Tough Mudder London England - 2013
I’m not going to bore you with the lead up and training, how you train is up to you, IF you train is up to you, what you eat is your responsibility, (although I AM likely to let you know what my habits were ;) ), what you do need to know about is how to get through it and what to expect.
Here are a couple of suggestions before race day;
- Don’t bother taking gloves unless you plan on putting them on after the race to warm your hands up. They do not assist in grip at all as they get so caked in mud and become so water logged that they become more of a hindrance than anything else. I eventually took mine off and left them somewhere on the course as did countless others.
- Don’t wear your favourite shoes, you inevitably discard them after the race, if not mid race as you have already lost one in the mud so you take the other one off and run barefoot (which isn't really a bad idea as you probably have better grip in the mud when you are barefoot).
- If you can, get yourself a pair of cheap football boots, I saw a fair amount of guys wearing these and their stability in the mud was far better than mine.
- Wear long pants, regardless of the weather, wear something long if you don’t want your knees scraped and cut, however, make sure that it is a thin fabric so that it isn’t likely to hold too much water.
- Wear sunblock! Remember, you can still get burnt even if it’s cloudy.
- Check your fears at the door, there is no room for it in this event.
- If you can, run as a team, whilst everyone is amazing and will lend a helping hand, I believe it is easier doing it as a team.
- TRAIN!! TRAIN! TRAIN!
I’m a pescatrian, so my views are little different, I don’t believe, based on science, that you need animal protein, regardless, PRIOR to and leading up to an event like this you need...
LOTS of water! Seriously, lots of water! You should be drinking a fair amount of water everyday anyway but basically, you need to drink at least 2 litres of water each day to hydrate yourself sufficiently so that you don't dehydrate on the day. Remember, you are not about to dehydrate during a 3 hour race if you are hydrated properly beforehand. There are many hydration points, approximately 2km's apart so you should be good. To be fair, you will do more damage over hydrating yourself during the race than if you ran it dry.
- Nuts! Include a variety, it s good snack and is full of good fats, protein and satiates the hunger pains.
- Salmon… My favourite… eat lots and lots and lots of salmon, the benefits are IMENSE!
- Quinoa and sweet potato super good carbs without the detriment
- Apples, spinach and broccoli
- Avocado… it’s a good fat… and it is super yummy!
The closer we got, the less fearful I was and the more excited I became, the route was signposted fantastically and as I glanced back at the string of cars heading in the same direction my tears welled up a little, ‘I can do this!’ I kept telling myself over and over again.
The sheer magnitude of the event became apparent when we parked in a SEA of cars! There were so many people! At least if I was unable to do an obstacle, there were too many people around to notice little ol’ me right? No, not right! I had to do it all or tap out!
Registration was super fast and easy with a string of tents split into surname prefixes alphabetically, I didn’t even have to queue, I was in and out. You get a little envelope which holds your BIB, 4 safety pins and 2 wristbands, (one for entry as a participant with your race number on and one for your bag drop with your race number on), whilst I didn’t make use of the bag drop it was well organised with no queuing.
We stood around for a bit as I was really early, I hadn’t expected everything to be so well organised, and we arrived expecting queues and chaos which was not the case at all. The waiting/spectator area was set up well with a ‘gear’ tent where you could purchase Tough Mudder shirts, cowbells, hats and lots more! Each sponsor had a tent including BIC who were doing Mohawks and hairspray. There are 2 obstacles set up in the spectator area, I reckon for two reasons, 1 to practice getting over the smaller wall to get to the start line and 2 so the spectators can have a go and see what the participants have in store. The two obstacles are a smaller wall and a larger wall; neither prepares you for the event.
A fair amount of the obstacles have spectator access so you can walk around and see what is coming up, I don’t recommend you do this if you are a participant, rather let it be a surprise, otherwise you end up psyching yourself out and frazzling your nerves.
True as Bob is my uncle, it started hailing before the start! Why, oh why does Mother Nature have such a sick sence of humour when it comes to my races???
START TIME! I nearly missed my wave, how can I miss my wave when I was 2 hours early?! Anyway, I bolted over just in time to catch the end of the warm up. The warm ups always make me laugh, these guys enter a race that clearly is about getting caked in mud and then are worried about getting muddy in the warm up!
Now in order to get to the start line and the preamble you have to scale a wooden wall obstacle… its probably 8 feet high, it may not sound high but if you are on your own it is super high, if you are in a team you will need someone to help you unless you have trained the right parts beforehand. If you are a girl and I don’t mean to sound derogatory, you need to work on upper body strength, totally! Slim down, remember you have to haul each kg over walls etc, tone up and build muscle, lots of it!!!!
Over you go, eventually and you haven’t even started. The MC pulls you through a very emotional build up, reminding you that this IS NOT A RACE!!!! It is a challenge! I have to agree, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, just finishing is AMAZEBALLS! You bounce and rock and repeat the anthem, hug random people and then the challenge is ON!
You start out slow, walk, walk, walk, jog, comfortable run and then this dude behind me turns to his mate and said, ‘ you can tell the newbies, rushing off… see you shortly boys!’ … so I slowed down and maintained pace. I caught up with a woman who usually cycles, who signed up with a bunch of mates, we chatted and briefly they adopted me because that is what you do in these races, you pick up the strays, you help people, if you are on your own or as a team, you help people. She was running for a charity, I can't remember the name but it was a charity supporting challenged adults in a supportive home, teaching them to integrate with society, her daughter was a member of this home, hats off to you chick xxxx
She asked if I was running on my own and I said yes, little did I know, by the end of the race I would realise I wasn’t running on my own, I had a team of 250000… because we are a family in this race!
We hit the first obstacle and in my mind I was still, ‘on my own’…. I fell in behind Linda at the Arctic Enema, waiting my turn and the general opinion is that you should fall in line and give yourself time to build up, stuff that, be quick, do it quickly! The longer it took, the more anxious Linda and I became so we scuttled over to some empty lines, clawed our way up the ladder and stood at the top of the obstacle, looking down on the icy water. The general idea is you jump in, wade forward, duck under the barrier, wade forward and climb out… what you forget is that this is sub zero temperatures!
You teeter on the edge and the brilliant marshals that are equally supportive and reluctant to put up with your crap explain… jump in, be quick, move forward, go under, move forward and get out, the more you stop, the harder it is, the slower you are, the harder it is… MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!!!! So you lower yourself and they shout, ‘Just JUMP! Aim for the middle, just JUMP!’… so you do… you jump… your lungs jump into your throat, you can’t breath, you stop, you gasp and they push you forward. You still have to duck under the water and haul yourself out and somehow you do. It is flipping freezing! You can’t breath but somehow you get out… you jump up and down, regain circulation and you soldier on! You’re so grateful for the normality of the run!
Kiss of Mud
This was pretty simple realistically, with a combat style crawl through mud, it was a welcome relief after the arctic enema. I hooked up with Dave, an awesome Strongman who was doing the race in memory of a friend of his, such a brill guy!
Walk the Plank
This was mental, I look back and I don’t know why it was so hard but it was so effing high! You climb your way up on a wooden barrier to jump off a 20m high ‘pier’ into 20m deep water which is awesome unless you have never done a high dive and are afraid of drowning! I stood there, so petrified I hesitated until I was the last in my wave to jump. I stood there, looked over at the marshal and said, ‘I’m going to have to opt out.’ He patted my back and said, ‘that’s ok’ and pushed me off…I love you marshal, whoever you are, as you apologised when I climbed out, all I could think was, you’re amazeballs for getting me over my biggest fear! That was EPIC!
Another light jog with Dave, I think he eventually dropped out on Obstacle 4 but he was such an awesome guy and I salute you my friend xxxx
If you have ever watched Wipeout it is similar to the starting obstacle only these are tied together and are laid out across a river of sorts, looks super easy, not so easy when you try it, I made it half way across before falling in the river and had to swim across and let me tell you… it was cooooold!
The glory blades are wall obstacles with a twist. The walls are at an angle. I don’t mean it is a pyramid wall; it is a straight wall tilted forward…..
What makes this one difficult is that you don’t have an upright wall to use as leverage to get over, it is just high enough that if I jumped up, (I’m 1metre and a half) I could just touch the top. This obstacle definitely requires assistance to get over and then be careful, when you slide down the other side, you have planks to assist you down and if you don’t watch what you are doing, it scrapes and causes some fantastic bruises.
This one got me, I don’t know why but it got me, it's basically long barrels that ended under the water and you have to go under them, under water and come out the other side. You must remember that the water is super muddy so you can’t open your eyes and I panicked! I convinced myself that when I was under I would lose sense of direction (again), get stuck and drown! I stood there for a bit and this awesome young man and his friend convinced me, he held my hand under every barrel and he and his mate pulled me through. How awesome is that? Complete strangers helped me through one of my biggest fears. Big love!
Human Gecko? Is that what they call it? It's basically a rock climbing wall but it is over water. No problem, on I get and off I go but the thing is, the finger and foot holds get further and further apart and the finger holds get rounder so they are harder to grip. I managed to get to the last half a metre and by that time I was hanging on one finger hold and one foot hold and my little legs were too short to reach the next one, I just let go into the FLIPPIN’ ICE COLD water, no wonder there was so many people on drips and in front of industrial heaters at the end with the amount of cold water we were forced into haha.
Shocking experience indeed! Basically a whole bunch of live electrical wires hanging over water trenches, your only option is to crawl through as fast as you can and let me warn you, it hurts!!! It seriously hurts! Listen to the marshals; they know what they are talking about. #1, if you don’t do it, you’ll regret it and #2 just dive in, take a run up and dive as if you were diving into a swimming pool, that way you gain a bit of distance and have less crawl space thus less shocks. Also super important, wait until the guy in front of you is out, remember every time he stops, you have to! More shocks! I speak from first hand experience. Did I mention it HURTS?!
It is nothing like it sounds… quick illustration: (ours were far steeper though)
My advice? Don’t be silly and go head first, you can’t control your speed as well as you can if you go feet first, also, your head stays out of the water more than if you go head first. You are also able to judge the depth of the water at the end and use your feet to pull yourself out. Short swim and then to the upward one. Head first this time, obviously and use your hands and knees to push yourself up, kind of like a military crawl. I have to say, I enjoyed this one
This one is pretty nasty, it sounds and looks simple, I mean, lets look back to our childhood, we all used to jump over trenches as kids…. Well you’re not a kid anymore and these trenches are wide and deep! There were a fair amount of injuries on this one… my advice? Take a decent run up and keep running as you jump!
This one isn’t for babies! It’s not a little pile of burning coals, it is a fire pit… a few of them that you have to leap over… repeatedly… it’s real fire, it’s real hot and once again, take a run up and keep running!
Mud Mile #1
This was my favourite and is probably where I received most of my injuries! There were probably 8 mud mounds of approximately 4 metres to 6 metres high which were slippery as hell and a large amount of rocks and gravel in it. This was a classic example of camaraderie for me as I climbed up a particularly difficult mound, sliding down repeatedly and enduring many cuts and gashes on my knees, I eventually dug my nails in, gritted my teeth and hauled myself up. I straddled the top of the mound and looked down at everyone struggling just as much as I had, dug my heels in leaned down and grabbed hands as they came up. Guys bigger than me, smaller than me, in teams, not in teams, I must have sat there for almost half an hour and I have no idea how many people I hauled up but the gratitude on their face brings tears to my eyes even today. Eventually I swung round and scuttled down the other side. Using natural footholds to slow me down in order to reduce injury. Remember, this is NOT a race! I lost count of how many times my butt got caught on a boulder or how many times I skidded down the gravel and had to wipe away the blood but I came out the other end and still had a smile on my face… Mainly because I’m not right in the head.
It looks easy right? All you have to do is crawl on your hands and knees through a tunnel right? Not really. Those trenches are clad with stones and sharp gravel digging into your knees, shins and hands. Each step is agonising and the further down you go, all you can think is, ‘How much longer?!’ It's quite a distance when you are trying to do it as painlessly as possibly!
Hold your Wood
This one was quite a relief actually, it was a chance to breath, it’s a relatively steep uphill but a fairly short distance. Short logs for singles and long logs for teams. Your natural instinct is to chuck it on your shoulder but I found that holding it in front of me with both hands evenly distributed the weight and I was able to gather myself a bit. If you put it on your shoulder you end up having to swap shoulders constantly as your shoulder tires and you end up feeling a little discouraged. I saw a fair amount of dejected faces after that one.
This one was pretty interesting… Its actually relatively high and if you aren’t in the first heat, it is super slippery making it very difficult to get over. If you are in a team, help each other! If you are on your own, scoot over to the end and use the structure to haul yourself over. Where possible, if there is a big enough gap between the logs, roll through. If you are afraid of splinters, don’t bother signing up…!
Mud Mile #2
It feels like you have done a loop and are doing the same mile over again but it is a brand new obstacle. Much the same as Mud Mile #1, only difference is by the stage you’re thinking, ‘no way, not another one!’ something I forot to mention in the first one is that the puddles of muddy water can be very deceiving, they look shallow and steady but often they are far deeper than they look with many rocks and uneven ground which leads to you ending up face first in a pool of mud! My eyes stung and clouded over on many occassion due to this. My advice is not to wipe your eyes if you get splashed in the face, no doubt the amount of mud on your hands exceeds the mud on your face.
Couldn’t find a pic for this one unfortunately but basically, picture every military movie you have ever watched and you will remember an injured soldier being ‘fireman lifted’ to a safe zone, either ‘piggy back’ style or ‘roman throne’ style of ‘over the shoulder fireman’ style. You hit the obstacle and you better hope you have a couple of team mates because you cannot do this on your own. I mean, how do I carry myself? I stood for a bit and this awesome Russian came over and said, ‘it’s a bit of a weird first date but can I carry you?’ hahaha! He was shorter than me and smaller than me but he carried me for 100m’s! He finished off by putting me down and saying, ‘next time, I’ll buy you a drink first’! Too classic!
For goodness sake, this is flippin’ high! And as high as it is on the way up, it feels even higher on the way down! I stood for a while in front of this obstacle, there is no way you can go over this on your own. This is 100% a team effort… bit of a glitch, I wasn’t in a team. Or was I? It is really easy to start this race thinking you are on your own but as I said before, you aren’t. I started at those walls and started walking around until one of the guys grabbed me and said, ‘no, you’re going over, we’re all going over.’ Between him and his 5 team mates, I scaled that wall, swung over and climbed down… only to find there was another one! And true as Bob, they helped me over the next one too! Loved this race! It totally restored my faith in human kind!
Pfffft! How many of you saw the monkey bars and thought, ‘piece of cake!’? Let me remind you, you are not 8 years old anymore, you weigh a lot more, you are less nimble and have a far bigger fear scale! On top of that, those bars are caked in mud and are hovering over an icy pit of water. I got half way across before I lost my balance and fell into the water. My advice is, don’t straighten your arms, keep them slack and keep swinging. It's called monkey bars for a reason, you need to swing! Leaning forward and grabbing each bar with a straight arm will lead to you falling! As I swam to the exit and tried to haul myself out, I saw a guy do the whole length but for one bar. He fell at the final bar. This hardcore individual swam back to the beginning and started from scratch to make sure he could say he ‘DID IT’! How cool is that?
This was another one I loved… largely because the water was warm but basically, my advice is slide down, roll over onto your back, use your own natural buoyancy to keep your head above water and drag yourself to the end by grabbing the wire from as far back as behind our head and pull yourself along. Don’t go on your stomach, you will get a mouth full of water and panic. This way you are guaranteed to keep yourself above water and you get a bit of a rest at the same time. On a side note, we had to slide down a pretty steep hill to get to the actually cages which can be quite painful if you don’t choose your path carefully otherwise you end up with stones in your pants!
This was one of my biggest fears, mainly because it defies the law of nature. I mean, there are guys who, on skateboards still aren’t able to do this, here is me in my little shoes… how is that possible? Prepare yourself for the fact that this will take approximately 10 attempts. Also prepare yourself for the fact that you cannot do this on your own. My advice is to run as fast as you can and at about mid way, JUMP, hold your hands out and hope like hell there is someone to catch you. I can tell you there WILL be someone to help you, you will fall and you will try again and eventually you will get it right and this will be one of the causes of your bruises. You will get hauled over and you and you will feel EPIC! If you are a girl, don't be offended by the boys, they are not trying to cop a feel, (I think), they are trying to haul you over ;)
Final obstacle and let me tell you, nothing could prepare you for this. Following the advice of the marshal, take a bit of a run up, run as fast as your broken legs will allow, put your arms out in front of you which will create a bit of a pathway and just run. 90% of the guys who do this do not fall, the guys who over think it fall and it hurts 100 times more!
And on the other side there is a Cider! And a pretty space blanket! And a legendary headband! And an EPIC t-shirt!
Shortly after that, my husband lost my phone, naturally as a Saffa I assumed it was lost forever but this awesome soul called all the numbers in my phonebook to try and return it and then after an announcement on the PA they dropped it off at lost and found. Truly indicative of the crowd that participates in this event. We’re a team!
On the way out, we saw many piles of very expensive shoes scattered across the fields, covered in mud. These shoes will be collected by the estate owner, cleaned at the expense of Tough Mudder and donated to charity. These shoes are expensive and will no doubt help many people. I just hope that at least one of these pairs goes to a future athlete.
Eventually hubby went to fetch the car because I couldn’t walk anymore and 10 minutes into the journey, I needed to pee so badly it hurt and I was starving! Was there a pit stop close by? Didn’t seem so. We had to backtrack and stop at the Costa, the toilet wasn’t great, it’s not meant as a general convenience but the girl at the counter was so sweet and I was so grateful. We stopped at a McDonalds…. I’m not proud to say that but I opted for the healthiest option of a wrap, headed home to a glass of red wine and a hot bath only to wake up to horrendous bruises.
Would I do it again? Hell yes! Can you understand Tough Mudder until you’ve done it? NO! Should you do it? Hell yes!
Totally looking forward to the next one!