Tough Mudder: The hills! My thighs!

Tough Mudder- the gateway to OCR and the polariser of opinions in the OCR community (but that’s another story).

I completed my first TM on May 2nd. It was the first UK event of 2015, where TM was to proudly debut new and improved obstacles such as Cry Baby and Arctic Enema 2.0 respectively.

I was doing the course with a group from work, with varying experience in OCR from a Mudder Legionnaire (that’s TM speak for someone who has done more than one event) and someone who genuinely thought Arctic Enema was an enema, so… a diverse group, one might say.

The Course

TM was actually my longest course to date, with the map showing a 10.7mile jaunt around Culden Faw, which I’m sure is Olde English for ‘Buttload of Hills’. The hills towered ominously over the up-beat frat party that was the event village. After missing our wave time because QUEUES, our team ambled up to the start for a tightly packed warm-up and a very rousing pledge of allegiance to the gods of Tough Mudder. Or something. I was near the back, I couldn’t hear.

After some serious chanting, we were funnelled into a pen, where the first obstacle (a 6 foot wall) was clambered over before we passed under the start point. The first part of the course was mainly some hills. They were nicely interspersed with some more hills, and then a brief flat section where some walls happened. To mix it up a bit afterwards, we did some hill work, and some uphill running, with some intervals of ascent. Just when my thighs were about to explode, they were gently soothed back to their normal size in a most convenient ice bath, in which I had to fully submerge my head to try to purge it of memories of the hills. Arctic Enema 2.0 wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I thought it was going to be, because, let’s face it, when you have to go on a caged slide to get in, you kinda resign yourself to the fact that you can’t get out without getting very wet and cold. Once you accept this fate, things become a lot easier.

It was with great distress that I discovered I could still feel my limbs after the icing, and they were to continue to clamour over the eleventy million more hill climbs that were to come, but I had fun nonetheless. Obstacles such as Birth Canal and Cry Baby had haunted my dreams somewhat, but they turned out to be a little underwhelming really. In fact, Cry Baby really sorted out my sinuses, so I’m thinking of constructing a small-scale version of it in my bathroom at home.

I had thought of Tough Mudder as the home of MASSIVE obstacles, and truly, yes, a lot of them were physically *big*, but the main thing that disappointed me was the brevity of them all. It was like a sort of… amuse bouche of obstacles. A sample of a cargo net, a smattering of muddy ditches, two walls, a haybale.   I expected to spend longer queuing (thankfully not the case), but in turn I expected to spend longer *on* the obstacles themselves that were mostly over before they started.

The uphill (have I mentioned them?) stints were numerous and challenging, adding to the sense of achievement when I finished, and the trail runs really were quite lovely. The downhill trails were in fact, so dreamy that I would have let them carry my off and marry me. I’m not even kidding; they were glorious – the Mila Kunis of forest tracks. A distinct lack of mud (thanks, weather) made them easier to navigate than in most mud runs, I noted, as I didn’t fall on my butt once.

Marshalling was pretty top notch, with only one notable miserable person having spoken to our team on registration. The atmosphere was really jovial, encouraging and the water stations were pretty much what I imagine heaven to look like to sweaty, dehydrated running people. There were even portaloos on the course, which was like discovering that Christmas had decided to fall on the 2nd of May this year, as I found that no matter how full my bladder is, I definitely cannot pee whilst running.

Overall I would say that the terrain was the most challenging element of the course, in the absence of any really meaty, testing obstacles, but the event does bring out the team spirit in all participants, whether they’re head to toe in specialist gear or a hippo suit. With all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities completing the course, it would be very difficult to please everyone. It was not without its fair share of show-boaters, the ratio of which was pretty high compared to other, smaller OCRs, but I totally expected that.

The Goods

Obligatory TM headband of infinite glory, saddeningly poor quality cotton shirt for napping in and obscure TM teatowel? Beer towel? Towel for dirty dog paws?

The Kit

I wore:

  • Nike anti-blister dri-fit socks
  • Salomon Fellraisers
  • Nike Pro full length tights
  • Inov8 Merino baselayer
  • Nike Pro Combat compression top
  • Tech team vest
  • Kooga fingerless rugby gloves
  • ORM Wrag
  • Nike headband

I get cold. I’m the worst Northerner ever. Thankfully I pitched this correctly, neither being too hot nor too cold for the duration of the course. The only real gripe with the pro-combat baselayer is that it rode up, and also the fact that they only make them for men. Once again my tights were immovable and hard wearing.

The Fellraisers, in retrospect, were completely unnecessary. There was no mud on the course (which is nobody’s fault but old man weather), so there were dusty tracks covered in hefty sized pebbles. I would have gotten a more comfortable ride in crossover trail shoes, and it wouldn’t have impeded my grip. The Fellraisers also squelched notably, which if anything, was quite amusing as it sounded like I had tiny ducks on my feet, and after 8 miles of running I had probably gone a bit insane anyway, so it was light relief.

The socks did another sound, blister free course, and I think I might be in love with them.

The Verdict

People’s main gripe with TM is the expense, and rightly so. It’s not a cheap day out unless you book it super early bird; like the day you are conceived. Personally I don’t think the amount you pay is proportional to how much fun you have. I think it makes for an excellent taster session for OCR (albeit with a tonne of running), and fits a niche for corporate days out, team building, and people who want to tumble around an obstacle course for a day dressed as the Teletubbies. Competitive it ain’t, but elitist it can be, with its almost bizarre hero worship for its returning customers. The course is well laid out, marshalled by mostly excellent types of people, and provides a platform for OCR promotion, but isn’t something I’ll be clamouring to do again.

The only massive dampener on what was a pretty nice day out was the utter shambles of the bag drop pick-up. I was lucky to have gotten to it early, as many people were in the queue for around an hour, shivering and furious. I even lent my DryRobe to a blue-lipped teammate who had more goose pimples than an Icelandic goose farm. Even when I had gotten to the front of the line, it was still an absolute state: it looked like the aftermath of a drunken bag hurling contest, and I had a complete sense of humour failure when being asked to ‘just hop in and find your own bag’ after having paid a hefty price for the tickets in the first place. Wasn’t too chuffed about every man and his dog being in there and potentially having access to my bag. I needn’t have worried about stuff being nicked out of it too much though, since it was buried so deep in the wrong pile that it had probably been on a brief holiday to Narnia.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s