Tough Guy is considered to be the godfather of modern obstacle racing, so I as I write this prelude to my pilgrimage from Euston to Wolverhampton I'm filled with a mix of fear and excitement as I turn up my music to help diffuse the prior. Before my first ever OCR I felt all of those things but as I complete these events the more these feelings have faded. 'Race hardened,' I like to think. So why am I feeling nervous this time?
As I journey into the Midlands I go through my OCR checklist. I have a couple of new race items including:
Next stop, Wolverhampton....
So the hotel wasn't as bad as other people were saying. Yes it a little rough on the edges with no reception and you needing to get the keys from the off-licence next door. (I only knew this from reading another review). There was a definite damps smell in the building but the heating was on. My room had its own shower and toilet but it was across the corridor. There were a few things that need fixing like the wardrobe and shower pipe but everything functioned. I think the bed looked quite old. (But trendy if you call it "shabby shique."). The guy who showed me my room was friendly enough and was happy for me to check out earlier than the usual time of 9:00. I stayed on a Saturday evening and you could here some parties happening somewhere. One thing that bugged me though was the green safety was quite bright for catching some z's.
Wulfrun isn't quite the Twilight Zone as described by other reviewers and I've stayed in worse places. If you want a place to stay for an evening in Wolverhampton and are happy to accept its peculiarities then go for Wulfrun.
Considering this was the 30th and last ever Tough Guy I must say I was disappointed by the overall experience. Other much newer events have taken the OCR format and surpassed the TG offerings.
The event itself seemed to have out grown its facilities. Registration had such a long queue. There was no bag drop so you have to trust that your bag will still be where you left it. Showers were indoors and hot which is a massive thumbs up but it struggled to handle the vast amount of people there. I did however get a free sports massage prior to the race to help the muscles warm up!
The start time was 11:00 however we were left without any indication of why there was a delay. Only a crackly speaker spouted something which intended to be music. Half an hour passed before someone started to get the crowd going with some group chants. The guy needed a decent microphone and speakers as his megaphone did little to reach us at the back.
After forty minutes we finally got going. Well a little jog before the first queue. The fact that all five thousand set off together meant this should not have been a surprise. I thought Tough Mudder was bad for crowding but Tough Guy takes the crown for queues and this was also the theme of the day.
The course itself had a lot of repetitive obstacles, to the point where people were getting a little fed up. You aren't really proving anything by getting in and out of a muddy trench three dozen more times!
I didn't think the course was all that imaginative. Just a lot of hay bales, logs and steep muddy hills to climb. Tough Guy likes monotonous cargo nets to climb under too.
I was happy that I managed to not get struck by the electric cables. Did here a few screams though.
I've come to discover I really like the upper body focused obstacles which unfortunately there was only one. (Runners from the competitive wave had a few extra upper body obstacles). We had just one set of hanging tyres to monkey across. I managed three tyres. After I started going to the next obstacle but turned around to queue for a second attempt at the tyres. Got half way but one of the tyres buckled with my weight!
The torture chambers had tubes to crawl through but some were dead ends. As there was so much bottlenecking I'm assuming the vast majority never went down the wrong shaft.
Queues towards the end had one benefit which was the close proximity of other races offered a little extra body heat and shielding from the elements. Although if there weren't queues you'd probably warm up by moving instead!
The final obstacle was a wade through more water before a ten minute wait to queue over the finish line. An incredibly undramatic finale.
My post has been mostly negative and that's partly due to the hype surrounding this race, but I did enjoy parts of the race. Just the repetitive nature and multiple long queues in particular stuttered the overall experience. In terms of "toughness," it's not really anything extraordinary compared to other OCR events. This is a real shame that I have come away disappointed from Tough Guy, but I salute the event organiser Mr Mouse for bringing OCR into the world for without him and his original entrepreneurial existence there would have been a lot of other experiences I may never have discovered...
After reading some Facebook event reviews it turns out that a bunch of obstacles were closed off due to time restrictions. This is disheartening to hear as due to all the queues there was little I could have done to make my race quicker in order to have made the cut off.
It seems like the front wave runners all had a more fulfilling experience than myself stuck in the last wave.
My obsession with OCR has led me to start this blog and so whenever I hear of a documentary on this sport I have to take a look. The Rise of the Sufferfests is one such feature.
I don’t normally re-watch movies or shows so I decided to rent this from the iTunes store. Standard definition download for me as I was watching it on the train. Note for future is to make the purchase on the device you intend to watch it on as the system for transferring the rental from one device to the other is not at all intuitive. (I also seem to have unintentionally tricked the system into giving me a second viewing of the rental).
Scott Keneally delves into the world of obstacle racing which he dubs ‘The Sufferfests.’ For me OCR has never been about “suffering.” Sure we have our moments that are out of our comfort zone, but I wouldn’t have say I was experiencing the pains of something like a famine! I suppose the marketing title grabs attention though.
After the introduction he goes to where it all started, Tough Guy. Right now I am a week away from participating in my first ever Tough Guy event so to hear race director Mr Mouse explain Tough Guy’s ethos “is to give people a taste of the worst of life, completely and utterly,” is hardly comforting. I’ve done plenty of races claiming to be the most extreme and challenging but this guy seem like the real deal. I think the current British winter chill with it’s frozen lakes is making this really hit home.
I enjoyed the documentary for the most part, particularly with the origins of the sport. Interviews are throughout with prevalent people in the industry, as well as the controversies and event rivalries. They go over why people partake which I can relate a lot to. Scott Keneally talks about his own experiences but at times it felt too personalised and irrelevant to the wider audience. It’s great that he’s become a father during the production but it felt like a far stretch to fit that into this OCR documentary. Keneally loves this sport, however the film portrays that OCR and pain go hand in hand and that simply is not true. I think this angle may put people off who are on the fence of attempting an OCR. One look at my Color Obstacle Rush video and you’ll see exactly what I mean!
It did require me to dig deep and summon up motivation, especially after a night of New Year celebrations and a rather grey landscape outside, but I was glad to make it out. Was good to see other people also made the effort to venture outside during my wet 11k interval run of road, fence vaulting, hill sprints and forest trails.
Happy New Year everyone!
"Any tips, reviews and advice are my own opinions and are not to be taken as professional view points. The information on this site is what has worked for me and is here for guidance only, but I hope you gain insight into the various activities I partake in." Jonathan Chen