So a few friends and I took part in a Tough Mudder race yesterday. Don’t know about Tough Mudders? Check them out here. It’s a 10 or so mile cross-country run with 20 or so obstacles along the way (More posts to come on those). For this post, I’m going to focus on two of them with one common element, electricity.

Why focus on those? Because I have a thing about electricity. Everybody has ‘a thing’ about something, right? Well, electricity is mine. When I tell you that I have a healthy appreciation for electricity what I’m really saying is that I turn off breakers before changing light bulbs. Yeah, it’s that kind fo thing. For what it’s worth, I believe I come by it honestly.

You see when I was a kid, maybe 10 or 11. I was enjoying a lazy summer day’s stroll down a meandering country road along a field of cows. I don’t know what I was thinking, but as I was walking I began running my hand along the wire of the fence at the road side. I knew about electric fences, but for whatever reason I did realize that this fence was electrified.

When that charge went off my arm snapped over my head and it felt like my right elbow ended up in my left ear! It was days before the feeling in my fingertips returned to normal. Ever since that day I’ve ‘had a thing’ about electricity. Since we registered for this race months ago, I have told everyone it was going to be a game time decision whether or not I’d even do those obstacles. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make myself do it.

So, tying that back to yesterday. There were two, count ’em TWO, electrified obstacles. Even better, they combined electricity AND water! Brilliant planning, no?

The first is the Electric Eel. It’s a low crawl trhough a pool of muddy water under charged wires dangling down from a net of fencing. Not every wire is charged and not all the currents on the hot wires are the same. One may make your skin itch. Another might make your head snap to the side involuntarily as happened to my buddy Nat. I’m guessing the distance is roughly 20 feet.

I spent the time in the queue waiting my turn much as I would before taking on a one round max attempt at the gym. I stopped talking to my friends. I tuned out the world staring at the earth in front of me. The gang saw the change and left me to myself.

When I found myself at the head of the line, the only thing I made certain of before diving in was to ensure the lane in front of me was clear of other mudders. I was certain and even announced aloud that once I started I would crawl straight over anyone stalling in front of me.

I low crawled through that pit faster than any military exercise I ever participated in. I got hit by current a couple of times. With each sting I started to growl. As I hit the exit my vision was beginning to blur. I’m not sure if that was related to the electricity or the fact that I had my face turned down to the water to avoid getting shocked in the eye.

As I emerged from the pit on the far side I was so revved up I couldn’t speak. I stood there and roared, repeatedly. I’d like to think I sounded just a bit like Will Smith. In fact, It probably sounded a lot like this.

My friends emerged from their turns through the eel, we regrouped and began running to the next obstacle.

I didn’t recognize it at the time, but it was a good two minutes before any one spoke again. Kerstin finally asked me, “So, are you using words again, now?” It was the perfect ice breaker. I answered in a low voice, “Yeah. I think so.”

The other electrified obstacle is simply called “Electro Shock.” This was the obstacle that occupied my pre-Mudder nightmares.

In Electro Shock you simply run through the dangling wires and the volunteers periodically spray down the field with water. In my mind, I was expecting a straight sprint and I was reasonably sure I could manage that.

Then we arrived at the obstacle. Bear in mind, this was THE last obstacle of the day. We’d traversed close to 11 miles over the course of roughly 3 hours and approaching 2 dozen obstacles/challenges. My legs had been cramping in the calves and thighs for the last two miles. It was so severe that I could barely move faster than a shuffle. Plus they modified the obstacle, or I didn’t understand the construction before hand. I was expecting to be able to make a straight unobstructed dash.

But the issue with the obstacle that faced us was about 8 feet into the mud pit, which was slick in it’s own right, there were a set of standard sized hay bales stretched across the width of the pit. So you had to modify your pace to adjust for the hurdle. Then on the other side roughly 10 feet from the exit there were hay bales stacked about 5 FEET HIGH again spanning the width of the pit. There was no avoiding them and I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to clear them.

As I was waiting in the queue I found a lane that afforded a pretty wide and reasonably straight gap between the wires. I was convinced I could negotiate that lane with minimal contact and risk of shock.

I again went to my ugly place putting on my mean face waiting for the lanes to clear before rushing in.

I lunged into the pit and was doing fine until I went over the first hay bales. I lost my footing on the far side slid sideways into the wires, got shocked and fell the mud sliding into the next stack of bales.

I got up and surveyed the bales. There was no way to get over the bales and avoid all of the wires. There was nothing for it but to sprawl across the top and roll. Which I did. I got shocked at multiple points from my knees to my neck.

I rolled off and flopped to the mud on the far side. I crouched with my feet and back to the bales knowing I couldn’t stay there. Some one else was sure to come crashing over any instant. I considered low crawling the remaining distance, but saw that there were wires dangling all the way to the mud.

It was obvious this Mudder was going to end in one gloriously mad scramble. With more Will Smith inspired primal screams I lunged off the base of the bales covered my eyes with one arm and dashed through the wires. I roared every time another wire stung.

In fact I stood there just yelling into the rest of the team’s face once we all emerged on the far side. I couldn’t make words, but I couldn’t keep the energy inside either. I had to blow it out somehow or I was going to start swinging! Then it hit me. The race was complete. we’d made it to the finish. I’d faced down my fear.

I relayed this story to Erin when we got back last night and she asked me. “So, did the experience increase, decrease, or not change your fear of electricity?”

I don’t know that it changed my perception of electricity. But I do take pride in the fact that I didn’t let my fears stop me from taking on and getting through the obstacles. That’s what these things are all about right?