Mud, Mettle and Mind over Matter

I am now officially a Tough Mudder!

MeYesterday we ran 12 hilly, muddy miles interspersed with 24 obstacles to cross the TM London South finish line.

The day began at 5:00am with a quick shower, cup of tea and a banana before layering and warming up with a 2.5km run to the train station to meet the girls en route to Winchester.

A train ride, rail replacement bus service and a taxi later we arrived at the Mudder Village ready to soak up the pre-race atmosphere and make our final preparations.

At 9:30am we were called for our official warm up, which involved plenty of heart rate-raising exercises, followed by a clamber over a 6ft fence, which allowed us to reach the starting pen.

IMG_0834Here, with lots of pomp and ceremony, we were psyched up ready to go and had to bow to the Mudder Gods and the Legionnaires (those who have completed at least two TM races) before being released, in a fog of orange smoke, onto the course.

The route meandered around muddy farmland and ensured that we made plenty of loops up and down the hilly terrain. The obstacles were perfectly spaced and comprised of challenges involving water, mud, strength, teamwork, and varying combinations of all four.

Water obstacles included the terrifyingly high ‘Walk the Plank‘, which involved jumping off a high ledge into freezing cold, muddy water, (leaving you soaked through and shivering from mile 1.5), the quite literally breath-taking ‘Arctic Enema‘, where you had to lower yourself into a tub of icy, muddy water and swim underneath a bar of tyres to enable you to get out at the other side, and the claustrophobic-making ‘Cage Crawl‘, which entailed lowering yourself into cold water and under a metal grate and then pulling yourself along on your back to emerge at the the other end.

photo 1The aptly named ‘Mud Mile‘, consisting of a series of waist high mud pits, and ‘Kiss of Mud‘, which required you to crawl on your stomach underneath barbed wire, were among the obstacles specifically designed to get you well and truly muddy.

Electric Eel‘ combined mud and water, as you crawled through muddy water beneath electric wires trying to avoid being zapped!

Strength and climbing practice came in handy for ‘Just the Tip‘, which entailed pulling yourself along a ridge above cold muddy water, just by your fingertips, and for the ‘Hero Walls‘, ‘Glory Blades‘ and ‘Balls to the Wall‘, all 8-9ft high walls to be scaled with a combination of brute strength and lots of teamwork.

photo 2Teamwork was key to the whole day, and not just from the team you arrived with. There were obstacles such as ‘Pyramid Scheme‘, (which required you to make a human pyramid to surmount a slippy, slanted wall), and ‘Everest‘ (a 15ft half pipe that you have to run up) that we never would have climbed without the help of a shoulder to stand on, or lots of helping hands at the top, ready to pull us to safety.  For that, to all of those amazing guys who didn’t need to help us but did without question or hesitation, THANK YOU!

Being part of a team also helped prevent any doubts as to whether you could do an obstacle or not, because when you are all in it together, ‘no’ just wasn’t an option.

IMG_0878The whole experience was truly amazing. We all supported each other throughout and really enjoyed every moment from swimming through freezing water to running up muddy hills, and from crawling through narrow pipes into muddy water, to clambering over hay bales stacked high.

It was with enormous smiles we all ran out of ‘Electroshock Therapy‘ (a field of live wires, with plenty of sink holes and hay bales set to trip you over) and collected our Mudder headbands and pints of beer!

So after all of this would I do it again? Definitely! And I would certainly recommend it to anyone wanting to set themselves a challenge.

My training tips: make sure you are running fit – in our team we could all easily run a half marathon and that really paid off, making the running part of the event relatively easy. It also meant that when we were freezing cold from the water, we could keep running to warm up again.

Cross-train – make sure you have some upper body strength and plenty of stamina. Lots of circuit training, burpees, press-ups, weights, planks etc. certainly helped, and also meant that all muscle groups were prepared for the onslaught.

Swim – there is only a bit of swimming involved but it really pays to be a strong confident swimmer. I have swum all of my life and have trained as a lifeguard and swimming teacher, but when I found myself fully dressed in icy cold water, suddenly my body seized up and I was surprised how everything that had previously seemed natural suddenly required conscious effort.

Climb – knowing that I could support my body weight on my fingertips meant that I knew I should be able to complete ‘Just the Tip’ (and would have been forever shamed if not!). Climbing also meant that I didn’t feel anxious about the heights and I felt confident in my ability to get myself back down from any high obstacles.

With Tough Mudder complete I have to admit to feeling quite bereft, so much so that we are already primed to sign up for our next team challenge.  Any suggestions welcome!

Help me raise money for Help for Heroes by donating here: https://www.eventbrite.com/donate/tyburn-tigers-lizzy-simpson/117693

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