Tougher Mudder London West (week 1 & 2) 2018

I’ve decided to collect my two race experiences with Tougher Mudder London West in one blog post, as the race was at the same venue two weekends in a row and with only slight changes in the course obstacles from 1st to 2nd weekend.

 

This year I’ve decided to race a few of the Tougher Mudder races in the new competitive series Tough Mudder has released in line with Toughest Mudder 8 hour and World’s Toughest Mudder 24 hour. The regular Tougher Mudder is a 10 mile course (I tracked 17 km) created as a two loop 5 mile course. Competing in some of these throughout the season will hopefully prepare me a bit better for WTM from an obstacle perspective.

The two Tougher Mudder races in London were my first races of the season, despite the Shardana Challenge I ran for the Danish association in April, so it was interesting to find out how my shape was holding up after some injury issues in the beginning of the year.

Weekend 1

The first weekend in London was a pretty cold one, the temperature was 6 degrees Celsius, and it was raining in the morning. Being cold I didn’t feel like losing my warm clothes, so I ended up not having that long of a warm up before the race, which I was soon to regret. As soon as we’d been counted down for the start the wave took off at a pretty high pace. Usually I stay a bit behind and catch up to the front later in the race, but for some reason, maybe thinking the race was “only” 17 km, I chose to put myself out in front from the very beginning.

This choice meant I had to keep pushing as hard as I could, as I didn’t want to spend time looking back at where my competitors were, I just knew I was being chased. The lack of a proper warmup had me tasting iron in my mouth from the very beginning.

After the first set of obstacles I think I managed to get a bit of a distance between me and the next girls, and my body works pretty well in cold conditions as soon as I get started, whenever I feel cold I know I can run faster or push harder to create more heat. On the first lap I was rather inefficient on the obstacles though, I had planned to run and jump to every obstacle, but I was pushing my running so much that I forgot all about my gameplan when approaching the obstacles. Sure I got over the incline walls (Skidmarked), irish table (Lumberjacked) and high walls (Hero Walls), but it wasn’t pretty and definitely not as efficient as I would have liked it to be. The last obstacle on the first loop was a quaterpipe (Everest) and to my own surprise I managed it fairly easily, despite usually having issues with quaterpipes.

First obstacle on the second loop was electric wires (Electroshock Therapy) the obstacle I had dreaded the most leading up to the race. Once again I was pleasantly surprised, as I was able to run through it without getting shocked!

Now the worst part is over!

 

I thought to myself, and I knew I was over halfway through, still having to keep up the pace for another round though. On the second lap the more technical obstacles were included like Funky Monkey and Kong Infinity. I’d been looking forward to Funky Monkey, as I usually do well on technical obstacles. All the obstacles were wet from the morning rain and even though I got a good swing out on the first wheel and got a hold on the second, my hands slipped and I had to do the penalty loop, running up a small hill with a sandbag. On the way down with the bag I saw the the girl in 2nd position approaching the obstacle, and to my luck, she fell down too and had to go for the penalty.

I picked up the speed again as soon as I dropped the bag and kept pushing to stay in the lead. When I got to Cage crawl I knew I only had a few obstacles to go, so I started to feel the excitement of the finish line being near, I just had to make it through a few more obstacles and I’d done it! Cage crawl was cold an unpleasant, but nothing compared to the obstacle following: Arctic Enema. I was really happy to find that this obstacle was towards the end of the race, as running yourself warm in 6 degrees after being submerged into a tank full of ice isn’t the easiest task.

This is just a recovery ice bath!


I tried to tell myself as I struggled my way out of the container, completely unable to control my breathing. I tried to pull myself together while approaching Kong Infinity, knowing that it wouldn’t be any easier tackling the rings and the bars cold and wet. I grabbed the first ring and tried to go backwards, but after a few grabs my hands slipped again and I speeded to the penalty loop. At this point I didn’t see any girls nearby and I could run to the last obstacle, knowing that I’d locked it in.

I ran through the finish line ribbon (which I found to be so awesome) with my arms over my head and a huge smile on my face – what a great start to the season!

 

Weekend 2

Weekend 2 of Tougher Mudder London West was a completely different race experience than the first, at least from a weather perspective. Weekend 1 a few runners DNF’ed because of hyperthermia, and this weekend it was 18 degrees sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. This weather meant it was easier getting a good warmup, but for me it also meant running in shorts and sports-bra and still feeling like I was going to die from overheating. I definitely work better in colder conditions when racing as opposed to warmer, and I find myself constantly pouring water all over myself to stay alive when the sun is burning. I was a bit fatigued mentally, as I had spent a bit too much time in my own head trying to talk myself up and getting rid of nerves (which really isn’t something you can just do by thinking about it). I wanted to do better than the previous weekend, run faster, run better, despite having pushed pretty hard last.

When the start went off I once again got out too fast and took the lead from the beginning. This time I couldn’t keep it up as well though. I was neck and neck with one of the girls, Andrea, and when we got to the Block Ness Monster, which is heavy blocks rotating in water you have to get over, I couldn’t jump high enough to reach the top, whereas Andrea could and got over. I struggled for what seemed like forever before I managed to get up and over, and when I got up from the water Andrea was nowhere to be seen. I tried to pick up the pace and push to close the gap, hoping she would slow down a bit on the second loop and I’d be able to win some ground.

I raced Andrea last year though, where she beat me, and she’s a fast trail runner, so I knew it would a tough one. Towards the end of first loop I finally caught up with Andrea on Everest, the quaterpipe I had cleared easily the first weekend – only to find out they’d changed it! Now the quaterpipe didn’t have a ledge at the top but a rounded finish made of slippery plastic instead. I just got to see Andrea clear it before I got to attempt it myself. I kind of psyched myself out, got nervous and lost focus. I did try to go full speed, but when you’re in your head you’re not present and you’re not performing. I failed. After 3 failed attempts you were allowed to do the regular quaterpipe to the left. I got up and over, but I’d lost a ton of valuable time at this point.

 

Starting the second loop the negative thoughts got to me and I thought to myself the race was pretty much set now. I started arguing with myself along the way to still keep myself in the game, trying to remind myself how nothing is over until it’s over. One positive side effect of the heat was dry obstacles, and this time I had no problem clearing Funky Monkey. Following Funky Monkey they had a peg board on an incline wall (The Liberater) that hadn’t been there the first weekend. It fairly muddy but I like pegboards, so it wasn’t an issue. The walls on the second loop had an addition to them as well – a plateau on the top of the wall that forced you to get out from the wall and do a pullup/muscle up over the plateau to get over the wall. This is my kind of obstacle too, being a fan of pullups and muscle ups.

I was pretty warm at this point and as I was approaching the last obstacles I was looking forward to the water obstacle Cage crawl and even to Arctic Enema. This time around I was managing my breathing a lot better in the ice container, and I was able to run normally afterwards without gasping for air. I so wanted to clear Kong Infinity this time around, even though I was still wet approaching it. I got up to the rings, tried to dry my hands off on the construction and took a deep breath. I focused and started backwards moving at a controlled pace until the rolling rings hit the monkeybar and I could swing through the bars to the plateau. I ran down the last bit of the course to the finish, knowing that I’d keep my 2nd position as I couldn’t see Andrea in front, nor any of the other girls behind me.

 

I was okay with my performance under the circumstances, I know what I need to work on, and I learn some valuable lessons every time I race!

 

Now I’m looking forward to Europe’s Toughest Mudder next weekend, hoping I’ll be fully recovered and ready to give it my all! 🙂

 

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