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!
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!
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.