So I only found out I was doing Tough Mudder on Thursday last week. I was fortunately gifted a place to be part of the Trek Team, the official Tough Mudder sponsors, and was able to invite a friend along with me.
I knew it was probably a slim chance any of my non-running friends would be interested and a lot of my running friends were running a race on Sunday. It would also be a bit mad to be up for running a 10-12 mile serious obstacle race at such short notice. It was also in Henley On Thames which isn’t that close. However one of my work friends, George, had done Tough Mudder before, is quite into fitness and is a bit mental 😉 I offered him the place and after a few minutes of deciding he was up for it. Apparently he “had no plans so why not!”. He also lives in Reading so was literally en route to it. Very handy indeed!
The Trek Team was in the 11am wave so we needed to get there for 10am to pick up our t-shirts and meet our team etc. So I had a rather leisurely morning of waking up just before 8am, eating breakfast and leaving at 8.30am (no Alfie to walk as he’s at my parent’s house ready for me house sitting this week while their on holiday).It was very easy to find Culden Faw, where the event was taking place, and parking was easy peasy. The morning was lovely and sunny, though it was quite nippy in the wind. We arrived, had a quick toilet stop (no queue! Crazy!) and then headed to the Trek stand. They had two stands giving out taster samples to people and selling the different bars, so we had a little try of the different flavours. I’m a big fan of the oat banana bar and have used that before as a pre-race breakfast when pushed for time/amenities. But I hadn’t tried the others so it was like a bit like a buffet.There were some very tasty cocoa coconut bars which were basically like chocolate covered coconut-tasting flapjacks. Very nice.
After a sampling frenzy, we then popped on our super cool Trek t-shirts and met our fellow teammates and another couple of teams who were doing the half Tough Mudder. Everyone was so friendly and lovely. Though I was nervous, I felt far more at ease.
George on my left and two of the girls from the half team
I was especially nervous about the water obstacles. I hate being cold and my past experience with obstacle races has been fairly cold and unpleasant. It was a lot warmer today but the wind was still chilly. I decided to keep my long-sleeved base layer on under the top.
From the Trek team Instagram stories
We got some very VIP treatment by going to the front of the queue to get into the start entrance and being right at the front of the stage where a guy with a mike was getting everyone hyped for the warm-up. The idea was so we could be filmed and photo’ed for the event.
We did a fun little competition which involved the Trek Team choosing the most crazy-looking runner (it was a toss up between a guy in a full bright yellow suit and a guy wearing a psychedelic full body flare outfit), followed by a good dynamic warm-up to get us all going.
The vibe was so different to a regular race. It was all about camaraderie and having fun. We had to say out-loud a set of rules that said we wouldn’t leave anyone behind and we’d help where we could. The guy with the microphone really got everyone going, it was a fantastic atmosphere. Moments before we headed off I decided to not wear my long sleeved top and had a mad 30 seconds before the race started whipping it off and putting my t-shirt back on. Luckily one of the Trek guys was there to look after my unwanted top (so handy).
And then we were off. It was all very relaxed and jovial. Lots of whooping and laughter. It started off with some quite steep uphill running on some trails. We tried to keep together as a group and motivate each other on, though at times George and I kept our momentum going up the hills and the waited at the top to cheer the others up.
Photo credit: Emma Timmis
There were regular obstacles that I’m familiar with, such as climbing over walls and pulling yourself over things which warmed us up nicely. And then there was the one I was most dreading. The Arctic Enema… you basically climbed up to a tube which you slid down straight into a huge skip-like container full of water and ice cubs. Oh my god it was cold. The shock when you hit the water really did take your breath away. You then had to swim under a wooden beam to get to the other side. There were marshals on the outside who kept you moving and checked you were OK, which was good because there was obviously a real danger of panicking or staying in for too long. Getting out of the water I was just numb. George shouted at me “breathe Anna!” as I tried to get my breath back.
Saying all that, it was actually good fun. It was definitely a tough experience but I felt like a superhero afterwards. I was also glad it was one of the first obstacles as it stopped me worrying about it and gave me time to get warm again. I was more than happy to run up the steep hill in effort to get warm again. It didn’t take long thankfully!
Another wet obstacle, called the Block Ness Monster, involved jumping into muddy water and pushing and pulling these huge rotating barriers.
From the Tough Mudder Facebook page
Like most of the obstacles in the race, it involved team work. And not just from your own team but from everyone around. In order to get over the barrier a number of people had to push or pull in order to rotate it. It was good fun but the water was cold and muddy (well, to be expected!).
Some of my favourite obstacles were the ones that didn’t involve water but still involved needing to have help from others to do it. You could not have done it on your own. The Human Pyramid is an example of this, where you literally had to climb on someone’s shoulders and then reach for someone’s hands above you in order to get up.
From the Tough Mudder Facebook page
Made all the more tricky by being wet and slippy with mud! Because of course there was mud on route – churned up especially for us it seemed.
Along the route were hydration stations with Lucozade and water, as well as fuel stations full of chunks of Trek bars for us to scoff. It did make me slightly chuckle seeing these huge containers and people grabbing handfuls with their muddy hands… It reminded me of what Maria had said about the worry of people not washing their hands before sampling tasters when it was in a communal box. Though at some aid stations they had marshals handing them out with gloved hands. Though to be honest, I’m not actually that bothered, all part of strengthening the immune system 😉
I could talk about all the different obstacles but I won’t keep droning on. Each one was tough in it’s own way, whether the shock of cold submerging water, pulling yourself up and over something, crawling through mud and dark narrow pipes, running up steep hills, carrying logs, carrying each other…
The one final mention will be the truly AWFUL electric shock obstacle, which you had to run through. We got to it and I was like “I’m just going to go for it, get it over and done with.” I mean, how bad would it be? I was expecting little zaps as the hanging cables hit me (like a perverse jungle of live wires). But OHHH NO. These were full on, straight to the bone jolts of pain. No pun intended here, but it genuinely shocked me the amount of pain it inflicted. To the point that I fell fully over onto the churned up mud.In the end, the course was around 11 miles and took us around 2:45-3 hours (I forgot to stop my Garmin as we crossed the finish line – it was that unimportant). As you can see the miles took a long time to get through.This was mainly due to having to wait for obstacles, doing the obstacles and then the sheer elevation. And not running the whole thing – it’s really not about the running as you can probably tell.
But we finished and survived! Never had a cider tasted so good as that first sip when we were handed it, after picking up our finisher’s t-shirt, headband and Trek goodies of course.
Most of our team weren’t quite as muddy as me due to my last minute mud faceplant, but I wore my mud with pride!George did amazingly. He was like a Duracell bunny the entire race, boosting people along with fun banter and encouragement, even if they weren’t on our team. On some obstacles we practically had to pull him away from constantly helping people as we could have been there forever otherwise. I was glad he came along.
He’s also very similar to me in his love for food so after we showered off (an ordeal in itself: peeling off my layers in the middle of a communal “shower” area and then hosing yourself down using freezing water to get as much mud off as possible) and got changed we headed sharpish to the food area. By this point (3.30pm?) I was getting seriously hangry…The food truck selection was top notch, though I was devastated to see they’d run out of sweet potato fries with pulled pork on top. Instead I went for a falafel wrap (VERY tasty and jam packed full), followed by a pot of pulled pork, stuffing and crackling.So so good and definitely what I needed! I was somewhat jealous of George’s manwich, though he graciously gave me a black pudding sausage (the sandwich contained sausages, pulled pork, crackling and apple sauce).The Trek guys were fantastic. Both our team and the actual Trek people were so nice, supportive and fun. We got lots of freebies to take home with us as well which was the icing on the cake!Tough Mudder was hard, but it wasn’t impossible. I’d fully recommend it to anyone who can run at least 10k, purely because I think you have to have some level of endurance to be able to do it. Though there’s no pressure to run the entire thing or do all the obstacles (you can skip any of them), it’s just a great experience and a way to have fun with friends.
Have you done a race like this before?
Would you ever do Tough Mudder?
What obstacle would most scare you?
**Full Disclaimer: I was given a free entry (with a friend) to the Tough Mudder event as well as free Trek goodies in exchange for posting on social media and writing a recap. All opinions and posts are my own honest ones.**