here it is - the full Tough Mudder Scotland 2012 recap!!!
when i first signed up for this, way back in january, i really thought i knew how hard it was going to be. but i had a training plan, i had teammates (two of the personal trainers from my gym - big, strong, determined guys!) and i had a start time of 10:40am, which meant i would be able to take my time getting organised the morning of the event. but, the best-laid plans & all that - my training was derailed by tendonitis, my teammates let me down, and my start time was changed to 8:40am (& with the venue 90 minutes away, and registration being two hours before your start time, that meant a 4am start to the day!). all in all, i was feeling considerably less that confident about things, but there was nothing else to do but go for it.
so, here's the blow-by-blow account - the RSA was taking photos where she could, but the whole middle section of the course was fairly inaccessible to spectators (&, it's fair to say, to participants as well, but we had to get through it anyways!) so i don't have pics of everything.
you can see Tough Mudder's photos & descriptions of most of the standard obstacles here, though.
obstacle #1: Braveheart Charge - roughly one mile, most of it uphill. war cries are essential! the hill was ridiculously steep - i ran/walked it so i didn't use up all my energy right out of the start. they actually had a contingent of guys dressed like "braveheart" extras cheering us on from the sidelines, which was pretty funny.
obstacle #2: Kiss of Mud (#1) - exactly what it sounds like. about 200 yards of rough, muddy terrain with barbed wire strung 8" above the ground - belly crawl under the barbed wire & try not to get snagged. tiring, but not one of the harder obstacles.
obstacle #3: Arctic Enema - even more unpleasant than it sounds. a giant skip filled with ice water that you need to jump into at one end & struggle across before hauling yourself out at the other side. to make it even worse, there was a barrier halfway across that you could only get past by going underneath it, meaning you had to fully submerge yourself in the freezing, ice-filled water. i had a moment of panic on this one because when i came up on the other side of the barrier, there was so much ice above my head that for a moment i thought i hadn't actually cleared the barrier & that i was trapped (minor panic attack #1). unexpectedly, the cold water also triggered my asthma, & i just couldn't catch my breath until i started to warm up again. this was one of the obstacles that i had been really scared of, & it was even more horrifying than i had expected. the upside is that it was right near the start, so at least once it was over with i didn't have to worry about it anymore!!
obstacle #4: Boa Constrictor - about 200 yards of incredibly narrow pipes (think those black plastic sewage pipes); one angled downhill into a pool of muddy water (with just enough clearance at the top of the pipe to keep your face clear of the water) and a second angled uphill out of the water. the pipes are so narrow that you can't use your legs to push with, & you just have to rely on your arms to pull you along inch by inch. by the time i was 3/4 up the second pipe, my arms were starting to fail me, & the guys behind/in front of me had to give me a little push/pull. (thanks guys!)
obstacle #5: Walk the Plank - a steep board with a few foot/handholds; you climb up one side, then jump 15 feet off the other into a deep, cold lake. the line for this one was moving so fast that when i made it up the climb, i had less than a second on the platform before someone yelled "JUMP" & i jumped - i didn't have time to be scared until i was falling. the lake was nearly as cold as the Arctic Enema, and so deep that i was at least 6 feet under the surface & still didn't touch the bottom. the cold water was having the same unfortunate effect on my lungs, so when i finally broke the surface i had to float on my back, gasping, for a minute. i must have sounded pretty bad as the lifeguards were yelling over to see if i was ok - i couldn't speak, but gave them a thumbs-up & swam (slowly), still on my back to keep my face out of the water, over to the side & dragged myself out. i hadn't actually worried about this obstacle too much because i'm a pretty strong swimmer, but it was a lot harder than i had thought - i hadn't expected the cold water to affect my asthma that badly, and i just couldn't breathe at all (minor panic attack #2). but at least it cleaned off a lot of the mud!
obstacle #6: Kiss of Mud (#2) - same as the first. tiring, but not hard or scary - mostly annoying to be getting muddy again so soon after my lake bath!!
obstacle #7: Cliffhanger - this covered at least a mile, and consisted of a route that looped back & forth across a surprisingly fast-flowing small stream, with some very steep muddy banks to climb up & down, and lots of water & mud to slog though. tiring, but not too hard - everyone helped each other which was really nice.
obstacle #8: Berlin Walls (#1) - two nine-foot wooden walls, which by this point were also covered in slippery mud from everyone who had already climbed them. there's one small foothold near the bottom, but that's it - unless you're really strong, you need a hand for this one. a very nice man running with his partner helped me out - we both boosted her, then he boosted me, then he came over on his own (he was pretty strong!). this one was hard for me - my upper body strength still definitely needs work. plus, the tops of the walls were really slippery, so my descent wasn't as controlled as it should have been - i jolted my right leg really badly coming down off the second wall, and from that point on my leg was cramping & spasming uncontrollably (& i still had 8 miles to go).
obstacle #9: Kiss of Mud #3 - you know how this goes by now!!
obstacle #10: Underwater Tunnels - another cold lake, with five rows of floating barrels; for this obstacle, you had to swim/walk across the lake (at least 500 yards) & get past the floating barrels by swimming underneath them. i got chest-deep in the freezing water & my lungs seized up again - i was gasping for air & just couldn't catch my breath - so i decided to walk around this obstacle. i'm really bummed that i skipped it - i had hoped to be able to at least attempt everything, even if i failed - but i (sensibly, i think) decided that trying to do this one would put me (& possibly other Mudders) in too much danger. so i completed the "walk of shame around the lake" obstacle instead.
obstacle #11: Mud Mile - exactly what it sounds like, although it felt much longer than a mile! the mud was anywhere between 6-12" deep; not the hardest obstcale, but designed to strip away any small amount of energy you may have had left.
obstacle #12: Quagmire - again, exactly what it sounds like! roughly half a mile of thick, clay/grit-based mud, built up into 6-8 foot hills interspersed with chest-deep pools of mud/water. it was hard & exhausting, and everyone really need to push/pull each other up the slippery hills as you couldn't get a proper foothold on most of them. i had mud everywhere - i'm pretty sure i even ate some of it - and my shoes & socks were full of grit by the end of this obstacle.
obstacle #13: Firewalker - roughly 200 yards long, this was a trench about four feet wide between two lines of blazing, kerosene-soaked hay bales. visibility was practically zero; it was just a case of holding your breath, putting your head down, & running through. it looks impressive & sounds quite scary, but this was probably the easiest obstacle - it was the warmest i had felt in a few hours, plus the smoke kept the giant midges away for a few seconds, so it was actually quite pleasant! & i ended up in a great photo on the BBC website!!
obstacle #14: Trench Warfare - a long, narrow, dark trench covered in canvas, just deep enough to crawl through on hands & knees. the trench had at least 6" of mud along the bottom, and smoke bombs were being set off to fill the trenches with smoke & reduce visibility to practically zero. all i could see was the soles of the shoes of the guy in front of me; the mud had a lot of grit in it, and i was really wishing i had worn longer running tights instead of shorts (my knees may never be the same again!). tiring, but not too awful. they had loudspeakers blasting braveheart-esque battle cries, and an actual piper, which gave it a great atmosphere!
obstacle #15: Hold Your Wood - pretty basic. pick up a big log, get it wedged on your shoulder, and run/walk a short loop (half a mile or so) up & down hills, before dropping it off again at the bottom for the next group of Mudders. hard & tiring, but not too bad.
obstacle #16: Log Jammin' - a series of giant logs built up into walls (4-6 feet high) and barriers (2-3 feet high).; you have to climb over the high ones, and crawl under the low ones. it sounds easy, but it was completely exhausting - the logs were slippery with mud & all of us were incredibly tired by this point.
obstacle #17: Spider's Web - a cargo net made out of thick rope, strung vertically between two big trees. it was at least 20 feet high (possibly higher - i'm not sure!) and you had to climb up one side & down the other, while avoiding other Mudders who were climbing up while you were climbing down & vice versa! people who had already made it over were holding the bottom of the net to try & give it more stability; i decided to stick as close to the tree as possible & that seemed to work well as the net was pretty firmly anchored & didn't move too much. it was incredibly high & quite scary, especially as my arms were so tired by this point - my grip was failing & i had to anchor my whole arm through the net with each step as i couldn't hang on with just my hands, which made the climb a lot slower. i was very glad i had worn workout gloves - even with the gloves, my hands were burning from the rope.
obstacle #18: Berlin Walls (#2) - same as the first, but this set was 12 feet high instead of 9 feet. sadly, i failed on this obstacle, despite the best efforts of a lovely team of guys who really did everything they could to help me over! my right leg was so sore & weak at this point that i couldn't push up off it, and the extra 3 feet meant that even with a big guy boosting me as high as he could, i could only get my fingertips over the top of the wall. we gave it two attempts & i decided it just wasn't going to happen, so i stuck around long enough to help boost them over & thank them on the other side for trying to help (thanks guys!!). i'll admit it - during the run/walk/limp between this obstacle & the next, i was really losing heart - i spent at least half a mile trying not to cry (i'm pretty sure Tough Mudders don't cry!). i pulled it together when i came down the next hill & saw the RSA waiting for me, though.
obstacle #19: Electric Eel - i was dreading this one. roughly 100 yards long, this obstacle is a tarp covered in cold water (with guys on the sidelines with hoses adding extra water as you go), underneath a grid of live wires that hand out a 10,000 volt shock (no, i'm really not kidding). you have to belly-crawl/slide along the tarp - the wires are strung so low that you don't really have a hope of avoiding them, so you just have to keep your head down & keep moving forward. i got shocked at least eight times on this one - i kind of lost count, it could easily have been more - and surprisingly, it wasn't as painful as i had been imagining. it didn't hurt the same way as say, getting a cut does - i just felt a sort of "impact", and my whole body jerked for a split second. but by the end of the obstacle i was swearing uncontrollably - and as i dragged myself out the other side, i looked up into the faces of a whole row of little kids spectating. whoops - sorry, kids!
obstacle #20: Funky Monkey - a long stretch of monkey bars that go up an incline on one side & then down on the other, with cold, deep water waiting underneath if you fall. some of the bars spin in their sockets, and some are greased. i honestly knew by this point that i didn't have a hope of getting across these - i was so tired - but i gave it a go anyways (even though i saw the two women in front of me just jump into the water & swim across!). i made it one rung before falling into the water - oh well.
obstacle #21: Everest - a huge, greased quarter pipe lined with a smooth surface, that you have to run up until it's too vertical to run on, then leap up & hope someone at the top catches you. it was raining by this point as well, which made it even more slippery! alas, i failed on this one too - my injured right leg was so weak i just couldn't get the momentum i needed. i gave it two attempts and on the second attempt i just managed to touch the fingers of the guys waiting to help me up - another couple of inches & i would have made it! i was limping really badly after the second fall though so decided not to try again. i'll get it next time!
obstacle 22: Electroshock Therapy - same as Electric Eel, but this time it's about 100 yards of hanging 10,000 volt live wires that you have to run through, with the odd hay bale scattered in your path to jump over. i was luckier on this one, and managed to make it 3/4 of the way through before getting shocked twice (i may have said some bad words on this one as well). there was also this helpful sign just before the obstacle, which really gets you in the right mindset.
and then it was over....
no exaggeration, this was the hardest thing i have ever done in my life. all those other times in my life that i said i was tired? i was lying. there were quite a few points at which i genuinely though i was going to have to give up - apparently, only 75% of participants make it through to the end, which i can totally understand. i was running it alone, but everyone i met was incredibly supportive & encouraging. from mile four on, i was running on an injured leg, so most of what happened after that was pure stubbornness!! i'm covered in bruises & scrapes, and my muscles hate me so much that even turning over in bed takes about 5 minutes. but i am so proud of myself for not giving up - even though i had to skip one obstacle, and tried but failed on two others, i think i did pretty good. (& in case you're worried about my leg, i phoned last week & pre-booked an appointment with my physio just in case - i'm seeing her on friday.)