Sue Reid for The Solon Times
It was a 50th birthday celebration that Solon resident Bill Frankel won’t soon forget.
It involved plunging into freezing cold water, jumping through fire and running through electrical wires – and that was the fun part. Mr. Frankel, along with six of his close friends and colleagues at Be Well Solutions in Solon, took part in the Tough Mudder event recently in Mansfield.
A 10 mile-plus, military-style obstacle course designed by the British Forces, Tough Mudder not only tests one’s physical strength, but also mental stamina. Drawing more than 700,000 participants worldwide, the event raises funds in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.
“I’ve done marathons and triathlons and am a long-distance runner and cycler, so ‘been there, done that,’” Mr. Frankel, who turned 50 on May 2, explained of deciding how to mark the milestone birthday.
When he began researching the Tough Mudder, he knew it was just the type of challenge he was looking for. “I shot out an email to my close friends,” and the rest is history.
For about six months, the group trained, although he admitted the event is difficult to train for. Egon Singerman, a Solon resident who co-owns Be Well Solutions with Mr. Frankel and was a member of the team, said the course was a bit harder than he expected, especially because about half of the course involved running through deep, thick mud.
“It was something you really couldn’t train for,” said Mr. Singerman, who considers himself in good shape, “but it was a great experience. We are all really proud we completed it.”
The group of friends, some college and high school classmates, have known each other for nearly 30 years. They include Michael Wolf, Bob Vanvasser and Eileen and Mitchell Herman. They are proud they completed the course as a team, said Mr. Frankel, the team captain.
“The best part was the camaraderie,” he said. “This is not something you want to go do by yourself, like a marathon. Here, we were working as a team, lending each other a hand or giving one another a push over a wall. We not only helped each other on our team, but other members of the event, as well. That was the really nice part – the camaraderie and team effort.”
The course took the team about 3 ½ hours to complete. Most of the team members are pretty fit to begin with, Mr. Frankel noted, so this seemed like the perfect even to take part in, “sans all the mud and electricity,” he said with a laugh.
At first, Mr. Frankel’s family thought he was nuts to do this. “Who would look at this and say, ‘Sign me up?’” he said. “You’re paying to do this and have to buy extra insurance to do this,” even bringing a death waiver to the event that clears organizers of responsibility. “To me, it was a no brainer. This was fun and a challenge.”
“We went into this 100 percent because of Bill,” said Mr. Singerman, 49, adding that he didn’t know much about Tough Mudder before that. “Now, it is something we can all have in common.”
The group was among some of the oldest participants, Mr. Singerman said.
“We were definitely on the older side,” Mr. Frankel said. When doing online research of the event, “you see a bunch of really, really muscular people. While we were definitely on the bell curve as far as age, it was really people of all walks of life.”
Mr. Frankel, who moved his business, founded in 2006, to Solon Road last June, provides comprehensive wellness services to corporations, offering everything from biometric screenings to health campaigns and incentive programs.
An avid runner and cyclist, Mr. Frankel said that, while he felt fit enough to complete the physical components of the event, it was more the mental challenge that was difficult. For example, one event, the “arctic enema,” involved participants diving into ice water. “They’re pouring bags of ice as you do it.”
Then there are two electric shock obstacles. “You are not going to train to absorb electric shock,” he said.
Then there’s the mud and trenches. “It helps you overcome a fear of high places and narrow confinement,” he said. “It was 10 ½ miles of running with over 20 obstacles interspersed.”
With no clock, Mr. Singerman said, the object is to complete as many of the obstacles as possible. At the end of the course, the teammates shared a cold beer, which is a Tough Mudder tradition.
“We got to the end and we were all together,” he recalled with a laugh. “They gave us an orange head band and a beer, and we looked at each other and said, ‘What did we just do?’”
Team members began getting hosed off and “the dirt just kept coming,” Mr. Frankel said. “You have to discard everything, including shoes and socks. None of it is reusable.”
They met up with family who were there in support. Mr. Frankel’s wife, Jill, director of senior services for the City of Solon, had a special celebration planned. “We looked at all the pictures and Jill had T-shirts made for us,” he said. “It was a great memory. I will remember this birthday forever.”