Well we did it… Completed the London West Tough Mudder and raised loads of money for Diabetes UK. It was all Rebecca’s fault! She has Type 1 Diabetes and talked me into doing it with her and a couple of her friends. I didn’t really know that much about the event itself when I agreed to it last year. I knew it was a tough obstacle course with lots of mud but that was about it.
As the event approached though I did a little research and discovered that it was more than 10 gruelling miles with obstacles, mud, ice cold water and electric shocks! Some of the obstacles looked near to impossible, other just down-right uncomfortable. It should be just my thing! It wasn’t cheap to enter mind you and the organisers seemed to be cashing in at every opportunity. Spectators had to pay, we had to pay for parking and every email from them was giving us yet another opportunity to pay for something else, be it a priority pass or some merchandise. It looked like it should be fun though. There was a Mini Mudder for Morgan to enter and plenty of spectating for Anna, so we were looking forward to a good day out.
We stayed at a Premier Inn the night before and then drove the 45 minutes or so to the event venue near Henley early on Saturday morning. I did of course have a full breakfast beforehand! We met Rebecca and her friend Genevieve and Sam as we arrived and got ourselves ready. We registered, and such like and then made our way to the warm-up area. We checked that Rebecca’s constant blood glucose monitoring device was firmly attached, protected as much as possible from the elements and working correctly. Anna and Morgan were on photography duty and we joined our wave of fellow ‘Mudders’ ready for the start.
Off we Go!
We had a bit of a communal warm up with our wave of competitors and were instructed to shout some “Hoo Ha’s” and “Hell Yeah’s” – not my kind of macho thing but everyone else (most of whom were younger then me) seemed to be enjoying it. We were then set off through orange smoke and off onto a steady jog around the hilly course.
Sam does quite a bit of running and Genevieve had done a Tough Mudder a few years ago. Rebecca had been doing some training ready for this, but it’s not really the sort of thing she does all the time. It was therefore going to be quite a physical challenge for her, not made any easier by having to keep on top of her blood sugar levels and control her diabetes too. I think the adrenalin at the beginning messed her up a little as well pushing her sugar levels up higher than she was expecting. She had expected low sugar levels to be an issue, but not necessarily high levels. This made her really thirsty but there were water stations dotted around the course and I grabbed a bottle of water from Anna so that I could carry it with me for Rebecca.
The overall pace was fairly slow anyway and we were there for Rebecca so were more than happy to stick with her and get her through it. There were loads of people in each wave and we seemed to slot in somewhere in the middle. We were taking things at a slow jog and even walking up the steeper hills.
I’ve lost track of the order of the obstacles but we were soon clambering over high walls, crawling under barbed wire, climbing bales of straw and wading through thick mud. I think there were 20 obstacles in total, although a few of these were simply steep hill reps!
We soon came towards one of the bigger obstacles though that is supposed to be quite a challenge. It’s called Arctic Enema and involves sliding down a tube into a tank full of ice water.
There were two huge refrigerated articulated lorry trailers that were dispensing ice into the tanks. The slide in took you under the water and then there was a barrier halfway through the tank that you had to duck under once again in order to get out. It looked cold and the people emerging from the other side all looked a little shocked!
We lined up together and took the plunge. I usually suffer really badly from ice-cream headache when surfing and such like, but this actually felt OK. I’m not sure the others felt the same though so I helped them out and we re-grouped on the other side. We were now all soaking wet and freezing cold so after a quick chat about it and a check on Rebecca we headed off for yet more obstacles.
We had logs to carry, piggyback rides to give and more things to clamber over and through.
Birth Canal had us squeezing through a little muddy gap. There were plenty of tubes to crawl through and muddy puddles to land in. Although it was a fairly nice day it was still chilly and I was soon shivering like mad. Sam looked pretty cold too. Rebecca didn’t look quite so cold but was struggling with the physical challenge at times. Genevieve just didn’t have her head in the right place I don’t think. Her claustrophobia had her avoiding the small dark spaces and she also decided to miss out the wet challenges too so stayed fairly dry and therefore warm. We all stayed back to help Rebecca, despite the fact that she kept telling us to carry on – there was no chance of that!
Block Ness Monster
The Block-ness Monster was a fun obstacle. Two large rotating blocks in the middle of a pool of smelly muddy water. In we got, pushed a few people over the first block and then hung on ourselves while other people pushed us over. The camaraderie throughout was good. There was no way of completing some of the obstacles on your own so everyone was always helping everyone else. I did try to do all of obstacles on my own at first and did complete most of them solo, but thing like this just weren’t possible. There was always someone there to lend a hand and give a helping push. I of course reciprocated and actually spent more time helping others than getting over them myself. If anything the most physical part of the whole thing for me was yanking people up over obstacles, lifting them up to the top of others and generally helping them get through it.
As the name suggests this is just a wade through super sticky mud. In fact it clearly has cement in it towards the end too as it becomes so thick and gloppy that it’s difficult to move. There are allos walls of mud to climb over in the middle of it too. All good fun though if a little uncomfortable afterwards due to the build of of mud and grit everywhere!
As if we weren’t already caked in mud Pyramid Scheme had us writhing around on a mud caked slippery slope trying to get to the top. This was another that was impossible without a helping hand so I spent some time at the bottom helping others up, scrambled up myself with some assistance and then spent some time at the top pulling others up as well.
We met up with Anna and Morgan here and there as there was a spectator route for them to follow. I think they covered quite a bit of distance themselves.
Morgan also headed off to do a Mini Mudder as well. Three laps of obstacles that he seemed to enjoy. He’s been wearing his blue Mini-Mudder headband with pride ever since.
We had quite a way to go yet though. As well as losing the reading from her blood monitor which had decided the mud and water was just too much for it, Rebecca had fallen and twisted her ankle too. I didn’t let her sit there for long worrying about it though, If she was going to finish this then she’d have to get up and get on with it. We pulled her to her feet and helped her limp onwards. Adrenaline and sheer determination were going to have to overcome the pain for her. She kept going though and did every single obstacle.
This is a hard series of monkey bars. Uphill monkey bars, horizontal wheels to swing on and revolving vertical wheels too. I didn’t manage to complete this one. Wearing gloves was a mistake as I just couldn’t cling onto the slippery bars and after a few of them I was soon plunging into the muddy water below for yet another swim.
This had us climbing backwards through tubes and plunging yet again into muddy water with a backwards flip. There were plenty of other dunkings and swims too.
One of the bigger obstacles with a really good vibe to it was Everest. A 15 foot high slippery quarter pipe with a vertical top section. The place was buzzing with energy as people were sprinting up the slope and throwing themselves at the top in a vain hope that someone at the top would make contact with their outstretched arms and manage to cling onto them and then pull them up. As we waited for our turn we could see people just making it, only to lose their grip and slide back down. Others were dangling as people at the top grabbed arms, legs or anything that they could in order to get them to the top. At times people who were already at the top helping others would get pulled down head first as they hung over the side pulling people up.
It was soon our time to go and I decided to see if I could make it all the way to the top unaided. I almost did, but there was nothing to grab onto and I slid back down. Next time I decided it would be better to grab someone hand and was soon at the top helping others. I stayed her for a while grabbing arms and pulling people up. If anything this bit at the top was the most physical bit for me as the rest had been fairly easy as far as fitness or strength was concerned.
There wasn’t too far left to go now. A few smaller obstacles and then a shocker to finish.
Yep, 10,000 volts of electricity hanging from cables that you had to run through. You couldn’t avoid them, you were wet and it was going to hurt! Rebecca couldn’t do this one as no one was sure if it was safe to do with her blood monitoring device would so we headed into it without her. I thought I was getting away with it as I didn’t get shocked at first but then one hit me and made me crumble almost to my knees. A couple more hit me too, each one making my legs give way but I made it through.
We’d done it, there was the finish line, a tough mudder headband and a ‘T’-shirt.
Time for a bit of a clean up, a chat and more than anything time to get warm as I was still freezing and shivering like mad.
All in all good fun and not too difficult for me from a physical point of view. It was certainly a challenge for some though and Rebecca had made it despite being bruised and in pain. She is now on crutches thanks to the sprained ankle.