Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest 2015

In 2014 I travelled to London to run Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest with a group of people from Team Muddy Race and had so much fun I didn’t hesitate to sign up to do the same again in 2015.

As we took the train from Hastings to London it started to Snow, from an unseasonably warm November to an unseasonably cold one in a matter of days, it was freezing cold with a biting wind. By the time we arrived at Wembley the precipitation had stopped but it was still freezing cold, registration was a little way from the main event village in an old Wicks building, and was as slick as I had come to expect from a Rat Race event. After registering we dropped off our bags then headed back up to the start area, which in all honesty was a bit lame compared to the previous year.

Some of Team Muddy Race before we set off
Some of Team Muddy Race before we set off

Due to the cold, I decided pretty quickly that trying to stick in a large group like last year would probably lead to problems dealing with the cold, so I chose just to run my own race so I could keep as warm as possible, I wasn’t relishing the thought of getting wet, and I just wanted to get started.

Eventually it was time for wave 11 to get warmed up and set off, I wormed my way close to the front and headed off clambering over hay-bails in the shadow of Wembley stadium, weaving up and down and a hop over a wall (it looked to be that there may have been more than one, but we were directed around the others, I believe they were shut for safety reasons, I read somewhere later that the walls were actually being moved by the wind).

The course took us up the steps of the stadium and around the outside, on one slope I hit my first big queue, not unexpected when running in such a late wave, it was at a water-slide, however there was only one side of the slide that actually had any water, the other side was dry and there was only a queue for the water side, so I decided that due to the cold I would take the faster route and ran down the second side of the slide, along with a few people, I did slide in the water at the bottom and nearly fall face first into a hay bail at the end but I managed to right myself and clamber over the bail and then crawl under a tunnel.

There was another hold up on a slope which, included a rope to help you get to the top, but wasn’t too difficult considering the queue that had formed there, this was followed by some parallel bars and a slack line traverse suspended on some scaffolding. My husband, who had come to spectate, caught up with me on a set of stairs by the stadium as we were made to carry a traffic cone up and down the stairs, before heading off into the streets around Wembley. It’s a bit strange to have to pause in a race to wait for a few passing cars!

Carrying a cone with the Wembley arch in the background
Carrying a cone with the Wembley arch in the background

Later it was into a storm drain, water no deeper than ankle height, but seriously cold. We were told to keep to the right where it was shallow, but going round people at one point took me too far to the left and I nearly fell in, luckily I just about managed to keep my balance and stay on my feet rather than end up fully submerged in the icy water. After the storm drain there was some balance beams, which were tricky as they were slippery, and then it was into the Wicks building again, I think this could have been one of the most treacherous parts for me, with the balance of a giraffe on ice and the floor slippery from wet shoes (*note – I actually have no idea how a giraffe would balance on ice, I may be doing them a great miss-justice here!)

While inside the building there was a tyre mangle to crawl through and a high wall to get over. On the top of the wall I had a bit of a moment where I couldn’t get down, I keep having mental blocks on walls, and I had to beg someone to help me down, and I still managed to land badly, luckily I think my feet were so cold that I couldn’t really feel the pain, as later when I got home and warmed up I was hobbling around for a good few hours!

Back in the event village for the last little stint there were a good few obstacles, including a hang tough made of beer barrels, a hang tough made of the more usual rings, (however this was shut due to someone coming off and getting injured – hopefully they are OK), some very high containers to clamber up and over, with a cargo net to help you down the other side, and a large structure that you had to climb up then jump off onto a huge inflatable pillow. No matter how hard I tried though I could not convince myself to get over the edge, I was up there for quite a while trying to get up the nerve to do it, It wasn’t even that it looked that bad, but I couldn’t do it – sometimes you really do need someone else there to encourage you, so in the end, I climbed back down and walked around it, feeling a bit like a failure.

At the top of the ledge, before I climbed back down
At the top of the ledge, before I climbed back down

By now there was not to much left to do, a crawl under some netting that also contained some giant balls, a hoist, a rope climb (that no surprise I didn’t complete) the large survivors wall near the finish where I had yet another melt down and needed a stranger to help me get down, and a travelator which had a massive massive queue. Right at the end was a large inflatable water-slide which was sadly closed, I heard the marshal say that it had been blowing and flinging around in the wind and was unsafe. This just left a run down the side of the slide to the finish line.

Stuck on top of the survivors wall
Stuck on top of the survivors wall

It’s fair to say I didn’t enjoy this race as much this year as I did last year, that being said I would still do this race again, but I would try and make sure I had at least one person to run it with. At some point I will be back to try this again, as I have a score to settle with that jump. In the mean time, I think I need to practice getting off walls, just need to find one to practice on!

Nuclear Fallout 2015

Choosing What to Run

Another weekend, another road trip, up to Essex to run Nuclear Fallout for some of us, and the first independent UK OCR championship for others. I had taken my time deciding what to do about this race, I had signed up for Fallout very early in the year with my Nuclear season pass, then later qualified for the UK champs and I had thought about swapping to just run the championships, or running the championships then going out and running fallout later in the day, but in the end I decided to keep my entry as it was as when it comes down to it, I’m not really a competitive racer, in fact I’m basically a glorified fun runner in slightly better trainers, and I knew there was no way I could complete the course with an intact wrist band even if I was fast enough to push for a top place (which I’m not) so I stuck to running the 12km Fallout course, and on the day I asked my friend Lucy Warburton if she fancied a running buddy and we set off  together for a leisurely lap of the course.

Waiting to start in good company, with Vince about to run the UK champs and Linda up to support
Waiting to start in good company, with Vince about to run the UK champs and Linda up to support

The Race

I’m sure I have said this before, but Nuclear really know how to put on a race. It remains a favourite for me time after time after time. We set off in the rain at 10.30, it was wet, it was muddy, and it was cold. We headed straight into a ditch and then set off running along slippery muddy farmland, more than once Lucy and I talked about how glad we were for our Inov8s as we watched people slide around all over the place in normal trainers. We kept a pace that was steady, but fast enough to keep us warm, as we took on walls and muddy ditches, climbed up tyre walls and attempted inclined monkey bars and hang tough rings.

At the gorilla bars  we both swung off straight away and headed into the muddy penalty ditches, before coming to the endless feeling stretch of cargo nets, where we tried to keep with another group of racers to make it easier, but getting utterly covered in sticky mud none the less.

When we got to the section with the Aquaphobia obstacle we were shoved up the muddy bank by a helpful man behind us (nothing like an OCR to get groped and grope back in return), then we were up, over the slippery planks, and made the jump down onto the mats and into the cold cold water. Up and down more slippery muddy banks, on our bums, trying to use a rope to slow ourselves down but gravity doing its job and sending us ever so elegantly into the water again, up and over another tyre wall then across the inflatable nuclear pontoons

As we moved on round the course we started to notice more and more people pulling off to the side cold or hypothermic, and there were several racers still running whilst wrapped in foil blankets, the cold conditions were obviously starting to get to people, we were holding up OK though and enjoying the race. We soon came to a new obstacle called Risk Taker, which involved a short jump from a plank onto a cargo net, which although not a long way, took a lot of psyching up (for me at least) to make the leap, once on the net you had to climb down and underneath over some water to a bank on the other side, both Lucy and I were really chuffed and proud to have completed this obstacle.

Scaling the net - I'm in this picture honest ;)
Scaling the net – I’m in this picture honest 😉

Eventually we made it to the part we had both been waiting for, the zip line and death slide. First you had to wade/swim out in cold water to collect your rope for the zip wire, then come back and up onto the obstacle where you whiz out over the lake, then it was over some netting suspended in yet more cold water and then up onto the slide. On one side of the slide Nuclear have added an extension called the kicker, shooting you off the end and giving you more air time before hitting the lake. Having both done the slide before Lucy and I decided to brave it and took to the side of the slide with the new addition, we counted to 3 and slid off the top together, shot down the steep slide and were airborne in seconds, shooting into the air off the end of the slide before coming down hard into the lake, I hit the water with the flat of my back and it felt like my entire body had been slapped hard, it was so painful, I hit the bottom of the lake before surfacing, and squealing with equal parts pain and delight, it might have hurt like hell, but boy was it fun.

My best death slide photo yet!
My best death slide photo yet!

As we neared the end we were starting to feel the cold, but I was still loving the race. As I ran it occurred to me that this was why I do it, why I run races like this, shear fun and enjoyment of a really well put together course, challenging myself and spending time with like minded friends. Nuclear races restores any faith lost, removes any doubts about why I continue to spend my weekends in this way, and reminds me of why I still love this hobby.

As we came into the event village for the final time, we had to take on the 3/4 pipe, where Lucy and I were fortunate enough to be hauled over the top by the lovely Matt Stewart who was marshalling the obstacle, and the weaver, which we failed to weave but did clamber over the top, we then grabbed hands and sprinted the short distance left to the finish line, got our final photo then dived into the warm showers.

Sadly out of focus finishers pic with Lucy
Sadly out of focus finishers pic with Lucy

After…

Once I was finished I headed up to the Muddy Race tent where I had left my bag to get changed and catch up with a few people, then headed down to the bar tent where they were doing the presentations for the UK championship winners. My good friend Vince had run the championship course, which was an extended version of what I had run, with lots of additional challenging obstacles for them to complete, and I listened with interest to Vince telling me about the course which sounded pretty brutal.

We watched, cheered and clapped along as the podium winners for each category were announced. It’s wonderful and humbling to get to see these phenomenal athletes pick up their well deserved trophies. I always think it’s such a privilege to even be in the same place as some of these guys, let alone be able to say that I know some of them and could call them a friend!

Once the presentations were done we took on the last challenge of the day, getting the car out of the increasingly muddy car park, and headed for home, where I took the longest shower in history to try and warm up, having been shivering non-stop for about the past 5 hours! I came away from this day absolutely buzzing, Nuclear had done it again, a race to be proud of.

Just hanging out with the elites, as you do (including superstar winner Conor Hancock and 3rd place Ross Brackley)
Just hanging out with the elites, as you do! (including superstar winner Conor Hancock and 3rd place Ross Brackley)

 

OCR Wrongens take on The Obstacle Gym

Ok a quick edit before I start: This is an official Wrongens blog post, but being a Wrongen, our illustrious leader Vince is still getting to grips with his website, so It’s going on my own for now. So here it is, the first Wrongens blog, about the first official OCR Wrongens outing.

OCR Wrongens take over of The Obstacle Gym

“I’ve arranged a training day, I have a space in the car, will you come?” Asked my good friend and OCR Wrongens founder Vince James. “OK Sure, let me check my calendar” I said, and this is how I found myself up early on a Sunday morning, for a 3-4hr road trip to The Obstacle Gym to do a training session with a group of people I’d never met before.

The road trip started as many do when Wrongen Vince is involved, with male genitalia being discussed at length before we had even left Hastings, but the journey flew by, and other than a detour into a cow shed (don’t always trust your SatNavs folks!) we made it to the venue set in Shawell Woods, Lutterworth.

Wrongens in a cow shed
Wrongens in a cow shed
The Obstacle Gym has a 900m muddy trail set up, incorporating around 30 obstacles from belly crawling through tunnels to traversing a high rope above a net, several walls, monkey bars and rings, a rope swing and even a warped wall to practice on as well as some muddy ditches and a cold pond to wade through.

Getting to grips with the warped wall
Getting to grips with the warped wall
Once we had signed in we were split into a couple of groups and given a walk round the course by the gym staff, who explained each of the obstacles, we were then let loose to play. We were told if we wanted any specific tuition on any of the obstacles to just find one of the team who would come and help you, or you could just go out and enjoy the course. They also have a climbing wall to play on and a rope set up to practice climbing at the base area, and a track to do a tyre drag and set a time if you liked.

I set off for a first lap of the course, and after making short work getting up the first big wall using the ropes I got stuck at the top and had to be helped back down, caught in the arms of The Obstacle Gym owner Colin, we had a chat about technique and confidence and then I was off again over a tall wooden ladder and off into the trees. For the first lap we took our time, in fact I took almost an hour to make my way round the short course, stopping several times to have more than one attempt at an obstacle, or stopping to help and watch others.

Wronegns Vince and Matt splashing around
Wronegns Vince and Matt splashing around
During the first lap, at the high rope traverse, we were taught how to do a flip dismount by Colin, which for me with my fear of heights and no confidence in my own grip strength, felt terrifying, but with a lot of encouragement and yet again with Colin there to catch me, I actually managed to do it (although I wasn’t brave enough to try it again on my own).

Wrongen Simon doing a perfect flip over dismount
Wrongen Simon doing a perfect flip over dismount
After the first slow lap, fellow Wrongen Jude Thwaites and I set out for a second speedier lap around the course before stopping for a bit of cake provided by Wrongen Louise while keeping warm by the fire pit provided at base. Finally a group of us went out for a final time to get some photographs on the obstacles.

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The only bad thing I have to say is that its so far away from where I live that I won’t be able to go back again, and again, and again. I would completely recommend a visit to anyone if you get the chance, it’s so much fun on a fantastically designed little course that gives you the opportunity to practice techniques or just to get good and muddy and have fun with like-minded people.

For our first official Wrongen’s outing it couldn’t have been more perfect, we all got to meet a lot of new wonderful people whilst doing what we love, and so that leaves me to say a massive thank you to Vince for organising the trip for us, and to the whole team at The Obstacle Gym for having us all up to play. I’m sure I’m not wrong in saying – we will be back!

A right bunch of Wrongens
A right bunch of Wrongens