Time to Play
While taking photos of weddings is fun, and practicing photography on the family is essential, sometimes I need to expand my subject matter. In fact, it's been at least three years since I've shot something NOT related to family, friends, or weddings (birds don't count). Keeping in mind the old, "all work and no play" line, it was time to do something about it.
My daughter attends martial art classes at Infusion MMA here in Mount Horeb. For the past few months they've mentioned their team of Tough Mudders, inviting parents to participate. I'd thought about going to photograph the event ever since I'd heard of it. At the very last minute, and with a little encouragement from my wife, I decided to go have some fun.
Arriving at Elkhart Lake at almost the same time as the team was fortuitous. If we hadn't I would never have found them in the masses of participants. As the team rallied, and marked each other with their ID numbers, I could feel the energy surging through the crowd. It resonated in me and I just knew this was going to be fun shoot.
Link to Event Organization
Ready to Roll
As the event M.C. told jokes, outlined rules, and encouraged teamwork, they pumped the crowd up with music you could feel in your bones. The building anticipation for the start, all pent up in a little coral, spilled out over the spectators. I felt just as excited, and ready to go as they did. Only I didn't have to run through mud...
There are separate courses for spectators and competitors. The team had to run for miles, over a variety of obstacles I never even got to see. The paths I took cut across the course, and were designed to get supporters to certain action spots in time to see their team pass. While it was fun to watch people of various athletic skill work their way through a tough spot, once you actually see folks you know doing it you can't help but respect them.
You know you're in for trouble when obstacles have names like, "Arctic Enema," and "Fire in Your Hole." No matter what, at each of the obstacles that I saw, they all worked together as a team. I'm positive it was that way all along the course. They began with eleven, and ended with the same number.
Link to Their MMA Academy
Life as a Spectator
While they struggled their way along the muddy loop we spectators were able to keep up by using well thought out pathways. I traveled with the spouses, and children of some of the crew. For me, the hero of the day was the son of one of the women on the crew. He was in possession of our sole map, and did an admirable job of telling me where to go, and how to get there. Honestly, I couldn't have had it better. All I had to do was make sure I was in place, my gear functioning, that I was hydrated, and well fed. It was pretty cushy all around, life in the baggage train wasn't so bad.
In comparison though, it seemed the team was having a lot more fun. I began to wonder if I could somehow train to run along side next year. I don't mean actually run the course, but run the length of it, taking photos of everything the team encountered. Crazy. The smell of mud and sweat must have addled my brain. But then, it would be fun...
All This for a T-Shirt?
In the end I marveled at how well these people performed. Through injury, exhaustion, and angst they worked their way through the course. When my daughter asked me, "who won the race?" I had to explain to her it wasn't about winning. It was all about completing the course together. I really admire all the participants of this event. Instead of simply relaxing on a nice Saturday they're out in the mud, scaling walls, and plunging through fire. It took months of dedicated physical training to prepare themselves. In the end, as they ran, slunk, and crawled through the mud while getting zapped by hanging wires, their only material gain was a cold beer, a headband, and a t-shirt. Spiritually, and mentally they gained the pride that comes from enduring such a feat. They also come away with a shared experience that reenforces the ties of friendship, knowing they can rely on the person beside them.