Friday, 24 April 2015

Lessons Learnt at Tough Mudder by Jemma

Jemma did her first Tough Mudder event in 2014 at Broughton House in Northamptonshire. Here are some of her thoughts and feelings which we feel may help others to make the most of their experience

The Dirty Muddy Thirties
Jemma at her first Tough Mudder event 2014

What I Learnt from Tough Mudder

When I'm preparing for a race I'll be putting the hours in at the gym, boot camps and running in the great outdoors to get ready for the latest obstacle race so when you are at the start line you know you've done all that you can do to get to the finish line or better last years times. Failing to put the preparation work in can leave you in serious trouble on event day at long events like Tough Mudder where you're likely to be on the course for 3+ hours experiencing warmth, cold and fatigue.

I saw many training timetables online on how to train for events and to be frank I found these not helpful and too easy on participants.From the few previous events I'd done I knew I had to target certain areas and improve further on other areas.

Key Event Needs for Tough Mudder

  • Upper Body- Hauling yourself over obstacles and holding your weight on monkey bars is far tougher than many training schedules allow for.
  • Being able to run for extended periods was also beyond what I was used to doing
Not long after completing my first Spartan Race in 2013 one of our gym PT's suggested getting a team together for Tough Mudder. He ran a number of boot camp style sessions a week which I was attending where work allowed so it made sense to join up with their team for Tough Mudder in the Midlands at Broughton House, Kettering. By event day there were 24 of us which made up Team Jelly Fitness.

Try different energy gels to see what works for you

As Tough Mudder was going to be the longest event I'd done (I want to say "Race" but Tough Mudder isn't a race) Liam suggested to try using energy gels whilst running to keep my energy up over the course of an event. One of his best suggestions was to trial different energy gels during longer runs to see what worked for me. I initially tried the SIS (Science in Sport) gels which I found were relativity cheap and easy to find on the shelves of the local Tesco. I also picked up a variety of flavours to try as I know I wouldn't be happy consuming something I didn't like the taste of come the day of the event. 

My final food preparations for the race involved deciding how many gels I should carry. The event paperwork advised there would be feed and water stations around the course so I decided that to take 4 gels to supplement what had on the feed stations. Unfortunately I had very little experience with using these gels and when is the best to take them. 

Eat Little and Often to Maintain Energy Throughout the Event

On event day at the first feed station we were offered water and squares of a protein/ energy bar which was probably the driest thing I've ever tasted. I only manged half of the square as it was so tough it was almost one of the obstacles! Over the course of the event I learnt that whenever you're offered food take it as YOU WILL need it. At the next feed station was again that same awful protein bar and with the after taste of the previous square I was discouraged so settled for a gel and cup of water. Eventually I found that the SiS gels I was using didn't sit brilliantly on my stomach towards the end of the event and I'd need to look at other options for future events

Finding the Distance a Real Issue

During mile 8 I started to suffer from shooting cramps down my calves was handed a drink from a fellow person in my team who had a hydration pack with electrolytes in it and told to have another gel and that should help. At least i knew how to stretch out my legs to help ease the pain out. The one feed station after this was a bananas which I easily ate which the state was feeling I should have eaten another one along with more water than the two cups I drank.

When I completed the course even the electrocution at the end was too much to bare. I was feeling in a rather bad place with no energy left and my body cramping up. Given a bottle of water and another one of those protein bars I looked at that bar without any enthusiasm and tried to give it to Liam who refused and made me eat it before I could have that earned pint. Because I hadn't eaten enough this is one of the reasons why was in such a bad shape. If eating that bar was an obstacle then it was a hard one at the time.

Realizations After Tough Mudder

My after thought with this event was "oh shit I have little over two months" till I started my Spartan series campaign. Tough Mudder has its faults such as no timing, electrocution, no penalties or alternative if you fail an obstacle but it made me work on my distance more and try different forms of race nutrition to see what would suit me.

We talked over what I felt I struggled on throughout the course and as ever I found it to be my upper body strength. I simply could not hold the bars or rings on Funky Monkey or Hang Tough. Liam was  running alongside at points so he could see how my performance was and what I needed to work more on. This was a great help for the small things you don’t notice.

Take Positives Out of Each Event as Well as Negatives to Work on.

Every race I have now done I take a good thing and a bad thing from it so that got something to work on for the next time. Focusing on the good shows the progress you have made and the bad is where your going to conquer in future.

Jemma hated the electrocution element of Tough Mudder

The progress I made was visible throughout 2014. I went from struggling with the distance of Tough Mudder to finishing the longer Spartan Beast in much better shape. I also saw my strength and technique increase. At the beginning of the Spartan Race series I could barely roll an Atlas Stone along the ground yet managed to carry it during the last 3 races. I gained great satisfaction in lifting an Atlas Stone where there were blokes around me rolling them.

The bad for me is still elements of my upper body and grip as I've suffered badly with the monkey bars, rope climb and traverse walls.

As long as you're having fun, weaknesses are just something to work on in training. That's why I love obstacle racing so much as there's always something to keep me on my toes.

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