There they stand, sunken into a wooden bullpen of Marines, personal trainers, waiters, while a hype man at the front of the pack prepares them for what’s to come. Ten miles. Twenty-five obstacles. Sub-freezing water and bare live wires.
It’s Tough Mudder, self-dubbed as “probably the toughest event on the planet.” And local punk act The Quitters have been preparing for this moment since June. Looking around them, the crowd’s diverse. But not so much that their clan — including friends and a couple members of the band Battle Born, as identified by white terry-cloth headbands reading “Space Monkeys” — is common. Around them it’s all Under Armour this and Nike Dri-Fit that. Six-packs and marathon-finisher shirts and Vibrams five-finger toe shoes. But there’s no time to think about how different they are from their Mudder peers. After the pledge of allegiance, and both Kid’s Rock’s “Bawitaba” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” the hype man counts down. And they’re off.
It was an interesting e-mail The Quitters sent us. We don’t often associate Vegas punks, denizens of the Double Down, guzzlers of PBR and Ass Juice, with extreme jockdom. To be fair, The Quitters aren’t a bunch of wayward gutterpunks smoked and snorted within inches of their lives. Guitarist and singer Marc Rowland looks like he plays intramural sports. Drummer Micah Malcolm and rhythm guitarist Randy Rivas both look like they either run or play more-than-casual volleyball. Lead guitarist Tom Carr looks like the guy you’d see playing ultimate frisbee in the quad — but without the visor and polo shirt. But a lot of that came from the training. Malcolm lost 30 pounds. Carr lost 15. “That’s why it was cool that we did it as a band,” Carr says. “We did this to set a goal. It’s something we were going to do together, like a team-building exercise. We knew we had to work hard to be able to do it.”
It was here, in our post-Mudder debriefing, that the punks showed colors they didn’t know they had. In high school, the only football field time the guys saw was as part of the marching band. They didn’t associate with the jocks, adhering, however subconsciously, to the traditional punks-versus-jocks cultural war of the last 30 years. But their motivation, their crowing and screaming of “Space Monkeys!” was identical to the big, beefcake Marines who’d run the course before them. “There’s something primal about rallying behind a team,” Rivas says. “It’s all that hoo-rah, Marine, jock stuff. We’re not jocks, but we still fell into that. We were doing the same thing as the other guys.”
Four-and-a-half hours after starting, they’re staring at the final obstacle, Electroshock Therapy: a series of live wires hanging over a mud pit. They’re covered in 10 miles of mud, sweat and water that smelled disconcertingly like shit. At an all-out sprint, they ran in unison, praying to not get shocked, screaming and cheering to themselves as they barreled toward the finish line. During their time on the course, they started writing a song, based on Rowland’s geologist’s father warning him to stay on hiking trails as to not contribute to erosion. And now, as they just spent the afternoon stomping around a formerly pristine desert landscape, they had the lyrics to a song that’d been sitting in the tank forever. This event is, by blanket stereotypes, something that doesn’t fit the punk mold.
But Malcolm disagrees. “Tough Mudder is the most punk rock thing we’ve ever done.”