Sunday, 30 November 2014

Actually Quite a Tough Mudder....



Over the last 18 months I've had a crack at a few events outside my comfort zone, and not necessarily paddling-centric. Mostly it's been to satiate my chronic goal-focused nature, and I haven't necessarily been as committed to these events in the way that those who concentrate 100% on their own particular discipline, but by hell it's been fun. And, I'm as fit as I've ever been, including when I was playing sport at a pretty decent level in my twenties.

The latest was the very popular Tough Mudder, billed as 'the toughest event on the planet', a 20km trail run & hill scramble broken up every kilometre or so by a military style obstacle. I had no desire to do one of these essentially manufactured events, but when I loudly bagged it as a 'controlled fun run for people who never do anything hard' in front of my particularly hard-nosed mate Tony after we saw the Tough Mudder tent at the finish of the Sutherland to Surf, he rightly told me I should do one before I criticised it.
Start pic, so clean.
So, last Saturday we lined up at Wingello in the Southern Highlands to give it a lash. First up I was impressed by the waiver, four pages of tiny text which mentioned 'accidental death or injury' 700 times. With a waiver like that I reckon I could happily take novices rock gardening in a storm.

Tony & I immediately noticed how, umm, old we were in comparison to the field. In most of the paddling races and running events I do I'm about on the mean demographic, mid forties, mid life crisis, etc etc. Not this sucker, it was like a scene from a late night rave party, crazy wigs, bright eyed youth & lots of muscles.

The wind up at the start was clearly designed for a generation raised on military video games. Lot's of 'give me an OOH HAH', 'I can't hear you peeps' and finally the US Marine Corps rest signal 'Take a knee'. Standing next to a serving soldier I couldn't help but ask Tony if they say 'OOH HAH' in the AIF, to which he glared back and said "NO". Once the Mudder oath was out of the way ('Don't whine, kids whine'), we were on our way.
That's cold.
After a few minutes jogging up a rough incline we descended into a shallow valley with a seriously dark mud pit below some barbed wire. So, within 5 minutes of starting, my nice white singlet was black & sticky. We then wound our way through the course, vaulting over high walls, diving under a mud-ice bath & swimming through the cold shock, carrying big gnarly logs & each other along a forest path, shimmying through stinky pipes and wading through more mud than you'd see flung at a sitting of parliament. 
Ice bath...
Having just finished a course of antibiotics for a minor chest infection, I was sucking in some big ones after about 20 minutes and wheezed to Tony that actually, it's probably not the manufactured doddle for softies that I'd prescribed. 

There were three obstacles that I just couldn't do, and all of them involved explosive upper body strength. The most difficult was a cargo net positioned about 8 feet away onto which you had to leap long to even get a grab onto the bottom rung of netting. Once there, you had to haul your body up & over the net onto a platform, or risk plunging into yet another muddy cesspool. 

The other two involved swinging through a series of olympic style rings, and traversing a sloping set of slippery parallel bars. Mess any of them up, and yep, up to your neck in cold, black, mud. 

Some of the obstacles were quite confronting. A pipe that you had to crawl through looked like a synch, until you got inside & realised that there was no room to crawl, so you had to 'worm' through in the dark. Another one late in the course involved a sprint up a wall that increased in angle as you got closer to the top. I had three goes & was eventually hauled over by Tony & another bloke after just managing to grab the platform.

Happily though, we were one of the very small percent of competitors who actually ran the course, finishing it in just over 2 hours including all of the obstacles. The kicker however, is that it took us over 3 & a half hours to get around, due to long delays on most of the obstacles on the back end of the field. So, strength & power for us Forty somethings, maybe not so good. Endurance? Try & catch us Gary Gym Muscles....! The finish line was guarded by a 30m dash through a mud heap with suspended live wires, which was an electrifying way to end it all!
Looking cheery at the end.
Would I do it again? Probably not. There is something about a stop watch, a goal, and a challenge to work towards that makes this 'all about finishing' thing not my cup of tea. I can see how the demographic it's aimed at would love it, and there were heaps of groups of young people out having a ball. I also think the 'all about finishing' ethos also allows the organisers to open it to way more people than is practical, after all it is a commercial venture, and the queues would never be tolerated in a race where people were racing each other or a clock.
Me & my cheer squad.
Regardless, Tony & I had a great day, and if you're ever going to go in one of these things picking a partner who knows a thing or two about negotiating military obstacles is a damn good idea!