Ever since I booked my ticket last year for Europe’s Toughest Mudder it was ear-marked as a date in my diary to work towards. Europe’s Toughest Mudder is Tough Mudder’s “qualifying” race for World’s Toughest Mudder. Toughest Mudder is an 8 hour endurance race from 00.00 to 8.00 Sunday morning. An overnight race, 5 mile laps with water, ice and obstacles.
I was aiming for 25 miles and the plan was for myself and two others (all of similar pace) to run together to help over obstacles, encourage and to keep pace. Unfortunately Carl was injured on a snowboarding holiday so the team of three became 2! Even though Toughest Mudder is a competitive race, the ethos of teamwork and camaraderie of Tough Mudder still apply. We were also very fortunate that the OCR Solo Mudders (http://ocrsolomudders.co.uk/) had a small team to pit crew for us – generally take care of feeding and watering us between laps so we could get in and out as soon as we can without getting too cold. The plan was for a 60 minute “sprint” lap and then aim for around 90 minutes for each consequent lap which could reach for 6 laps in total. This time included some time to pit.
I had to purchase quite a bit of equipment for this as it was my first ever night race – I also run cold, working ard to ensure my body keeps temperature. Black Diamond Spot head torch, Gul shorty wetsuit, Gul Neoprene Vest (didnt use), O’Neil neoprene gloves, Neoprene hat (didnt use) Nathan Strobe light. I ran in my Reebok Spartan Trail shoes with enertor insoles (25 miles is a long way!). In terms of food for the evening, I had SIS gels and hydration tablets, Meridan Peanut and coconut butter sandwiches and lots of chocolate and flapjacks just for quick calories and morale.
The Start of Europe’s Toughest Mudder
For some reason, we were asked to be ready for 23.15 (for the 00.00 start) so in my opinion, there was quite a bit of waiting around until the off – sure there was the rule reading and some motivation from Gil, but we didn’t need to line up so early. Anyhow, we were off on time whilst Craig and I were aiming for a 60 minute opening “sprint” lap. This lap has very few obstacles “open” allowing the field to spread out without congestion.
The other two Toughest Mudders had two routes, the first opening 00.00 – 4.00 and then route two 4.00 – 8.00. Which meant some of the larger “marquee” obstacles were opened and closed at different parts of the evening. Europe’s Toughest Mudder was different, one route for the whole night with obstacles opening through the night.
In the “preview” before hand, TMHQ said 20 obstacles in total with 15/16 open throughout the night – therefore we all expected some to open and close through the night. In truth, obstacles started to open from 01.00 but never closed, this meant by 03.00 all obstacles were open and we were doing a shorted “Full” course of 20 obstacles each lap. Very different from the courses before it. In the day and maybe doing a lap, this would have been fun!
Not sure what opened in what order, but towards the end of the la we hit Pyramid scheme just opening. Lap two I remember doing BlockNess, Agustus Gloop. Lap three I think Arctic Enema was open (ran past King of the Swingers before it opened!) and Lap 4, Hang Time / King of the Swingers was open.
I’m not the best swimmer, so KOTS was the one I feared most – not because I wouldn’t have help if I got into trouble, but because if I did get help, I would be DQ’d! I did it twice, failed twice. But I got out without help.
So quick overview of the course:
- Pitfall – Nice start to the course, knee high water with random deeper holes to go down to the waist
- Quagmire – Large man-made hill into a long 10m trench of waist high water, finishing with another man-made hill to climb
- King of the Swingers / Hang time (opened around 03 I think) 20ft platform jump to a swing. Transition to a rope to traverse down to the floor. Miss and you fall into water.
- Kiss of mud – barbed wire crawl
- Water station (too early on in the course)
- Bale Bonds is always a fun obstacle, but by the 5th lap – (like all the smaller obstacles) was just challenging!
- BlockNess – Rolling blocks in water – need teamwork to spin them around for people to get across
- Everest 2.0 – Modified with grapple hook to get a rope to the top to climb up and over
- Agustus Gloop – climb up a tube whilst a shower of water is raining down
- Arctic Enema – Ice bath plunge with additional dunk
- Creek Crusade – Wet and muddy
- Devils Beard – Cargo net with hay bales in the middle just for extra difficulty
- Liberator – Pegboard climb
- (Long elevation)
- Birth Canal / Black hole – I’m sure they added more water than usual just so that the crawl space was smaller and weight pushing down was heavier
- Funky Monkey 2.0 – Monkey bars with spinning wheels over a splash pool
- Hero Walls / T Boned – Modified to have a ledge (think Irish tables)
- Mud Miles – 5 trenches of ud with mud walls to climb over
- Pyramid Scheme – modified with rope for solo competitors to scale the wall
- Operation – A WTM/Toughest Mudder exclusive where competitors stand in water and handle a metal pole through a hole to hook a wristband to retrieve it. Just like the board game, operation, if you touched the sides you received an electric shock! I managed to do this 5 times without failing it, however I did get a shock from someone else getting zapped!
- KONG – 5 rings to scale across an airbag
My shorty was keeping me nice and warm through the lap. This was good, because there was a lot of water in the lap and between mile 2 and 3, there was BlockNess, Agustus Gloop and Arctic Enema. The Creek Crusade immediately after Arctic Enema actually felt warm in comparison, however I must admit, AE wasn’t as cold/bad as I expected it to be. It started raining from around 03.00 with varying intensity.
I was feeling strong and fresh up to lap 3. Lap 4 was a little more difficult as I kept feeling cramp about to set in (it never did fortunately). Whilst Craig, the machine just kept going! The fifth lap was pretty difficult – however we started that at 6.00, so knew that we could walk the lap and still get round in time to finish for 25 miles. Which was great as by then my legs were pretty much dead! We managed to walk/jog with 3 others and just enjoyed the lap, doing most of the penalty runs (grip strength was gone by the end) and just chatting in general just to keep occupied. at 7.50 we were back to the finish line. Happy we made it by the 8.00 cut off (even though there is an additional 30 minutes grace period for competitors to finish their lap).
But guess what? I have signed up for 2018!