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