Dirty Dozen Races: Dirty Dash

Today I got myself up bright and early to take on my second race of the weekend. I had decided to take the trip to Essex to complete the Dirty Dash race to enable me to have a go at all three distances offered by Dirty Dozen Races this year, having already completed the 12km race in April and with both their 12km and the 18km race booked in for September. After tweeting about booking this race I was asked by OCR superstar and elite athlete for Obstacle Kit Race Team Faye Caley to run with her and some “lovely ladies” she was bringing down, which was an offer I happily accepted.

Myself with OCR royalty Faye Caley and Dirty Dozen Chief Doug "The beard" Spence
Myself with OCR royalty Faye Caley and Dirty Dozen Chief Doug “The beard” Spence

The Race

Due to a really good drive with very little traffic, I arrived nice and early at the race site, set at Barleylands Farm along with my hubby, designated driver and photographer for the day.

The 6km course took in a fair few of the obstacles offered from the 12km race the day before, and I have heard some rumours that the 6km course was more like 8km, which makes a nice change from people moaning about races coming in under the advertised distances.

As to be expected from a Dirty Dozen race, it was well organised, with named race numbers, writs bands, and bands for your bag. Registration was easy with alphabetised registration tents, and the event village had a bar, bag drop, food and toilets, everything you need.

Me waiting to start - a bit chilly
Me waiting to start – a bit chilly


The Race

We set off at a leisurely pace as this was to be a fun run and not a race, with a nice run to stretch the legs and warm up across a field, all too soon though we were up against the “Barbed Belly” obstacle – a bruise inducing crawl under barbed wire, over hard, bumpy mud, meaning that you need to keep low to the ground, but makes crawling on your stomach, hands or knees very uncomfortable.

My trying to crawl through the Barbed Belly Obstacle
My trying to crawl through the Barbed Belly Obstacle

This was followed by a wall traverse across a pit of water, with the promise of 20 burpees if you fell off. Back in April I fell straight off this, but I had watched the Mudstacle video on how to do this obstacle, I griped with my toes, took my time, and made it across without taking a dunking.

Making my way across the wall traverse
Making my way across the wall traverse

After triumphantly making it across it was a short run to the next obstacle of the Monkey Bars. My jubilation on not getting wet was obviously short lived, as I managed about two bars before splashing down into the water. Then as I was already wet I went back for seconds to help a team mate who was a bit hesitant, my theory being, look how bad at this I am, you can’t possibly be worse 🙂

Just before I splashed down
Just before I splashed down

There were several rivers to navigate and a bit more running before we hit the rope traverse over the river. Again I had looked at the Mudstacle video before the race, and knew the theory, but theory and ability are not always well matched. It took me three attempts to hook my feet around the rope, but after that it was reasonably simple, you kind of slid down towards the river whether you wanted to or not. Once hitting the water you were advised to put your feet down and pull yourself along backwards using the rope, which is exactly what I did. By the time I had got to the other side I felt like my arms were going to fall off, but I had made it, and was feeling pretty good about it.

Starting the River Traverse
Starting the River Traverse

After crossing the lake, we had a bit more of a run, a log carry, and a second barbed belly to contend with, much to Faye’s upset, as she would have rather have taken on the overhang walls which we could see in the distance from the 12km race. There was a lot of wading through rivers, and, at this point I’m forgetting the order of the obstacles, but we were subjected to the sheep dip, three walls to pull yourself under causing you to get fully submerged in water, a cargo net (obviously one of my favourites as I love heights), and a wall climb over a goods container where the wooden “ladder” is at an outward angle.

As we headed back towards the finish line there were yet more river wades and then it was back to the lake that we had crossed during the rope traverse, this time you had to swim out to section of barrels which you had to swim underneath, before eventually coming to a platform to haul yourself onto.

Me Swimming under the barrels
Me Swimming under the barrels

Once out of the water it was another little run along to the big walls and  towards the finish. In April I had struggled with these, suffering with cramp and then a crippling fear of heights, so I was very apprehensive approaching these obstacles, however with help from the team I was running with, I managed first to clamber up the wall with the help of a rope and climb down the other side.

At the top of the first wall climb
At the top of the first wall climb

After getting over this obstacle, it was a short run up to the Irish Table, a lower wall with an overhanging edge making it more difficult to get up and over. With a lot of help from my team mates I managed to get up and over this obstacle and then it was time for the huge wall. No ropes, no foot holds, just a huge wooden wall. I was honestly shaking at this point, but having failed in April I really wanted to get over it. Again with a whole lot of help from the people I was running with, I was given a boost and more importantly the encouragement I needed to get myself over the wall. I nearly froze at the top, unsure how to get myself back down, and in all honestly, it wasn’t a very graceful dismount, falling most of the way and landing on my bum, but I did it!

Me at the top of the last wall, with James Ruckley.
Me at the top of the last wall, with James Ruckley.

After the wall it was a short run up to the finish line, where we got a finishers photo, grabbed our hats, t-shirts and beer, and headed off to get changed.

Finishing the Dirty Dash (L-R Helen Carrington, Samantha Curtis, James Ruckley, Scott Brown, Lisa Broadley, Doug Spence, Faye Caley, Elbie Brown)
Finishing the Dirty Dash
(L-R Helen Carrington, Samantha Curtis, James Ruckley, Scott Brown, Lisa Broadley, Doug Spence, Faye Caley, Elbie Brown)

Rat Race: London River Rat

Having reached the middle of August and only completed one 4km fun run so far, it was time to take on my first real challange. This weekend will see me take on not one, but two OCR events, starting with Rat Race’s River Rat a 10km race based around London’s ExCel Centre and Docklands.

Race Description

This race was an urban, aquatic, obstacle course, which promised to be “Wet and Wild”

Unusually this race started and finished inside, and was based at the ExCel centre in London. Registration was really well organised, with plenty of spare wavers for anyone who had forgotten, and easy to navigate alphabetical registration lanes, where you were given  your race pack which included your race number, a coloured band which matched the wave you were entered in, and a band for your bag with your race number on, you then went round to collect a race t-shirt and your timing chip.

Picture before the start of the race (L-R: Bethan Davies, Cat Denning, Helen Carrington, Kevin Coda)
Picture before the start of the race
(L-R: Bethan Davies, Cat Denning, Helen Carrington, Kevin Coda)

The waves were well organised, but not very even in numbers. The “sky blue” wave before us was very small, but our “Neon lime green” wave was packed full of people. The guys on the stage checked that people were wearing the correct coloured bands, gave some clear instructions about how the course would be marked and then handed over to the warm up crew. Once the warm up was completed we were ushered towards the start where our timing chips (worn on our wrists) were clocked on. It took quite a while for everyone in our wave to get clocked in, which means those of us at the front would have a little extra time added, so I don’t think the timing of this race was particularly accurate, but that’s not a big deal. We had a 30 second countdown once most people were through into the starting area, and then we were off.

The Race

The race started off indoors, through the exhibition space, we were straight away faced with some low hurdles to jump over before hitting the first wall. This was followed by some tyres to hop over and then a tangle of fencing to vault over which ever way you could. Eventually it was down some stairs, out of the ExCel centre and off round the Docklands.

The entirety of this race was run on pavements around the Docklands near the centre, so anyone who wants to try OCR without the mud factor, this could be an ideal race. We ran down the side of the centre and then through an inflatable pool containing ankle deep water, round the corner and through some trees. This section was going to be done twice, so at some points there were red or blue arrows showing you which way to go depending on whether it was your first or second lap, this allowed them to put different obstacles in your path to keep things interesting.

It wasn’t long until we were first thrust into the Thames, to ease us in gently we were forced to get into the water and fully submerge ourselves to get under two sets of inflatable barriers, then it was back out of the water and a run along the other side of the river. After this stretch of running we had to climb a long set of stairs to get onto the bridge that would take us back over the Thames, a run across the bridge down a second set of stairs, where I got papped. (I found this picture on Twitter shared by the lovely guys at Muddy Race.)

Coming down the bridge stairs
Coming down the bridge stairs

This race billed itself as an Aquatic Obstacle Course and so it wasn’t long before we found ourselves having to dive back into the cool water of the Thames. As they anticipated queues you were “clocked out” at some of these sections, this allowed people to take their time to complete the obstacles safely, life vests were also provided, which had to be worn.

Some of the water sections that we had to navigate were a jump into the water, followed by a swim across to a platform. Once you had hauled yourself out of the water (ever so elegantly and not at all like a beached whale) you had to try and crawl over some large rubber rings, which was actually very tiring, and I fell off the last ring leaving me to again, haul my body back onto the next platform. We then had to leap onto some floating inflatable rafts, which, moved out of the way and left me once again floundering in the Thames.

The next time we were clocked out was at the jump. I had been absolutely dreading this obstacle. I have mentioned many, many times in this blog how much I struggle with heights, and here I found myself stood at the top of a high tower, being expected to leap off into the water below. The marshals lined us up four at a time, and once the area below was clear they counted you down and you jumped. This meant a bit of a wait at the top, trying not to look down. I was shaking, and finding it hard to breath, I considered going back down onto the smaller “opt out” jump, but the marshal counted three, two, one, and I jumped. It was a long way down, I couldn’t help letting out a scream, I hit the water hard and spun over, righted myself and swam over to the cargo net to pull myself back out of the river. I had done it, without hesitating, and I honestly felt elated.

After clocking back in and a bit more running, and a few land based obstacles that I will talk about in a bit, we found ourself at a Kayaking section. This part was still timed, despite having to faff around a bit getting on a life vest and paddle. I paired up with Bethan, and we did a pretty good job considering neither of us had done it before. We made quite short work of paddling up and back down the section of the river. Back out of the Kayak and it was a run along to the slide.

The slide was almost as good as the one at Nuclear Races, it was very high above the river, it was fast and it was quite a drop off the end, once you had swam out of the way you were faced with a rope and some wooden slats to try and help you pull your way out of the river. I had real trouble pulling myself up, but with the help of a very friendly man who happened to be at my side, and who let me climb on his shoulders, I was up the rope and out of the river.

The land based obstacles included a variation on monkey bars, which was just one long pole that you had to try and pull yourself along (I got about half way before falling off). You had to do this twice, once on the way out and once on the way back. There were a couple of walls, including an angled one, where I was lucky enough to batter my eyelids at a marshal to get a boost. There was a section of poles to go over and under, some ramps to run up, across the top of small sections of scaffolding and then back down, and a section of inflatable “bouncy castle” type obstacles that were more difficult than they appeared.

On the second run around the route we were again directed into the river to crawl through an inflatable tube and then swim out, around a buoy and back to a ladder to pull yourself out. The worst part of this was that I had been handed a rather large life jacket which actually made it more difficult to swim, as it kept trying to escape over my head.

After this it was back along the river and up the stairs again, the felt a lot more difficult the second time around, and then eventually back inside the ExCel centre for the final push. As you went back inside you had quite a run, as I had been running with Bethan for the race but the finish was in sight, I decided to push on a bit and see what I had left, I pulled ahead significantly, however as I approached another section of scaffolding where you had to run up a ramp then slide under some poles before heading back down again, I got completely held up by some other racers and by the time I had gotten through Bethan had caught me back up, which was a bit frustrating. (only in the fact that I needn’t have bothered pushing it on the run and could have taken it a bit more easily – particularly with the fact that I have another race tomorrow in mind). We were left with two more walls to hop over and then it was across the finish line.

Me at the Finish
Me at the Finish

Bethan and I then waited to watch Cat and Kevin finish, then we got a few obligatory finishing photos before heading home.

Showing off our new t-shirt after completing the race
Showing off our new t-shirt after completing the race

7 Days Make One (Training) Week

I haven’t written about training in quite some time, but its the Summer Holidays, I have time on my hands, for both training and blogging, and with no race this weekend I thought I should write something to keep you all going.

This week has been particularly good for training, often I start off with the best of intentions but things fall by the wayside, but this week I have certainly put in a good few hours, and I thought I would share this as I am sometimes asked how I train.


Saturdays really vary for me, it depends on if and when I have a race at a weekend, this means more often than not I end up having to take a rest day on a Saturday. This week, however, with only Colour the Coast to contend with on Sunday, I dragged myself out of bed and down to the park for 9am to do a class with RP Combat Conditioning.

Before I headed out the door though I decided to complete my Muddy Race challenge. Throughout August Muddy Race are putting up a daily fitness challenge, and on this particular day it was 111 Squats.

I teamed up with my friend Ella Roberts at RPCC, I love training with Ella, she always pushes me really hard, and we smashed our way through a tough fighter circuit – incorporating extra burpees along the way (We have both agreed to do 30 burpees a day leading up to the Spartan races)

Photo from the RPCC Facebook page of Saturday's circuits
Photo from the RPCC Facebook page of Saturday’s circuits


Sunday this week was Colour the Coast, which for me, having promised not to race, was a nice gentle 4km jog along the seafront, you can read a full account of it here.

Before leaving to get covered in paint I did my muddy race daily challenge – 3mins of mountain climbers. Much like microwave minuets,  these seemed to last longer than normal minuets, I was sure my phone must have stopped timing me. I did three sets of 1 minuet mountain climbers, followed by 10 burpees and about 30 seconds rest, this got both my daily challenges out of the way.

Throwing in a couple of extra mountain climbers at Colour The Coast with Cat Denning
Throwing in a couple of extra mountain climbers at Colour The Coast with Cat Denning


Originally I had good intentions of going for a bit of a run Monday morning, but after a rather later night than I had anticipated on Sunday, the run never materialised.

Once I had managed to normalise though it was back on with the Muddy Race challenge of 55 box jumps (inter-spaced with my 30 burpees) and then down to the park for my second RPCC training session of the week.

Again I partnered up with Ella, and we pushed through sprints and a tough circuit. Once we had completed our circuit we hung around for a bit -quite literally – trying to master climbing a rope. Ella had really mastered the technique and was doing a really good job of teaching me, its not her fault she has a rubbish pupil in me. I did improve a bit, but I am still yet to make it to the top. After this Ella wanted some company completing her 55 box jumps, so we went over to a park bench and smashed them out – not bad after a tough hour of circuits.


Tuesday evening saw me heading to Women’s only Beachfit, another class run by RPCC. I have missed this class the past few weeks, being unable to get a lift there, and was really please to be back.

We started off with a run up a hill, followed by a good warm-up at the top, before setting back off down the hill to complete another circuit, with the added challenge that being on the shingle brings. This class was finished off with a beach sprint down to the sea and back, followed by a good stretch.

Picture taking from the RPCC Facebook page from Tuesdays Beachfit class
Picture taking from the RPCC Facebook page from Tuesdays Beachfit class

The Muddy Race challenge for the day was 75 press-ups which I did as soon as I got out of bed, along with my daily dose of burpees.


Wednesday I was again up fairly early for a personal training session, I quickly got my 2 minute plank out of the way for the muddy race challenge and after a quick phone call from personal trainer Adam Shaw  I was told to “put on your trail shoes” and it was time to go. The weather on this morning was rainy and misty, a complete departure from the sunshine we had been enjoying, and this was actually a bit of a welcome relief from running in the heat.

We headed up to the Firehills (read more about them here) and did a steady run for about 50mins, tackling hills and rough terrain, brilliant training for OCR. The idea of the session was to think about covering ground in a race, if you are tired, don’t stop, just keep moving, and that’s exactly what we did. We finished off with three fast (well fast ish – I’m not exactly Usain Bolt) hill sprints, then it was home for a bit of a rest.

I actually spent most of Wednesday with my foot up, I had turned my ankle on the beach Tuesday night and after running on it Wednesday morning I was in quite a bit of pain. By the afternoon though I was bored stiff, so I got up and did my 30 burpees and then went to my weekly Aquafit class with my mum.

I decided that since Aquafit was in the water it was therefore lower impact and my ankle should be ok – this turned out to be more or less the case. We had a bit of a swim, and then did the 45min class.

Aqua can be seen as a bit of a sport for old ladies, but in truth the instructor of this class is really good and it can be a tough workout if you put the effort in. It seemed to be all about the legs this week, with lots of jumps and kicks. The section where you have to wade through the water in a circle  and then turn around to push against the current you have just created is also really good training for water obstacles if you don’t fancy open water.


After convincing myself to leave my bed Thursday morning I got stuck into the Muddy Race challenge. As this was the 7th Day you had to put together all the daily challenges so far into a circuit. They offered three levels of workout 1/3 for bronze, 1/2 for silver and the full lot for gold.  I took the bronze workout and did three sets of it to get to the full gold amount. This totalled in at 50 Burpees, 111 squats, 3 mins of Mountain climbers, 75 press ups and a 2 min plank. The mountain climbers were probably the toughest, but by the end I was struggling to hold myself in the final plank, I made it, but barely.

Thursday evening saw me take on yet another brilliant RPCC class, this time it was running club, taking me yet again onto the dreaded Firehills for an hour of running over tough terrain. As I was getting ready to leave though disaster struck as I noticed a ridge had developed in the heal of one of my X-Talon 212s, I didn’t have time to fix it, so I switched to my Nike Flyknit Ones  (super light and comfortable, but no grip) and hoped that the ground had dried out since yesterday.  Thankfully it was dry underfoot, although by now my legs were feeling my week of training and I think my running suffered as a result. It was really hot and sunny, and I felt pushed to the limit of what I was capable of at the time.

Picture taken from the RPCC Facebook page of Thursday nights running club
Picture taken from the RPCC Facebook page of Thursday nights running club


The alarm went off at 5.45am and, as with every week, I wonder why I am voluntarily getting up at this time during my holidays. A very quick change and it was out into the grey morning to walk down to the seafront for my last RPCC session of the week – Friday Morning Beachfit.

This class usually starts off with a run, and today was no different, this morning we took a run up the East Hill steps, which is a brutal warm up, then across the hill, back into the old town, a hill sprint up an alleyway and then back onto the beach.

Friday beachfit incorporates circuits with beach sprints down the shingle. It’s fair to say that my effort this morning was a bit on the lame side, it really is time for a rest day now! I pushed through until the end with as much energy as I had left, but I was really feeling the week of hard training catching up with me.

Picture taken from the RPCC Facebook page of Friday morning Beach Fit
Picture taken from the RPCC Facebook page of Friday morning Beach Fit

Once home again I did my thirty burpees, my whole body was screaming at me by now, and then hit the shower. Thankfully today’s Muddy Race challenge is stretches, which I will do later tonight.

With a Hen-do on the horizon this weekend I will finally be taking a bit of a rest from training, but I have one last thing I need to do before I can rest, and that’s take another light jog. I think I have fixed my 212 problem, but I don’t want to find out mid race next weekend (where I actually have two races) that I hadn’t so it will be back out for me later, but don’t underestimate the value of a good rest guys, I have really felt the lack of it this week, and next week I will be training much more lightly or I will never get through two races.

Now if I could only sort my nutrition as well as I’ve sorted my training things would be very good indeed!