I’ll never do this, hang on …
When the craze for getting covered in mud, getting soaked to the skin, electrocuted and running all came together a few years ago I swore I’d never get involved. I hate getting wet, unless a shower or swimming is involved, getting caked in mud held no appeal for me and as for feeling cold you can totally forget that. Which means for the second time this year (skydiving was the other occasion) I found myself totally going against all I have said I will never do, which might make you think that I can’t make my mind up. You’d be wrong. We just change. In May of this year I saw the Tough Mudder event near me just outside Kettering, Northamptonshire. What impressed me wasn’t the suffering (although watching people get hit with electric shocks is outrageously funny) or being wet it was the camaraderie and team spirit; it was this that I wanted to experience. One of my martial arts students was signed up to do Tough Mudder in Yorkshire and I signed up with the plan that others would join us. Things didn’t quite work out that way and on Saturday 7th September at 2pm Lee and I found ourselves at the start of the 11.5 mile, 23 obstacle course. I’d been a bit nervous the night before, but now was looking forward to it.
The dreaded Arctic Enema
We were the last group of the day which may well have coloured my experience of the day. Off we trotted with a mile or so until the first obstacle, two slanted 8 feet high walls that we had to clamber over. No problem with these. Obstacle number two held more trepidation, the evilly named Arctic Enema. A massive skip filled with water and covered in a film of ice cubes. You stand on the edge waiting to jump in and in a second you are under the water. The cold is bearable but you open your eyes and see only darkness. It’s like swimming in a cold latte and you have no idea where you are. Swim forward and be quick about it. As you come up your head touches the ice which is an odd feeling, you find the steps and clamber out fighting for breath which had been left on the other side just before I jumped in. The feeling of cold passes quickly though and Lee and I jogged off trailing water behind us.
Not quite what I expected
It was the terrain that took us both by surprise. it seemed to go up and up and up. Even when you descended shortly after you seemed to be going higher than where you had just been. My experiences of the 3 Peaks Challenge and walking Hadrian’s Wall kicked in now. It was more like a hill walk with obstacles thrown in and we developed a way of walking up the hills and running down them and on the flat sections. As the miles tripped along and the group spread out we starting noticing a problem, the whole teamwork ethic with everyone chipping in wasn’t in evidence. This was a real problem on the Hero Walls, 18 feet high walls without ropes and with no one to help us was an impossible prospect and was the only obstacle we didn’t tackle.
The electric eel, which had had me in fits of giggles at the May event was despatched with ease – top tip, watch where you’re going on this and if you keep low in the water you can snake through the wires, I only got hit once and even then it was only like being rapped with a stick. At the end it was slightly different when Electroshock Treatment got me three times. The point about the electricity is that once you accept its going to hurt you can take it. Which is pretty much the point of Tough Mudder as an event – accept your pain and discomfort, make sure you do your training to get in shape before the event and you can attack it and get through. Whether you get through unscathed is a different thing.
Pain felt, lessons learned.
All was going well until the underwater tunnels, when I came out of there I cut two of my fingers, not bad, just annoying. At the monkey bars I jumped in the water and banged a toe on a rock under the water and at Everest I totally cocked it up and fell on my left shoulder really heavily. At first I thought I’d broken it but two days later it is just sore. By far my biggest mistake though – not wearing socks. My logic had been that wet feet will mean wet socks which will rub and give me blisters. What happened is that by mile 9 the backs of my heels were rubbing where dirt and grit had entered my shoes. By mile 10 the backs of my heels were really sore and by the end both heels were bleeding and very sore. If you’re going to do TM wear socks. So, what did I learn? Wear socks! But I also learnt that running immediately after being in ice cold water is possible and not that hard, that a good friend to run with is better than a team that doesn’t work together, that we can overcome almost anything with tenacity and determination and that success is built in the planning. Good life lessons, that even though I knew were fully understood by doing Tough Mudder. Very well organised, very slick, but on this occasion not all I’d hoped. The next challenge is already being planned …