One Tough Mudder
By Grin and Barrett
Okay, so maybe it didn’t happen quite that way, but to the common mere mortal it sure seems like Tug Swaffar has been touched by divinity, blessed by the ultimate fan of ultimate challenges. This particular ultimate challenge, the Tough Mudder, is…well, one tough mother. So, exactly what is this Ultimate Challenge? The Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile race, bracketed by and strewn with challenging obstacles and hurdles. Participants sweat and bleed through mud, insane obstacles and even electric shocks. To complete one Tough Mudder is an admirable task, but Tough Mudder enthusiast Tug Swaffar takes the challenge to another level of awesomeness. Tug is one race away from doing what no one else has ever done before; to complete every U.S. Tough Mudder Competition in 2012. That’s an astounding 27 races in one year! Logistic marvel Victoria McColm, who also happens to be Tug’s girlfriend, has coordinated this hellish schedule which spanned over 40,000 road miles, 25 flights, and a year- long trip that wove through 48 states. So who, exactly, is this guy? What sort of man voluntarily puts himself through this kind of physical and mental punishment? Oh yeah, he’s a Ranger.
“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s not as hard as Ranger School.”
I had the opportunity to steal a few minutes of Tug’s time as he prepared himself for the mother of all mudders, a 24 hour long suck-fest known as “The World’s Toughest Mudder.” Most Tough Mudder events are not competitive, with the organizational aim of Mudders helping fellow Mudders make it through. The exception is the World’s Toughest, where some of the most badass guys and gals on the planet converge to see who truly is the world’s toughest Mudder. The first, and in my humble opinion most obvious, question I asked Tug was, why?
As a kid who grew up in a military family, and then gave four and a half years to the United States Army Rangers, Tug is a guy always looking for a challenge. When a rescue swimmer buddy of his showed up at his house bruised and beaten, Tug was introduced to the world of the Tough Mudder, and has been hooked ever since. Asked why he felt he needed to finish all 27 events, including the World’s Toughest Mudder, in one year, Tug responded to me, “Cause no one’s ever done it before.” Good enough for me.
Tug’s philosophy on pain and hardship was predictable, and I mean that in the best possible way. Some individuals in life are born to endure, to adapt, to overcome. They are the ones who eat Thanksgiving Dinner over a cardboard box on their OP, the ones who work the midnight shift in South Central LA, the ones who go back into the burning building one more time. The ones who do, cause it needs to be done. Men like Tug, who laughs when he says that he hopes the conditions for the World’s Toughest Mudder are cold, wet and miserable. This gives him the edge. Because though his body is battered and worn down after this year-long quest, he knows he has a significant mental edge over most of the other participants.
How are you going to beat all these other guys, I ask. “I’ve done it before,” he tells me. “No sleep, long hours, long movements, no food. It’s called Ranger School. Anytime I hurt, I just tell myself to suck it up, and do another lap.”
There have been times when it all seemed too much for Tug, but he has stuck to his mantra of honoring his commitments, to do the best job he can no matter what. It’s something he got from his Dad. “My Dad never let me quit, he told me not to start something unless I planned on finishing it, the right way.”
Tug’s words not only echo the Ranger Creed, they echo the Tough Mudder pledge as well:
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.
Before I let Tug go, I had to ask him, “What are you going to do, 12 hours in, when you just feel you can’t go anymore? What will you use for inspiration?”
“I just drive on. I think to myself, ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen, I’m tired at the end?’”
I thank Tug for his time and ask one final question. “You going to do this again next year? Try for all U.S. events again?”
His reply is measured, it is calm, but I can sense his incredulous look behind the words, “Uh…no.”
For more on Tug and his incredible journey, check out his blog at:
For more on Tough Mudder, check out: http://toughmudder.com/about/