Date/Time: Saturday 11th October
Location: Pippingford Park, East Sussex
It’s pretty common knowledge that I love a challenge, particularly one that involves running and being part of a team so when my work asked if I would fancy doing a “Spartan Race” I was definitely interested. HOWEVER, when I discovered that they were referring to “The Beast”, the hardest course out of all the Spartan Races, I will happily admit that I was extremely nervous. But with lots of support from my gorgeous friends and family I finally said yes.
5 weeks leading up to the race I changed my training routine (partly because of my stupid tumble during Bacchus meant I couldn’t run properly) and decided to seriously up my strength training sessions. I did all the (assisted) pull ups you could think of, slowly but surely upped all the weights I was lifting and jumped at the opportunity to try as many rope climbs as possible! It was actually quite exciting seeing my self named “Mr tickle/snowman twig” arms grow and even show a little bit of muscle! But I knew that I was still definitely going to be relying on guys to throw me over the walls during the race!
So race day! Now the weather forecast was horrendous! Black cloud and TWO rain drops on the BBC app! However, when we turned up at the station I am pleased to say the sun was shining and well, the surroundings were pretty beautiful! Don’t get me wrong it was still COLD but at least the sun was out!
Race number, aka our headband (which I love and will keep forever as proof!), collected my team of four guys and one other girl headed to the start line.
The first wave of nerves came before the race had even started! To get to the start line you had to climb over a 6ft wall! I felt a little sick after this, this wasn’t even part of the race! After a pep talk from a man in a spartan suit, with one seriously impressive 6 pack, we were off into the woods to battle!
The scenery was absolutely beautiful but the track itself, to a road runner, was SCARY! It was just so muddy and I don’t mean a little muddy field “muddy” I mean lose your shoe muddy! If you didn’t have trail shoes this race was going to be horrendous! In fact ten minutes in we sadly passed a spartan on the ground with his ankle strapped! This muddy track led us onto the first obstacle, down a seriously steep, muddy hill. I chose like many others to slide down on my bum trying not to pick up too much pace so not to fall in the water at the bottom! Then of course you had to cross the water and climb back up another muddy hill…not easy! This was to be the first of many downhill, uphill, muddy, climbs!
The track then looped round back towards the starting area, where were all the spectators were, and towards an “A” climbing frame which I really enjoyed, it was like being a kid again! Quick tip here climb up normally, but when you climb over go down on your back like a crab, it makes it quicker to get off at the bottom and get running again.
From here it was back into the woods and it was the start of the water and I don’t mean puddles! The first water crossing was up to your knees, cold but bareable. But for the (I think) 6/7 water crossings we did they varied from knee height to a short swim, barely being able to touch the floor! This is where the first of the thank yous start. At the end of a water crossing there were no convenient stairs out, it was wet and muddy and you had just been in freezing cold and seriously smelly water. Safe to say it was exhausting and I really struggled to get out each time but my team were INCREDIBLE, the guys literally just pulled me out of the water and plonked me on the ground (I have the bruises to prove it!!!)
Whilst looping back again we jumped over wooden hurdles and climbed through small gaps in walls bringing us to a seriously long set of monkey bars. These of course had muddy water below. I knew there was no way I would make it the full way across but you had to try and well I managed to get half way before dropping (apparently my grip strength was better than I thought) so off I went to do the first of 3 sets of burpees! The next two sets came during the rope climb and the rotating pull up bar?!? But I did manage to lift a heavy weight which was attached to a rope. You had to lift it all the way to the top and I used the pull and sit down method learnt watching YouTube videos!
From here it was uphill … Oh and when I say uphill I mean uphill for a LONG time on your hands and knees trying to avoid the barbed wire above you! This was quite ridiculous, every time you thought you were done it just kept going!! And what followed was a serious amount of lifting – logs, sandbags and a tire (which we had to carry for a mile!) of course up hill, down hill over extremely uneven, boggy ground! Then it was onto the smelliest of obstacles the muddy hurdles (and when I say muddy I mean up to my thigh muddy!) We were faced with three hills to climb up and down with pools of water in between! It stunk and it was super exhausting!
More muddy running, lots of sliding and more wall climbs later it was time for “the swim”. Now we knew they were going to be a swim as the organisers had pre-warned us. I knew I could swim, I’m not the best, but I can swim. HOWEVER, this was a lake, it was a good distance and well I had NEVER done anything like it before. Safe to say I had a little moment but surprisingly I just got in. It was cold but that wasn’t bothering me, what bothered me more was the open water, trying not to swallow it and also working out the most effective, I mean quickest, way of getting across.
Here comes another thank you, there were two guys on canoes in the water and I think they must have seen that I wasn’t looking thrilled about this part and so they stuck with me talking absolute rubbish the whole time! They got me through this, there is no way I would have been as calm without them! Coming out of the water I sort of wanted to cry a little (probably because I was tired, we were 2hours30mins in at this point) but also because I had just done yet another thing I really didn’t know if I could do!
Free banana (so so grateful for the organizers planning the one and only food stop here!) inhaled and a quick tire pull around a tree we were back to the running, muddy climbing, crawling under walls, tire flipping and water crossings. I swear every time you got dry they planned more water!
The final carry was a big bucket full of water around a small course which included a stupidly muddy hill of course, and then a water crossing. Plus point – the bucket floated in the water, bad point the water had huge logs in so you had to tread so so carefully and getting out wasn’t that fun either!
More high climbs, thanks to a man dressed as the hulk for literally throwing me over, and it was onto the spear throw! The Third set of burpees was here!
And now the finish! There was another A frame, but not a fun climbing frame, a wet, slippery surface with a rope to pull yourself up and over. We had been on the course for nearly 3 and half hours I was wet, muddy and well maybe a little exhausted but you had to do it, I could see the finish line! I started off strong quickly pulling myself up but it was high, really high and well I think I just panicked, I sincerely thought I was going to fall backwards – and that would have done serious damage! Luckily a guy in front saw this and literally grabbed me … more bruises to prove it and he helped me over! THANK GOD FOR HIM!
A climb down, a serious pep talk and then it was a little hop, skip and a jump over a FIRE PIT! YES A FIRE PIT! Then across the finish line! WE DID IT, we actually did it!!!!!
Grabbing our medals and all the freebies, thank you Whey Ice Cream for all those extra pots ;D we collected our bags, changed and ate everything in sight!
I sincerely thought there was a huge chance I would not complete this race. I knew I could run the distance but the obstacles. This is my final thank you – my team were incredible! We all had very different strengths and weaknesses and decided that we would tackle the whole thing together! It was an awesome experience with these guys and I could not have done it without them … we might be looking at another OCR next year ;D
If you are thinking of trying a Spartan Race here are my top tips!
1. Tri suit – You are going to get wet and cold almost immediately. I don’t know if all my nerves kept me warm or whether all the carb loading the night before helped but I was lucky enough to not get too cold during this race and I swear a lot of that was done to wearing a tri suit offered by the lovely Jen Slater!
2. Listen to as much advice as possible – Act as a sponge, logging any hints, tips and tricks about how to tackle various obstacles. Watch videos of previous races and ask for help from previous Spartans!
3. Wear long trousers – I wore 3/4 length trousers and safe to say my legs, two weeks on, are still a HUGE mess! Scratches, bruises and all sorts of marks all over the place!
4. Do it with a team – I could not have done this without my team. They got me through it, with chat, encouragement and of course physical strength! As mentioned at points they literally pulled me out of the river!
5. SHOES – Invest in proper trail shoes!!! This course is always going to be muddy and if you have no grip on your shoes you are asking for trouble! I had incredible trail shoes on from Helly Hansen which were amazing but they even at points struggled with all the mud!
6. Train outside – Get used to the cold, the wind, the rain! I love the outdoors but even I have to admit that if it is chucking down outside I am tempted by the gym. When in Spartan training embrace the weather! It will mean you are used to dealing with the elements!
The Spartan Beast IS NOT EASY! However it is a fantastic thing to achieve (in my mind anyway)! If you have any further questions please free feel to drop me note :D! I know I spoke to 100s of people pre race so I would be happy to pass on everything I have learnt!
Date/Time: Saturday 20th September 2014
Location: West Wycombe Park
Distance: 26.2 miles (completed in a team of 6)
I love that my friends ask me out for food as much as they ask me to join race teams…
Held in the stunning West Wycombe park Helly Hansen’s Beauty and the Beast is tagged as the “UK’s toughest multi lap marathon” and when we arrived I could see why…
Then early on Saturday morning myself, Charlie and Leah made our roller coaster experience of a drive over to West Wycombe to attempt the race as a team of 6, with fellow lovely ladies Jen, Josie and Emma, each doing one lap of the course. When we got to the race area we were firstly distracted by the start and the small mountain that seemed to follow directly after it! Next came the second mountain which we had to drive up to get to the start – we spent a good few minutes stuck in the mud, like I said it was a roller coaster of a journey!
Parked up, hand break definitely on, we wandered over to the Helly Hansen tent as they had kindly provided us with the bibs and kit for the race. The tent was a life saver, huge comfy red bean bags, shelter from the cold, as it was a little chilly out, and ALL the food which appeared to just kept coming!!!! Picking up our race pack was far too easy and I was extremely grateful to be handed a cliff bar with my race number (this was to be the first of many cliff bars much to my excitement)! So back to the tent for a quick sample of all the cakes – muffins, flapjacks and some of the best tiffin I have ever had and then it was time to wave our first runner off!
Charlie set off amongst other relay teams, individuals doing half marathons (3 laps) and people doing the full 6 laps!
Whilst waiting I got into my awesome Helly Hansen leggings and laced up my trainers. Now usually I wouldn’t advise wearing brand new trainers for a race but it was wet and muddy and after last weeks falls I felt that trail shoes were a lot more sensible and I was only going for 4.5 miles!
We saw Charlie coming in so I stripped off my layers got the ankle tag and then headed off … up that hill!
Filled with motivational quotes the whole way you just knew you were in for a treat of a race.
But luckily what goes up must come down and straight away we did.
I think I had been running for 5 minutes and already I had spoken to various people en route. I am starting to learn that trail runners are just awesome, they are a very relaxed crowd who just enjoy running and getting muddy!
First hill done and it was into the woods! WOOHOO!
Ever since the Spitfire Scramble I have realised that I love running through the woods and this was great! Making more friends along the route and high fiving the fantastic Marshall’s I steadily made my way through woodland and parkland and fields.
And then it was time for the second of three mini mountains!
This one came out of no where and was crazy steep so a power walk it was. I was told that it was always better to walk up hills, conserve energy ready for the flat and the downhill. Mountain done, around a corner and down hill for a quick water stop then it was up up and up all over again but at least the top provided gorgeous views of the surrounding area and led onto more woodland path!
View from the top
I had heard rumours of a river and en route I bumped into a couple of runners I had met earlier in the day who confirmed this and then continued to explain that the only way to cross was straight through the middle ….
So, after a little pause, a photo and a pep talk I went for it! Ha! It was awesome and after a only a few squelchy strides my new Helly Hansen shoes were clean and dry! AMAZING!
Once away from the water we got to explore the gorgeous grounds of the Wycombe estate, past gardens and a lovely large pond, a little mini hill, which was far more tough than it should have been (I blame the fact that I had been nattering none stop with one of my new buddies) and it was round the corner to the finish line!
This route was fantastic, if it wasn’t for my knee after last weeks tumble I would have definitely gone for another round and have no doubt that I will be doing this next year.
Once finished I swapped over with Leah and proceeded the make use of the VIP space, eating yet more cake and of course getting involved in a little legs up a wall, no wait legs up a deck chair, action whilst catching up with the rest of my awesome team and eating more cake.
One by one the girls came in beaming from their laps and when we spotted Josie, our final runner on the course, coming round the corner we ran together to cross the finish line as a team!
Finishing in under 5 hours in total we were pretty pleased with ourselves as we had just set out to enjoy the course rather than focus on a time. Our medals were given to us on a podium which, in my mind, had one of the greatest tag lines above it …
I loved this race. I loved the route, I loved the various terrain, I loved the views and I loved the atmosphere!
Thank you Helly Hansen for a such a brilliant event, the cake was fantastic and I shall definitely be seeing you next year … for the half ;D!