Europe’s Toughest Mudder 2018 Race Recap
Europe’s Toughest Mudder was a high light in my race calendar as part of the “Road to Worlds Toughest Mudder” plan. I was determined to complete 6 lap, 30 miles to gain “Contender” status and after completing 25 miles last year, I knew it was a possibility. I took on board a few lessons from last year’s race to help me prepare myself for the 30 miles ahead.
Toughest Mudder is an Obstacle Endurance race from Tough Mudder. Participants run as many loops in an 8 hour time period from 12 midnight on Saturday evening through to 8am Sunday morning. Penalties are not included in the official mileage and anyone on course after 8.30am will not have those lap miles counted as part of the official total. A special patch is given to anyone completing 25 miles, whilst “Contender status” was given to males completing 30 miles and females completing 25.
Kit was important and again, I had learned from last year that a back zipped wet suit wasn’t quite right and a front zipped shorty would be the way to go. This helped two ways – easy access to change and help to regulate the body temperature if I was over heating.
My kit included:
- Gul Code Zero shorty wet suit
- Enertor base layers
- Enertor socks (energy return for the night and recovery socks for the morning after
- Saucony Peregrine 7 trail shoes with Enertor insoles
- Nathan Strobe light
- Black Diamond Spot
- Project E2 nutrition – gels, energy bars, hydration fluids and recovery shakes (review to come)
I also had a back up pair of socks and trainers. Last year I took way too much. I decided I would run all of the 8 hours and therefore wouldn’t need any change of clothes.
Europe’s Toughest Mudder Course Map
The route is a 5-mile course around some of the Belvoir Estate (Leicestershire) overlooked by Belvoir Castle. It loops a very similar route to last year, with the first 3 miles on relatively flat terrain, before a long climb up towards Birth Canal and T-Boned and then back down the hill towards Mud Mile and the finish. The down hill was pretty treacherous as due to the rain and the sheer number of people running earlier in the day, the mud as almost as slippery as ice. Runners had to be very careful, taking slow steady steps, rather than enjoying a gallop down the hill.
The obstacles in order were:
- Electroshock Therapy (opened at around 4am)
- Pitfall – Long trench of water with random deeper pits
- Boa Constrictor – Crawl tube down into a pit of water, and another crawl up. This became increasingly difficult as the tiredness set in
- Funky Monkey the Revolution – A penalty loop for failure, whilst it was modified to “Spunky Monkey” around 5am
- BlockNess Monster – 2 revolving blocks in around 5ft of water
- Kiss of Mud – Barbed wire crawl with water ditches and hay bales to traverse
- Pole Dancer – Tricep dips over water, whilst the poles were wobbly and angled with an apex in the middle. Penalty loop for faiure
- Cage Crawl – laying face up in water, traversing around 20m. This was modified with 2 dunks for full submersion
- Swamp Stomp – a bit of mud
- Arctic Enema – Ice bath with 2 full submersions – closed around 5am
- Creek Crusade – wade through water
- Everest – Half pipe. The longest penalty loop for failure (around 500m with steep climb)
- Kong – Ring Traverse with penalty loop for failure. Closed around 4am
- Devil’s Beard – Cargo net crawl
- Long ass hill (not an official obstacle)
- Birth Canal – tight crawl under water bag
- T-Boned / Irish Table – a modified hero walls with ledge
- Down hill ice skating rink (not an official obstacle)
- Mud Mile 2.0 – a series of 6 mud trenches
- Operation – opened at 5am – Think electrified hook a duck. Penalty loop with sandbag
- Pyramid Scheme 2.0 – Modified with ropes
19 obstacles opening and closing over the 8 hour time period. All timings of opening and closing was approximate – out on my laps I just remember them being opened or not. The first lap was a “sprint” lap – with none of the major obstacles open. They were opened from 1am onwards, I do think by my third lap (around 2am) pretty much everything was open, apart from Electro Shock Therapy and Operation which opened much later in the race. What was interesting that all of the major water obstacles were in the first half of the race – pretty much a “get it over with” mentality before being able to stretch the legs out and do some running to warm back up.
Although the weather was “warm” (10C) it was raining through the night until around 4am in which it started to get light but more importantly dry up.
I ran the first three laps with Craig, who is also going to Worlds Toughest Mudder. Last year we ran ETM and managed the 25 miles. Unfortunately Craig swallowed a lot of water at Cage Crawl in the second lap. Something he didn’t really recover from and decided to drop out after the third lap. I carried on solo. We had a schedule (1 hour 20 minutes per lap) and I was happy we were in front (thanks to the Sprint lap).
I just had to ensure I kept to pace and I was happy I was averaging around 1.15 per lap which gave me time to pit and eat. Food was one of the learns from 2017 and I ensured I have my food (flat bread peanut butter sandwiches, chocolate crepes), gels and fluids all laid out for me. I was also very fortunate to run with the Solo Mudders, in which a pit crew was organised to look after the runners. I was able to let them know what I wanted for the next lap and at times, they helped me open food because I couldn’t! Pit Crew also ensured that everyone was keeping warm, getting out for the next lap if required and just generally ensuring everyone was well looked after
As the night wore on, some of the obstacles seemed to get more difficult (Boa Constrictor) whilst others became easier (birth canal, mud mile). Tiredness did wear on a lot of the participants with the field well and truly thinned out by 4am.
Lap 4 I changed my shoes and socks, there was so much sand in the socks and my Saucony peregrines don’t have as much grip as the Reebok Trail Attack. They were however more comfortable and whilst I had the Enertor insoles, the previous 20 miles had taken it’s toll on my feel.
Operation was a terrible obstacle this year, last year I did it no problem, but I don’t know what happened, but I hooked and lost 2 bands, whilst being shocked around 5 times for good measure. (Yes, that was the moment I was getting shocked).
I was lapping pretty consistently with lap 3 a little slower due to Craig suffering. Lap 4 and 5 I was feeling good, and even wondering if I could fit in lap 7 for 35 miles. However it all came to a bit of a halt at lap 6. My ham strings started to tighten and the ground seemed much harder when I was in the Reeboks. I decided that my target of 30 miles was good enough and walked/ran lap 6 as a victory lap. My total run time was 7 hours 10 minutes. If I competed again next year, I would need to keep a slightly faster pace, whilst pitting a little quicker if I am to make 35 miles and 7 laps. (And reduce my penalty count!)
All in all, Europe’s Toughest Mudder was a great race for me. My fitness and running has definitely improved, last year I managed 25 miles in a similar time frame. Whilst this year I felt fresher and stronger at every point of the race.
30 miles is in the bag, “Contender” status is achieved and now begins the hard training slog towards World’s Toughest Mudder.
Images taken by Epic Action Imagery on behalf of Tough Mudder
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