I had entered the 10km Warrior Adrenaline Race at the same time as I entered The Wolf Run, and I knew it was going to be a very different proposition despite the fact they are both outdoor 10km obstacle course runs. The Warrior Adrenaline Race is set on Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire and has military style obstacles along the way, being run by Regiment Fitness. If you do not know Dunstable Downs, it is hilly, windy and generally cold.
I set off from home earlier than I needed to as it turned out, but I had not wanted to get caught in traffic or find there was no parking left, and I drank water containing Zero High5 citrus tablets during my drive. I was the first into the massive car park, so parking should have been a worry, and will not be a worry the next time I do this. The race was centred around the Visitors’ Centre on Dunstable Downs and the £2 car parking fee goes to the National Trust, so I have no complaints about that. It was just a short walk from the car park and I was able to wander around taking some photos of the obstacles in the close vicinity of the Start/Finish, whilst being reminded of just how cold and windy it can be up on Dunstable Downs. At least it was not raining. I decided it had become too cold to stand around outside and headed in to the Visitors’ Centre, but entry was barred until I was properly ‘dressed’.
Now that my face was ready I could go inside. I had received my number and wave time by post and online in the week before the event, so all I had to do once I had arrived was drop off my car key for safe-keeping (mine was key number 3) and wait for the clock to tick around to 10 o’clock. There are no timing chips, and they simply take the time you finish and compare that to your wave starting time to determine your overall time. I would time it on my watch anyway. I ate a proto pure endurance bar as I stood about, while others made use of the canteen.
We were called outside and gathered in a taped-off area until they could see that wave 1 were all present and correct, and we were taken out into a wider area to go through a complete warm-up given by the crazy lunatic who had put the cam cream on my face. The warm up was well thought out and perfect for what we were about to do. Having said that, the wind was still blowing cold, so I just wanted to be warm. I was dressed in my long-sleeved Berghaus base layer with the half-zip front (which I had mostly zipped up), my 2XU compression tights, my Ron Hill running shorts, my Outdoor Designs layeron gloves, my Bridgedale CoolFusion Na-kd socks and my Merrell Trail Gloves running shoes. And then we were ready to go ! We made our way to the Start and waited for the countdown before we were off…
down the hill to the first obstacle
1. Barbed wire crawl
which really did mean you had to get down low and crawl from one end to the other, before getting up again and running on. I have to say it is this type of obstacle which really seems to get to me, so it was not great for me to find it right at the beginning ! I ran across the Downs to
2. Ground cargo net, putting my head down and pushing it up on to my shoulders to force my way under and through it, then running up the slope to get to
3. Gigantic steps
which did require an initial leap to get on to them, a clamber to get to the top, and then a spring down the other side. It was a bit of a run to get from there to
4. Vertical ladder
which lived up to its name and was a straight up one side and down the other, trying to avoid stepping on anyone’s fingers. The waves had been very well planned and there was never a very long wait to get on to any of the obstacles, and they were never over-crowded once you did get on to them. It was not far from there to
5. Giant ladder, which was a triangular shape so you climbed up one ladder and then down another, both on an angle. The run from there was along the top edge of the Downs before it began heading downhill for a long stretch until we could see the queues waiting for the many lanes of
6. Zip line, which was brilliant fun ! I collect my two pieces of kit, got to the top of the platform, was instructed to take off my gloves as the marshall attached the handle and pulley, and then I was holding on tight and throwing myself off the platform to fly down the zip line with a huge grin on my face.
I kept it going as long as I could before putting my feet down, walking up on to the far platform, disconnecting my handle and pulley, and then taking them back to where I had got them from and continuing my run along the track which is at the bottom of the Downs. The track was dry and firm and it was quite a long, flat run until it dipped down and then began to go uphill again, which is when we got to another
7. Barbed wire crawl, and so I was down on my front again crawling up along the chalk, before getting up and continuing the run along that bottom track. There were some steep downhill parts and I was glad that the surface was dry and that the weather was holding up, or it could have been a very different proposition. The track led on to
8. Log circle, which involved picking up a log and running round a taped out circle while holding it. I got given a heavy one. Thanks for that. I carried on and eventually reached the water stop (where one of the guys manning it told us we were about a quarter of the way through, and I hoped he was lying through his teeth), which was next to
9. Spiders web, a collection of ropes fastened across a frame with the only intention being to prevent an easy passage from one end of the frame to the other. I got on the ground and crawled and rolled my way under it all. I was glad of the lie down when I looked up and saw
10. The Hill
Seriously. This was so steep that even the proper runners from wave 2 who were now overtaking me did not make it all the way to the top without having to walk. I stood no chance whatsoever and made my way steadily to the top, taking a grain of satisfaction from the fact that I did not stop on the way. I must be turning crazy because I was left with the idea that this would make a good training run without the obstacles…so let us wait and see if that ever happens. The path turns to the right at the top and falls down steadily to join the bottom path again, and the route carried on along that flat path until we were turning to the left and heading uphill again, this time following a less steep
11. Hill over a footbridge, which had a wooden bannister I was able to use to help drag myself up. We were heading between high bushes at this point until we came out into an opening to find a space ahead of us containing
12. Up and under logs. The marshall refused to tell us how far along the route we were, told us we could go over or under the logs, and said the steps up to a higher level on the other side of the obstacle might be the hardest climb left on the course. I was thankful for any small mercies like that ! I chose to go over each of the logs, that for me being a far better option at the time than trying to bend down. Once we reached the upper level on the grass there was another
13. Ground cargo net, which I got through using my previously mentioned technique of putting my head down and letting my shoulders push me through. The path away from this was hedged on both sides and rocky on the middle of the surface, so I ran nearer to the sides. It was not long before the lane came to an end, and I was directed to the left to go into a field, following the edge of that before coming to another clearing and an obstacle involving a
14. Rope to get over a wall, which I found to be pretty easy. Grab the rope and walk upright to the top of the wooden wall before lowering yourself over the other side. As I ran into the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral I thought it was starting to rain. As it turns out it was not raining, because actually hail stones were falling on my head, all cold and pointy. The run was now along a tarmac track and instead of turning right towards the Visitors’ Centre at the top I was directed to the left, continued to the end of that track, then turned right and ran to the end of that field to find
15. Balance beam, which was two knee-high logs with a couple of marshalls to help with balance. I just seem to be good at this sort of thing and flew across the left-hand one. Some would say I flew for the first time all morning ! Now the trail was through the woods, winding this way and that, marked out with white tape so that you could not avoid reaching the double entrance of
16. The Dark Tunnel, and I chose to go through the one on the left again. The tunnel is 3 metres long, big enough to crawl through if you are lying down but not big enough to allow a monkey crawl, and the floor of the tunnel is covered in mud.
The exit leads up the hill and I know I am almost at the Finish now as we hit the edge of the woods and find
17. Monkey bars. I hate monkey bars. I have always hated monkey bars. I let some runners behind me go past so I did not slow them down and joined the queue on the left (again with the left – that must say something about me…). The right-hand side suddenly became vacant and the marshall called me across. I said I was more than happy to wait over this side, to which he laughed. I went to the right and managed about three bars before falling to the ground, getting up to crawl the rest of the way (which is the forfeit if you do not manage the bars), then stumbled forward and almost went head-first into the mud, just managing to break my fall with my hand and keep moving forward and away from the obstacle as the marshall said he was sure I was a goner there. I ran along the hedgeline to
18. See-saw, but it was closed off because it had become too slippery to be safe, which was a pity, while also being good to see that they do not hesitate to take such action when it is necessary. I was now entering the final field to be faced by
19. Cargo net
which I enjoyed going up
and over, quickly getting to the ground and running past
which had also been closed off for health and safety reasons. The Ambulance Service appeared to be treating someone at the bottom of it, so I hope they were all right. I carried straight on, being encouraged to run up the hill to get to
21. Tyre hop
and the tyres were too small to make this anything other than an exercise in tip-toeing. Although now I am wondering if I should have been hopping. Then it was down the slope to
22. Skip of water
which I had looked in earlier, although when I had looked in it I had not been sure if we would be going over or under the logs. OK, so I pretty much knew which it would be, but you have to keep your hopes going…
As instructed, I lowered myself into the freezing water, and given that it filled the skip it was deep anyway and came up most of my body. I then quickly lowered myself under the first log and pushed forward, coming up for breath on the other side, my head frozen and my breaths just short, sharp gasps. I carried on, took a deep breath and submerged myself again as I went under the second log, with the movement seeming to take a lot longer than the first time and now my breaths were really being pulled in and being forced out as I psyched myself up for the third and final log, pushing myself down and under it and then thrusting upwards to clear the water and pull myself up the steps at the far end to get out of the skip, soaked through, frozen, somewhat disorientated and more than ready to sit down and call it a day. A few breaths later and I was heading round the corner to
23. Water slide
and with a squirt of washing up liquid on my front I hurled myself head-first down the slide and swept with my hands to push me along to the end of it. I struggled to my feet and began the walk up the hill again. Did I say walk ? I was told to run, so I ran, and ran all the way to the one thing between me and the Finish,
24. Vertical wall
which fortunately had one of the Regiment Fitness guys on hand to help people over. He told me to put my left foot on his bent leg and as I thrust myself upwards from that position he gave me an extra shove to get me on top of the wall. Somehow I seem to have managed to bruise both inner forearms in doing so, which will teach me to not be so useless at doing it next time. I went over the top, lowered myself down and dropped to the floor, turning and making a final push towards the Finish, where I was asked for my number and wave, so that they could record my time.
According to my watch, I finished in 1 hour and 32 minutes and 15 seconds.
I was presented with my medal and collected my tshirt, and then wandered off to the Visitors’ Centre to collect my car key. I had even remembered my number (3), and they checked my name as well before handing over the key.
I was tired, wet, so cold that I was frozen through, and elated. This had been a very tough course and my time was acceptable to me for now. There were no showers so I just changed out of my wet top and put on my Berghaus fleece, and put a pair of tracksuit bottoms over what I was already wearing on my legs. And then I had to make a quick exit because my children were performing in Peter Pan over in Bovingdon at 1315 and I really needed to shower and change before going over…although as it turns out, I did not manage to clean off all the cam cream on my face, and so picked up some strange looks from the rest of the audience. It had been more than worth it !
This was a very well organised event, with great communication at all times, before the event, once I was there, during the actual run and at the Finish. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and the event had a very relaxed feel to it. Even the encouragement to run and not walk was done in a good humoured and non-threatening way, it was all very positive, and the organisers and volunteer marshalls deserve a huge thank you. The course was very well designed, tough and challenging, but not impossible and not focused on only one type of exercise. There were also fun obstacles to go along with the hard ones, and help was always at hand if you needed it. I also received a very quick response when I contacted the organisers to check some details for this blog, which I certainly appreciate. I will definitely be coming back for the next one, and will also be signing up with Regiment Fitness for their weekly bootcamp sessions, so overall I cannot recommend this event enough. They are also supporting Help For Heroes, which is a very worthwhile course.
People have already asked me how the Warrior Adrenaline Race compares to The Wolf Run and my answer is a total cop out – they are different. I would say that some of the Warrior Adrenaline Race obstacles are harder, but then the cargo net at The Wolf Run was higher; there are longer stretches of pure running during the Warrior Adrenaline Race, but then The Wolf Run has its lakes; the Warrior Adrenaline Race has a zip line, but the water slide at The Wolf Run is steeper and longer. My advice would be to do what I intend to do and run them both whenever they come up !
You can find more of my photos here.