World’s Toughest Mudder – Part 1

World’s Toughest Mudder

My name is Josh Cox and recently I competed in the 4th Annual World’s Toughest Mudder; a 24 hour endurance event where you complete as many 5 mile laps as you can while traversing 20+ of the hardest obstacles Tough Mudder has to offer. If you’re unfamiliar with my background here is a short 5 minute video put together by Anytime Fitness from when I was recognized as one of 4 success stories in 2012. Through my 6+ years with Anytime Fitness I’ve had some unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and this will forever be up there with some of the best of them. “When was the last time you did something for the first time” was the quote Sean Corvelle, Tough Mudder MC extraordinaire, opened up with and it was made clear in that moment that the answer was November 15th, 2014.

As I sit down to write this about 4 weeks have come and gone since the culmination of World’s Toughest Mudder. During that time I’ve done a whole helluva lot of reflecting on it yet haven’t really been ready to jot it all down until now. Let’s start here:

World’s Toughest Mudder 2014 was beyond a mouse fart of a doubt the most challenging thing I’ve ever chosen to do in my entire life. 

I know I still have a lot of life left to live but I also pride myself on being a firm advocate of stepping outside of your comfort zone and boy… let me tell you… If California is my comfort zone then Las Vegas might as well have been goddamn Australia. *Writer’s Note* For you Aussies reading this who competed… Your entire life in my imagination is a World’s Toughest Mudder *End Writer’s Note*

If this is an obstacle next year... I'm out.

If this is an obstacle next year… I’m out.

The second thing I want to address is that this wouldn’t have happened without the best of friends by my side. It was Fitness Rebels who got together and took care of my ticket. I got to run it with Super Rebel Paul Trujillo and the amazing Jacqualyn Evans. I had the best training partner and friend I could possibly ask for in Rebel hero Justin Zuiderweg. His better half Maggie Schuck, along with Tami Tuminello, Sean Barnett, and MY better half Cara “Unicorn” Jones made up our “World’s Toughest Pit Crew.” They were there for the setup, duration, and breakdown of the entire shindig and selflessly tended to every need we had. Shoot, Tami literally held down the fort during the sandstorm! As for Cara, she was my rock through this whole thing encouraging me every step of the way. Whether it was pushing me on the days I didn’t want to train, working with me to make sure I had the proper gear, or listening to me blather on and on and on about this whole mess… she was my Unicorn pillar throughout it all. Thank you Cara! Thank you everyone!!

What radical looks like.

What radical looks like. Ignore the fact that Cara looks like grumpy cat… It was a long 24 hours and the Starbucks hadn’t kicked in yet!

The nuttiness of this event made it to “The Chive” and as a Chiver it was pretty rad going through the photo set of something that *I* was a part of. Real talk; I thought I had a better chance at discovering type III diabetes the hard way before I ever pictured myself doing something this insane… The part that I keep going back to in my mastiff-sized head (seriously… size 8 in fitted hits… no foolin’) is that this is exactly how I felt upon signing up for and competing in my very first Tough Mudder back in 2011 (Tahoe). Chance would have it that this was also how I felt upon registering for my 1st 8k trail run with Cara. Also, My 1st Body Building competition. And then my 2nd… and then my 3rd… My 1st Spartan beast. My 1st 200 Mile relay!

The night before the first Tahoe Tough Mudder! It didn't put hair on my chest, just on my face and head.

The night before the first Tahoe Tough Mudder! It didn’t put hair on my chest, just on my face and head.

That’s just the small stuff though comparatively… I felt the SAME WAY when I joined my 1st gym at 14 years old with the greatest Mom ever, mine (she has the coffee mug to prove it), as the co-signer. The 1st time I ventured off the Reebok cycler and tested the free weights out. The 1st protein jug I ever bought and the DEFINITE muscle that was waiting for me at the bottom of that strawberry/vomit flavored Nitrotech barrel (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). The 1st pair of 32 inch waist jeans I ever bought and THEN the terrifying 1st time I ever wore them out. The 1st time I could fit my thumb and middle finger around my wrist! The 1st time I wore a shirt and noticed my stomach wasn’t what stuck out the farthest! The 1st pull-up I ever accomplished. The 1st push-up I ever completed. The 1st time I ran a mile the whole way through without stopping. My 1st personal training consultation, my 1st client, my 1st group class….

How about the 1st time Justin gave me a shower?

How about the 1st time Justin gave me a shower?

The point I’m driving at is that it was all a staircase of progression. I’ve long since connected the fact that making the ballsy decision to step into the gym for the 1st time and actually do something about my health was literally the horrifying equivalent of how it felt standing at the start line ready to endure whatever the next 24 hours of hell had to offer this past November 15th.

A gnarly sandstorm with 28 degree windchill factor was not in the brochure

A gnarly sandstorm with 28 degree windchill factor was not in the brochure

Without that progression I never would have known what that next step was. I mean, think about it… A toddler doesn’t know what it’s like to crawl… until it does. Crawling leads to walking, which leads to running, which leads to jumping, which leads to, you know… A lot of other advanced movements once motor skills develop and stuff… I don’t know, I’m not a Doctor! In any case I learned that stepping into the gym was my “crawl.” Attempting machines I’d only watched curiously from afar was my “walking.” I started “running” when I signed up for my first body building competition which then led to “advanced movements” like 200 mile relays, countless obstacle course races, a Fitness Rebellion, guest speaking around the country, a couple of small television appearances, published writings on my experiences, and so much more that I’ll forever be thankful I was able to struggle through and cherish in my lifetime. You don’t just have epic shit fall ino your lap… You’ve gotta dig for it!

That's what that shovel is for after all!

That’s what that shovel is for after all!

The Cliff

I want to talk for a second about how ridiculously nuts-in-throat terror stricken heights make me. I can’t look down a 3 story window without my crotch-seam tingling like a useless “spidey sense” reminding me to appreciate solid ground. When it comes roller coasters I’m oddly fine with them but anything involving a ledge sends me over the edge.

Even writing “over the edge” gave me the jeebies. Ugh.

In the weeks leading up to this torture fiesta, Tough Mudder had been dangling their newest obstacle “The Cliff” in front of our faces comparable to the way the bad guy in James Bond movies will dangle meat over the laser sharks or whatever they’re threatening 007 with by showing him how hungry they are. Some people took the “animal” approach and were chomping at the bit to experience the nearly 40 foot plunge like it was their birthday and it was the best present ever. Me? I was the sheepish dude in the background quietly saying “… um… guys… are you sure this is such a good idea?”

The answer is no. It's never a good idea.

The answer is no. It’s never a good idea.

As November 15th rapidly approached I found myself honestly losing sleep over it yet trying to brush it off like it was something else stressing me out. I did the typical man thing and shrugged it off in an attempt to legitimately feel that way only no matter how hard I tried that just wasn’t going to be the case. My standing line was “I’m just taking the approach I take with all Tough Mudders and just doing it.”

Here we see a fine example of me trying to talk myself into being alright. We also see an example of "there are 2 types of people..."

Here we see a fine example of me trying to talk myself into being alright. We also see an example of “there are 2 types of people…”

 

Within my percolated anxiety I made the promise to myself that I was doing it no matter what and on top of that I wasn’t going to waste any time dicking around about it. They say jump, I was jumping. Simple as that. I swore to myself every single day that that was how I was going to do it.

Pictured: Cara assuring me everything is going to be alright.

Pictured: Cara assuring me everything is going to be alright.

Well wouldn’t you know it… They made that bastard the very last obstacle before finishing your lap so that meant I had PLENTY of time to think about it while traversing the desert course. This one obstacle was my championship and that was something I quietly kept to myself as we steamrolled our way towards this Tom Petty inspiration (read: “Free Fallin'”). By the time we got there it was EXACTLY the nightmare I was anticipating. You know how sometimes you exaggerate situations and by the time they actually happen you’re like “whew, that wasn’t so bad…” with a big ol’ grin on your face and sweet sweet relief in your soul? Yeah, that didn’t happen here.

Not even chicken nuggets could save me

Not even chicken nuggets could save me

As Super Rebel Paul Trujillo and I waited in line he’s all kinds of pumped like a 3 year old overdosing on a pixie stick. My silence causes him to pause and say “You really don’t like heights do you?” Upon his inquiry I slowly lifted my head, squinted through the sun beams as I sized up his chiseled features, took in a deep breathe, and spilled my heart out through the song of words on exactly how I felt;

“Nope.”

We near closer and I’m the next person up. My promise to myself to jump when they say and not even think about it has become my mantra as I’m pretty sure I have no more air in my lungs nor hair on my chest (all 3 of them fell off from all the trembling). As I step to the edge I can’t even bring myself to look at the water at ALL. I’m talking eyes straight on to the horizon because if I look down, it’s absolutely over. At this point there could have been a pit full of junkyard cars and scrapped IKEA pieces and I never would have known. I felt like a lemming (the “Wild Wilderness” version).

I was digging as deep as I ever have

I was digging as deep as I ever have

 There was no “it felt like an eternity before I was told to jump” moment of truth as I waited for this bullshit. The world did NOT regress to slow motion as I sat within some sort of twilight zone time lapse centrifuge much the way I was anticipating. Nope, homeboy said “jump” fucking immediately. I mean IMMEDIATELY. I wanted to be like “DO YOU KNOW HOW GODDAMN SCARED I AM HERE MAN?!?!” but all that came out was some sort of breathy high pitched squeal similar to the noise you make when you’re doing some heavy weight training and you’re on your last rep of your last set and you try to grunt but what comes out instead can only be described as an emasculating whimper/gurgle. You know, THAT noise.

And then I stepped off. 

Touche Tom, touche...

Touche Tom, touche…

I stayed true to the promise I made to myself of being an efficient Ernie rather than a procrastinating Paul and I stepped the hell off like a BOSS. The best part was that there was sooooooooooooooo much time from top to bottom that I actually had a moment to be proud of myself before I hit the water! Seriously, you know when you step off a curb or some stairs and the ground isn’t where your foot is expecting so it jolts your system a bit? Imagine that only with your entire body.

And then, just like that… it was over. Other than greeting the water with more of my face than I had originally intended… I fucking did it! As I regained my composure and swam toward the cargo net to get out there were 2 thoughts running through my brain like a scrolling marquee. The 1st?

IMG_1800

This. This was my 1st thought.

2nd thought? An overwhelming sense of relief that it was over. I was Atlas and finally the weight of the world was off my back. I was Steve Young (#8) after the ’94 Super Bowl… The monkey was gone! As I pulled myself out and took a moment to let it soak in I seriously couldn’t be more elated. There was a time in my life when something that intimidating would have stopped me dead in my tracks. No… My tracks wouldn’t have even gone in that direction. I was the kid that always inexplicably had a stomach ache every time we had to run the mile in PE. I was the kid that only went outside to help Mom bring the groceries in (which happened often since I ate for a family of 5 every day).

I thought if I wore football jerseys ALL THE TIME I'd look "athletic." I'd like to publicly apologize to Marcus Allen.

I thought if I wore football jerseys ALL THE TIME I’d look “athletic.” I’d like to publicly apologize to Marcus Allen.

It wasn’t until the last few years I was able to reverse the fortune on my debilitating shin splints developed from carrying around so much weight as a young adult. I managed to stack the odds against myself pretty high growing up and digging out of the epic hole I’d put myself in only to find myself on top of that rock having just beaten “The Cliff” was surreal to say the least.

IMG_2357

What I’m trying to share is that it’s up to YOU to take each step, no matter how painful and no matter how miserable. Nobody is going to hand you a damn thing nor is there a soul on this planet stopping you from being who you want to be… that’s just what you tell yourself. Taking on challenges and attempting things you’ve never done before is scary as all hell… but that’s the point. That’s where the growth is. That’s where the endorphin rush that lets you know you made the right decision is waiting for you! That’s where all the high points of your life are sitting just waiting to be plucked and once you reach out and grab them, the low points all of a sudden start to make sense… With each unnerving step you take in conquering your fears a new door to a new you is waiting. The beautiful part is that those steps, fears, aspirations, goals, and experiences are going to be completely different for everyone making for a pretty grand adventure! At the heart of it all is one extremely important fundamental that rings true no matter the circumstances however:

You’re not as strong as what you’ve done, you’re as strong as what you show up to. As long as you show up then I promise you… Your strength will be there. 

Next week: World’s Toughest Mudder – Part 2 (Liberation)

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