The day arrived and I felt generally great and ready for this test. I went to bed at 8:30pm which was strange for a Saturday and struggled to get off to sleep – probably the excitement. At least I’ve got Monday off work so I’ll treat today like a Saturday. I had some of my porridge, protein, berry special which I used to always have on big swim days.
Jonny Turnbull picked me up from my house at 5:30am and we headed to Skipton…. but the wrong way up the M62 but it was fine as we had bags of time before we got there. At this stage I went over everything including the course map which is here:
We got about 2 miles from the event until we found it impossible to get any closer. My Google Navigation was being unusually rubbish and the signage to get to the event was terrible – I had to pretty much bring up a map on my phone and old school bring us in via visible roads to the event. WE GOT THERE!!! – and still with well over 90 minutes before our start time of 9:20am
We met up with Gareth Macdonald (the C2C2C bike lender and AFC Masters volunteer/father of player), Ian Percival (AFC Masters volunteer/father of player), Phil and Lee (from same company as Gaz), Cindy (Gaz’s wife), Brady (Gaz’s son and AFC Masters player) and Phil’s missus. At this point I realised that I was the only person not in their running gear so I glamorously got changed in the back of Gaz’s car which was perfect timing when I was in my boxers and being introduced & shaking hands with Lee.
Gaz was ‘bigging me up’ to his work mates telling them about what I’ve completed this summer and I felt terrible as I knew my fitness was not as good as it was after my Insanity Workout training and 10 hour swimming sessions – I knew this after my recent runs requiring me to stop occasionally to rest. I told everyone “Trust me guys you’ll be running ahead of me” and was thinking at this stage would I be ok today?
Me and Jonny needed the loos, we ended up using the campers portaloos – not even in Mordor could there exist a more darker evil than what existed in them! That’s all I needed to say about that but felt I needed to remind myself of this dark moment!
We checked in the registration area, got our start numbers and wristbands and headed into the Tough Mudder village camp. It was pretty quiet as we were some of the first people in there and so we headed off close to the starting mustering point, only after we permanent markered our numbers onto our heads (and the back of Jonnys perfectly round head).
The final call for the 9:20 wave was announced, luckily we were already there waiting (reminding me of how unlike my Great North Swim with me turning up on the very last call for my wave with me still in my trainers and a half zipped up wet suit). At this point I realised how actually COOL the organisers were, cracking jokes and making us feel part of something special and prestigious. The guy on the microphone pointed out that two guys who came in fancy dress who didn’t even know each other, one was Hulk Hogan, the other Stone Cold Steve Austin and made them wrestle haha!
Here he made us do some funny stuff to get us in the mood then a fitness guy got us doing some warmups to get our hearts pumping. After this we ran to the start line and over a small practice 6ft wall (with me thinking this was the first obstacle – embarrassing ginger).
This part was SOOOO cool! The guy on the mic knew how to ramp people up and that’s what he did with stuff like making us do the Mudder Pledge, shouting things such as “I do not whine…. kids whine” and “When I say Tough you say Mudder” and “When I say No, you say Quitting” and it felt amazing jumping up with everyone in the loud roar of everyone shouting. A nice touch was at this part where the guy made us cross our arms over our heads and said if we see someone in trouble we need to stop and do this to indicate to staff that someone needs assistance and if we find others doing the arm cross sign we must also stop and do the same to quicken the time it takes to get seen. Awesome! It was also amazing to see some people who had done Tough Mudder 12 times and were lauded in front of everyone (even though some of these guys were on their 3rd Tough Mudder in 2 days…. nuts…. something I’d do – my mind’s brewing already for next year).
WE WERE OFF! – with Gaz, Phil and Lee setting off on a quick keen pace but knowing Gaz and how hard he’s trained all year for this and I could appreciate his desire to do this well. For me and from my experience I knew it was better to establish an easy pace and be light on my feet to reduce cramp and burnout which was inevitable anyway. We bumped into the guys who were previously lauded for doing it over 10 times and they were walking uphill, saying “You think these hills are tough guys? Just wait”… Oh god!
This is a proper wall unlike the practice one haha! I could imagine myself trying to scale it myself but Jonny obliged to help and I kinda “GOT” Tough Mudder which reiterated “Help your fellow man”, so we threw each other over and took turns giving peg ups 🙂 Jonny did a proper hero’s decent over it unlike my two footed slide ha!
Basically a skip filled with cold water with a middle bit you had to swim under, I thought just ignore the cold and crack on son! I saw Phil ahead of me go in, then come up just before the middle bit, then went back under again under the middle section – I thought I’d do the same. So I go in – first thought is it’s cold but not as cold as I imagined – perhaps NOT 0°C? This wasn’t the main concern though, I weighed up the middle bit wrongly – I thought it was about a quarter shorter than it actually was and underwater I looked up and felt with my hands that it was still there – and IT WAS PITCH BLACK! At this point I didn’t know how far I had to go, whether I was going forwards or sideways where I wouldn’t be forever under it and unable to surface… I panicked and went forwards a bit more, looked up – still darkness but still pushed my hands up and jumped up and surfaced!!!!
OMG that was horrendous – the GoPro video shows this happening over two seconds!!! – which I just cannot understand in my mind as it absolutely felt like at least 6-8 seconds and I absolutely panicked.
I made this video for my Facebook Page to actually describe how it felt like compared to how it was…
Still – one of the worst obstacles out of the way.
Help your fellow man! Here consisted of 3/4 ditches which were basically sloped 45 degrees which you slide down to a sheer wall. Here you needed your team to help you up and over because it was SO slippery and with nothing to grab onto. Everyone didn’t think about helping it was an automatic response which was a wonderful powerful feeling.
The One I was dreading – we came towards it and noticed that the pipes were just about manageable and I peered inside and could see that there was light at the end and it wasn’t too far to go. The first part was a breeze where even though it was tight I was almost sliding down into the water center area. Next, the second part which was a pipe going up and out of the water. It took quite a bit of time to get out – my only tactic being so constricted was to put my hands together, put them in front of me, dig down with all my strength and pull myself forwards – progress was slow but MAN how happy I was to see a hand coming into the pipe to grab mine and pull me out!
Kiss Of Mud
Not too bad this one – you had to get low and scramble under barbed wire low and flat. Even though I had a GoPro on my head I still found it quite easy by using my elbows, digging them into the ground and pulling myself forwards – a tactic I luckily made up and worked like a charm! I got caught on the barbed wire a little but nothing to slow me down or cause any damage!
Hold Your Wood
OK if I said the last one was quite easy I think this one was bizarrely easy – I picked up a log, not necessarily looking for the lightest one and my god it felt like it was a hollow tube – I couldn’t understand it. I went immediately to Jonny to swap and noticed straight away his was significantly heavier (at least three times heavier) but still without causing me any problems carrying it. I carried Jonny’s on my shoulder and Jonny carried mine under his arm like it was a small puppy ha! – We carried them and did a short lap of this field – it felt a bit pointless this one.
Balls to the Wall
Now you’re talking son! Around 4 meters high we scaled this monster and loved it, but not loving it more than Jonny who after we completed it and stopped at the water and protein refueling station right next to it he DID IT AGAIN! Legend haha! It was OK to do it again as Ian at this stage realised he had a HUGE blister on his foot. He wasn’t wearing any socks which he admitted later was a huge error and his blister formed, popped and bled in the time since we started. I for one know what it’s like WALKING on blisters after the Coast to Coast but to run and take on obstacles through it is INSANE! Massive respect to the guy. After getting his foot seeing to we were on our way.
This consisted of a steep cliff we needed to ascend which required you to find your footing right on craggy rocks, plants etc. If you slipped you’d fall a long way and it would hurt – A LOT! Luckily I love stuff like this so I scaled it as quickly as I could – which was pretty quick! LOVING IT SO FAR!! Then the battery on my first GoPro went so I had to wait until I met up with Cindy to get the second GoPro off her and until then there was no more footage. I didn’t meet up with Cindy for another 30 minutes until Electric Eel.
OK as well as Boa Constrictor I was also dreading this one – I practically already agreed that I wasn’t going to be able to do this one. I’ve seen Gladiator’s Hang Tough too many times to know what happens – you go down unless you’ve got really good upper body strength.
I think there were about 7-8 pairs of rings, you can see Lee here doing it on an official Tough Mudder photograph:
Jonny goes first and after a couple of rings he loses all momentum, is going nowhere and goes into the deep water below. Crap I’m going to follow him in – guaranteed! I go for it, quickly learning that I need to have one hand on each separate row of rings, NOT both rings on the same row otherwise you’d lose momentum and wouldn’t be able to get going again. The problem was that the rows were quite apart from each other, so I relied on my swing and momentum to get me forwards. I start off pretty well – beginners luck but I started getting the hang of it. I got to row 6 and I started losing momentum and then I had to start pulling with my arms and shoulders to make a bigger swing so I could reach for the next ring. Each time the ring is harder and harder to get to and I need more and more swing and power – Oh God my arms are killing and energy is zapping away, the last row I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT – I needed to swing really far to make it to the landing bit which was miles further away than I predicted…. BOOM everyone grabs me and pulls me in! YES!!!! I would have gone in without them… but I DID IT! I could not honestly believe what just happened – convinced I couldn’t do it. I wrote a lot about this one because this goes to prove that with a bit of training and some solid mental grit you can do anything and I did just that – with a little help from the boys. No GoPro footage for this though – damn! 🙂
This was tough… and very muddy. Basically the same as the obstacle HAHA Ditch but with a lot of mud and each pit in between was filled with thick mud which went up past your ankles. There were about 4-5 “mud-ditches” to get over and each needed your fellow man to help you up and be pulled over. We still had a bit of energy at this point so we didn’t have any problems – just getting through this took time as at times you were waiting for people ahead of you to go first and you were just stood, waiting, ankle deep in mud – lovely!
I don’t really remember this – I think I must have assumed I was still part of the Mud Mile but there was supposed to be a lot of deep mud. At one point we had a huge muddy hill we slid down on our bottoms which was awesome so if it was not this bit I’m still telling you we did this bit and it was ace! It was like this picture but longer and constant.
Just The Tip
Again I weighed this up and questioned my upper body strength. You pretty much relied on your arms and hung off some wooden parts high up on a wall and you swung across without anything to stand on. Still, I managed to do this which was fantastic and surprising.
Approaching this you hear the screams of large grown men – I heard from Ian Percival that the last time he did Tough Mudder North West the electric wasn’t as powerful as the Electroshock Therapy at the end – so I wasn’t expecting it to hurt too much if I did get zapped. Jonny went first at a fast sploshing crawl and heard no screams from him so I ferociously went through it, half way thinking yeah I’m doing OK… then BANG not only did I get zapped but IT WAS the FULL 10,000 volts of electricity – and then BANG again another one straight after it. It really REALLY hurt and I could only just keep thinking of carrying on just so I could get out of there – then right at the end BANG again! Three full on ZAPS on my back which I can only describe as taking a solid punch from a strong guy. I learned from Phil and Jonny that they managed to avoid getting zapped!! Lucky for some!!! The pain was still there for sometime afterwards but the adrenaline just powered me on and we proceeded onto the next obstacle – Oww Though 😦
Jonny and I decided to take this on, a decent distance where we took turns carrying each other. We were both matched for weight and so I went first carrying Jonny and I started ok until my legs got tired and I was taking very small steps. Then at the halfway point it was Johnny’s turn to carry me – and what does he do? – He fireman’s lifts me with absolute ease haha! It was really funny and I told him he was my hero and was very gentle and squeezed his ass in front of other Tough Mudders who said we were having way too much fun.
I really struggled with this one – there was only two… I think… and the first wasn’t so bad because I overheard those guys who had done TM over 10 times – remember the guys who got lauded by the guy with the mic and I was talking to at the beginning about steep hills – man they were right about them! Anyway, I overheard them say to use the A-Frame part of the wood to stand up on and to get over, rather than taking it on at the center.
Anyway with a little help from two of my team members I managed to get over the first one without much problem even though the top of the wall was very slippery and muddy so you needed to take extra care. But the second one I couldn’t get a grip at all and Gaz came to the rescue and I was able to get my hand onto the top of the wall, up and over it. Quite a difficult obstacle this one.
I didn’t have my GoPro running at this point which I must have forgot at the time but Jonny and I did do this quick mid-review of our whole progress video afterwards.
Mud Mile Continued
This hit me by surprise – thinking that we had already done this bit I didn’t even notice that there was a bigger returning part to it on the other side containing between 5-6 muddy ditches. This took a long time to get through but we had lots of fun getting through them apart from Jonny when I was pulling him up the second to the last one and I pulled him so hard he went flying over the ditch and into the final mud pool pit head first. He got mud in his only good eye (as Jonny is partially sighted) and lost bearing of which way to go. I had to pull him out and direct him over to a supervisor who he wiped his eye on his t-shirt then got his eye properly cleaned by a medical guy just up the hill where I saw some bits of grit coming out of his eye! I tried to point where it was and nearly put my muddy finger in his eye! God I was supposed to be there for my fellow man, not permanently blind him!
I honestly thought I’d have a good chance of this one. Jonny and I were quite far back at this stage as the rest of our team had ran on. Jonny was getting cramp in his legs so I stayed with the legend so that he could try and walk it off. When we got there the rest of our team were already waiting for us on the other side – I assumed the team were able to do this. I watched two guys I didn’t know complete it without falling in – watching and learning their tactics. As I was waiting for Jonny, doing his first and second islands people on the other island hoppings started falling off. This was not good for my confidence but as always I’d give it my best shot. I climbed onto the first island from the shore area and took my time getting onto the second island – wow it was so wobbly and uneven. I took my time and tried to concentrate on getting to the third island, until I realised my footing was crap and not in the exact center of the island – SPLOSH in I went! At this point I could see Jonny still going on! Go On Pal!!! I swam up to him, still going for it until at last I saw him slowly going over…. I swam as hard as I could shouting “I’M COMING JONNY. I’M COMING FOR YA” but I was too far away to hold onto the side for him and SPLOSH in he went too. If I was but a bit closer I could have saved him! I got out, went to the rest of the team and learned that ALL OF THEM FELL IN! Ha so I didn’t feel THAT gutted even though it was my first obstacle failure of the day.
Here we came to a narrow but longish (15m) stretch of open muddy water which we had to jump into and swim across. Jonny spectacularly bombed in but with having my GoPro filming on my head I jumped in like a 5 year old boy keeping the GoPro safe. BOOM this was my element open water swimming, flying through it until I saw one of the supervisor/lifeguards looking worried, shouting “Keep swimming… come on”.. I thought surely not at me until I saw a guy near me REALLY struggling. I thought Christ he looks in real danger with his face barely over the level of the water. I was ready to go back for him and pull him in but he managed to keep his head over water and somehow crawled his way to the climbing out area. Probably the first time in the day I thought wow someone could have been in a bad way. Unfortunately for Jonny his cramp was so bad at this stage I needed to lie him down and push on his legs to get some normality back into them. At this stage we were just walking……
Walk The Plank
BOOM I could not wait for this one – again anything involving open water and jumping into it I weirdly enjoy – strange boy. We climbed to the top and it seemed really high up but I wasn’t too nervous. The whole team had gone before me and Jonny so we went up together, waited for the OK, counted to three then………………………… SPLOSH!!!!! I was under for quite a long time and it felt like I went pretty deep – although probably I was only under for a couple of seconds and went down about 3 feet ha!
I made this graphic below to indicate how it felt like to jump from the top.
Erm, pretty pointless this one. I was expecting something like the image below…
….but this was me below… a bit of a difference and not really an obstacle – nothing really to say here…. meh!
You can still here my girly voice loving it though as I was still in such a good mood and didn’t want the challenge to end.
Some of the guys en-route to Everest
Running through the woods en-route to Everest
The mighty Everest obstacle, the one that Tough Mudder are most proud of and is splattered onto every video they do. I thought I’ve got a 50/50 chance of getting this right. Phil and Lee went straight up which was incredible and I thought I’d have a decent chance here. Gaz, Ian and Jonny failed on their first attempt…. so I put my full absolute speed into it, hands pumping in front of me as if I was a ginger Usain Bolt, flew up the ramp… and my last footing hit something slippery, the arms from above trying to grab me but I fell…. and I could hear the whole crowd behind me shouting “AWWWWWWW”…. “THANKS” I shouted “I did that one for the camera”…. no laughs…. embarrassing haha OK I’ll have another go. Next up Gaz, Ian and Jonny all fly up on their second attempts… OMG the pressure if I didn’t do it I’d feel horrible. So off I go, pumping fast but this time thinking about not slipping and my final footing – the lads are all there with arms out – I jump early and BOOM they grab me… but it’s not over and I start to fall back down but they hold on tight and pull me up, one arm grabbing in between my legs and ass and pulling me up – YES! The team spirit was AMAZING! I felt so close to the boys and felt incredible for them helping and pulling me up! It was a very strange but wonderful feeling and situation to be in. Wow really good haha! Then we made it down towards our final obstacle and towards the finish line. At this point Ian Percival, having done the Tough Mudder previously went on a special Legionnaire’s Route which involved a final half mile course involving 3 secret obstacles and also Fire in the Hole which replaced our final Electric obstacle.
The final obstacle, we were running back towards the Tough Mudder Village Camp hearing the microphone of the guy entertaining the guys inside. We were clapped by lots of people as if we were on a marathon with words of encouragement from families we didn’t know such as “well done guys” it was truly wonderful… wonderful until we came face to face with our final challenge. It looked deadly, it looked horrible. I thought we were all going to go together but I think we realised that it would mean being unable to dodge the deadly cables plus I think everyone was desperate to finish!
Phil went first and without me knowing Jonny pulled up his hood and went for it closely followed by Gaz. I had no idea where they were and by the time I realised they had gone, Lee was looking at me – So I went for it, fast at first until I realised wow I need to dodge these cables… and I was doing so well until SNAP one cracked me on my back…. but I made it through. WE DID IT! After high fiving everyone and giving a lot of man hugs and bromance we started to realise that it was over – GUTTED! I learned that Jonny managed to miss getting zapped AGAIN! Haha he said “I’m well insulated” which made me laugh.
I absolutely loved Tough Mudder! What a test of endurance, both mentally and physically! My muscles were completely battered but I realised one thing, the course was never too big for me. I was definitely fit enough and strong enough to do it all along. My worries were never needed – I could have pushed harder and ran faster but it was never about how quick I could do the course in – it was about completing it as part of a team and it made complete sense. I got it now – the team spirit was alive and it was a pleasure and an honour to be part of it! We were given our orange headbands, a bottle of water, a protein bar and a pint of this Famous Grouse ginger ale. I was surprised it wasn’t a pint of beer but it was really refreshing with ice in it – it must have been good as I destroyed it in minutes.
We did lots more team photos but still at this point Ian Percival wasn’t here. Because he was doing the Legionnaire’s Route he missed the first few team photos. It was a good 5 minutes but at last Ian came in – legend considering he did almost half of it with a horrendous blister which gave him agony all the way round (reminding me of my C2C walk blisters). Ian now earned his two Tough Mudders green headband. Hero!
I needed a shower, a warm one and we saw that there was an area for warm showers but only for campers? For everyone else it was a cold hose. We weren’t for having it and went to the camping area supervisors asking (begging) for some hot shower wristbands. He obliged to our relief and the tiny trickle of hot water was still enough to get a bit of life and energy in us, as well as the mud off us… a lot of it! We collected our Tough Mudder t-shirts and had a couple of beers in the beer tent and at this point the rain came down which for us mattered not as we had done our bit! We were all still so jubilant and full of bromance which was fueled into us from the constant need for each other to complete each obstacle – for me especially Everest!
Apart from Ian (who already had plans) we all agreed to meet at The Bowling Green in Horwich for some evening beers so Jonny and I left for Horwich.
We had a fantastic evening back in Horwich with some players and coaches from AFC Masters joining us including Angela and Sebastian – until one by one they went home and I had way too much real ale – it was time to go home! What an incredible day – a difficult, testing but the most fun day I’ve ever had with a bunch of legends I’ll not forget! DEFINITELY DOING IT AGAIN NEXT YEAR!!!