Following on from Sunday’s more general review of Tough Mudder North West 2012 and before the more salient details are lost in the mists of poor recall, a more detailed review of the actual obstacles. All 22 of them, although two were repeated and including natural features as an obstacle is a little bit of a cop out. Especially when there were only 22 in the first place over 10.71 miles (according to the Garmin, which stood up admirably to abuse it got, apart from the cracked face).
Before we get in to that, and as this is going to be a lengthy post, a brief summary and a caveat. As mentioned on Sunday, we didn’t enjoy Tough Mudder as much as other events we’ve done. We felt is was overpriced, the course uninspired and the obstacles, for the main part, mediocre and certainly not innovative. From reading around it seems that there’s a great variance in Tough Mudder courses, both in length, type and number of obstacles. I read a report of an event in the States that was on a ski slope, which seems like it would be far more challenging. So don’t take this as a review of all Tough Mudder events, just the one we did and the experience we had. From the Tough Mudder UK facebook page that many people had a great time, felt truly challenged and are delighted with their achievements. I’m glad they got out of the event what they expected, again the opinions on this blog are just ours and formed by experience of completing similar events in the UK.
To the Start!
The first obstacle was a cheeky 6ft wall just before the start line, and the second obstacle was having to overcome being terribly British and join in the pre-race Tough Mudder pledge and generally over-exuberant American style chanting before we were allowed to set off.
To the Course!
The official first obstacle was the Kiss of Mud, a fairly lengthy crawl under barbed wire, having only just regrown the hair I lost on a similar obstacle doing the Total Warrior 10l, I kept my head down. Just ahead of me, Fiona caught the pocket of her running tights, then ignoring my helpful shout of ‘keep your arse down’, she managed to snag them properly and tear a not unsizable chunk out of them. Fortunately it was quite high up and her running top hid the damage. Unfortunately they were pretty new and only on their second, and as it turned out, final outing.
Next up and fairly swiftly, was the Arctic Enema, basically a skip filled with water and ice cubes. Lots of ice cubes. Apparently they used one and half tonne of ice during the day, and it was pretty damn cold. Getting in wasn’t that bad but you have to fully submerge halfway across and then get out. It’s not a huge distance in total, probably a five to six foot wade before ducking under a beam, then the same to get out the other side but blimey the full head submersion takes the breath out of you and gives a killer ice headache. We, approvingly, thought it was quite sneaky to make you so cold so early on, and so to get warm again we trotted off towards the next obstacle.
Which was the Bale Bonds, bales of hay formed into walls for clambering over, purposes of. I seem to remember three walls, one of which was a double layer, though there might have only been two sets. Easy enough to get over by running and hurling your upper body over the top before swinging your legs up.
The next obstacle was the Mud Miles, a series of long thick muddy pools, that really, really stank. Treacherous underfoot, speed was not an option and we followed the lead of the teams in front, and waded slowly arms around each other. Not sure if that was to prevent falling or to ensure that if one went, we all went.
I quite like the next challenge and I can see that if you were at all claustrophobic it would scare the willies out of you.
Trench Warfare involved a long, ish, crawl through a sandy, not very wide, tunnel. The sides were solid and the top was cammo netting supported by struts but once you were in, it was either go forward or back. I found it quite pleasant in there was would have been happy if the tunnels had been longer, which is probably not the effect the race course designer was after.
A bit more running through the woods and we came up the Spider’s Web. A large cargo net strung between two trees made more difficult by the mudders in front trying to be nice and holding the net taut, they were actually making it into an inverted climb.
The next obstacle was one I have bottled twice during Tough Guy, and one that I had totally forgotten might appear during a tough mudder. Fortunately Walk the Plank didn’t actually involve a plank. I still had a wobble at the top of the 15ft ledge, jumping from a seated position, mainly because I felt Sean was less likely to push me in if I sat down. It was pretty cold in the water and it was bloody deep but a nice adrenaline rush.
I think it was after that wore off was when I started to feel something i’ve never felt while doing an event, and it took me a while to put my finger on it, then I realised I was bored. The obstacles were fun but not that challenging, if walk the plank had actually featured a plank, I might well still be stood on top of the ledge trying to MTFUCC, but it didn’t and so we muddered on, through yet more flat Cheshire mud and back under more barbed with for the Kiss of Mud 2. This barbed wire crawl was muddier than the first but no clothes, nor indeed a strand of Tough Gaffs’ hair was damaged this time round.
Then to the Berlin Walls, a pair of slippery, high walls that are virtually impossible to clamber over by yourself. Though I think Seanie managed. The Tough Mudder spirit was much in evidence at this obstacle as people helped each other over but that’s not unique to this event, though it was very much appreciated as it always is.
There was a bit of a queue for the next obstacle, which wouldn’t have been so bad if the queue didn’t involve standing around , waist deep, in a lake waiting to bob under three barriers formed by blue plastic barrels in a wooden frame. I can only assume some competitors have tried to go over the barrels at previous events unless the barbed wire along the top was just for decoration. For this event Sean and Fiona’s previous military experience came in handy and the drill was for Fiona and me to take in turns to duck down before Sean launched us past the bottom of the barrier. I was launched quite enthusiastically and spent far longer under water than I needed to. This is good as there was no chance of coming up too soon and banging on the bottom of the barrels, bad in that it was bloody cold, ice headache time again.
There was then another longish period of running through flat mud and the boredom factor was rising. We were also starting to suspect that the mile markers were lying. At the three mile marker, my watch said two miles, at six it said four. At that rate we felt we were going to be pretty short changed with only an 8 mile course. However as the race wore on, the markers and the GPS watches came closer in synch although we suspected it definitely wouldn’t be a 12 mile course.
Eventually we came to the next obstacle, which I quite enjoyed, the Boa Constrictor, two plastic tubes and water. The first angled down into a pond so you started off in the dry and ended up chest deep, before crossing to the second tube which was angled up, so you climbed out of the water to the dry. For the second tube I tried to employ the (patent pending) Tough Gaffs tube crawling technique, which is basically lie on your back and use your legs to propel you rather than getting ouchy knees and elbows from crawling, but the camelpak I forgot i was wearing presented too much drag factor.
It wasn’t until we received the post-course questionnaire that we realised we had done the next obstacle, the Ballshrinker, incorrectly, as had pretty much everyone else we saw. Four or so wire cables stretched across a lake, and people were wading across using them as an aid. Fiona did mention she thought the idea was to do a military crawl, basically clinging on to the wire with crossed ankles and going hand over hand. I did see one or two people attempting that but it was far easier to trot across the lake using the wire to pull yourself along.
Actually I enjoyed that one so much the feeling of boredom started to dissipate, helped by the second dose of the Berlin Walls, this time even higher. It was also helped by my choosing an interesting technique at trying to get over the first wall, which was basically to try and squeeze through the gap in the middle without breaking my leg on the dismount. I seem to remember we then had a few obstacles fairly close together, all of which were OK. Neither hugely challenging nor scary but distracting enough, Log Jammi’, involved going under, over logs, sometimes both at the same time. Hold your Wood* is a literally named task of picking up a log, walking round a 1/4 mile loop and then putting the log back on the pile you got it from. From what I saw, and believe me I checked, the logs were all pretty sizeable.
Twinkle Toes involved more wood, this time the idea was to dance across a series of two tree trunks. Sean made it halfway, as predicted by the rest of the team and then fell in to the surrounding water so Fiona and I started to inch our way across. Then the bugger climbed back on, causing no small amount of wobble. He then fell in again. The female team members made it safely across both
The Mud Maze was next up, a cross between the trenches of total warrior and the coliseum of Tough Guy but no where near as miserable as either. it was a series of man-made muddy pits and hillocks to be waded through, clambered up and slid down. The latter was fun, the first two pretty easy. It was quite large and took a while to get through but was neither fearsome nor that knackering.
More running, then the Funky Monkey, rising and descending monkey bars over water. As I have the upper body strength of a particularly weak Victorian child, I just jumped straight in. Sean made a brave attempt before dropping on the fourth rung. Apparently they were very slippy and twisty.
Readers of previous reports, who are still awake, may remember a confession that I don’t like being electrocuted and nearly bottled the shocker during Total Warrior. So when we go the Electric Eel, another belly crawl but this time with electrodes, Oh and a marshall having fun with a hose, I decide to just go for it. As far away from the hosed parts as possible. A rapid crawl that resulted in a few shocks to the bum but done quickly and not that bad. Sean and Fiona went on the water side and suffered a similar amount.
Next an obstacle we didn’t realise was an obstacle, a climb up a steep bank, called the Cliffhanger, it’s the equivalent to just one leg of the infamous Tough Guy slalom. Then more bloody running, although we did see the best thing during this section as we ran through the petting zoo of Cholmondeley Castle, which was what looked like a 20 foot high brick dovecote. Except this one had a spiral staircase on the outside and a goat at the top viewing the passing runners with a nonchalant air.
On with the running and then to the last two obstacles, and a good ten minute wait to attempt the halfpipe called Everest. At this point we were freezing and glad to find a couple of discarded heat sheets, which we in turn discarded before hurtling through the final event the Electroshock, a nice 10,000 volt finish to the day. Though perhaps not for Sean as he got thrown off his feet by a blast and then lay in the mud twitching as another couple of tentacles got him. I don’t think he was impressed but that was more due to the full face mud pack he got when he hit the deck.
And then that was it. Over the line in just over four hours, pick up the head band, t-shirt and beer and try to get warm from the dozen or so patio heaters.
*You may have noticed a certain theme to theme to some of the obstacle names, the theme being things that would make an adolescent boy snigger