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About Tough Guy event

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Tuesday, January 29 2008

Tough Guy 2008

After talking about it again and again, we ended up at Tough Guy on Sunday, held near Birmingham.

As we didn't have much time to prepare and didn't really know what would happen anyway, we bought some equipment at the last minute on Saturday. That include a cheap surfing T-shirt (in sale, half-price), supposedly warm even when wet and neoprene full-length bike gloves (again, half-price). In order to protect knees and elbows, we wrapped them with elastic bandage tape.

Stress increased just before the race, although things didn't look too bad on the whole. We were a bit late and ended up at the rear of the pack, with the "Dickheads" and the "Late buggers", whereas our "Wetneck" status should have positioned us more towards the front. That may look like a detail as we were not racing, but that led to annoying consequences in terms of congestion later on.
Indeed, after only a couple of minutes running (The Country Miles), we reached the Slalom: an steep succession of climbs and downhills. That was packed with people not able to run uphill and too scared to run downhill. Waste of time, but also frustration: you end up waiting in the middle of a hill.

A couple of on-route "warming-up obstacles" were then set on the way: nets to crawl under and big haystacks to jump over. Ponds and swamps crossings became more and more frequent. Then some variations: wall in the middle of a pond, nets just before a pond (Rachel got her neck trapped in a net whilst sliding down a muddy slope towards a pond), fires in between the ponds (Fiery Holes)... Most of these ponds were actually more like holes full of muddy water, of unknown depth and which "banks" were really muddy and slippery after several thousands guys went up and down them. Because of our position at the rear of the pack, we had to wait up to 10 minutes before each obstacle most of the time. When you're totally wet, it becomes annoying. I'm not sure to what extend the surfing tops were helping with the cold.

Cargo nets ascents such as the Tiger and High Leopard, the Behemoth, the Sky Walk or the Brandenberg Wall were quite fun. Most of the time you had 2 or 3 options: a 45° kind of large wooden ladder (old and infirm), a steep cargo net (mere mortal), or a steep cargo net followed by a vertical one (elite route). Climbing skills helping, the hardest route was usually chosen. Gloves were really helping: against stones when crawling and against rope burns on the nets, but also against cold: neoprene is quite good even when wet. Bandage tape soon fell off.

Everything was a bit exaggerated on the paper: 4 meters Colditz Wall was probably no more than 3m. The electric wires were obviously far from being able to stun a cow (I think they were even less powerful than regular cow field electric fences). Anyway, the insurance sport class for Tough Guy is level 2 out of 4 only!

The Vietcong Tunnels, with a turn at the very end to make them completely dark were quite fun.

The descent from the Paradise Climb is based on a two-ropes crossing: top rope for hands, bottom one for feet. The tough choice is to use only the top rope: ankles crossed first, hands follow. But for some reason, I chose the so-called easy way, using both ropes. Unfortunately, two guys in front of me were completely unstable and were swaying with the ropes left and right all the time whilst trying to keep upright. I kept some safety distance. The first fell in the water. Then the second. I made my way down a bit quicker, but then a guy behind me started to sway as well. That was too much and my feet lost the rope. I then use the tough method, but in a reverse way: hands first. This is actually much easier, as you're not subject to the ropes sway. I was too cold to realise that the ropes burnt my ankles quite badly.

tough guy: rope burn

Then came the feared Water Tunnel. It went actually much easier than expected. It didn't do it the tough way, though: I did it four dips like most of people, instead of one.

A guy with a Borat swim suit was running it, he even lost his shoes in the mud and finished bare foot!

Unfortunately, Rachel got a mild hypothermia a bit after that, just before the Death Plunge. She was shivering so much that she couldn't move and talk properly. I decided to drop out with her to make sure she was fine. I don't think I missed much of it, tough (about 7 obstacles). But I'm not a Tough Guy. After all the nets, ropes, tunnels and underwater stuff, most of its essence was done I suppose.

On the whole is was great fun: I've always liked to jump in the mud and climb trees, but there are not many opportunities to do so in adult life without being considered as insane (and even there you are: see article link below). It would have been better with more running in between the obstacles to warm-up a bit and/or less waiting time before the obstacles. I guess Rachel would have been fine without all the waiting. It was no so physically demanding I think, although doing it faster and jump wall after wall may be intense. All my congratulations to Doug who finished it.

The horse showers at the end are quite something: a square of 20 by 20 cold showers in a barn with everyone full of mud.

You can have an overview of how it looks like on this video and also on this one. I'm actually in the latter :) . Let me know if you can find me.

I've put together the route on Google Earth, with pictures from the website on most obstacles. If you zoom in, you can see the ponds, the slalom route and some of the bigger obstacles. You may want to un-select "Obstacles" to see more details on the terrain.

tough guy map

Ultra muddy.

Friday, January 25 2008

Last ToughGuy training

Today we went for our last Tough Guy training in the park. Hopefully things will go well on Sunday. My main concern is still the underwater tunnel, as the water will be quite cold. But the weather looks fairly good, touch wood, with about 10°C during the day, so that should be fine.

Ultra not knowing why I'm doing that.

Tuesday, October 16 2007

Swim in the Serpentine

As part of our Tough Guy training, we swam about 50m in the Serpentine in Hyde Park yesterday.

Ultra refreshing ...

Monday, October 1 2007

Run in the Thames

This week-end I went out for a gentle 20km run along the Thames, to "chill out" after lots of climbing and Tough Guy training last week. It was going on well until Miss Tamesis decided to make it harder. Indeed, on my way back the tide was higher than I ever seen, and rising.

Some people were quickly moving their parked cars away from a small road on the bank in Mortlake. So far I managed to avoid the water, but then came the first passage where I had no choice but to put my feet in the water. I hesitated 10 seconds, if only I knew what was coming next... Some parts of the way to Barnes Bridge were well underwater, sometimes I had water up to the belt. The water was as high as the tables of the pub on the bank.
There were sections of several hundred meters with water above the knees, sometimes with no trees nor fences between the "path" and the actual river bed. A strange, mildly thrilling but enjoyable feeling to run in a powerful river. You'd better know how wide is the path, because the edge is usually steep...
Passed Barnes, the water was not that high (up to the knees), but there were several kilometres of flooded path in a row, up to Hammersmith. Unexpected Tough Guy training!

Ultra tidal Thames.

Monday, September 24 2007

Tough Guy training !

We've been talking about it for ever, we eventually made it. We trained for Tough Guy today !

tough guy training

This picture was taken on the way back. Clearly, the training wasn't tough enough for Dave ...

Ultra back on circuit training.

Thursday, April 26 2007

Registered for Tough Guy (c)

I eventually signed up for Tough Guy (c) (*), "Year of the Bended Arm", to be held next January. As a member of Team Stench, I'll raise money for Cancer Research.

In a nutshell Tough Guy (c) is a tough assault course to be undertaken in winter (the summer event, Nettle Warrior, is for wimps ;) ). It starts by a long, although not explicitely defined cross-country run up and down the hills, followed by cargo nets, jumps over walls, tunnels, bogs, ropes crossings, crawling uder barbed wires in the mud, etc. But my two favourites are the jump over straw on fire and the underwater tunnel, which may be rather cold in winter ...

Ultra tough.

(*) Yes, they really insist on the copyright.
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