In February this year, my boss sent round an email asking whether anyone wanted to take part in a Tough Mudder nearby. I took one glance at the email then strategically ignored it. Mud? Running? Running in the mud?! No thanks.
The team was invited to participate About half of the Bronco team decided to do the Tough Mudder, but the rest of us were invited to join in in a series of CrossFit sessions in the run up to the Tough Mudder at the end of July. We’re really lucky to have our own gym and a personal trainer who practically works for us now! So I signed up for the sessions, not one to turn down the opportunity to get fit with a proper trainer!
Then something happened and things got serious…Sarah, one of the Bronco Mudders team, injured her knee and had to have surgery. She was out, a ticket was going spare, and there was only one person who’d been taking part in the training for Tough Mudder but wasn’t running it…me! I’m still not entirely sure I ever actually agreed to do it, but on the 29th July, I ran a Tough Mudder along with the rest of the team.
As I said, we have our own gym and I’d been using it for yoga and occasional workouts pre-Tough Mudder training. But that wasn’t going to be enough for us! In March, we started CrossFit and HIIT style training with Robbo. At this point, I didn’t feel too under pressure as I didn’t know I was going to be running it yet!
The first few weeks we were getting our fitness levels up to scratch with HIIT workouts. We started with 30 second sets of each of 6 exercises including high knees, 10kg sandbag squats, lunges, mountain climbers and more – we would run this set through twice then take a 2 minute break before doing another set of 6 exercises. Each exercise had a 30 second break in between too. It seems like a lot of rest now compared to how we ramped it up!!
So after reducing our rest time over the weeks, upping the intensity of the exercises and increasing our times to 45 seconds per exercise, we moved onto more circuit style training around the machines. Our gym is kind of awesome – we have pretty much everything we need. There was a lot of intensity on our mat and flooring in the gym during this time so we found these are great if you need to get sports surfaces repaired. We were moving from intense floor work to machines and weights, including uphill sprints on the treadmill, horizontal rows, kettlebells, tricep dip machine and more.
Then our final week before Tough Mudder, we went on a team run. I’d been doing okay with the previous training and was really impressed with how I’d kept up with everyone – I’d thought I was pretty unfit before and was worried they’d be running circles round me. But the run wasn’t so much fun unfortunately! It’s never been my strong point thanks to weak ankles that were in a constant state of sprain when I was at school. Controversially, I’m better running on tarmac than I am across softer ground, unlike most people, so when we headed off on our run (in the rain, yucks!) into the fields, I fell behind. It was super annoying as I felt I could do much better but my ankles didn’t feel like they were attached to my body! Nevertheless, I persevered, got through it and was ready for Tough Mudder at the weekend.
The training at times seemed impossible. We had to persevere through the heat wave in summer, through injuries and exhaustion. At times I think it was harder than the actual thing! Robbo is an excellent trainer and knew when we needed encouragement and guidance.
The day came and I was kind of terrified! I forced Ben into coming to spectate so after a proper breakfast of omelettes (I can’t eat porridge!) we drove over to Ripon where we left our car at the office and piled into the bosses’ van for the trip to Skipton.
The queues were long when we arrived to get parked, but we finally got in, got our numbers pinned on and scribbled across our arms, then we were in the warm up area ready to go before I even knew what was happening. It definitely helped to forget what I was doing!
And to illustrate how I felt as we set off, my face says it all:
And guess what? I survived! I did it!!
As I passed the start line, I turned to my team members next to me and said: “Well, I can at least say I’ve participated in it now, even if I don’t get any further!” – fully expected to fall at the first hurdle with a broken leg or something.
The first proper obstacle was Skidmarked – a 10 foot wall on an angle leaning toward you. With a bit of teamwork and some newly found muscle, I was over! Once the first obstacle was out the way, it gave me that boost of confidence that I actually might just be able to do it.
I was really terrified about the electroshock one, but fortunately, because we did the Half, that wasn’t included in ours, phew! After that, I was most worried about Everest 2.0 – a giant, very slippery (not to mention muddy!) halfpipe – seriously, just check out these fails! I was fully expecting to have to bow out and walk sheepishly to meet my team around the other side, but I was, of course, very willing to give every part of the course a go. And, well, who would have guessed it – I did it! And in one go too!! I climbed down the other side with only a bruised knee and a scraped shin to show for tackling that monster.
I have to admit, I wasn’t excited about the mud. But it being a Tough Mudder, you can’t really avoid it. So I just got stuck in, and it wasn’t half as bad as I thought! The Kiss of Mud (see above) was early on and Mud Mile was pretty horrendous – mostly because of the grit hidden within the mud which is piled into mountains with drops down into deep muddy water – but I did it.
And I actually even have a “favourite” obstacle too – the Blockness Monster! Huge heavy rotating blocks are submerged in shoulder deep murky water – it was actually deeper than we expected – and you have to spin them while gripping on with the tips of your fingers. I was totally submerged in the water at points, but it was actually kind of fun!
The Hero Carry was super easy for me – our team had an odd number, so I was grabbed by one guy on the first bit, then another on the second part, so I didn’t have to carry anyone, win! The ones with pipes and enclosed spaces, like Birth Canal (I was really scared of the crushing aspect of this one – water in a tarpaulin that you have to army crawl under) and Sewer Rat were also not too bad for me because I was smaller than the average participant meaning I had a little more room to manoeuver!
The most challenging part
The hardest part for me was, again, the running and the distance. I’ve never been a runner and my ankles began to give up on me even before half way through. The course was 5.6 miles (when initially it was stated to be 5 miles!) but a couple of weeks before I did a 4 mile run to make sure I would be up for it. That run was okay – it was on flat tarmac.
My ankles disagreed strongly with the uneven surface we ran on and I was convinced I’d sprained one ankle afterwards. Fortunately it sorted itself out in a few days so I think it was more the impact that had worn it down, but I know I definitely need to work on strengthening my ankles for the next time.
Hang on, what did I just say?!
The next time
Oh yes, I’m addicted! It turns out that I actually kind of…loved doing it!
The achievement, the fact that I can say I completed a Tough Mudder, every obstacle of it and the run – even if it was the Half, is huge. I’ve never been sporty, into fitness or even strong. I tend to think of myself as fairly pathetic in these terms and Tough Mudder completely changed that.
The training nearly killed me a few times. We pushed on through DOMS – a word I’ve only recently truly understood! – and we completed it. And it turns out, I can do things like this.
While I can’t do the Yorkshire Warrior that the rest of the team are doing later this month because I’m away with Brownies, I am doing a more lightweight inflatable 5km obstacle course in October and am keeping up my training ready for next year’s Tough Mudder – I hear we’re doing the Full…