Tag Archives: burpees

Spartan Beast

As we hit October, the biggest races of the year are looming scarily when they once seemed far, far away. The first of these scary big races was the Spartan Beast. 20+ km and 25+ Obstacles, and a whole load of hype. Having race directors as your friends on Facebook isn’t always a good thing when before the race they post status updates about “the longest barbed wire crawl in OCR history” or something of the like. I was starting to get those special kind of nerves that make me want to run away and hide, call it all off, and pretend I’d never started this year of challenges.

Having injured myself running Nuclear Blackout and Back  to the Trenches, and making it worse by running Dirty Dozen and Dirty Destroyer, I had spent the two weeks prior to this race resting up as much as its ever possible to rest feet, and as such had done no training for about three weeks (excluding running the Dirty Dozen races). I was still having niggles before this race, but despite my previous statement, there was actually no way I was going to miss this race, it was too big and I have worked too hard this year to sit this one out, so at 6.30am I was picked up and on my way back to Pippingford Park.

Before the race (L-R Vince James, Linda Zeberga, Chris Williams, Helen Carrington, Lauren Edwards-Fowle, Dominic wright)
Before the race
(L-R Vince James, Linda Zeberga, Chris Williams, Helen Carrington, Lauren Edwards-Fowle, Dominic wright)

Race Description

We arrived at Pippingford in plenty of time, parked up and decanted our stuff into the Spartan bag drop bags then headed down the hill to register, having arrived nice and early it was a relatively short wait to get signed in, pick up our headbands and get ourselves ready to race. The event village was quite spread out, but we had been given an “RPCC” tent that we could use as a base (Perks of knowing the boss) which was near the start line.

Most of the RPCC team taking on the Beast
Most of the RPCC team taking on the Beast

As I’ve said the race was going to be at least 20km long with at least 25 obstacles, and since this was Pippingford we knew there was going to be lots of hills, we could see some of the obstacles that were near the event village and we already knew there was going to be a lot of carries, barbed wire and a swim from things already released before the race. We gathered near the start, then had to climb over a wall to get to the actual start line, and it was time. With a few AROO’S the wait was over, and we were off, and it was time for me to face my longest distance yet.

The Race

The race started with a run, it was quite narrow so it was fairly slow going as it was difficult to overtake anyone, so we settled in, with a bit of banter and made our way through woody ground, around trees and through mud and some streams.

Eventually the pack did begin to split as we climbed over the large A-frame cargo net. We came to the set of parallel bars that had cost me burpees at the super, I got a little way along them, but the bars were slippery and I put my foot down – first set of 30 burpees earned and done.  I was running with Lauren, Linda and Vince but as we clambered out of a muddy water pit we came across Dom who had been running with fellow RPCC team mate Amy Moore who is becoming sensationally fast, but had unfortunately hit her leg, which was gaping open. She had to pull out of the race, and we were all gutted for her. The Beast had claimed its first victim that we knew of. With Dom and Chris now running with us as well we set back off and came round into the event village to take on the monkey bars. There was a huge queue here and knowing I was only going to fail and find myself plunged into the cold water below, I got straight on with my second set of burpees.

We settled into a run, often splitting up but genrally finding each other again eventually as we took on hills, mud and streams. When we hit the barbed wire it looked like it went on forever, this really did split us up, me being particularly slow. I got my hair caught in the barbs and was rescued by David Beatty who happened to be nearby, as I slowly crawled and rolled my way up the hill, the ground was covered in sharp little thistles, but eventually I gratefully crawled out at the top and pushed on.

We had been told beforehand to be prepared to do a lot of carrying things up and down hills. There was a sandbag carry that I actually made quite short work of, and a log carry that felt really long! By now we were also joined by Rick Burgess from RAW obstacle race team, who was taking it easy with a bad knee, and once we had dispensed with our logs Rick and I set off on the next section of running, taking it easy while we waited for Vince to catch us up, having yet again lost the others.

Me at the log carry
Me at the log carry

By the time we looped back into the event village again we were gaining on the others, we took on some muddy ditches clambering up the mud hills, to slide back down and start again, then it was the rope climb (more burpees), hoist (which was fine) and then a weird obstacle that you had to hang of and make spin (Burpees!).

Really looking like I'm enjoying myself
Really looking like I’m enjoying myself
Not the only one to get burpees here
Not the only one to get burpees here

Once the burpees were completed it was off for a little run to a muddy trench that you had to crawl through, then off across a bridge and up a hill to some walls, through one, over the next then under the following two. By now I was starting to feel the pain in my heal despite having it well taped up, and unfortunately, as I had opted to wear my Mudclaws to try and minimise the pain from the injuries I was already carrying, the old problem of them giving me blisters reared up again, and even the mighty prosoks couldn’t help me this time.

We hit an ammo box carry and were still pretty much together,  but by the time we made it round to the mile long tyre carry I was really struggling to walk, let alone run. Vince stuck with me though and we made it to the end, and the sign at the top of the hill saying “Are you tyred yet?” did make me chuckle. Once we hobbled round to the next section, a bucket carry, I had to stop and we made a makeshift bandage out of some of the course making tape to try and stop my shoes rubbing so much. Once I had dropped off the bucket it was the traverse wall. I fell off these at the cost of another set of burpees, and saw someone else with a gashed leg, it looked really painful. I waited for a bit to see if a medic would arrive so I could try and score a plaster, but the person who did eventually turn up had no supplies so I carried on with my makeshift bandage.

By now we had well and truly lost the others, so Vince, Rick and I carried on as a little “Team Cripple” as all of us were suffering with different injuries and pain. We hobbled, wobbled, walked and ran as best we could down hills, through streams, back up hills again, helping each other as best we could.

We eventually hit the swim that had been promised, and boy was it cold, then there was a banana stop (for the boys – I don’t like bananas) before grabbing a concrete filled tyre for a tyre drag. Once this was done we set off again before coming to another carry, and a bit more running/hobbling. We were passing mile markers and knew it couldn’t be too much further, we could start to hear music wafting from the event village. We came to an overhanging wall, and with a bit of a leg up I was over the top, then it was round to the spear throw. I messed this up, as did Vince and Rick, so we got down to doing what was to be our last set of burpees. One more wall to get over and then we got to the the final obstacle – the ramp that had given me so much trouble at the Sprint. I asked the guys to wait for me at the top to catch me if necessary, managed the climb ok, and with a helping hand from Rick I was over the top first time. Very relieved I made my way down the cargo net, we grabbed hands and leaped the flames from the fire jump before going to claim our medals. Not only the green Spartan Beast medal, but also our Trifecta medals for completing all three distances this year. Spartan Beast – Done!

Vince, Myself and Rick jumping the flames
Vince, Myself and Rick jumping the flames

 

The After Glow

After the race the first thing I did was pull off my shoes with utter relief to reveal the bleeding blister on my ankle that had nearly been my undoing – I had said to Vince on the way round though “I’m not going to be defeated by a bloody blister!” It was quite cold so it was straight into the dry robe and changed before we settled into our post race ritual – hundreds of photos, and a well earned beer!

Spartan Beast done - with the greatest of team mates and friends. (L-R Chris Williams, Dominic Weight, Helen Carrington, Linda Zeberga, Vince James, Lauren Edwards-Fowle)
Spartan Beast done – with the greatest of team mates and friends.
(L-R Chris Williams, Dominic Weight, Helen Carrington, Linda Zeberga, Vince James, Lauren Edwards-Fowle)
Always time for a selfie
Always time for a selfie

 

Spartan Sprint

A week after my first ever Spartan race I found myself getting up at 5am to make the trip to Cambridge to complete my second, the Spartan Sprint. Although much less nervous this time, I had come down with the usual start of term illness that I get every September, and was feeling really poorly. In fact if I wasn’t doing all of this for charity I would have crawled back into bed! Never the less, I was picked up at 6am and we headed to the race.

Getting ready to race  (L-R Lauren Edwards-Fowle, Helen Carrington, Faye Caley, Lucy Martlew)
Getting ready to race
(L-R Lauren Edwards-Fowle, Helen Carrington, Faye Caley, Lucy Martlew)

Race Description

The Spartan Sprint is the shortest of the three Spartan distances, advertised at 5+km, this race came in pretty much dead on the 5km distance. It was a nice flat race through some woodland and easy paths, there was to be quite a bit of mud and the pre race email had warned about two water crossings that would require the ability to swim. The race would also contain some of Spartans signature obstacles such as the rope climb and spear throw.

The walk into the event village had actually taken us past some of the obstacles, so we already knew we would again be climbing up and over the large A frame cargo netting and doing a crawl between hay bails topped with wood.

There was a great atmosphere at the start of this race, the event village was quite compact, and there was music playing as we gathered for the start of the race.

The Race

We set off through a cloud of smoke and very quickly hit a set of low hurdles across the path. At this point the pack still had not really split so it was a bit slow going, with most people walking over them, myself included. This was followed up by a wade through some thick mud, which I have heard swallowed quite a few shoes. One of my x-talons was pulled off my foot despite the Xtenex laces, although having them did allow me to get my shoe back on again very quickly.

After clambering out of the mud, you grabbed a sandbag and took it for a run, then the route took you through some lovely natural terrain, waving back and forth through some woods, before eventually having to tackle the very heavy atlas stones. I was finding the running really difficult as my chest was hurting, but at least I was able to take the stone from someone this week, saving me from attempting to haul it up off the ground.

Me struggling with the heavy atlas stone
Me struggling with the heavy atlas stone. Photo credit: Epic Action Imagery

As I have already said, the race contained two deep water crossings, which didn’t bother me too much, I’m not a really strong swimmer, but I can get myself from A to B in the water without drowning. My friend was less delighted though as she really is not a keen swimmer and I know she wishes she had known before she signed up for the race (in the race email two days before was a little late notice for her).

Not looking too delighted at the cold water
Not looking too delighted at the cold water, Photo Credit: Epic Action Imagery

So far I was doing OK with no burpees, but before long we hit the monkey bars, and I predictably slid straight off them into the waiting hay below, dusted myself off and got on with my first set of 30. I found these really tough going as the motion of going up and down quickly along with the cold I was suffering made me really dizzy. After a slow 30 I was off again, having no trouble with crawling over the path, or carrying the heavy bucket full of water.

My next set of burpees came, again predictably, at the rope climb. I did give it a go, but barely got off the ground before I was off and getting ready for another 30 reps. Once these were finished I grabbed some water and headed over the A frame cargo net and carried on. My running was really slowing down as my breathing became harder but I was determined to finish.

My third and final set of burpees of this race came at the spear throw, which I missed entirely, then it was off into a ditch with barbed wire over the top meaning you had to run through it at a crouch. This was followed by the hoist, which I managed fine, just as the week before, and then a short run round to the final obstacle, the same A-frame slope as last week.

Having had no problem at all with this at the super, I confidently headed up the slope using the rope, got to the top, and slipped, sliding right down to the bottom. This preceded to happen another 3 times, leaving me increasingly frustrated. I honestly thought at one point I was going to fail this race at the final hurdle. I was feeling drained and unwell, and really didn’t fancy 30 burpees in-front of everyone near the finish. I took one last shot at it, got to the top of the rope again and froze, I couldn’t convince myself to move, the guy to the right of me at the top was telling me I could do it, but I was immobilised, sobbing that I couldn’t. He grabbed my wrist, as a guy to the left took hold of my other one, and someone behind me gave me a shove and I was finally at the top. The crowd watching the obstacle gave a massive cheer, but I honestly just felt humiliated.

I clambered down as quickly as I could managed, rallied myself a bit for the fire jump, and crossed the finish line in tears. I was feeling really run down, and not my usual elation at the end, but at least I had finished.

My Fire Jump
My Fire Jump. Photo Credit: Epic Action Imagery

 

Lap two

It took quite a bit of calming down and convincing by Lucy Martlew and Lauren Edwards-Fowle but after a breather I was feeling better and game for a second turn around the course. A group of us went round again for a fun lap to enjoy it rather than race.

I am so glad I was talked back into this, as it was a really fun lap. We took it much slower and I can’t speak for the others, but I had a really great time. Highlights of the second lap were finally completing the monkey bars, with a tiny bit of help from David Beatty, and an epic group fire jump at the end. We skipped the final obstacle due to a massive queue, meaning I didn’t have to face it again, and even got thrown chocolate to munch when we went through the barbed wire covered ditch. All in all it turned my day back into a really positive experience and I finished on a real high.

To paraphrase "Sitting on the shoulders of giants"
To paraphrase “Sitting on the shoulders of giants” Photo Credit: Epic Action Imagery
Group fire jump (L-R Lauren Edwards-Fowle, David Beatty, Lucy Martlew, Katie Keeble, Jordan Townsend, Helen Carrington, Faye Caley, James Ruckley)
Group fire jump
(L-R Lauren Edwards-Fowle, David Beatty, Lucy Martlew, Katie Keeble, Jordan Townsend, Helen Carrington, Faye Caley, James Ruckley) Photo Credit: Epic Action Imagery

 

After the race was over we hung around to watch the amazing Lucy and Faye take the podium after coming in 1st and 3rd place for the ladies respectively and have a couple more photos, before it was time to hit the road again.

Final group shot before heading home (L-R James Ruckley, Katie Keeble, Faye Caley, Helen Carrington, Lauren Edwards-Fowle, David Beatty, Richard Pringle, Lucy Martlew)
Final group shot, with the main man Rich Pringle, before heading home!
(L-R James Ruckley, Katie Keeble, Faye Caley, Helen Carrington, Lauren Edwards-Fowle, David Beatty, Richard Pringle, Lucy Martlew)

 

 

 

Spartan Super

As this race approached I was feeling more and more nervous. In fact I had never felt so worried about any race I have done, including the my first one. Spartan races have a reputation for being tough, but I think it was the thought of doing 30 penalty burpees for every failed obstacle that was really getting me worked up. I have always struggled with burpees and can’t do them fast or well. I also knew there were obstacles that I was going to fail, for example I know I can’t climb a rope, and it’s not a nice or comforting thought going into a race knowing there are things you just can’t do.

I arrived feeling quite sick, but having my awesome “RPCC famly” around me helped with the nerves, well, I say helped, as some of them had done the Sprint the day before and kept saying how tough it was – and this was going to be longer!

Before the race with my fellow Spartan virgins. (L-R Roger Roberts, Ella Roberts, Helen Carrington, Kate Lawless, Pete Lawless, Viki Stapley)
Before the race with my fellow Spartan virgins.
(L-R Roger Roberts, Ella Roberts, Helen Carrington, Kate Lawless, Pete Lawless, Viki Stapley)

 

Race Description

Spartan Races do not release their distances beforehand, they just tell you that the Super will be 13+km. With the people from the Sprint the day before telling us that the 5+km course clocked in at around 7km we were trying to mentally prepare for anywhere up to a 15km course, however I have seen some peoples data from the Super and it actually looks like it was only about 12km, surprisingly under distance. I said at the time it didn’t feel that far. The course was going to be hilly and over some tough terrain, but I was prepared for this as I had raced at Pippingford earlier in the year. Since at least some of the course had already been churned up during the sprint the day before, it was also going to be really muddy in places.

We gathered at the start line, for a bit of a warm up, although there was not much room, a race briefing and a lot of crys of “I am Spartan” and “AROO” then a quick three, two, one and we were off over the line.

My wave starting the Spartan Sprint
My wave starting the Spartan Sprint

 

The Race

We set off slightly downhill, across a rather bouncy bridge and then set off up a long gravelly hill, towards the top of which were a series of small walls, one to go over, one to go through and one to go under. As usual I’m sure I will start getting things in the wrong order and miss things out so please forgive me, I try my best.

After some tricky trail running, a bit of wading through mud and water it was back down the hill and heading back towards the main obstacle field by the event village where you were first taken into some trenches, to crawl under barbed wire and some netting suspended above the trench, this was followed by a short run to a large A frame net to climb up and over.

My at the top of the net
My at the top of the net

Once over the net you had to clamber in and out of a series of muddy trenches then it was around to the traverse wall. This was so slippery that despite really trying to take my time, my shoe slipped and I was off – this earned me my first set of 30 burpees so down I got and started the slow process of getting these done.

Trying to get a grip on the wall
Trying to get a grip on the wall

This was followed almost immediately by the monkey bars, slung low over a shallow pit of water, I gave it my best shot, but slipped straight off the narrow bars with a splash, clambered out of the pit and set to doing my second set of very muddy burpees. If there was ever a moment when I thought I might give up, this was it, 60 burpees already, very close together, and no idea what was coming next.

First set of many burpees
First set of many burpees

Once I was finally through with my burpees, it was back into the woods, through some more mud, one misstep and I found myself buried up to my knee, laughing I pulled myself out and carried on, before long finding myself at a sandbag carry, grabbing a bag I set off down the hill, around and back up again – at which point I took a bit of a wrong turn, but noticed quickly and set off again in the right direction.

Sandbag carry
Sandbag carry

Throughout the course there were several other sections where you had to carry objects, from huge atlas stones(which I struggled to even lift) to ammo boxes. Towards the end was also a jerry can carry, but there was a huge queue and the marshals suggested we just took the burpees as it would be quicker! There was also a heavy tyre drag, which I actually got through surprisingly quickly, and a log carry that took you through a pool of water that seemed to be full of rocks, but that I actually quite enjoyed.

A set of parallel bars at the top of yet another hill earned me another set of burpees as I failed to shimmy along holding up my own body weight, before setting off for another run.

Running up one of the many hills
Running up one of the many hills

Once again you looped into the main event village area, this time to be faced with a rope climb, followed by a hoist. I failed the rope climb, this was inevitable really, and did my burpees, then feeling a bit worried about my lack of strength, moved onto they hoist. I actually had no problem with this obstacle and heaved the weight to the top, lowering it carefully to the ground lest I pick up yet more burpees, then I was off again, up a hill to a barbed wire crawl. I chose to roll under this, which saved my knees and was quicker, but left me really dizzy!

Completing the hoist
Completing the hoist

Some more running, mud and obstacles such as a wall climb, which I managed with just a little push from the girl behind me, and it was time for the spear throw as you headed back towards the event village for the final time. My throw was on target, but not hard enough to stick in the hay bails, and another 30 burpees came my way.

Running towards the spear throw
Running towards the spear throw

After the spear throw it was around to the hang tough obstacle – which I again failed, yet more burpees and this time with the finish line in sight! Once I had struggled through these I sprinted off, trying to finish as strongly as I could. To finish you had to run up the steep side of an a-frame with the help of a rope, before climbing down the net the other side, before taking on a fire jump then a straight run down to the finish line.

Climbing up the side of the final obstacle
Climbing up the side of the final obstacle
Fire jump on the way to the finish
Fire jump on the way to the finish

After crossing the line you were handed a very nice sized medal, and 1/3 of my trifector attempt was successfully completed. There were some decent freebies once you had finished racing as well, including a cold beer, and some really nice ice cream.  Then it was time for our customary post race selfies, hugs and group shots.


Post race group shot (L-R Linda Zeberga, Lauren Edwards-Fowle, Chris Williams, Amy Moore, Dominic Wright, Helen Carrington, Vince James)
Post race group shot
(L-R Linda Zeberga, Lauren Edwards-Fowle, Chris Williams, Amy Moore, Dominic Wright, Helen Carrington, Vince James)
Managed to catch 2 seconds with the main man Richard Pringle (L-R Ella Roberts, Rich Pringle, Kate Lawless, Helen Carrington)
Managed to catch 2 seconds with the main man Richard Pringle
(L-R Ella Roberts, Rich Pringle, Kate Lawless, Helen Carrington)

With my first Spartan Race completed, it’s time to look ahead to my second, the Spartan Sprint, which is next weekend and to think about really upping my training in order to complete the Spartan Beast in October, which still scares me. I was chuffed to find out when the results were published that despite my thought on the way round that being in the top 100 women in this race would be ok, I managed to finish in the top 20, and 4th in my age/gender category with a respectable time of 1h55mins.

I will leave you with our final group shot of the day. In the end despite being so nervous about this race I thought I might throw up, I had a fantastic day with some amazing people and enjoyed (almost) every moment of it.

 

We Are Spartans AROO (L-R Lucy Warberton, Tania Mellish, Ella Roberts, Helen Carrington, Linda Zeberga, Lauren Edwards-Fowle, David Beatty, In front Kate Lawless, Viki Stapley)
We Are Spartans AROO
(L-R Lucy Warberton, Tania Mellish, Ella Roberts, Helen Carrington, Linda Zeberga, Lauren Edwards-Fowle, David Beatty, In front Kate Lawless, Viki Stapley)