The second ‘big’ goal I had set myself for 2018 was to tackle my first Europe’s Toughest Mudder (ETM for short) event! After loving general Tough Mudder events, I jumped at the chance to try this endurance version. Run as many 5 mile laps as possible within an 8 hour time limit…sounds fun right? I had been looking forward to this event since I had it booked in December. With the goal of reaching 30 miles to hit contender status for Worlds Toughest Mudder, I read up on a load of articles, interviews and blogs by people who had taken part and probably watched about every video on YouTube that had anything to do with Europe’s Toughest Mudder! My plan (however flimsy) was in place and it was time to attack my biggest physical challenge to date!
All the gear, some idea
First things first was getting my gear correct for Europe’s Toughest Mudder. With so many recommendations of what to wear and how to stop yourself from being pulled from the race with hyperthermia, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details. In the end I went with a shorty wetsuit, under layer for my top half, knee length compression socks, neoprene gloves and a neoprene hat. For visibility a headtorch and a strobe light (or glowsticks if your slyly cheaper like me) are mandatory.
To Rest or Not to rest?
As I had never experienced an event so late in the day (or early in the morning depending on how you look at midnight!) I had no idea how to prepare for being shattered. I literally reach 10:30pm nowadays and I’m falling asleep in front of the TV. My extremely ineffective plan to go to sleep later on the Friday night so I could have a lay in on the Saturday backfired and I ended up waking up my normal time, just with less sleep.
What will get you through 8 hours of mud, water (a lot of water) and running? People had gels, energy drinks, pizza, you name it. I knew that the boring things that most people don’t actually enjoy (energy gels) wouldn’t bring the smile to my face that I knew I still wanted at 6am! My nutrition was quite simple; A heavy carb/protein meal of fish and chips a few hours before the race and a healthy mix of jelly babies and nature valley chocolate and peanut bars throughout. Simple. Ohhh and the bottle of Lucazade cracked open at 4am.
Before you start, seeing everyone with their head torches and random strobes ready to take off into the night was a brilliant scene! The first lap was a sprint lap to open up the crowd so no obstacles were actually open. It was a great 5 mile run regardless of the ongoing rain that clearly had no signs of stopping! The plan was to do that in 50 mins which my team mate (shouts out to Simon Furbes) and I did no problem. We were in and out of the pit sharpish as we wanted to keep momentum.
Lap 2 is where things start to get interesting during this Toughest Mudder event. Now some of the obstacles had opened up we knew that pressure was on for hitting the 30 and wanted to stay speedy for 2 more laps at least. The key obstacles I remember opening were the cage crawl (which I hated every time and swallowed so much water you wouldn’t believe) and funky monkey. By this point the rain made any type of grip obstacle pretty much impossible! Slip and then a penalty lap; lovely. These really did bite into your time and it was annoying that the obstacles I enjoy the most were literally slipping through my fingers. Need to work on my grip I guess. Lap done in 1hour 8mins. Still good for time.
Another very quick stop where we piled in jelly babies and water. This was the lap where it seemed that they opened up the obstacles that made you suffer or gave the biggest penalty loops. The first dip into Artic Enema was the one I was dreading to be honest! Luckily it was a 400m sprint to the next lake where the water was considerably warmer (pretty happy we figured this out) and neck height. The other penalty loop which was very uncool was the Everest loop. Failing that meant a very long uphill run, which chipped away at your time considerably. Grip obstacles were even more pointless by this point. I didn’t even notice that Funky Monkey has changed to Spunky Monkey at this point! Try, slip, penalty loop…the consistent theme for the rest of the evening. 1hour 25mins later we had completed lap 3.
Lap 4 was certainly the beginning of the end for me mentally as well as physically. There was a lot more stopping, slipping around on what was now an extremely chopped up course and penalty loops. They opened Electroshock Therapy which was a shock to the system (no pun intended) and an obstacle I hadn’t tried called Operation. Imagine navigating a metal pole through an electrified hole in the wall to hook a rubber band off of the wall in front. Still convinced that my comrade smacked my stick which gave me the biggest shock of the day, but with that failed there went my attitude ha. Sandbag carry penalty (which was quicker then the obstacle) and a run back to the pit. 1hour 35mins in total. We decided during this, our longest pit stop of the event, that we would secure the 25mile patch with a very gentle 5th lap and literally just slow jog/walk the final lap. 1hour 43mins on the clock and that was the end of the event at around 7:30am.
This event was brilliant for so many reasons. It’s great to aim for a goal and push towards it in very different conditions that change over the course of 8 hours. Even though I missed my goal, I am pleased with 25miles even though with the amount of penalties done, that number is definitely pushed up. If I were to add anything, then it would be a massive clock to let us know the time as I felt I was guessing whilst not pulling out my phone. Apart from that I felt it was well organised and something I will definitely return to do.
Did you compete in Europe’s Toughest Mudder? How did you do? Will you return next year? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading.