By Jessica Rinaldi
Imagine a mountain, the type of thing that you might go skiing on in the winter. Now picture yourself running up and down said mountain for nine miles and just for kicks why don’t you throw in some really sadistic obstacles? Things like fire and mud and just to make it more fun why not throw in some live wires? Yeah, live wires. You know just string them over that mud pit there so that you’ll get zapped as you’re trying to get across to the other side. We’ll call it the electric eel. What’s that you say? You’d like a dumpster full of ice cubes to jump into as well? Done. Congratulations you’ve just entered the world of the Tough Mudder, an event so intense that in order to compete you must sign a waiver releasing the planners from liability should you happen to die somewhere along the course.
SLIDESHOW: ONE TOUGH MUDDER
Let me be clear, this event is a sports photographer’s paradise. The mud alone would be enough to combat every extra inning baseball game you’ve ever shot (what’s that you say, 17 innings and not a single good picture?) but then throw in the ice cubes, the fire, the electrified wires, and a bunch of contestants so focused on getting through the thing that they have no idea you’re even there and well… you get the point.
You might assume that a photographer on her way to cover such an event would think to bring some sort of suitable covering for her equipment. I would love to tell you that I busted out the expensive rain covers for my cameras and wrapped them up lovingly, keeping a microfiber cleaning cloth in my pocket to quickly wipe away any debris that got on my lens. But that would be a lie. I carried three cameras with me and threw caution to the muddy, muddy wind.
The first obstacle is the one the Tough Mudder calls the “Arctic Enema” the competitors run straight up the mountain and then come back down to jump into dumpsters filled with ice cubes. Since there were no PR people to stop me from doing so (did I mention that there are no PR people telling you what not to do in photographic paradise?) I climbed up on the edge of the dumpster to shoot the competitors as they jumped in and swam towards me to get out. The reactions ranged from those who screamed to those who laughed and of course those who swore. It goes without saying that I got soaked, but I managed to keep one patch of my t-shirt dry so that I could wipe water off the lens every few minutes.
Since the race went off in three heats it was hard to decide where to go next. When I arrived to get my credentials in the morning I was given a trail map of the mountain marked with each obstacle and told that I could walk anywhere I wanted to on the course. It was obvious that there were some obstacles on the nine mile course that I was going to have to give up on seeing because they were just too far out of the way. I picked out the ones that sounded good and tried to make a rough plan of attack figuring on when the heats might end up at each obstacle.