Tough Mudder: I didn’t die!

First things first. I took part in this Tough Mudder at the end of September which was, I’m sure you’ll agree, some time ago. However, it being the New Year and a time when everyone is looking to get fit I’ve found an excuse – I was saving it to inspire you to signup and stay fit!

Yes. That will do.

If you didn’t read any of my training blogs, Tough Mudder is a hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by the British Special Forces. It tests all-round strength, stamina and determination by throwing ridiculous obstacles at you on your way round. It is so tough, they make you sign a death waiver. Yes. A death waiver.

Regardless of the thought of myself drowning in a pool of mud I braved it – and completed it!

It wasn’t quite as brutal as they make out. It is still the toughest, muddiest thing I’ve ever had to do and I had plenty of scratches and bruises to prove it, but it wasn’t the death-facing experience they market it as. All of the obstacles were a challenge, but some stick in the mind more than others. Here are my “top” 5:

5: Funky Monkey (aka Monkey Bars)
These were surprisingly hard and probably the toughest from an endurance point of view. They went up and then went down. Going up was a struggle, but the strength it takes to keep yourself steady on the way down was draining. The first lot of bars were wet and muddy, making it harder but grip became less of an issue as you progressed as fewer people had reached the further bars to sully them!

4. Berlin Walls
They were rather hard, especially considering I helped my team over, giving everyone a free pass to stand on my hands and shoulders to get them safely over… and then everyone vanished. I had to then haul myself over a 12 foot high wall all by myself. And then do it a second time.

3: Cage Crawl
The most mentally tough obstacle. Lie on your back, head semi-submerged in cold, muddy water and pull yourself along using the cage that is only about 6 inches away from your face. It was a little claustrophobic, but I was doing ok after the first third. Then a marshal told me to put my head back more. “They know what they’re talking about” I thought, so I lifted my chin and put my head back only to smash my nose on the cage. My reaction was to pull my head away from the point of impact. Meaning I went under. Emerging, spluttering, I then had to power through to get out the other side. Urgh.

2. Electric Eel
This is the one that takes all your bravery to tackle. Crawling over rocks and mud while a huge number of volts dangle menacingly around you. You know you’re going to get shocked. You can’t avoid the wires. But you foolishly hope. When the shocks arrive they don’t hurt as much as you thought they would, but the jolt certainly wakes you up. Once you get shocked your body is uncontrollable. I managed to get a shock on my backside which went down my leg and make me kick out like an irate donkey. As an added bonus, the rocks cut your knees and elbows to shreds.

1. Arctic Enema
I knew this would easily be the worst obstacle – and I wasn’t wrong. It is as every bit as cold as it sounds, but worse. You think you can just jump in, brave the cold and get out with nothing more than a “golly that was nippy”. Wrong. You jump in and your body seizes up almost instantly. You swim under the barrier in the middle and emerge yelling because you’re so bloody cold. You’re sluggish, slow and disorientated – all because of a little ice. You then have to lift yourself out, but you now feel three times heavier than normal. For me this was the hardest part. The person in front of me couldn’t pull themselves out, so I had to shove their frozen backside out of the ice before I could even begin my struggle. Brr.

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Once you’ve ran through some more electric wires you get to the end. You get an awesome sense of achievement that you’ve overcome the obstacles and did it all together. The odd thing is the “I really need to do that again… soon” feeling you get once you’ve crossed the finish line. Rather than doing a second lap you have to contend with an orange headband, a finisher t-shirt and a pint of cider, which is a great start to your recovery.

Overall, as long as you are doing Tough Mudder with a team, it is a really really enjoyable experience. You get a mini lecture when you start about the importance of looking out for your fellow Mudders and you can see people lending a hand all over the course and you find yourself looking for opportunities to help. Being a Tough Mudder is about being part of a group that are sludging through not matter what, rather than trying to do it in the fastest time possible. One team who took part on the same day as me had a member in a wheelchair who they practically carried around the course. That’s Tough Mudder.

If you’re looking for a challenge for 2014 and want something a bit different to the regular 10Ks and half marathons on offer, I would wholeheartedly recommend throwing yourself head first into a Tough Mudder. Not only do you train for something (meaning you keep it up) you get to sound like a badass when you tell people what you’re doing. “Oh, just a 12 mile course full of barbed wire, electric shocks and 12 foot high walls. No big deal”

The cost can be a little steep (entry typically costs between £55-£120) but the earlier you grab a spot, the less expensive it is. I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the price on the way round!

If you want to take part in a Tough Mudder, take a look at the 2014 calendar. They happen all over the county. If you’re in my neck of the woods, the South West Tough Mudder is on 16th and 17th August. I might see you there…

I am took part in the Tough Mudder South West on Saturday 21st September in an effort to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. I was awarded a media participant place by Tough Mudder’s PR agency, Frank. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.

Tough Mudder Training: HHIIT (Homemade High Intensity Interval Training)

As you may know, I have gone a bit mental and signed up for the South West Tough Mudder. My judgement day is fast approaching (September 21st) so I am in the midst of my training plan.

Training for a marathon is easy. Run, run, don’t run, run a little further. Simple. This is a little different.

My weekly plan consists of eating clean (overnight oats, no-bake energy balls), 24 miles of cycling a week, a run (gradually increasing to 8 miles) and some interval training. My gym puts on interval classes, but seeing as I can do it for free on a nice village green outside my house, I’ve been using a homemade version made up of things picked up from the gym and my ex-PT brother-in-law.

So what is a HHIIT? First of all, it stands for Homemade High Intensity Interval Training. Second of all, it is a series of exercises whereby you bust your gut for 30 seconds for each one, without a break in between. Do them all once, then have a quick break. Do it again. And again. Then you’re done. Not only is it effective, but it’s also quite quick.

HHIIT

So, three sets of 30 seconds bursts of:

Stair Climbs
Hands on the floor in a press-up position, then bring one knee up to your chest/stomach, then the other, as if you were, you guessed it, climbing stairs.

These will be good for the 10-12 miles I’ll have to run.

Standing Knee Raises
Stand on the spot, raise one knee and twist to touch your opposite elbow with it. Drop the knee and do it with the other side.

These will be good to increase the range of motion in my legs and hips to try and counteract the impact of the distance and the obstacles.

Burpees
Jump up, land, hands on the floor, fire your legs back. Pop them back in, stand up. Repeat. You’ll get 10 seconds in and think you can do them forever, then they’ll start working…

These will build up the explosive power needed to tackle the Dirty Ballerina.

Plank with Knee Raises
Get into the press-up position, then bring one leg up, like a dog cocking their leg… Bring it up as far up your side as you can. Then do the other side. The last set will feel like they take about 5 minutes.

They work your obliques something rotten, which will come in handy for the Trench Warfare and Boa Constricter obstacles.

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Renegade Rows
These can also be known as Alligator Walks. Again, press-up position, with a wide hand stance. Lift your right or left hand straight upwards, like an alligator would walk. Get it? Do the other side.

These work your core and your obliques, so they’re good prep for Devil’s Beard and the wonderfully named Turd’s Nest.

Jumps
Jump up and down. Done.

This is good for all round cardio and explosive power needed to get up/over things such as Everest and Berlin Walls.

Press-Ups
Get into the press-up position. Do a press-up. Then do some more.

These will help boost arm and chest strength for Funky Monkey and Hanging’ Tough.

Squats
Stand up. Then act like you’re going to sit down, sticking your bum out a bit, stopping before your bum goes lower than your knees. Then stand up again. Carry on. Nearly there.

Twists
That old favourite, yup, the press-up position, then lift one arm, twist your upper body and turn so you’re pretty much sideways. Return back to the middle and do the other side. Well done. Only one more to go.

Plank
In that classic press-up position again, but this time, instead of being on your hands, move down on to you elbows with your forearms level with the floor. Keep your bum down and brace your abs. Hold it and keep your back straight. My back wants to break by the second attempt so they’re a good one to end on.

Both these and the Twists will help create a strong core and improve my balance for obstacles such as Twinkle Toes.

Now, you’ve tanked through them all, do it again, and again!

Now if I could only find some exercises to prepare me for Arctic Enema, Electric Eel and Fire Walker

I’m supporting Macmillan Cancer Support because everyone hates cancer and those suffering from it get some great support from Macmillan, so they deserve some more cash. If you fancy donating a few pennies you can at my JustGiving page.

Oh dear. I’ve signed up for the Tough Mudder.

Oh dear. Oh deary deary me. What have I done?

Usually this blog sees me trying nice things such as chocolates, wine or baby things. Not this time. This time it is different. This time it is an event. A crazy event.

It’s the Tough Mudder.

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The Tough Mudder is a hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by Special Forces. It tests all-round strength, stamina and determination. I’ll be taking part in the South West version on September 21st.

Throwing yourself into a pile of mud with your mates sounds like a bunch of stupid fun but when you start looking at the obstacles (fire, ice, electricity) and the distance (10-12 miles) the reality soon hits you in the face like a belly flop into a dirty puddle. The Tough Mudder team claim that only 78% of entrants successfully complete each challenge and I have to sign a death waiver (a death waiver!) so you start to understand what faces me…

This is easily the hardest thing I have ever done (bar surviving at work on 3 hours of sleep after paternity leave). I did run the Bristol Half Marathon in 2009, but even then I did it in quite a slow time for someone of my age and fitness thanks to old man knees, so this is a big deal.

Because it’s such a big deal I’ve decided to give myself a reason for being so stupid: raising money for charity. I’m supporting Macmillan Cancer Support because everyone hates cancer and those suffering from it get some great support from Macmillan, so they deserve some more cash. If you fancy donating a few pennies you can at my JustGiving page – but I won’t hold it against you if you just say “good luck” instead.

To prepare for my big showdown I’ve started making sure I’m eating and training correctly. Thanks to my brother-in-law I’ve now got a calorie target and plenty of nutritional information on what is good to eat and I’m learning lots from a few books and blogs as well.

With that bit sorted, training is next. The past couple of weeks have been about ramping up the exercise to a full-blown training week: internal training Tuesday, cycle 12 miles Thursday and Friday and a run (increasing to 8 miles) on Sunday. That schedule starts next week for 10 weeks. Phew.

I’ll be posting a few updates every now and again and will also let you know how the big day goes, unless the death waiver comes in handy for Tough Mudder® Ltd of course.

Wish me luck.