RichardM, Spans, FatBuddha, Armadillo and Niki
Many thanks to Petal and Cedric for the photos
It was a cold, dark, rainy and windy night somewhere north of Wolverhampton.
In the early hours of the morning of January 32nd (in the Tough Guy calendar), little stirred the slumbers of the combatants, asleep in the bunkhouse.
"Okay, fess up. Who was that?"
"Not me," said Multi, quickly pulling the covers back.
"Always the same after curry and beer," said someone else.
"Someone open a window!" comes another voice.
Gentle noises are heard from the girls' room.
"Oh for goodness sake, someone stop that bloody snoring!"
...and so on throughout the night.
Sunday, January 32nd dawns clear. The rain has gone and the wind (in every sense) has abated. The URWFRC forumites make their way to a hearty breakfast wondering what they are doing here. Our glorious leader, RichardM, and four-time Tough Guyer, had been giving much insight into what this is all about during the curry and beerfest the night before, but doubts were still there. You could see, nay smell, the fear... or was that the curry again?
Which forumites are doing it? Well there’s RichardM (and three very fit friends, Stevo, Bass and Emmie), Fat Buddha, Multi, Gavo, Spans, Armadillo, The Count, Niki, Snoop, Tiger, Dutchie, Barbara (+ nephew), Tostaky and Cougie ably supported by Petal, Just Jj (and hubbie Steve), Cedric (Tostaky’s injured partner) and joined by Velociraptor and The Juicer for the curry.
The Warrior Uprising
To the uninitiated, Tough Guy is no ordinary race. In fact it is like no race you have ever done. Marathon runners, sprinters, ultra-runners, elite triathletes, plodders, you ain’t done diddly squat until you’ve done Tough Guy. There is nothing that can prepare you for this, but to ensure that:
a) you are physically fit to do an eight-mile jaunt in the countryside.
b) you are completely and utterly barking mad.
Now in its 16th year, Tough Guy is a charity event that raises money for the Mr Mouse Farm for Unfortunates. Charitable work is undertaken, looking after hundreds of retired horses and wildlife habitats. Disadvantaged children and those who are slow of mind and action attend as volunteers to assist in the care of the animals.
And Tough Guy is recognised everywhere as one of the gnarliest and daftest adventure challenges around, getting international press and TV coverage.
We hear you saying – what’s so tough about an eight-mile cross country run?
The answer - Everything, and more.
The event starts with a cross-country run that has a few little "differences" to others. First off, there are 'The Banks'... where there are trees, shrubs, brambles and hills in the way – and 3000 fools trying to get through. Then you find yourself out into the country for a fairly standard run across fields and tracks until you hit the Slalom – up and down a wooded hillside eight times – which is so steep that most of the ups and most of the downs can only be done walking – even for the elite front runners. Then it's through more woods, grab some water, and head back to the start.
Hey, that wasn’t so bad we hear you say. True – that wasn’t so bad. But just you wait.
You go across a track to be greeted by crowds of spectators and suddenly reality kicks in. The last six miles or so has just been a warm up to the main event, the Killing Fields.
For anyone that hasn’t been through Commando, or similar training, nothing you will ever do in your life can prepare you for this. It's madness. You’ve read about it, seen the photos, but nothing really prepares you for an obstacle course that has come from the darkest recesses of someone’s warped mind. Otherwise known as Mr Mouse.
Korea Hell Hill with Niki
First off comes the Tiger – two 30ft tall wooden arches you must climb up and over using either the cargo nets or widely spaced beams – neither route is easy and the danger of falling off is high, as Barbara and Tostaky both prove, landing in the safety net. The route continues as follows:
- a sequence of three wooden walls to clamber over, each getting progressively higher.
Cougie comes out of the tyres
The Behemoth – Four big walls separated by 20ft single rope bridges which get slacker with more competitors!
Fiery Holes – Burning bales of hay to jump over and then into water pits which get deeper with each one and are COLD! And wet. The Count tries to launch a huge jump into one of the water traps... but on take off his foot slips and he goes head first in about 2 inches from the bank... much to the amusement of those around him.
The Tyre Crawl – Cylinders made of old tyres to crawl through – and straight into a muddy pond on the far side. Armadillo grabs some of Jj’s cup of tea to warm herself up. The Count after surviving his ducking hears a voice (Jj) "Gary.. Gary…." through the tunnel of tyres as he’s "heading towards the light". He was expecting the next comment to be "go back, it's not your time yet!".
The Swamp – By now you’ve had enough mud for a day, but this is the start of the deep, sticky, gloopy stuff. Fat Buddha and Gavo have to haul Niki out as she gets stuck solid.
Vietcong Tunnels – A series of concrete tunnels to crawl through that also go uphill – murder on the knees. And they are dark. And wet.
The Paradise Climb – a set of high cargo nets, finished off with a choice – fall off the cargo nets and into a pond, or slide down the rope. Either way you’re going to get wet!
And what’s this? A drinking water station? Sod that – we need brandy by now, but there's fat chance of getting any.
Through the Splosh Pool – the word 'gloop' was invented for this deep, sticky, stinking pond. Niki does a full frontal into it. (Excellent style marks, girl).
And down to the piece de resistance – The Water Tunnel. By now, you are as wet and muddy as you think you can be, but you have yet to experience full immersion in winter cold water. This is the one that truly takes the breath away and gives lads high-pitched voices. It starts by jumping into a chest deep river (chest-deep for average persons – head deep for Niki!).
Duck under two wooden beams on top of the water which is just a 'warmer-upper' for the main part. This consists of four 18in timber beams laid across the water with a small gap between each beam. By now you are so cold, but there’s no escape, as you have to duck under the water, below the beams, surface, grab air, repeat twice more and then carry on wading for 20 metres or so until you're out of the river.
Jeez! Can you get any colder? You bet! You could shiver for your country by now and marshals implore you to get moving before you die!
A couple of hundred metres slippery run helps to get the circulation back with Fat Buddha doing a passable impression of Whacky Races – his legs are turning over like the clappers, but he ain’t moving as his feet keep slipping.
Then comes the Big Wall – the Korea Hell Hill. A 12ft high wall made of hay bales with ropes to clamber up – except these ropes are wet, muddy and slippery, so it’s difficult to hang on to them. There’s much heaving and shoving at the bottom with people helping each other get to the top. Fat Buddha does a sneaky one and uses the baling twine buried in the bales to climb up, and helps to pull Niki and Spans up too. Gavo has also been a sneaky one here. He’s been down below pushing on their backsides!
More muddy ponds and onto the Jesus Bridge – a series of barrels tied together with wooden slats. Thery're very rickety, very slippery, and if you fall off, guess what? Yep, you’re back in deep water! Niki slips but manages to survive with only one leg in the water.
Yet more mud and muck, and onto Dan’s Deceiver – another cargo net climb but with a twist – its got a sod of a drop on the other side. At this point Niki decides to call it a day. She is feeling sick, her face has gone white and after all the cold water she is showing the first signs of hypothermia. The marshals escort her to the St John's crew, who look after her until we catch up after the race.
Then it's on to the Dragon Pool where you're faced with three choices – a deep water 30-metre wade; slide down a rope; or try a rope walk across. It doesn’t really make a lot of difference as by this time the ropes are so slack that you will fall into the water anyway. Hell, do you care about getting wet by now?
Those who try the ropes fall off as expected. Multi remembers this obstacle as he barges past others to get onto the platform – this is where he pulled out the previous year with hypothermia – and he’s not going to fail now. With a slide and a swim, he’s out and running and grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
Then the Bailey Bridge (a shorter version of the Jesus Bridge) and into Stalag Escape. This is great fun if you enjoy crawling in mud under barbed wire – raise your head or rear and you will get shredded! And the mud has gravel below which is just fine for taking the skin off the knees. And the crowds are hovering over you imploring you on. Lovely.
The Tyre Torture is next. It's about 400m of track with tyres embedded into it so you have to pick your way through it. And guess what? It’s muddy as well. Then comes the Anaconda – a series of five five-foot concrete tunnels laid across the track, so you have to find some way get over them. Too high to vault, too muddy to climb, so the best way is to leap onto your belly on top, spin the legs around and drop-off.
Fat Buddha (4544)
You're then faced with yet more running and the end is now in sight. But there’s a sting in the tail - two hills which for the later runners are very, very muddy and slippery - one has ropes to help you get to the top. Over the second hill and then a final run in across the line. Fat Buddha, Spans and Gavo, having stayed together throughout the Killing Fields
, run across the line together with arms spread hollering "BANZAI" and complete the race in a time of 3 hours 16 minutes.
The winning time was 1hr 10mins. Yep, that's right, 70 minutes. Phew, superb. Fast times are achieved by strong athletes who start at the front, run on their own, don’t end up in bottle-necks at obstacles, or stay in teams.
So how did we all do?
Top forumite is RichardM (as expected) in 1:23 and placed 54th. But even Rich is beaten by his buddy Stevo who gets a 1:18 and 21st, with their other friend Emmie (an elite triathlete) coming in 6th female, at 1:38:36 – just 26 seconds behind Dutchie. Some great times!
Other notable results are The Count with 2hrs (never knew he could go so quick!); Cougie with 2:21; Multi in 2:24 (and a finisher this year having succumbed to hypothermia in 2003); Armadillio with 2:42 and first female forumite from our group home.
After the finish comes a worthwhile medal – a proper horse brass – an obligatory hot drink and thermal blanket. You’re so cold however, that half the drink spills with shaking - it’s like a convention of Parkinson sufferers. And ooh the joys of a luxurious hot bath and shower – but that will have to wait until home-time. What you get is a cold muddy bath which most avoid and warm, dribbly overhead showers to do your best to get the mud off.
Tostaky (female) looking cold
Mixed showers as well but do people care? Do they hell! Multi is doing the event again just to see all those g-strings!
We all dress warmly, meet for a cuppa, collect Niki, who by this stage is fine and dandy again, head off for a couple of beers and then drive home basking in the glory of having completed Tough Guy.
And a correction is in order. Nobody, but nobody, tames Tough Guy – you just do your best to finish however you can.
By now you’re probably asking – would you do it again? For most, there’s only one answer - YOU BET - and entries are being winged-off pronto. Yes it’s tough, yes it’s cold, yes it’s wet, yes it’s muddy, but it’s one of the best few hours of physical fun you can have on two legs!
Bring On Tough Guy 2005!
Two bare-chested apaches in laddish interchange mode, during the second set of slaloms
Guys doing it in Extreme Ironing garb – boards strapped to their back carrying their irons. Mad!
Two guys in the Stalag Escape – "just think, I could be down the pub now, having a beer and watching the footie"..."it was going down the pub that got me into this shit in the first place"
And poor Jj – stood at the tyre tunnel encouraging us all on. Very nice clean jacket until Spans slapped muddy hands on the front. (If you want to spectate at Tough Guy – go prepared to get and muddy as well).
And in case anyone is wondering – "3 DICKS AND AN IRON MAIDEN"?
Well, at the Saturday night curry it so happened that RichardM, Fat Buddha and Snoop were by coincidence sat together – all are called Richard in real life.
And the Iron Maiden is thanks to Spans’ mother. When Spans told her she was doing Tough Guy she couldn’t remember exactly what Spans was doing and said to her sister, "Anna’s off to see Iron Maiden". So surreal that we should name the URWFRC 2005 trip "The Iron Maiden" in her honour.
And if you want more info on Tough Guy - go to Tough Guy.co.uk
Entry forms for the next Winter event on January 30, 2005 can be downloaded from the site – the earlier your entry goes in, the cheaper it is.