On the 17th of June I took part in my first Tough Mudder, Tough Mudder Scotland!
We were a team of three - me, my fiancé Cam, and my friend Stu - or, “The Pound Puppies”.
I’d pitched the idea of taking part almost a year earlier after a health scare and a change in my life with regards to health and fitness. I wanted to challenge myself physically.
In that year my life has changed a lot. I went from no exercise (bar walking Rupert, our dog) to joining the gym, taking up mountain biking, then quitting the gym and taking up bouldering instead.
In the lead up to Tough Mudder I (perhaps stupidly) did no extra training. I just kept up my usual climbing routine (3 - 4 sessions a week), mountain biking and took slightly longer hikes with Rupert.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I was fitter than I’d ever personally been before, but that’s a long way from what is actually considered “fit”. I knew I sucked at and hated running (the obstacles drew me to Tough Mudder, not the 10 - 12 miles of running), so that was weighing on my mind. I knew that I often struggled with endurance. I knew cramps etc were a very real issue.
The night before we had some jacket potatoes (carbs, carbs, carbs) and on the morning of the event I had a few scotch pancakes with honey and a banana. The next morning as we arrived in the car park I was excited, but apprehensive. We headed over to checkin and then made our way through to the start area. Here you get to pin your bib, facemark, use the toilet and drop your bags.
It was time! We made our way to the warm up zone, where we partook in a big group warmup. Once we were all warmed up it was time to be released to the start line. There was a fleeting moment here where I felt nervous. “Good god woman you can’t even run for a straight mile” I thought. On the start line we took the “Mudder pledge” (essentially this was a challenge, not a competition, and I would help my fellow mudders) and shouted many “hoohas”. Then it was time, to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger” we were off.
I’m not going to break down the event obstacle by obstacle because, in all honesty, you really just need to experience them. Reading about them isn’t quite the same.
We ran for some of the distance, and walked the rest. There’s no shame in walking if you’re worried about it, in fact once you’re past the first few miles most people are walking, so don’t let that put you off. Whilst running / walking we chatted to various people and just generally had a great time. Every half-mile / mile or so you’ll take on an obstacle. Some of these are harder than others, but all of them serve as a time where you can rest for a few minutes whilst waiting. I found some of the obstacles significantly easier than I expected - this was due to me basing my expectations on other people’s reports, but they were still fun.
There were many obstacles I completed, but only with help from other mudders. There’s no way I was getting up Everest 2.0 without getting pulled up by two men. This is a massive part of the Tough Mudder experience - camaraderie. If you need a boost or a hand, it will be there. You are not expected to solo these obstacles, and in some cases that would be impossible. Try the Block Ness Monster without teamwork, you will fail!
I had so many amazing experiences along the course. The pain of carrying a log over a distance, the feeling when you hit the ice in arctic enema, the elation of completing Funky Monkey - The Revolution, the countless laughs and giggles. Not to mention the absolutely stunning Scottish countryside we were surrounded by.
It was an incredible day, and I was pumped up with so much adrenaline. Seriously. I think adrenaline was my best friend that day. At no point did I feel fatigued or like I couldn’t go on - not once. There was plenty of catching my breath, don’t get me wrong, but I never felt out of my depth. My body impressed and amazed me in ways I didn’t know it could. I pulled strength out of nowhere when I needed it most and in mile 9 I was literally dancing. As we neared mile 8 I wondered where the cramps were, but they thankfully never came. This would be a very different experience if I were alone, going solo I’d probably throw in the towel at mile 3. The atmosphere and the adrenaline is very powerful.
I felt alive. That’s probably the best way of putting it. Experiences like these tend to do amazing things to me. Between anxiety and depression I live a life generally guided and inhibited by fear, and I don’t often get to feel like I have much control. When I can truly live in the moment I love every minute of it, and I feel like a very different person. It’s one (of hundreds) of reasons I love climbing so much - when I’m climbing, I’m living for the moment, It’s impossible for my mental health to rule me at those moments. The Tough Mudder experience is so raw. A bunch of humans thrown in to mud helping each other overcome challenges. I felt absolutely fucking incredible. I completely understand that not all people’s bodies respond to that kind of shock the same way as me, I thrived on it, some people were really, really struggling.
As we neared the end of the course it was time for Electroshock Therapy, the final obstacle. I’d heard horrible things about this - people getting knocked out and so on. Eventually we all just ran for it. BANG! I get hit in the neck by a big shock and hit the ground. I clamber to my feet and shout “fuck” at every remaining shock that gets me. As I exit Electroshock Therapy and see the finish line I feel proud of myself. It’s at this point you are “crowned” with your headband. Wow, what a feeling! I’d done it. I’d navigated 10.6 miles and 20+ obstacles. I was cut, scratched and bruised but until that moment, that moment where I stopped, I didn’t feel a thing. And the second I sat down with my celebratory cider, the aches set in and my body knew we were finished.
All three of us finished. All three of us are considerably different shapes / sizes / levels of fitness. Tough Mudder is definitely for everyone.
That evening I didn’t actually feel too bad. I was ravenous and ate an entire pizza in about 6 minutes. But I physically felt pretty good. Mentally I felt absolutely incredible and didn’t want the high to end. The next morning the aches had set in a little, the evening of the next day was pretty damn painful (my soreness seemed to peak here). Now, as I write this two days later, I ache but it’s nothing I haven’t felt before.
The only problem with Tough Mudder is that it’s now over. I’m on a complete and utter post-mudder downer. To go from adrenaline and pure ecstasy to normality always sucks. My 2018 tickets are booked though, and I can’t wait to try out the legionnaire obstacles. One year to replicate the feeling of not feeling like myself, but someone capable of more. I can’t wait.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Tough Mudder. The weather was perfect (something we’ll probably never replicate again), I was happy with the clothes I chose, I was happy with what I chose to eat given how my body performed, I was happy with my performance and the fact I challenged myself.
Day to day I’m just your average computer geek. I spend the vast majority of my time behind a MacBook or a PC. I had done no extra Tough Mudder specific training. I certainly don’t consider myself to be “fit”. For these reasons I think fit folk or athletes would consider Tough Mudder to be relatively easy, but fun all the same! For me it was the first event of it’s kind I’ve ever attempted and I enjoyed every second of it. My goal was to finish, nothing more and nothing less. I finished and completed every obstacle along the way (with the help of fellow mudders of course!), and I couldn’t be happier.
I can’t wait to see the official photographs this Friday. My parting words would be: if you’re considering doing a Tough Mudder and you’re not sure, just go for it. Don’t let people make out it’s something it’s not. If you’re worried about the running, you can walk. There are people that fuel up on nothing but McDonald’s the day before, and who run in next to no clothing. There will be people of all shapes, sizes, genders etc. You will, most likely, be absolutely fine. I think the statistics are something like 78% of people finish. You do not need to be an athlete to take part (not even close).
See you in 2018, Tough Mudder!