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Students compete in Tough Mudder race

Nicole Toczauer | Monday, November 21, 2011

Several Notre Dame students participated in a race through a giant obstacle course this weekend, an obstacle course that ends in a field of live wires that carry a 10,000-Volt shock.

Sophomores Ryan Tixier, Dan Yerkes and Kevin Colvin tested their endurance in the Tough Mudder course Saturday and Sunday in Attica, Ind. They joined more than 6,500 other participants in the 12-mile obstacle course.

“Tough Mudder has some crazy obstacles, but it’s worth it because it’s for a charity that helps returning vets readjust to life back home,” Tixier said. “Our roommate, Kevin, sent us a link on Facebook about it earlier in the semester, so we all grabbed onto it.”

Tixier said British Special Forces designed the course to be a test of strength, mental grit and camaraderie.

All proceeds from the weekend’s race support the Wounded Warriors Project, a charity that helps soldiers returning from overseas readjust to life in the United States. Some of these veterans participated in the race, Tixier said.

“The most satisfying thing is that you’re actually helping people,” Tixier said. “There were some returning vets from Iraq there, one with prosthetic legs, who did it too. That just made it much more real. It was a really great event overall.”

Icy water, swamps and blazing bales of kerosene-soaked straw greeted the participants at each turn of the course, according to the race website. Other obstacles included trails of cargo nets, 12-foot high walls and wire fields.

“You’d run two miles, then scale a rope and drop 20 feet into an icy lake. You would swim under barriers and could barely move at some points,” Tixier said. “At another you crawled through a trench with dangling barbed wires filled with electricity hanging down. You’d feel jolts, but you kept going.”

Yerkes, who ran the Chicago Marathon in October and qualified for the Boston Marathon, said the military-style obstacles were very different from other endurance races. They made teamwork necessary to complete the course.

Tixier said he was surprised by the level of camaraderie displayed at the event. Though participants were physically exhausted, he said they were enthusiastic and helped one another finish the course.

“You’d stay at one place for five minutes to pull people over an obstacle,” Tixier said. “My roommate Kevin helped a girl over a muddy log because she couldn’t move. She had said, ‘My legs don’t work.’ But she rested and ended up finishing the course later.”

Teamwork, physical exhaustion and determination were on full display during the course’s final sprint, Tixier said.

“The very last obstacle was the field of live wires. You’d see the finish line, but stood there for two minutes with 20 other people trying to get the will power to just do it,” he said. “But it was a good last obstacle because it brought the life back into you.”

The contestants celebrated the end of the race with music and food, as well as free tattoos or a head-shave, Tixier said.

“They had a big stage with music, but most people huddled around fires,” Tixier said. “We were just happy to have survived. I did get my head shaved with a Mohawk before the race started though. You could get that or a mullet.”

While the race was tougher and colder than he expected, Tixier said he planned to participate in a Tough Mudder event again.

“I’ll do it again, but not during November,” Tixier said. “There were too many ice water swims where your entire body just goes numb. If I did it again, it would be during the summer months and I’d get more guys from my dorm to do it.”