A bit about pain. This post may single me out as a bit of a weirdo, but I'm not worried, I'm totally cool with that.
I like pain. There you go I said it. I'm not talking about in some sort of sexual, kinky way, but I like pain when training and competing. Whether the sting from a punch inside the cage or the feel of stones slicing through my skin when crawling under some barbed wire, there's something about the sharp feel of pain that gives me focus and drive.
I've discussed this with others, the last time with Simon on a training run before Tough Guy. He had a large blister and suffers from them badly and it was causing pain to run. For me, that is exactly the sort of thing that keeps me going. The pain of something like that doesn't make me want to stop, it makes me want to keep going. I find it motivating. Sharp shocks are the best- The electrocution obstacles that I've encountered do not make me want to stop or turn back, but instead I feel it right up my spine, I get goosebumps instantly and most importantly, a massive grin. It might sound strange, but I feel like Super Mario with a mushroom- It helps me run faster, lift heavier and fight longer.
People tend to fear pain, but I don't see why. I use pain, take the pain, push it into the pit of my stomach and give it pain back. The pain is trying to stop me, just like any other type of opponent. It's either going to to win or I am, and I'm not one to back down easily.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that pain should be ignored. It's obviously the body's way of alerting that something isn't right, but if that something is you achieving your physical goals, it should not be there to stop you but more as a flag that you are doing something right.
Last night The Wife and I signed up for Tough Mudder in 2013. Northampton, 5th May. We're in as a team of 8 so far but it'll likely be closer to 12 I would have thought.
Quite excited. For most of the people running with us, it will be a first obstacle run. The Wife has just signed up with the local CrossFit club that opened a few months ago, Sarum CrossFit. This will be the basis for her training, interspersed with some running. She won't let me train her, we've already been down that road :-)
As for me, it'll be business as usual :-) Stayed tuned for more updates as we go along!
Four of us signed up for the first of a series of new events from Tough Guy, the founders of the obstacle run. Traditionally only run once a year, Tough Guy appear to be adding new events each year which I assume is to cash in on the growing market for obstacle runs bought on by the heavy promotion of Tough Mudder and Spartan Races.
The 14th October saw the first "Tough Guy Triathlon" consisting of a 400m swim, 12k mountain bike ride and a 10k Tough Guy "Mud Thrash" run. Two of the guys in the team, Mark and Simon, had never run an obstacle race before and as you could chose just to do the 10k run, the timing of this event was perfect. Paul joined us who is a veteran of the main Tough Guy run and so we had a team for the event.
We turned up just before 9am, to a very foggy morning and a -1 degree centigrade air temp. With the run due to start at about 11ish, I was starting to wonder if my tradition of running topless was going to remain a good idea!
The Tough Guy venue is a permanent set-up so facilities were great. The thought of a nice hot shower at the end of the race rather than bathing in a lake sounded fantastic! There were also lots of toilets which were pretty clean and well kept, again a nice change from the porta-loo setup at most of these runs.
Registration was a simple process- hand over our waiver and we were given timing chips, race number and a goody bag straight away. As this was the first event, there were not many participants. Across all events there didn't look to be more than 100 people. Most of these left with the triathlon, then another large portion with the "Screwball" kids race, leaving about 40 of us on the 10k only run. Whilst the atmosphere therefore left a bit to be desired it did mean that there were no queues at the obstacles when the race did begin...
The race was due to start when the first of the triathletes had finished the swim and cycle, and them crossing the start line of the run signalled us to begin as well. Unfortunately this meant that we didn't really know when we were going to start, only that it would be around 11ish.
The race itself started with some pretty basic log jumps and a decent stretch of trail running across fields, small hills and a wooded section. We then moved into a wood with cargo nets and log pyramids into another field run. From there on there were very few open runs but a lot of intensive obstacle sections. Lots of river running and yet more cargo nets. I personally would have liked to see less cargo nets and a bit more imagination. Cargo nets are fine but they aren't difficult to traverse and they got a bit dull after a while. The river running went on for quite a while and got quite exhausting. This was good- too many of these runs allow you so much recovery time between obstacles that you barely notice them but the more relentless nature of this run shone through.
After the water came some high log and net climbs, with electric cables in-between which unfortunately weren't turned on :-( This sucked, as the electric obstacles are something that you don't get to do that often so a real missed opportunity there. At this point our team split with Simon and Paul keeping up a higher pace, and Mark and me taking it more easy.
Next came more log jumps and bog running before moving on to a large assault course over one of the lakes. A combination of short rope swings, overhead rope shimmying and cargo nets to climb over or swing from got us around a figure-of-eight circuit before heading to a low crawl under barbed wire. Unlike the Tough Mudder event, there was no safety wire here, just the real thing. If you don't go low enough, you get cut, it's that simple!
We then moved on to a high section of tight-rope walking. These were fine and as there were no queues, these were cleared quite quickly. Next we went into plunges into deep water followed by sections of burning hay. This meant you went from very hot to very cold time and time again, finally having to crawl through a small tyre tunnel. I'm told that Simon had quite an ungraceful exit from the tyre due to the last one coming apart. Luckily one of the WAGs got some photo evidence of this... :-)
Next came some dark tunnels to crawl through. These were concrete and it was pitch black. Really couldn't see a thing! The last section of tubes were even smaller than the first and although I'm quite small framed I struggled to make it through. For the very last section I switched to a more elongated crawling technique in order to make it through.
With Mark and I both out we move to a very high tight rope section over a small section of water, then onto "Viagra"- a slide down the side of a hill with electric cables dangling down. These were definitely turned on! Shocks all the way down and it was after a water section to make it conduct nicely!
With that done it was over, all 10k done! It was an interesting and fun event. The intensity of the obstacles, even if some of them were repeated to death, meant that it didn't feel like 10k at all. I would highly recommend this for anyone worried about the distance side of a 10k run or as a good warm up if you are thinking of doing the full Tough Guy in January.
Was it tough? For me, at this pace, no. If I was running it at full pace and going for the best possible time it would be a good test, but I'm still not sure about tough. More electrics and more, thicker mud sections to really drain your energy are needed. I survived this with far fewer cuts and bruises than the similar distance Spartan races. As this was the very first time it was being run though this can all be forgiven. For the price, the distance and the facilities given, this was a top event.
The full video taken on my GoPro HD Hero2 can be seen here:
I've been using the Inov-8 X-Talon 212s for 6 months now as a trail running show for use in training across Salisbury Plain and as my race shoe for both Tough Mudder and Spartan series races. After researching before Tough Mudder in May 2012, I found several blogs and reviews from people who had run it before recommending either Inov-8s or Vibrams. When looking at the course structure, I decided to go for the X-Talon 212s as they seemed to have far superior grip and the majority of running would be through thick mud or wet grass fields.
I have been blown away at how good these shoes are off-road. The rubber grips are very sticky which is perfect for running on wet wood surfaces which you regularly have to in these races and during all of my training and races I have not slipped once in them. Even when running down wet, muddy hills racing in Spartan races and through the mile of mud at Tough Mudder, I was able to stay stable, fast and agile whilst others around me looked like Bambi on Ice!
They are very lightweight which helps not only with manoeuvrability but also by drying out very quickly after being soaked. They are also comfortable to swim in when traversing lakes and rivers- My old Asics would feel like bricks once they were soaked. The laces have rubber in them which helps them keep grip and they very rarely come undone. After 6 months of use they are still in very good condition with no rips, tears or marks. I've thrown them in the washing machine several times and each time they've come out looking like new.
These are minimalist shoes, so if you're not used to running in a minimalist shoe you should take precautions to both bed them and your feet in correctly. Using a traditional running technique that you would use with cushioned trainers can result in some pretty nasty injuries. There is loads of advice about this on the Internet and through your doctor- I found this link particularly useful. As with everything on this blog I'm no expert, I'm just listing what I did. Take professional advice if you feel you need it!
The only negative is that they are awful on hard surfaces- even chalk or flint. If it's not soft ground, you really feel it through your feet. They're not designed for hard surfaces, so this shouldn't be a surprise. They also aren't very handy on the balance beam obstacles that you sometimes get, due to how high the rubber studs are as they can send you off balance easily.
All in all, they have been fantastic.
As I write this, I'll be honest, I'm a bit annoyed. I purchased my first GoPro HD Hero2 towards the beginning of the year. It unfortunately got lost in the Tough Mudder run (My own fault!) and I re-purchased towards the end of June.
Why am I annoyed? After spending the best part of £750 on a new GoPro with a lot of the accessories, the replacement model was announced just yesterday, the GoPro 3. Twice as faster but more importantly smaller and lighter. I will however try not to let this shine through in this review!
I've had the GoPro for a few months now and have used it on training runs and mountain bike rides as well as all of the obstacle runs that I've been on. It has taken some getting used to, particularly finding the best settings. I made the investment after seeing footage online and wanting to document my first event Tough Mudder. We also didn't have a camcorder at home and having a young son I wanted to be able to catch some of his moments growing up as well.
For me, the super-wide aspect ratio running 60 frames per second on 1280x720px has been the best by far. Sure, it will do a full 1080 shot but only at 30 frames per second. This is fine for shooting slow moving stuff, but for anything at speed, super slow-mo editing or screen grabs, you can't beat the 720px with 60fps. You should also follow the guidelines from GoPro and make sure you have a class 10 SD card to keep up with the processing write speed. I used a class 4 whilst waiting for mine to turn up and the video was blotchy with parts missing. It's never worth missing the unique and awesome footage it for the $15 or so extra that it costs.
I bought the outdoor edition, but have since also purchase the chest mount, handlebar mount, tripod mount, etc and they have all been great allowing me to shoot anything that I've wanted to. For the obstacle runs, the head mount is the only way to go. The chest mount is ok, but with the natural body movement from running it makes you look like a dodgy first person shooter, and watching the footage can be quite nauseating.