Tag Archives: Obstacle

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

Pukka Races: Only Fools Ride Horses

My second and final race in July required a bit of an early start and a long drive, for what was a actually a very short and small race, however knowing how much fun we had at Pukka Races last offering, and knowing we were going to be getting one of the coolest finishers medals I’ve seen yet, we decided to sign up – and It turns out, it was totally worth the trip!

Race Description

Only Fools Ride Horses was an un-timed 4 mile run in Colchester over a cross country equestrian course, with, as you may be able to tell from the name, an Only Fools and Horses theme. The website made it clear in the description that it was going to be a race with very little mud, but that it was going to be FUN!

Me at the start of OFRH
Me at the start of OFRH

We arrived in plenty of time, and the registration process was smooth, leaving us with plenty of time to “prepare” for the race. We took our race preparation extremely seriously, there were photos, then some more photos which were getting increasingly silly, there was a serious discussion about how we were going to tackle the race, most of which came down to us agreeing not to take it seriously, and to try and get the best photos we could. This lead to an even more important discussion about what poses we were going to do whenever we saw a photographer – and the phrase “Poses over position” was born (Quote Vince James)

Us at the Start with Race Director Sean (L-R Kevin Coda, Dominic Wright, Chris Williams, Vince James, Cat Denning, Helen Carrington, Sean McNamee)
Us at the Start with Race Director Sean
(L-R Kevin Coda, Dominic Wright, Chris Williams, Vince James, Cat Denning, Helen Carrington, Sean McNamee)
A bit of piggyback fun With Dom, Kev and Cat
A bit of piggyback fun With Dom, Kev and Cat

In between all the photographs we were enjoying the tunes from the DJ tent, we did quite a lot of dancing prior to the warm up – which was probably a mistake, I was exhausted before we even set off!

After the warm up we got to the front – not to give us a competitive edge, but to make sure we were in the pictures, and then we were off!

In the Starting line up  (Picture courtesy of Pukka Races)
In the Starting line up
(Picture courtesy of Pukka Races)

The Race

This would be a fantastic race for someone who wants to try out an OCR for the first time, there were no scary or particularly difficult obstacles, so this race would be accessible to everyone. That being said, it shouldn’t be underestimated, and was still a challenging course.  We set off over a field and down a hill – which is always worrying as you know you will have to climb back up one at some point.

At the sight of the photographer at the bottom of the hill we jumped into our agreed lunge pose – although we think he may have missed us – and then ran on. As we went through the race we naturally split into smaller groups, and I ran this race with Dominic, Chris and Vince. Despite agreeing to take it easy, we didn’t slouch and found a good pace.

The race consisted of running the cross country route, which was interspersed with horse jumps to clamber over. This was a unique and fun twist on a race. There were also some “Delboy surprises” one of which involved getting whacked with inflatables by two guys dressed up as Batman and Robin as you ran past, and another was getting squirted with water pistols, which was actually very welcome as the day was hot and humid. I also liked the touch of having a few areas with loudspeakers playing Only Fools and Horses clips.

More usual obstacles to navigate were a cargo net crawl, a sandbag carry up a hill then back down, and a slip and slide, which is always a favourite.  Again at the slide we planned our poses and gave it a good go on the way down, then stopped at the bottom for another attempt at the lunge shot.

A final run and a few more horse jumps brought you back towards the start line, where the 35ft of monkey bars were waiting for us – and a 5 burpee penalty if you fell off. All three boys swung across these with ease – and I managed about a third before falling off and doing my burpees like a good girl. We re-grouped at the end of the monkey bars, grabbed hands, and sprinted to the finish line together.

Chris, Vince, Myself and Dom after finishing the race
Chris, Vince, Myself and Dom after finishing the race

Normally this is where I would wrap up and sign off, but I’m adding another section to this one…

The After Race Shenanigans

Once we had watched the others finish, we went into photo overdrive, there were group shots, selfies,  and group selfies. We got ourselves changed into our new, bright yellow, pukka races finishers tees and had ourselves a well earned drink (we had the foresight to stick a large bottle in the car) then we went for the customary after race burger.

After race abs!
After race group shot
After race group selfie
After race group selfie
After race gun show
After race gun show

Instead of heading home at this point, we went back to the monkey bars. I had remembered a work competition to read in an unusual place, so after being able to convince someone to lend me their kindle, and with a little help from my friends, I was back up on the bars having a casual read!

My entry into my works summer reading competition
My entry into my works summer reading competition

Obviously we couldn’t stop there, so we spent a bit more time “monkeying around”

Cat, Vince and Chris "Hanging around" after the race
Cat, Vince and Chris “Hanging around” after the race

I enjoyed this race so much, there really was a great atmosphere and I got to spend the day with some lovely people. I will leave you with one last picture – us all just hanging around.

Hanging around at the end of the race
Hanging around at the end of the race

Dirty Dozen

Barley a week after my last race in March and it was time to take on my one and only challenge for April – The Dirty Dozen. A 12km obstacle race that would be my longest distance to date.

Race Description

This race was set at The Hop Farm in Kent, and I’m sure I’ve read somewhere it being promoted as “the home of large obstacles” or something similar – it did not disappoint!

There was quite a bit of build up for this on Facebook, with a few of the obstacles given a preview, this was enough to stoke the nerves!

We arrived to a really well organised race, free parking a short walk from the registration tents, which were split into queues based on your surname. Here you were given your race pack which included your (named) number, wrist band, timing chip and band for your bag to enable you to use the bag drop.

The event village was buzzing with a great atmosphere and some good stalls around to take a look at, as well as the bag drop, bar, food and toilets.

This was another race where RPCC was out in force, which made the atmosphere, for me, even better.

The RPCC crew ready for the race
The RPCC crew ready for the race

This race also had a cracking warm-up, which included press ups and burpees to really get you going. We arrived in plenty of time and watched the elite athletes set off at 10am, then it was our turn.

The Race

We were all raring to go at the start line, laughing, joking and posing for a few pictures, a short speech from the organiser Doug “The Beard” Spence and then it was time to go.

Posing at the start line with some of the RPCC crew (Photograph by Epic Action Imagery)
Posing at the start line with some of the RPCC crew
(Photograph by Epic Action Imagery)

This race had fair stretches of running between obstacles which meant that you didn’t get held up, as people naturally spread out and found their own pace. The terrain was pretty flat, with lots of running through fields and areas of woodland, this didn’t stop them building in muddy banks though.

There was a sheep dip obstacle which involved you getting yourself fully submerged in cold water to get under not one but three walls in quick succession – this was more a mental battle than a physical one, but it certainly took the air from my lungs as we went through.

A high cargo net only secured at the top tested my nerves as I have mentioned in other blog posts how I am somewhat scared of heights, but I managed to get over it without too much panic at the top.

There were plenty of high obstacles in this race to test my nerve as we went round, Dirty Dozen doesn’t do things by half’s!

There was a pretty long tire carry, through thick mud and just when you thought you were safe, they gave you a log to lug through the woods!

The tire carry
The tire carry
The log carry
The log carry

After a water station there was a fire jump that was much bigger than the one at Warrior Run the weekend before – as with heights, i’m not a big fan of fire, so I just ran, jumped and hoped for the best… and made it to the otherside without any drama.

Jumping fire - I can Fly! (Photo by Epic Action Imagery)
Jumping fire – I can Fly!
(Photo by Epic Action Imagery)

As with many races of this type, there were ditches to clamber in and out of, monkey bars to try and get over (I failed and had a nice refreshing swim), walls to climb and streams to wade through.

Wading through a stream with some of the other RPCC crew
Wading through a stream with some of the other RPCC crew

By far the worst obstacle (by this I mean most painful!) was the one aptly named “barbed belly” which saw us crawling low under barbed wire. Now this is not un-typical at obstacle races, but what made this so hard was the ploughed up, rock hard, mud that was under the barbed wire. This is where I think I picked up most of my bruises from the day. Just when you thought it was over you ran a few feet and then there was a second one. Right at the end of that one was some soft mud which felt like rolling into silk once you got there!

The barbed belly
The barbed belly

The end of this race saw us trying to get over some huge walls, the first had a rope to help, the second required some teamwork, then it was a sprint to the finish.

Sprinting to the end with Alex Tribe
Sprinting to the end with Alex Tribe
Crossing the line
Crossing the line

Crossing the line I was exhausted, but exhilarated, I had made it around the brutal 12km course. You then typed in your race number to a computer to get a personalised print out of your race time (1h50mins) and I picked up my dirty dozen t-shirt, hat and free beer.

Finished!
Finished!

Final results showed I came 152nd overall and 21st woman. Coming in the top 30 also means I have now qualified for the OCR world championships in the US – something I would dearly love to do and will see if I can actually get there, as that would be an awesome challenge to add into this year!