Sunday, 22 May 2016

RACE RUNDOWN: Tough Mudder (Midlands)

Yesterday, I returned to Tough Mudder. You may remember my first experience back in 2014 at London South (full review here) and whilst I decided that once was enough, I got the urge to try it again. I guess I wanted to see if I could take on a different course and improve on my strength for the obstacles, something I previously struggled with. 

So, myself and a couple of training buddies (husband included) opted for The Midlands race, held in the stunning grounds of Belvoir Castle. It look set to be a great weekend and we were all super stoked! Sadly for me though, disaster struck on Friday when I suffered a bout of sickness and nausea (something linked to medication I am currently taking). Highly unexpected and a shock to my system, it was a hard decision but I decided on the morning to opt out as my body felt incredibly weak and empty. There simply was nothing in the tank.

Despite my gutting setback, the two guys I came with were geared up and ready to go and I couldn't let them down. So, I headed out on the spectator route to see them round the 11 miles, 26 obstacle course. Luckily, the weather was on their side, albeit it a bit chilly and windy. What was also really great with this event was the layout of the course. From a spectator point of view, it was brilliant as a lot of the obstacles were in one centre field, meaning friends and families were able to see runners at various points.

Anyway, onto the actual obstacles and I think it is safe to say there was a lot of (smelly) mud. I first saw the boys at at Sewer Rat and did have a good giggle at everyone coming out of the tunnels and slipping all over the muddy bog that followed after. This was the second obstacle in and it's fair to say everyone was looking fricking filthy! 
Next, I watched them go over Bale Bonds (essentially a small tower of hay bales) and waved them off into the distance where they went through a swampy obstacle and took on new obstacle, The Liberator. This involves a slanted high wall with thin ledges for feet and small holes to insert pegs into and climb up. Following this was another tunnelled challenge, Birth Canal, followed by Kiss of Mud 2.0. This obstacle I remember being a tricky one that involves lots of bruises and scratches as you lay under barbed wire and drag yourself through mud, stones and grit. Bleughhh. 

By this point, they were under four miles in and coming back into the main field to take on the worst of them all, Arctic Enema. This year, they have modified this obstacle to involve a drop shoot, so there is not avoiding a gentle, steady entry into the icy water. I recoiled in memory of the sheer pain I felt when I did this and watching the boys drop down the shoot and come out the other side, the horror and shock was clearly etched on their faces. 
By this point, they looked tired, muddy and bloody freezing but with grins still in tact, they headed off down a small stream for a quick swim and then up into the distant hills to carry a tree (one challenge I fondly remember) and take on Killa Gorilla, which simply is running up and down ridiculously steep hills - nice!

Coming back into the main field, next up was Everest 2.0. I LOVED this one when I did London South. I did it at the very end of the race and my quick speed got me up the halfpipe on my first go. This year, the halfpipe seemed more slippery and maybe even slightly longer but shallower. They also had handy ropes at the top for those to grab onto if they couldn't reach the summit. Now I was a spectator and not a participant, I did enjoy watching people on this. 
After Everest 2.0, the boys took on the obstacle that was my worse fear at London South - Cage Crawl. I certainly wasn't upset to be missing this one but both of the lads hopped in and pulled their way through. It looked like they had made the gap between the water and fence tighter, meaning less room to manoeuvre - not good for claustrophobics!
The next time I saw my team mates was at mile seven where they took on King of the Swingers. Now I must say I am absolutely gutted to have missed this particular obstacle. It looked awesome! Involving a metal lever you jump onto, the aim is to swing up high to ring a bell, before falling into a pit of murky, muddy water. Whilst the boys didn't manage to hit the bell, they did get close - below is Dan's attempt on the left:
At the point, the guys had to run through the field and I managed to join them for a gentle jog alongside them to see how they were doing. Both were on an absolute Tough Mudder high and having the best time ever! I stayed with them until they got to another new challenge, The Blockness Monster. This consists of two revolving barriers submerged in water where Mudders have to climb over. It involves teamwork as you have to help others get over the barriers through pulling them down or pushing them up. Here's my team mate Paul halfway getting over the first barrier (in a rather elegant style I must say):
After this, the Mudders' ventured off into the connecting fields again for some longer run periods where they took on the Hero Walls (where us shorties suffer sadly) and Mud Mile (this I remember being a hilarious one where you are faced with a pit of thick, gooey mud you have to drag and pull yourself through). 

By mile 10, the boys were on the home straight with their final challenges being the Pyramid Scheme. Another one where team work is crucial, this involves a slanted wall where Mudders' have to lay down and build a human pyramid to the top. Expect bums in faces and elbows in ears for this one!

At the final streak was the beastly Electroshock Therapy and participants weren't hanging around for this one. Dashing through the dangling live wires, people were jolting and falling at the electric hits, before tumbling/crawling through the finish line to be crowned with their must deserved head bands. 

The boys had made it and I was so proud of them! Despite the aches, pain, mud stains, cuts and bruises, they were beaming from ear to ear and clearly exhilarated to have achieved everything within the whole experience. To give you an idea of the impact, here's a rather humorous before/after shot of the champs themselves:
Being a spectator oddly put an interesting spin on this review. Whilst I was so upset to not take part, I oddly don't feel like I missed out on much. With the grounds of Belvoir Castle allowing a lot of the obstacles to be easily accessible, I was able to watch a large chunk of the race and I honestly really enjoyed seeing the action happen for once, rather than be a part of it. 

Of course, I haven't been able to form a fair comparison between this event and London South but from what I saw, The Midlands looks like a goodie. With beautiful grounds, a slightly flatter run and more obstacles closer together, it seems highly action packed and adventurous. With it also being an hours train journey from London, it was really easy to get to!

Whilst The Midlands event won't until next year, the 2016 race series is still in full swing, with five events across Scotland, North and South England still to come! With places available, it is worth considering for a fun day out with friends/family/colleagues. The teamwork and camaraderie is incomparable to any other obstacle challenge I have done and nothing quite beats getting the beloved headband at the very end - something that all Mudders' treasure forever. 

To find out more about Tough Mudder and the UK events remaining, visit the website here. Book by the 31st May before the prices increase!

Lipstick Runner.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Tough Mudder 2016: What's to come

So the season of mud pits, freezing murky waters, obstacles and cross country running is upon us - or in simpler terms Tough Mudder. At the end of April, the series of events kick off in London and then travel across the UK to seven locations (I have Midlands in the diary!). This year, the team behind this super tough obstacle race have upped the anti, introducing two new obstacles to the mix: Blockness Monster and Backstabber.

In 2014, I experienced my first ever Tough Mudder (see my review here) and whilst I walked away with mixed reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed the day. My favourite type of obstacles were those that didn't require height (at 5"3 I could not reach up to walls, rings, ledges etc) so I really like the look of Blockness Monster. I would hope this will be after a really muddy obstacle so we can wash off the layers of mud congealed on our clothes. Backstabber looks like an obstacle that will require height and I can't see myself getting very far up the frame - I hope there will be a platform at the top for someone to pull me up!

As well as these new obstacles, some of the classics are returning. Kiss of Mud is back by popular demand and I have already planned how I am going to get through this without scraping my legs and knees on the gritty surface (FYI, this is the place to roll and not crawl). Arctic Enema was also a likely choice to return and I have never forgotten the pain that shot through my body as I hauled myself out of the shipping container full of ice. Then there is also Electroshock Therapy, Cage Crawl, Everest and many more which make up the 20 obstacle, 12 mile race. 

With Midlands just over a month away, both myself and my husband (who will be joining me to claim his first headband) will be getting ourselves prepped. For me, it is all about recovering from my achilles injury (which has caused a huge set back in my running) and focussing on strength and core work. I know this was my weakness last time and I want to ensure I have the ability to fight through the obstacles that require strength and not endurance. 

Here's to claiming my second headband!

Lipstick Runner. 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Biking, hiking and then getting injured...

It's been a while since my last post (which was a review of my half marathon!). March has whizzed by in a blur and I have been super busy kick starting my training for Cotswold's Triathlon in June. It has been so nice to finally get back on my bike and reduce the milage in my runs. I have definitely made the most of being on wheels with a few good long cycles, including a 40 miler from North London to Richmond and back. 

Things were going really well and I was really excited to finish the month spending Easter in the Lake District hiking with my family. We had an absolute blast and managed to get in some good climbs. I did however come away with a rather painful injury to my right achilles, which even six days later, I am still suffering with. Looking back, I am wondering if its linked to my hiking boots (which to be honest were just a cheap pair from Mountain Warehouse). They didn't have the best support, especially around the ankle and I assume that I am now paying the price for this. 
Running is now currently off the cards and cycling is just about manageable. Going uphill is a bit painful. I can luckily still swim (thank god I can do something!), but even walking is painful. The aim of the game is to ice and stretch as much as I can to ensure I make a speedy recovery! I am definitely not in a place to be injured (well who ever is!?). I have Tough Mudder just round the corner and need to make sure I am in tip top shape for it!

Do you have any tips for achilles niggles? Would love to hear any advice for a quick, secure recovery!

Lipstick Runner.