Sunday, 15 June 2014

Challenge 6: Tough Mudder

 Me and Caitlin looking clean and happy before the race. What fools.

I signed up for Tough Mudder in January, on a whim and without really considering my ability to get over any of the obstacles. Since January a lot of my time has been taken up with sleeping and watching tv  training for the Triathlon and so any strength training or distance running which might have helped me with Tough Mudder was pretty much ignored until the last three weeks at which point extreme panic set in and I desperately tried to gain some strength in my scrawny little arms.

I was feeling quite positive about my 'gains', easily cracking out twenty push ups at a time until a random man at the gym informed me that my form was wrong. Once corrected, I managed one push up before collapsing face first on the floor. The running part of my training was equally as useless with the furthest distance I'd attempted before this challenge still firmly set at 10k.

It's safe to say, therefore, that I was not as prepared as I could have been for this challenge but regardless of that, my friend Caitlin and I travelled to Dalkeith Country Park yesterday, got ready and made our way to the start line. We were off on our way around a 12 mile assault course before I even had time to say,

'hmm think my ankle's playing up. Probably best if I just sit this one out'.

There were 24 obstacles (you can see the course map here) so it would be a fairly long blog post if I were to write about all of them. Instead I'll just tell you that most of them involved crawling through mud, wading across rivers or climbing over things (bales and walls mainly). Below is a summary of the most difficult obstacles and also a couple of my favourites.

Artic Enema

I've written before about the fact that I detest the cold so entering into an ice bath was never going to be one of my favourite things to do. I got in and made my way to the tyres in the middle of the bath, at which point I was supposed to put my head under the water and swim under the tyres. Yeah that wasn't happening. 

The water had already taken my breath away and I just couldn't psych myself up enough to put my head under. I looked at the Tough Mudder volunteer at the side of the bath.

'I can't do it.' I whimpered.

He told me that I could but I needed to hurry up. The longer you spend fannying around debating whether or not to go under, the more likely you are to get hypothermia. I'm not a big fan of hypothermia so I put on my best pouty face and asked for his assistance in getting me the hell out of this devil's contraption. It took two of them to lift my pathetic self from the water because I was too cold to expend any energy pushing myself up over the side.

I'm going to say that this counts as a half completed obstacle because I at least got into the freezing water. Caitlin did manage to put her head under and go through the tyres and she said that it felt like she had died when she did so. With this information in mind, I think that my decision to chicken out of this obstacle was probably a pretty sensible thing to do. Which is unusual for me.

Walk The Plank

Image courtesy of Tough Mudder Facebook

In the run up to Tough Mudder this was the one obstacle that I had informed everyone that I would probably miss out because I've got a bit of a complex about water. In particular I'm terrified about being below the surface of the water. Let's be clear that a 12 foot drop into a muddy body of water is not my idea of a good time. However, spurred on by my success over many of the other obstacles and with the adrenaline pumping I made the decision to climb the ladder up to the top, made my way to the edge and the countdown began.

'3.....2.....1.....GO!' shouted the volunteer in charge.

 I didn't move. She counted again


Again I stood firmly rooted to the plank. I let a couple of people pass in front of me, the nerves building stronger with each second that passed. I looked at my arm and noticed that it was trembling uncontrollably.

Then out of nowhere my guardian angel  a Tough Mudder volunteer pulled me aside and asked what my problem was.

'I just can't do it. I'm scared of the water.' I told him.

My throat was sore with the effort of swallowing the desire to cry that kept rising to the surface. His face was really close to mine and he looked me straight in the eyes.

'Can you swim?' he asked.

'Well actually I did a Triathlon last month but I couldn't swim well before that'

It was admittedly a pathetic attempt to engage him in conversation and delay the inevitable leap into the water.

'Right so if you can swim, this is a mental problem, not a physical problem' he said sternly. 'Look ahead at the trees, don't look below you and step off. That drop will only last a few seconds and then you'll be up before you know it.'

I nodded defeatedly, and made my way back over to the edge.

The volunteer at the edge of the plank counted down again


I stepped off. My heart was thundering and I felt sick to my stomach. In the two seconds it took for me to hit the water I had visions of exorcist style vomiting over everyone in the vicinity but I managed to hold it in. I hit the water and went under. The panic rose as I felt the pressure of the water above my head. I kicked my feet and flapped my hands in a demented sort of way, the aim being to reach the surface as quickly as possible. When I felt my head break through the surface of the water, I think it might have been the happiest I have ever been. I swam the 40 feet to the other side and emerged victorious and perhaps looking a little bit like a drowned rat.

Mud Mile

Image again from TM Facebook. I have no idea who the people in the photograph are but I think it highlights quite how muddy it was!

Still soaking wet from launching ourselves into the water in Walk The Plank, Caitlin and I found ourselves confronted with a whole mile of mud which we had to run through. Compared to all the other obstacles you might consider that this would be one of the easier ones.

On the contrary, this was mud like I have never seen it before (even worse than the duathlon which will now be considered my second muddiest experience). At points the mud was up to our thighs and the whole thing was made more difficult by the fact that Caitlin's shoe decided to get stuck in the mud and so she made her way along most of the mile with only one shoe on. By the time we finished mud mile we were covered head to toe in mud (and I think perhaps something else because the smell wasn't particularly pleasant). The photographs of us at the end of the course don't really do justice to quite how muddy we were because some of the obstacles after this one were water based and so we came out slightly cleaner.

Electric Eel

This obstacle involved crawling on my belly through water with dangling electric wires above me.

I was relatively confident about this one because the farm that I kept my horse on had electric fencing and I'd had a shock from that. I was naively under the impression that the shock couldn't be as strong as those fences. I was wrong.

I'm quite small so I figured that the way to attack this obstacle would be to weave my way in between the hanging electric threads. This worked out pretty well for me for a little while but unfortunately I forgot to take into account that my back end is slightly larger than my front and so I got about three electric shocks to the arse. Oh how I screamed. Big, burly men were screaming too so I didn't feel too pathetic about my cries of pain. Let me tell you that I moved pretty quickly after receiving that first shock and I probably only took about ten seconds to complete the rest of that obstacle. I think the clear moral of the story here is that an electric shock to the backside is a great motivator.

Island Hopping

This was one of my favourite obstacles because I was pretty good at it. It essentially entailed jumping across floating squares on a river. I made it across no problem and looked so good while doing it that the men behind my friend in the queue exclaimed

'Oh look at her, she's good at that. She must have been a dancer.'

From this comment you probably imagine that I was leaping daintily from square to square with pointed toes and a few pirouettes thrown in for good measure. In reality I probably looked something like this...

Image from Buzzfeed

However it's likely that this is the only compliment I would receive while covered in mud, sweat and maybe a few tears and so I'm bloody well going to take it and believe that I looked like a prima ballerina prancing my way across those floating squares.

The Finish Line

After 12 miles of mud and obstacles I was pleased to see the finish line in sight, with only Electroshock Therapy standing in my way. Remembering acutely the shocks to the arse that I'd received from Electric Eel, I have to admit that it took a few false starts before I was brave enough to weave my way through the dangling wires. I managed to make it through without being shocked though (the benefits of being small). Once I had completed that final obstacle I gratefully received my Tough Mudder headband and made my way over to the free alcohol (as per usual).

The Day After

Ouch. Just ouch.

If you think my efforts are worth a quid or two please donate to either Sick Kid's Friends Foundation or Stroke Association

Thank you!!


  1. Well done, that's pretty damn impressive! Reading this has (perhaps surprisingly...) actually made me want to do one, although I reckon I'd probably need to get some training in first! x

    1. Actually - I take that back!! Just had a look at all the obstacles and being pretty claustrophobic I feel scared just reading about half of them haha!

    2. Aw thank you! I would totally recommend it. It was great fun! The obstacles weren't as tough as I'd imagined (other than the jump into the water and artic enema) and you can bypass any of them. The distance is a killer though so I probably should have run further in training. We walked a lot of it and do do a lot of people . At points it's too muddy to do anything but walk. Hope I've convinced you to sign up! :)