Carlos Jativa of Ross Township (left) and Ulysses Winn of McCandless participated in their first Tough Mudder event in August 2013. They enjoyed the competition and the camaraderie so much, they finished another Tough Mudder in October 2013. This photo is from the August event.

North Hills veterans conquer Tough Mudder obstacle course — twice
By Dona S. Dreeland
Staff Reporter, 412-388-5803

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

They liked it so much, they did it again.

Carlos Jativa, 25, of Ross Township, and Ulysses Winn, 26, of McCandless, both of whom were injured while serving in the military, competed in their second Tough Mudder event Oct. 19 and 20 in Gerrardstown, W.Va. They tried it in St. Clairsville, Ohio, in August and signed up again “in a heartbeat,” they both said.

A Tough Mudder challenge is a demanding obstacle course that forces individuals and teams to test their strength, stamina and mental toughness, all the while embracing the same kind of camaraderie that is part of military training.

The event was created in 2009 by Will Dean and Guy Livingstone. More than 1 million participants worldwide have raised more than $6 million for the Wounded Warrior Project, or WWP.

WWP has partnered with Tough Mudder to encourage WWP alumni to participate, WWP spokesman Mike Tolbert said. Tough Mudder “helps enrich the lives of wounded warriors through exercise and regain physical strength and confidence,” he said

As wounded warriors themselves, Jativa and Winn were drawn to the competition because of their personal quests to prove themselves still equal to the fitness they achieved in the military.

Jativa did two tours in Iraq with the Marines from 2007 to 2009. A native of Ecuador, he joined the military because of what “the U.S. did for me and my parents,” he said. “I wanted to give something back.”

He returned stateside as a corporal in May 2009 after being injured.

“I was driving on a combat patrol when our tires hit something on the road,” Jativa said. “Could have been a spike put in the road, which caused me to lose control and drive through the side of the bridge.”

Doctors diagnosed a traumatic brain injury, neck and lower-back injuries, a puncture wound in his side and bruises.

For two weeks, he recuperated in a hospital; his follow-up care took more than a year.

“I'm fully recovered,” said Jativa, who attends classes at the Community College of Allegheny County full time and works part time at the McCandless Crossing Lowe's.

Winn, who was a corporal, did four Army deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2008 to 2012. An improvised explosive device left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury and knee damage.

He considers himself in the process of recovery. Today, he works as head of security at Jergel's Rhythm Grille in Marshall Township and at Lowe's in McCandless.

Jativa and Winn have become fast friends.

Neither knew what to expect before the first Tough Mudder event.

“The most challenging were the hills we had to climb up,” Jativa said. “They were muddy and slippery, and getting electrocuted wasn't fun.”

Participants had to run in mud through a curtain of dangling electric wires, scale a curved wall, climb across cargo netting and leap over fire. But they weren't in competition with each other.

“We at Tough Mudder are constantly humbled by the Wounded Warriors who take on our events,” said Melissa Esmundo, Tough Mudder vice president of marketing.

“The sheer strength, grit and teamwork they display are an inspiration to our staff both on and off the course. It is always an honor to have them on site.”

For Winn, a North Allegheny Senior High School graduate, the challenges of the second Tough Mudder event were the new course and the lower temperatures.

“Because of my knee injury, I worried about making it over the terrain,” he said.

It was a mix of men, including some with prosthetics. But they ran in groups and assisted when others were having a difficult time.

“Some didn't look like they would survive,” Jativa said, “but it's about mental attitude and just putting one foot in front of the other.”

At the second event's end, Winn said, he felt “great, very accomplished.”

Both plan to take the challenge again after they train this winter. And if they could, both said, they would return to the military.

“I miss it — honestly,” Winn said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

Learn more

For more information on Tough Mudder events, visit

For more on the Wounded Warrior Project, visit www.wounded



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