The Road To Nuclear Oblivion 2018 : Training Week 5

I have decided to take on Nuclear Oblivion in 2018.  You can read more about that decision here.

Nuclear Oblivion 2018

Monday 17 July 2017

#StuIsAPlank is back and will be finished off before the end of the month !  I started the week approaching midnight after a very long working day, with 1 minute 30 seconds of plank.

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 30 seconds

Tuesday 18 July 2017

I began the day with 1 minute 45 seconds of plank because I was not sure if I would have any time to do anything else.

Presenting to the Leadership Forum of the company

By the end of the working day I had to get out for a run !  Which would most likely mean I would miss the bbq, so you can imagine how much I needed to get away and get into my own headspace.  The first session in the 10K training plan for this week was an Out And Back, with a 30 minutes run out in Z1/Z2, then half running back in Z3, half running back in Z4, and a final 10 minutes cool down.  This would be easy to plan if I was at home, but I was away with work at a hotel in the middle of nowhere, with no real idea of what was and was not suitable for a run in the vicinity, so I decided I would run out into Coombe Country Park and make it up as I went along.  There was a meadow on a slight slope and I found myself running laps of that along the tracks which had been cut into the otherwise long grass, then running back along the laps once I had reached 30 minutes.  I came out of the meadow when I had reached the end of the return leg and spent the 10 minutes cool down running through the nearby woods.  It was all very pleasant and got me back into a balanced state.  I did miss the bbq, though.  Practically all of my time was spent in Z3 and above, with an Epic Suffer Score of 258.

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 45 seconds
  2. 10K Training Plan (Coombe Country Park) – Week 3 Session 1 – 9 kilometres – 1 hour 08 minutes 12 seconds

Wednesday 19 July 2017

I woke up and did 2 minutes of plank before going out for the next run in my 10K training plan for this week.  I was going to be in the middle of Birmingham later, so I did not want to be going out for a run there, and during my run yesterday I had decided that the terrain was more than suitable for this run anyway.  This was a tabata, with 5 minutes jogging, 5 minutes with 10 second strides and 50 seconds recovery each minute, then another 5 minutes jogging to complete the warn up, followed by 4 x 20 second maximal with 10 seconds recovery, and then another 10 minutes jogging to cool down.  I tried to use the warm-up to get me into position to run along one of the flat stretches, but took a wrong turning and instead ended up just running the bursts along the cut tracks, regardless of whether they were flat or not.  I ran into the woods for the cool down.  I definitely prefer the hill sprints to the tabata in this training plan, so I will try to do both each week.

I spent 30 minutes doing lengths in the hotel pool in the evening, and even spent 5 minutes in the steam room, then later in the evening walked back from our evening meal.  It felt like it had been a good day.

A night out

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 2 minutes
  2. 10K Training Plan (Coombe Country Park) – Week 3 Session 2 – 3.5 kilometres – 27 minutes 02 seconds
  3. Swim (Hotel Indigo pool) – 30 minutes
  4. Walk (Birmingham) – 1.1 kilometres – 12 minutes 15 seconds

Thursday 20 July 2017

I started the day with plank again, this time going up to 2 minutes 15 seconds, and then in the evening, once I had got home, I continued with my 10K training plan, with the long slow run, 110 minutes in Z2 but Z3 on climbs, with 5 x 20 seconds strides in the final 20 minutes.  However, in reality, just like all my sessions at the moment, I spent practically all the run in Z3 and above.  As I was running up , around half way, I heard a car horn beep and looked around to find it had been Nick Day beeping at me as he sat in traffic with his family, and we exchanged waves – that certainly spurred me on to continue running to the top of the hill and beyond.

I did pick up some Strava segments : 2nd fastest time on King Harry Lane reverse, 2nd fastest time on A4147 St Michael’s St to King Harry Ln, and 2nd fastest time on Batchwood Drive Anticlockwise

I also got an Epic Suffer Score of 434, down from last week even though I had added almost another kilometre in the extra 10 minutes.

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 2 minutes 15 seconds
  2. 10K Training Plan (St Albans) – Week 3 Session 3 – 13.8 kilometres – 1 hour 51 minutes 05 seconds

Friday 21 July 2017

Just plank today, dropping back down to 2 minutes.

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 2 minutes

Saturday 22 July 2017

parkrun felt like it was going to be another good one but I just could not sustain my pace through the 4th kilometre.  I reckon my ‘average’ is down at the 32 minute mark now, rather than the 35 minute mark, so if I keep the training going I will get to the 30 minute mark soon enough.

parkrun consolidation

I finished off week 3 of #StuIsAPlank with 1 minute 45 seconds of plank.

  1. parkrun (St Albans) – 5 kilometres – 32 minutes 38 seconds
  2. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 45 seconds

Sunday 23 July 2017

We went for a walk around St Albans in the evening.

  1. Walk (St Albans) – 4.7 kilometres – 1 hour 03 minutes 10 seconds

Positives from this week : I kept going with my 10K training plan, despite being away with work, and consolidated my parkrun improvement.

I was 42/100 in the St Albans Striders Strava group, with 31.6 running kilometres for the week.

Baselines :

  1. 100 metres : 17.9 seconds
  2. 400 metres : 1 minute 54 seconds
  3. 800 metres : 4 minutes 04 seconds
  4. 5 kilometres : 31 minutes 49 seconds
  5. 10 kilometres : 1 hour 14 minutes 00 seconds
Posted in Fitness Training, Obstacle Course Races, The 100 Peaks Challenge | Leave a comment

The Road To Nuclear Oblivion 2018 : Training – Week 4

I have decided to take on Nuclear Oblivion in 2018.  You can read more about that decision here.

Nuclear Oblivion 2018

Monday 10 July 2017

I had kept to the 10K training plan last week and continued it on Monday evening, repeating the same session as last week.  This first session of week 2 was a Tempo session.  I began with a 10 minute warm up in Z1/Z2, followed by 40 minutes in Z3, and finished off with a 10 minute cool down.  However, in reality, just like last week, I spent practically all the run in Z3 and above.  I got an Epic Suffer Score of 294, which was up 61 from last week.  I did go just a little bit further this week, though.

  1. 10K Training Plan (St Albans) – Week 2 Session 1 – 7.5 kilometres – 1 hour 00 minutes 03 seconds

Tuesday 11 July 2017

I wanted to get in my 10K training plan in the morning so I could also get along to the St Albans Striders session in the evening, so I went out early to do the hill sprints.  I spent 5 minutes jogging, then 5 minutes with 10 second strides and 50 seconds recovery each minute, then another 5 minutes jogging, before I got to the crossroads of the tracks in Verulamium Park, just above the Heron Island end of the lake.  I went to a point near the London Gate Roman ruins and ran up the hill from there, doing 10 x 10 second hill sprints, with the remainder of 2 minutes spent in recovery.  The 10 seconds sprint took me from a wooden marker post in the track up to a noticeboard about the Roman ruins, and from there I walked up to a bench before turning around and coming down to the start again.  I had to keep at a brisk pace on the recovery stage to stay inside the 2 minutes.  I then spent 10 minutes jogging home to cool down.  This week I had gone a little bit further in a shorter time.

In the evening I went down to the track session with St Albans Striders, but met up with Tony Leary at the briefing and instead went off with him for another hill session.  We went back to the hill I had used in the morning, and this time Tony extended it so his runs went all the way to the road at the top and all the way to the lake at the bottom, with me looping round as he passed me each time.  We did 4 repetitions of that, and then moved on to a technical trail loop through the woods, with Tony running 3 laps and me running 1 and a half and a bit.  I do enjoy running through those woods.  We met up with Nick Day as we finished, who was coming away from the track session.  I have really lucked out having two such talented and generous training partners.

  1. 10K Training Plan (St Albans) – Week 2 Session 2 – 5.6 kilometres – 46 minutes 10 seconds
  2. St Albans Striders (St Albans) – 5.1 kilometres – 45 minutes 42 seconds

Wednesday 12 July 2017

I ended up doing nothing today.  I will call it a rest day.

Thursday 13 July 2017

I had a meeting in Manchester, so I walked from St Pancras to Euston, and then from Manchester Piccadilly to the meeting location and back, bringing in a total of 4.4 kilometres.  I had to come home from Manchester via Leeds because of the trains so got home too late and too tired to do any training.

Quick, get to Leeds !!!

  1. Walk (London) – 1 kilometre – 8 minutes 44 seconds
  2. Walk (Manchester) – 1.7 kilometres – 16 minutes 46 seconds
  3. Walk (Manchester) – 1.7 kilometres – 16 minutes 14 seconds

Friday 14 July 2017

I had got in a couple of sessions early on in the week, so I knew I was still on schedule with my 10K training plan, but I do not like to leave the long slow run to the last minute, just in case.  This was supposed to be 100 minutes in Z2 but Z3 on climbs, with 5 x 20 seconds strides in the final 20 minutes.  However, in reality, just like all my sessions at the moment, I spent practically all the run in Z3 and above.

I did pick up some Strava segments : 2nd fastest time on Batchwood Drive Anticlockwise, and 3rd fastest time on Batchwood Golf to Roundabout, and 3rd fastest time on Batchwood Drive NE to SW, and 3rd fastest time on Beech Rd W

I also got an Epic Suffer Score of 467, up by over 100 from last week.  I had added another 3 kilometres in the extra 10 minutes, though.

  1. 10K Training Plan (St Albans) – Week 2 Session 3 – 13 kilometres – 1 hour 40 minutes 10 seconds

Saturday 15 July 2017

parkrun was much better this morning, setting a new baseline time, with an Extreme Suffer Score of 151.  If I can work up to keeping my pace going beyond the 4th kilometre I will get it back down below 30 minutes and can begin to target my actual PB.

Much better parkrun

Debbie was playing in an orchestra at M Festival so we walked over to get there, and I had a walk around once we were there.

First concert of the weekend

In the evening, about a week late, I finished off week 2 of #StuIsAPlank with 1 minute 30 seconds of plank.

  1. parkrun (St Albans) – 5 kilometres – 31 minutes 49 seconds
  2. Walk (St Albans) – 3.9 kilometres – 2 hour 00 minutes 12 seconds
  3. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 30 seconds

Sunday 16 July 2017

I went for a run in the morning just because I could.  It was deliberately not very fast, and my legs did not feel like they could go any faster anyway.  I got an Extreme Suffer Score of 226, but I am used to getting Epic Suffer Scores, so that almost seems irrelevant in the scheme of things.

Later in the afternoon we went for a walk before Debbie played in another concert.

Exercise for the soul

  1. Run (St Albans) – 7.2 kilometres – 1 hour 00 minutes 11 seconds
  2. Walk (Abbots Langley) – 2.1 kilometres – 31 minutes 14 seconds

Positives from this week : I kept going with my 10K training plan.

I was 29/100 in the St Albans Striders Strava group, with 43.6 running kilometres for the week.

Baselines :

  1. 100 metres : 17.9 seconds
  2. 400 metres : 1 minute 54 seconds
  3. 800 metres : 4 minutes 04 seconds
  4. 5 kilometres : 32 minutes 09 seconds31 minutes 49 seconds
  5. 10 kilometres : 1 hour 14 minutes 00 seconds
Posted in Fitness Training, Obstacle Course Races, The 100 Peaks Challenge | Leave a comment

The Road To Nuclear Oblivion 2018 : Training – Week 3

I have decided to take on Nuclear Oblivion in 2018.  You can read more about that decision here.

Nuclear Oblivion 2018

Monday 03 July 2017

I started again with the 10K training plan, having only managed to get in 1 out of 3 sessions last week.  This first session of week 1 was a Tempo session.  I began with a 10 minute warm up in Z1/Z2, followed by 40 minutes in Z3, and finished off with a 10 minute cool down.  However, in reality, just like last week, I spent practically all the run in Z3 and above.  I got an Extreme Suffer Score of 233.

  1. 10K Training Plan (St Albans) – Week 1 Session 1 – 7.2 kilometres – 1 hour 00 minutes 03 seconds

Tuesday 04 July 2017

I enjoyed a great time at the St Albans Striders Tuesday evening session.  Mike Jubb had organised an Olympic Track Night, “Your chance to have a go at a few Olympic track events, namely 100m, long jump, shot put and an 800m.  We will calculate a points score (decathlon style) for your performances and we will see who is the best all-round athlete in the club.  There may even be a prize for the best male and female…..oh and we’ll have a lot of fun doing it!”  I was pleased to see Nick Day and Gareth Beavis there, two guys who are always great to train with.  We began with a one-lap warm-up.  The thing is, I went with Nick.  Nick is at least 3 times as fast as me while carrying an injury, so I should have known this was a crazy idea.  During my so-called warm-up I managed to pick up a couple of Strava segments : PR on Westminster Lodge Athletics Track, Front 200m, and 3rd fastest time on Westminster Lodge Athletics Track.

First up in the proper events was the 100 metres, which I managed in 16.9 seconds.  It felt like it was taking forever.  I was not the slowest, which is always a triumph for me, and I got 19 points for that.  Rich Evans was the fastest with 13.5 seconds and he got 350 points for that.

Next up was the shot put.  I did all right with my first throw, managing a longer distance than Gareth (I have to take any victory over him when I can get it !), and my second throw was longer still, at 9 metres 83 centimetres, which actually put me in 5th place and got me 239 points.  Mike Ashton won it with a throw of 11 metres 47 centimetres, and he got 335 points for that.  I feel like if I worked on my technique I could podium in this one.

Fortunately, my first jump in the long jump was a good one, because I fouled out in a spectacular mix up of legs, feet and board with my second jump.  My first jump was 3 metres 18 centimetres and got me 88 points.  Nick Day won this one with 4 metres 05 centimetres, which gave him 214 points.  I fell backwards so my jump was measured to my hands, so if I could improve my landing I would certainly do better.

The final event was the 800 metres, which saw us all going off together.  I decided to run it at a steady pace and finished the first lap in 1 minute 54 seconds, which I am going to use as a baseline number for 400 metres, but I could not sustain that pace and although I tried to push for a sub-4 minutes, I finally came in at 4 minutes 04 seconds.  I was last, by some way, and got a well deserved 5 points for that.  Nick Day won it in a time of 2 minutes 19 seconds (so I just avoided being lapped…) and got himself 734 points for that.  Which was more than double my 351 total points for the evening !  I managed to pick up a couple of Strava segments : PR on Westminster Lodge Athletics Track, and 3rd fastest time on Westminster Lodge Athletics Track, Front 200m.  This will be my baseline number for 800 metres.

“The results are out from the Olympic Night on the track.  Congratulations to Nick Day and Ruth Hodgkinson (who beat Sarah Hall by one point!!!) for being our male and female winners – prize giving next Tuesday.  Scores have been calculated with male and female multi-sport scoring tables – unsurprisingly, the scores for the 800 were much better than for the other events!”

  1. St Albans Striders (St Albans – track) – 400 metres – 2 minutes 13 seconds
  2. St Albans Striders (St Albans – track) – 100 metres – 18 seconds
  3. St Albans Striders (St Albans – track) – shot put – 9 metres 83 centimetres
  4. St Albans Striders (St Albans – track) – long jump – 3 metres 18 centimetres
  5. St Albans Striders (St Albans – track) – 800 metres – 4 minutes 05 seconds

Wednesday 05 July 2017

I had a meeting in London all day so I decided to walk to it from City Thameslink station.  It was only 1.6 kilometres, but I always prefer walking in London to taking the tube, and in terms of exercising it is better than nothing.

We enjoyed a great view from the meeting room

  1. Walk (London) – 1.6 kilometres – 15 minutes 17 seconds

Thursday 06 July 2017

This was very frustrating.  I had been away overnight in a hotel because of work, and usually that means I get to use a gym, or a pool, or go for a run somewhere different, but this time it had meant staying awake all night to complete urgent online surveys.  And that left me too tired to do any sort of training through the day.

Friday 07 July 2017

I needed to keep my 10K training plan going this week, which meant getting a run in today, so I went out at lunchtime for a hill sprints session.  I spent 5 minutes jogging, then 5 minutes with 10 second strides and 50 seconds recovery each minute, then another 5 minutes jogging, before I got to the crossroads of the tracks in Verulamium Park, just above the Heron Island end of the lake.  I went to a point near the London Gate Roman ruins and ran up the hill from there, doing 10 x 10 second hill sprints, with the remainder of 2 minutes spent in recovery.  The 10 seconds sprint took me from a wooden marker post in the track up to a noticeboard about the Roman ruins, and from there I walked up to a bench before turning around and coming down to the start again.  I had to keep at a brisk pace on the recovery stage to stay inside the 2 minutes.  I then spent 10 minutes jogging home to cool down.  I do enjoy this session, and I will keep it going even when it is not a part of the training plan.

We went for a walk in the late afternoon, round by the golf course before coming back via Camp Road.  It took some time for my Garmin Fenix 3 to pick up the satellite signal, which is a bit of a pain.

  1. 10K Training Plan (St Albans) – Week 1 Session 2 – 5.5 kilometres – 48 minutes 02 seconds
  2. Walk (St Albans) – 5.3 kilometres – 1 hour 10 minutes

Saturday 08 July 2017

parkrun was better this morning, so I need to keep that going.

The obligatory parkrun selfie

We took a lunchtime walk down to the park and around town.

  1. parkrun (St Albans) – 5.1 kilometres – 32 minutes 54 seconds
  2. Walk (St Albans) – 6.1 kilometres – 1 hour 35 minutes 38 seconds

Sunday 09 July 2017

We took another lunchtime walk, this time walking around Clarence Park, heading out to Fleetville and coming back on the Alban Way.

Later in the afternoon I completed my 10K training plan for the week, doing a long slow run.  This was supposed to be 90 minutes in Z2 but Z3 on climbs, with 5 x 20 seconds strides in the final 20 minutes.  However, in reality, just like all my sessions at the moment, I spent practically all the run in Z3 and above.  I got an Epic Suffer Score of 352.

  1. Walk (St Albans) – 6.9 kilometres – 1 hour 32 minutes 00 seconds
  2. 10K Training Plan (St Albans) – Week 1 Session 3 – 10 kilometres – 1 hour 30 minutes 02 seconds

Positives from this week : I got going with my 10K training plan, enjoyed a brilliant session with St Albans Striders, and have baseline times for all distances I want to measure up to 10K.

I was 54/100 in the St Albans Striders Strava group, with 29.3 running kilometres for the week.

Baselines :

  1. 100 metres : 17.9 seconds
  2. 400 metres : 1 minute 54 seconds
  3. 800 metres : 4 minutes 04 seconds
  4. 5 kilometres : 32 minutes 09 seconds
  5. 10 kilometres : 1 hour 14 minutes 00 seconds
Posted in Fitness Training, Obstacle Course Races, The 100 Peaks Challenge | Leave a comment

The Road To Nuclear Oblivion 2018 : Training – Week 2

I have decided to take on Nuclear Oblivion in 2018.  You can read more about that decision here.

Nuclear Oblivion 2018

Monday 26 June 2017

I got off to a slow start with only my plank today.  I am still struggling to achieve any sort of proper work/life balance.

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 15 seconds

Tuesday 27 June 2017

It was another slow day from a fitness training point of view, and, again, I only managed my plank.

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 30 seconds

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Having finished the excellent Run With Striders course, it was time for me to push on with something else myself, while looking to tie the St Albans Striders sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings into that programme.  I had previously used a 10K training plan from Trail Runner magazine, and found it to be very good, so I decided to go with that again, and it would keep me going for the next 8 weeks, at least.  I say ‘at least’ because when I am following a training plan, if I do not complete any given week then I go back and repeat that week.  I have enough time to play with, so that will not be an issue here.  In any event, at this stage I think slow and steady is the way to go with my running until I get back my fitness and stamina.

This first session of week 1 was a Tempo session.  I began with a 10 minute warm up in Z1/Z2, followed by 40 minutes in Z3, and finished off with a 10 minute cool down.  However, in reality, I spent practically all the run in Z3 and above.  That will sort itself out as I get fitter and my stamina returns, because it seems to be a lot more about where my heart rate rushes to, rather than how I am actually feeling.

I did pick up a few Strava segments : PR on Batchwood Drive Anticlockwise, PR on Beech Rd W, and 2nd fastest time on Bluehouse Hill, and 2nd fastest time on Batchwood Golf to Roundabout.  I also got an Extreme Suffer Score of 245.

I finished the day with some late night plank.

  1. 10K Training Plan (St Albans) – Week 1 Session 1 – 8 kilometres – 1 hour 00 minutes 03 seconds
  2. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 45 seconds

Thursday 29 June 2017

My early morning plank pushed it up to the next level of 2 minutes.  However, I can do normal plank, I know this, what I really need to do is move on to plank variations.

In the evening I had my group running session with St Albans Striders, and I knew from the word go that this group, the ‘slowest’ group going out that evening, was going to be too fast for me right now.  Two 6 minute splits in the first 3 kilometres killed me off.  It was a great route, and one that I will look to use in the future, and also a great group of runners, over 10 of us in the group, and everyone very supportive of each other.  The run was led by Ray Marshall, and Jack ended up having to ‘run’ with me at the back.  I will look forward to getting up to the speed where I can stay up with them.

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 2 minutes
  2. St Albans Striders (St Albans) – 9.8 kilometres – 1 hour 17 minutes 20 seconds

Friday 30 June 2017

We went for an evening walk down to the park and around the lake and back.  My Garmin Fenix 3 is having issues locating satellites at the moment, so it was short on both the time and the distance.  I got home and did my late night plank.

  1. Walk (St Albans) – 3.9 kilometres – 52 minutes 40 seconds
  2. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 45 seconds

Saturday 01 July 2017

Another not very fast parkrun,but at least I am getting along on a regular basis again.  

Actually in my Nuclear technical tshirt

We took a longer walk at lunchtime, taking in a route I had encountered through the Thursday evening runs with St Albans Striders.  I did not do my plank.  A fatal mistake…

  1. parkrun (St Albans) – 5 kilometres – 35 minutes 11 seconds
  2. Walk (St Albans) – 8.4 kilometres – 1 hour 46 minutes 51 seconds

Sunday 02 July 2017

I was a marshall at Judgement Day and you can read more about that here.

No way was I leaving without this selfie

Positives from this week : Judgement Day was excellent fun.  Apart from that it was a week of things not really coming together…

Baselines :

  1. 5 kilometres : 32 minutes 09 seconds
  2. 10 kilometres : 1 hour 14 minutes 00 seconds
Posted in Fitness Training, Obstacle Course Races, The 100 Peaks Challenge | Leave a comment

Judgement Day 020717 – A Marshall’s View

I had really wanted to run at what was being billed as the final Judgement Day weekend, but as the time approached, it was obvious that I was not fit enough to give it a good enough go, so I decided I would apply to be a marshall instead, to at least be a part of it and also to give something back.  I had enjoyed a brilliant time at Copehill Down back in 2015, so it was the least I could do.  I got in touch with their Facebook page and they very quickly replied, asking me to email Adam Luck, which I did, and after that I did not have long to wait before I heard back from him.  It was all very well organised.  Adam directed me to the signup page and a few days before the event I received an email with all the relevant details I needed and was invited to join a Facebook group for volunteers.  I was added to the volunteer list for the Sunday.  Sorted.

Copehill Down 2015

I woke up on the Sunday at 0500 and was out of the house by 0530.  I needed to be at Pippingford Park by 0730 and Google Maps had suggested that journey could take 2 hours from St Albans, so although I was hoping for no traffic at this time on a Sunday morning, I did not want to leave anything to chance.  As it turned out, there was no traffic, I arrived just after 0700, but I had driven through some pretty heavy rain on my way down, so I hoped that was not a taste of the weather to come. 

Ready to go

It was easy to park up at that time of the morning and I walked into the village, to be met by Adam, who said, “You look like you are looking for me,” and told me to make myself comfortable around last night’s fire while he got everything organised.  The rain began to fall a little harder so we all retreated to a gazebo for the briefing.  Adam could not stress enough that while safety was obviously the first priority, everyone out on the course having fun came right after that.  We were there to help, encourage, assist where we could, though not if that would leave ourselves injured and him down a marshall, and above all make things as pleasurable as possible for the runners, taking into account they were running an OCR !  Adam summed it up very well – completing the monkey bars, for example, was not a be all and end all – if someone had managed two the last time they ran with JD and managed three this time, then that was a triumph, and it was all about personal triumphs.  He made sure we all had his telephone number in our mobiles because that was going to be the main method of communication with him, gave out a map of the course and explained how the laps would work, and then he began allocating tasks.  He tried to accommodate requests from anyone who needed to leave by a particular time, putting them on obstacles nearer to the start of the course so they would be finished earlier.  Then Adam started handing out cards, and we saw which obstacle we would be on.  I got Hoist.  I remembered that from Copehill Down – you think the pulley system will make it easy, and then you feel the weight of the sack you have to get off the ground…  The cards served a dual purpose, because we would hand them in at the end to get a burger.  Now we just had to wait to be taken out on to the course.

In the village

Then Adam came to find me because he wanted to change things around.  He was taking me off Hoist and putting me on Incline Walls with Amelia Crowley, and he indicated there was something more than just the one obstacle for us to be concerned with, which would be explained in full detail once we got out there.  We were driven out with the marshalls for the Monkey Bars, and once they had been dropped off, we headed back through a gap in the treeline to get to our obstacle, and as we approached it another vehicle appeared, heading for the same location.  I am sure we accelerated to cut off their direct line.  It turned out that they needed to find a different set of walls, so Amelia and I got out and stowed our kit while our position was explained to us.  We were at the Incline Walls, the runners would approach us from the treeline on the other side of this area of grass, go over the walls, and then continue on through a pond on the other side. 

From the Incline Walls into the Pond…and note the Kegs in plain sight

We were towards the end of the first lap and the runners would also come through us on the second lap, at which time we would have a little surprise for them.  Dean Newman came through on his bike to confirm we were all right and also to confirm instructions, and then we were all set up and ready to go.  Both Amelia and I had brought enough Haribo to feed the masses, she had also been very clever and brought a chair and some music, the sun had come out without absolutely no sign of rain clouds, and we heard the noise of the start coming from the village.  It had all turned out very well indeed.

Dean checks in

Not before long we saw the front runners going over the JD trident branded ramps at the bottom of the field and wondered how long it would take them to reach us. 

A steady stream of runners down below us

The answer was not very long at all, and in no time at all we got the first of what became a steady stream of runners going over the Incline Walls and into the pond beyond them.  Even though the weekend clashed with the OCR European Championships there was still a very strong field out there, both in terms of quantity and quality.  I recognised quite a few faces and Amelia seemed to recognise many more, and from a personal point of view I noticed that Team Nuclear Phoenix OCR had a great section of their team present.

Just a couple of the members from Team Nuclear Phoenix OCR out on the course today

You can see more of my photos of them here

Everybody looked like they were having a great time out there, and the only people who did not make it over the obstacle were those who had injuries which prevented them from even trying it.  If there was ever anyone who was struggling, there was always at least one other runner who immediately stepped in to help them.  I particularly enjoyed seeing fingers appearing, then maybe a foot hooking over the top, followed by some part of the body, and then finally we actually got to see who was trying to get over the wall. 

I can see you…

Our job was very enjoyable on a day like this and could not have been easier !

And so it begins…

Flying over !

Jumping down !

Everyone gave it everything

It was interesting to see that nobody rushed headlong into the pond, probably because it was so muddy there was no way of seeing what lurked below the surface, or how deep it might actually be.

All the people

So many people

And they all go hand-in-hand

Hand-in-hand through their pondlife

You can see more of my photos of the Pond here.

And after about 1 hour and 30 minutes the tailrunners passed through our obstacle, and it was time to wait for everyone to come round again.

The tailrunners come through

You can see more of my photos of the Incline Walls here.

We had something to do before everyone came round for the second time, but we did not want to make our move too soon, so waited for someone from the JD team to come and confirm the position to us.  We could see runners over on a slope in the distance, going up part of the outer lap, and we knew they would have to complete that outer lap before coming back on to our lap, so we thought we had more than enough time, when suddenly a runner appeared at the bottom of our field, approaching the JD trident branded ramps for the second time.  We sprung into action !  There were 5 kegs stored by the side of the Incline Walls, 3 black ones which were slightly heavier than 2 red ones, and we were going to set them up as an extra obstacle just out in the field between the gap through the treeline and the Incline Walls.  The men would be carrying a black keg down the slope and back up, going to the end of a row of white flags, and the women would do the same with a red keg.  It has to be said, there was not a huge amount of difference in weight between the two, as I found out as I carried them from the Incline Walls to the top of the slope.  The kegs were lined up in a row at the top of the slope, the 3 black kegs first and then the 2 red kegs, and we had it all set up before Dean arrived to check in with us, riding ahead of the runners on his motorbike.  He was as surprised as us at how quickly the front runners were going, so was pleased to see we had got everything in place ready for them.

Ready and waiting

The first of the runners came through the gap in the treeline and Dean set off to stay a good distance ahead of him.  I positioned myself in the grass area up from the kegs, hoping to not give anything away before the runners actually came to this new obstacle.  I then gave them very simple instructions – carry the keg to the bottom of the white flags and back. 

In position, directing the Keg Carry

I would say almost everyone was surprised to see this new obstacle, some wondered aloud if this had been here the first time around, and even if they had done this the first time around, some asked where we had been hiding the kegs (the answer to which, as I have said, was in plain sight – they had been standing by the side of the Incline Walls all the time), and most had some very choice words for me, especially after they felt the weight of the keg.  I myself was well aware of the weight because I was not just soaking up the sun, I was also keeping the kegs in position for the runners. 

The hard work is going on in the background

I kept an open packet of Haribo by one of the red kegs, and those choice words became a lot more pleasant once they were spotted ! 

Strategically placed Haribo

With there only being the 5 kegs we had wondered if we might create a bottleneck, but the field was spread out just enough pretty much all the way through that when it did become busy the kegs were just in constant circulation and hardly anyone had any sort of wait.  When they did, it was usually because they were running in a large group anyway.  We had also wondered if the weight of the kegs might put off some of the runners – obviously, we were going to make all of the front runners do the obstacle, but given this was coming towards the end of the 18k course on a very hot, sunny day, we did feel like we should be a bit more sympathetic to the rest of the field.  However, we should not have worried, because the runners did Judgement Day proud and every single one of them gave it a go.  It was only the fact they were carrying injuries that prevented any of them from completing the carry. 

Some carried the keg on their shoulder…

Some tried levitation…

Some carried it flat…

Some tried a waddle move…

Some rolled it…

And some helped each other

Well, I say ‘carry’…someone people chose to roll the keg, but the looks on their faces as they came back up the slope did not convince me that it was any easier.  It was definitely not easier if you lost control on the way down, as one guy did, and then had to carry the keg back twice the distance.

Oops !!!

You can see more of my photos from my camera of the Keg Carry here.

The battery on my camera ran out (and I must get a replacement because it should not run out in just a few hours !) so I switched over to taking photos on my phone.  We were getting very close to the back of the field when a deer came prancing through the gap in the treeline, sprung a little closer towards us, stopped to take a good look, and then pranced off into the woods again, clearly wondering what the humans were up to today.  Then the group of George Trotter, Lisa Leonard, Julie Lewis-Clements and Sam Hedges arrived, and George made it look easy, throwing the keg up on to his shoulder and quickly going down the slope and back up. 

George making it look easy !

That just left the tailrunners, and I sat in the shade of the Incline Walls to wait for them, steadily eating my way through the remaining Haribo.  We got a visit from one of the marshalls at the Monkey Bars because it had been some time since George’s group had passed through and there was still no sign of the tailrunners.

You can see more of my photos from my phone of the Keg Carry here.

The field had certainly slowed on the second lap but we would still have expected to have seen them by now.  They decided to send Adam a message to find out if there was an issue.  While we were waiting for a reply to that we saw a man going the other way with his daughter, collecting up every other one of the little white flags marking the route, to make it easier to clear them all up at the end of the weekend.  His wife was in the tailrunner group and they were going to meet up with her.  His daughter accepted the offer of some Haribo and, in a show of restraint how exhibited by most of the runners through the day, took just a few.  I was happy because I knew I would just find myself eating however many were left over, so the fewer the better !  And then we saw the marshalls from the Monkey Bars coming through the gap in the treeline and walking across the field towards us, which was our cue to pack up and move out.  Apparently the tailrunners were having great fun playing on all the obstacles and we were not to wait for them, so we walked back to the village, and I made sure to record that on my Garmin Fenix 3 so I had something from the weekend on my Strava.  We got back just in time to enjoy the last of the delicious burgers, and once I had finished that off I sought out Adam to thank him for having me along, and we chatted for a while about the present state of play of the OCR world in the UK.  Sadly, it becomes easy to understand why Judgement Day have had to take the decision they have taken, and this was simply reinforced when I had a chat with Mark Buller before making my way to my car.  It had been a brilliant day albeit with a very sad background to it, but what could not have been made more clear to me and all those others who had been present was that this was not the end, Judgement Day were not disappearing, and we should all be very thankful for that.

No way was I leaving without this selfie

As I drove away I noticed the Toughest trailers still parked up.  Someone should hook them up to a tractor unit and take them to Milton Keynes…

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The Road To Nuclear Oblivion 2018 : Training – Week 1

I have decided to take on Nuclear Oblivion in 2018.  You can read more about that decision here.

Nuclear Oblivion 2018

Monday 19 June 2017

If you are a friend of mine on Facebook then you know that I go along with every challenge Stuart Amory PT puts out there.  His latest is #StuIsAPlank – 4 weeks of plank, and I will be starting at 1 minute and gradually building it up.  This one was late at night to fit it in !

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute

Tuesday 20 June 2017

I began the morning with some more plank, moving up to 1 minute 15 seconds.

I had joined the St Albans Striders running club and signed up to their Run With Striders introductory course, which had been running on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 9 May.  It had proved to be an excellent way to get me back into running on a regular basis.  Our first session had seen us run the St Albans parkrun course, and now we were back again, looking to beat our previous times.  I was not feeling confident after my nearly 37 minutes effort from Saturday.  I decided to go off at a steady pace, but managed to complete the first kilometre in 5 minutes 30 seconds, which was far too fast for me at the moment, so I was not surprised to find myself having to walk during the fourth kilometre.  Well, it was a march rather than a stroll, so it kept me going, allowed me to recover, and I was able to get running again and keep it going up the finishing straight, putting in a final sprint to overtake another runner near the line (oops !!!) and bring it in at 32 minutes 09 seconds, not only knocking 4 minutes 38 seconds off my Saturday time, but also beating my initial Run With Striders time by 43 seconds.  I was happy with that right now, and it sets a baseline, although I am still some way from my PB of 25 minutes 36 seconds.

We all got a medal for completing the course 🙂

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 15 seconds
  2. St Albans Striders (St Albans) – 0.8 kilometres – 6 minutes 18 seconds
  3. St Albans Striders (St Albans) – 5 kilometres – 32 minutes 09 seconds

Wednesday 21 June 2017

My early morning plank of 1 minute 30 seconds was all I managed today.

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 30 seconds

Thursday 22 June 2017

My very late night plank of 1 minute 45 seconds was all I managed today.  I did not go out for a run because I was saving myself for tomorrow.

  1. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 45 seconds

Friday 23 June 2017

I walked over to Highfield Park for the St Albans Striders’ Summer Solstice 10K, which was the official end of the Run With Striders course, so there were many of us present among the very good turnout.  I really liked the route, running through Highfield Park to join The Alban Way, coming off that to run round a little residential estate, circling back to The Alban Way, and retracing our steps to finish off.  I started off at a steady pace, and got gradually slower until I had to switch to a walk/run.  I finished with a bit of a sprint to bring me in at 1 hour 14 minutes.  I am still some way from my PB of 55 minutes 54 seconds, so I do find it very frustrating at the moment.

I did pick up a couple of Strava segments : 2nd fastest time on Alban way, fresh tarmac section, and 2nd fastest time on Alban way 3 mins east bound!  I also got an Epic Suffer Score of 329.

I also got another medal 🙂

I walked home afterwards and did my plank of 1 minute 30 seconds.

  1. Walk (St Albans) – 2.9 kilometres – 31 minutes 12 seconds
  2. St Albans Striders’ Summer Solstice 10K (St Albans) – 10 kilometres – 1 hour 14 minutes 00 seconds
  3. Walk (St Albans) – 3.1 kilometres – 37 minutes 47 seconds
  4. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 30 seconds

Saturday 24 June 2017

I walked down to parkrun.  It was another hot morning and another not very good parkrun, coming in at 35 minutes 03 seconds.  It is what it is, for now.

No medal…

I did another late night plank, of 1 minute 15 seconds

  1. parkrun (St Albans) – 5km – 35 minutes 03 seconds
  2. #StuIsAPlank – plank – 1 minute 15 seconds

Sunday 25 June 2017

I woke up later than planned, so had to run down to the OCR training at Verulamium Park.  You can read more about that training here.

OCR training pretty much killed me

I had some time available in the evening so I went to the Adizone in Verulamium Park to do the exercises from the Para , and also play around on the other equipment for a while.  The hour I spent there included 4 x 25 press ups, 4 x 25 dips, 4 x 25 sit ups, 4 x 25 squats, 4 x 70 second plank and 4 x 15 eccentric pull-ups.  I need to take advantage of this excellent, free facility a lot more.

The Adizone

  1. Morning Run (St Albans) – 2.5 kilometres – 19 minutes 41 seconds
  2. OCR Training (Verulamium Park) – 5.2 kilometres – 1 hour 39 minutes 37 seconds
  3. Adizone (St Albans) – 1 hour

Positives from this week : I ran a much better 5k, and also ran a 10k, which gives me a couple of baselines to work from.

Baselines :

  1. 5 kilometres : 32 minutes 09 seconds
  2. 10 kilometres : 1 hour 14 minutes 00 seconds
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Obstacle Course Race Training : Verulamium Park (Team Relay)

Coach Tony Leary made the training session for this Sunday morning sound so simple, “Sorry for delay guys but yes planning a session at Verulamium Park 7:30 start – nothing too heavy – maybe some run loops and some team relay pulls carries – that kind of thing – who is in???”  The answer was that quite a few of the regulars were in, and by the time I arrived (having had to run the 2.5k to get there because I could not drag myself out of bed…), there was a good crowd of Kirsten Whitehouse, Rebecca Cohen, Ray Fletcher, Robert Boarder, Matt Stewart, Daniel Spears and a returning from injury Neil Rainbow joining Tony for this session.

We carried the kit up to the line of hedges on the ridge, which sadly was not the line of trees I had got to doing a farmer’s walk with both of the sandbags from the car park.  Ray took one of them the rest of the way.  We ran a warm up loop up the field.  Obviously, I was already warmed up from my run down, but I was also already knackered.  My stamina is rock bottom at the moment and something I am working on.  I got most of the way up the hill and then cut through to the track taking us down again, joining up with the others to Tony’s comment, “James knows all the short cuts.”  I really do – I have a very good running knowledge of Verulamium Park now !  We continued running to the bottom and then came back up to the ridge.

Tony decided we would split into two teams and Neil and Daniel were chosen as team captains.  We all know how this goes – Tony, Robert and Ray are the first choices, followed by the girls, with Matt being selected just before me to close out the process.  This point was made by Matt and it clearly caused such considerable guilt in the minds of the captains that Tony found himself being selected last, and reluctantly at that.  We had our teams : Neil, Kirsten, Matt, Tony and myself, and Daniel, Rebecca, Robert and Ray.  Someone from Daniel’s team would have to go twice with each piece of kit.

The two teams

By now Tony had worked out what we would actually be doing with all the kit we had carried up to this part of the park.  We had a log carry, a barrel carry, a sandbag carry with a double underhand grip on the scaffolding handle attached to the sandbag, a tyre pull with the sandbag inside the tyre, and a tyre drag with the sandbag still inside the tyre.  In between each run we would do 20 push-ups and 50 crunchies, and at the end of each full relay we would run the warm up loop.  Think back to the description for this session, and the words “nothing too heavy”.  We had been lied to.  One of the barrels was too heavy, as was one of the sandbags, so we swapped over for the second relay.

Push-ups, crunchies, and one very low plank…

I much preferred the heavy barrel to the heavy sandbag.  The heavy barrel was not really an issue for me.  My running was still letting me down, and I was using my full knowledge of the various short cuts to either cut through on the way up the hill or cut back on the way down, to ensure I stayed up with everyone else.  The various relays were hard because you were running out and back and then doing the push-ups and crunchies in between, and there was an obvious difference between the tyre pulls and drags depending on whether you had the heavy or the not so heavy sandbag.  

Going to guess that’s the light sandbag

However, nothing had prepared us for the final, double-run relay.  We had the heavy sandbag for this one.  The run out with the sandbag was bad enough, and when I finally managed to get back and passed it over to Neil my arms felt like they would explode.  Worse was to follow.  The first tyre pull was as hard as usual, but suddenly the second one felt almost impossible !  I got some assistance from Matt to finish off my second attempt, but by that point we were already a visibly long way behind the other team.  Even worse was to follow.  

Looks like Bigfoot Challenge got revenge over Nuclear Phoenix after the Dany Grade transfer

It was hardly encouraging to see Tony come through from his second tyre drag to collapse on the ground looking thoroughly wasted !  Once again, the first attempt was no worse than we had encountered during the session, but the second attempt suddenly took it to a completely different level of difficulty, effort, pain, despair, exhaustion.  I followed Tony’s example and collapsed to the ground as I finished.  

Neil demonstrating just how very hard that second drag with the heavy sandbag is

I dragged myself up off the ground to take the final loop with Rebecca, who is restricted to walking as she recovers from a stress fracture, and we cut across on one of her short cuts, through the nettles, then missed a cut through which would have allowed us to walk down to the start point, and instead cut back at a point which meant we had a short way back up the slope to join up with everyone else.

Everyone is knackered

We carried the kit back to the car park.  Daniel began with the two sandbags, and when he stopped Tony said he would take over because he needed some grip strength training.  Tony’s intention was to get back to the car park, and we wondered aloud whether he would make it past the trees which were half way between us and the car park.  Of course, we gave him our full encouragement.  He did say he was going to have to go faster to make it all the way…and then dropped them at the trees.  To be fair, he did pick them up again and continued with his farmer’s half walk, or milkmaid’s walk, as Robert called it.  Everyone else enjoyed the coffee back at the car park, while I was rehydrating with my bottle of water.  It had been a brilliant session in the sun.  I had covered 5.2km and Matt had covered 6.7km, with everyone else somewhere in between.  Next weekend sees a lot of the group taking on the OCR European Championships, so good luck to them all with that.

Another brilliant session with a great bunch of people

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The Road To Nuclear Oblivion 2018

I will be perfectly honest – I was gutted.  This had been months of frustration for me, culminating in a concentrated 25 days of that frustration, and a definite feeling that I had let down a great group of people.  I could not just dwell on it, I had to do something about it.

Lloydy

The 100 Peaks Challenge

An awesome team

The 100 Peaks Challenge had been an awesome success by Karl Rushen, Scott Wealthall, Paul Southernwood, Caria Ammerlaan and James Nicholson, who had been very ably supported by Theresa Whatling, Lesley Kemp, Gadge Grocott, Laura McLellan, Kim Treece and Kevin Burke, and a cast of individuals who had taken on parts of the overall Challenge.  At one point I had been striving to be part of the full Challenge team but had not been able to achieve the very high level of fitness required.  In the run up to Christmas 2016 and the 4 months following I had been able to do practically no physical exercise thanks to the demands of my work life, and now I was the elephant in the room eating the £1 Belgian buns from Iceland, watching the Challenge unfold on Facebook.  I did think I would manage to get along to some of the partial stages of the full Challenge, but work meetings and conference calls kept getting in the way of that.  And finally, all thoughts of making that final day at Pen-y-Fan went out the window when various people organised three conference calls for me for that morning despite me having flagged it as a day I was not available.  Sometimes the demands of our customers dictate our availability.  That final opportunity disappearing did not leave me feeling good about the way things had turned out for me, even though I remained delighted that the team had triumphed.

All ready to complete The 100 Peaks Challenge

Regardless of anything else, I wanted to help towards the fundraising target of £100,000, which will be split between ABF The Soldiers Charity and Support Our Paras, so I decided to come up with something else which would allow me to do that, but it had to be something big, to fit in with the epic nature of The 100 Peaks Challenge itself.  Which made me think of Nuclear Oblivion. 

Nuclear Races

The event is hard enough in itself, and here is what they said about it for 2017 :

NUCLEAR OBLIVION EXTREME

12k – 60k+

PUSHING BOUNDARIES TO #GOBEYOND

How many 12k Nuclear Rush laps can you take on?

The Event starts at 8.30 am

Finishes 5.30pm

Oblivion 2017 has the potential to be a 60k+/37+mile/450+ obstacle challenge. It’s Nuclear Oblivion EXTREME. Designed to challenge the fastest and fittest obstacle race athletes out there; it’s our most brutal & unforgiving event in the Nuclear calendar. There’s 8.5 hours to complete as many 12k laps on the Nuclear Rush course tackling 90+ man-made & natural obstacles per lap. This event requires hardcore training as it’s the ultimate test of physical and mental endurance and strength. Entrants are Oblivion Extreme Legends. This is not a team event. Pit Crew welcome.

Complete 4 laps  to qualify for the 2017 OCR World Championships in Canada.

As I said, the event is hard enough in itself, and in taking it on I will want to hit the qualification requirement, and take The 100 Peaks Challenge to the OCR World Championships.

So the training starts here.  I do not have a gym membership at the moment so, at least for now, I will be concentrating on running, the body weight exercises from The Para Fitness Guide, the kettlebell workout sessions from the Bear Grylls book Your Life – Train For It, and the Sunday morning training sessions with the St Albans OCR Training Group (with Coffee & Cake).  Looking forward, I have joined the St Albans Striders running club and will be attending their Tuesday and Thursday evening sessions, I will be taking on as many obstacle course races and trail running events as possible, just to get in the practice, and booking in some time with Coach Tony Leary, Coach Tony Campbell of The Bigfoot Challenge, and Scotty PT at The PT Barn, and hopefully getting in some time down at Nuclear Events itself.  I have a lot of work to do in less than a year.

Friday 16 June 2017

The triumphant culmination of The 100 Peaks Challenge.

The Pen-y-Fan summit finish

Saturday 17 June 2017

I ran my slowest parkrun ever.  I appreciate it was very hot, but I just ran my slowest parkrun ever.

A very sunny parkrun

We walked over to The Prae Wood Arms for lunch.

  1.  parkrun (St Albans) – 5 kilometres – 36 minutes 47 seconds
  2. Walk (St Albans) – 8.7 kilometres – 1 hour 43 minutes 24 seconds

Sunday 18 June 2017

I walked to the early morning OCR training session.  I struggled to cope with the running involved in the training session itself.  You can read more about the session here.

Fun and games in the obligatory post-training selfie

  1. Walk (St Albans) – 4.4 kilometres – 45 minutes 01 seconds
  2. OCR Training (Heartwood Forest) – 6.6 kilometres – 1 hour 04 minutes 13 seconds

 Positives from this week : I have a target to aim for – going from an almost 37 minute parkrun to 4 laps of Nuclear Oblivion in about 11 months.

Nuclear Oblivion 2018

Posted in Fitness Training, Obstacle Course Races, The 100 Peaks Challenge | 5 Comments

Obstacle Course Race Training : Heartwood Forest

Obstacle course race training was going to be different this week, with the absence of Coach Tony Leary following an evening rocking out to Guns ‘N’ Roses.  After running my slowest parkrun ever earlier in the day I had been sat at home on Saturday evening thinking about going for a (not very) long (very) slow morning run in St Albans on Sunday when I saw a note from Kirsten Whitehouse, “Coach Leary is off hanging with Axl tonight, so no training as normal tomorrow. However if anyone fancies meeting in Heartwood Forest at 8:00 or 8:30 for a run with some good hills and woods, drop me a line? X” and I was very tempted.  Kirsten followed it up with, “Update again ! If you’re coming to Heartwood in the morning it’s 8:15 start. Bacon rolls at the ready – bring ketchup or brown sauce if you need it. And coffee!!” and I was sold.

I looked up Heartwood Forest and saw it was the other side of Sandridge from me, and a prefect distance for an early morning walk to training.  The small of my back had felt stiff and sore during my parkrun, which had subsequently affected my glutes during the latter stages of the run, so I thought the walk would help ease my back before the running began.  It was a lovely morning for a walk with the sun already out, I drank from my water bottle as I walked along, and just before I reached the turn off for the Heartwood Forest car park, Matt Stewart pulled over and gave me a lift for the final leg up the driveway.  I had walked 4.4 kilometres, my back felt less stiff than when I had left the house, but I cannot help thinking there is something more wrong with it that I should investigate.

Ray Stewart was already there, as is usually the case, and not before long we were joined by Kirsten and Steven Lamb, a new face to me but I could immediately tell he had an OCR pedigree.  Once again I was completely out of my depth !  We finished up a conversation about skipping obstacles in OCRs and the penalties that should be applied, and took a gentle run down the driveway away from the car park and towards the road, with Kirsten encouraging us to run in the ditch rather than along the driveway, before pausing to stretch at the bottom.  We turned left and ran on a track following the line of the B651, before heading into the grassy expanse of Nomansland Common, crossing Drovers Lane and then heading left into the woods.  I was already falling behind and flagging, partly due to the heat, but mostly due to my currently terrible level of fitness, and my biggest concern was that I would hold back the others.  Fortunately (!) we had reached the point for some hill repeats, running a loop down into the dip and then back up again, with the target of ten repeats.  A horse rider came past as we were doing this and must have wondered what we were up to.  I was wondering that much myself…

We continued through the wood before coming out into an opening which contained a wooden bench and a family setting up a gazebo for a breakfast bbq.  We could not stop for the bbq, but did hang around long enough for some box jumps on to the bench.  We crossed over the road on to more open ground, turning right to take us into and through woods, before which Ray had tracked back to give me some support and encouragement.  We came out of the woods and I turned left while the rest of the group carried straight on.  I was somewhat worried by the signs saying this was a private track and when I came round a corner to find a couple of people in the adjacent field I kept my head down in case they said anything.  They did not, and very soon the rest of the group were coming up behind me, having completed a wider loop.  They began to sprint to catch up with me so I put on a bit of a spurt, but could not sustain that for very long.  At the end of this long track we went back into some woods and I had fallen back to the extent that I was now following by sound rather than by vision.  I passed a potential exit but could still hear the group was ahead of me so I kept going, before I heard them calling to me to turn left, which I did when I finally came out of the woods.  This took me up and round a slope, back to the exit I had continued past while in the woods, and from there we went up another hill, following a track which brought us to the summit and a choice of tracks.  The group turned left and I cut diagonally across the open ground to join them, finally catching up at the next wooded section, where they were going over a gate and back while waiting for me to catch up.  I saw a sign for the car park and made the decision that I would follow that route so that I was not holding them up any longer.  None of them had complained about my pace, they had always found something to do while waiting for me to catch up, and they all said they were more than happy for me to carry on with them, but I knew it was the right decision for me, to get me to the finish as quickly as possible, and the right decision for them, to allow them to finish at their pace.

I headed off down the closed track, passing many family groups going the other way, looking to enjoy the stunning sunshine, and finally came to a gate on the left.  Having gone through the gate I followed another track down to the right which brought me to the car park, and at the bottom I followed that round to bring me to where we had set off from.  At the same time the rest of the group appeared along a lower track.  I had covered 6.6 kilometres, and at the other end of the scale Ray had covered 7.7 kilometres.  We had been under the very hot sun throughout, and even when we had managed to be in the shade the air temperature had remained hot.  Kirsten’s bacon rolls were very welcome, as was the lift Ray gave me back up the hill to the crossroads, making my walk home a lot shorter.  It had been a tough morning for me, tough and yet very enjoyable in the best of company.

Fun and games in the obligatory post-training selfie

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Obstacle Course Race Training : Mardley Heath Woods (Upper Body Circuit)

We were going back to Mardley Heath Woods (you can read about the previous time here) for a session which was introduced to us by Coach Tony Leary in a quite familiar tone, “I’m resting a butt strain at the minute so will probably set up a few upper body obstacles in Mardley woods, there will of course be a run loop included but I wont be doing it.”  He soon added, “Gonna put up a longish rope traverse tomorrow so wear long socks/calf guards to protect your ankles.”

I was told to be at the pick-up point for 0640, and actually managed to get myself out of the house on time for a change, so that I could enjoy an easy-paced walk to get there just ahead of anyone else, all the while wondering if the light rain was going to get better or worse.  I had not been there long before I was joined by Kirsten Whitehouse and Rebecca Cohen, and we did not have to wait long after that for Tony to arrive, and then we were off, driving over to the location near Knebworth.  Ray Fletcher was already waiting for us in the car park and we were soon joined by Matt Stewart, Jake Barber, Will Harbour, Coach Tony Campbell and Robert Boarder, who had run over 50k at Runstock the day before, and built up quite a red covering running under the sun, by the looks of it.  And while we were getting set up Neil Robinson arrived with a couple of new faces, Siobhan McGoldrick and her friend.

The rig

We got all the equipment out of Tony’s car and carried it across the road to the edge of the wood.  We set up a rig along the branch of one tree, a tyre drag along the track, a short rope climb on a tree branch on one side of the track, and a rope traverse between two trees on the other side of the track, with a longer rope climb at the far end of that.  We went for a run around the lap we would be following so that everyone knew the route, taking some time to stop about half way round at some logs and select a few to give options for a log flip. 

Natural obstacles

At the end of the run, just before we got back to the rig, we had a farmer’s carry using two sandbags with short scaffold poles as handles.  This was a shorter lap than the last time we were here, and again we would run as many laps as possible in an hour.

Working the rig

We started in different places along the equipment part of the circuit to spread everyone out, although just running the first lap was sure to do that anyway.  The rig remains beyond my capability for the moment, and it was made harder this morning by starting above a holly bush.  It was made up of straps, rings, ropes, a bar, and a ball to finish. 

Will finishes off the tyre drag

The tyre drag was a tyre attached to a long rope, and we would pull the rope into us until we had dragged the tyre to our feet.  The tyre for the tyre drag also had two 5kg weights and a barrel in it, and this was the station where I started.  I can do the tyre drag, and it felt pretty smooth this morning as I pulled it along the dry, dusty track.  From there I moved on to the short rope climb, but that remains another aspect which is currently beyond me, so I just hung there for a while.  The rope traverse is something I can do, although this morning my weight on the rope took it very close to the ground. 

Rope traverse

The longer rope climb was just hanging on the rope again for me, before setting off on the run.  The run loop started off going parallel with the road before turning left at the corner of the woods, and it was along that straight down through the woods that we got to the log flip.  I flipped the largest log each time.  The route turned left not too much further down, following a more muddy track until a final left turn on to a more stoney part of the loop brought us to the farmer’s carry.  This would either be up by the gate next to the road, or part way down the track, and the carry would be to take it to the other location from the one where you picked it up.

Ray does the farmer’s walk

I think I did 5 laps in total, although it might have been 6.  It was always fun to encounter one of the others while running the loop, and at different times I enjoyed good chats with Will, Ray and Matt.  Will was running a different loop because he wanted to ensure he covered 10k to meet his weekly target.  On my final lap I moved the three logs we had been using for the log flip back into the pile we had got them from. 

I have no idea what Coach Tony Campbell is doing up there

I got back to the rig, where the biggest groups of people had always accumulated through the morning, and it was good to watch the experts at work.  I am truly privileged to be able to train with such a group.  Rebecca is injured at the moment so her participation had been limited up to this point, with no running included, but once we had taken down the kit and returned it to Tony’s car she came into her own with delicious bacon rolls.  Hot dogs the last time, bacon rolls this time, we are definitely spoiled by Rebecca, but we should also come back here more often !

Tony said I needed a different selfie face

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