Nine miles of muddy hell

By SCOTT FAYNER  |  May 26, 2011

One would assume downhill to be a breeze. But with snow, ice, rocks, and of course huge ponds of mud in the way, only a idiot would run down it. I do it anyway. I slip many times, and end up badly damaging my right foot, but I can keep going. Others aren't so lucky. Injured bodies line the track's edge. This shit is no joke, and I slow down my pace.

And while running up and down the "Killa Gorilla's" steep, mud-soaked hill over and over again may seem like torture, it's nothing compared to how difficult it is while being sprayed with ice-cold water from snow-making machines. A few people crash hard and are pulled off the course to receive medical attention: one gal clutches her knee as she howls in agony. A guy in a mud-coated bumble-bee suit is close to tears as he shivers uncontrollably. The rest of us grit our teeth and march onward.

So as not to push us too far, Tough Mudder's next hurdle, "Devil's Beard" — in which we scoot through cargo nets — is a painless one. But you need help from other people to make it through, and that's the point of it. Well, that, and to keep us alive long enough for our entrance-fee checks to clear. I catch my breath for a few moments to assess my now-swollen right foot. The sound of an ambulance below, rushing toward the hospital, echoes throughout the mountain, and I pray for whoever's inside it.

Having come this far, who wouldn't want to run down the rest of the sloppy mountain and squeeze into a narrow tunnel that leads into a pool of sharp rocks and 40-degree water? I'm now bleeding from my kneecaps and entirely soaked. The wind is unremitting. And the next event is called the "Ball Shrinker."

Okay, so anything named the "Ball Shrinker" is bound to be really, really awful.

In this case, it turns out to be traverse ropes across a pond of frosty water. One rope is overhead, and one is underwater; we hold on to one and scuttle across on the other. As we emerge from the water, a gust of that merciless wind hurtles down the mountainside and slaps me hard across my entire body. I'm close to hypothermia.

"C'mon, let's get moving!" Testa shouts, grabbing my arm. "We gotta keep moving or we're dead!" I rip off my shirt, cry for a few seconds, and follow him into a mile-long upward slope of mud.

I'm not a pious man, but in times of stress, everyone finds something to believe in. For me, it was the fantastic ass of the chick in front of me as we jogged up the mountain. Without that ass, I believe I would be dead right now.

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