As I hesitated at the top of the 12 foot ladder, willing my brain to let me move my leg up and over the top so I could make my way back down the other side, a thought flashed through my mind. “What on earth am I doing?”
Completing the first lap of my first ever obstacle race – The Chiltern Warrior – was what I was doing.
Julia had found the race online and suggested that we do it as part of our preparation for Tough Mudder. I thought it was a good idea as I’d never done any sort of obstacle race before, well not since school, and not even really run off road. So on Saturday morning we made our way to the Chiltern Open Air Museum to take part.
We were met by the lovely Hazel a fellow graduate of Julia’s fat loss programme who lives nearby and had come to cheer us on. Having collected our race numbers and timing chip it was time for the traditional pre race ritual of toilet, warm up and um, face paint!
There were 3 waves of the race setting off at 10am, 11am and 12pm respectively. We’d opted for the 11am start and were soon lined up with around 30 others ready for the off.
The course was 5k in distance, with the first 3k or so taking us on a lovely run around the outskirts of the museum – the route took us across a field, through a beautiful bluebell wood and up a pretty steep hill before bringing us into the obstacle zone – the bit we’d really been waiting for.
The race was billed as a ‘naturally extreme’ run and most of the obstacles had been fashioned from the environment. There was a balance beam log to run across, hay bales to hurdle, a cargo net suspended between two trees to climb over and another to crawl under. Other obstacles included the quarry – a groundsheet that had been placed across a large dip in the woodland floor and filled with water with a perpendicular hill to climb up, thankfully with the help of ropes, on the other side. That was actually one of my favourites.
At the end of the first lap we were confronted by ‘the wall’ – the 12 foot ladder which was the only totally man made obstacle on the course. It was the hardest thing we had to do and I hesitated at the top – it felt like a lot higher than 12 foot – but after some encouragement from Julia and the marshals made it over the top and safely back down the other side.
As we came to the end of the first lap, with Hazel cheering us on, part of me really wished we’d opted for the 5K version of the event – my legs were feeling tired from the trail running and I would happily have stopped. That all changed as we started out on our second lap to cheers from the crowd who were obviously impressed that we were taking on the 10K version of the race.
Knowing what was coming made the second lap feel easier, but only slightly. Running over a field which has lots of divots in it is really hard on the legs, I’d never experienced that before and it surprised me. I had to stop and walk a fair amount to give my legs a rest and get my breath back. The obstacles were better in the main the second time around – I knew what to do and how to approach them.
As we came towards the end of the second lap with wet feet and muddy knees I promised myself that I wouldn’t hesitate at the top of the wall, I’d just get on and do it. And I did. Just about!
We finished the course in somewhere just over 1hr and 20 mins. The official results aren’t available yet but given that my official road 10K PB is 1.14 I was pretty pleased. We collected our survivor T-shirts and Hazel captured our victory picture. We’d taken on every obstacle twice and nailed it.
I’m really glad that I decided to take part in this race. It was great preparation for Tough Mudder and has without a doubt built my confidence. My shoes held out well, no slipping or sliding, my gloves protected my hands pretty well and although we didn’t get very muddy my kit was comfortable to run in when wet as well.
My biggest learning is that I need to do some more off road and hill running to prepare my legs for what’s going to be thrown at them in a few weeks time. So I’ve decided that this Sunday I’m going to head to Greenwich Park to take on the hills and grass and get more used to running on surfaces other than concrete. It will do these ‘city girl’ running legs good I’m sure.
My second biggest learning point is – ouch! These kind of races take so much more out of you than a normal road race. I woke up on Sunday feeling like I’d had a complete body workout and sporting some pretty impressive bruises. This is on my thigh – I think the wall must have been the culprit. Warrior wounds 🙂