Tough Mudder Journal Equipment Review

Today sees the big reveal on the new Tough Mudder Obstacles for 2016, with the ominously named Blockness Monster, Backstabber and more. Well, I’ve already signed up for Tough Mudder London South 2016 but before the training begins in earnest, to remove any holiday excesses, here is my review of the gear that got me through last year.

All Scores below are out of 5.

Now, while your gear won’t run the course for you, the right equipment certainly makes the journey easier. Last year, this was particularly true of the shoes.

With my experience with the Tamworth Phoenix, I decided to go with man made materials to get me around the course. A BIG thank you to the guys at Football America for all their help, particularly with the amazing shirts for Team Phoenix Rising. A good base layer was an important early choice; with many low crawling obstacles, ice, barbed wire and an 11.5 mile run in the hot sun support, long sleeves, legs and good wicking was a must. I saw a lot of people wearing cotton T-Shirts which, I think, was a mistake. The lack of wicking and the additional amount of water you end up carrying after the various obstacles, using cotton just adds an additional level of punishment. The risk of chaffing just wasn’t worth the risk.

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SHOES *****

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After some great advice from some folks at the Foundry Climbing Centre and Sweatshop Meadowhall I settled on some Salomon Trail Running shoes. While my trusty Asics were fine, for the gym and treadmill, I found the additional grip and durability made a big difference on the day. With slippery condition, and the large number of climbing related obstacles, the extra traction was certainly worth the investment. Seeing how many people were wearing worn out trainers in the expectation that the course would eat the shoes, the fact that mine survived, and that I’m planning to use them next year is a credit to their durability to say the least.

From Everest 2.0, Liberated, Balls to the Wall, Mineshafted, Pyramid Scheme as well as traction in the changeable conditions, and the confidence to really attack the obstacles. Mud Mile has a serious reputation for sucks shoes off your feet, here the ratchet lacing system made me really happy that I went with trail shoes rather than regular trainers. Would DEFINITELY recommend these for people thinking about trying an OCR.

FITBIT ****

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I’ve been using a FitBit Flex for months now and it has been a great friend. I will admit that while it is water resistant, it’s NOT water proof so I chose to leave it at home for the event; especially with  a run through 10,000 volts, at Electroshock Therapy, providing a risk of shorting the device out. However, as a training tool, my FitBit has been invaluable. While I could talk at length about the intuitive UI, the support of the community features etc.the key for me was, as someone mostly training on their own, having a gentle reminder of my need to train and an easy way to track my progress was invaluable. Here are some of my favourite features:

i) It’s a reminder. The presence on your wrist is a gentle nudge, making you think about if you’re training or when you last trained. When you’re not training as part of a club or team it can be really easy to fall off the wagon and having a gentle reminder never hurts. Another big issue when you’re training alone is getting down if you have a bad day. One bad day and it becomes easy to start making excuses, losing track of your progress, losing your momentum and soon you’re giving up. With the easy access to your exercise stats you can quickly take the sting out of a plateau or a bad day at the gym with clear evidence of your progress.

ii) The light weight design and the secure clasp have been great. I have friends who have used Jawbone plus other devices and apps. Jawbone was has a habit of getting caught or knocked off limited its usefulness, by comparison the secure clasp on the fitbit means you know it’s not going anywhere. Similarly with an app. I’d be too concerned with having my smartphone getting damaged from sweat or from being dropped. The flex is very durable.

iii) The fact that the strap can be changed is a great little feature, meaning that the flex can be tailored to whatever you’re wearing. I felt really comfortable day-to-day wearing a tracker that doesn’t shout about itself.

iv) The alarm. One of the most useful aspects of the flex, has been the ability to set vibrating alarms. Nowhere near as intrusive as alarms from smartphone, but still easy to notice the alarms allowed me to set a regular  a solid routine and helped keep me honest.

SILICONE WEDDING RING *****

I have been loving AMRAP’s Silicone Wedding Rings. My wedding ring is one of my most prized possessions, and with hobbies that include martial arts, climbing, weight lifting and contact sports a ring can affect grip, is an injury risk or worst of all may get damaged or lost. With a durable, flexible construction and a 2 Year Guarantee the silicone wedding rings have been brilliant for me and I cannot praise them enough. Using the discount code FRIENDS  drops the cost from £20 to £18, and well worth it. Ideal for people in the Armed Services, Police, Fire Fighters, Nurses etc. it’s a stunning find and has made a big difference to my confidence and peace of mind.

CAMELBAK ****

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While the course does have regular water stops being able to carry fluids with you is really handy. On a hot day I easily went through the 2 Litres in the camelbak. Seeing lots of people taking long breaks at the water stops confused me, the ability to keep moving and take water on steadily rather than in big gulps helps prevent cramps, muscles seizing up and other, potential, injuries. Snagging on obstacles wasn’t really an issue and you don’t notice the weight. Plus the cover has come through the wash with no problems. Not a must have, but definitely helpful.

ENERGY BEANS ***

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In training and in other endurance races I’ve found carbohydrate gels to be really handy in keeping the Wall at bay. Having used the beans before I thought they’d be a good bet for a Tough Mudder. The packets do ziplock, and with a bean dissolving in your mouth I thought they’d be less hassle than a gel. I was wrong, with wet and muddy hands, and a muddy everything else, the packets were difficult to open and reseal properly meaning that the beans got wet, stuck together or I ended up with a mouthful of grit. As the course is specifically designed to mess with any sort of normal running rhythm, I also didn’t feel the benefit of the beans as you don’t get a chance to find the sort of zen calm that you get on a long run.

I still like the beans, but probably going to look at isotonics for the camelback in 2016.

MUVI MICRO VIDEO RECORDER ***

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A bargain find off of Sport Pursuit the MUVI camcorder was a lovely way to get action pics and movies on a budget. Easy to use, good pics but not great on the sound side, I was hoping to get some great footage of my race day. Unfortunately, I lost it on the Arctic Enema 2.0, worth the pennies but invest in (and use) a good body harness. For my IT friends, definite case of PICNIC here. 🙂

When I used it in training the weight was okay but, the thing that made me resist a chest harness was Kiss the Mud and similar low crawling obstacles. Under the circumstances, the wrong call.

Definitely some lessons learned and looking forward to next year.

#ItsAllBeenTraining

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