Tough Mudder Scotland 2012

Medal: No.  But we did each get a headband, t-shirt, and beer.

Tough Mudder headband on the medal rack

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!

Dylan adjusting his goggles for the water events.

Ian bringing the back-up lantern into the Spartan tent.

Keeping warm at the scrabble ‘table’. (Substitute ‘box of beer’ for ‘table’)

Pete lighting up the scrabble board

Grant looking cheerful, as usual. I think he was bummed that he got DESTROYED at Scrabble.

Paul M relaxing in the Spartan while Dylan enjoys the wildnerness… on his phone.

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.

Everyone looking cheerful at the start line!

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.

Yellow arrow points to me, Yellow box shows Ian and Grant.  Blue head in the background belongs to Liell.  The girl who I’ve put a smiley face over was ACTUALLY smiling.  Clearly she’s nuts.

And a sweet action shot of Liell emerging from under the ice!

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.

I vaguely remember ‘squatting’ into this photo…

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:

L-R: Ian, me, Paul M, Paul J, Liell (blue head), Grant, Pete, Dylan (with goggles, and also, I would say, banana in mouth).

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:

You’re welcome, ladies.

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.

Dylan getting through the final obstacle with the finish line in sight!

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.

Team Apache + headbands but -Pete at the end! (Still smiling)

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!

Drying the weekend’s clothes after a two cycles in the machine.

Marathon Training Starts Monday

Monday, June 18th, 2012, will mark the official beginning of my marathon training.  I’m using Hal Higdon’s intermediate plan, meshed with my own routine at the gym (I refuse flat out to give up my spin and weights sessions), peppered with races throughout (medals and motivation).

After my longest ever training run last Sunday (14 miles!), the reality of what I have signed up for began to sink in.  I was ready for a siesta on the sofa and a meaty pizza after that long run, so the thought of having to do it again – twice – is a crushing blow to my personal view that I am, in fact, badass on a Chuck Norris scale.

With two half marathons under my belt this year (so far), and 3 training runs of the same distance, I can consistently crack out sub 2 hour halfs, which is good to know.  My main concern, however, is being able to keep up with this pace for double the distance.  I understand that to get an idea of your full marathon time, you should double your half time, and then add 30 minutes.

1:53 + 1:53 + :30 = predicted marathon time

This would have me gasping for beer over the finish line at a respectable 4:14:00.  I am not aiming for a Boston Qualifier like Amy, and I am certainly not deluded enough to think I could crack out a sub 4 hour marathon on my first attempt without dedication that is, in all honesty, beyond me at the moment.  I just want to finish the whole ordeal injury-free, and suffer through the Monday at work without too much pain.

Thankfully, a few of you fellow bloggers (I actually hate the word ‘blog’ and all of its bastard children) are starting marathon training now as well, so it’s nice that I’ll have people in a similar situation to follow, especially those with a bit more experience!  A friend from the gym, Ronnie/Connie (depending on his mood), has recently signed up for the Loch Ness Marathon as well, so I wont be so alone!

Now for the crappy bit.  The night before my marathon debut, I will be in Edinburgh at a friend’s wedding.  I will be watching all of these people I know drinking champagne and cold beer, and I will be guzzling Powerade.  They will be sitting down to enjoy a delicious meal, and I will be cramming pasta into my mouth as I say my goodbyes and get on the last train to Inverness.  My boyfriend will be staying in Edinburgh to drink, eat, dance and celebrate with friends, and I will spend the entire train journey panicking about injury, proper fuelling, pacing, and suppressing thought of collapsing at mile 25, alone.

C’est la vie.

There are, however, more pressing matters.  This Sunday is the Ythan Challenge, which I signed up for in an attempt to prepare myself for Tough Mudder, which is only 4 weeks away!  This Sunday will be another of our team’s training sessions, and hopefully I won’t be the main attraction for the midges.  These little suckers are the UK equivalent of mosquitoes, except they’re tiny: we’re talking large grain of salt size.  And yet, the havoc these pests can wreak, especially on an unseasoned victim, is ridiculous.  I am covered in bites, and cannot stop itching my arms, legs, chest, and –worst of all – my neck!  At least I got mild revenge by inhaling about a thousand of them during my run…


They even got the tiny space between the bottom of my tights and my socks!


Anyway, for all you non-UK readers, here’s a photo taken by a friend from the gym (my phone’s battery had given up, so I asked her to step up), of the Olympic Torch coming down Union Street in Aberdeen.  I can’t say it was a particularly momentous event (at least for me), but at least I can say ‘I was there!’ to people.



[PS I apologize for the frequency of gross body part photos.]

Tough Mudder training: Part 2

Apologies in advance, this post will, I fear, lack any comedic value as I am too tired to think of anything clever, although I was ON FIRE earlier during a cheeky gossip session with a friend.

Today was my longest ever training run: 14 miles.  I had originally set out aiming for about 10, because I was feeling a bit tired, but within the first half mile of my run a guy swept past me which triggered an irrational competitive rage within me, and so it was decided: I would follow this man as far as he traveled, and then I would return home.  Unfortunately, I did not bet on this guy running nearly 7 miles further before turning around.  What an asshole (not really).

I kept up with him until just after 10 miles, but by then, after only a banana for breakfast and starting to flag, I decided to stop for a stretch, a banana blast High 5 energy gel, and a rummage through my new 3 litre Camelback (on it’s running debut) for my mp3 player to provide some motivation for the home stretch.

10 miles in, requiring more than a breakfast banana for fuel…

After hitting the milestone 14 mile mark, I hobbled to my flat, stretched, demolished a glass of chocolate milk (my new drink of the moment), and sat with my legs up against a wall for a bit, all to the amusement of my (hungover) friend Grant, who had used my sofa as a bed last night.  A quick shower later, we headed out for some comfort food, before heading back to the flat to watch some terrible old films on TV.  Both of us felt sluggish (for different reasons) and both of us were dreading our planned activity in the evening: Tough Mudder training with the rest of our (available) team members.  It was around this point in the day that I asked myself: Why did you have to run as far as that dude today, you total idiot!?!  I took advantage of the remaining time, but was all too aware of the clock ticking towards 5pm.

I would have been 100% happy with staying exactly like this for the rest of the day.

The time came to head off, and after downing an electrolyte drink, head off we did.  There were 5 of us in total, and I had planned a (horrendous) workout for us all.  We found a good sized field in Hazelhead Park and set to it. I had planned to do laps of running followed by intense circuit-style exercises.  2 laps of the field was about .4 miles, which seemed plenty to me, especially today!  Our workout was as follows:

2 x laps running

  • 20 burpees
  • 15 squats
  • 15 push ups
  • 15 sit ups
  • 20 burpees
  • 12 squats
  • 12 push ups
  • 12 sit ups
  • 20 burpees
  • 9 squats
  • 9 push ups
  • 9 sit ups
  • 20 burpees (these ones sucked hard)

.5 x lap running

  • 25 back extensions
  • 25 sit ups

.5 lap running

  • 25 leg raises
  • 25 sit ups

1x lap

  • 20 x Right leg lunges/20 x Left leg lunges
  • 10 push ups
  • 30 second plank
  • Repeat x 3

1 x lap

  • Abs (including crunches, bicycle crunches, russian twists and the cherry on top? A 4 minute plank)

1 x lap

After this, Ian took over and we did some interesting (and possibly dangerous) team building, including carrying each other across a field and hanging from monkey bars. Overall, we were working out for about 90 minutes, and by the end, we were all pretty ready for it to end.  We have decided to up the intensity in the coming weeks during bi-weekly sessions.  Delightful.

Anyway, after today, I felt I fully deserved to put my feet up and enjoy this:

Demolished in roughly 7 minutes.

No wonder my feet look like this:


My left foot. Before the 14 mile run today.