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Tough Guy 2015

Tough Guy

Photo credit: quantumlars / flickr

My multiple and frequent mid-life crises normally manifest themselves as car purchases – maybe like the last supercharged V8 purchase. This time, it’s a run with some relatives. How card could it be? After all I ran a marathon once and did a variety of kickboxing and boxing training in the last decade.

How did I train for Tough Guy 2015?

I retired from kickboxing about 18 months ago as I had been training after neglecting so many injuries that I was like the Black Knight – fighting with mangled limbs at best, bloody stumps at worst. Not that I was kicking so hard I snapped my own leg like Anderson Silva, I just have shoulder issues and hip issues. After that I went to physiotherapists for many months. I did lots of exercises, but had to lay off any serious training. I had long since given up running, and gradually I descended into a world of cake and apathy. A far cry from the six-pack I almost thought I might have had once.

So about 3 months ago, I started running again. I did the couch to 10k in 2 months – you know – any random training plan from the internet where you start at pizza and end up at 10k. I did it, and realized that I was running before I could even stand – having spent too long driving and writing sat down at a desk, my posture was so horrible that I wasn’t even strong enough in the right places to stand up. Let alone walk. Or run. So after developing crippling shin splints, I then followed this with a 10k to couch for a month. I stopped running, instead researching all the ridiculous methods suggested by Dr. Internet for halting the pain in my shin whenever I started to run. I bought new shoes, stopped running altogether, and went back to the physio.

Now instead of running 10k in mud, up hills, and doing cross training, I was back to the abs classes at the local gym frequented by the over 65 year olds. I was humbled by their strength and a little despondent. Three  weeks ago I started another couch to 10k program that involves mostly walking. But then I realized that I couldn’t get to the target of 15k if I didn’t skip some weeks, so I fast forwarded a bit.

I also ate lots of cake, crisps and bars of Dairy Milk.

After reading some race reports, it looks like a pretty brutal experience. That people train hard for. Experienced, healthy people. I did a race in November with my brother – the Wolf Run and found it chilly but not cold, dirty and fun. I remember being surprised as I was halfway around the 10k mud course, and saying out loud, “I think I’m enjoying this.” The only obstacle I couldn’t hack was the monkey bars – my hands weren’t too slippy – the rings were covered in mud and I wasn’t strong enough to keep my hand gripped around the muddy metal.

Things that I have done a bit of:

  • ending a shower with cold water – I can’t face a cold shower yet.
  • being outside in the English winter – wearing less when I do run outside
  • read about hypothermia
  • wake up in a cold sweat worrying about it
  • worrying about what to wear

Things I have done none of:

  • running around carrying a giant crucifix. Yes, 100 people do this on the day.
  • jumping in icy lakes

What are my excuses?

Like a Formula 1 driver, I want to have my excuses ready. Mine are that my hips are still weak, my shoulder is still impinged, and I’m generally 25% bodyfat unfit. It’s not like I didn’t know the event was in February 2015, and indeed I have known this for some time. I think I’ve been plagued by injury that has stopped me training hard. Also, having just moved back to the UK from the land of the Hershey process (a cheap process that makes foul tasting chocolate) and having been inundated with Mr. Kipling and his sultry wench Madame Cadbury, I have been eating my weight in sugar and fat on a weekly basis.

So as usual, I’m avoiding the sense of “train hard, fight easy.”

What to wear at Tough Guy?

I’ve read all sorts of reports. Less is more. More is more. Cold is bad.

The fundamental principles I’m following are that anything that can stop scratches, heat loss and provide protection are good and anything heavy or soggy is bad. This is my current gear plan:

  • Hat. probably a cheap wooly hat. Maybe a swim cap in my pocket.
  • Trail running shoes – the ones I train in. Not the Enduro 1000000 Mud Splayers that everyone rants about, just ones that are a good fit for my terrible running style of over pronation
  • Runners tights – anything to stop the abrasion and ones that will dry quickly
  • glove-socks – ones that stop the toes chafing and dry fast
  • gloves – I’m torn between wetsuit gloves and cycle gloves
  • Compression calf socks
  • shorts to hide my junk and to keep the bottom abrasion down
  • A compression under garment
  • Either a wetsuit vest or a running top – depending on what I can find

What is the Tough Guy race like?

It looks physically challenging – for me running 15k over muddy hills would be difficult enough with today’s level of fitness – I can run for maybe 7 minutes without reverting to a walk in my current slowly, slowly, catchy no injury plan.

So there’s that. It’s also mind-blowingly cold. The water you wade through is covered in ice. Sharp, heavy, mud covered ice that slices at your limbs. And of course, you have to completely submerse yourself in the water, not just chest deep but completely over your head deep. So the ice slices at your face too.

The challenge then isn’t just physical fitness and to become stubborn enough to finish. It’s about keeping moving fast enough that you don’t succumb to hypothermia. A very real danger.

So why do it?

Because it’s there. It may be some attempt at defining masculinity. It might be about bonding with my future brother-in-law and my brother. It might be about learning more about myself and getting out of the cocoon of comfort in which I typically reside. Twenty years ago I was riding a motorbike across the Sahara. Ten years ago I was trying to climb mountains. Five years ago, after my first child was born, I was running a marathon – the adventure you can do without leaving the country. Now my challenges are necessarily shorter and more intense.

My fears are that I’m going to grow more decrepit as I age, that I’ll never recover the use of my left hip and right shoulder. I plan on challenging those fears.

Statistically there’s a fair chance I’ll fail as a first timer at Tough Guy. It’s good to fail.

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