Heather: Running the 'Toughest Mudder' 2017
'8 overnight hours of mud and obstacles so tough, so extreme, you'll be trying to remind yourself why you signed up in the first place. Toughest Mudder is the overnight obstacle course designed to push you to your limits.
We're taking all the mind-numbing terrain, icy water and thick mud that Belvoir Castle has to offer and jamming it into the most intense 5-miles you will come across in 2017. Don't worry about being out there in the early hours of the morning, just concentrate on navigating through a course intent on separating the tough from the toughest' -
'That seems like a good idea, shall we do it? - yeah, why not!' - these were the words we were wondering if we were going to regret when my friend and I signed up for Europe's Toughest Mudder - a new race in the Tough Mudder series, starting at midnight, ending at 8am the following morning - you have 8 hours go go round the 5 mile course as many times as you can. Sounded like great fun!
The format is simple, you have a 5 mile course with around 20 obstacles that get opened up through the night, you can come back into the 'pit area' at the end of each lap to refuel, rest, change or whatever you need before heading out again. Rinse and repeat through the night.
I have done obstacle races in the past, in the depths of Winter, so thought that this couldn't be too bad. We researched kit, training, nutrition and came into the race feeling pretty prepared and with a goal distance in mind. Training had gone well, weights, bodyweight, high intensity circuits, sprints, running and a ton of pull ups - lots and lots of pull ups!
Carbo loading started 3 days out with a nutrition plan provided by Helen Money Nutrition and this stood us in good stead throughout the whole race - never once did we feel energy levels dropping or the dreaded 'wall'.
Initially I had been quite worried about the whole starting at midnight and being up all night thing, as I don't do very well being tired, but the atmosphere was more than enough to keep us wide awake. The start was very exciting, around 700 competitors, head torches and strobes shining all waiting for the off, but not before the rousing pre-race talk which got everyone going. Midnight on the dot and we all head off on the first 'sprint lap' - minimal obstacles open apart from the ditches, and mud pits - this is designed to thin the field out and spread everyone out - this worked brilliantly, because throughout the whole race, we didn't queue once.
The obstacles range from the mad (plunging into a container full of icy water - topped up regularly with ice cubes) - this is fun for the third time at 3 in the morning!! - to the ridiculous - trying to feed a metal pole through a hole to collect a band without touching the sides otherwise you receive a hefty jolt of electricity (this happened to me more than once!!!).
A lot of climbing over things and up things, this is where the pull ups came into their own, not once did my upper body strength fail me. Only one obstacle got the better of me and that was one where you have to jump out into space (around 4 metres up) - grab a trapeze type of handle, swing out over the water to grab a rope and shimmy down - I have to admit I am very scared of heights and couldn't make the jump! - I had to scramble down into the water and swim across, then run the obligatory penalty lap carrying a sandbag - definitely something I need to work on!
Our only low point was on our 3rd lap, around 3-5 in the morning, muscles started to seize up and cramp, we had to walk and then got cold - but after a bit of time in the pit area, clean dry clothes and a good stretch, we went out on our fourth and last lap and had a flyer - finishing on a real high.
We managed 20 miles but had hoped for 25. The thing that let us down was a lack of long runs - something we will make sure doesn't happen next time - yes, that is right, next time - we are already signed up :-).
It was an amazing event - running through the night, in the dark and then the dawn arriving was incredible - strangely the time actually flew by and I can't wait for next year.