Continuing from my last blog post I’ve been excitedly roped into doing the three Spartan Race UK races in my quest for the Trifecta medal and my next step was to get myself to Fortitude Fitness Centre near Cambridge for the Spartan Training Day.
Now as a bit of an obstacle course racer, I felt nervous about this training day but equally excited. Nervous because I have never been to something like this and just attack most obstacle races with common sense and bags of determination and usually do well. Excited because it’s a training course were I get trained which is always nice and I was keen to learn how to get over the wall.
On two London Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest races and the 2013 Dirty Weekend I had to overcome their WALL and on two occasions I’ve stuck my foot out to get a hand from a poor marshal and the other time I took over 3 minutes to get over it…and when I eventually did it wasn’t done safely!
I ended up turning upside down and hooking the back of my shoes, then calves onto the top of the wall and shuffling up until my bum then back were up. I had just enough grip to hold on but if I’d have let go I’d have landed on my head or neck…OUCH.
Luckily I made it but it did scare me and it made me think about the safety of obstacle races and if I should opt to go around in a team but I’m too competitive with myself so that isn’t always going to happen.
So I arrive in Caldecote and head down a bumpy dirt track and quickly spot on my left was initially looks like an oversized dog agility course but then about 30-40 people all wearing some sort of obstacle race t-shirt checking out the various apparatus positioned in the field. I park up and meet the lads from Fortitude Fitness Centre, Rich Pringle, the guy Dan Tuffnell had told me about and Mark, a twitter follower who said he was doing both the training days. What did strike me is the beards…now for some reason I’ve started to grow one just as a woman will get a new hairstyle, I fancied a change but I was wondering is this an obstacle race or a Spartan thing after Gerard Butler in 300?!
Anyway, we start off with Rich giving us a partner warm up with involves squats, hip down burpess, press up high fives and a game of tag. and then we go into movement based exercises which are always a killer but an absolute must for successfully conquering an obstacle course as I believe you must be able to move your body in all directions and be able to hold your body strong whilst in these positions.
After about 30 minutes of mud, sweat and rain showers we moved onto the ‘playground’ in groups. Rich was taking the group I was in and very quickly he said that this was not to be a beasting session but an education on how do a Spartan race safely, especially when you are fatigued. Going back to my original worry about the sudden rise in these type of races and the safety aspect that goes hand in hand with climbing and jumping when you’re tired and wet, his words were singing a tune.
He explained each obstacle, then demonstrated with ease and then let us all have at least two goes. most of the obstacles were the same or very similar to what I’d encountered before including THE WALL and at this venue the INCLINED WALL and not inclining in a good way! Rich explained, I listened, he demoed with ease and I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders. “Ahhhhhhhh”. Pushed to the front by the rest of the group I felt the same pressure as I’d done on the previous ‘wall’ attempts but this time I had the knowledge. I made my approach but instead of being straight on I did what could only be described as a high jump run up, grabbed the top with both hands and then turned my hips side on and ran sideways up the wall until I could hook one of my feet over. From then you naturally find your body just work to get on top by using you leg rather than doing a ‘muscle up’. “Ahhhhhhhh”, I said again as I now had the secret! This video by Harris Hawk Media shows this as well as some of the other obstacles. The incline wall was approached with the same technique and an obstacle that looked really hard was overcome quite easily for me…The wall is no longer an issue! 🙂
In our group we had a mixed bunch with some having never done an obstacle race and some veterans but one member who really stood out was George.
George is a big man and when I say big, he’s 22 stone. I approached him and asked “What’s your story?” He’s obviously not your normal runner never mind someone who does races that involve you dragging your bodyweight around a 10km+ course (which is what he’s going to be doing!). He said that his life was going nowhere and he was extremely unhealthy (27 stone) and taking lots of drugs and put simply that he was given an opportunity to turn his life around and is doing so. I am very much looking forward to seeing George on the 31st August with his ‘Spartan Super’ medal around his neck! Good luck sir and keep up the awesome work!
The very educational morning ended with a timed go at the assault course of which I was well up for especially with my new-found knowledge. I was last to put my name on the sheet as Rich wouldn’t shut up and kept getting lost on the course (haha!).
We were set off in 10 second intervals and when it was my turn I was off. Now it’s a small course with quite a few exercises and what I found after the second or third obstacle is that there was no time to recover. This was intense…and I loved it! Rattling through the obstacles I felt much more confident as I had been told exactly the way to get over or past them. Doubt had been removed and when you normally approach obstacles you are not sure of, you are hesitant or you should be.
I finished in a time of 5.40 which was the fastest set by a male that day. A nice little touch until Rich has a go a beats me by 13 seconds to put me into second place on the leaderboard (as of the 31st July I’m 4th).
At the end of the training I had a good chat with some of the others there including Obstacle Course ‘Royalty’ Katy Keeble (above) who is ranked second in Britain. I say royalty as a lot of people knew who she was and obviously admired her ability.
To sum up my second ‘taste’ of Spartan is that they seem to really care. Yes, you could argue that it’s a money-making scheme but I truly believe the UK branch of the Spartan race phenomenon want this to be available to everyone and for it to be as safe as obstacle racing possibly can be. I have seen injuries and a lot of them are down to being stupid or a bit gung-ho! This course is a must and I’m not saying that lightly. You must go to not only learn from these guys but to mix with the community that does obstacle races as the may look weird that they are a friendly bunch and this could rival parkrun in years to come and that is saying something.
I GOT OVER THE WALL, I GOT OVER THE WALL!!!
Next stage is the last weekend in August where I’m doing the Sprint distance on Saturday 30th and the Super distance on the Sunday. My little boy Sam, will be doing the junior race on the Saturday.
Anyone fancy joining us? If so click here!