An eight kilometre circuit has been carved for you through the fire trails and paddocks of Woodford. Along the way you face obstacles to climb, swim, crawl and jump through, all of which will test your physical and mental strength. You start your race at midnight and have until 8:30am to complete as many laps as possible.
I went into this race pretty confident I’d do well. A couple of years of good consistent training under my belt had me feeling relaxed and focused on the job ahead. Running during the dark didn’t worry me, nor should it as many of my solo trail training runs had started well before sunrise.
This was the first Toughest Mudder for Australia and the OCR community was anxious to see it unfold. The $5,000 purse for first male and female attracted a solid lineup for the pointy end of the race and I along with many others were excited to see the battles for placings.
I had two goals in mind.
Finish with six laps under my belt which gave me qualification as contender for prizes and placing at Worlds Toughest Mudder (WTM) in Atlanta in November 2018
Push hard for a top 5 place which gave prize money at this event and extra privileges for WTM
Start an endurance obstacle race at midnight – are we crazy?
Unless you work the graveyard shift, your body clock isn’t adjusted for this. However, standing on the start line at 11:55pm, you feel very much alive just like any other day.
The temperature was saying a low of around 7 degrees but we were in the middle of nature so it was expected to feel closer to 3-4 degrees. We arrive at Mudder Village around 9:30pm and immediately feel the chill in the air. When registrations opened to sign in, we made our way to the bag drop, a large marquee with a half trestle table for each athlete to lay out their kit for the race. We could come and go as we pleased after each lap to change clothes and refuel.
We enter the marquee and there are athletes and crew prepping for the night ahead.
I was fortunate enough to be kitted out with some Lululemon Aus equipment organised by Phill and his team at Queen Street Physiotherapy to trial during and post race, so was ready to race in their short sleeve top and compression shorts. I had Lululemon gloves and a lightweight all weather jacket on standby.
We debated for a while whether to put on something warmer overtop, I do find it easier to cool down rather try to warm up, so I threw on a Lavacore thermal long sleeve top. How the body handles the heat and cold is a very personal thing much like nutrition, so I felt comfortable this was going to work for me.
Standing in the start chute, we get the low down on the rules. One race strategy to be mindful of is how fast to go out at the start as they keep all obstacles closed for the first hour. Running around an obstacle is much quicker than doing it. The idea here is to get some good distance in without burning yourself out.
Spot on midnight we dash out of the chute, with about 20 of us setting a pretty good pace, I’m feeling very comfortable and saw a few really putting the gas on. I get through the first lap in around 50min and keep running through to the next lap. The clock strikes 1am and most of the obstacles open up for business. Some still stay closed to be open later in the morning.
I approach an obstacle ‘Everest 2.0’. A 4.5m slick quarter pipe with a recurved top making it difficult to get a hold, I’m hoping it’s still closed.
I hear a voice from a volunteer:
‘Welcome to Everest 2.0, your the first one tonight!’
Bugger! This was a must complete obstacle. Five attempts later and what felt like an eternity I’m scrambling for the top, holding onto a rope so close to sliding over using up energy, when I hear footsteps up the pipe and a figure leaping over with ease on his first attempt. It was Andrew Robinson , a strong athlete and one to keep an eye on who was gunning for a place.
He graciously turned around and helped me up.
As the night continued on, the athletes thinned out over the 8km+ course, so most times I was solo on obstacles. They all could be tackled alone but valuable energy reserves would be used up.
One in particular obstacle was ‘block ness monster’ two rotating barriers in
cold chest deep water to climb over. I tackled this obstacle most times on my own by leaping out of the water and grabbing the top with fingertips, but it is much easier with the help of another person using body weight to rotate the barrier.
A little after 3am I had completed three laps and was feeling great and toasty warm as I was moving pretty fast. Body was moving freely and had moved up some places since the sprint lap. I came into pit and was in and out quick. Starting the fourth lap I was in a good rhythm until half way through the upper legs started to feel tight and heavy, some stomach issues were causing some grief as well. Ginger tablets will be in the kit next time!
They opened up the obstacle ‘Arctic Enema’ on this lap, so I slid down a chute into ice water, then had to submerge entirely under marine ply before climbing out the other side. The thermal top didn’t quite handle this low temp and my body temp dropped considerably for the remainder of the lap. Coming into pits after lap 4, the body wasn’t in a great place. I was still mobile and moving, but it seemed to be running on only a few cylinders. I changed out of the thermal top and into a 2mm Billabong shorty wetsuit.
Tip: when putting a wetsuit on, use shopping bags over your limbs to allow the neoprene to slide freely. Also, put the leg’s through the leg holes, not the arm holes (Michael) it fits much better 🙂
From here on in I knew it was a matter of holding my place and running as best I could. My body temp was regulating well, however my stride was short and mild stomach cramps made it difficult to eat.
In this case: ‘Determination was overruling common sense’ and many thoughts were going through the head. Had I taken on too much over the last five weeks, was I too fatigued, is this my limit or was I just having a whinge?
I concluded to myself on this fifth lap that this is obstacle racing, these are the challenges we face. The body mechanics, the mind mechanics. The environment we are in. Every component we put together on race day are all equally important pieces of the puzzle. If one fails, the other elements need to pick up the slack and pull through.
There were no excuses. The body in this instance was the weakest link but I was determined to finish and finish as strong as I could.
One of my favourite obstacles was rope a dope. A lot of upper body strength needed for this one. We had to leap from a timber platform about 5-6ft away from a vertical rope weighted down in water below. Climb to the top then shimmy down another rope from the top which was anchored on the other side of the water. Slip and you are in the drink then had to run a small penalty lap. Get up and across as soon as possible to save your grip and arm strength for funky monkey revolution along with many other grip strength obstacles.
Just after 6am in the morning, the sun was starting to peak it’s rays at us, I was half way up the first climb on the sixth lap and some strips of sunshine were spread across the fire trail. I turn the headlamp off and upon reaching the light I immediately feel the warmth on my back through the neoprene. There is life out here! The magic of warmth breathes new light in me and I press on for one last pit stop before a final lap.
After a slightly longer pit stop than normal, I start my final lap happy and in a good head space. I hadn’t been able to achieve a remarkable placing today, but was grateful to have been able to continue on throughout the challenges with the help of my stellar support crew and with seven laps under my belt I was guaranteed a contender status for Worlds Toughest Mudder in November this year. By 8:05am Sunday morning I had travelled 61km on foot through the trails of Woodford and finished in a respectable 10th place.
An enormous thank you to my support crew lead by Michael to brave the elements and no sleep to keep me going through the dark of the night. Julian thank you for capturing all the action!
Tough Mudder Australia put on what I saw a well organised, safe and successful event. Hats off to all the volunteers that cheered us all on throughout the night, special mention to the volunteer at the log carry…you know who you are!
Finally, common sense is now overruling determination. It is now time to recover and rest over the next month to balance the body and mind, in preparation for November.
| 262 starters |
| 251 finishers |
| 10th overall |
| 2nd Age category (35-39) |
| 8:05:14hrs |
| 7 laps |
| 61km |
Thank you to:
Fit Education: race strategy and prep
Queen Street Physiotherapy: keeping me mobile and injury free
Mountain Goat Trail Runners: consistency in training
Bear Trap Muscle Compression Therapies: a great muscle release tool
Lululemon Australia: your equipment held up well!