Tougher Mudder is the competitive wave at Tough Mudder. They introduced this last year but this was the first one I have been able to get to. I’ve done plenty of Tough Mudders for fun and was really looking forward to racing one. My excitement was heightened even more as it had been a long time since I’d raced an OCR.
The course was in Cheshire so over 2 hours drive from home and it was a very early 7.45am start so I went up the evening before, along with my wife, son and daughter for a hotel stay.
Entering the venue the first thing I noticed was it looked fairly flat, which I was happy about. I don’t mind hills but I felt my best chance of doing well was to rely on my running speed which is always better on flatter ground. The course was 10 miles long over 2 slightly different laps with 23 obstacles.
The podium positions offer prize money so that was my aim but as always I just wanted to finish as high up the field as I possibly could.
We set off and almost immediately the front runners spread out from everyone else. I was in fifth position behind two guys who had come over from the Netherlands, last year’s OCR European age group champion Jesse Betts and multiple Tough Mudder winner Tristan Stead.
I soon moved into third and as early as the second obstacle I was in second place tucking in on Tristan’s shoulder. We got clear of everyone else and spent most of the first half of the race side by side, that was until the final obstacle of lap one, Birth Canal, which I found myself coming out of first and gaining a few yards. I picked up the pace a little and opened up a bit of a gap.
Through Electroshock Therapy with just one small shock to my elbow and safely across what is one of my favourite obstacle, Funky Monkey The Revelation, I was then tasked with a new obstacle which they had simple called ‘Alpha test 2’.
Entering into a lake the sign read ‘deep water, swimmers only’. I began to wade my way towards the obstacle half way across finding the ground really heaving going so even tough it actually wasn’t very deep at all I decided trying to swim would be the quickest option. Tristan seemed to be finding the wading a lot easier than me and soon caught up. Climbing onto the floating blocks we were again side by side. We both thought we had to step across each block but the marshals told us that we weren’t allowed to stand up so I shimmying motion was required. I found the blocks were a little too far apart for this to really work and soon rolled into the water and began swimming again. By this point Tristan had noticed that swimming was actually quicker so joined me in the lake and it wasn’t long before we were both on dry land again and approaching the Liberator which is a peg board obstacle.
I reached up to the highest possible holes, stuck my pegs in and hauled myself up. It was then that the problems started. I pulled one peg out but the other didn’t follow. It took a whole lot of wriggling until it eventually came free. This was the case each of the following two times I tried to pull the peg in my right hand out until I reached the top. I was tempted to leave it stuck in but the rules state that you have to drop both pegs back down for the next competitors so I spend a good 10 or more seconds frantically pulling at it while Tristan was back running and gaining a lengthy lead on me. Finally it released, I climbed down the other side and gave chase.
I wondered if my chance of winning had gone but I wasn’t giving up yet. I was still feeling speedy so increased my pace and took down the next couple of obstacle as fast as possible.
Next up was Arctic Enema (the ice skip). I didn’t even give the sudden rush of freezing cold temperature a second thought as I clambered out and took off again. I was gaining ground rapidly but was it going to be enough and had I put in too much too soon?
By the approach to ‘Twinkle toes’ (two balance beams) I was back on Tristan’s heals. I’m not sure if it was my reappearance that knocked him back or something else but he did then fall from the first beam. Strangely though, this didn’t result in a penalty and he was able to go straight the the next beam and carry on. I got across both anyway and we set off running again.
Next up was another newbie again named Alpha test (3). It required crawling under electric wires (more electricity, just what OCR needs I thought to myself sarcastically) but luckily the wires weren’t low enough to cause any shocks.
We were now down to the final mile and there were just two obstacles remaining both right before the finish line. I was confident that if Tristan was on top form he would have made more of an attempt at a breakaway by now so I was content to sit in, still feeling strong, and hope I had enough in a sprint to the line.
As we came back into the event village rubbing shoulders I could feel the excitement of the crowd and hear the announcer drumming up the race for the title.
I made my move, Tristan responded but I had a little more and started to pull away. I didn’t feel him coming back at me so felt that all I needed to do was successfully negotiate the final two obstacles and the race was mine. If only it was that easy!
I came around the corner and sprinted straight up Everest (a high ramped wall). I grabbed the ledge at the top but my fingers slipped and I slip desperately back down. Tristan by now had arrived and took his run up. I knew if he made it there would be no time to catch up again and my race was over. He missed!
We then both ran up again, both reached for the top together and both fell again.
As soon as I reached the bottom I pulled myself up first and went again. Third time lucky I had made it! I climbed down and headed to the last obstacle not even daring to take a look back.
I clambered into the water then slipped submerging my whole body even though it was only knee deep. I waded over to the high ramp and pulled myself up with the rope, Tristan still wasn’t in sight so I knew I now had the victory. Jumping down it was then just a 100m glory run to break the tape.
I have spent the last couple of months working really hard on OCR specific training and this was the first test to see if I’d been doing the right things so I’m really happy with the result with a month and a half to go before the World Championships.