We did it! We survived the Tough Mudder. We nearly didn’t get there…
8 miles away from the event and we were sat in traffic for more than 40 minutes. By the time we made it through registration, we had at least 90 seconds to spare before being ushered through to the warm up pen.
Then we were there, waiting to start our Tough Mudder Half. 5 miles, 13 obstacles. Go time.
Top tip 1: The warm up isn’t great. Don’t prioritise getting through that gate on time over having one last wee.
Yes, there are toilets on the course. Yes, they are covered in mud (I told myself it was all mud). That’s not the problem. Getting your wet pants and trousers down in order to pee is one thing. Pulling them back up again with cold hands? Not fun and not very successful. Then you have to run with that twisted mess – even less fun.
So get your wee done when you’re dry if you can. I only had to stop for that one wee – if you don’t include running up a footpath and finding a gap in the bushes while we were sat in traffic…
For everything the warm up guy lacked, the start line guy made up for. He was amazing, I loved him. He had me screaming HOOO YA! at the top of my voice, among other things. He got us fired up, totally ready to go. I was surprise hugged from behind by a very tall man (this was the most action I got all day – well, in ages but that’s another story!). I was ready to sprint around the course, so luckily my brother was there to keep me sensible and keep the three of us together as a team.
Top tip 2: Take a hero with you
I knew my brother would be amazing at this. I knew he knew that there’s no “I” in team. I knew that he’d help other people.
He totally exceeded my expectations – he was a rock star.
I properly realised this at the second obstacle, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
First up it was skid marked. These are two sets of walls one after the other, angled towards you, so you need a boost before hauling yourself over. On the other side there are tyres to stand on so you can help other people up.
I had a boost from my brother on to a clear bit of wall. I hauled myself over, waited to see if he needed help and then skidded down and up to the next wall. This is where the name comes from…the walls are muddy, so once you’ve done both walls, everyone has mud smeared up their bum and back.
We then had another load of running to do and the hills were steep. My brother made sure we paced ourselves and we kept with the weakest link. Which, I am amazed to say was at no point in the event me. I’m not being mean to my sister here, she’s a runner. She doesn’t do the variety of exercise I do. So I was pretty happy to have all of that validated.
Top tip 3: Pace yourself
A lot of the running was front-loaded. I reckon we did about three miles over the first five obstacles. It was very hilly.
We didn’t push it too hard which meant walking up some of those hills at the beginning. This actually meant I did more running up the hills later – because I still had reserves. I didn’t feel fatigued at any point of the course. If I’d have done it by myself, I’d have probably burnt out. But doing it this way – what I think now was the right way – meant we actually passed a lot of the people who looked more hardcore than us. Let’s face it, that’s always good for morale.
Some background: we did the Half, so we followed the blue route. The people doing the Full followed the orange loop. The orange loop consisted of two or three goes around the blue loop with some orange diversions along the way.
Near the end, my sister turned to this pretty buff looking guy who was struggling just walking up a hill. She asked him “is this your second loop?” He puffed “NO”. We hiked on past him up the hill. When I glanced back, he was crawling.
The second obstacle was Kiss of Mud. There are a series of barbed wire lines that you have to crawl under. It’s lumpy and very muddy. I watched my brother go through so so so fast. It was like watching a cat or something. I copied his technique and was through in no time. I managed to stop just in time to avoid being kicked in the face by some guy flailing around. The three of us were out and back to running before the guys who had started ahead of us were done.
It doesn’t sound like much, but watching my brother just know what to do, pick the right gap and get it done was amazing.
Next up was the Block Ness Monster. I hadn’t understood this ahead of the event. You get into the water, and there are two consecutive, rotating prism-type things that you have to get over. The catch, is that they rotate based on body weight. So, you need to pay attention to who else is on the block, time your jump right with the rotation and then allow for how your weight affects the rotation. This might mean jumping off early, or clinging on to roll the block back, so that the next person can get across.
This wasn’t just teamwork for us, we had to work with everyone else getting through. It was cold and this is where I made my first friend who I ended up running with a few times. No idea what his name was!
Mud Mile was the fourth obstacle, just after the wee stop and a shot of Lucozade. This is a bunch of mud mounds with water in between that you have to climb up and down of. There are in cuts in them, so if you sort of stab your feet into those instead of flat footing up the hill, you can make it fairly easily. Some people needed help getting across these – I honestly have no idea why. I think maybe it was an IQ test as well.
Top Tip 4: Pay Attention
There are people on each obstacle to keep things safe. They also give you tips on how to do it. Pay attention to them!
Also, watch others. Mostly I learned what not to do rather than anything actually helpful. For example, the 5th obstacle: Lumber Jacked.
Here is just a single horizontal beam, like a tree trunk, about 5 or 6 feet off the ground. You need a boost up and then heave over and drop down. I saw a guy get on to it, but instead of controlling his momentum, he just clung on and slipped back down. He ended up hanging there like a sloth before slowly dropping back down to the ground to try again. And repeat the same mistake!
The three of us did it, I was first. Boost from bro, slide over and drop down, done. My sister was next – she had the fear too and ended up sort of being rolled over by my brother. I managed to keep my laughter inside. It was hilarious to watch and thankfully, I can watch it on demand if I close my eyes any time I like!
Devil’s Beard snuck up on us after some more hill running. It’s a net which you have to crawl under. I think we were very lucky with our timing because this caused no problem at all.
Top Tip 5: Stay Close Under the Beard
I think we were lucky because people were already under it. Staying close meant the net wasn’t heavy, you just keep your hands up and sort of walk your hands through. On the tough mudder site, it looks worse than I actually found it.
The next one was Shawshanked. This was my favourite. And my worst.
You go up an angled pipe on your back, head first. You pull yourself up with a rope that’s inside. This part was great – I really really enjoyed it (I know that sounds strange!). It’s all core and upper body. Once you get to the end of the tube, you have to jump into the water below.
Here’s the worst bit. You have no space to crouch and turn around – I tried. This means you have to do a sort of scuba dive backwards and head first into the pit. It’s too deep to stand up too, so you then have to swim across to another rope to pull yourself out of the water.
So head first and backwards into the water was the low point for me. Which is pretty good going. I held my nose and rolled back, tucking my legs into my body.
Now we were completely soaked through, it was time for Hero Walls. Two ten foot walls with nothing to grip onto. I climbed up a lady who REALLY wanted me to climb on her and then my brother pushed my foot the extra bit so I could reach the top. Once I’d grabbed the top I pulled myself over. I don’t really know how, but then I did it again at the next wall. Before jumping down on the other side, I waited at the top. There’s a really thin ledge on the other side which I stood on – I don’t know if I’d have been confident with this as my footing if I didn’t know I could keep steady on much smaller ledges through climbing. Anyway. From the top, I offered my wrist down for my brother. He jumped, grabbed it and somehow then grabbed the top of the wall. I dropped down the other side to avoid him kicking me in the face. It was seamless and I was amazed.
Tip Recall: No. 4 Pay Attention – or you will get kicked in the face
It really was feeling like the home stretch now. We were right on top of the big hill and could see the finish. It didn’t feel like we still had 5 obstacles to go!
Hero Carry was next. I told my sister to get on my back. Then there was a swap marker. I didn’t want to put her down for her to carry me – I really am heavier than I look.
But, she jumped down and I jumped on her back. I enjoyed carrying more than being carried. I think my sister may be an inch shorter now.
My brother strolled along beside us, we figured he had earned a free pass.
King of the Mountain is a pile of hay bales which you have to scale up, and then down. No big deal at all – says the girl who used to play on hay bales as a child. Other, more suburban and refined people took A LOT longer to do this.
Killa Gorilla is a stealth obstacle. It’s a zig zag up really steep hills. That’s the obstacle – no actual “thing” to get over, through or around. This is where my sister humiliated the gym bunny who may be dead on the hillside for all we know…I’m sure he’s fine and maybe even at the gym as you read this.
Top Tip 6: Be Friendly
I really am nicer than I sound. I didn’t laugh at anyone and I was supportive of all. I stopped to help and I joked with people as I went round – there were a lot of innuendos, or at least, that’s how I interpreted them!?
It was fun, the time flew by and it’s great to see smiling, damp faces. So don’t whinge, don’t cry, just cheer up and get it done.
Two obstacles to go: Everest and Pyramid Scheme.
Everest was tricky. It was like running up a skate ramp, but higher and with zero traction. My brother went first, helped by a fellow mudder. Then me. I sprinted, grabbed his wrist and tried desperately to climb up. The rubber matting was laid vertically, not horizontally. This meant it was so very slippery! The guy that had helped my brother grabbed my other arm until I could reach the ledge and then clamber over. This all happened in seconds before I was up and waiting to help my sister. Upper body disadvantage again. She gasped the words “I can’t!” We bother shouted “YOU CAN!” in unison as I grabbed her leg and we pulled her up. It wasn’t dignified, but we did it.
Pyramid Scheme at the end is hopeless by yourself. It’s more boosting and more upper body heaving. This time with a tiny ledge to get your fingers on to. Again, my sister struggled. I managed to get my fingers on there and pull myself up. Thank you climbing once again. We were at the top for ages helping other people. One woman was “helping” others but really she was just stuck half way causing trouble.
Top Tip 7: Know the difference between helping and hindering
Sometimes, you are more helpful by not being there. While my sister was held captive by the pyramid blocker woman, I was helping a man wearing an ill-fitting super hero outfit up and over the wall. And a bunch of other guys who looked like they really didn’t want my help. Whatever, they needed it and we did it together.
Then it was down and to the finish line. A woman tugged a headband on to me and my mum and dad took photos of the three of us hugging.
I have one major disappointment of the day: We were given Tough Mudder FULL finisher t-shirts. We did the half. So I feel like a bit of a fraud – but they didn’t have any half ones available…
I thought it would be tougher. I’m not taking anything away from the Tough Mudder brand here. I feel really good about not struggling. I feel strong for being able to do it, without being crippled at the end or on the days after. I have seriously minimal bruising – one on my shin that’s a bit tender, one on my forearm that looks worse than it is.
I have no blisters at all from my trainers so thank you Salomon Speedcross.
I did have to remove some of the course that had worked its way into the skin on my foot. It was a mixture of mud and grit. Nice.
Would I do one again? Yes. On three conditions:
- It was closer to home
- Someone else organised EVERYTHING
- It was free
So actually, I probably won’t…