Dirty Dozen UK Championship Weekend

I spent the week before this weekend hobbling around on painful feet that I had earned the weekend before running 3 races over one weekend and clocking up 34km of racing in 2 days so I wasn’t in the best shape come race day, and with the prospect of another three races it’s fair to say I was more than a little worried.

As I pulled on my x-talons they pushed in all the places it already hurt and I struggled to even walk out to the car, but I shifted them around as much as I could and eased up the pain in one foot, I just hoped that the combination of pain killers and adrenaline would work for me as it has done before, and that when I started running the pain would ease.

The RPCC crew before the race
The RPCC crew before the race

Race Description

The Hop Farm in Kent, where we had completed the Dirty Dozen back in April, was the venue for the three distances being offered over the weekend. The 12km race was being held on the Saturday, with the 18km followed by the 6km on the Sunday.

The race was well organised, as I’ve come to expect from Dirty Dozen. As we arrived in plenty of time registration was quick and easy, wavers handed over and race packs given out. Parking is free and smoothly organised by the marshals and the event village had a great atmosphere on both days.

The races are always well hyped on social media, and so we already knew it was going to be tough, especially as this was also the UK championships. When booking the 12k race I had originally hoped to beat the time I had set in April, but with my feet throbbing before I even set out, and a more difficult course this time round I decided before I even went to the start line, that the new aim was just to get round in more or less one piece.

Dirty Dozen – Saturday

After a race briefing and warm up we were off, and adrenaline was doing its job, my feet hurt but I could run, maybe not at my best, but I was moving. We quickly hit a muddy section in some trees when disaster struck and my shoe came clean off in the mud. I had to stop to dig my x-talon back out of the mud, and get it back onto my foot before starting off again and trying to pick my way back through the people who had overtaken me.

Soon after the muddy section were a couple of hangover walls, where I got a handy leg up and was able to navigate, this was followed by some small hills and a  big wooden box to climb up and clamber over. A crawl under barbed wire over hard mud and then it was into the ditches, an energy sapping clamber up, over mud, into muddy trenches, where you have to haul yourself out just to start again.

Clambering over the mud and into the first trench
Clambering over the mud and into the first trench

Following a run there was a fire jump, and then another section of running, with a few clambers into and out of streams to keep things interesting. Eventually you came round to the sheep dip, a deep trench of water with a series of walls set below the water level that mean you have to completely submerge yourself to get underneath them. At this point I had managed to catch up with my friend Lauren and we continued the race together.

It was a short run round from the sheep dip to the monkey bars, which were so slippery with mud and water that I found it impossible to hold on, so it was straight into the water, which earned  me my first set of burpees. Then it was on to the “2 smoking barrels” obstacle, a deep lake with barrels across it that you had to swim under to continue. Once you had clambered out of the lake it was onto the traverse wall. I was doing ok at this, well over half way, when the lady behind me stomped on my foot and sent me into the water, another set of burpees for me!

After a bit more of a run we hit a tyre drag, which was followed by a section of tyres on the ground to hop across, once these were navigated there was a run round to a log carry through a section of woods.

There was a pretty long section of running, and my feet were really aching, but Lauren stuck with me and we held a pretty steady pace.

We hit another barbed wire craw, only this time thankfully there was some softer mud beneath it, leaving us covered but not too banged up, and now it was time to start hitting some of the high obstacles that Dirty Dozen is famous for, but which I was dreading due to my fear of falling off high objects.

The climb up a shipping container using a wooden “ladder” at a slant was challenging but manageable, but not long after this came the cargo net. I pulled myself up, and shaking managed to get over the top with the encouragement of Lauren. By now we had also caught up with another well known OCR runner Mark Allen who very selflessly cost himself time helping me over the remaining walls.

At the Irish table, a wooden structure with an overhang Lauren and Mark hauled me over oh so elegantly with my cry of “just grab my arse” and then it was over the bladder ladder, a high wooden ladder that actually wasn’t too bad as it feels very stable.

Myself, Lauren and Mark on the Bladder ladder
Myself, Lauren and Mark on the Bladder ladder

This was followed by a large wall called hang ’em heigh where you pull yourself up with the aid of a rope (and maybe a push from a kindly friend) Once this was navigated there was a run around the edge of what felt like a large field, and then you were faced with the first big wall, I was terrified, and it took a lot of help from Mark, Lauren, and encouragement from Tom Nash one of the marshals to help me over the top, then it was a relatively short run back round to the finish, but before we could cross the line unfortunately there was one last giant wall to climb.

Lauren talking me down from the final wall
Lauren talking me down from the final wall

Helped over by Mark and talked down by Lauren, we grabbed hands and finally crossed the line.

I was really happy when I got my time and found that despite the lost shoe and painful running I had actually managed to achieve my goal of beating my time, taking 13mins off and I had managed 24th girl to boot, not bad for a hop-a-long.

Saturday Aftermath

After the race there was an amazing atmosphere, the RPCC crew all hung around to watch each other finish (and have a few wheel barrow races) and of course take a few obligatory after shots.

Some of the RPCC gang at the end of the Dirty Dozen
Some of the RPCC gang at the end of the Dirty Dozen

When I eventually got home I was straight into my compression gear, a bit of ice on my feet, and a bit of food then it was time for an early night

Dirty Destroyer – Sunday

The next morning I headed back to Kent, along with my friends Linda and Chris, ready for our second day of racing. I swapped my x-talons for my mudclaws hoping that they might not put pressure in the same places, this worked to an extent, but Its fair to say I was starting the race in even more pain than I had the day before.

Myself with Chris and Linda before the 18km Dirty Destroyer
Myself with Chris and Linda before the 18km Dirty Destroyer

We mustered up for the warm up and set off. I was struggling from the off and quickly got left behind by Linda and Chris, but at least this time my shoes stayed put in the mud.

For the most part the race was the same as the day before, but broke off for more running with a few more obstacles thrown in around the extra parts of the course. Unfortunately for me some of these extra obstacles were more giant walls, and hitting these by myself without friends or encouragement almost broke my spirit.

As well as the extra walls there were a set of lower walls to hurdle over, and an over and under obstacle.

Rolling under the wall
Rolling under the wall

I was struggling to get my running up to a reasonable pace and felt myself falling further and further behind, I was finding the obstacles more difficult than the day before and being alone was sapping my spirit.

Struggling to get myself out of a simple ditch
Struggling to get myself out of a simple ditch

I managed to rally myself for the fire jump, but failed both the monkey bars and traverse wall again, earning myself a few more burpees along the way.

My Fire Jump
My Fire Jump

My feet were starting to really drag, on one of the longer stretches of  running I tripped over a root and fell flat on my face, I stayed on the ground for a couple of beats before dragging myself up and carrying on.

Eventually I came round to the final section, I hit the cargo net and by the time I was at the top I was in tears, I was scared, tired and hurting and I just wanted to be finished. I sobbed my way round the next section of running, but pulled myself together and took the help offered to me by my hubby/personal photographer who had been following me round, to get over the final set of walls. I was so nearly there.

Wall Gun Show
Wall Gun Show

The last wall was finally in front of me and with the help from hubby I was over the top and could finally get over the finish line.

This effort to complete the 18km meant I had done one of each dirty dozen distance in one season and earned me the medal of honour, my hardest earned medal yet!

Dirty Dozen Medal of honour
Dirty Dozen Medal of honour

I came round from the finish and found Linda and Chris, and got ready to take on the Dirty Dash 6km race.

Ready to go again with Chris and Linda (and a cheeky photo-bomb by Obstacle Kit's Tim Lovett)
Ready to go again with Chris and Linda (and a cheeky photo-bomb by Obstacle Kit’s Tim Lovett)

Dirty Dash – Sunday

As we prepared to do this final race, my body was giving up, and I kept looking over at the final big wall. I really didn’t think I had it in me to get over them again. I finally had to admit, I was just to broken to continue. Right at the last second, as the warm up was starting I pulled out. I was devastated. I had never pulled out of a race before, and never wanted to but running this race would do me more harm than good, and I have the rest of the year to think about.

Chris and Linda went out though and completed the 6km in a great time considering they had both just smashed the 18km race.

Myself, Chris and Linda after they had finished the 6km race
Myself, Chris and Linda after they had finished the 6km race

At the time I didn’t even want to look at my race result, but it turns out despite a poor run I still managed to come in 18th place for the ladies which is not bad at all considering how badly I struggled with the race.

We hung around for a while after the race, had some food, and, of course a few more photos and then it was time to call it a day on an epic weekend of racing. Farewell Dirty Dozen, until next time.

Final finishers photo. (L-R Chris Williams, Linda Zeberga, Tom Smith, Doug Spence, Helen Carrington, David Beatty)
Final finishers photo.
(L-R Chris Williams, Linda Zeberga, Tom Smith, Doug Spence, Helen Carrington, David Beatty)

Back 2 The Trenches – Again

I woke up on Sunday morning, after very little sleep, slightly achy, tired and already with numerous bruises, some of which were quite painful. I dragged on my race kit, shoved some clean clothes into a bag, forced down some porridge and headed out the door to meet my friend Viki who was to be my race buddy for the day. We arrived with plenty of time at the race venue, and I slipped out of my flip-flops into my still muddy and wet 212’s. I posted on Facebook that this was like a small form of torture. I had a bruise on the top on my left foot, and on the heal of my right which started hurting the moment I pulled on my shoes and just walking down to the registration tent was painful. This was going to be a long race!

Viki Stapley and Myself before Back 2 the Trenches
Viki Stapley and Myself before Back 2 the Trenches

Race Description

This time around B2TT had the option of a 5km or 10km run. Viki and I had chosen the 10km distance, although I was somewhat regretting this decision as I hobbled towards the start line.

Registration was a simple process but there was quite a long queue when we arrived so it was a good thing that we had arrived with plenty of time. Once we had got our race numbers and timing chips we went and watched a few people coming into finish their races then made our way over to start our race.

As we waited to start, the previous time I had run Back 2 the Trenches came back to me, the hills, the laps with sandbags and I seriously started to wonder what I had been thinking, but by then it was too late, and it was time to get warmed up.

The Race

B2TT had changed the course around since last time, but the start still involved a run and a vault over several large bails of hay before taking us up some hills and through some woods.

Clambering over the first set of hay bails
Clambering over the first set of hay bails

The hills were as brutal as I remembered, and this time with the added struggle of painful feet and fatigue from  the races the previous day. It felt like slow going and as we had opted for a later wave we got caught up behind other runners quite a bit.

When we got to the first sandbag carry I was pleased that it was not lapped, just a decent length carry before continuing. The race was predominately trail running, but with natural obstacles such as trees to clamber over and around, and hills to navigate.

When it came to the first barbed wire crawl I felt like crying, I didn’t want to get down on my already bruised legs. I did the most unusual, and probably inelegant crawl through the mud, and in all honesty it was not done with my usual gusto, but we were soon clear of the barbed wire and on our way again.

We eventually  came to a section where you had to press a tyre 20 times before running up a hill, back round and then squat with the tyre 20 times. This at least gave me a little break from running before we carried on towards the first of two slides.

Doing our Squats
Doing our Squats

At the top of the slide was a trench filled with water getting you good and wet to speed up your decent. Again I wimped out a little at this point, and instead of diving down head-first I went on my bum and tried to slow myself down as much as possible. I didn’t want any more scrapes and bruises than I could help.

Viki and I coming down the first slide
Viki and I coming down the first slide

Once off the slide it was up and down what felt like endless hills before hitting slide number two. Again I tried to take it slowly but unfortunately the lady behind me lacked patience, came hurtling down after me and ended up kicking me hard in the back, at which point my sense of humour failed for a bit, and I staggered off without acknowledging her apology, for which I’m a bit ashamed, as it wasn’t really her fault, and normally I would have just laughed and helped to pull her out of the water trough we had landed in.

We carried on, clambering over a fence and some more hay bails and by now I was just thinking longingly of the finish line. Viki had started chattering about burgers, and I couldn’t wait to take off my shoes.

Always time for a quick gunshow
Always time for a quick gunshow

We soon hit the section I remembered from last time, which snaked up and down a field on a slight incline, with narrow lanes containing muddy trenches, tunnels, some electrified string to navigate, as well as a lot of stinging nettles. This section can get a bit repetitive, especially as we knew it was near the end and we wanted to get finished.

Clambering out of one of the tunnels
Clambering out of one of the tunnels

Before we could finish we had to make our way across a cold bit of water, which I could just about wade, but Viki had to swim, once out it was onto the home stretch, some tyres to clamber over and a fire jump that we attempted holding hands, but they slipped as we were still a bit wet, then through the tyres and grabbing hands again we crossed the line. For me it was a very hard won medal, although I did enjoy the race, I found it tough after the exertions of the day before, and the first thing I did when I finished was pull off my shoes!

Our Finishers Photo
Our Finishers Photo

Once we were finished we had a quick change of clothes and then finally got that burger that Viki had been chattering about. Three races, once weekend, done… and I would say never again, but I’m signed up for another three next weekend… here we go again!

 

Nuclear Races: Nuclear Blackout Day and Night

This weekend saw me take on my toughest challenge yet, not one, not two, but three races over two days. Saturday saw me take the trip with my friend Ella to Essex to head back to Nuclear Races, for Nuclear Blackout. Blackout offered a day and a night version, so obviously we decided it would be a good idea to do both.

Ella Roberts and I taking the road trip to Essex
Ella Roberts and I taking the road trip to Essex

Race Description

Nuclear Blackout was a 6km lapped race, where you had 2 hours to complete as many laps as possible. If the last time was anything to go by it was going to be very muddy, with some tough obstacles to overcome, and judging by their posts on Facebook and Twitter it sounded like they were making a real effort to ensure that the course was going to be as muddy as possible.

Nuclear Races send out their race packs in advance so there is no need to register on the day of the race, just turn up in time for the race briefing, stick on your number, warm up and go.  This level of organisation is fantastic and makes for a stress free race day, the event village was great, especially as the night came on and a live band started.

Blackout Day

We set off for the day race around 1pm, and as I had not been that near the front I put on a burst of speed for no other reason than to try and get out of the pack a bit before we started hitting the obstacles, but I soon settled into a more sustainable pace and It wasn’t long before we were clambering down into a ditch and into a lot of mud.

The mud was like nothing else in this race, in places it was between knee and waist deep, you had to keep moving to try and avoid getting stuck, and the effort of pulling my legs out started giving me both calf cramps very early on, and aching hips. I was pretty worried about my ability to do more than one lap, but I figured I would worry about that later.  After heaving myself out of the mud, there was a bit of a run followed by a few tall mounds of loose peat to climb up and over.

Despite running this course more than once my memory has already gone hazy so as usual I apologise if I don’t get things quite right. There was the usual water crossings to contend with, and some nice stretches of running through fields and woods.

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Mud Monster – Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races

Obstacle number 6 was called “under Fire” a low slung net over a tarpaulin with water squirting over the top of it, that you had to slide on your back using your arms to pull you up the slight incline, this earned me a nice scratch up my back that my husband has suggested looks like I have been “whacked in the back with an axe”

There was a tyre wall to clamber over in the bottom of a muddy ditch, which was slippery and scared me horribly as I struggled with my fear of heights. This was followed by a climb up a muddy bank, where there was a rope to help you, but as this got muddier it was harder to grip.  A large set of hay-bale “stairs” was encountered after a bit of a run and then there was a hang tough obstacle over a deep pit of water, which I swiftly fell off and into the cold depths below. A welcome water stop came after this, Nuclear Races have mains connected water fountains, which make it quick and easy to have a cold drink without having to faff around with plastic cups.

The path at one point was blocked by a wall, where thankfully my good friend David had caught up with me and was there to give me a much needed leg up, and later came a section through a field that contained a couple of walls set at a slight angle, and a very high wall that you had to climb using a combination of wooden slats and ropes. At this point on my first lap the marshals started telling me I was sitting in third place for the ladies. This drove me forwards, although I didn’t expect to be able to maintain this over more laps.

Lots of water, lots of mud Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races
Lots of water, lots of mud
Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races

The high wall was followed by another, more straightforward slatted wall to climb and then it was round to crawl under a muddy cargo net and through a tyre mangle. Once out of this it was through some more water, pulling yourself out over muddy slippery banks, and eventually around to a slide that you climbed up, crawled across some bars and then splashed down into the cool water below. A quick swim across, haul out the other side, then it was back across using some inflatable pontoons which sent me back into the water. I was starting to really suffer with cramps, but a bit of a stretch in the water and I was off again, up into “Dave’s Caves” where you were directed to crawl towards a red light, there was more than one way to go, and you had to find your way back out.

Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races
Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races

As you came back round towards the event village there was a tyre haul, and a really nice run along towards where the Nuclear Bunker would be during the night race. At the end of this though was the 3/4 pipe, where you had to get a real sprint on to try and get up, grab hold at the top, and then in my case, hope someone was there to catch you! After painfully clambering over the top of that It was down and up the muddiest hill you have ever encountered, at the end you had to resort to hands and knees before heading back towards the start line.

As I came up the hill “hear comes our third lady” was being shouted through a megaphone, I was already hurting with a bit of cramp, but I was definitely going for another lap. At this point David caught up with me and we started out the second lap together. Around we went again, and this time I started getting told I was in second place, one of the girls in front had obviously decided to just do the one lap.

I got chatting to a guy who was running near us, and got a bit more encouragement as David and I took on the course again, once more I fell off the hang tough, and the pontoons, and I was struggling more and more with cramps in my calves, I felt like I was literally crawling up the final hill when we got there. We were just in time to get in a third lap, I was already exhausted, but the thought that I might lose 2nd place if whoever was behind me took on a third lap spurred me on.

The third lap was possibly the hardest thing I had done so far, I was cramping from the first obstacle, and really slowing down, all I wanted to do was hit the finish line. It turns out we were the last people to come through for a third lap, and a couple of lovely marshals paced us for a while, giving David a break from hauling me over walls. Once we overtook some people still on their second lap though we lost our friends. The final hill nearly finished me off this time, but I crossed the line desperate to know if I had actually managed a podium place.

Nuclear Blackout Day finishers photo Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races
Nuclear Blackout Day finishers photo
Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races

As I came out of the finishing area my name was called from the stage, I wandered over a bit bemused, to be handed a trophy for second place. I had done it, absolutely amazed I staggered round to where Ella was waiting for me by the Obstacle Kit stand. I have to say right now that the support I got from David Beatty through out the race got me through and I would never have made it without him.

My second place trophy
My second place trophy

Blackout Night

After a break where we got dried, tried to warm up, and had a bite to eat, a few of our other friends arrived and we got ourselves ready to race the night race.

This race was essentially exactly the same format as the day race, except this time it was in the dark, so it was on with our head torches and time for race 2 of the weekend. The difference this time was that we would also be taking a turn through the secret nuclear bunker that gives Nuclear Races its name.

The night race was fun. I ran for fun this time, along with Ella, and our friends Pete and Kate Lawless, we waded through mud, splashed through water and pulled each other over walls.

Looking back over some of the open stretches and you could just see head torches winding there way over the course and it was a very impressive sight.

Nuclear Blackout Night
Nuclear Blackout Night. Picture courtesy of Nuclear Races

We took a nice gentle lap round the course but decided to leave it at one lap. I did feel I could have managed another, but common sense prevailed for once, as I knew I had to race again the next day, so I very happily crossed the line, got my second medal of the day and got ready to cheer the rest of my friends over the line later with a well deserved drink in my hand!

Nuclear Blackout Night finishers photo with Kate Lawless, Pete Lawless and Ella Roberts
Nuclear Blackout Night finishers photo with Kate Lawless, Pete Lawless and Ella Roberts
Happy Nukers. (L-R Me, Dominic Wright, Bob Cornford, Kevin Coda, Vince James)
Happy Nukers.
(L-R Me, Dominic Wright, Bob Cornford, Kevin Coda, Vince James)

What felt like a long drive home followed this, and after midnight I finally crawled into bed to get a bit of sleep before the next days race.

Myself with Ella and the wonderful David after our epic day of racing
Myself with Ella and the wonderful David after our epic day of racing

I decided to check the results the next day, for the joy of seeing myself second and got another surprise, it looks like I was actually the only girl to do a third lap, and therefore came first rather than second. What a result!