To be honest, I ignored all the hype about this being ‘probably the toughest race on the planet’, and I also ignored all the information telling me how impossibly hard this race was, bla bla bla. I have no idea why I continued to agree to do it, after realising what I let myself in for! However, the way I saw it was, information or not, it was still going to be tough, so why worry?!
What I didn’t expect or appreciate was
The event takes place the picturesque grounds of Cholmondley castle, which to be honest, looks nicer on the photos that you see on google than the parts I remember! Little did I know that it is also home of the castle triathlon and also motor and motorcycle racing! All I was focussed on though, was the piece of ground in front of me, and making sure my shoes stayed on my feet! We did the Sunday event, and were greeted on arrival by Natalie from www.breo.com, a sports accessories company who we were running for, and who also sponsor the second obstacle, an ice bath called arctic enema.
A short walk through to the event site from the car teased you as you passed some of the course, the lake where you would later be required to dunk under icy cold water three times, and on towards a very well organised pre event area that included race registration, coffee places, food stalls, nutrition stands, a stage, shop and huge bag drop. If you wanted to get into the spirit of things, you could even visit the ‘mullet and Mohawk’ stand and get yourself a new hair cut!
I wore a pair of black shorts, all black underwear, a black compression top, black socks and cross country shoes for the event. The compression top really did the trick. I did not feel cold at all during the event, rarely did I shiver, as long as I kept moving. I also wore the www.breo.com watch they sent me as part of my goodie bag. it has a stop watch, is waterproof to 100m and survived everything that was thrown at it! I had to dig the mud from it afterwards, steep it in hot water, and it still works like a dream.
I did wonder why there was a stage at such an event, but it soon became obvious. There was an excellent MD on stage drumming up anticipation by conducting awards for the best fancy dress costume. There were smurfs, clowns, cats, people in all in one suits that zipped up right over their heads, guys dressed as businessmen, and naked policemen, wearing tanga briefs and a hat, their butts spelling POLICE. (Naturally the policemen won!) A guy came on to do a warm up routine, then the first wave of people were off to the pre start.
You immediately faced a high wall, which you needed to get together with your fellow tough mudders in order to scale, before even reaching the start line: this was making sure that you got the idea from the start: HELP EACH OTHER! There was another MD, drumming up some hype for a further 15 minutes, where you were required to sing, dance, hug each other, and finally kneel and say the Tough Mudder pledge before you were released in a huge cloud of firework smoke!
Within a matter of a few steps you were in ankle deep mud, or more, several people were already losing their shoes before they even completed the first mile. Take this tip from me: wear cross country shoes and tie, then double tie you laces as tight as you can possibly tie them, and then you MIGHT not lose the shoes!
The first of the 22 obstacles was ‘kiss of mud’ – which involved crawling along in mud under barbed wire, UPHILL! Seems ok? well this is the first of many and it only gets muddier and muddier. The course plays with your mind though, because right after that, the second obstacle was the www.breo.com sponsored obstacle, an ice bath called ‘arctic enema’ that you had to leap into and climb out of! I often felt like some kind of object, because it sort of went like this: mud, ice straw, mud, more mud, climbing, ice cold water, yet more mud, climbing, more ice cold water… You get the picture! Go in mud, freeze, wash off get tired, and repeat lots and lots!
Part of the pledge you had to recite at the start of the race was to promise to help your fellow tough mudders. This was vital, and it was this group camaraderie that made this even so funny, and memorable. I was sat on top of one of the Berlin Walls, it was well over half way, I was exhausted and it had taken three men to help get me onto the top. I sat straddling the top of the wall wondering how on earth I might get down the other side, I was so exhausted I wasn’t sure that my arms would hold me. My husband on one side shouted for me to get a move on. From the top I shouted back ‘I need some help on the other side here, that’s the problem!’ Each time I had this problem, I always had an army of people on the other side to help out. I got told off for constantly saying ‘thank you’!
There came a point when you arrived at a hole that you required to climb into, and you simply had no idea what was in store, all you knew was that it probably involved mud, water, or more than likely both so you just got on with it! A woman screeched ‘what’s in there?’ and my hubby said ‘I dunno, it’s a hole!’ then disappeared down it!
I got used to feeling hands shove various parts of my anatomy over, under, up, and down obstacles, pull me through water mud, and some other unmentionable liquid substances! Sometimes the arm reaching towards me felt like a saviour. It was always a pleasure to return the favour for my fellow tough mudders behind, it didn’t matter if you were male or female. Often we were so muddy it was difficult to tell the difference!
When you crossed the line you were given a finishers headband (stop for the finish photo!), an energy drink (drink it immediately), a banana (eat that immediately too, you will probably need help with this, you will be too cold to do it yourself!), a space blanket, a beer and a finishers t shirt.
Make sure you have left a change of footwear, lots of plastic bin bags, plenty of warm clothes, hat and gloves some baby wipes and some towels in your bag you left in the bag drop. You will need them all. There is a change tent, and you will probably need to help each other in there, but it’s ok, your fellow tough mudders will understand! There is also some temporary open air showers, but they are freezing. Only use them if you feel the need to rinse mud off you. I didn’t see the point, there was so much mud, only a long hot shower was going to shift that!
Expect to hurt all over, for days and days, but expect to feel very very proud of yourself too! Also expect to find yourself already considering putting yourself through another one!
It was not like anything I have ever done before, it was way harder than I thought. At the same time, it was much more enjoyable and I had a great laugh at times during the event. It was nice to do an event that was not a ‘race’, an event where getting to the end was the achievement you were looking for, an event where there wasn’t a gun start, you didn’t receive a finish time, and didn’t care how long it took you.
Hubby has done a few of these, he is ex army and loves this kind of thing. He says this was a lot harder than the others that he has done to date.
I couldn’t have done it without him, we worked as a team throughout, encouraging motivating and helping each other round, through and over all the obstacles. It is essential that you do this event as a pair / team if it is your first one.
Would hubby do it again? When I asked him during the race, his answer was ‘absolutely not!’ When I asked him later that evening, he said perhaps. By the next morning he was planning his training schedule and considering the next UK tough Mudder in Northamptonshire next May!
Breo are pleased to offer their expertise as the official timing partner for Tough Mudder 2012. Their message; ‘Don’t live a bland life – have fun and escape the everyday’ reflects the very nature of tough mudder.
Breo’s rugged product is built to withstand anything you can throw at it, making it the perfect partner for Tough Mudder and its gruelling events. Breo’s ZONE watch is the perfect example – fusing all the functional elements of a top sports watch and a highly stylish look perfectly incorporating both style and substance. The multifunctional digital display includes chronograph, a light, a date display, alarm and 15 lap memory. The watch is also water resistance to 10ATM making it the perfect sports companion for water based activities.