After Emma finished her GCSEs, last year, she decided to make use of the long holiday and raise some money for charity. So Emma and I went ahead and did the National Three Peaks Challenge, with my brother Simon in support. This year was Ceri’s turn to finish her GCSEs and she, too, was determined to use that vacation time to raise some money. But she wanted to do something different, something unique, something that would really challenge her. Which is how I found myself doing the Tough Mudder with a teenager.

The reason that Ceri, as Emma before her, was so keen to do this fundraising was to give something back. For more than five years, now, I’ve been undergoing treatment for bowel (colon) cancer. This treatment tends to come in waves, but when I am being treated, it’s at the Beacon Centre at Musgrove Park Hospital, And, as the Beacon Centre is supported by the charity, Somerset Unit for Radiotherapy (SURE), it’s for SURE that Ceri wants to raise money. To say thank you. For keeping me going.

Oh, and I had to do it with her…!

Which is fine, because I wanted to express my gratitude as well. I think I always will.

Just not, necessarily, by doing a Tough Mudder. There were plenty of good reasons for this, which I’ve explained in a previous post. None of these reasons, however, were more important than helping Ceri achieve something that was really important for her.

So the decision was made…

Unfortunately, said decision was only made about four months before the event. And neither of us was any where near ready for it.

It looked like we needed some support. And who better to call than Super-Uncle Simon…

Thankfully, Simon was on board.

This was particularly helpful because, while Ceri and I would struggle to do enough training to properly prepare for the event, Simon is always fit enough to just walk right in. But, for me and Ceri, it was time to start training…

First I had to sign up for the event.

During her research, Ceri had discovered that the Tough Mudder South West event was being held during the weekend of 17th/18th August, at Badminton House. This was Ideal, as it was only about an hour away from us. The Sunday tickets were cheaper, so we went for those. They were also on a discount, but they still cost £65 each. And there was more expense to come…

When all this was decided, back in April, we had four solid months to get out and train hard. To come up with a perfect training schedule, each, that would allow us to breeze over the course… Of course, we didn’t actually do any of that…

Ceri, to be fair, had the small matter of her GCSEs to contend with. Not just sitting the exams, but all the revision necessary to get the results she was after. I, on the other hand, was unwilling to start running until my weight had dropped to a level that I felt my knees could cope with.

As such, the vast majority of my early training was on my bike, in preparation for the cycle tour that I’d be doing with my dad, through France, in September. Useful for stamina, but it doesn’t naturally translate to running. (There will be a post on how we got on in France at the end of September.)

We both did hit the gym, though.

A bit!

For a while…

I mean, it’s not like there was anything arduous in the Tough Mudder for a teenager to prepare for…!

As such, neither of us got to the stage where we could do a single body weight pull up. I could do loads, with resistance bands, but I seriously doubted that was going to help. Ah, well; it’d be fine… We were doing it in the middle of August, it’s not like the water was going to be that cold.

By the time that the Tough Mudder rolled around, my teenager could run for around three miles, without stopping. Her middle-aged dad could manage around four. The course, however, was about 10 miles in length. There were, though, 25 obstacles scattered throughout these 10 miles, which would surely break the running up. And we were bound to be able to get our breath back in the queues for the obstacles, right?

Fun fact about the Tough Mudder. It’s heavily based on the Tough Guy event. And this is the clever bit; Tough Mudder took all of the good bits of Tough Guy and kept them the same. But it took all of the bad parts of Tough Guy and improved upon them enormously. Staggered start times of around 125 people, setting off every 15 minutes, for example. Allows you to get huge numbers of Mudders around the course, with far less congestion.

Yeah, what I’m getting at is; there were very seldom any queues at the obstacles. So, if you’re tempted by a Tough Mudder with your teenager, my advice is; train to be able to run at least 6 miles.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In the run up to the event, there were plenty of emails keeping you up to date with what to expect. But you don’t get your start time until a week beforehand. This may well be to prompt people to pay for the option of pre-selecting a time. But maybe I’m just being cynical. Maybe…

We didn’t pre-select a time and got allotted 1:30pm. This was ideal because getting a teenager out of bed before 10am is always tricky, even if it is for the Tough Mudder event that she chose! A 1:30pm start time meant we didn’t need to leave the house until 11am. Job’s a good ‘un.

One of the later emails included a registration confirmation and a QR code to keep on your phone, or print out. Because I’d used my email address for all three of the Lewis’, I decided to print them all out, to make life easier. The notes said that any additional items I purchased, like parking, spectator tickets or bag drop tickets, would automatically be linked to my QR code. I thought that this was an extremely efficient way of doing things.

So, I decided to look into buying some of those things, with limited success.

Parking was easy enough. There were two options: normal parking for £10, or; priority parking for £20. I figured that we’d want the car to be as close as possible, come the end, and forked out the extra tenner for priority parking. The bag drop was a no go, because I could only get one ticket under my name. That didn’t matter, though, because I could pay in cash on the day. And it was only £3 each, with the money going to the Help for Heroes charity.

Spectator tickets, on the other hand, I simply could not find. I spent ages looking and a Google search indicated that I wasn’t alone. You see, the tickets were £10 each, if you bought them in advance, and £20 each if you bought them on the day. It looked like I’d have to pay out another extra tenner, because there simply wasn’t a way to get them on line. And I wanted two spectator tickets. I was less than amused.

As it turned out, it all worked out in the end.

Because Emma was only 17, she didn’t have to pay for a spectator ticket. So I did only have to pay £20 for the two spectators, but only because only one of them needed a ticket. This was fine for us, but for groups with all adult spectators, this is even more money to spend, on an already very expensive day.

But back to the morning of the event, and the decision about clothing choices. The weather looked warm and overcast. Just about perfect, really; not too hot and not too cold. No need for sun cream and no worries about hypothermia.

But we would be in and out of the water a lot, and one of the water obstacles was called, ‘Arctic Enema’! So I decided to wear a rash vest under my teeshirt and figured that would be enough. Ceri decided against her rash vest and wore a couple of extra layers of wicking sports vests. I opted for shorts and knee supports (and my GoPro). Ceri went for leggings. And Simon? Simon went a different way…

I had no clue he was wearing this, until I picked him up on the way. Pure class.

After we parked, and before we were allowed in, we needed to buy the spectator tickets. The organisation was amazing. There were loads of volunteer helpers, who were genuinely helpful. We all got our wrist bands, identifying what we were doing there. Ceri, Simon and I got a second wrist band showing our start time.

And then we were in.

And the ‘Village’ was also fantastically well organised. There was a large area of portaloos, just inside the entrance. Next to that was the bag drop. Leading on from there was the main area, with things to entertain spectators and plenty of food and drink options for you to spend some more money.

And everything was very expensive!

At the far end was a rinsing and changing area, for after the event. And, running alongside the whole area, were the last few obstacles and the finish line. The spectators had ringside seats for some of the most entertaining obstacles. This included the ‘Electroshock Therapy’ obstacle, where, yes, the competitors get zapped with what felt like an electric fence for livestock. A genuine jolt!

We spent a few minutes watching people getting jolted off their feet. Okay, it was more like the jolt froze them for a second, but that second was enough for their momentum to make them fall over. Whatever! Just know that it’s damn funny to watch… unless, perhaps, if you’re a teenager staring down the business end of a Tough Mudder. Too late for doubts now, Ceri…

And then it was time to find the start. And, situated by the start, were some volunteers, waiting to apply war paint to our faces. So, when in Rome…

Funnily enough, this face paint was free. As was the photo taken earlier, by a guy asking for our Instagram Handle; like we were going to be able to remember that! The photo was still printed out, though. And it was still free. In fact, there were a number of other free things on offer from the various sponsors:

  • A protein drink before the start (awful)
  • Lucozade (and water) at the first drinks station
  • Bananas and Lucozade at the second drinks station
  • Flapjack and Lucozade at the third drinks station
  • A Snickers Protein bar and a bottle of Lucozade at the end
  • There was also a can of beer available at the end, but I wasn’t interested, so I don’t know what it was

It’s odd how many free things there were, dotted around a venue that was so expertly designed to separate you from as much of your money as humanly possible…

But, anyway, back to the start.

There were actually three events taking place. There was the Classic, over 10 miles, which we were doing. Then, there was the 5K, over 13 obstacles, who would start with us and then split off. Finally, there was the ‘Lidl Mudder’, for 5-12 year olds, run over a one mile course… There were Mudders everywhere!

After the 1:15pm group had left, we were able to check in to the starting area. In this area, there was a warm up team waiting. Working from a microphone, the guy bantered with the Mudders and hyped us up nicely. He got us to do some exercises and then made us take a knee for the pledge:

The best thing about the Tough Mudder was the emphasis on working together.

It was amazingly well done. The Tough Mudder is a seriously well put together event. I might not like how it got where it is, but it really is very good at it.

And then we were off. Julie and Emma had set off a few minutes before, so we could arrive at the first obstacle together. Here they were able to get the first of many really good photos and videos of us doing a Tough Mudder with a teenager.

After the first obstacle, we Mudders had a three mile loop to run, so Julie and Emma headed back for a pulled pork bun in the village. Three miles later the course met back up with the spectator route, and Julie and Emma were waiting for us. Presumably stuffed to the gills…!

After that point, though, the spectator route ran parallel to the course for a good couple of miles. This meant that Julie and Emma spent quite a long time running beside us, as we moved from obstacle to obstacle. They didn’t look thrilled by this, but they coped really well. And got some more great photos in the process.

Having Julie and Emma there to spectate and support was a really nice touch. It was more than just the photos, it was the opportunity to stop for a chat and share the experience, as it was happening. It meant that we all felt part of the event. A real shared moment.

But, between obstacles 14 and 24, a distance of about four miles, the spectators couldn’t follow. Julie and Emma consoled themselves with an ice cream before rejoining us for the last mile, or so. I think it’s fair to say that the spectators got their money’s worth.

And as for we three Tough Mudders; it was fantastic.

What an adventure…

This is what my Garmin watch had to say on the matter.

12 miles and nearly four hours!

Given that Ceri hadn’t trained beyond three miles of running, and about an hour of continuous exercise, she did amazingly well. To be fair, in the past, she’s done hikes that have lasted twice this, so she knew she had the staying power. But I’m still very proud of what she accomplished.

So, let’s take a look at that, and break out the photos…

Ceri really went for it, from the first obstacle:

12 foot wall.
Seriously, I loved the emphasis on everyone helping each other. It made the whole day.

To the last:

Okay, I accept that’s not Ceri; but there’s no way I was leaving this photo of John J. Brobro out.
To be fair, though, those things genuinely hurt…

But, let’s face it, this is the Tough Mudder…

Let’s bring on some mud!

Muddy enough for ya?!

What else do we have?

Oooo, what about this:

Ceri looking incredibly composed after clambering out of the Arctic Enema tank.
I can assure you, that water was cold!

But, no, I hear what you’re saying: that’s just not muddy enough.

Hmmmm, okay then:

They made us do ‘Mud-Angels’!

It was an incredibly enjoyable day. Very well staffed and marshaled. There were even event photographers scattered around the course. The photos they took were made available online, for free. alongside there, there were packages you could buy. But when you found the photos of you, they were yours to download.

And you can’t say fairer than that.

On the flip side, I was disappointed that there wasn’t a memento at the end. A keepsake for all the years to come. We all got a tee shirt and a sweat band, but those are just product placement for the event. And tee shirts get old and thrown away. Already, I have no idea where my sweat band is! I really wanted us all to get a medal, and I can’t help being disappointed that we didn’t. I’ve still got the medals from events I did 30 years ago, and they all bring back the memories of when I got them.

If this is something that changes in the future, I might well be tempted to do another Tough Mudder, with or without a teenager.

But, for this Tough Mudder with a teenager; this is what we looked like at the end:

After 12 miles and nearly 4 hours, and with mud in places we didn’t know existed, we made it.

From here, we collected our bags and made our way to the rinse and changing area. And it really was, ‘rinse’. There were lines of garden hoses strung up at head height. You stripped down as far as you liked and then found a hose and started rinsing. The water was, of course, not heated. That said, it was warmer than a lot of the obstacles and didn’t feel too bad. And it was definitely nice to feel even a little bit clean.

After the rinse, there were male and female changing tents to allow you to change all of your clothes. Because you needed to! I’d provided us all with bin bags for the clothes we wore around the course. I made it quite clear that everything was to go in the bin bag. We were in my car, after all…

After we were clean(ish) we figured we’d earned some food. But the prices and queues meant that we wouldn’t be eating at the event. Fortunately, I knew a nice, cosy motorway service station, on the way home…

Not that this decision takes away from the overall experience of the event. We had a whale of a time. Honestly, it was so much better than I was expecting. In fact, it was so much better than it had any right to be… How could we all be so buzzing after spending 4 hours running and crawling through mud?!

But we were.

And I know I’m bound to say this, being her dad and all, but Ceri was brilliant. This type of thing is so far outside her comfort zone, you wouldn’t believe it. But that’s why she chose it. She wanted it to be a challenge. She wanted to set herself something that was worth sponsoring. And she did.

On which note, if you wish to sponsor Ceri, and donate to the SURE charity, you can do so here:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PaulLewis64

Any donation you can manage would mean so much.

And, so ended the adventure. For my part, I can wholeheartedly recommend doing a Tough Mudder with your teenager. But, if you’re going to, I seriously recommend taking along a brother/uncle; they make the whole experience even better.

Thanks Simon.