Well, I couldn’t do a year of Events and not include an obstacle race and Tough Mudder seems to be the most well known.As it happens I nearly did one last year but two of my team members had to pull out and it’s not really something you can do on your own.
Then earlier this year an opportunity to join another team came up. Remember that “Channel” swim in the pool back in April well… I made a new friend that week, Cally. She was one of only three people who put some money in my charity bucket by the side of the pool, the other two people knew me. But Cally didn’t and I was really touched by her kindness especially as it involved going back into the changing room wet, at the end of her swim and coming back out to put some money in. I should say that I got plenty of donations that week – but the bucket by the pool just didn’t really work – no one has money when they swim lol!
Fortunately I bumped into Cally a few days later and was able to thank her. Turns out she was training for her first triathlon and long story short we ended up meeting for a few coffees and an offer from her to join her Tough Mudder team 🙂 Cally was doing a few events herself this year for her own charity.
Roll on a few months and the event was getting closer. It kind of crept up on me as most of my energy and thoughts this year have been for my Ironman. I didn’t train for the Tough Mudder just hoped that my general fitness and strength would get me through.
…then Cally got sick, really sick and ended up in hospital – Oh No! Despite this she messaged me and told I could still meet up with her team and do the event. Cally wouldn’t be able to take part herself – she needs to rest for at least six weeks but she offered to come and support and in the end even drove me – what a lovely girl.
So, on Saturday 20th August I rolled up at Cally’s house and we drove to Cirencester. Her friends Darren and Mark came along too. Mark would be on my team. We had a jolly drive there chatting about the up coming obstacles. I was quite nervous as apart from a few Youtube clips I didn’t really know what to expect. Cally has done a few and Mark has spectated, so by the time we arrived I had a better idea of the day ahead. I was still nervous!
At Cirencester Country Park we met up with the rest of our team – Chris and Sean. In the end there were only four of us, other members withdrawing due to injury and trust me you wouldn’t want to do this injured. But we had lots of support from them which was lovely. It’s a big event with around 5000 people taking part over the two day weekend – and very different from Ironman. It’s all about team work and this is drummed into you from the beginning in the warm up pen.
We had about 15 minutes in the pen with lots of chanting and Hoo- Raaas! We were encouraged to hug a few people we didn’t know and even give their bum a squeeze! Might as well get friendly now as the next few hours would involve being manhandled quite a bit 🙂 A good time to point out that the average age did seem to be quite a bit younger than me and most people looked pretty fit. Lots of people were also wearing their headbands from previous events. You get a different colour depending on how many you had done and apart from the first timers most people seemed to have done quite few.
After a bit more jumping around, shouting and a safety briefing we were off. I was a little concerned about the running sections. My team looked pretty fit, but we ran along nicely together and over hilly grass to the first obstacle about a km away – The Kiss of Mud. This involved crawling on your stomach through …..mud, and just to make sure you got completely muddy there was barbed wire about 2ft above you – no choice but to stay low.
The course was 10.5 miles long with 26 obstacles, most involved mud or water or both. The weather was back to normal, after a week of glorious sunshine it was now around 17C with wind and rain. The odd moment of sunshine but mostly grey skies. It was perfect for the running sections but after the water obstacles it meant you got cold very quickly unless you kept moving.
I loved the running sections. My trail shoes which Cally had recommended were awesome and as I watched most people slipping and sliding on the muddy trails in their trainers I was very grateful to be wearing them. Poor Chris fell many times but always with good humour. In fact everyone looked like they were having the best time – me included, I loved it.
Some of the obstacles involved climbing….usually quite high and this was where having a good team helped. Mark was often able to get to the top on his own and then Chris and Sean would lift me up so that Mark could grab my hands and pull me over. It was definitely an advantage being female – lots of help from everyone and light enough to be lifted easily. But is was still hard at times hanging and holding on and I have many bruises and aches and pains to show for it.
One obstacle was just too high and although I got up to the top I wasn’t prepared for the ten foot drop the other side – falling badly was a guaranteed injury – I came back down the same way, helped by my team. The great thing about this event (not a race as we were told many times) was that you only had to do what you could. I attempted all the obstacles but some like this one were too much.
Actually I did miss one out – the Electric Eel – crawling through water with live wires hanging down above you. Hmmm…. no! I saw other people do it and decided it was not for me. Mark whizzed through and didn’t get shocked but Chris who had done it a previous year had had a very nasty experience. Chris and I walked round.
The best obstacles were the water ones – although maybe not Arctic Enema which involved sliding into freezing water – literally freezing water. Cally was by the side watching this one and told me to take my long sleeve top off before going in. Great advice – I had a dry top to put on the other side. Our supporters also offered us towels at this point – very welcome. The event was well set up for spectators and we saw ours many times. Cally took lots of photos too which I’m very grateful for, not really kind of place you can carry a phone.
The obstacles continued – crawling, falling, jumping and climbing. All very muddy and often wet. In fact I heard many people say how much harder it was than the previous year when it had been hot and dry. Obstacles that would have been doable in dry conditions like the monkey bars were just too slippery. But I guess that added to the fun.
My team were amazing. Mark checking on me all the time. Chris with his strength so helpful on the obstacles and Sean ran with me giving me a heads up on what was just ahead. I helped when I could but mainly tried to just keep positive and happy and be a good team member.
On one of the obstacles I didn’t have to do anything. “Hero Carry” where you took turns piggy backing a team member. Mark just carried me for the whole thing – even breaking into a jog which was the best fun. Not sure his knees were quite the same afterwards but he didn’t complain.
My favourite was “The Block Ness Monster” – not sure quite how to describe this but it involved a long cuboid shaped log that needed to be pushed over by up to twenty people then you would jump on and roll over the top into the water. The water on this one was quite warm which was nice although a disgusting colour due to all the mud. It was fun.
My least favourite was the high wall which I mentioned earlier and I was just too scared to go over the top.
The Mud Mile was really muddy – waist deep mud to wade through and muddy banks to climb over. Although not actually a mile it seemed to go on forever and then out the other side was along walk/run through even more mud. Just to make it interesting it also started going up steep hills – my trail shoes did their stuff though and I faired better than most.
The penultimate obstacle was “Everest” a very high curved slope which needed to be attacked at great speed and then hopefully find a hand to grab onto to pull you up. I made one attempt and as I don’t possess great speed even when I haven’t completed ten miles I didn’t make it. Most people tried again and again, it was very hard. I chose to watch my team mates. Mark almost made it but his hand slipped and unfortunately he came down hard on his chin. Despite an hour of telling us he was just fine he ended up in the medical tent and needed four stitches – ouch!
Chris and Sean continued trying “Everest” but by now I was just too cold to stand around and made my way to the final obstacle – the “Electroshock Therapy” I managed this one – head down and running. I got shocked once, it wasn’t too bad. Finally the end. The finish line and my orange headband. I was a Tough Mudder.
The day wasn’t quite over – cold and covered in mud the bonus obstacle was trying to get wet, muddy shoes and clothes off. There was a rinsing station station but I was too cold to go under more cold water. I found a spot in the ladies changing area – a bit of grass behind a screen and tried to strip off. It took forever to get my shoes off and all the strength I had left. With the help of a bottle of water and a towel I managed to get fairly clean and dressed in dry clothes. Mark couldn’t even get his shoes off – we had to help him. Most people donate their shoes at the end – too muddy to take home. But I kept mine just in case I do another one – which I might – but having spent an hour in the medics tent waiting for Mark and hearing about all the injures – broken bones, dislocated shoulders and fingers, cuts etc …maybe not!
I can’t thank my team enough for such an awesome day. Their support and shared experience made it fun to take part. Thanks too to Cally for being there all day, taking photos and encouraging us on.
Event 37 done.