Monday, 15 October 2012

Event review- Tough Guy Wolverhampton, 10km mud thrash, 14th October 2012

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.

The team: Mark, Paul, Simon and Me
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.

Mark and I traversing one of the high log climbs
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... :-)

Simon exiting the tyre crawl in style :-)
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.

The full video taken on my GoPro HD Hero2 can be seen here:

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.

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