On Saturday night at 11:45 I was stood in the cold at the start line for Europe's Toughest Mudder. An 8 hour race from midnight to 8am over extreme obstacles including ice bath plunges, electricity, 10ft walls, monkey bars and a heap more. I was nervous and excited as the clock approached 12. And then the countdown started, 5,4, 3, 2, 1.... The flares were lit and we were off. Off into the blackness of night we went, with 1000 other runners testing ourselves against the beast that was Europe's Toughest Mudder.
The first lap was a sprint lap, not all the obstacles were open and I ran round in a decent time, 48minutes for 5 miles. With obstacles I was well on track to make the minimum 25. I went through the first lap line and bypassed our pit crew, who were located in a tent for water, food and clothes changes (massive respect to all those who volunteered to help their loved ones get through)
So off I went on to lap 2, this time they started to open up the big obstacles. Everest was open, a huge half pipe with a rope that was so small that not many were getting to the top. I saw a couple of people fall, one badly, one with "just" a cut to the head. I got dropped by a helping hand at the top and that was it for me, I took the penalty lap. A 400m run with a sandbag.
Lap two went swiftly on to Arctic Enema. Remember the ice bucket challenge. Well multiply that by 1000 and you have Arctic Enema. You have to slide through a tube feet first into a vat of icy water. The cold took my breath away! So much so I gasped for air whilst under water and swallowed a load of ice and muddy water - nice! If that wasn't bad enough, to get out you have to duck under a wooden beam, submerging yourself for a second time!
Once out, I started to run again to get warm. Few more obstacles passed and I got near the end to Operation. Remember the game where you lift the rib bone out of a man and there was a buzzer. Well this one we had to hook a rubber band via a long metal pole through a ring. The ring was electrified and I was stood in water. I almost got the ring 2 or 3 times before I must have clipped the ring. Electrical current passed through both my arms and my heart jumped out of my chest. I swore, threw the bar down and took the penalty lap again.
Crossing the lap line for a second time I stopped for some water and energy. 2 laps, 10 miles, 2 hours. I was flying, I only had to get 3 laps in 6 hours!
JoI kept pushing on, then the problems started. About a mile in to lap 3, my left hamstring started to cramp. I staved that off but then after going through a few water obstacles and the dreaded Arctic Enema again, my right hip and groin started to spasm. My whole leg locked up. I couldn't run.
My body was freezing, I couldn't heat up! The head talk started. Do I quit. Could I get back, change to warmer clothes rest a little and complete the two more laps. After all I would have had 4 hours to do it. Then it started to rain! Are you kidding me! Talk about testing mental strength. I got to one obstacle which was compulsory and in pain, just got through it rather than risk being disqualified.
I pushed on, step by step, body seizing up in more places, so much so I couldn't walk up a small slope.
That broke me. If i can't walk up that how can I climb and get over mud mounds, swing across rings! I knew at this point my race was over! My body was broke! It would not improve even if I could get back and warm up!
I limped over to the medical tent and there I was removed from the race. My timing chip was removed and I was driven back to the pit camp. I was gutted! 15 miles in and I was done! Even more embarrassing, as we drove off, 5 seconds later my hamstring went in to full cramp causing my leg to straighten and kick the medic next to me! We had to stop for a few minutes until it stopped spasming!
I got back to base, put some warm clothes on, and looked around! The course had claimed hundreds. In fact only 25% of the participants made the 8 hours! I stayed till the end to applaud the legends across the line, one guy did 50 miles. Jon Albon pictured below!
It was so inspiring to see many people on their own battles finishing. Some did 15miles, some 20, 25 and then the elite guys. Secretly I was gutted too. I had trained hard for this race and I wasn't there at the end! The course beat me physically. Mentally I wanted to carry on, but I just couldn't! I felt like a failure!
But I wasn't! Even though I missed my goal, I had achieved something. I had pushed myself to it's limits and that is all I can give! I now know what I need to do to get stronger. As I am typing this I am also signing up for next year's race! And I will be completing the full duration! (What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and all that) For all those that took part and did 1 lap or 10, wear your headband and badges with pride #HeadbandMonday
And my message to you all is failure is fine! Quitting is ok! As gutting as it is at the time, use that emotion to come back stronger. Tweak the plan and eventually you will succeed! Toughest Mudder I will see you in 2018 for round 2!
Resident health expert and owner, Dean Zweck.