Tough Mudder: obstacle breakdown

Tough Mudder Scotland had 29 obstacles over the 11.7 miles. Five of these were for Mudder Legionnaires only (people who have done at least one Tough Mudder before), 15 were the proper obstacles and the remaining nine dotted throughout were ones that were more specific to the environment, like wading through the river, that aren’t mentioned on ToughMudder.com.

I want to write about my experience of the whole thing because I was surprised that I found it all ok. In fact, I’m not sure if it was just due to adrenaline but I really did love it. My goal going in was to just get to the end, alive; if I found anything or any obstacle too difficult or scary and skipped it, that wouldn’t matter because I wasn’t being sponsored and was just doing this for fun.

Beforehand I’d identified the obstacles I really didn’t want to do – I was not planning on pushing myself at all, having intended to actually do this in 2015 and not this year – and that came to a grand total of six, give or take another couple just in case of sudden chicken syndrome.

In terms of safety, every station is manned and the water ones all had divers. The two wall obstacles also had ambulances waiting…

In the end, I only missed three and was so happy because I did other ones I had been terrified to do. So if it helps anyone else, this is what I learned!

The secret first obstacle no one tells you about. This is a 5-foot high wall at the starting line you have to get over to get onto the course. Super strong people were flying past me, jumping up and sailing over on their own. I kind of whacked into it and bounced back off again, so needed a leg up. Thankfully the embarrassment was over pretty quickly and I could actually focus on the upcoming real course…

1. Kiss of mud. This was an army crawl under low-strung barbed wire through some mud. Height-wise, my hair occasionally got caught but keeping low enough pretty much avoided it. However, my hair was in low French braids so I would recommend those over a high ponytail! That would have been painful. Our ‘mud’ had a lot of bark in it which scraped up lower arms a wee bit. A lot of people lost their numbered bib on this one too if it was attached on their back.

2. Bale bonds. Awesome, just clambered over some hay bales.

3. Creek crusade. Wading through the river, #1. Felt really weird trying to stay standing upright  and get through cold water with a real current. I don’t think I’ve done that before. It was maybe only up to our thighs at some points so swimming wasn’t really an option.

4. Glory blades. Walls at a 45 degree angle – up over the edge and slide down the other side. This was the first obstacle I hadn’t been keen on due heights/falling but it was fine! Couldn’t have managed it without a foot up, though.

5. Just the tip. Crossed a water trough by going along a wall which had three foot hold blocks spaced just far apart so you can’t step between them. You hang down from the top and edge along using your hands. This was ok because there are only two ‘gaps’ and you can pause at the blocks. I was really proud of this one because I was expecting to drop having heard a team member fall on the next wall over and watched the girl beside me go down but I managed to get to the other side dry.

6. Soggy bottom. Absolutely no recollection of what this was! I assume something that got us damp again.

7. Creek crusade. River crossing #2.

8. Arctic enema. Beforehand, this is the only obstacle I was 100% planning on avoiding. But up to this point I’d been having a whale of a time and was feeling pretty invincible especially since making it across Just the tip unscathed. Apparently, they’ve changed this obstacle slightly as we were instructed to wade into the ice water, not jump, and the central barrier to duck under was a row of tires and not a block of wood. This was great because when your back caught on it while underwater they turned and helped to propel you through. I ended up pausing before ducking, probably for about 20-25 seconds, with the very nice old man diver who was manning my tank holding my hand screaming “I can pull you out if you want” because I think my face resembled a shocked, gasping prune. But there was absolutely no way I was getting back out again – the only way was through. The advice for this one is don’t stop, relax your body to stop gasping for breath (because the cold will steal your breath menacingly) and just dive.

9. Sewer rat. This was crawling though a tunnel into a puddle of muddy water on the other side. This really hurt the knees and added a lot of gravel to my shoes. I also made it into one of the official event photos with this one. It’s not actually of me and captures the precise moment I got stuck coming out the tube but you can’t win everything really.

My one moment of glory
My one moment of glory

10. Walk the plank. 6 metre jump into water – this was awesome. I’ve never dropped from that height before and was surprised how long it felt to be the air. I didn’t hold my nose which was a massive mistake though and spent a good ten minutes after it with muddy water occasionally chokingly flying out.

11. Boa constrictor. This was very similar to Sewer rat but was two tunnels – the first one heading down into a muddy puddle and the second one coming up out of it. This really killed my knees and my teammate had the great idea to go on his back and push his way through to save the knees, so might be worth a try.

12. Creek crusade. River crossing #3.

13. Mud mile. Dear God. This was unexpectedly the hardest of them all. Mud trenches, mud mounds, mud hills, mud zig-zags… I slid down one of the mounds and landed in the trench, both feet got stuck and I was up to my shins in the runny mud. I thought, “This is how it ends…” because moving my feet was moving my feet but not my shoes. Apparently the key is to lead with your toes.

14. Balls to the wall. My first downfall. This was just absolutely huge compared to photos and not one I was expecting to not manage. The rope was slippery and I did not have the strength by this point to pull myself up. I got up to the second foothold, and scared of falling onto the ground from 10 feet (this was one of them with the ambulance parked beside it…) came back down again. I think you need a certain amount of confidence and bravery which I just didn’t have.

15. Electric eel. No way as bad as I was expecting. I think I got shocked twice.

16. Hero carry. I would have managed this if I had a partner who was equally matched in height and weight but he was 12 and a half stone so a piggy back was just not happening…!

17. Hangin’ tough. Was reaching for hoop #4 when I got distracted by a friend from uni who called my name. I was not expecting to see him all the way over to the side of the obstacle and did a double take because he was dressed in a lime green scuba suit, lost my momentum and fell into the water. I am so sure I would have got farther if I had been more focused. Gutted.

18-21. Legionnaires loop. For previous Mudders only.

22. Cage crawl. This was fun – cross a water trough with a mesh cage above which only has enough space for your face so you go on your back. Zipped along. Watch out for the wooden planks that are holding the cage together – every four or so ‘hand pulls’ you need to be wary of hitting your head or punching them instead of grabbing the cage.

23. Hero walls. Sadly fear of falling got the better of me again and after slipping the first time I got hoisted up I chose to walk round them. I decided after this to not skip anything else, because I was angry enough with myself already.

24. Natural haha. Haha what I have no idea.

25. Quagmire. I’m pretty sure this was two mud mounds with a puddle of mud in the middle. Absolutely fine.

26. Island hopping. I got all the way across this one without falling in!! So happy. The trick is to keep very, very low and go slowly one at a time, getting your balance before jumping to the next float. The people that were falling in were running at them and standing up, not getting further than the third.

27. Everest. Amazingly, and all due to the people who grabbed me and pulled me up, I got up on the first try. If people are holding your arms, raise your leg and get someone to grab it, then you can be pulled over the edge quite easily.

28. Fire in your hole. This was for Mudder Legion only and looked awesome – like a giant flume.

29. Electroshock therapy. I definitely got off pretty lightly with the electrocution because this wasn’t too bad – maybe one or two shocks. The anticipation seemed worse than the thing itself, although I’ve heard horror stories of people getting many shocks and collapsing afterwards… so I’m counting myself very, very lucky on this one.

So that’s it! Three and a half hours of incredible fun.  I would honestly recommend Tough Mudder – I am so proud of myself, which is not something I usually say – and it’s one of the more serious physical activity ‘bucket list’ things you can do.

Here’s to many more…

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