Medal: No. But we did each get a headband, t-shirt, and beer.
Team Apache had signed up for Scotland’s first Tough Mudder, and we had decided to camp the night before (with the exception of Liell, who, as mentioned, had opted for a luxury B&B, and Paul J., who was driving up with his girlfriend from Glasgow on Saturday morning). We all enjoyed some pasta, scrabble and backgammon (and a couple of beers) before turning in at a sensible hour. We were not the only people signed up for Tough Mudder at the site!
On Saturday, at 9:20 am, our team of 8, made up of myself, Ian, Dylan, Grant, Liell, Paul M, Paul J, and Pete, began our Tough Mudder Journey. We had ignored the instructions to leave 2 hours before our start wave as we were camping less than 4 miles away from the start and had a relatively early start time, and we set off at about 7:45 am. We should not have ignored the 2 hour suggestion. The roads were deceivingly deserted as we approached Drumlanrig Estate, where the event was being held, but we soon ended up on the tail of a fellow Tough Mudder participant. And another thousand or so in an enormous queue for the parking.
After 20 minutes of watching a few fellow mudders walking by (one wearing only Under Armour gear and what we all agreed must be stuffing or a protective cup, because he gave Henry VIII a run for his package money), we paid our £10 for parking (this event knows how to fleece the folk taking part), and then haphazardly grabbed ID/spare clothes/consent forms and made our way to registration. Regrettably, we neglected to bring the face paint, so Liell was the only team member that looked like he had made an effort (I had sponged his entire head blue, and he had taken care of the rest of his body). We had just enough time to register, get bibs pinned on, get our numbers drawn on our heads and other body parts, take a tactical toilet break, and dump our bags before our wave was being called to the start line. All of my carefully planned pre fueling and decorative war paint flew out pf the window as we helped each other over a ‘berlin wall’ just to get to the start line.
There was a pep talk and a pledge, and some safety info. Looking around, there were a lot of buff looking dudes. Not many fat ones. This did not bode well, because it’s nice to be able to see people who you know are going to struggle more than you. There was a definite majority of penis on the penis:vagina ratio as well. Oh, and then the announcer mentioned that the course would be 12, not 10 miles. Cue a few people making ‘What the fuck?’ faces and looking around to make sure they weren’t the only ones. They were not.
Before we knew it, we had finished the countdown and we were moving forward. The first part seemed to be an uphill stretch through fields and mud. There were a lot of good costumes on show: the frog prince, a rabbit, some guys wearing only a jock strap and trainers with their butts painted bright orange (I thought of them during several of the obstacles and I’m sure they’re feeling tender today), guys in full suits, a bride, etc.
As soon as we hit the first major obstacle, it was clear that they weren’t going to be in the order we had expected. Numero uno? The Arctic Enema. A plunge into an ice bath with a barrier that forces you to be completely submerged in order to swim under. My idea of hell. I had been toying with the idea of skipping this, especially after my experience in the Ythan Challenge during the river dip, but decided to give it a try. Luckily Ian was right behind me and helped push me through the water when I was under, because if I was solo I’d probably have frozen (har har) and been unable to propel myself forward. Once on the other side, it took me a good minute or two of hyperventilating like a sissy before I could get moving again.
As the course went on we conquered obstacles such as crawling under barbed wire through mud, running through mud varying from ankle to thigh deep, and crawling up muddy hills. During one of these hills I began sliding backwards. I felt two hands grab my ass cheeks, before hastily being removed, before I heard the guy behind me apologize and put his hands right back on my ass cheeks to push me to the top of the hill while his friend giggled. No need to apologize, my friend, I thank you. Hell, even my boyfriend thanks you.
Unfortunately (for me) there were several more water obstacles incorporating freezing water (because Scotland does not experience a season called ‘summer’), and while I managed to swim under barrels (after taking a few moments to acclimatize to the temperature, and taking a few more moments afterwards to get over my hyperventilating routine), I opted out of the plank, where you jump into a lake from a height. Be aware, readers, that had the water been warm or had I been wearing a wetsuit, I would have loved the jump, but the thought of inhaling gallons of bog water and requiring the assistance of the lifeguard was too unappealing. Besides, I had to keep Grant company (he can’t swim). Don’t judge.
About 2/3 the way through there was an aid station with water and bananas. There were also a fair amount of spectators about, and Paul J.’s girlfriend, Louise, appeared, armed with her camera. Here’s a shot of the whole team, and just so you know, my ultra beautiful face isn’t swollen, I have just deep-throated half a banana:
The mud was relentless, and although the treks through rivers at various stages of the course were freezing and tiring, they were a welcome chance to try and wash some of the mud off of your shoes/face/legs/clothes. Saturday was also one of the few occasions that I have truly enjoyed the rain.
About a mile from the end of the course, running down a muddy hill, I heard someone shout “Come on Rachel!”. I followed the voice to what was at first an unrecognizable face (exhaustion had started to affect my lightening quick thinking skills, I think), but I soon realized it was Lynne, I girl I know from the gym (as a pain wielding Body Attack instructor) who was there supporting her boyfriend Andrew, who I sometimes get sports massages from despite his cruel love of inflicting pain. Seriously, he laughs (actual belly laughs) when I scream in pain. She told me there were only 3 more obstacles to go: Funky Monkey (monkey bars), Everest, and the Electroshock. I saw a few photos of his team later. They all opted for kilts. I bet they’re all really friendly with the savlon cream this week. I spoke to Andrew on Monday and it looks like we finished in about the same time as them. Who needs a six-pack? Anyway, the pain-inflicting massage therapist is the one on the left:
Back on track, the Funky Monkey saw me reach the second bar before falling into the water and swimming to the other side, and most of our team fared about as well. Ian was the only member to make it all the way across (Paul M got to the penultimate bar before slipping into a splash of self-hatred). We could see Everest from where we left the monkey bars, and jogged up to join the queue.
During the (looooooong) wait there we witnessed some pretty painful things. One guy face planted the wall and stood up with a face full of blood and minus one tooth. Another guy hit the wall face-first and slowly slid down to the bottom. At first everyone thought he was taking a moment to compose himself, but after just that bit too much time had passed, the marshals were over with a space blanket to check him out. They had to stop people from using a portion of the wall as he was seen to, but he didn’t look good. All of this made me feel pretty apprehensive about taking a shot, but when it was my turn I just went for it. Unfortunately, I too face planted the wall, bashing my cheekbone and jawbone hard enough to leave me dazed for about 10 seconds before deciding to walk around. I doubt I would have had a chance to have another go anyway, as it was around that time the marshals told everyone to stop, and an ambulance was making its way towards the guy who had knocked himself out as we headed to the final obstacle. I’ve searched Google and thankfully there was no sign of anyone dying on Saturday, so I hope the guy is feeling OK.
The final obstacle, Electroshock, involves running through a bunch of wires that, wait for it, shock you. I was not keen, because I have this freakish phobia about my heart that isn’t worth getting into, so I walked around and waited for the rest of the team. Once they were through, we walked through the finish line together and grabbed our headband, beer, t-shirt, space blanket, and had our team finish photo taken.
At this point I was shivering and exhausted, so I was glad people didn’t want to hang around, and instead wanted to get back to the campsite for a shower. Before we set off, we had a quick trip to the first aid tent for some antiseptic wipes. I had bashed my ankle off a rock during one of the many river crossings which had a malteser-sized bump (for the US readers, a Malteser is the UK version of a Whopper), but Ian had a golf ball sized lump on his shin from hitting it off an underwater rock. It was spectacular, but has since gone down a bit, so unfortunately, no photo.
Once back at the campsite, the boys got into the queue for the 2 available male showers, and I grabbed my stuff and sauntered (whilst still shivering) into the empty female shower room. I switched on the water and walked, clothes, shoes and all, into the shower. The warmth was one of the best feelings I have experienced, and I spent a beautiful 25 minutes slowly stripping muddy layers off and wringing them out under the nozzle. I remember being grateful that I had bought a rough sponge, as it came in useful for scrubbing layers of mud from my skin.
Clean, in warm clothes, and carrying a plastic bag full of still-muddy clothes, I headed back to the tent where we all ended up cooking some pasta inside to shelter from the rain. We decided we’d wait for a dry spell before packing up and heading home, via Dundee for a Tonic Burger stop (we’d earned it).
Getting back to Ian’s and lying down in a real bed on Saturday night was bliss. It did not take long to get to sleep and I slept in until nearly 11, which is the longest lie I have had since my summer holidays began. My upper body was sore until Tuesday, but my legs were OK (despite cuts/bruises), and I’m looking forward to getting back on track with my marathon training.
Tough Mudder was an endurance event, but I think I’d be lying if I agreed that it was the ‘toughest event in the world’. Parts of it were draining, but honestly, I think if you were in pretty decent shape to start with, you’d make it through, – especially with all the help from the fellow mudders – just not under 2 hours! I was a little disappointed with some of the ‘obstacles’ as they just seemed like slapping a hardcore label onto sections of the terrain (sneaky organizer types), like dips through the rivers/streams and some of the more technical parts of the path, but it was a good day out with old friends and new, and it’s an item off the bucket list. I mean, the t-shirt alone has given me some sweet bragging rights at the gym!