Friday, April 6, 2012

Probably the Toughest Event on The Planet

Tough endurance and obstacle course designed by British Special Forces

to test all around strength,

stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie and touted as "probably the toughest event on the planet".

Made up mostly of Dean's co-workers and a few family members, the team was sponsored by a bar in Dallas...The Nodding Donkey. Dean is posing upside-down...of course!

The first Tough Mudder was organized just over two years ago. The original concept was actually one of the finalists in a Harvard School of Business competition by the founder. Tough Mudder plans to hold about 30-40 events across the US, Australia, and the UK this year alone.

Before the event, all participants are asked to recite a pledge...

  • I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
  • I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.

  • I do not whine – kids whine.
  • I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
  • I overcome all fears.

And they're off...all smiley and clean...but not for long!

After the first swimming obstacle called "Underwater Tunnels" team Nodding Donkey is energetic and focused despite almost drowning while swimming under stationary barrels.

In so many of my photos you will see the Donkeys smiling and laughing even while crawling through "Kiss of Mud."

But not this one...the "Arctic Plunge". Imagine jumping in a huge box of ice and water...and then swimming underneath a barricade to exit up and out the other side.

Dean emerges wet and frozen and grumpy.

Ken and Robert from the team were some of my favorite subjects to photograph during the race as they had a great time showing off for the camera.

This "Boa Constrictor" requires you to crawl through muddy, dark tunnels not knowing what lies inside the dark abyss...

passing through filthy water and then out through another tunnel.

I watched many participants become distressed with this one... claustrophobia finally getting the best of them.

And some people just struggled to stand on their feet once they came out of the tunnel. Donkey Troy slid on his back for a ways.

Team Donkey ran the entire 13 miles stopping only to go through the various obstacles.

Part of the Tough Mudder participant fees are donated to The Wounded Warrior project. To date, about three million dollars have been donated to this charity.

Somehow all this mud and effort seem a little more worth it once you understand the value behind the charitable donation.

Bananas mid race provide needed potassium to prevent cramping.

Trying to find a rock in your shoe...good luck with that!

Still running...about mile 8 of 13 at this point.

Jayme...aka Princess Toadstool...arranged the details of the team. Her brother owns the Nodding Donkey bar in Dallas. The warm Texas weather has settled in heavy and steamy for the final third of the race. Fatigue is weighing down their muddy tired bodies.

I love this photo...Donkeyxote Dean surveying the nearly twelve foot "Berlin Walls" that need to be conquered next. The teamwork behind this obstacle was I'm saving it for another post!

It must feel pretty good, to swing your body from the "up side" to the "down side".

Next stop...Mount Everest! We have to climb up what???? This is the obstacle that requires the most assistance as almost no-one could do this on their own. Team Donkey appears a bit overwhelmed at first.

Donkeyxote is first, taking off full steps up the wall

and leap into outstretched arms of guys you don't even know.

he conquers Mount Everest on the first attempt.

This obstacle is not to be taken lightly, we watched one runner come crashing down so hard that she literally crushed four of her teeth into a mouthful of bloody chick-lets. Diva Donkey has no problem at all...with a little help from her friends.

Being shorter in height for this event is a definite disadvantage.

Because one...two...three steps up the wall

can lead to


Finally, Princess Toadstool mouths..."This is my last try" to the extended muscle men. Shouts of encouragement and...

she makes it. Third time IS the charm!

The "Electric Eel" obstacle. Wires hanging down about eye-level are charged with electricity that suddenly send jolting waves through your body. Let's just say that Dean very insistently shoved the girl in front of him on the butt and yelled "MOVE" as she had become frozen with fear in the middle of the obstacle.

Mud literally flying everywhere as they rush to crawl through...

or rather swim through!

"I don't care for that" was all Donkeyxote would say.
There is a reason this event is called Tough Mudder!

Dean has been working out diligently for months, becoming an expert at pull-ups just for the "Funky Monkey" obstacle. What he hadn't planned on was the incline and subsequent decline in slippery, mud-covered wrungs that twist as you grab them. of the many qualities I love about Dean.

Donkey Kong fell in after about two least it rinsed the mud off...well sort of!

"Walk the Plank" seems almost easy at this point in the race...because it is almost over.

And finally "Electroshock Therapy" at the finish line...10,000 volts of electricity

that quite unmistakably knocks you off your feet

 and then you might not even know what just happened.

One goal, and one goal only...

get to the finish line. Which brings me to my favorite sequence of photos from the Mudder.

Queue Dean...sprinting madly to the finish line when suddenly those infamous 10,000 volts shoot through his body, knocking him down

 and landing on top of this poor girl.

Both mudders know how important it is to get out of there sooner rather than later and manage to continue charging ahead.

 But you'll be happy to know that he apologized right there in the middle of a mud puddle.

And then put his game face back on. It seems 10,000 volts was more than enough for Donkeyxote.

Congratulations to all the Nodding Donkeys!

And got a free headband out of it!

And a smoked turkey leg. Eat up deserve it!

PS...that was one mudder of a blog post.


  1. Unbelievable! I just don't know what to say. That is one tough mudder!

  2. Ok, I LOVE the name Donkeyxote! SO genius.

    Great great great photos.

  3. LOVED these pictures Lisa!!! You rocked that new lens! I cannot believe everyone survived the Tough Mudder. It looks INSANE!

  4. That is frightening - and your photos are AMAZING. I'm so glad you got that lens!!!

  5. What an amazing triumph for all the MUDDERS!!! You knocked it out of the ball park with your images and story telling! You are truly gifted in both areas!!!

  6. What an amazing triumph for all the MUDDERS!!! You knocked it out of the ball park with your images and story telling! You are truly gifted in both areas!!!

  7. Simply amazing photo's Lisa! Congrats to Dean for his drive and determination. Having great photo's to go along with a great story is perfection!

  8. Wow, what an event. What amazing photos you took with your new baby. I knew it wouldn't disappoint and you were ready, waiting to catch amazing shots. Fabulous preparation for all these, as well as to all of Dean's training. You both already amazed me for your strength and determination. Now? Even more so. You both. Are. Just. Awesome.

  9. Amazing photos Lisa! And great storytelling, it feels like I was there, too! This is one tough challenge. Congratulations to the Nodding Donkeys and all the other participants. Wow!

  10. Oh have found your groove with that new baby of yours. Amazing shots...amazing story...amazing everything! Never in a million years would I consider doing anything like this. I bow down to all the men and women that even entered, let along finish. You are married to Superman in my book!

  11. AWESOME effort Mr Lisa...go you good thing!!!
    And awesome shots Lisa...go you good thing!!!

    What lens did you use???

  12. THAT is completely AWESOME!!!! xoxo

  13. Dean ROCKS! Oh...the apology in the muddy water water was sweet :) The poor girl who lost her grip - what great shots, Lisa! Loved the story and photos. You and that lens make for a pretty sweet pair!! Dean is our hero!

  14. Oh my goodness!!!! I would still be lying in bed days after in recovery - and that would be just from chasing the competitors around with the camera. Dean and the other people must have incredible stamina, i'm in awe. Thanks for telling the story so well with your clever action shot photos.

  15. Amazing! Good job Dean! I can't believe the "electroshock therapy" that's crazy.
    Kim (your cousin)

  16. Great job Dean & Lisa(the master photographer)! This course looks insane and I would have quit before the electroshock therapy, because of course I'm not one of the insane ones! I still love the frozen in time mud droplets!