Mac Tuff 2018

Post date: Jan 22, 2018 1:29:09 PM

By Stewart Ireland

Sometimes when you say obstacle course race to someone they think jumping over walls. Sometimes people think getting muddy. Sometimes it's even getting electrocuted that someone's thoughts turn too. All obstacle races include some of these elements.

However they aren't about these things. Too me obstacle course races are a way of challenging yourself; your all round fitness, as well as getting so far out your comfort zone. Also to me it is a logically expansion to running.

Now I know it isn't the same as a 10k or half marathon but the element everyone seems to forget in a conversation about OCRs is the running. You climb a wall, and then run, you carry a 20kg sandbag a mile while trying to run, you then run, tow a car, then run, run through mud. You get what I'm saying. You do run and because you're doing all these things between running its challenging. Therefore I do view OCRs as running events. Just with other bits you them. Thus I'm, bleatingly writing this report.

I signed up for this event in July. Just before leaving to go travelling. Once we arrived in phuketfit I made training for it my priority. We trained hard while we were there and continued it once we got home. As December worn on and it got colder and a lot of food was being eaten the prospect of this event began to excite me. I hadn't really trained for an event this hard since Stirling marathon and although I was happy with how I did there I thought I may be in with a chance to place at Mac Tuff.

Race day, January 7th 2018. Ice and snow on the ground but sun in the sky. Not that it provided any heat. At its hottest, it was 2°C. I had 2 thermal layers on, leggings, t shirt and two pairs of gloves to try and keep my warmth. I wasn't when the most wrapped up 500 others had seen the forecast and got the thermals out. All apart from one man who decided going topless was the way forward. Well each to there own. At least I wasn't going to be the daftest one there. I warmed up and then waited at the start line for a maybe a bit to long and began to cool down in days, lack of, heat.

Fireworks and flares started the race, maybe in an attempt to warm everyone up and we were away. I had managed to get myself close to the front of the throng and was feeling comfortable at the pace being set. Running on gravel, tarmac and grass, we made our way to the first obstacle. An American football team, intent on knocking us over. I dodged my way around them, picking up a few places as others got knocked down. Then settled into the run. About half a mile later we changed from tarmac to gravel underfoot. I thought nothing of it and carried on, forgetting the conditions and the ice. My ankle suffered because of my lapse. Going over it.

Less than a mile into the race I had to stop and walk. I was devastated! I was running well. I was with the race leaders, feeling comfy and BANG. I could hardly walk on it initially. Forget running. I knew I wouldn't be able to do as well as I wanted or hoped and seriously considered pulling out.

I took some time and then tried to walk and then when that seemed ok run. I couldn't go as fast or as comfortably but I could run so I carried on.

Some ditches came and went, a few walls then a mile sandbag carry. Through a stream. I think this is where I stopped feeling the ankle. Maybe I'd run the pain off but, more likely the stream was so cold it numbed everything from the ankle down. After that I felt pretty good again. I completed the carry, climbed a few more things. Towed a car, ran some more. Then came the muddy bit. Obstacles of tyres, designed to make you crawl through mud. Tubes half filled with water. Great fun. Running through the mud was challenging. It was the gluppy sort that sucks your foot back the more you try and raise it. Once I was eventually through this there were monkey bars, ramps and then the biggest running portion of the day. It was, in essence off road hill repeats. I could feel the ache in my ankle but not pain anymore so I gave it a bash. Something from the running club stuck. After about 2 miles of hill repeats I was beginning to see sombre of the race leaders ahead.

Buoyed by this tried to keep the pace up as we ran through several forest fire breaks. That was amazing before coming out to jump the dragons back. This involved jumping from the top of one box to another with a metal bar to climb over between the tops. A cinder block carry followed before going to MacTuffs feature obstacle. A plunge from 3 metres into the icy water of a disused quarry. And when I say icy, I mean they had to literally break the ice earlier in the day.

After 7.5 miles of mud, climbing, clambering and despite the discomfort in my ankle I was feeling good. As soon as I jumped into that water no strength remained in me. I was a shivering wreck. As was everyone else. However it wasn't done. Still 1km left before you could get all the freezing damp clothes off. I don't honestly remember much about that kilometer. Other than it was hilly. I remember the last thing to do was a rope climb. Which was impossible in soaking gloves but it was equally impossible to get them off. Eventually though I managed it and the last 300m was a nice run in. Loads of support over the line.

I finished the race and I was happy. I didn't know how I placed and didn’t really care. Which surprised me considering that I am fairly competitive and expected myself to do well. I think I was just happy to finish a race I seriously thought about pulling out of. I felt proud of that, overcoming that self doubt and challenging myself to go out of my comfort zone more than I expected. Which as I said earlier is what I find to be what these sorts of races are all about.

Once I had heated up, which took forever, and come home I discovered I had actually finished 18th overall and 9th in my age category. Enough to go to the European obstacle course championships. If I can get the time off. Which I am thrilled about. So much so that I have entered into MacTuff 2019 and will encourage anyone else to do who is seeking a challenge, and something to keep the Christmas fat at bay.