'You can't fake strong'Mid-Coast Maniacs crush Tough Mudder: The Great Northeast
Westbrook — This is the second of two stories by Lyn Tesseyman on her training and participation in a Tough Mudder. Tesseyman's teammates were Quincy McCarthy, Travis Hamilton and Seth Knowlton. Tesseyman and Knowlton are from Camden and McCarthy and Hamilton from Searsport. The event was Aug. 23-24 in Westbrook.
Tough Mudder is intense, it is scary and it is awesome. Tough Mudder is not a race it is a challenge, a 10- to 12-mile, 20-obstacle battle against one's self. A Tough Mudder is about team camaraderie and overcoming personal fears. The signs state, “You Can’t Fake Strong.” And they were not kidding.
The team meeting the night before the race was about strategy, goals and excitement. Yes, there was fear, how could there not be? The dawning reality of actually going through this was here at our door, so we got focused. Agreeing with Travis’s team name we became Team Mid-Coast Maniacs, and there would be war paint involved. After packing in the pasta, the Maniacs dispersed with plans laid out for the early morning start.
Saturday started with a 4:30 a.m. warm-up jog to get the blood going and to calm the nerves. By 6:30 a.m. we were pulling in to the blue lot parking. You could tell right away how extremely detailed oriented and organized this event was going to be. With shuttles leaving every 20 minutes and volunteers peppering the area you began to get a sense that a great deal of time and planning went on well before the event. We were told later that it is a six- to ninth-month process.
The first glimpses of Mudder Village were jaw dropping. We moved through to registration where Ben Johnson, director of communications for Tough Mudder, greeted us. Ben and the rest of Tough Mudder headquarters live and breathe the event. “We run with friends and family and believe in the experience, and it means so much to be able to share it with people around the world," he said.
After Ben got our team squared away at the media tent, and numbers were written on limbs, it was time to make the way to the start line for the first wave at 8 a.m. There was an octagon of walls surrounding the Start Arc and to get to the arc you had to climb them. Once inside the walls, Mudder Nation’s most motivating master of ceremonies, Sean Corvelle, greeted us. He got us cheering, he got us doing pushups, and he got us pumped up. Then we all took a knee to listen to Sean talk about teamwork, safety, will power, the Wounded Warrior Project, and the feeling of camaraderie he had for all of us. Tough Mudder partners with the U.S Army and has been on site at many of the events in 2014. It was powerful to see, and even more powerful when those military members told you “great job!”
“The start line is a place where you begin to feel like you are about to become part of something bigger than yourself," Sean said.
You could feel the energy rising with a bond already beginning to form around the Mudders you were surrounded by. Then we stood with our hands on our hearts and sang the national anthem. It sent prickles down the neck. The roar from the group was incredible followed by music that pumped up every cell in your body. Sean slapped the hand of every person as they crossed the start line and began their journey.
Mid-Coast Maniacs’ team strategy was in full affect: we would linger behind the huge pack of Mudders and set our own pace. Before we reached mile one we had already found ourselves crawling under barbed wire face down in mud. Meeting the Mud Mile next was all about climbing up deteriorating slabs of mud and once at the top, jumping into cold, muddy, waist-deep water, only to climb and jump again.
The pattern that stuck out the most was fellow Mudders aiding fellow Mudders. Throughout each long stint of running you could hear cheers through the woods, and we would answer back, then other groups would yell. The ripple effect carried throughout the day. At every obstacle, Mudders would cheer for each other, wave after wave replacing each other. Like a passing of the torch, Mudders would stay after completing an obstacle to help other Mudders to the top, before “passing the torch.”
As we worked our way through the challenges, our team became a well-oiled machine, with varying areas of strength making an all-around force to be reckoned with. We were fast, we were strong, and we were kicking ass. At every obstacle a unified forming mindset continued to build. There was no no, there was just do.
It's Super Bowl-meets World Cup-meets Apollo launch
To describe the course layout, I found this quote the most fitting: “It’s Super Bowl-meets World Cup-meets Apollo launch.”
Tough Mudder tested not only your physical strength but your mental strength too. The Maniacs were smart through the Pitfall obstacle, swimming over the huge holes hidden under water instead of wading and climbing through them. The Pyramid Scheme was incredible. It was an amazing feeling to climb up your teammates and trust strangers to haul you over the wall. Hitting Trench Warfare, underground tunnels dug into the earth, was intense with darkness and confined space messing with your mind and your body’s range of motion, giving new meaning to “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Through the next mile of running witty banter erupted from the Maniacs. That everyone was so charged and happy was unexpected in my mind before starting this grueling course. The harder it got the more excited we became. We had great communication with each teammate rotating point man, listening and moving around each other like we had been a team for years. There was no leader, there was just a sense of us.
Walk The Plank came into view and it was the first time we noticed spectators. It was invigorating to see people showing support to the friends and family participating in the event. One by one we scaled the wall to stand atop a 20-foot free fall into muddy waters below. They count you down to three. I hesitated with fear in my heart, then a voice in my brain said, “You know you’re not climbing down, you know you’re going to jump so just jump already!” Without another thought, I did. The feeling of hitting the water changed how I viewed many things. I had never jumped from such a distance nor found myself hit water at that speed. When I broke back to the surface I was still shocked I actually jumped but by the time I climbed out of the pit I was ready to turn around and help fellow Mudders climb out too.
As the team reorganized and started jogging on, the exhilaration of what we just accomplished had us babbling about going cliff jumping in our hometown of Camden. It was a rush like no other.
We had a surprise when we got to Warrior Carry. This obstacle is where one teammate carries another. We had our system set so we were in confident. Halfway through came a huge sign that said stop and switch. As a team, we looked at one another in shock. Encompassing our fearless attitudes, we dug our heels in and switched. The girls carried the men all the way to the finish where we were met with high-five cheers and stunned faces. We were tough. This is where you could hear our team’s warrior cry. Attacking the Arctic Enema, which is a jump into freezing cold water, which includes a travel below an underwater wall, further instilled how tough, tough really was.
After every challenge there was this feeling of great accomplishment and courage. There were war cries of victory, fist bumps and hugs. The “we-are-in-this-together” mentality was reflected in every participant.
There is an added Legionnaire aspect to the course, generally reserved for veteran Mudders. The Maniacs were fortunate enough to be allowed to experience these obstacles as well. They included a 19-foot vertical slide through fire into water. There was a crawl under barbed wire through mud and water to a sewage pipe with a 45-degree elevation to the sky where you used rope to pull yourself up. Finally a blind trust fall four-foot down to the pool below, wrapping up with the Electric Eel.
We crossed the finish line and claimed our victory beer.
Voices of the Mid-Coast Mudders
“Tough Mudder. Would I do it again? Oh yeah. I trained a minimal amount and had a blast. The team was great and was vital to getting over obstacles. We definitely helped keep moral up along the way by making jokes and encouraging each other, watching out to keep the team together helped keep us from over doing it and getting hurt. A couple times I found myself thinking of nothing but the small pebbles that accumulated in my shoes, which I named Mike and Larry. I think the hardest obstacle was the Arctic Enema. The most fun was Fire In Your Hole and the scariest had to be Electroshock Therapy. The very hard-earned beer at the end was a nice touch. I’m looking forward to next year to rejoin my new Mudder family." - Travis Hamilton
“I would definitely do the Tough Mudder again. Not only is it for a good cause but also it’s great for team building and self-esteem. I found the most challenging obstacle physically was the Pole Dance. I have little to no upper body strength so I didn’t get very far. The most challenging mentally was the Electroshock Therapy. I was shocked really bad when I was little and for the longest time it was a struggle to even plug things into outlets in fear of getting shocked again. I was really proud of myself for completing it. Overall, I would recommend people have a team that’s going to encourage them to get through the obstacles and lend a helping hand because they are going to need it. Without my teammates mentally encouraging me to get over my fears I wouldn’t have been able to do the course.” — Quincy McCarthy
“My favorite things about the Mudder: 1, The cold beer afterwards. 2, Teamwork over obstacles. 3, Getting stung by a bee at mile four. 4, Getting Lyn over that huge wall. 5, Surprising myself with how well I did. 6, Rekindling that ultimate boyhood fantasy of running through the woods and jumping in the mud only to be joined by 15,000 people with the same dream. To forget everything for a few hours and just be wild.” — Seth Knowlton
“My palms still sweat thinking about Balls to the Wall. It severely tested me mentally and physically. There is nothing like being 90 degrees horizontal walking up a wall clinging to a rope realizing halfway up you literally don’t know if you are strong enough to make it to the top. Panic washed over me and I froze. I vaguely could hear my teammate Seth calling down to me, “You can do this, look at me, focus on getting up here.” Once I reached the top I was afraid. Seth kept saying swing your leg over and don’t let the rope go. Straddling the wall I clung to the rope and told Seth I didn’t want to be up here. He calmly grabbed my arm and said, “Let’s get down then.” I will never forget his ability to stay calm while I was panicking. If it weren’t for his mental strength I would not have made it. I grew up on that wall realizing my fear, and then having to deal with it. I hit the ground a changed person.“ — Lyn Tesseyman
Coming together, being together
The feeling of Mudder Nation is community. Coming together. Being together.
Mental and physical challenge is not just about being healthy and getting into shape, it’s about overcoming fears and coming out with a better version of you. Seeing fellow Mudders after the event, high-fiving in a gas station, chatting, never knowing them before, feeling a bond that transcends the event.
Jon Barker, Tough Mudder general manager, spoke passionately about the purpose behind Tough Mudder. “The purpose behind it all is the value of camaraderie and proving to yourself you can do more than you thought you could and knowing your team has your back. It’s about giving people who want to get there the opportunity to also conquer something in their life that scares them. At the end of the day we are all little boys and girls, and we all want to play in the mud.“
When asked to describe Tough Mudder in one sentence, Jon said: “Providing unique experiences and changing people's lives and every member of the team honestly believing that.”
A Tough Mudder is statistically 20 times safer than a triathlon and 11 times safer than a marathon. It takes a village to create these events. At the Tough Mudder safety is of utmost importance. Mudder Village ran a fully-staffed emergency medical tent equipped to stabilize and treat anything, even though less than two percent ever need to see the inside of the tent. There were more than 600 volunteers and medical staff on site and around every corner that created the sense of safety and comfort for participants. The science behind the course was meticulously formed to work different muscle groups in a safe rotating manner. The teams of engineers review all safety and obstacles, and divers, lifeguards, and EMTs are placed throughout the course. Incident Command System is used by all emergency protocol groups throughout the United States. This system is adapted to fit the event model, allowing efficiency in keeping eyes and ears on all Tough Mudder staff and people delivering the event. Everyone has emergency action plans that they train through with their teams.
Putting a two-day event of this size together is no easy matter. Jon Baker gives all the credit to Bill Baker for his enthusiasm and dedication to bring Tough Mudder to Westbrook. The community itself showed strength in teamwork from the venue that hosted, local police, local fire and local hospitals pulling together to create an extremely well-organized event weekend. It was an incredible weekend that would not have been possible without Bill Baker's and Colleen Hilton’s (mayor of Westbrook) major influence in bringing Tough Mudder to Westbrook. They were committed partners in helping Tough Mudder. Mudder Nation has 60 events worldwide this year alone and hopes to bring entire communities more of the positive impact shown in Westbrook last weekend.
Are you tough? Get up and get involved. Even if you start by yourself, you finish with friends. Mudder Nation is out there ready to cheer you on. HOOHRA!
For more information on their causes, volunteer opportunities, and Mudder Nation itself, go to ToughMudder.com.
Lyn Tesseyman, 35, of Camden and a self-proclaimed adventurer, is a Camden-Rockport High School graduate. A former professional ballerina, she now is a dance instructor/choreographer. She also is sales and marketing executive with TravelMaine, abOUT Maine and PetMAINE, all owned by RFB Advertising. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.