This January I had two big winter races on my calendar Mactuff and Tough Guy The original. This is my thoughts and personal experiences of these races.
Mactuff (formerly known as McTough Guy) was a race I had set my goals on for most of 2016. I ran the first one in January 2016, placing 6th. , which I was ecstatic about. It was my first taste of winter Obstacle racing, and I felt my team and I prepared wonderfully for it. The race was great, challenging terrain, some good obstacles, cold Scottish weather and a beast of a sandbag carry (a mile and a half up hill). So naturally we signed up for the following year to come. Adding Tough Guy the Original while we were at it.
I trained hard over 2016 for obstacle racing, and it was paying off. I managed to pick up 3 first places, and finished respectfully in many other races. But I really wanted to do well in MacTuff, so focused my training on this and on Tough Guy.
The couple of months running up to Mactuff, my training was going really well. Doing runs with the sandbag, much more hill running and generally increased my mileage. My left knee started to play up a matter of weeks before the race. As most of us do, I pushed through the pain and continued on with my training. It wasn’t hampering my performance or stopping me improving, but it was hurting like a bitch for longer and longer afterwards! A bad case of runner’s knee! Two weeks before the event I only managed one run. The week of the event I then get the bloody cold. That was all I needed. So morale was low.
The day of the race I was not feeling good about how I would do. Initially aiming for a top 10 finish, I was now thinking top 20-50. Head was burst and knee was still recovering from a measly mile walk the night before.
Arriving at Mactuff it was already busy. There was a great atmosphere around the Knockhill Event Area, and meeting up with my M.K. Fitness team helped relax my nerves. An easy registration process and it was time to get ready. I was in two minds whether to wear a neoprene layer for this race as I knew there would be at least some cold water included. It was a cold day, with a deep layer of fog, but I opted to go without, a choice I am glad I made.
Lining up at start line the atmosphere was starting to ramp up. It was taking a wee while to get things moving though. An entertaining warm up and amazing Scottish Pipe Band (the drummer was right at me on start line, and it really got my heart rate and adrenaline up) did help in keeping the spirits high though, and it was at least dramatically quicker than last year at getting going. A quick ‘3,2,1’ from RD Alex Potter, and away we went.
My starts are what usually set me in good stead in races, but for this one I chose to be a little bit more conservative and sat back in fourth. Cutting left to take on the American Football team was a good bit of fun, and a little feint left to one, helped me slip in to second place. After here it was a little messy, with only verbal instruction at the start to go on, a few of us up front had no real clue where we were going, relying on onlookers pointing. It was like this for most of the first part of the race at the track, but once off of the track it was a lot better marked and easier to follow. Heading up the race track and cutting off I was sitting around 3-4. It was quite tight up at the front for the first few Km.
Hitting the sandbag carry was great. I was wearing neoprene gloves, and luckily it was here some of my M.K. team were Marshalling and I gave them my gloves as I was starting to overheat. The sandbag carry was great as it incorporated many different obstacles. Climbing over a container via cargo net, navigating burns and rivers, crawling under cargo nets and running off road made it feel fresh, and I was glad I had trained hard with a sand bag on my back. After this section I was sitting happily in 3rd. Not long after we hit another fresh obstacle, the car pull. I could have sworn the person in the car had their foot on the break as it was a bitch to get moving, but I got it done. Coming to a traverse along a fence and rope climb I was sitting nicely in third still. I’m generally quite strong on climbs and took the lead after managing to get to the first rope and scaling it quickly. I was very surprised. I managed to scale the next inverted wall climb easily enough and maintain a little lead for a while. Coming to the weaver, an obstacle I had never done before, it was tight again, with 3 of us bunched together, including Connor McGourt, so I urged Connor to take on the obstacle first so I could see how it was done. I was trying to learn it fast right behind him. Apart from a near slip, I managed to figure it out quickly and get moving. The rig with go kart tyres on chains was a tricky one. Connor and I were both crossing together, but I slipped and had to repeat the obstacle or face 5 mins on to time. Nailed it. The fog was so thick now, could hardly see 30 metres ahead, so I just focused on my running. My knee was starting to niggle, but energy good.
Flying over the monkey bars with ease and powering well up and down the dreaded slaloms, I felt I was in a groove and was really actually starting to enjoy the course. It was tough and it was taking everything I had to keep at the pace I was, but I was loving it. After a blast through some woods, I was then running around an odd marsh land, which felt like it went on forever. Mounds of uneven ground and moss. It was so hard, tricky to navigate but so genius. It was a case of you had to just keep moving and keep your knees high. Finally getting out of it felt like a relief. I could see the event and race circuit, which gave me a little hope that it was nearly over. But… Nope. Hitting more Slaloms, but with embankment scrambles, I was getting tired. Connor gave me a shout about my position, which gave me a good boost. It was now about hanging on. Then I reached the swim across the pond. An ice cold pit of water (which I found out first-hand the previous year from jumping in it twice on a cold water training day.) I didn’t hesitate and was told I was not to use the rope unless required. So swam away. I was fine to start… but then I could not feel my body. I was just moving hoping that it was doing what I wanted it to do. When I got out I literally thought that was me done… I stood for a second asked to be pointed in the right direction and started bumbling forward up the rocky slope. Literally just dropping down the other side to be faced by 3 monster truck tyre tall walls, and 3 of them. Climbing them was killing me, but it started getting the heat back to my hands and feet. Only to be faced with a water scramble under barbed wire just around the corner. Energy was fading fast. Then I heard a welcoming shout. My name was being shouted by my trusted M.K. Family! That got me moving again. Getting up the last hill scramble was taking everything I had, with Jim of my M.K. team telling me to move my arse, I tried to kick it. Alex was then close by just literally pointing me in the right direction as I was not even looking anymore. As I Hit the home straight the pipe band started, crowd cheered and I came over the line in 2nd place. A 2nd place that meant more to me than any first place I had accomplished thus far! I was so relieved, and so happy!
After crossing the line I started to cool down quickly. Luckily MacTuff had warm showers! It was the best trickle of water ever! It took a while to warm back up but got moving and there was plenty of vendors to get food and drink to get refuelled!
Then it was off to watch and encourage everyone else and see home others from my team, Philip, Ford, Vicki and my wonderful Wife Karen.
MacTuff was a great event. Yes I did well so that could cloud my judgement, but it was a great course and well organised. I had fun. Is there things that could be improved on, of course. More clear course direction at the start and water stations. My wife Karen mentioned congestion at a lot of the obstacles while she was on course, so that will be something I am sure that will tried to be remedied next year. Great race t-shirts and awesome finisher medals. Although a little nit-pick is there was no medal for coming second. I like to work hard for a good place in these races, and I don’t really care for prize money/vouchers or whatever, I’d rather have a medal or a trophy to look back on years down the line.
Anyway, glad that MacTuff improved upon their previous winter event and I will be there battling the elements again next year.
So MacTuff was a race I was focused on doing well in… My next race I just focused on surviving!
My Tough Month(part2: Tough Guy)