So it's the morning after the race before and I can still vividly remember the agony in my legs as I clambered uphill through the treacherous muddy terrain, the burning of my lungs as I charged through every obstacle and the complete shock my body went into when I was submerged in freezing cold water! With all this is mind, I am overjoyed to announce that I have completed the Hell and Back Trojan 10km obstacle course that took place in Kilruddery estate, Co.Wicklow on the 27th of January, 2013. It was definitely the most rewarding form of torture I've ever endured! You only do something like this if you're a seething masochist who derives some sort of sick pleasure from being constantly ass and face deep in mud. Something which I apparently seem to enjoy. What the hell makes someone want to voluntarily do such a thing I hear you ask? Well, it's simple; apart from the whole masochism thing, it's a challenge. It's exciting and new, something to truly test the depths of your mental and physical limits. But most importantly of all, it's exhilarating and fun! The atmosphere surrounding the whole event was electric and the camaraderie was unrivalled! It was organized, managed and executed to perfection with helpful and friendly staff always at the ready. I recommend this event to anyone and everyone of all ages and fitness ranges!
When you're doing a race like this time really isn't all that important, something which I didn't understand until I did it. Unless you have been trained by the marines and regularly throw yourself into freezing cold water all the while rolling around in mud covered in barbed wire, then it's not something you can really train for. Running helps, running helps a lot but the terrain is soft marshy ground, something which not a lot of people are used to running on so it makes running twice as hard. You might be able to run 2 marathons back to back and then cycle a tour de france, but nothing will really prepare you for this race! It is a huge accomplishment in itself to complete it, let alone make a decent time! The race is a challenge and it's meant to be fun so there's not much point in worrying about how quickly you do it in.
The Hell and Back 2013 Course
The first thing to note about the course is that the first 5km is uphill! I didn't even really notice until someone pointed it out to me at the end of the race. It creeps really slowly uphill from the start until the top of the Sugar Loaf!
1. The Pond
This is the first obstacle you are going to meet! Just jump in, it's all or nothing! It is FREEZING. All the water that you go into throughout the course is about 2 degrees... just think about that a moment! You will run/walk/wade through this for only about 10 seconds and the water is only up to your knees! This is possibly the most ruthless placing of an obstacle because you are immediately wet and because the water is so cold your legs instantly turn numb and you can't feel your feet. It feels like you are running with two giant cement blocks on your feet!
- Keep to the edge of the water
- Make sure to wear light socks and runners, the heavier the socks and the runners are the more water they will absorb, making it harder to run.
2. Hurdles of Hell
- Take'er easy! Run at a slow pace, it will pay off dividends in the last few km.
3. Forest Mud Trail
I found this very tough! It's all sloping uphill and it's very muddy and rocky. The best thing that I did was to not stop running, I just took it good and slow and ran up it good and steady! It isn't too long and soon you'll be hitting a much steeper hill and realize what you were running up was just an introduction to a whole new realm of pain.
- Try not to walk if you can, run slow and steady.
- Watch where you run, it's very rocky.
4. Little Sugar Loaf's Rocky Road
Now some may disagree with me but I didn't find this too bad. First of all, I stopped running cos it was just far too steep so I enjoyed just walking quickly and trying to get my breath back. Secondly, there's usually a lot of people trying to get up at the same time and the path up is very narrow so it can only really be ascended in single file. I like climbing so I enjoyed this, it doesn't take too long, maybe 10-15 minutes! The view from the top is beautiful so make sure to take a moment to appreciate it, it'll keep your mind off the pain too!
- Appreciate nature, damnit!
5. Decent to Doom
If you don't like going downhill, you're gonna have a bad time! The decent to doom is very steep as the name suggests, it's not so bad at the beginning, you can run a fair bit, the fear of god will be in you cos you will constantly think you're one step away from face planting but just try and run as carefully as you can. This is a good time to make up the time you spent walking up the hill, if you did that! I legged it down this as fast as I could! Nearing the bottom it was just all mud, thick and sticky and constantly descending. Just throw yourself into it, the best thing about mud is if you fall it doesn't really hurt! You'll just be slippin' and slidin' like a mad bastard!
6. Avalanche of Mud
I definitely was not happy to see this obstacle! I thought wahey no more hills and seeing this loom in the distance was as welcoming as a good hard bitch slap to the face! You gotta run up and down a really steep 100m hill three times! To get to the top of the first hill you have to climb under a net the whole way, which means you have to crouch the whole way up! The second hill you run up and down again and on the third hill you have to take a shaggin sand bag with you! I just threw it across my shoulders, I found it pretty heavy! Then at the bottom of the third hill you have to carry a cement block down and back around! I actually ran with this, no idea how! My back is in absolute bits today cos of it! I think this is maybe the only thing I found a bit unfair about the course, women would find carrying things like that very hard! But it is absolute spot on torture! You really gotta dig deep into your head to get through this one! The one good thing about it though is that it's the 6km marker after it's done and you get some water! There was some young chaps giving out the water here and you have to go down a small slippy hill to get it and they shouted at me to fall and for the first time in the entire course I fell! The little bastards!
7. Satan's Pit
After running down a few hundred metres of much appreciated flat ground you hit Satan's pit! There's a guy here shouting hilarious hardcore encouragement! There's a pit of tyres, and yes you will fall on your face so just accept your fate! Then there's an almost impenetrable 8 and half foot wall! Took me a few goes to throw my leg over the top! Then there's two trenches lovingly filled with freezing water that you get to clamber in and out of! Then there's two mounds of giant logs to throw yourself over! For such a compact obstacle they surely fitted a whole lot of pain in one small space!
8. The Quarry
I'll be honest, I have absolutely no recollection of this! Maybe post-traumatic stress has kicked in and wiped my memory or it wasn't too bad in comparison to everything else! I think there's a good bit of water and trenches but nothing to worry about!
9. Tudor Woods
There's a nice run to Tudor Woods, I sprinted pretty much the whole way! It was myself and another guy who were going at the same speed all the way there and we were in a secret race to the death, I won. He died. There was a lot of muck around here so running fast got pretty treacherous! The woods are very pretty and there's a few tyres and stuff you gotta go through but nothing too bad!
10. The Swamp
The swamp isn't necessarily hard to go through, it's more of a mindfuck. No one ever wants to be stuck waist-deep in mud, it's literally the stuff nightmares are made of! Once you get over the initial 'holy fuck I need to launch myself into this pit of death' then it's pretty grand! There's a lot of branches and stuff to hold on to! What I did was actually think about where I wanted to go, I aimed for as many branches as possible and stayed around the edge. There was a fella who jumped on the log I was on, sent me flying to the right so he could throw himself into the middle and when he did he couldn't get out. That was satisfying! Try to be a little aware of the people around you here cos a lot of people need a hand to get unstuck and it's easy to plough through people if you're not paying attention!
- Don't be a dick.
11. The River
This is going to make you want to crawl back into the warmth of your mother's uterus and stay there for the rest of your life. You gotta jump in, in my case fall in head first after you trip over a branch, and wade through the freezing water to the other side with the help of a rope. Then you gotta do it twice more! The icy water envelopes you entirely and that third time going through it was one of the toughest parts of the course for me! A guy lost his shoes here and so he carried on in his socks, fair play!
12. Barbed Wire Crawl
This was the one obstacle I think most people found the hardest! You have to crawl through thick mud on your hands and knees to prevent getting hair and butt raped by barbed wire. The muck is laced with a lot of big and jagged stones so this is why having long tights on is pretty helpful! I didn't find this too bad but come the third row of crawling it did get tiresome, what got me most was how freezing the mud was more than anything else!
- Keep your head and ass as low as possible.
- Be wary of sharp rocks under the mud.
13. Shock of Horrors
I knew it was coming, I had read it the first day I signed up for the course and it nearly turned me off the whole thing. But alas, I'm not a pussy. It jumped up on me by complete surprise because it is literally 2 meters away from the end of the barbed wire crawl. I came to a complete halt when I realized what it was! I'm the type of person who won't go on a trampoline out of fear of a static shock and I have conditioned myself to always close car doors by the window to avoid being shocked. Some guy from behind shouted at me to go on and this ripped me out of my fear paralysis and I did what any sane person would do and bulled through. Didn't feel a thing. I asked some other people and some people got a shock and some didn't! I think it just depended on how quick you went through, how much adrenalin you had in ya and how numb you were! I think my luck was a combination of all three! But yeah, terrifying.
14. The Wall
Being 5'4' did not help me with this at all surprisingly. It's about 10ft I think, it could be more or less, I'm not sure, but it was huge. As I was standing below it, it seemed impossible. A lovely gentleman was like right gimme your foot, now jump! "What do you mean jump?! There's nothing to jump off!"... "Jump off me!". "I can't jump off you!"... The conversation went like this for another 30 seconds and I could see he wanted to kinda deck me but I couldn't for life of me understand how I could jump and manage to reach the top but I went for it anyway and lo and behold I was on the top of it! Then I didn't really know how to get down, then I realized you jump, that hurt. But wahey nearly at the end now!
15. Final frontier
I'm running towards the finishing line, there's cheers of encouragement coming from every angle. "Come on girl, you can do it!". "Going strong, keep going!". I was intoxicated by adrenalin and exhaustion, the finishing line was leering ahead of me and the thoughts of running through it had me elated. I see my brother and his friends at the side willing me forward as I force myself onwards. Then I see it, the humiliating display that I must preform in front of hundreds of people before I can throw myself over the finish line. A cruel twist designed to test your pride and endurance. First I come to the monkey bars, I have never in my whole entire life been able to use monkey bars, so what I lacked in confidence I made up for with balls and proceeded ahead and swiftly failed and slipped after one monkey bar! Hands were covered in slippery muck, not a chance anyone could do them! So I moved onwards to the rope climb, a rope hanging down with knots you need to climb to get to the top! I got to the first one and then desperately tried to get to the second one but couldn't, I'm pretty sure I could do it no problem normally but my arms were dead, my legs were heavy and my hands were way too slippy. So I moved on and I was instantly confused by what lay before me. It was called the 'Ice Berg' and it had 'Brain Freeze' written on it! The girl said "In you get, hold your breath!"... "Huh?!". My brain would not register the heinous sight in front of its eyes. It's a skip full of freezing, muddy, foul water. I got in and there's a plank over the top of it. "Hold your breath" she says again... "I.... I got to go under it?!"... "Yep!". So under I go and it felt like my brain shrunk to half its size inside my head and my whole body was like NOPE. I resurfaced the other side of the plank, in shock and not able to see a god damn thing! I shook my head and wiped my eyes and threw myself out of the skip and ran forward, and THERE WAS ANOTHER ONE. If there was ever a moment in my life where I genuinely believed that all the forces of the earth were conspiring against me, then this would be it. I got over it, cos I'm not a pussy, and did it again! I have a pretty big fear of dark or dirty water since childhood so I'm pretty sure this is why I found these last two things to be the hardest of them all, it didn't help that my head had stayed nice and warm for the whole course and now I was about to dunk it into a freezing pit of hell. But I'm pretty sure that was the whole point! Then I proceeded to run triumphantly towards the finish line and then and only then, did I let the pain wash over me. There really is no better feeling than crossing a finish line!
Although I'm still finding mud in places where there shouldn't be, doing this race was an amazing and unforgettable experience that I would definitely do again in a heart beat! Well maybe not a heart beat... more like a year. It teaches you about yourself and what you can really do if you put your mind to something. It's definitely a character building exercise that allows you break through your normal physical and mental boundaries. The next time I don't think I can do an extra km on a run or an extra rep of a weight I'll remember that I hauled myself through this entire course and I'll push through those feelings! I feel like I've been hit by car, dragged through a ditch and run over again but the pain is worth it to say that I am tough enough to make it thru' Hell and Back.
What were my results I hear you cry! I ran the race in 1.35.44! I placed 626th out of 1,900 runners. My goal was to be in the top 10-15% of women who raced and among the women I placed 58th out of 620. So, drum roll please.... I placed in the top 9% of women who ran and top 33% of the overall runners! I am absolutely delighted with my results and I'm very proud of myself! I think my brother's results deserve a mention too because they're extraordinary! He came 97th of 1,900 runner! So he was in the Top 100! He placed in the top 7% of the men who ran and he was in the top 5% of overall runners!
- Wear long tights and a long sleeved top to protect your arms and legs.
- Wear light runners and light socks.
- Do not wear a hat or gloves, the hat will get caught in barbed wire and the gloves will only be a hassle.
- Do not wear old runners, wear runners that you're feet are used to and give you support, you want to minimize your risk of injury as much as possible. You can always wash them afterwards.
- Tie runners tight or they will get stuck in the mud.
- Hydrate really well before the race.
- Arrive early to suss the place out, get your face painted and get your race pack if you have to collect it.
- Start off the race slow.
- Respect others while you're running, don't push past people, it's a race but no need to be a dick.
- If anyone is stuck help them.
- For girls, don't wear your hair up too high, it will get caught in the barbed wire.
- Bring old, warm clothes for afterwards like tracksuit bottoms and hoodies.
- There are no actual showers, just a hose down so don't bother with body wash etc.
- The changing facilities is basically a barn with hay on the ground so I hope you're comfortable with getting your tatas, kookas and dongs out.
- Have fun.
- Don't be a pussy.
Hey guys! I see this post has gotten very popular so I just wanted to say a big thank you for reading! I have just started this blog and I'm hoping to provide as many interesting fitness and health related posts as possible so I hope you come back and check them out some time! Thank you again for reading, I really appreciate it!