocking, it’s just a stupid obstacle. Nonetheless I cheer on my teammates as they enter the toxic box and then pop out the other end, blue mentholated smoke trailing behind them. They all reek of Vick’s vapor rub 2.0 as we continue our adventure.
43. More open field running. More hills. It never ends.
44. The young’uns are kind enough to keep us in sight.
45. We make our way along the front side of Mudder Village and the Mini Mudder course until we arrive at Arctic Enema 2.0. All ice water obstacles are fucking cold. It’s just a cold hard (see what I did there) fact of Thermodynamics. But after the first time, any subsequent races are just varying degrees of cold and no need for panic (remember; slow, controlled breathing). Now, when you have to slide down a ramp under a chain link fence that disappears into the murky water to unknown depths, THAT’s a whole different story. One teammate and I are sitting at the top of the ramp and I’m thinking this icy mess has the color of the world’s largest skinny-half-caff iced-mocha-latte. Anything to keep my mind off the impending underwater negotiation around the leading edge of the fence. “3..2..1, go!” the slide is slick and fast, and we are in, under and out from the fence quicker than green grass through a goose. Peripheral vasoconstriction starts quickly, but testicular retraction is instantaneous as I bid my betty swollocks a fond farewell for a few hours. We climb over (there are those RDs in the OCR world that would have had us going underwater again TM. Just sayin’…) the middle barrier and make a quiet and dignified exit. We catch up to the vanguard of our team doing jumping jacks while they wait for us.

46. People walking up the main access road enjoy the spectacle of tired cold wet runners before we disappear around the corner. “You’ll get yours soon enough…”
47. I’m chugging Smurf sewage like it’s Cristal. I no longer bother cutting it.
48. The water station is in the shadow of a spectacular barn; five star accommodations for the well-heeled horse. A huge earthen cliff, the remnants of the construction process is our next obstacle; Cliffhanger.
49. We run up a dirt ramp so that we can rappel down a 12 foot+ cliff. The rope is a monster and weighs a ton. This is some sketchy shit right here. We circle around and then climb a 30 foot face covered in cargo netting. “This is going to scare the fuck out of some people”, I muse.
50. More beautiful trail running. More fucking hills. I’m getting a hitch in my stride.
51. Bear crawling at The Liberator (This name makes absolutely no sense. Fire that intern TM!) works well and raised the net up sufficiently to help those behind me. A teammate slams her knee into an unmarked stump (Where’s the orange paint TM?) while crawling.
52. More running.
53. Will it ever end?!
54. We skirt along the backside of Mudder Village before dropping back into the trees. We are close!
55. THAT is the tallest inverted wall I have ever seen at any race! Skidmarked? What the hell does that have to do with anything?! It is a BIG leap just to get to the lip. Thankfully the lip is dry. Our team is alone at this obstacle, so we make short work of it with generous amounts of lifting and pushing. Some tires and a large corporate logo on the backside clears up the name confusion. Still makes no sense.
56. The location is ridiculously idyllic. There is a perfect little lake with a perfect little dock, just begging for cannonballs. I would drown at this point.
57. We round the corner and see Funky Monkey. We have done a monstrous figure-eight. A compulsory figure writ large over miles of woods, meadows, and mud.
58. What is this?! A teammate drops into a small creek along the roadside and immediately sinks up to his chest. It is the grossest, nastiest stretch of water in the history of OCR. I don’t even know what to call this fucking mess of mud, leaves, grass and god knows what else. At one point I literally felt I was going to disappear below the surface; sucked down by the mysterious muck below. One teammate doggie paddles across. She had the right idea.
59. We arrive at Everest covered in quickly drying black goo. The sun was shining and the end was near, and that HAD to have been the last hill or I was gonna fucking lose it. We take stock of the ¼ pipe that is Everest. It didn’t look that tall, though it did have an unusually large rounded lip. I take first crack at it. Run! Launch! Good height! Reach for the back of the lip and……….BUBKISS. The back of the lip had to be at least a foot beyond where my hands were now grasping for nothing but smooth plastic. My slide back to terra firma is quite elegant. I finally exhibit a bit of grace for the day. Second time’s the charm though. With two other teammates at the top we get everyone over the lip, and then help out a few more. It occurs to me what bravery and trust it takes to run up that beast and just jump towards outstretched hands hoping you will be caught.
60. Everest allows for a commanding view of the rolling hills and Mudder Village. It’s all downhill from here baby!
61. I promised my wife I would not do Electroshock, and I wasn’t going to do it anyways. It’s a stupid fucking obstacle with no physicality to it and nothing but downsides health wise. Luckily Deadringer was a Legionnaire’s option for bypassing electroshock. So, I bandit it. I was dying to try it. Some teammates joined me, others went the 10k volt route. “Hey, is that a BAR over there. I’m thirsty!” It was weird at first using the rings, but I eventually got into a rhythm. An Elaine Benes kind of rhythm, but a rhythm nonetheless and I made it across.

62. We all convened at the exit of both obstacles and confirmed we would all be crossing the finish line together. Some were feeling the sting of electricity and some were lucky to have emerged unscathed.
63. We ran eight abreast through the barn, cheering ourselves, as we approached the finish line.
64. And then it was done. I am tired.
65. That was FUN!! I am no longer a Tough Mudder virgin! However, 11.81 miles in 3:11:34 a week after a brutal Battlefrog made it more like an uncomfortable romp in the backseat of a subcompact versus sweet love on a rose petal covered bear skin rug in front of a roaring fireplace at a ski chalet. Nonetheless as a team event it was a blast. I cannot speak to previous Tough Mudders, but Tretsch says DO it.


11:26 AM, Mudder Village – I just went through a gauntlet of swag. Towels, T-shirts, protein bars, supplement stuff, and beef jerky. I tear into the beef jerky package ravenous with hunger. Now I know what pairs perfectly with Satan’s blue ball sweat. Luckily a trash can is close by to spit this nastiness out.

11:30 AM, Mudder Village – I go to the bag check to retrieve my gear, while the others go check out Fire in your hole….I mean Ring of Fire and the hamster wheel thingy. The volunteer at the table shakes my hand and congratulates me on a job well done. All the volunteers today have been top drawer.

11:40 AM Mudder Village – I reluctantly get my beer. Am I the only one who hates Shocktop? Two races in a row with this crap. First world problems. The staff at the beer tent are just a wonderment of friendliness and service. The beer sucks, but their employees are aces!

11:45 AM Mudder Village – I’m whoopin’ it up watching some of my teammates attempt Satan’s bunghole……I mean Ring of Fire. I do not partake. I am not a Legionnaire and I am too much of a cheapass to pay for it. The action photo provided is a nice touch though.

Noonish, Mudder Village – The two young’uns appear, one has both her palms completely wrapped in gauze; the hamster wheel thingy has claimed another victim. We continue yucking it up and taking pictures, and then team members start to peel off.

12:45 PM, Mudder Showers – As I stand there on the hill, soaking up the sun, rinsed off as much as one can be with an old school spray nozzle, I reflect on the choices I made to get to a sport where I can stand amongst a crowd in nothing but my blue and black striped Voltron boxer briefs, and no one gives a rat’s ass.

12:47 PM, Mudder Showers – I meet one of my teammates coming out of the Legionnaire shower trailer (warm shower facilities?! There really is no other reason needed to run another TM), and we chat as I walk towards the changing tent. “Oh my gosh, I almost walked in there with you!” she says. “Ha, nothing to see but small shriveled [index finger and thumb a couple of inches apart]……..” I say loudly.

12:47:05, Changing Tent – 12 men turn around simultaneously as I walk in. Not a fucking sound. Outer space is noisier. Then they all bust out laughing……..

1:05 PM, Endless Gravel Road – The long trek back to the car is easier than in the morning. There is sun on my shoulders, story telling, and endless people watching.

*Photos By: Tough Mudder


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Robert A. Tretsch, III, aka “Tretsch”, is a gentleman architect and founder of the Grey Berets who revels in the pursuit of mud, obstacles and the occasional podium step.
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