“I just discovered the most awesome challenge for you”, I said excited as I showed Chris a picture of an ad I saw a few minutes before we met up in Wynyard Quarter after a meeting. “That should get you occupied for a while”.
It was end of August and Chris had just stopped smoking. He was looking for a race or challenge he could train for so he had a good reason not to smoke. An obstacle run in mud and dirt should probably tickle his fancy and sense for competition. So, I suggested him to run at the Tough Mudder in November.
Wikipedia says about Tough Mudder: “It is an international event series in which participants attempt 16 – 19km obstacle courses that tests mental as well as physical strength. The main principle revolves around teamwork”. Which means it doesn’t matter at all how fast you are at completing the course but about overcoming common human fears such as height and (cold) water. A lot of obstacles can’t be done without the help of others, be it strangers or your team mates.
“Sounds great”, he said, “but you’ll have to join me!”. Wait, what?! That wasn’t really what I wanted to hear. Yes, I also had the plan to finally become fitter again. I just joined the gym a few days ago, and with all this time I had on my hand because I wasn’t allowed to work on my current visa, I planned to go there fairly regularly and also watch my calorie intake again. But a race? Me? And in less than 3 months? Iiiii don’t know. But I didn’t want to chicken out and agreed on doing Tough Mudder Half.
Don’t get me wrong. Half is still really hard when you start from zero. In our case it was a 9km course and 11 obstacles. There are a range of obstacles they reveal in advance where you can train for, like the Everest 2.0 ninja wall, but many of the obstacles remain a secret till you get the course map.
The next time we hit the gym we arranged to get new programs that would get us tough enough for the mud. Chris got an ultra-hard program as he’s already pretty fit and well-trained. I started off with a version that was not as hard but built up my overall fitness nicely. In addition we started to train our boddies how to run which is a difficult thing when you avoided running all your life like we did (Chris used to go to bike raced and I…never really raced anything but I did like hiking and biking already and went to the gym before. But I never ever liked running).
As we got fitter, my confidence for the Tough Mudder challenge switched forth and back between: “I think could even do the full one” to “Oh my god, why did I say yes to this madness, I’ll never be able to do it!” And it pretty much stayed that way till Day X.
So, last Saturday was the day of what we have not been training for (according to the MC at the starting line). We made our way to Hampton Downs, which is about half way between Auckland and Hamilton, and arrived a bit more than an hour before our starting wave, which would be at 10.40. First was the paperwork, handing in waivers, getting our starting numbers, dropping our bags and warming up our muscles a bit. And before we knew it, they called our wave to the starting line. Waaaaah!
The starting area itself was already completely muddy. We awkwardly tried and failed to stagger around it, although knowing that in less than 10 minutes we’d be completely dirty head to toes anyway. The MC made us kneel in the dirt and repeat the Tough Mudder Pledge after him, swearing we’ll always put helping others before our course time. And to the sounds of AC/DC’s “Thunder” we ran off.
I was already out of breath when we arrived our first obstacle, two huge walls of hay bonds we had to conquer. The first time we could prove we were obeying the pledge. A short sprint, jump, and grabbing the hand of the friendly person at the top that helps pulling me up. Before sliding down the bonds you do the same for the following person.
One of my favorite obstacles is called Blockness Monster. You have to overcome two rotating barriers in the water. There is no way you can do it all by yourself, teamwork with those around you is essential. It’s a lot of fun to get over and you hear a lot of laughter and giggles of the contestants. In the end it’s not as hard as it looks though.
My other favorite was Everest 2.0, a giant ninja with a slippery plastic surface that wants to be climbed. You’ll have to sprint, jump and try and reach either someone’s hand who pulls you over the edge or, if you’re really good, you might be able to grab something behind the wall and pull yourself up. Depending how high you jump and how strong the hands are that try to pull you up, you end up with a few attempts. Chris and I both made it up on the second try.
I also had a hate-obstacle. Although I think, it’s not even officially an obstacle but belonged to the way between them. After 2 successful obstacles the path demanded us to get through a long hole where at points you couldn’t stand anymore but had to swim. So far so good. But the water stunk like cow poo to high heaven! Having my nose so close to the smelly water was almost too much and it took me a lot of mental strength to not puke right into the water!
And the path was generally quite a tricky one, lots of mud holes, streams and slippery bits.
It took us about 2 hours (some of which we spent helping others, but who’s counting time anyway, ey ;-D) to make it over the finishing line and to our well-earned beer that was waiting for us right after it. Beer has never tasted so good to me (I normally don’t like beer) and even better was the finisher shirts we got. My very first finisher shirt ever! I didn’t think we’d get one for doing the Half and was even more surprised when we did. I think I’ll cherish that shirt forever.
Could I have done the Full course of 18km, you wonder? I think I probably could have in the end, yes. But it would’ve brought me to my very limits to pull it through. My muscles are already sore now and I can imagine I would’ve spent Sunday in bed sleeping rather than in the garden like we did. But yes, I think I could’ve probably done it. But it doesn’t matter. It was heaps of fun the way it was and the full one will be a lot more enjoyable next year, when I’m even fitter than now!