As most of you know, I was embarking on ‘Irelands toughest 10K challenge’ aptly named, ‘Hell & Back’ at the start of this month. Well, I can happily report that it was a fantastic experience, very enjoyable and I found it, well, quite easy. Here is a snippet of what was going through my mind as I completed the course:
The triumphant sounds of ‘Chariots of Fire’ echo through my mind... tears stream down my face... Muffled sounds of crowds cheering squeeze through the loud thudding of the pulse in my ears. I glance up and see the finish line. Hoards of people jump up and down in slow motion as I blur past them, faster and faster to the finish... I raise my arms and roar in exhilaration as I break the finishing tape... Camera’s flash as I brush away the beads of sweat on my forehead.
Um... NOT! Har har har.
I do apologise for my bluntness and slight rambling in this post, but I’m afraid it is well deserved and required...
‘Hell & Back, Trojan’, the second one (I feel it necessary to highlight that it was the second one as I imagine the course was TRASHED the previous week and that they didn’t have half the muddy conditions that we had.) Anyway, here we go:
Ah, shur give it a go, they said. It will be fun, they said...
Dear sweet holy mother of jeAAAsus... WHAT sadistic pack of feckers came up with this course? I mean, 15 blood curdling obstacles strategically positioned over the 10K trek. I entered this race as 1 in a team of 4 named ‘The Mud Slingers’. What an amusingly appropriate name we chose. In the interest of rambling off wild tangents, I will use my own point of view and use bullet points so you can get the ‘flow’ of the race;
· ‘THE POND’. A great big giant pond or lake... depending on how small you are (Q- Father Ted quote: “Now, this one is small... and this one is Far away”). What better way to start a race than plunging oneself into freezing cold, muddy & grainy water. Granted, if you were strategic and at the front of the pack, you could probably have managed to skirt around the edge without getting TOO wet. I, however, was stuck in the middle of the pack wading up to my belly button. Nice. Very nice.
· ‘HURDLES OF HELL’. In fairness, I quite enjoyed these. Several obstacles to overcome over around a 2km stretch. I’d have done much better if I had a horse here, but alas, I had to haul my own ass over and under these glorious wooden creations. Great piles of hay bales to tackle too, great fun and a great way to get stretching and warmed up for the coming tasks.
· ‘FOREST MUD TRAIL’. This too, wasn’t too offensive. Mud trail it certainly was- oh, and the cruel teaser pictures nailed to trees... Ice creams and frothy pints of Guinness... Yeah, thanks for that you evil, evil temptresses... Perfect timing for those thoughts.
· ‘LITTLE SUGAR LOAFS ROCKY ROAD’. Though you gain height up the forest mud trail, the steepness really kicks in here & calves started to burn. They had a ‘fast lane’ here which was nice. Nothing worse than struggling to keep your lungs inside your body & hearing someone speeding behind you & no way for them to overtake.
· ‘DESCENT TO DOOM’. This was a lovely run downhill for a while. Fab views while making a bit of headway, that is until the mud. LADS! Holy crap, the mud! The horror! I pretty much spent most of the way down on my derier. Afew nice whiplash landings too. You know, those slips where both feet go skyward and you land almost on your neck while still looking at your feet & the sky? Yeah? Nice. In saying that, this is where the atmosphere and camaraderie of people really shone. Though it was a race, everyone was helping everyone. The overall noise was made up of mudsplats, laughter, and ‘Are you alright? Would you like a hand?’.
· ‘AVALANCHE OF MUD’. Not really too sure where this started as most of the descent was an avalanche of mud- but I assume it was somewhere near the ‘crawl, carry, drag’ obstacle. For this one, I have three words. Oh.My.GOD. This is where I lost most of my energy. The first task, ‘Crawl’ was simply, get down on your hands & knees- & crawl up hill, under the netting, and back down to the next task. This KILLED me- and I SO wasn’t expecting it to. By the time I got to the bottom, I was just about ready to pack it all in, but I persevered on. The ‘Carry’ task was to carry a sandbag up and down the hill (one step forward, slide two steps back- thank you, Mud) and the last was to ‘Drag’ (I carried, everyone did as far as I saw) a cavity block a certain distance. I was an exhausted mud-yeti at this point so on rounding the corner towards the next challenge, was thrilled to see two far too clean young lads handing out bottles of water. I grabbed and chugged the whole bottle (to my detriment, as my partner informed me, seconds later. I wondered why.)
· ‘SATANS PIT’. Ready to puke after running the distance to this challenge on a full tummy of water (thanks for the heads up, hubbie), we entered Satan’s pit. This was great craic. Smoke bombs, Tyre pits, Water crossings, Rope & wall climbs all accompanied by Special Forces type dudes roaring encouraging (um, yeah... suuure) words to drive you on. I did enjoy this section, even if I was dragged through by the hand. LOL.
· ‘THE QUARRY’. This was a pleasant dip and plunge to cool off- it wasn’t too challenging, afew up’s, over and unders, but it was good fun.
· ‘TUDOR WOODS’. To be honest, I don’t really remember this bit. I was either traumatised beyond my brain function, or brain frozen from the quarry, but nope, not one little fleeting memory of this- sorry!
· ‘THE SWAMP’. Holy Shmoley, this was both fantastic and disgusting. There was a bit of a queue here, so clever clogs here decides to take an alternate route. BAD IDEA! I won’t dwell too long here, but let’s just say; black black mud up to chest. Suction stuck. 4 people struggling to anti-suction me out. No dignity left. Weight of elephant on extraction. ZERO energy remaining. Cameras flashing. Clean people giggling. Oh, did I mention? - This is one of the spectator areas. Lovely juvley.
· ‘THE RIVER’. Three delicious river crossings. Up to my chest again in freezing cold water, but it was rinsing off the thick thick thick thick mud, so I couldn’t complain. No dignity reinforced by inability to climb ashore. Many helpful boosts welcomed, even if they were strangers hands on ass. Hell, I helpfully boosted a few asses myself. At this stage, I was quite ready to curl up into a ball and whimper for my Mammy, but my hubbie firmly grasped my hand and told me I still had 7 minutes to make it, so I mustered everything I had and tried to jog, preparing to see the finish line around the corner.
· ‘BARBED WIRE CRAWL’. Shock. Horror. Stomach churned. Heart dropped. There, looming in front of us, were three lengths of the barbed wire crawl. The whole length, full of competitors, silently squirming their way through the thick muck. (Maybe they weren’t silent and I was just stunned to deafness)... this was also a spectator’s area- cameras flashing etc. This was no crawling matter. This was full on, belly sliding, barbed wire catching, hair knotting, knee bruising, elbow cutting, tear jerking, last ounce of energy sapping bugger of an obstacle. I think just about everyone felt the pain on this one.
· ‘SHOCK OF HORRORS’. One thing I HATE is static shocks, electric shocks, anything shocky really. I am one of those lucky people that seem to generate static and get zapped by touching just about anything in public, so this was the one obstacle that I was really dreading. I tentatively entered the mass of electric wires, trying to avoid as much as I could when I happily discovered that I was either, a) too caked in muck to transmit the current or b) by some stroke of luck, it was broken. JUST as I got a bit cocky, somewhere around the centre... ZAP! ZAP, ZAP, ZAP!!! Nothing like a bit of electricity to get a girl moving, I tell ya!
· ‘THE WALL’. Just what you might think it could be. A bloody big wall too. There are no definite heights here... it was supposed to be 7.5 ft, but it felt like 14 and I’ve read reports of 10ft in some newspapers since, so jury’s out on this one. There was NO WAY I was getting over this one alone. Utterly exhausted, I bent over to catch my breath only to find myself being used as a step up by the oncoming crowd. No rest for the wicked here, lads! So, after generously donating my aching body as a step, I submitted myself to be launched over the wall by my (still energetic?!?) hubbie and a few other helpful strangers. Like a sack of spuds, I hit the, by then solid mass of mud and hay pile on the other side. As I murmured something about being as graceful as a swan, my saviour hubbie appeared, grabbed my hand & dragged me to the next obstacle.
· FINAL FRONTIER’. After a mountain of hay bales conquered, the final bit is best described as ‘The Brain Freeze’, this was two skips full of freezing cold water. This was ALMOST a welcome rinse off before the finish. I did say almost! And to add insult to injury, there was a panel in the centre of each skip, meaning that you had to navigate your way UNDER the icy (and by now, very very muddy) waters. This did make for some excellent photographs for the spectators. There is one that I just have to share with you here (pic courtesy of Eamonn Quinn). I think his expression just about sums it all up- what do you think? LOL
So, as it turns out, I actually did complete the course within the time frame! It appears that darling husband lied through his teeth about how little time we had left as a motivational move. Wasn’t that nice of him? (Grrrrrrr)
All in all, it was a great day. A long day- given that we had to drive up from Cork that morning and then back down after. This really didn’t help with the seizing up of muscles and joints either... LOL. Ah well. We know for next time... IF there will be a next time.
They are taking registrations for ‘Hell & Back, Apollo’ already! So what do you think after reading the above? Are you ready to sign up? J www.hellandback.ie
Before you do, this is what you might look like at 2hrs 5mins & 56 seconds, JUST at the finish line... (That’s me... over there... the exhausted mud monster who looks like she's going in the wrong direction. LOL) Pic thanks to Hell & Back evil organisers. ;)
Maybe next time I would be better off on the spectator side with my camera. At least now I could empathise with the competitors! LOL.
Go team Mud Slingers! (before & after)
(I have to say a huge thank you to very nice stranger, Rachel Whelan, who took this photo of us & emailed it to me. We really appreciated it!)
And this official Hell & Back video pretty much reinforces all of the above! LOL- Enjoy!