Tuesday

| 2014 | 04 | 29 | Tough Mudder |

This was fun. 100%, genuine, mud-filled fun.


Though, again I'm getting dramatic, I probably conquered more of my fears during that course than I ever have in my life.

We finished in just over 3 hours and crossed the line with huge grins, downing our pints of ginger beer with more speed than we'd sprinted through the electric wires. 

My fitness
This week, I had been ill. I had spent a lot of it in bed and felt generally under the weather. I have some recurring 'problems' that occasionally and unfairly rear their ugly little heads and it causes me all kinds of distress.

It was the day before that I really felt a culmination of everything and had genuine doubts about participating - until my teammates arrived and gave me no choice.

However, I was honestly in my best ever shape. My muscles are beginning to feel like muscles, it's hard to describe, but I'm starting to see the progress more and more. I can now run 10 miles without too many problems, 10km is a past struggle that makes me a little proud when I think of how far I have come. Exercise isn't killing me like it used to, and inactivity drives me up the wall because I want to be doing.

I've incorporated more weights into my programme and I will get the better of that bloody pull up bar. Just you wait. 

The day before
We spent the day eating large quantities of food and avoiding excessive activity. You know how it is.

I'd actually woken up stupidly early in anticipation of a final jog that never happened - so that was good, but I had a pounding headache and could barely stand.

Then adrenalin kicked in.

My boys had arrived and we were going to smash the course into tiny pieces. 

That morning
Ross, my previous companion through many a race, had made the drive from Ely - setting off at around 6 o'clock and arrived fifteen minutes before we had to leave. I had managed to lose essential pieces of kit, and was pulling my hair out but he calmed us all down and we were on our merry way in no time.



The race
So. Tough Mudder. A self proclaimed hard core obstacle race designed to challenge the toughest of the tough, was my fourth race. It has an unusual reputation in the obstacle race world - but I wanted to get my own take on things. We parked in a field and were ushered towards the start area, given a number, wristbands and told to head towards the holding pen twenty minutes before our wave.



I love pre-race hype. It gets your blood pumping and stops the fear completely seeping in - Tough Mudder was essentially composed of all my fears and weaknesses in one twelve mile course, and I was eager to overcome them all. It does sound stupid come to think of it, but I get very nervous around water and tight spaces...

The small wall before the start line was no problem - my boys just picked me up and threw me over, stopping only to pick me up out of the mud on the other side. The opening few miles consisted of hills, hills and more hills through an uneven woodland terrain, forcing us to jump hay bales, crawl under barbed wire and negotiated slick mud (being warned of 2500ft of climb across the course and actually doing it are two very different things). I managed to kick my teammate Lee square in the eye crawling under something so he gets the title of first injury. Though he had a broken hand pre-race, I guess that counts too.

We rounded a particularly steep downhill corner and my heart dropped. It was the only obstacle I had truly been dreading. Tough Guy earlier in the year had left me with an uneasy feeling about cold water, so the idea of a skip filled with ice wasn't entirely appetising. Arctic Enema doesn't sound like much, it's arguably the shortest obstacle on the course, but the immediate shock and muscle paralysis is what makes it so terrifying. Ducking under a row of tyres doesn't help either. Physical freezing is inevitable - mental is optional - so the best thing you can do is just man up and get on with it. We spent a few minutes afterwards just gawping in shock; unable to breath, speak or think until the wonderful endorphins kicked in.


Then this.


Still in shock, the next mile of running seemed to pass in a daze, we flew over the 'Glory Blades' with few problems - 2.5 metre high walls that are leaning towards you - and chugged along happily until 'Just the Tip' - scaling a wall using just your fingertips was quite the challenge. Lee informed us at this point he felt his injured limb may actually cause a few problems. The sun had started to shine and the pace of the pack really began to drop - hills are HARD - but everyone just got stuck in and pushed it out.

Each obstacle on this course has a reputation. 'Boa Constrictor' is so called because of its tight spaces and awkward angles. You crawl downhill in a tight tube, with barely enough room to fit, squeeze out into freezing water before getting back into another one for the ascent. I did not like that one bit, and I'm hardly big so I don't know how some people made it through. Ugh.


There were a couple of carrying obstacles - but the ones I struggle with involve the climbing. 'Balls to the Wall' (a 14ft rope climb) got the better of me and I was massively pissed off. It was within grabbing distance but I couldn't grip the rope, courtesy of all the mud (excuses I know). 'Walk the plank' is more mental than physical - throwing yourself from upwards of 12 feet into a body of water takes some guts. The sense of camaraderie between participants is incredible and you genuinely feel like part of the group. A quick shout out to the two men who gave me a forceful leg up over a high set of walls - I had no time to register that I was moving onwards and over!





One of the things the organisers nailed was the refreshments. Every two miles they provided us with a water stop and some protein snacks. This honestly made it so much more pleasant than slogging it for three hours solidly, we're there to test ourselves physically, but you're allowed to enjoy it!





If water and tight spaces aren't your thing (like me) then attempting 'Cage Crawl' is as close to living hell as you will get. You have to swim on your back with inches of breathing space between you and wire mesh - I for one had to contain genuine, debilitating fear. With ears under the water you can't hear a thing and lose track of how far you are into the 20m distance. It's all very surreal.

Conquering 'Everest' is near impossible. I didn't. Toby didn't. Ross didn't. Lee did. That's him in the photo below being hauled up. Don't underestimate this bad boy.


However. The last obstacle was definitely my favourite. 'Electroshock therapy' gets all the attention due to the ridiculousness of it all. The boys pushed me first and I barely had time to register the stings and shocks on my body before my legs were doing the talking - running towards the finish. I heard Lee scream - it turns out he'd been shocked on his tongue. I can't even. Who does that?


And then, we were released. The tingles running through our muscles made us walk like we had something seriously wrong, but we cruised through to the line.


I was so proud of us.

People think we're crazy for getting up at the crack of dawn, layering up in lycra and carefully selected footwear before sliding, crawling and falling around a course in the middle of nowhere - but I wouldn't have it any other way. The best thing about this race was the sheer thrill factor, a perfect combination of fear, fun and madness. The hills provided the greatest physical challenge, slick mud adding to the already difficult terrain. By the finish line you're soaked, muddy, sore and slightly bemused but that pint was the best one of my life. 

What we learnt
Well. 

Electricity hurts.

Hills hurt.

Water is wet.

Mud is heavy.


And that mud is tougher than all of us.

All in all I want to do another Tough Mudder in the future - mainly because I want to upgrade my headband and complete the obstacles that got the better of me.

I now have 5 more this year. Or is it 6? 

Friday

| 2014 | 04 | 25 | the simnel saga |

I am a secret love of the Great British Bake off. If you have read some of my older posts you'll notice I do enjoy every once in a while to indulge in a cake or too. However, I have one recipe that every year never ceases to get the better of me. 

Simnel Cake.

You can imagine my joy then, when I saw that Mary Berry covered that very seasonal treat on one of her shows, and I was so excited to follow her step by step guide. 

Oh May. Every other thing we've had going has been great - I've watched all her shows, I've read most of her books and I even have a small picture of her in my bedroom - but despite all that, even she couldn't guide me through. I tried to bake her traditional Simnel cake, and was moments away from ending our relatoinship forever. Oh Berry, you tease. 


Trust Mary and Paul to add stress to my life. They promised a simple step by step method to making this Easter treat. Sadly, even when following this guide (alongside the video) step 1 proved far too challenging. 

look at them just standing there, having a bake

I literally could not line my tin and my laptop almost ended up in the oven. It took a good cup of tea and a biscuit before I felt ready to continue, and even then the task was arduous. That mixer she so daintily flaunts, well I wish I had one, because trust me, beating in four eggs separately after my weights session yesterday was a workout in itself. 

By the time I was measuring out sultanas, that cake and I were really on poor terms. Thankfully I got to leave it in the oven for over two hours and by the time that buzzer went off I was past caring.

My dad says it's tasty though. So thanks Mary. I guess.
If you are more capable than I, I strongly recommend giving it a go. Obviously it's a bit late this year. So this post in itself isn't particularly helpful.

Sorry?

A little part of me gets quiet satisfaction through having all my ingredients nicely prepared. That way, there's minimal mess and no chance you've forgotten something!


I can't remember who told me to do this, but when adding the eggs one by one if you put a bit of the flour in first the mixture doesn't curdle and you end up with a much better cake batter. 


This mixture is one of the heaviest I have made. The combination of the fruit pushes it well into the dense category.


What these photos don't show is the stress level. By this point I was shouting at all the things. 


 So. Marzipan is not my forte. But you get the idea. 


My dad ate more than a quarter in his first sitting. His capacity to consume fruit cake is worrying. 

he had tucked in before i could snap the shot.



Sunday

| 2014 | 04 | 13 | week 15 |









I didn't realise I had missed the last two weeks. This makes the OCD side of me very sad.

This weekend was awesome!

My friends are all finally getting back from uni and things are occurring.

Friday night was long and arduous, an ambush by my parents culminating in a 3 hour symphonic performance by my sister and some kind of BBC orchestra or something. I still don't know. I just sat down in the audience to be presented with the news 'there will be no dancing'. Ah man.
It was actually pretty good - I'm not very good at sitting still, got the giggles and then fell asleep - but that's fairly standard.



On the sunday I then got up early and hit the gym. Was fun fun. I'm now approaching the highest intensity week of my training plan (I think) before the wind down til the race. 2 WEEKS PEOPLE.

This week I am thankful for:
music. all things old and new. I was heading for a 90's phase but segway-ed (ROLL WITH IT) into some drum 'n' bass. as you do.
my hairdresser. saved the day post bleachathon. My poor hair was the consistency of straw - but now it's smooth and fresh.
awkward greetings, getting lost and a good read.
we got a huge box of old photographs down from the attic earlier in the week and spent an entire day laughing at my jumper collection (I was beyond fashionable).
finally deciding on my dissertation topic. it's not cheeky at all.


The lust list:

These trail trainers . Well that's just the beginning really.
new perfume.
someone to tidy up after me