Friday, 12 June 2015

Tough Mudder – Midlands 2015 – Tougher, Muddier, Funner

"it's me again, yes, how did you guess? 'cause the last time you were really impressed" Betty Boo (1999). The blog is back in action

It was a dull and misty Saturday morning, just two days after my 11th wedding anniversary. 6.30am, and Amy was delicately knocking on my front door as not to wake my wife. No, this wasn’t some sort of sordid morning encounter, but the start of Tough Mudder 2015.

The build up for my 3rd Tough Mudder experience was not all together a standard procedure due to trying to balance family life, work life, injury and a little matter of Triathlon training for the unique Jenson Button Trust Triathlon. My experiences of which will be documented on this blog once I have made a fool of myself there (If I don’t drown). But as May 30th rolled round I had ran out of preparation time. This time Amy and I would be completing it as a duo rather than a trio as I had done in my previous two efforts. Apparently just once is enough for people to endure this with me, luckily Amy is the same sort of stupid as I am. Truth be known she was actually the driving force behind our little endeavor, all I did was sign up and agree to go through it all again.
Kinesiology tape - Black Magic

Kinesiology taped up to within an inch of my life, Lycra clad and still buzzing from my hit of morning caffeine, we jumped into my shitty little white hatchback and we were on our way to Boughton House just outside Kettering. It was a strange journey, the bean can car filled with excitement, fear and trepidation. Amy had been ill for a while leading up to the event and was worried that her cardio wasn’t what it should be, and I was a mixture of apprehensive over my elbow/forearm injury and my displeasure of electrocution and teargas before ten o’clock in the morning (Yes 2015 sees the introduction of teargas to Tough Mudder UK).

I have previously written about Tough Mudder so I won’t bore you with the same old guff about the same old obstacles, but I will bore you with some brand spanking new guff from obstacles I have never encountered before so standby………

Tough Mudder 2015 – Midlands Course Layout:


I also got keen and created a GPX file so I could use it for my Strava account, seen here 

The first new obstacle encountered was the “Mystery Obstacle”. An inclined corrugated pipe no wider than my shoulders and a rope trailing along the roof. Having to lay on your back and haul yourself to the top of the pipe, then unceremoniously flop into the watery abyss below the pipe exit. I can tell you now there is no way of dismounting an inclined pipe from that position gracefully. Personally I decided to opt for the “Divers reverse fall”, though other options included:
  • The twist and flop
  • The twist, perch and jump
  • The sit and cry for help
  • The partial jump, panic, abort and fall

All of which are great choices and get the job done!

Obstacle Difficulty 4/10
Obstacle Fun 6/10
Obstacle Execution 8/10

The second new adventure of the day came at the “King Of The Swingers” obstacle. A raised platform (Approx 15-20 ft). From there you grab a metal “T” piece that is connected to a long pivoted metal arm. The aim of the game…. Hit that goddam bell! At the point of inception the idea of reaching the bell feels very achievable. I mean, build up enough momentum on the swing, let go at the correct time and smash the crap out of the suspended Cowbell.


So after 8 miles (ish) of a grueling mud-slog I lethargically clambered up what can only be described as a builder’s ladder, onto the platform above. At this point the task still looked more than possible, and although the official Tough Mudder stats state that only 13% of people achieve that magical musical note, I was confident. I lent forward to grab the “T” piece and immediately almost toppled into the water below. Smooth….. Once I finally grabbed it (Go me!) the Tough Mudder marshal in no uncertain terms gave the order to “JUMP”. I leant back and swung with all my might. As I flew through the air all I coud do was compare myself to my greatest hero, no not Phil Dunphy from “Modern Family” , but Spiderman. At that moment in time I looked an 11/10 in badassness. As I reached the apex of the arc I let go, Flying through the air with the greatest of ease, that daring young man on the flying trapeze. I reached out my hand to bat the bell, the note would ring out, adoring masses would chant my name and literally carry me on their shoulders the final two miles of the course. My dreams though, were shattered by one act of epic moronic-ness.

I missed the bell. No, I didn’t come up short, I actually missed it. I did the hard bit, height, distance, everything.. But I missed it. ½” to the left. ½ a frigging inch! Story of my life………. And to rub salt into the already deeply cut wounds, in my huge enthusiasm to knock seven shades out of the bell, the momentum of my Orangutan like swinging arm incurred the wrath of physics! My whole body rotated in the air, and once I realised what was happening, there was no going back. It was going to hurt, no doubt about that. With all the grace of a Walt Disney hippopotamus in a dancing tu-tu, I face/chest planted the water. Now, I’m not entirely sure what happened next as I was both fighting for breath and also trying to determine which way was up, but what I can confidently assume is the onlooking public produced one of those “Ooooooooh” sounds that always accompany such acts of poorly executed physical prowess.

Obstacle Difficulty 9/10
Obstacle Fun 9/10
Obstacle Execution 3.5/10

The third and final “all new” obstacle of the day was “Cry Baby”. Tough Mudders attempt to replicate the very “unique” bio-hazardous environment found only in adolescent boys bedroom 

I’m a fenland boy, born and raised and as such my life is surrounded by all things farming. Because of this my natural visual representation of the “Cry Baby” obstacle is one of those polythene tunnels that is used to grow plants in and protect them from frost, only this one is on Grade A, WWE wrestling steroids. In fact the Tough Mudder version had a wooden internal structure for support, but you get the idea. Continually pumped into this tunnel is a thick gaseous concoction. I’m pretty sure that it is illegal to use weapons grade tear gas at such an event, but the substitute was plenty strong enough. The best comparison I can make is a Herculean strength airborne Vicks vaporub. A minty/menthol scent filling the air as you approach. As you crawl through the PVC curtains holding back the majority of the gas, that pleasant scent dramatically changes. The thick menthol fog limited vision to approximately 12 inches, and that is when you can actually muster the courage to open your eyes, because if you did, it was like somebody holding a Trebor extra strong mint directly to your pupil. Because of this, the best option is to “fly blind”. Just close your eyes and crawl for dear life. There is however, a fundamental flaw to this plan which I almost immediately found out to my cost. The fog is, at best, disorientating. I also discovered that I naturally veer left given half a chance. And yes I veered left straight into the central partition support column (I couldn’t see and I turn left, it was destined for failure). This happened not once, but TWICE!!!! Doing my best Juggernaut impression – Yes, that’s an abstract X-Men reference.
"I'm The Juggernaut B!tch"
All that was missing was me shouting “Don’t you know who I am, I’m the Juggernaut b!tch”. Two head eggs and a bloodied ear later I emerged from the tunnel. But it wasn’t all bad, apart from the burning eyes, bleeding ear and throbbing headache, the vapour had cleared out my wicked mean head cold that I had been nursing all day.



Obstacle Difficulty 5/10
Obstacle Fun 6/10
Obstacle Execution 2/10


Other moments of note:

Amy getting stuck under the wire fencing whilst submerged in the frozen water of “Arctic Enema”. I actually saw her go from standard person colour, to blue in the space of ten seconds, and then proceed to “shut down” like one of those “Non-Duracell” bunnies. 

But like the Terminator she is, she pushed on through the submerged partition and out of the other side.A massive feat for someone that deals with the cold worse than Olaf the Snowman deals with heat. In fact Amy had suffered medically diagnosed hypothermia just two months before, doing a different obstacle race. Hardcore.


Despite her lack of insulation or ability to cope with cold, Amy has an uncanny ability to defy the laws of physics. Tough Mudder – Midalnds 2015 was Amy’s second Tough Mudder. These two events incorporated a total of 3 electrical based obstacles (1 x Electric eel, 2 x Electroshock therepy) and not once has she had the privilege to get shocked! In the same time I have taken a whack a total of approximately 10-15 times…….. I suspect she coats her entire body in a sort of space aged rubberised polymer to insulate her from the shocks.  I have decided that next time out I am going to make an alliance with Amys unholy powers, using her as a “Ye-Olde battering ram” to drive my way through all electrical obstacles. Simples.

Tough Mudder insider tip:

Arctic Enema = Brutal brain freeze
Using my previous experience of being in both Tough Mudder – South East and Tough Mudder – Midlands (Twice), I decided that an upgrade of footwear was required. For too long I have resembled Bambi on ice when the conditions under foot become less than favourable. This was mostly because I was wearing my old faithful Asics 1150’s, a decent entry level road shoe, but in a Tough Mudder about as useful as Ray Charles' sunglasses…….

Through much thought, deliberation and research I opted for the Inov-8 X-Talon 212 (Precision fit) from wiggle.co.uk for a more extreme trail running shoe. A brand that comes with much adoration from obstacle course runners and trail runners alike.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when Mr postman delivered the shoes. It all looked very high quality from a company that in global terms, is dwarfed by the likes of Nike, Puma, Asics and Adidas. The shoe construction oozes quality, thought and purpose. For my feet at least, the “Precision fit” version on the X-Talon 212 shoe were as if they had been tailored to perfection. A couple of “break in runs later and they were ready to take on anything the mud of Boughton House cold throw at them.

From the off, the difference was notable, the shoes flexible enough to give comfort on the flats but providing enough support to attack any impending roots, rocks or logs. When faced with anything sloppy/sticky or slippery the generous studding on the soles (talons) provided more than adequate grip, even on the most treacherous of environments. When the mud is replaced with water the Talons still excel. The rate in which they expel any excess water is superb, the upper fabric of the toe box resembling one of those overflowing manhole covers, water being pumped out with every step. All in all, a bloody brilliant bit of kit and a must have for anyone doing a Tough Mudder, or one of the “lesser” obstacle races.

Like New
And as a final party trick: hose them down inside and out, a short cold wash in the washing machine (don’t forget to tie your laces) and they are good as new! Thank you Inov-8 you have gained one happy customer.

Happy Mudders
So I realise that I have rambled on and outstayed my welcome (Rule 1 of blogging: keep it short and sweet), but its my first post in about a year so I have a lot of B.S. built up inside of me, and it seems I have just splattered it all over the inter-web. Hopefully the next post will be shorter, sharper and more concise and entertaining. Tune in again next time to see if I lower the quality of the internet further or achieve a strong mediocre-ness.

Peace and love

James

1 comment:

  1. Love this! Those do sound like utterly insane obstacles. As a contact lens wearer cry baby does NOT sound like fun.......

    ReplyDelete