Saturday, 28 July 2012

Tough Mudder Scotland 2012

Well the day eventually came round, the 14th July 2012 when Gordon and I were faced with the mighty task of Tough Mudder at Drumlanrig Castle. Here is The Official Map.There were 22 defined obstacles with a route of around 12 miles.

Gordon asked me to train him and his friends for this event back around Christmas 2011, I agreed. By January I heard he was to face it alone as his comrades had deserted him, so I offered to step up to the challenge. I won't go through the 6 months of torture I put us through but I will take you through the actual event.

Our set off time was 8:20 am and were advised to be there 2 hours early, it made sense, there were a lot of cars filled with spectators, participants and first aiders. Make sure you follow their advice and fill in your forms and have your picture ID available or you won't get in. The journey in was spectacular, beautiful rolling roads, and driving in to the castle grounds through the early morning Scottish mist. Ah.. makes you proud to be a Scot!

I hooked up with team mate Gordon, and he had brought some spectators. Being honest, I was so happy to see his partner and friends, it was a good moral booster. We checked out the other competitors and more to the point, what they were wearing. Superhero outfits, a jock strap (yep, that was all!), wet suits, t-shirts, vests and 3 guys had on a suit and tie with running shoes. They reminded me of the bad guy in 'The Matrix". Some people were off getting their mullet trimmed or a mohican which I believe was free if you were a contestant. Hmmmm. There were a few tents scattered round selling food, drink, protein supplements, Under Armour gear and a DJ tent. All good!

We checked in the little baggage that we had and watched as the first batch of Mudderers left after, in my opinion a terrible warm up given by the hosts at the DJ stand. Adrenalin high, testosterone on a whole new level and hearts a thumpin. Next it was our turn 20 minutes later.

We heard over the tannoy, we had to make it to the starting line. He didn't say we first had to climb over a 7 foot wall but that was no biggee. Thats it, about 500 of us were huddled together in a little pen, getting riled at the Start line. The commentator was playing "Eye of the Tiger" and strangely enough "Walk 500 miles" and shouting things to us so we shouted back. We were mixed with other veteran Tough Mudders from around the globe just wanting to tick off another one. American, Australians, Italians, French and I believe a Hawaiian. The count down was on 5, Gordon leaned in and said he felt a bit butterflies, I  began to question myself and found I didn't, and then wondered if it was good or bad. Ultimately I put it down to "well, we trained hard enough for it, we are as ready as we are gonna be". The air horn blew and we were off....

1. Braveheart Charge
This was simply a warm up just to get the legs, heart and lungs working together in unison. We had both agreed "slow and steady" after all this was not a race but an event for camaraderie and of course crossing the finish line still alive. Steady jog climbing slowly up hill, met by the occasionaly Broadsword weilding Scotsman shouting "ARR" and "OCH!" and a few other swear words I won't document here.
2. Kiss the Mud 1
This was a crawl under a mesh of barbed wire. Your objective was to keep your ass down, so if you are thinking about taking a bum bag or hydration system - don't. Theres plenty of places to get water.This works your core as you mainly use bent arms and a wee bit from your legs.
3. Artic Enema
Yes, this is a bad as it sounds. Jump into a container full of iced water up to your middle, wade over to a wall and plunge your head under, go through an opening in the wall and come up the other side. Make sure you know how deep the hole is and don't header the wall as I did, giving me another attempt in this icey hell. I made it, but by then my arms and legs were numb and cramping. I would say maybe about 3 minutes I was in but it felt longer. Where was Gordon, aw he was in and out before I could say 'bloomin eck thats cold!'. But remember as Bear Grylls says get your core back up to temperature asap, even if you have to do some star jumps. Preparation for this is cold showers, then cold baths no longer than 30 secs though.
4. Boa Constrictor
Now I know why there was a plumbing company sponsoring the event. They supplied the pipes. You had to crawl into pipes which led down into a pond, where you ended up about 60 percent submerged, you then had to climb up and out through the next, muddy wet, smelly pipe. I had on knee protectors, which were a good idea but not for this as they prevented me from being able to use me knees as I couldn't bend my legs the pipe was too narrow. Thats when I got a hefty push and appreciated push from another competitor coming up behind. Thanks mate - needed that. Again Gordon snaked through with the ease of a grass snake.
5. Walk the Plank
What can I say, climb up a quite dodgey looking platform so you are about 15 feet up , from a murky deep, cold, dirty, muddy, big pond. (Bearing in mind Scottish water only changes around 3 degrees throughout the entire year). Then YEEHA!!! Jump in!!! Great, always wondered what that would feel like and how far under the water line you go, and of course would I panic breathe in the water due to the temperature. The Answer is quite deep, and no, you just breathe when you get back to the surface. (Wanna do it again).
6. Kiss the Mud 2
Same as last time, get on your elbows and knees with your chest on the mud and crawl a long and slightly uphill under barbed wire (not razor wire, but not fake plastic wire either, as the holes in my new T-Shirt proved).
7. Cliffhanger
Now, it may have just been me (or the 10,000 volts)but I cannot recall this one, nor can Gordon. We couldn't have cheated as you follow orange tape almost everywhere but we don't think this actually existed. However there is another, I call 12A, see later. I will take this opportunity to say even at this point around 4 miles all muddy track so far has been practically uphill. Calves and thighs beginning to scream as the lactic acid builds up. Also there was a stream / river that we had to keep crossing and some parts were chest high deep and that was before you slipped. Watch out going under the bridge - bits of it are very deep and getting out is good old unforgiving mud.
8. Berlin Walls 1
2 walls at about 10 feet, with a tiniest of ledges at about 20 inches from the ground and the oly hand hold 10 feet up. The best idea, get help, especially if you are a bit on the short side like Gordon and I. I got Gordon up then he either pulled me or another competitor helped me, who I then helped too. Nice team work - thanks to all. Since this was after a water break it felt relatively easy.
9. Kiss the Mud 3
Beginning not to like this now, but am still ok, not really fatiguing yet.
10. Underwater Tunnels
Hmmmm...not quite. Underwater... Yes! Tunnels...No! Ooooh this was cold. This time effectively crossing yet another expanse of bottomless murky water, and ducking under tethered Big Blue Plastic Drums, 5 of them to be precise. You got to swim between them and then dive under and come up the other side. Not too physically demanding but if you are in the water long enough due to people before you, you just can't feel you legs or arms much towards the last third and to help you pull your freezing ass out of the water and up the muddy verge. Oh yeah, and I remember Gordon leaning to me as we were jogging only 5 minutes before this saying "I think we've got the worst overwith"
11. Mud Mile
Gordon and I were jogging along this thinking this isn't so bad, but yes its still uphill, but hey its ok. Then we realised, we weren't actually on it yet.... The next corner and stream crossing led us to the thigh deep sticky, smelly, sinking, gooey, shoe eating mud... he he it was fun. No photos here though I think the camera man was devoured in the black mineral dense mud. Thlwop! Splurge!!
12. Quagmire
Which means to me muddy marsh... and I was right. Lotta laughs here though. There were peaks and troughs carved out of a field leaving a fantastically undulating fromation of slippery muddy hills, embankments and equally deep water filled pools of mud to slip and slide into. This is where all possible array of microstones and mud make their way into your shoes and down your pants, etc. You get the picture. I watched as this big tall guy made it look easy until he jumped from one hill into what looked like a puddle only to vanish, Laurel and Hardy style, into the brown opaque liquid with no trace for a second, then pop back to the surface shocked.Hah hah, that made me laugh, even now I chortle.
12A. Devils Beard (not listed)
This was a huge cargo net that we had to crawl under. Not lying flat this time just bent over. If I can speak for Gordon and I, we found it a 'piece of cake.'
13. Firewalker
This was what appeared to be the first downhill jog to this obstacle, it could be smelt though for miles. Bails of hay soaked in kerosene and set on fire, a bit like the neighbours barbaque. Looked easy enough but you could feel the heat. It was a bit like something out of an old gunslinger movie, because you were hard pushed to see anything beyond 10 feet. We entered and I noticed Gordon beginning to lag. I slowed my pace and turned to him, "Are you Ok?" I said, he looked at me as if I was stupid and said "the flames are helping me dry off". To that I laughed and said, "Ok yeah, I see your point" and continued at a more scenic pace. Somewhat charred though.
14. Trench Warfare
A further jog uphill in the mud through a beautiful wooded area, we were then confronted with a queue. A long queue. Ahead of us were 4 seperate trenches hand dug into the muddy woodland. They started at a depth of about 3 foot bet gradually reduced to around 2 feet and narrow. The were also covered to make them pretty dark and claustrophobic with logs, sheeting mud and of course more barbed wire. There elevation was downhill which allowed a trickle of a stream to flow down them too. For added effect, the set up crew had a Scots Piper playing battle hymns on the bagpipes, with large speakers echoing the sounds of first world war and just to really soak in the atmosphere they also let off a few pyrotechnics. This was cool.
15. Logjamming
This was a series of logs you had to alternately climb over the under, with each one getting subtly higher, again complete with mud and barbed wire. This had the added bonus of a female, raising your blood pressure, shouting at you to move "faster", "get your leg over" and "come on, thought you were real men". We were all cursing her during the obstacle until at the end we saw she was pregnant. We met her with a smile, knowing that, what ever pain we were going through, she would have to endure her own torture during her up and coming child birth, very, shortly.
16. Hold your wood
Simply an amble round another pond, oh, yeah, but carrying a log. Remember and pick one that is challenging. I spotted a few with twigs, but conversely, I did spot a few with trees, and jogging.
17. Spiders Web
In the middle of a forest, we found the spiders web. Oooo, a vertical cargo net tidied up between 2 trees. Easy enough but make sure of good footing and good grip. And don't get kicked in the teeth from a fellow participant at the top as you switch from 1 side of the net to the other.
18. Berlin Walls 2
Aw naw... These were 12 feet high and as per the last set only offered you the teensiest of footholds at knee height, more of a joke than anything practical. Again I got Gordon up first, but my arms were beginning to fail. A fellow gave me a hand up and over the first, then on to the second. Same approach, Gordon up and over then turn, no-one there... All of a sudden a guy who just completed it comes back around and helps me again great. With renewed spirit and by this time some spectators and flung myself up, Gordon pulled and the guy pushed. I triumphantly threw my leg over the top as Gordon got down and... uh oh... to much speed/aggression whatever. I was coming down on the top of the wall. Crunch, the only phrase that sprung to mind was 'crush a grape' I gasped, Gordon in horror looked up gasped too, as did the guy that helped me and about a dozen spectators. I leaned forward and slid off the wall like a pancake sliding out a frying pan. At least that was the last wall. We were on the downhill straight now.
19. Electric Eel
What fresh hell was this??? Much like Kiss The Mud you had to crawl along on your belly, no mud though, just a thick black plastice sheet like something Dexter would use. Also no barbed wire, no.. no that was replaced be hundreds of little dangling wires. Some containing a few volts whilst I've heard others containing 10,000volts. Yep, I knew its only deadly if the current is high but 10,000volts is the equivalent of a tazer. Gordon and I stood at the edge just looking, wondering what the best path was, oh yeah and there was a lady with a hose spraying all contestant with yet more water to help the electricity conduct. We looked at each other and went for it. Gordon jumped in first and I followed hot on his heals. As I was crawling I felt my left hip be zapped and my leg kick out outwith my control. I paused and thought "that wasn't bad, I could handle that, its ok." I crawed on more, this time my right shoulder. Same power as my arm flew off to the side. Yep, ok, ok. I crawled some more, then all of a sudden I got zapped, I think on the right rear of my skull, my jaw shot open, and although I felt as though I froze it appear there was a blackout, but only to me. Just a fraction of a second, then a groggy feeling and blurred vision came back. In front of me was a sign and I was just beginning to be able to focus. I then remembered where I was and thought "gotta get outta here now." I crawled frantic and fast and within the last 3 feet zapped again, but that one was ok.
20. Funky Monkey
The Monkey Bars next as Gordon and I jogged towards it, he grunted "I'm no goin in that watter again" translated to any non scots out there is "I will not be falling in to that water again". I laughed, he also commented, "the gloves are comin aff" (translated "I won't wear my gloves") and that was us. I grabbed the first rung, tested it with my weight and grip. Its good, I'll manage. I got 3 rungs more then I straightened my toes to stop my lower body swaying too much - a trick I had been practicing. Then all of a sudden, the toes of both curled, the soles of my feet cramped. This quickly spread to my calves, my thighs and hips. I thought I screamed in pain but no sound errupted. Alas, I was falling, back to the murky depths of yet another pool. A deep pool. The ice cold water kept my convulsing limbs in torture, I couldn't use anything below my hips to swim. I got to the surface thinking. That guy in red(Emergency Team) will have to pull me out. But I thought "No" I didn't come this far. I tread water with my arms and breast stroke to the other edge. I made it. Then I thought, swing my legs forward and push off to get out of here. They still we locked an writihing agony. I had to spin myself around, and lift myself out backwards, but I still couldn't bring my knees up so I just collapsed back on to the platform. At last a contestant came over and helped me back to my feet. I turned back to see Gordon complete the Monkey Bars - DRY!!!Good on you!
21. Everest
I had to walk my legs back to normal and as I did with my trusty partner Gordon I looked at the structure that before us. I try not to swear but I may have murmurred something when I saw it. A greased quarter pipe, that was seriously some height. In the queue I witness some contestants with tissues quenching the blood after this structure befell them and the plunged face first into the quarter pipe. We were not looking forward to this. We tried, and failed, attempt 2- both failed. 3 again - failed. At that point I looked on as I watch others fail with some victorious and from that I said "I WILL DO THIS!!! IT WON'T BEAT ME!!!". Thinking of all people that gave me strencth and direction, both ficticious and real, I'm gonna do it! Attempt 4, 5, 6 all flew by but on my seventh attempt I made it - it was a glorious feeling. I quickly turned and threw out my hand for the next contestant, and the next and of course Gordon. I had helped 12 people complete that - Hooah as they say!!
22. Electroshock Therapy
Gordon and I trudged on, battered, bruised and exhausted and knew there was only one left. Well here is where our demons are left behind. Similar to Electric Eel but longer cables and this time you've to run through while dodging the strategic hay bails, of course with minimal shocks if possible. We stood on the edge, watched a guy in front of us go, who appeared to make it unscathed and as we were about to trace his path, "zap" he fell head first over a bail of hay with a whimper. Too late now to change path, go go go. I run Gordon followed. I was almost at the end when 2 wires crossed together like streams of light from ghostbusters and landed perfectly vertical down my forehead. "Zap", I staggered on, partly forgetting about Gordon till I looked up and read the amazing white letters on a black inflatable gateway F - I - N - I - S - H....Woo hoo I turned to Gordon so we could cross together. We were met by girls placing our infamous Orange Tough Mudder Headbands on, a tin of beer, a table of bananas, our Tough Mudder t-shirts, protein bars and foil sheets to keep us warm. We did it. Raising money for Dementia (over £1500) and Cancer Research (over £500).

If anybody is thinking about doing this next year and want training tips or a run down of the equipment I wore, then drop me a line. Will we do it again? ... stay tuned!!!

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