It’s Monday morning. A couple of hours ago I was lying in bed deadly still. I looked at every Facebook post, every tweet and every email, just trying to put off the inevitable.
Eventually I realised I had to do it - I had to move.
It’s a feeling I’m fairly used to - being unable to stand up without I lot of help from my upper body and struggling to bend my knees past 170 degree - but this morning I was definitely a little sorer than average. I can’t blame anyone but myself though; what did I expect after signing up to an event called “Pain and Suffering”?
Before I tell the story, here's the video of my experience:
They say that forewarned is forearmed and, to be honest, I’m very pleased I checked the Mudstacle forum on Saturday evening. A few of the lads had run the “5km” and “10km” versions of the race, which sounded like it had actually been 8.5km and 13.5km of hell, so I was fully prepared for the 10 mile event to be more like 12 (or 20km in my language). It turns out I wasn’t far off.
After catching up with a great crowd of familiar faces, we crossed the start line and went straight into a series of obstacles - jumping over tractor tyres and crawling under netting. After that, we ran around a large loop of a fairly flat, grassy field. In my mind I formed an idea about what the rest of the course would be like - a fairly civilised romp around well-tended terrain. Somehow, I’d completely forgotten about how much I’d been “forewarned” and soon found myself “disarmed”.
After a few more obstacles (including monkey bars and more nets), things got a little more rugged. Lovely grassland soon turned into uneven, muddy and slippery gullies through woodland. Flat field become steep muddy banks. It was like stepping through a portal from a wonderful fluffy world filled with bunny rabbits to a dark evil dimension filled with demons. Those demons took the shape of “Reapers”.
To the unsuspecting eye, the Reapers looked just like marshals. You know - the people who normally clap and cheer you on and help to safely guide you through the challenges you face. Reapers however are there to make life a darn site more uncomfortable. Most of the time they would tell you to drop and give you push ups, sometimes 10 and sometimes 20. Over the course of the race I couldn't tell you how many I did, but it was definitely a few hundred. Plus there were a few sit ups, squats and star jumps thrown in for good measure.
Regular readers will know that I’m a little uncertain about how well “exercises” sit within an obstacle race, particularly a competitive one (where it’s open to variations in form and relies on the ability and willingness to count properly) but I have to hold my hands up and say that I thought it was brilliant at this event. It just got to be a bit of a joke, when at several points during the race we were put through hell and then told to do press ups in a muddy river or sit-ups in a puddle beneath a cargo net. It's safe to say, we properly got a beasting and I loved it!
Have I mentioned hills yet? Maybe it’s because the memory is still too tender. It’s the reason why I’m currently sprawled out on the couch gasping for a cup of coffee but I’m, once again, putting off moving for as long as I possibly can. It turns out that the terrain around Rockingham Castle is fairly hilly and sending us on a natural path around it wasn’t good enough for the organisers. These guys were on a mission to put us through hell so, at several points, we slalomed up and down the worst hills that were at their disposal. Not because they were lacking space, not because they were lacking hills, just because they’re sadistic.
On a couple of the slaloms there were Reapers at the top instructing us to do push-ups and sit-ups. After climbing one of the hills maybe eight times, a Reaper encouraged me up my last assent by screaming “If you run, you get to do star jumps. If you walk, you have to do burpees”. I had nothing left but I swung my arms around and moved my legs just about quick enough to pass for a run and be awards star jumps - which are the easiest exercise in the world, right? Not this time. Not with my legs feeling the way they were. Putting enough spring into my legs to make both of them leave the ground at the same time was a darn site harder than you’d think!
One of the highlights or lowlights of the course (depending on which way you look at it) was a jerry can carry that seemed to go on for an eternity. This thing was darn heavy, I’m guessing it must have held around 25 litres of water, and was an awkwardly slippery load when everything was caked in mud. Carrying it up steep hills and under netting was tough, but not tough enough for the Reapers! At one point I nodded and said hi to a little kid who was watching me struggle. In response he nonchalantly said “5 pushups”. What!? He was like five years old! Maybe if he was two years older I’d have told him to f%$£ off… but I thought it best that I mind my tongue 🙂 He was only the beginning of my worries though, I ended up doing many, many, many press-ups over the course of that carrying circuit.
I think this course was mostly about terrain and exercises but there were some really nice obstacles thrown in, particularly towards the end. There were a bunch of straight and overhanging walls around 7-8 feet high, as well as some box walls that had no lip on the top, which made the challenge 10 times harder. There were also loads of natural-ish log barriers and horse jumps that were perfect for clambering over and fairly challenging with tired legs.
There’s so much more to say about the course, but I think it’s best if you go and try it for yourself. Overall I really enjoyed it. It's great value and has a good mix of terrain, obstacles and strength challenges. These guys went all-out to give us a beasting and actually making their bite as bad as their bark. It is a very challenging event and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly but I find it’s those events that you get the most out of once your legs have loosened off and your scars have healed. It’s still a relatively young event and will no doubt be learning a little as they go, for example there were some obstacles too close to the start that stopped the flow and caused congestion (like the monkey bars) and there maybe weren’t enough water stations, but I’m fairly sure that these guys have what it takes to cement this as one of the UK’s great obstacle races.
On a competitive / Mudstacle League note, the front of the field was dominated by the Obstacle Kit Race Team and RPCC Elite, with Adam Cracknell and Laura Dudley taking first places - an amazing result for both of them, well done! We'll update you with the rest of the results later in the week when we update the Mudstacle League table. Stay tuned.
Here's our scores on the doors:
Length = published 10 miles, actually 12 miles
Hills = 4/5
Mud = 3/5
Water = 2/5
Obst freq = 3/5
Obst size = 2/5
Course Markings = 4/5
Village = 4/5
Toughness = 4/5
Price (1 low / 5 high) = 2/5
Goodies = Tec T-shirt, medal and protein shake samples.
Find out more about The Suffering and Pain & Suffering here: www.thesufferingrace.co.uk