December. Sounds cold already.
Mud Sweat and Beers last Sunday actually inspired me to dig out one of my favourite childhood films, Disney’s Iron Will (1994). It’s the story of Will Stoneman, as he decides to join a cross country dogsled race to save his family’s farm with the $10,000 reward money. This race will require days of racing for long hours, through harsh weather and terrain (see where I’m going with this?… bare with…). There’s also a lot of shots of Will looking extremely cold. Like, really really cold. That’s how I felt at MSB last Sunday. To demonstrate, here are some screengrabs from the film.
Ah, it’s bringing it all back.
Will’s dad (SPOILER ALERT) also meets a grissly end early on in the film – drowning in a semi frozen lake. I also could relate to this. Here are some more screengrabs.
Wow. That could pretty much be me last Sunday. If I was a man.
Anyway… back to the actual race rather than the obscure places my brain went to when completing this cold, cold course.
We were running again with James’ Dad’s club, Energise Mud Runners. Hooray!
Encouraged by Harry, I was also running for time. The times from the top 5 runners from each team were put forward to decide the winning team. And Energise were going for the win!
A nice touch on the day was the photo booth inside, allowing teams/individuals to take photos (for free!). Another nice thing was the fact that the registration and changing area at MSB was INSIDE – as the course was on a golf course, we were allowed to use the golf club’s toilets/showers etc. Glorious, glorious warmth. It was also a bit hilarious seeing the golf club staff putting down more and more plastic sheeting to cover the carpets, as if the mud was a slight surprise. And we hadn’t even started yet!
There were some delays in registration, but that was kind of ok, as we got to wait inside. We were called to the start line, slightly behind schedule, to start the race. The warm up was good, and certainly required, as it was very, very cold. Fortunately, there wasn’t much waiting around outside before we were off! The briefing was slightly inaudible… there was something about a few lakes.. one or two.. or 5…or did I hear 8? Surely 8 will be across 2 laps… SURELY.
Here I am looking a bit squiffy in the background.
The beginning of the course was a pleasant run for about 1/1.5k, with a few wooden structures to climb over, but I knew the lakes were looming. Read pretty much any other blog post to see that I’m not the best at water. Or cold. Mmm.. why am I here again?
Then we hit the first water crossing. And wow. It really did take your breath away. Having had a little panic at the Spartan Beast during the lake swim, I knew now what to expect a bit better, and how to tackle it. Slow and steady – keep moving, keep breathing. With the cold, it really does feel like you’re not breathing, with the only reassurance being the sound of my very heavy breath. At one point during one of the swims, I chose to not even look where I was going, just keep moving forward until I hit the other side. At one point during a swim, it actually started to HAIL. It was grim. I haven’t got any photos of me during the lake swims, but fortunately I have Iron Will to demonstrate. Yeah… it was something quite a lot like this…
In the absence of any photos of me – here’s James getting into one of the water sections. Clearly loving it.
Somewhere between 5-8 lake swims later, and we had a tunnel to crawl through (lovely) and a muddy incline to conquer. All fine, it’s not a lake! The hill was quite a challenge, it was very muddy and brought most people down to trudge-speed. All the ‘main’ obstacles were clustered together at the end of the route. Firstly, a collection of large boulders, which we had to clamber over. They were very slippy and my Mudclaw’s didn’t feel too secure on them. I went for the sea-lion approach – sliding up and over on my belly. May not have been the most effective.
Here I am racing away from the boulders.
Then game a wooden wall thingy, which judging my this photo, I seem to have taken the sloth approach. Again, not too effective. The curved wooden lip at the top though made it pretty tough, offering not a lot to grip onto.
A metal A-frame… Slowly over – not trusting my grip.
Then we had a sloped wall with a rope – similar to Spartan, but steeper I think. And with the cold really infiltrating every bone in my body, my hands just weren’t gripping the rope well at all. With some help and encouragement from a marhsall and a couple of runners, I made it over, just.
Then monkey bars. YES MONKEY BARS. Given my new found skills thanks to Urban Attack a few weekends ago, I was excited to smash them. One of the marshalls ‘encouraged’ me.. “just see how you do love, just give me a couple”… “a couple?! Mate, i’ll do them all!”….. 1 bar….2 bars….3….oh wait, hands have actually stopped working. And I fell. Determined to prove myself, I tried again. Fell again. Hands just simply weren’t gripping. Damn, really should have thought about gloves.
A tunnel crawl next and then onto LAP TWO. LAP TWO. Had to do it all again… the lakes, the mud, the hill, the lakes, the LAKES.
This is probably the only time I’ve ever seriously considered quitting a run. I was freezing, and seriously wondering how easy it is to get hyperthermia. And I couldn’t feel my fingers. The couple of fingers that I’ve broken in the past were completely dead.
Without much hesitation though (if I hesitated, I’d stop), I turned the corner onto lap 2. Onto the large wooden A-frame.
Being a bit scared of heights, this had worried me after seeing it posted on Facebook. However, I was too cold to care, and fortunately, unlike the similar obstacle at Nuclear Fallout (where I lost my footing, leading to a slight increase in heart-rate!) it hadn’t got very muddy yet, so was easy to hold onto. Again, the wooden circular lips made it tricky to get onto the bottom, but fortunately a couple of chaps were there to help again.
The next long run section gave me a chance to warm up, but I knew the lakes were looming. It was a while before I saw another runner, or marshall, which made me feel like even more of a loon, swimming through lakes in December… no one around! I later read that they’d had a shortage of marshalls, which is a bit worrying, as there was little or no water safety crew either, but I won’t dwell on that.
I felt like I ran the second lap quite fast (in fact it was slower than my first). I was SO keen to finish. Those warm showers on offer were drawing me home. I didn’t really know how fast I was going – when I started the run I was running for time, by the time I finished, I was happy and proud just to have finished the 2 laps, without cutting any trails/skipping obstacles like some runners had (but I won’t dwell on that!).
When I finally finished, I carried on running to the golf club, eager to get warm. Getting changed in a warm changing room, and running my hands and feet in hot water, was glorious. I piled on the layers (tshirts, 2 hoodies, big coat, hat, scarf) and went to find everyone else. Then I started shivering, and I didn’t stop for about an hour – absolute comedy shakes, sending my coffee everywhere. I was also blue, apparently. So, so cold.
I probably found MSB the toughest run I’ve done. December + lakes really does take no prisoners. It really was an achievement just to show up and finish…. but… we won! Energise Mud Runners took the team prize, coming first. I was third place in our team, which I was chuffed with, as it meant I helped to bring home the gold!
(Not a full team photo… a lot had gone home to properly thaw out by the time the results were announced).
When the results were posted later, I also found out that I’m come 4th place female, and 30th overall. Which I was extremely chuffed with. The amount of DNF was quite considerable, and fair enough really! A good job well done by everyone who just showed up on a cold December day to run through lakes!
Also, you can buy Iron Will for a mere £4.40 on amazon! I’d recommend it. Kevin Spacey is in it too, and gives the performance of his career*.