03 Aug Keyzo Smashes The Tough Mudder Challenge
On Sunday 30th July the long wait was over and it was time for the team to conquer Tough Mudder. We had arranged how we were getting there and it would take my group over an hour and a half to arrive at the event, giving us plenty of time to talk about what we were expecting to happen. We finally arrived at the majestic Broughton Hall in Skipton, an idyllic area of Yorkshire which was starting to give us a false sense of calm and relaxation…
As we approached the car park however, we could already hear a buzz of noise and shouting which washed the calm away and got us in the perfect mood to get on with the challenge ahead of us. This was it, here we were, the wait was over… This excited noise however turned out to be nothing more than parking attendants guiding cars around the available parking spaces… But nonetheless we were all pumped and raring to go at this point!
We all gathered outside the registration tents waiting for the remaining team members to arrive before heading into the event area and sorting out our bag drops and identification numbers. There was an air of nervous excitement around the team as the clock ticked closer and closer towards our start time. As you can see above, some of us were more excited than others. I stood there looking confident in my white polo shirt, but it was an act, purely for show. For some of us, this was going to be a walk in the park, a nice day out, but for some of the team, myself in particular, this was going to be a big ask and was going to take a lot of grit and determination to paper over the cracks of poor strength, stamina and a level of general fitness which I soon found out was nowhere near what I’d been telling myself it was.
Going through the hilariously innovative warm-up routine with about 100 other people, I found myself repeatedly asking ‘why haven’t I trained for this!?’. I was already becoming short of breath, but the mood amongst the team carried me through the warm-up process and right up to the starting line where we all had to recite the Tough Mudder pledge together and get the adrenaline pumping.
And that was it… We were off… It was time to stand up and be counted…
We made it around the first corner with no problems, the first few hundred metres were fine. We quickly found ourselves face-to-face with the first muddy puddle of the day and every one of us hesitated slightly whilst deciding whether or not to go through it or around it. Being a rogue that plays by nobody’s rules but his own, I jumped ahead and took the first plunge right through the middle of this soggy ditch. It was actually a bit deeper than it looked and the climb back out was steeper and more slippery than expected, but I managed it and just about prevented myself from falling onto my back after coming out at the other side… I looked like Bambi on ice in front of around 50 people, struggling to keep control of my sliding feet in the deceptively tricky mud. It was going to be a long day and my confidence in the footwear I’d decided on had quickly dissipated.
We continued to push on as a unit, a fearless machine with every part working in complete unison as we bounded through the beautiful, yet muddy acres of Broughton Hall, still looking forward to overcoming whatever lay ahead of us.
Before too long we entered an area filled with twisting woodland trails, ankle deep water and very slippery, steep mud banks to traverse. We all found this section incredibly fun, watching each other try to stay on our feet whilst choosing the safest moments to help one another without being pulled to the floor by a flailing arm. Supporting each other along the way, we made it through and back out into the open fields where the sunlight wasn’t blocked out by the trees.
At this point we were all ‘a bit muddy’, but still enjoying the experience nonetheless…
I could describe every section of this unique course to you from here on in and how the team handled what was thrown at us, but frankly I was in an exhausted daze for probably 4 miles out of the 5 and as I think back now, large parts of the day are a blur… So I’ll just stick to some of the more memorable moments of the event. Generally the parts where I made a fool of myself.
One of the early obstacles we came up against was called ‘Skidmarked’ which was essentially a 10’ slanted wall with nowhere to put your feet. This one was all about teamwork as it required someone to be at the top and someone at the bottom giving boosts in order to get everyone up and over. I can’t remember which brave souls went first or last, but somehow, we all made it over with relative ease… though we were all still quite fresh and relatively clean at this early stage of the day.
Before long we reached the first water station. The white polo shirt I knew and loved was living out it’s final hours. It’s worth saying at this point that every obstacle was amazing fun. Some were crawling challenges or small climbing challenges that we had to take on solo, whereas other obstacles were a lot bigger and were designed to be beaten using teamwork. For me personally it was the running between each obstacle that was the toughest part of the challenge. This was due to the sheer distance we needed to cover, but mostly the varying landscape in the Broughton Hall grounds, particularly the steep uphill segments of the course which I found incredibly draining.
After a lot of running, slipping, laughing and fighting our way through a variety of obstacles we had managed to complete just over 2 miles out of the 5… And then things took a really sudden turn for the worse…
We had come face-to-face with ‘The Mud Mile 2.0’; a stretch of 8ft tall mounds of mud, one after the other with waist deep water following each one. Being a bit naïve here, I thought this obstacle was going to be brilliant, so along with the rest of the team I jumped straight in and began climbing up the other side of the first mound. It was a split second after jumping from the third mound that I realised I should have paced myself a bit more. I messed up my landing in the water, my feet went from beneath me and I ended up neck deep in dank, muddy water. As I emerged from the water and up the fourth mound I noticed my legs, arms and hands were no longer the colour I remembered them being when I woke up that morning. There literally wasn’t a single patch of visible skin on my body, other than small areas of my head and face. To make things even worse I also got my landing wrong jumping from the penultimate mound and as a result, re-applied my full body mud mask, just to make sure I was completely covered. After stumbling through to the end of the obstacle, to be completely fair I wasn’t that much worse off than anyone else. This obstacle was the first eye opener. It raised the bar.
At this point we were all ‘mud-drenched’. No more white polo shirt…
We continued running through the course and I couldn’t help but keep asking myself ‘why did I wear a white polo top!?’. Not only was the shirt a total write-off, but because of the material it easily soaked up most of The Mud Mile 2.0 as if I was taking part in a kitchen roll advert. I was now running with what felt like an extra few stone wrapped around my upper body.
After some more fun running which I struggled to keep up with, we eventually reached the next ‘big’ obstacle that was waiting for us… The ‘Block Ness Monster’. A deep pit filled with chest deep, cold muddy water with three rotating blocks to divide it up, each running the full width of the water. The idea was simple enough here; the team had to get in the water and push the block upwards, thus rolling it. We had to take it in turns to grab onto the edge of the block while others pushed it from beneath in order to get us all over to the other side. The key here was to turn your body around as you reached the apex in order to avoid sliding face first into the deep water.
It sounds simple, right?
Well actually, yes it was. For all three rollers, I managed to turn my body around and avoid sliding face first into the muck.
The problem came when I was sliding down from the second roller. I managed to turn around and comfortably slide into the water feet first. At this point though, I was at the far edge of the roller and was blissfully unaware that running right along the side of the flooded pit, hidden in dank mud was a huge strip of padded material filled with air. This was designed to sit afloat just beneath the surface of the water in order to help people get out of the pit if they couldn’t do the obstacle. Needless to say, my legs landed on this floating booby trap which caused my upper body to take a plunge right towards the bottom of the pit, with my legs gracefully sticking up in the air poking out of the water. I don’t think any of the team saw this happen, but I guess I wouldn’t have known regardless as I was a little preoccupied trying not to drown.
So again, this obstacle was great fun but didn’t go exactly as planned for me.
We continued with the course for a long time more and got to a point where we kept telling ourselves we must have done at least 4 of the 5 miles. We weren’t wrong. After a few more obstacles and a piggyback section, ‘Hero Carry’ (which I had to run solo due to a lack of available friends), we found ourselves reaching the 5 mile marker and looked on, puzzled as we approached the final major obstacle before the finish line.
This absolute monster was ‘Pyramid Scheme’; a long slippery incline which was physically impossible to complete on your own. About two thirds of the way up there was a wooden beam which acted as a stop off point, which runners were supposed to use to help pull others up before trying to advance to the top.
It required a bit of planning from the team as to how we were going to conquer this beast, but we quickly dived right in when our experienced climber Mark basically told us what we needed to do. Mark volunteered to go at the bottom of the Keyzo human ladder we had to form. I stupidly jumped at the chance of going second and climbed over him so I could position my feet on his shoulders with my back to the wall. At this point we helped each and every team member climb up beyond us to the wooden beam and further until most of our group was positioned at the top of the obstacle, simply waiting for the remainders to finish the job.
The last part of this team obstacle however was far more difficult. It was down to the rest of the team, still on the wooden beam; Shane, Victoria and Lauren, to pull me and Mark up the incline at the same time. It was quickly discovered that I’d had one too many Malteasers to make this manoeuvre a possibility. I’m not sure exactly how the next part happened, even as I write this now, but during take two of this valiant effort I remember looking up with my arm outstretched expecting someone to grab me from their position on the wooden beam, only to look up and see Shane clambering over the top of the incline to safety having abandoned his position… My hopes came crashing down to earth… and so did I. I managed to slip off Marks shoulders and flew down the side of the slope, wiping out a number of poor people attempting the same manoeuvre alongside us. Naturally they weren’t very pleased about it.
Mark suggested we switch positions after this and he managed to get up to the wooden beam but I couldn’t climb up his body to advance further myself, so he went ahead and reached the top with the rest of the team. They all looked back waiting for me to sprout wings in order to complete this obstacle on my own…
Having a good time amongst themselves while I struggled down below fighting the obstacle…
Eventually, thanks to the kindness of strangers I also made it over the Pyramid Scheme and descended down the scaffolding to its rear with everyone else, but the obstacle had taken me a good 5 minutes longer than most of my colleagues.
But that didn’t matter now… I took a slight breather after climbing down from the monster I had just vanquished and as I looked up, noticed that everyone else had stormed off into the distance as the end was near.
This final sprint continued right up to the finish line, which I was the last to cross. I wasn’t even close to being bothered about that though. We had all crossed that line and while we were out of breath a finishers headband was placed onto each of our heads by event staff. I had done it, we had done it. Keyzo had smashed Tough Mudder.
At this point it might seem a bit deflating to point out that this was only the half course… Nevertheless, we all put in a huge effort between us and made sure that everybody crossed the line, just about in unison. We enjoyed the well-deserved cold ciders that we received and some of the team took whatever they could carry in free energy and protein drinks despite the fact that they do get paid for working here…
We enjoyed the challenge and revelled in the victory together before eventually making our way home; tired, sore… and extremely muddy. But none of us were unhappy about that! We had done it. Just look at our magnificent bunch…
Hats off to Justin for being our photographer for the day and documenting the experience… Which meant he didn’t have to run the course himself.
As I sit here a few days later, just about recovered, wearing my Tough Mudder 2017 Finisher t-shirt while I write this blog post, I genuinely do feel proud of myself for finishing and I know the rest of the team feel the same way. So overall it was an experience I would highly recommend. For me it was often a clumsy experience, but you can blame a lack of preparation, poor mental attitude and sheer bad luck for most of that.
So, Keyzo have completed the Tough Mudder Half. Next up, the Tough Mudder Full?