‘Tough Mudder’ Dettmer tackles challenge

Lee Dettmer shows an expression of determination as he runs through the grueling Tough Mudder challenge.

If students of Princeton High School phy ed, health instructor and coach Lee Dettmer needed any more evidence that Dettmer is into physical fitness, they got that this past May 19.

That was the day that Dettmer was in what some would call a “grueling” physical challenge called the Tough Mudder.

The Tough Mudder event is one in which teams of men and women go through a 10- to 12-mile endurance course with obstacles that include crawling through mud or running around hay bales while dodging electrically-charged wires, scaling inclines, swinging across monkey bars and running while carrying a log.

The Tough Mudder course Dettmer was in was 12 miles long. Sometimes the Tough Mudder courses will involve running past flames but that was not included in Dettmer’s Tough Mudder course because it was too windy.

The Tough Mudder has been run worldwide since 2010 and was designed by British Special Forces. The challenging event focuses on teamwork. The participants (in this case about 11,000 over the event’s two days of May 19 and 20) are in teams and each participant is not only to assist fellow team members, but also members of other teams to get through the course.

Tough Mudder is also a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project that helps severely wounded veterans. Participants each pay a fee of more than $100, which goes to the project. At the end of the course, participants get a free headband, commemorative T-shirt, a beverage and musical entertainment. But perhaps more importantly, in talking with Dettmer, is the reward of accomplishing something challenging.


How Dettmer got


It was at the start of this year that Lee’s wife Shirley received a call from their son Jake, in St. Louis, Mo., asking if Lee wanted to be part of a team in the Tough Mudder challenge. Lee says he had heard of Tough Mudder but hadn’t paid attention to its details. Lee called Jake back later to say, “sure,” he would do it and then Shirley looked up Tough Mudder on the Internet. Lee remembers her saying she thought he “would die” if he participated in it. “Very interesting,” is what Lee remembers thinking when he looked over the information. “I looked at this as a fun opportunity to do something with my son. Both of us like to challenge ourselves.”

During the time between Jake’s invitation and the event, the Dettmer couple’s nephew, Ian Augustin, of Rochester, and Jake assembled the team. Besides those two and Lee, the team would also have another nephew, Tommy Augustin from Iowa, as well as Ian’s brother-in-law Jesse Mason, from the Twin Cities, and Andy Wagstrom from South Dakota.


The obstacles

Among the nearly 24 obstacles in the Tough Mudder Course that the team had to train for, according to Dettmer were: Diving into a huge dunk tank of icy water; jumping up onto and crawling over giant hay bales; swimming through muddy culverts that were fully submerged in water at the end, and then swimming out and up to enter the next culvert; running through a logged area scattered with tree debris and logs and scaling a 12’ wall that requires placing one foot on a board tacked to the wall and then launching yourself the rest of the way up.


The most difficult

Dettmer says the most difficult part in the Tough Mudder course was running with a log on a steep terrain full of debris that was easy to trip over. Unlike some courses where getting to the top of a hill will mean finding a descending hill, the runner in this course would round a corner at the top to encounter another hill. It was not only steep, but a person had to run slowly so as not to trip and fall, he added.

The 12-foot wall was Dettmer’s second most challenging obstacle. He said he wasn’t able to jump high enough by himself to get one foot onto the 2’x4’ to launch himself so son Jake gave him the initial hoist.

“We were always helping someone,” Dettmer said.

Dettmer’s team was in the first wave of teams to start the course and it took his team about 2 1/2 hours to finish. The team’s turn was in the cooler part of the day, but it was still warm, Dettmer said.


Memorable details

Certain obstacles presented more challenges for some participants. In the case of team member Andy Wagstrom, it was the crawling through mud below barbed wire and past electrical wires that was especially challenging. Dettmer explained that Wagstrom, who once played for the Miami Dolphins football team, was still bulky in recent time at 245 pounds. It meant he didn’t have much clearance between his body and the barbed wire and electrically-charged wires, Dettmer explained.

Dettmer got zapped three or four times in the course, Dettmer remembering the popping sounds when it happened.

Looking back

Dettmer, who completed the Twin Cities Marathon at 51, says this about the Tough Mudder: “Everything was fun but everything was hard. It was all a challenge.”

His team wants to do the Tough Mudder again next year, he adds.

Some people look at obstacles as just that, obstacles, Lee Dettmer said, while he looks at them as challenges that “add variety to your life.”

Not everyone may look at all downturns in life as having an upside, but Dettmer expresses the philosophy that “no matter what happens, it makes you stronger. A lot of times it makes the family stronger.”