Week 1 Done. Bring on Week 2.

So one week done. I trained 5 out of 7 days, should have been 6 but I had a busy weekend with family stuff and couldn’t fit in a 5K run as I intended. In the end my week looked like this:

Monday – Crossfit
Tuesday – Circuit Training
Wednesday – Back & Bicep weights & Cardio
Thursday – Circuit Training
Friday – Crossfit

Crossfit on Friday was a really good session, definitely felt like I left it all in the gym. Did circuits of six stations, 2 mins skipping, 20 pull ups on gymnastic rings, 20 kettlebell squat to press, 20 standing jumps onto plyometric table, 20 medicine ball push-ups and battle rope sequences. The battle rope sequences were good in that they worked my arms hard in a way I’m not used to training them. That’s what I am really enjoying about crossfit and training at Fitness Zoo, I am trying new exercises and working my body in different ways to usual. It is definitely keeping me motivated.

I also managed to more or less eat clean all week. Lean meats, low carbs and veg/salad. I’ve generally only drunk water and only snacked on fruit and nuts/seeds. On Saturday we had another celebration for my son’s birthday with my family, so I did indulge in a very small slice of chocolate cake, but otherwise it has been a very clean week food wise. I have also stuck to a new regime of supplements, which will hopefully help reach my goals. It sounds like overkill in a way, but I am taking CLA tablets three times a day with meals, whey protein with breakfast, after training and for supper, Creatine twice a day and iBCAA before and after training. I have also tried The Protein Works’ RAZE pre-workout which I take, well… pre-workout. It may be psychological, but I think it made a bit of a difference for the two workouts I did ‘under the influence’. Anyway after only a week in, it’s still far too early days to chart any real progress or gains, but I am still motivated and determined going into week 2.

I’m really enjoying my crossfit and circuit sessions at the moment as they are different from my usual regime of weights one day, bit of cardio another and the same old variations on a three day split I’ve been doing for years. I’ve not really progressed in a long time and for the amount of effort I perceive I put in, I think its time to get some return which is why I’ve been shaking things up.

My initial plan was to go hard for 4-6 weeks and see what I can achieve. I think even going all out, with work, family commitments and two children ensuring I never get a decent night’s sleep, I think this may be an ambitious timescale. So I have revised my plan to a 10 week timescale, which conveniently will take me up to December, a month where I usually indulge in the festive practise of gluttony. After that, I think I’ll take stock in the New Year and re-assess my goals from there.

Supplemental

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So I’ve never really done the supplement thing seriously before, figured I’d give it a go and see what I could achieve (if anything) with supplementing a decent eating regime.

This little lot arrived today and should give me a good introduction to the ‘supplementing’. It’s the Protein Works Lean Muscle pack. It includes, whey, CLA, BCAA, creatine and pre- workout. So let’s see how much of a difference it makes over the next 6 weeks or so.

DOMS – To Train or Not to Train…

DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness is something anyone with an interest in working out, exercise and/or training is either familiar with or has experienced. Without getting too sciencey about it, DOMS is a dull ache and stiffness in muscles from 24 – 72 hours after working out caused by eccentric exercise which lengthens the muscle fibres.

Anyone who resistance trains has probably experienced DOMS, I know I certainly have. I don’t experience it too often when I regularly work out, I do however feel it after I’ve had a break from exercise or sometimes when I begin a new/more intense programme. I’m putting this bout of DOMS down to the fact I haven’t really worked out properly in two weeks until Monday and over the past two days I have churned out 120 front squats, 180 overhead squats and 90 lunges. So in short, my legs a knackered.

There is a lot of conflicting information and debate to be found on the internet regarding DOMS, causes, treatment and prevention. There also appears to be a split between the school of thought that says don’t train when experiencing DOMS and the school that says man up, it’s only a bit of pain. In the past, I have swing between the two options, sometimes believing further training helps ‘loosen’ me up and other times have ached quite a bit so have given myself some recovery time. I have yet to form a conclusion either way as to which benefits me personally.

I have read that massage, hot baths and low intensity cardio can help ease DOMS. Without sounding like too much of a wimp, my legs ache pretty bad today my original plan to go for a 5K run or some hill running is just not going to happen. That being said, I don’t want to rest today either. In light of my determination to make some gains in a short period of time (4-6 weeks), I feel like I need to keep up the training even if it is at a reduced intensity.

With this in mind I’m going to hit the gym after work and do a short back session, pull-ups, bent-over rows etc. and then 30 mins or so on the cross-trainer at a steady rate for some cardio (and to put to test the theory of LISS helping ease DOMS). Hopefully that should be enough to keep me ticking over until tomorrow when I can hammer out some more circuits and Friday when I’ll be crossfitting at the mercy of Cpt. Crofts at the ‘zoo.

Eat Clean, Train Mean, Get Lean

My new motto.

So day two of ‘getting back on it’ and I’m feeling good. Well, stiff but good. After work yesterday I hit the ‘zoo for Crossfit. I don’t think I was quite prepared for the intensity of what Cpt. Crofts had in mind for us, but I hit it as hard as I could muster. He set up four stations to complete as a circuit and we had to see how much we could cram into 45 minutes (after warm up). The stations were:

10 laps of the car park at sprinting pace
4 spots in a square, about 2 yards apart. Push-up at each spot, ‘walking’ in push-up position between each. A push-up at each spot represented one rep, we had 20 to do.
(20 x front barbell front squats, then 20 x shoulder press) x 3
30 x rope pull ups

I managed one full circuit and one half circuit in the 40 minutes or so after warm up. It doesn’t seem like a lot now I write it down, but bloody hell I felt it. I felt it more this morning when I got out of bed and my legs ached after all those front squats! I had planned on going for a run this morning but couldn’t really face it, so perhaps foolishly decided to go to the gym and do some more circuit type training instead. The exercises I pinched from this month’s issue of Men’s Health article on ‘six-pack in 4 weeks’:

Overhead Squats – 3 sets, 20 reps
Prone knee to opposite elbow (from push-up position, knee to each elbow = one rep) – 3 sets, 12 reps
Prone knee to same elbow (as above) – 3 sets, 12 reps
Push-Ups – 3 sets, 15 reps
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls – 3 sets, 12 reps
Lunge to dumbbell press – 3 sets, 13 reps

Exercises to be completed as a circuit, 30 second rests between each set. Repeat three times.
If there is any remaining time from the 45 minute session, brisk walk on an uphill treadmill, increasing the incline to failure.

I managed all the exercises but the last set may have incurred slightly longer rest periods. I didn’t have any time left at the end for the treadmill, so I obviously need to up my tempo a bit with the circuits. Still, I felt like I had been through the ringer afterwards so it must have been a decent work out.

I have a feeling my legs are going to be knackered tomorrow, so I’m not sure how my plan to go for a run will pan out. The Men’s Health six pack plan recommends doing the circuits 4 days a week, resting one day and on the other two 45 minutes of treadmill walking on an incline. I don’t imagine for a minute I could walk or run on a treadmill for 45 minutes without going crazy, so I need to either have a rest day or think of a suitable alternative workout. If my legs aren’t too buggered I think I’ll try a gentle 5k or maybe walking up the big hill near where I live then jogging down and repeat for 45 minutes or I get too tired/bored to continue. Then Thursday more circuits and Friday more Crossfit. I don’t think I’ll have time to train at the weekend as I have a lot of family commitments, but I’m sure my legs will welcome the rest if nothing else. If I can squeeze it in I’ll do some stretching and maybe some yoga (well as much yoga as I can manage) on one of the days. Most importantly I need to lay off the pizza & curry and beer (much as this pains me).

I’ve been thinking about a diet plan and I need to try and keep it simple. Good lean meats and protein sources, cut-out processed crap and refined carbs and no cakey-stuff! So my meals may become a little boring, but I have to think of food as fuel for the next 4-6 weeks.

Meal Plan

Breakfast – Oat and fruit Based Smoothie

Morning snack – nuts, seeds, dried fruit, olives

Lunch:

Option A – Cajun chicken, peppers, onions wrap
Option B – Tuna pasta salad with sweetcorn & peppers
Option C – Turkey steaks, spelt & beans

Afternoon snack – fruit

Tea:

Option A – chicken & courgette chilli
Option B – chicken, sweet potato & veg
Option C – Turkey strips & bean salad
Option D – (once a week) Lean Steak, Kale & veg

Supper – Protein shake

I’ve also ordered a ‘Lean Muscle’ package from the Protein Works, which apparently is ‘…specifically created for those looking to achieve muscle definition and reduce overall body fat.’ Which pretty much sums up my goals for the next six weeks or so. That and getting increasing my fitness level, but I like to think the two go hand in hand right? I need to keep motivated, keep disciplined and keep progressing!

I think I’ll get the missus to take some pictures too so I can see if there’s any sort of obvious improvements I can chart them.

Tough Mudder Done, So What Now?

Tough Mudder done! So what the hell do I train for now? Time to take stock of my progress, identify my weak points and set some goals for the future. I need to try and stay motivated in the absence of a specific training goal (other than next year’s Tough Mudder).

After the Mudder, I had a week off training. Then I had another week off as I caught a stomach virus and spent most of that week puking my guts up. I returned to the gym the following week for a boxing circuits class at Mick’s new gym http://www.fitnesszoo.co.uk which I thoroughly enjoyed (well not so much at the time!). I was a hell of a come back session, but having never boxed or done any boxing training previously, it was something new and exciting to try. Unfortunately my training stalled again that evening when I twisted my ankle getting of my bed somehow and ending up in A&E. Luckily it was just a sprain and with a little patience and deep heat I was able to walk on it again the next day, but it through off my ‘comeback’ yet again.

I had a proper fat bastard weekend of cake, cake, crisps, beer and cake, so today represents the ‘comeback’, hopefully will represent a continued period of training hard, eating clean and making gains, rather than injury or illness!

After work tonight I’m hitting the ‘zoo for Crossfit, which I did some of during my Tough Mudder training and I enjoyed a lot. My plan for the rest of the week then is to get some running in, hit the gym for some all-round conditioning/circuits then more Crossfit on Friday morning. I really want to get back to regularly training at least 3-4 times a week.

With Tough Mudder done, I need to find a new way to motivate myself, otherwise I’ll lapse back into 3 weights sessions a week, not really pushing myself and making excuses to avoid running/cardio work. I think for the interim period at least I need to change the way I train and instead of sticking to a rigid three-day split weight plan with a bit of cardio thrown in, try something new. The classes at the ‘zoo present a good opportunity to try different sorts of training and mix it up, but also I need to develop what I do by myself too as its not always convenient to attend a class. I think I need to find an alternative to long boring runs, whether that me doing hill runs or more trailing running I’m not sure yet. I also need to move away from the more ‘traditional’ training I do at the gym and find a way to mix it up. Rather than do splits I think I’ll do more full body routines, with cardio elements worked in. Maybe work on things I don’t often do like snatches and Olympic lifts etc.

I also need to have a look at my diet, nutrition and supplements. When I do train uninterrupted, I train quite hard but feel I don’t make the gains I would like. This is most likely down to my penchant for curry, pies, pizza, cake and beer. I don’t have a terrible diet, I eat quite clean during the week but tend to lapse (severely) on weekends. I need to come up with a workable clean diet I can fit around also cooking kids meals and shift working. I also need to have a look at sports nutrition/supplements and either commit to a decent supplement regime, or not other at all. I think my current habit of buying whey protein and having a scoop now and then after workouts probably does little for me.

On reflection, I think the way forward is set a short term goal while I’m looking for something more long-term and specific to work towards. So, here’s the plan:

For the next 4-6 weeks train as hard and as often as I can (realistically 3-5 times a week on average), eat as clean as I can without too many ‘treats’, get on a decent regime of supplements, Whey Protien, Creatine, iBCAA, CLA etc. which I need to take as directed and see what gains I can make in this period. I would like to think if I am disciplined, I should see some gains in fitness level, hopefully beer gut will begin to diminish a little and you never know, I may even put on some noticeable lean muscle. I’m not expecting marathon stamina, washboard abs and Schwarzenegger’s biceps in this time, just enough gain to notice, to motivate me to continue with the discipline and hard work I’ll be putting in.

In the long term, I need to find a new goal I can build some specific training plan around, be it a sport/event or specific body building goal or fitness goal (such as run a half marathon in sub two hours etc.). Any suggestions?

Tough Tips for the Tough Mudder

Training:

 You cannot train hard enough for the Tough Mudder.  It claims to be ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’ and it probably is.  Having one Tough Mudder under my belt now, I’m already thinking about my training for next year.  I have a good general level of fitness anyway (well reasonable), but to get round the Tough Mudder convincingly, you need to be very fit.  Luckily on my team this year we had Cpt. Crofts, gym-owner, PT superhero extraordinaire and all-round motivator! He began running a boot camp on Tuesday nights for about four months before the event and incorporated cross-fit, agility exercises, strength exercises and lots of cardio.  For the last three weeks we upped the sessions to two hours which was really intense, but it definitely paid off.  I supplemented this training with running and general conditioning and strength work at the gym. 

 

On the way round the course, the only thing I felt I was lacking was more cardio for tackling all the steep hills.  Those relentless hills!  So, for next year, my training is going to be a hill-running frenzy!  No more 4-5 mile runs around the lake, it’s going to be up and down hills all the way until I have invincible leg-stamina!  I think if I can improve my hill running and combine this with the cross-fit and bootcamp sessions, I’ll be in good stead to improve my time for next year.  I’m also going to being swimming regularly to improve my confidence in the water.

 

Top Tought Tip: Hit those hills and cardio, cardio, cardio!

 

Kit:

 

We had much debate within the team about what to wear and when we arrived on the day there was a hell of a variety on offer.  Attire varied from pirate outfits to nothing but thongs (unfortunately on some big-arsed rugby player).  I think if you’re not going for the novelty look, the best bet is to go with lightweight, quick drying gear and a pair of running shoes with a decent grip (trail shoes a probably best).  I wore a lightweight wickable top, my running shorts over some compression pants (to try and preserve my modesty), a decent pair of quick-drying running socks (Under Armour) and some New Balance trail runners. As a team we also decided gloves might be a good idea.  Some team members wore gym gloves, the rest of us worse some rubber coated work gloves that gave us plenty of grip.  I cut the fingers off mine so they wouldn’t fill with water and they worked great.  One piece of kit I got wrong was sweat bands.  As soon as I hit the water hazards they became soaked, never dried out and chaffed.  I had planned to pull them over my elbows when I was crawling but they didn’t help anyway.  So sweatbands, leave ‘em at home. 

 

Some people opted for leggings and or long sleeved tops.  Wile I can see the sense in having some extra protection when crawling or being electrocuted, you have to remember that your kit is going to get wet and muddy a lot, so the more stuff you’re wearing, the more water and mud you’re going to be carrying around.  A lot of blokes were just wearing shorts and trainers, thus minimising the amount of wet kit you have to run around in.  I think if the weather had been better (and I didn’t have a beer gut), I would have been tempted to do the same.  Still it’s all personal choice and you have to wear what works best for you.

 

Top Tough Tip: Light wear and minimal kit is the way forward.

 

Before the Event:

 

Eat a good hearty breakfast; you’re going to need lots of extra energy reserves!  My patented banana, blueberry, oats and peanut butter smoothie did the trick, along with a protein/energy bar.  Make sure you leave time for your food to settle too.  There’s enough on the Mudder course to make you want to puke without having a bacon butty laying Turn up EARLY for registration.  We turned up an hour early and were still rushing to get registered and changed etc. Plus make sure you have a dump before you get to the site.  The queues for the toilets are immense and the porta-loos are often lacking luxuries such as toilet paper.  You don’t want to be touching cloth when you’re climbing the Berlin Walls. 

 

Top Tough Tip: Hit the shitter at the motorway services, don’t get caught in the queues.

 

The Event Itself:

 

I don’t consider myself fit or experienced enough to impart too much wisdom on running techniques, breathing, during workout nutrition etc.  So I’ll just give you a breakdown of the trickier obstacles and how I tackled them.

 

Glory Blades – Team work all the way!  Get a leg up, pull yourself over and slide down the other side, repeat.  IF there’s just the one or two of you, other Mudders will definitely help, just ask.

 

Arctic Enema – There’s no clever technique for this, just don’t think about it too much.  Jump in, dive under and get out as soon as you can.  There’s no getting away from the fact the ice will shock you like a mutha!  Just get moving again as soon as you’re out to get your core temperature back up.

 

Dirty Ballerina – nothing too difficult here, look before you leap, try not to hit a soft or slippery spot on the other side or you’ll end up in the ditch.  Incorporate lots of standing jumps and plyometric jumps in to your training, you’ll thank me later.

 

Boa-Constrictor – slide down the first tunnel, try not to get a mouth-full of water at the bottom, don’t stand up, there be barbed wire overhead, and then crawl up the second.  Child’s play!  Well sort of.

 

Electric Eel – Crawl as low as you can to the ground, don’t be afraid of the mud, it’s preferable to the electricity.   If you’re careful, you can pick your way through the wires without being shocked like I did.  Don’t worry though, there’s another opportunity to be exposed to 10,000 volts later.

 

Hero Carry – Simple stuff, give your team-mate a piggy back for 100 metres.  Just find a team-mate roughly your size and weight!

 

Berlin Walls – Definitely one for team work.  Boost your strongest and heaviest team member up first while you have the energy then he/she can help pull you up.  Love a bit of team-work me.  Fellas, mind your bollocks on the top. 

 

Island Hopping – The islands are slippery and wobble like nobody’s business. Best bet is to aim for the middle and keep your centre of gravity as low as possible.  Don’t be afraid to use your hands, I did and got across dry!

 

Cage Crawl – There’s only one way to do this and I didn’t find it especially pleasant, just get in the drink face up and pull yourself along the cage. 

 

Trench Warfare – More crawling through mud, stay low, use your legs and watch your knees and elbows on the stones and rocks.

 

Hold Your Wood – Pick up a log; make jokes with your teammates about holding wood. 

 

Kiss of Mud – More crawling, commando crawl recommended this time, stay as low as possible and keep your arse down.  Otherwise your snag it on the barbed-wire like I did.

 

Under Water Tunnels – If you’re a decent swimmer, you’ll be okay with this.  I am neither a decent swimmer nor that confident in the water.  At each section of barrels there is a little wooded lip just under the water line, I grabbed it and just gave myself time to take a deep breath and regain my composure before diving under.

 

Walk the Plank – It’s as simple as jumping off a platform right?  Well, yes but once you get to the top it’s a long way down!  Like the Arctic Enema, you’re best off not thinking about it too much, don’t look down until it’s your turn to jump and don’t hesitate.  Just go for it, overcome your fears!

 

Funky Monkey – I failed at this one.  I trained hard with lots of upper body work and practiced on monkey bars. By last week I was able to gracefully navigate the monkey bars at Mick’s gym convincingly.  All of this went out of the window when faced with the Funky Monkey.  The bars are greasy and spin, I only managed half a graceful swing and missed the third bar and was in the drink.  If anyone can enlighten me to how to get across this one I would be grateful!

 

Mud Mile – You’re going to get muddy, I mean caked in the stuff.  Just accept it.  Try to avoid the boggiest bit that try to steal your trainers and keep going! Keep your knees high!

 

Electroshock Therapy – There’s no way round it, unless you’re impervious to electricity like our team member Cpt. Crofts, you’re going to get shocked here.  Keep your head down, charge forward fast and keep going!  I got shocked 4-5 times I think and it does hurt (like being whipped with a riding crop or imagine a static electricity shock, multiplied by a million), but just keep going fast and it is over literally in a few seconds.  Then its time for orange headbands and that well earned beer!

 

Top Tough Tip: Team work is the name of the game! 

 

Afterwards:

 

This bit is easy, wear your orange headband with pride, pose for photographs like the victorious warrior you now are, bask in the glory of your amazing achievement.  Sink a few pints and soak up the atmosphere.  Oh yeah, remember to cool down and stretch off too, that’s important as well.

 

Top Tough Tip: Enjoy, you are now part of something bigger, the Mudder Nation.

Tough Mudder Yorkshire 2013

Sometime in February, my mate Simon and I had a few beers and began talking about the Tough Mudder.  We had heard one was planned for Yorkshire this year and joked that we should do it.  The following morning, somewhat hungover I decided to sign up and goaded Simon into doing the same and thus began our Mudder journey.  Over the next six months or so we began a training regime; roped in 8 other suckers to join us, made some good friends and had a good laugh along the way.  Importantly we also raised a good chunk of money for a very worthy cause, but more about that later.

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Anyway, much faster than ever imagined, Saturday 7th September rolled around and we found ourselves driving up the motorway to Skipton, still unsure of what to really expect from our first Tough Mudder.  We arrived, registered, got changed, wrote our numbers on our foreheads and arms (and I added ‘tattoos’ to our un-inked team members) and before we knew it we were warming up. 

 

The Tough Mudder doesn’t muck about; I mean before you even begin running you have to climb over a wall just to get into the starting pen.  Once in the pen we went through the course instructions and all took the Tough Mudder pledge, then it was a count down from ten and the air-horn sounded, we were off.  The first mile or so was a steady down hill over the grassy banks of the Broughton Hall Estate and zig-zagging through a wooded area, nothing too severe as yet.  It was hard to get any pace going as the track was narrow in places and you could only run as fast as the person in front of you.  Eventually it opened out and after a quick uphill stretch we met the first obstacle, the Glory Blades.  Two sets of 8 foot wooden walls leaning towards competitors.  With teamwork, we made light work of these and were soon running up another hill towards the next obstacle – Arctic Enema.  I hadn’t even bothered trying to replicate this while training so I completely wasn’t prepared for just how much of a shock it would be.  I adopted a what-the-hell no fear approach and jumped in without hesitation.  To be honest, although I did feel the cold, jumping in wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, neither was ducking under the middle divider.  Apparently this was because I had gone into shock and it wasn’t until I climbed out that the whole experience hit me!  Brain freeze! Blurred vision, light headedness and by Odin’s beard, cold like I have never experienced in my life.  Luckily I was able to shake it off in a few seconds and after posing for a photograph with team-mates, got running again to warm up. 

 

Getting out of the Arctic Enema

Getting out of the Arctic Enema

 

 

More uphill running (there was a lot of this as the day went on!) and a little time to take in some of the breath taking views the moors had to offer.  As we reached a plateau the next obstacle came into view, the Dirty Ballerina.  A series of 4 foot muddy ditches to leap across.  Luckily my legs were still fresh and I managed to leap these without any problems.  All those plyometric table jumps and standing jumps in training had paid off (cheers Mick!).  More up hill running, definitely off the beaten track, punctuated with the odd leap across a ditch or stream and on to the Boa Constrictor shortly after mile 3.  I was dreading this one as I am no fan of water or confined spaces; so crawling through a small underground, half-flooded pipe, didn’t fill me with joy.  However, my fears turned out to be unfounded as it was nowhere near as bad as I had built it up to be in my head.  A quick slide down the first pipe, crawl through some muddy water and a quick crawl through the ‘up’ pipe and we were all done, back to the trails.  As we hit mile 4, I still felt I had plenty in the tank though my lungs were starting to disagree.  Luckily my trusty blue inhaler had survived so far and after a quick blast I managed some more hills and reached what Simon confidently said was the ‘top’.  He clearly cursed us when he announced ‘We can’t get any higher up than this!’, he was wrong. 

 

Next up was the Electric Eel.  Whether by luck or invention I managed to crawl through the whole obstacle without getting shocked, I was almost smug when I emerged unscathed (the smugness would not last long).  Next up was Hero Carry, essentially carrying a team mate for 100 metres, then swapping.  Piece of piss, except my ‘hero’ teammate’s mud moustache made him resemble Hitler at this point.  So more of a notorious-facist-dictator-carry than a hero carry.  Then a very short run and we hit the Berlin Walls.  11 foot doesn’t sound a lot until you stand up next to it and realise it is more than twice your height (as I am a modest 5’5”).  Still, teamwork came into play and very quickly all ten of us were over both sets of walls, and other than catching my right bollock on the top of the second wall and rolling around in agony for a little while, we were off for some more running. 

 

I thought we must have hit the halfway around this point because it felt like we really had reached the top of the hill and my legs and lungs were starting to feel it.  I was of course wrong.  Island Hopping was up next and after seeing most of the people in front of me fall in the drink after their first or second leap, I didn’t hold much hope for myself.  However, I kept a low centre of gravity, kept to the middle of each island and wasn’t afraid to crouch down and use my hands and hey-presto, across in one attempt!  I think this was probably my finest moment of the day!

 

Next up was an uphill/downhill section through a wooded area.  Navigating fallen trees and exposed roots, very steep inclines/declines caked in thick mud and peat bogs.  Shortly into the woods we came to a standstill on the very narrow trail.  After a few minutes of frustration, some of our more enthusiastic team members (Sonny, Mick, I’m looking in your direction) gave some verbal ‘encouragement’ to the people ahead.  Very quickly things started moving along and we were literally out of the woods and on to the next obstacle, the Cage Crawl.  This was another water obstacle I wasn’t looking forward to.  A long trench full of water with a cage over the top, giving about 8-10 inches of breathing space, so you had to lie on your back in the water and pull yourself along the cage.  It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and very soon I was scrambling out of the sludge and back onto the trail. 

 

The next stretch of running was the most wild of the course and finally did take us as high as we could go!  Running through heather and bracken, up peaty and boggy hills then back down.  This in itself was probably one of the harder sections of the course. Once we got through all of that it was time for another obstacle, Trench Warfare.  Hands and knees crawling through sludgy zigzag tunnels then a short jog to another section of bog and woods.  Once out the other side it was a quarter mile run with a log for Hold Your Wood, not too difficult, just uncomfortable.  It did make for a series of hilarious ‘you’ve got wood’ jokes though.  Another stretch of running through mud and woods and onto Kiss of Mud, more crawling through clay and sludge as low as you can to avoid snagging your arse on the barbed wire over head.  We were approaching mile 9 by this point and I have to admit I was flagging on the hills.  My lungs were burning and my inhaler was by this point firing mud down my throat.

 

Next up was the Under Water Tunnels, probably one of my least favourite parts of the course as it involved the most swimming and being under water.  Three lots of rows of barrels strung across a deep pond and you had to swim to them, dive under them then on to the next.  I lost my inhaler on this one, which was a pity because I was quite breathless by the time I had done all three and swam to the shore on the other side.  Next up was my biggest regret of the whole day.  On the run to the next obstacle was a stretch of mud down a hill side that was smoothed out.  Like a fool, I just bounded down the grassy bit to the side to keep grip then realised people were using the mud as a slide!  I should have turned back and had a go but by this time I had fallen behind the team a little after pissing around looking for my inhaler. 

 

By this point the end was in sight and we caught up with the spectators, so it was nice to be cheered on and have some friends and family to greet us.  Another short hill run then I found myself climbing the steps to the top of Walk the Plank.  In theory this is probably the easiest of all the Tough Mudder obstacles.  All you have to do is jump off a platform into a pool of water, piece of piss right? Not really, I’m not especially afraid of heights or jumping into water, but when you’re looking down at that muddy pool from 5 metres up, suddenly it’s a very daunting concept.  I hesitated longer than I would have liked but then threw caution to the wind and jumped off the platform into the murky water below.  Next thing I knew I was climbing out and running on to the Funky Monkey.  Before we could attempt the monkey bars of doom, we had the Mud Mile to contend with.  This section does exactly what it says on the tin.  It’s a mile of the boggiest, sticky and muddy trail I have ever lacked the common sense to traverse.  Just to make it a bit more interesting it was punctuated with huge mounds of soft mud trying to steal your trainers from you.  I quite enjoyed the Mud Mile, despite however filthy we were getting it seemed to me that this is what it was all about.  I even seemed to get a bit of life back in my legs and managed to pick up the pace a little.  Once out of the muck, we found ourselves at the Funk Monkey.

 

Nik walk's the plank!

Nik walk’s the plank!

 

I am sad to say the Funky Monkey was the only obstacle that defeated me.  How anyone can get across those greased up, spinning and ascending bars is beyond me!  I’d practiced at this one quite a lot and as of last week was able to swing quite gracefully across the monkey bars at the gym, so I was quite disappointed when I lost my grip on the third bar and plunged into the water.  I took a mouthful of the nasty, muddy stuff and had a bit of trouble getting out until team-mate Si helped.  With the Funky Monkey done, we knew there were only two obstacles and less than a mile left of the Tough Mudder left.

 

Everest

Everest

 

Conquering Everest

Conquering Everest

The summit!

The summit!

Everest.  A skateboard quarter-pipe lagged in plastic and covered in mud and grease to make it slippery.  The objective is to run at it as fast as you can and jut as you lose grip, leap for the summit hoping you’ve done enough to grab the top or your fellow Mudders grab you.  Again, unless you have some kind of super-human abilities, team work was a massive factor here.  Luckily I was running with a fantastic team, so there was never any doubt we wouldn’t be able to help each other over this one.  I sprinted at full pelt towards the ramp, amazed that I still had a sprint left in me and managed to get just over half-way up before leaping towards my team mates.  I reached out my hands, grabbed Mick’s thumb, let it slip and skated back down to the bottom of the ramp.  Damn!  I went back to the starting gate and tried again; this time as I leaped I managed to grab two hands of my team-mates firmly and was hoisted to the top of Everest.  It felt so good to be at the top I may as well as climbed the real Mt. Everest!  We stayed to help some others get up then moved on for the final stretch, which was seemingly the only downhill section of the 11.5 mile course!  We built up some speed and all ten of us came charging down the home-straight towards the finishing line.  Only one thing stood in our way of glory, Electroshock Therapy.  Imagine a tunnel with hundreds of live electrical wires dangling from the ceiling, so close you can’t avoid them and you’ve got Electroshock Therapy.  Rather than trying to outsmart the obstacle or avoid the very real prospect of a 10,000 volt shock to the system, we charged on like marauding warriors hell-bent on our goal.  Some of the team took a tumble but quickly got up and kept going, some got through seemingly unscathed.  I think I got off lightly; I managed to get about half-way through before I what felt like a horse whip hit me down my left hand side.  My reflex reaction was to jump right away from the pain, straight into another! Ouch!  I was like a pinball bouncing between high-voltage bumpers, but luckily I only counted four shocks before I came out the other side.  In my head I was like a graceful gazelle, running and jumping with the wind across the African Savannah, but in reality I probably looked like what I was, an idiot covered in mud being electrocuted.  It mattered not though, as there was the finish line.  We all crossed together as a team and were presented with our orange Tough Mudder headbands, to wear with pride.  We also got a nifty finisher’s t-shirt and a pint of Strongbow, which is not my favorite drink but boy did it taste good on this occasion.  I don’t think I have ever earned a pint more than that one!  So we all managed to get round 11.5 miles of ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’, without serious injury, together, in good spirits and in less than three hours!  We were all buzzing (and not just from the electrocutions!).    

 

Nearly Finished!

Nearly Finished!

 

The Tough Mudder had been the accumulation of over six months of planning, training and anticipation.  It certainly lived up to expectations!  It was tough, but I think how we all got around in a decent time and without too much difficulty was a testament to how well we trained and prepared.  Personally, I think I gave a good account of myself and was really pleased with how I and the rest of the team performed.   It was a fantastic experience, not only the event but all the build-up and training before hand.  I’ve made some fantastic new friends and had a good laugh, as well as improving my fitness and really feeling like I have achieved something.  As an added bonus, we have managed to raise a good chunk of money for the Special Care Babies Unit at Rotherham Hospital.  As it stands we have raised somewhere in the region of £2,000, which will all go to a fantastic cause.  Thank you so much to those who have sponsored and if you would still like to sponsor us, you can by heading to: www.justgiving.com/4SCBU. 

 

Team 4SCBU - Tough Mudders!

Team 4SCBU – Tough Mudders!

 

 

Right, off to start training for Tough Mudder 2014.  

The end of a long muddy but glorious day!

The end of a long muddy but glorious day!