Live free or die running hard - 01 February 2007

Tough Guy winter 2007, year of the oirish toiger: beyond pain, beyond glory. (UPDATE: short video now available)


Death WarrantTough Guy claims to be the world's most demanding one day survival ordeal. Certainly, it has cause for that claim.
Go on the website and this is the description:

What is Tough Guy?

It is the original survival ordeal, a test of physical and mental endurance designed to take you beyond your limits on torture rack obstacles known as The Killing Fields, following a wild terrain warm up. It is held annually on the last Sunday in January and July.

The phenomena of Tough Guy© has now evolved into cult status with mythical legends to a world wide audience and competitors from every continent coming here to try to beat this ordeal and enjoy the unique spirit of our friendship and amiability.

The CourseThe dragon poolsWe are set in over 150 acres of fertile land where spring waters will wash away your miseries and replace them with smiles of achievement.

Each year a new theme is built into Tough Guy this ensures that it remains one of the world's toughest events. Tough Guy will always be a physically challenging, mentally demanding, fear inducing, visual spectacular. After you have taken part you will understand why thousands keep coming back, year after year to experience some of the most demanding yet rewarding challenges of their life!

We have searched the world amongst military and security forces to find any unit with a more demanding ONE DAY survival training ordeal. The US Navy S.E.A.L.S. 'Grinder' Assault Course is our nearest rival. We admire that no S.E.A.L. would ever desert a colleague and that on completion of each endurance discipline they shout 'Hoo-yah', their own unique cry of triumph. Tough Guy has the Buddy Devotion and now we have our own cry - 'Yohimbe'. Only on completion of the event will you be told the derivation of the word.

Nice way to introduce the race, uh?

Tough Guy!How did I get involved into this?
Many months ago, when the sun was still warming nicely this island and winter seemed like a far, far away place, Gemma, Lindsey's previous flat mate, sent me an email to me and some other guys asking if we would like to take part in this "unique" race. It'll be fun, she wrote.

Brandeburg GateAfter completing a miserable Isle of Wight Marathon under extremely depressing weather circumstances, I needed some new short term goal so I gladly accepted, without even checking the website.
I liked the name of the competition, I didn't have any football match scheduled in that weekend, and so it was enough for me to say yes.

The months passed and only after Christmas I realized that if I wanted to run it without dying, I needed to train.
My beardElectric FunFor my training, I decided to get inspired by Rocky Balboa .

Rob, my official commando trainer, provided me music and videos inspired by the Rocky saga.
I spent some days watching and re-watching the training montages and I decided to go for the Rocky IV way of training : running a bit, growing a beard and shouting "Draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaago" at the top of the Wandsworth Bridge.

Just to Remind YouWith the same soundtrack music repeated over and over on my ipod, getting in shape wasn't a problem.
The toughest part of the training? The self-imposed alcohol ban.
I realize that with no alcohol I have a very small social life. Everything seems to be revolving about pubs and bars, especially on Friday night. Oh well.

Anyway, after all these hard weeks of training, and with a respectable beard, I traveled to Wolverhampton the day before the race. Gemma and company decided to enjoy some winter camping on the track, while I booked in a nice Hotel not too far from the track (5 miles maybe less).
Hardly the toughest way of getting ready, but before this kind of race you need to get the better sleep you can, you may never know when you die.

Relax timeSewing JobThe hotel where I was staying was booked out and everyone seemed to be a participant in the competition. I saw a group of people doing some briefing in the conference room, analyzing the track and how to beat all the obstacles. Their idea was to do it as quickly as possible. And it was mine too.

I met Andrew, an Irish dude who was a first-timer as me and he drove me to the track to check the course. In the gently winter afternoon sun, it didn't look so bad, but the amount of water was somehow scary. Wearing the right things was a priority. If you need to run this thing, you'll need to be prepared. And I was, oh yes.

Back to the hotel, and after watching some classics on the television (Tomb Raider and Dumb and Dumber ) and spending a good hour sewing my number on the shirt, it was time to go to bed.

The next day was Tough Guy day!

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