What do you do straight after a holiday and the week before your first 10k race? You do a hardcore obstacle race of course! At least you do if you’re me.
So OCRs – obstacle course races. Bit weird aren’t they? I mean, why would you choose to tackle obstacles as well as straightforward running? And have you seen seasoned OCR fans? They have what I call wolf eyes – the same mad look that Crossfitters have. Cunning, wild and determined – that’s what I see. I am most definitely nothing like that. But the OCR thing has intrigued me for a while.
Last year, when I decided to try lots of new things – the same weekend I went to try out the aerial hoop – I went to a session at Fortitude Fitness Centre in Caldecote (only down the road from me), for what promised to be a ‘fun’ session practising how to tackle obstacles.
Actually it WAS fun. But very challenging and I struggled the whole way through. I went back a couple of times more and tried, so hard, to climb the rope there. I failed every time. After that the circus training took over and I didn’t have the time to go back.
This year I wanted to give the OCR thing a go and saw Insane Terrain come up in June. I asked people to come and do it with me but nobody would and so I bravely went on my own. I ended up running with someone who was at the same pace as me, which was great. We helped a woman cross a deep stretch of water who couldn’t swim very well too. I had been very apprehensive about what to expect but the whole thing was relaxed and friendly. And best of all – I could do the course. Apart from a lot of water and mud (which I loved! getting muddy is so much fun!), there are mainly a lot of hay bales to pull yourself up onto. I did them no problem and my arms didn’t hurt the next day (and I went and did circus training that day too!). All that circus training had given me strong arms – and I hadn’t realised how strong until then. That’s when I decided I wanted to tackle the Spartan. Insane Terrain is a lovely, friendly, gentle OCR – I wanted a greater challenge. The Spartan – with its burpees punishment and fire and the like – it all sounded quite scary. I kind of liked that.
My friend’s husband Jack had signed up to do it in September – the day after our holiday – and I kept thinking about doing it. I couldn’t do any special training for it and I knew I’d be doing less training over the summer, but I really wanted to give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? Surely nobody could actually force me to do burpees? And if I hated the whole thing, that would only be a few hours of my life and then I’d know never to do one again. So I signed up to it.
Jack and Mary-Ann’s children were doing the Spartan Junior and I’m so glad they did because we ended up running with them for their race before doing ours. I had been so nervous I’d hardly slept, but when I got there it was OK – and doing the Junior meant that we’d seen a bit of the course. That’s when I knew I was going to be able to do it. The nerves left me and soon it was our turn.
It was perfect weather – it was relatively cool and there was a bit of rain (it had been hot the day before). We set off at a gentle pace – this is the baseline, I thought. It doesn’t matter how long it takes – improvements can come afterwards. Jack got cramp part-way through and so we had to walk for some of it – there was no way I was just going to go off and leave him. The whole point of it was that we were going to do it together.
There were a lot of walls to climb and I used my experience from Fortitude Fitness Centre to get over them. There were also sandbags to carry, concrete slabs on chains to drag around, and huge tyres to flip over and over. We did it all. And there was a rope to climb. If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll know that my friend Gary taught me how to climb a rope only last month in circus training – and really, that’s all I wanted to achieve at the Spartan. I’d only every climbed the rope with bare feet so had panicked I wouldn’t be able to do it in trainers! But you know what? It did it just fine. It was actually a piece of cake, because ropes are ropes and if you can climb one, you can climb any so it turns out.
It was at that point that I realised how much I was enjoying it. I smiled and said a cheery hello to the people at every new obstacle. I beamed my way through the mud crawl under barbed wire. I hugged the guy at the bottom of the cargo net who said I’d zipped over it impressively.
Near to the end there was a weight on a rope that you had to pull up to the top and I did it really quickly. The people in charge looking after that obstacle said I’d done it too quickly and should have done the men’s one! I’m not saying this to brag – I am just marvelling at the person I’ve become. From someone who always sucked at P.E. and had no strength, no grit and determination – look at me now. And look at my awesome medal!
So to the little me who could never climb a rope, the teenager who felt useless & achieved nothing sport (not one single medal), the twentysomething who couldn’t run: you get there in the end.
I wore my t-shirt and medal on the school run the first day back so I could show basically everyone!
So thanks to Jack for racing with me, Emerson and Esmé for being brave fellow Spartans and for Mary-Ann for cheering us all on and being proud of me 🙂
NEXT YEAR: the Spartan Trifecta. And maybe my eyes will turn wolf-like too. Aroo!
Insane Terrain: http://www.insaneterrainrunning.com/
Photos courtesy of Mary-Ann and Epic Action Imagery via SpartanRaceUK: http://www.epicactionimagery.com/