Monday, September 23, 2013

Tough Mudder South West 2013

It'll be a couple of days til I post this but I want to write now while it's all still fresh in my mind. I completed Tough Mudder yesterday. For those of you who don't know it, you can find information here. In summary, it is 12 miles of dirt, hills and obstacles. I don't mind admitting that I grossly underestimated this challenge. Having only two weeks ago completed my fourth half marathon, I fully expected this to be relatively easy - it's less distance with pauses for obstacles. HA! How ridiculous. It was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I've ever attempted to do.


Ridiculously, I've already entered the London West one in April next year...I remember trying to convince my friend Sarah to join me and she said she didn't know if she could do it. I responded with a flippant 'Of course you can do it, you can already cover the distance and you're stronger than me!!' She responded with, 'yeah, I'm just not sure I could do it mentally.' I had given absolutely no thought to the mental aspect, and I have to admit I found a few of the obstacles a little traumatic.

Here is a complete breakdown of the obstacles we encountered, hopefully it might prepare future mudders:

Kiss of Mud

Our first obstacle - crawling on your belly through mud under barbed wire. I wasn't too worried about this one beforehand, but it turned out the mud floor was full of stones and brick...most of us drew first blood here. Plenty of little cuts on the elbows and knees. You can't crawl, you have to go all the way down onto your stomach. Somehow I managed to keep most of my front clean, I think I kept most weight on my elbows, so being little will help you maybe, though our spectators said we went to the wrong side as the other side of the obstacle was full of mud...apparently the lucky bastards were sliding through...grrrr.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Glory Blades

Walls slanted towards us, not too tall! The guys boosted me over, slide down the slanted side. If you're tall or strong you'd be able to do this alone.

Arctic Enema

There's a reason they make a big deal about this one, and a reason why everyone claims it as the worst obstacle in Tough Mudder. A pool of water, thick with ice. You jump's fricking cold. The kind of cold that takes your breath away and two of our team promptly jumped back out, but Arctic Enema requires you to pass under a partition. It's about an arms length wide. Ben and I jumped in together, we came up and I tried to find my breath, the cold is a hell of a shock, clinging to the edge I tried to breathe properly as Ben disappeared under. I heard one of the TM guys telling me I could feel the other end of the partition underneath the water, I reached under and grabbed the edge, took some deep breaths then went under and used my arm to pull me through. My head met a lot of ice coming up the other side and I arose gasping for air and freezing. I could hardly swim to the edge to get out for ice and Ben and another Mudder pulled me face was a picture and I was not talking. Just trying to breathe again. We bounced around getting warm and waiting for the rest of our team.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Trench Warfare

These are little mud tunnels (trenches) that you crawl through, it's dark but it's not too bad. Again, some stones and brick to avoid, but I crawled through without much trouble.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Funky Monkey

These monkey bars ascend and then descend. I already knew I didn't have the upper body strength to make it, I got to one bar and fell, into water. And it was cold, again! Not arctic enema cold, but cold enough. Everyone told me to get gripped gloves for this but I don't think they helped, Ben's failed him and caused him to slip, the two of our team who made it across weren't wearing any.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Hold your wood

I haven't mentioned yet but this course was excessively muddy, the kind of mud that could suck a badly tied trainer off without any bother. It was also majorly uphill. In fact, there was so much up hill that I'm convinced we didn't do enough down hill to compensate (although some very steep downhill almost-climbs did come into it), regardless, this meant that hold your wood wasn't carrying a piece of log and running with it, as I'd anticipated. I took a nice small one from a girl who had just finished carrying hers, and proceeded to climb up a mud laden hill then down through more mud in a 300 yard circle. It wasn't too difficult...I've been told by others to not share if you have a similar course - you have the option to carry a longer log between two, but if you're going up hill, one of you takes the hard job.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Mud mile

For us, this was very much like the rest of the course, it was just all mud, very slippery, murder on the ankles. It was almost impossible to run as you'd have almost definitely fallen. There was also some mini mud hills near here, they were so steep that I went on my bum to get down for fear of falling, but the guys took it at speed and got it done fairly quickly.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Hero Carry

This part you have to carry someone. Tom piggy-backed me to the switch point, after which I took six foot three inch Tom on my back, but the numpty feared falling and nearly crushed me with his thighs so I put him down after a few steps (I probably couldn't have gone much further anyway).

Electric Eel

Ooh the electric shocks...something I was very, very, nervous about. You crawl through dangling wires that, at the end of them, deliver an electric shock. The guys went through and I stood staring at them until one of the TM monitors shouted 'girl in green, just go!' I shook my head and did a little bounce about until I decided to go for it, I attempted to avoid the ends of the wires when I heard them counting down from 10. As we'd heard before, this meant they'd shut off the power, I jumped up to my knees and crawled through fast as anything. No electric shocks for me! My knees haven't thanked me, but they're not too bad.

Dirty Ballerina

From what I'd seen previously, these were four foot wide and not too deep. The version we encountered seemed not as wide but hella deep. So much so that on approach I turned back. Ben and Alex, already across, kept telling me to take it at speed but the ditches were so deep I kept stopping to take a little run up. I made it across ok in the end but I'm only five foot five, so I don't feel like I could've just bounded across in one go.

Human Gecko

I was looking forward to this one, essentially horizontal wall climbs across water. Unfortunately for me the grips were very far apart, I tried three times, falling once back onto the platform but I was too little to reach across to the next ones once I was on the wall. I had to walk round. I was pretty gutted.

Hero Walls

These two walls were huge. About 10 foot. Credit to the guys, they managed to run up, grab the top and pull themselves over. I was very much lifted, boosted and pulled over. Once you're up it looks a bitch of a drop down. I landed twice, unceremoniously, onto my arse.

Cage Crawl

Definitely the one I found the most traumatic. Cage crawl is water filled trenches, with cages over the top, so you lie on your back in water, with limited space above before there's a cage. I was terrified. So terrified. And very much thought about going round. Ben got in and showed me there's room for your head so I got in between him and Alex in hopes it would keep me calm. I got into the very cold water and very slowly put my head under the wooden partition. I took very deep breaths the whole time I pulled myself along, and clunked my head on the wooden parts that were slightly lower than the fence. The actual cage crawl isn't difficult except mentally. It took me a few minutes to recover from it, personally. But the boys were fine.

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos
Boa Constrictor

Tunnels that descend and ascend with water in the middle. I slid down the descending one, then happily crawled up the other. Alex, being built quite a big bigger than me, hated this one as he couldn't move a whole hell of a lot. I had plenty of room, one of the few points during this course that being small was a bonus.

Walk the Plank

Tom is the one with a fear of heights. I was the one who stood up on this platform for a good five minutes of false starts. You climb up and stare down into a pool of water. You only have to jump. It's only 15 foot high I think. I gave myself a last try and then decided I wouldn't go. As I went to turn around and climb back down, the nicest girl and guy stopped me. She was so lovely as she told me it wasn't that high, that I'd come this far and couldn't turn back now. I don't remember how I did it to be honest. I only know that after she said that, I managed to get off that platform and into the water. Ungraciously, my underwear went straight up my arse, but I rose to the surface to a hell of a lot of applause. I was glad I did it...if annoyed I took so long!

from Tough Mudder UK Facebook group photos

The half pipe you have to run up...second attempt I made it to the arms that grabbed me, then dragged me up. Another obstacle I had very little to do with the success of.

Electroshock Therapy

Mere meters from the end point, dangling wires hang over little muddy speed bumps. I didn't realise my group were going on the next count and watched them as they disappeared through the field of wires. Not really knowing what to do I started wandering through it with some other stragglers. Unlike everyone else, I didn't sprint through I went in dodging the wires, scared of the shocks. I was almost there when I felt one wire shock me on the arse. A loud 'FUCK' caused the spectating audience to crack up and I met my team the other side and we crossed the finish line together.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I nearly cried from relief of finishing it. The course took us about 3 hours and 40 minutes we think. Outside the obstacles there was plenty of running but so much hill climbing, so much mud. We did so much climbing, slipping and sliding and also crossed a river with a pretty strong current, only up to the knees but still!






Today I am battered and bruised, though not aching as much as I expected (though I anticipate worse tomorrow) and the whole thing seems so surreal to me. When I came across the obstacles during the race I did sometimes just stare at them uncomprehendingly. I have no idea how I threw myself into some of them. If you're thinking of participating, don't underestimate what you're letting yourself in for.

Having said all that, it is fun... I think I'll approach London West in April with a lot more trepidation now I know what to expect...but I will participate, and I think with most of the same team!


  1. Nichola, you guys are absolute legends. I read this whole post with a look of terror on my face!

  2. I think this looks fantastic - I would hope that years of climbing would be of assistance to me on this BUT I do not have the head for the under water or water cage crawl...Honestly that would give me serious nightmares/a panic are awesome for doing that!
    I think you guy's did brilliantly and I hugely admire you for taking on pretty much everything...I am tempted by the London one in April...Just a question - Am I correct in understanding that you can miss the things that you genuinely just can't do? (aka me and my 'I'm so rubbish in water' doowoop!)

    1. Hi Katie! It's easy to walk round the obstacles if you really want to, but they're worth giving a go :-)

  3. I really want to have a go at this, good on you!

    Hmm maybe...

  4. My boyfriend and some of our friends were thinking of doing it this year, but for some reason we didn't go through with it. Loved reading your account, as it seems pretty similar to how I would feel going through it. Seems amazing =)

    Teffy { Teffys Perks Blog } X

  5. That's awesome! Congrats on completing. Tough Mudder is one of the hardest obstacles courses and you conquered it!