It finally struck a week or two back: the Fear. The bowel-watering, neck-tightening quiet certitude that this – this idea right here about doing the Tough Mudder – this was a terrible fucking idea. Honestly, what was I thinking? Running 20km? Swimming through ice water? Hay bales on fire? Electrified wires?! I’m thirty-fricking-eight for God’s sake!

What had started like a bit of a lark – a nice mix of having something to train towards and some fun to have with friends – suddenly morphed into a scene from Bridge Over the River Kwai. Or Saw. Not the good first Saw, but the shitty second Saw before it got back on track with the third. I would fail and in failing, I would disgrace myself. I would be a millstone to my team mates and a disappointment to my friends. My father would be ashamed, as would other random family members that wouldn’t normally have an opinion. Attractive women would laugh derisively at on the street. My cat would spurn my lap. The best I could hope for was a really serious injury early on that had me carted from the course. Was it possible to pre-weaken a bone?

Luckily I eventually calmed down and regained a small modicum of perspective about the whole shebang. When I looked back I could actually isolate the two things that set me off. Firstly was telling a work colleague about the Tough Mudder. Her response was to shake her head sadly and inform me in no uncertain terms that I had no hope. (I’m paraphrasing a little). The other one was that, as I mentioned briefly last time, the Tough Mudder website changed its suggested training routines. For some reason, the new routine (which is essentially interval training mixing straight cardio with some obstacle work) just seemed utterly overwhelming. As if it had been written by a madman who wanted to cause people pain. A Sisyphean nightmare of cruelty and terror.

Looking back I can see that it’s actually just three intense workouts a week – in fact, it’s a really well designed routine that’s probably more enjoyable than what we have been doing up til now. The whole panic period has been a bit of a learning curve for me – it’s hammered home how much of Tough Mudder is about psychology for me, as much as it is about exercise. It’s given me a much better understanding of the mental aspects of this challenge and the often-delicate nature of motivation. And it’s made me realise I need to just toughen the hell up and get on with my bloody training and stop having conniptions every five minutes.

In my last post I mentioned wanting to change running shoes. Merrell ended up sending over two pairs and I’ve been working with those. At the moment I’m using the Mix Master a shoe that’s designed for people who want to try barefoot-style running but want an intermediate step on the way. They’re amazingly light (about 230g per shoe) and I’m thoroughly impressed so far. The other Sunday I did my longest continual treadmill session (9.25km in a mix of sprinting, running, walking and incline work) and even though I’d managed the rookie error of forgetting my socks, the Mix Masters were very kind on my feet (in other words, I wasn’t a crippled mass of blisters). I’m 99% sure that I’ll be using these shoes for the Mudder itself.

The other pair sent over are the Trail Gloves which are a barefoot style that have Vibram tech, but not the weird toes. I’m going to be trying those next week and I’ll report on the results in part 4.

On a related note, I recently changed the app I use to track my running. As much as I enjoyed MapMyRuns occasional flights of fancy, I found one called RunKeeper that actually ties in with my Fitocracy account. The advantage here is that my run results are preloaded on my Fitocracy tracking page and ready for me to review and log. It’s really quite neat. Now I just need a proper runner’s backpack and I’m set.

I’ve also bought myself a Power Band to help with my pull ups. I’ve found that, sitting as I do around the 100kg mark, performing a full range of motion pull up is ridiculously bloody hard, so I’m hoping the mild assist from a Power Band will get me on the right track, with some decent form as well.

What’s next? Well my diet needs quite the overhaul, consisting as it does mainly of beer and take away. I actually think getting myself on track food wise is going to be a much harder step than anything else. As someone who lives by themselves, I’m a person who tends to eat “conveniently” – which translates as either fast food or anything I can prep, cook and consume in under 10 minutes. This has seriously got to change – as does my practise of buying both breakfast and lunch each day while at work – and I really need a plan on this. Suggestions on wrangling such a massive lifestyle shift would be greatly appreciated – is it maybe time to see a nutritionist?

As a quick final note, the Tough Mudder also raises money for Legacy – if anyone would like to donate, you can do so here.