I had not seen the original post on Facebook from Sean McNamee, of Pukka Races, but Michael Wilkins had seen it and had got in quickly enough to secure a few places for Team Bright Hammer at the Pukka Races photoshoot to be held at the Nuts Challenge Assault Course in Dorking.
“**Runners wanted for promo photos on Feb 8th**
Hey Guys, Sean from Pukka Races here…Following the news of our new venue for this years WORLD WAR RUN we are after a small group of OCR runners to come to be part of some promo photos.
Our new venue incorporates the South side of the famous Nuts Challenge!
Runners that attend will get to keep the digital photos of themselves free of charge and you’ll get a bit of free training on the Nuts course in the process 🙂
The date of the shoot will be Feb 8th at around 11am – Who’s GAME??”
We had a couple of dropouts from our number so it would be Michael, Simon Chilley and Louise Clifford from Team Bright Hammer travelling down to meet me there. I had quickly changed after my early morning virtual tabbing session, and had put the postcode into my satnav with only minutes to spare, given that I was driving around the M25 to Dorking. Having only the postcode was a schoolboy error, but once my satnav told me I was at my destination a quick online search gave me a better location for the Nuts Challenge, and a lovely lady with a horse box at Swires Farm was able to give me an even better idea of where I should actually be, so that I arrived at Henfold Lakes in the nick of time, got into my Merrell All Out Rush, and was ready to go. Sean introduced himself and Leon Layman, who would be taking the photographs today, thanked us all for coming and gave an idea of what we would be doing. There were 15 of us and we would run through different parts of this area of the course until Leon had the photographs he required. It sounded like fun. Famous last words ?
And away we go…
Sean took us away from the car park and on to the grass near to the first stretch of obstacles for an active warm up, and the running to the other side of the field and back reminded me I had been tabbing with 35lbs on my back just a couple of hours earlier. I made full use of the remainder of the warm up to try to loosen up my legs.
What have I let myself in for ?
And then we were all set to get going. Sean suggested we do 4 laps of this section and he would see how Leon stood with photographs at the end of that. I have not run the Nuts Challenge (yet…) and my level of OCR up to now is probably best summed up as Wolf Run level. I looked around at the others and knew I would be at the back, but in my naive state running 4 laps did not sound like too much of an ask. I did laugh when people suggested we stagger ourselves for the best effect with the photos – with my pace there was no prospect of this not being staggered !
As we walked to the beginning of this stretch I could see there were some ditches filled with water, which Sean referred to as ‘open graves’, a phrase I had never heard on the Wolf Run. They came part way down the stretch, so my immediate thought was I could be ready for them. Then we got to the beginning and I saw there was a water-filled open grave to start us off. Wet and muddy was clearly going to be the order of the day. These open graves were deep, and the water was high, so I was very thankful for the rope nets on the far bank to help me get out or I would probably still be there struggling to get up the muddy wall. Except that I know I would not, because although this group of people had largely come together as strangers, already you could see they were helping each other over obstacles, checking that others were all right, providing advice on the best way to tackle things. The OCR world really is a very friendly one.
All action over the first stretch
There was a tunnel from that first open grave and it was low, dark, flooded, and with partitions to keep it dark throughout, and once you did emerge it was straight into the deep water of another open grave, up the other side, over a wooden fence, down into another ditch, thankfully with more rope netting on the other side, then over rows of barrels, and I was already struggling with my pace by now, before hitting the tyre pile.
The tyre pile in the distance
The tyre pile was unlike any I had done before, a lot more random and chaotic, a lot more difficult. 4 laps ? I managed to go round twice. I was wet, but in my usual way I had somehow managed to avoid getting very muddy so far.
Ready for the next part !
We moved on to the next location, and along the way I almost slipped into Hell River. Leon was behind me, so hopefully he would have captured my fall on camera ! If I had not been shown by the previous stretch of the course that this was a step up from my OCR comfort level, then this section confirmed it.
The second stretch begins
We began with a cargo net climb up to a fireman’s pole, which I came down like a sack of potatoes the first time. On my second time around, with a bit of coaching from Tom De Planta, I did manage to wrap my leg around the pole and executed a controlled descent. There were more sections of open graves, and the first time around I jumped in and waded through. The second time I took a real leap of faith and made it to the far bank over one of them.
One large leap for Jameskind
Progress. The rope swings were impossible, and not only for me. It was fun to see the others begin their swing with their hands up the rope and then watch as their hands gradually slipped down until they fell into the water.
Going, going, gone !!!
Yes, of course there was water under the rope swing. There was water in, and around and under everything. My biggest difficulty with the barbed wire crawl was getting myself low enough to get under the start of it.
Team Bright Hammer take on the barbed wire
I really do need to change my attitude to obstacles and become a lot more dynamic, in this case literally taking it head on. Something to work on. The next obstacle was another case in point – a rope net over the top of a ditch, split in half with a bar under the middle, which created two hammock-like nets. I crawled my way over the first half, and then adopted the correct and far more efficient technique of rolling over the net to complete the second half far quicker. It is just a matter of losing that bit of caution, that element of over-control.
Roll over the nets and climb the tyres
The tyre wall was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be because the tyres were not solid when you stood on the outer rim, and that meant a lot more bending and stretching of legs to be able to climb up tyre by tyre using the bottom of the inner rim. Another tyre pile. Just what I needed. The climb through the tyres was a lot easier when I led with my left leg than when I led with my right.
Wooden wall plus water
I like wooden walls, because I find I can do them. This one had footholds on the left and ropes on the right, and because I had heard the ropes were very slippery and my gloves may as well have been made from mud and water by this point, I went with the footholds side, and got up and over pretty quickly. I managed two laps of this section as well.
The first wave finds the deep end !!!
There was a great big pool of muddy water on the other side and it was decided we would do a group shot of us running into it (which included the surprise for us all as we found it suddenly drop deeper) and then a few brave souls did some deep water bombing, although Simon was lucky his jump did not quite go far enough to take him beyond the deeper water.
James Rust bombing
As we ran round to the next section I chatted with Ian Walford about the perils of gravel in OCR courses. Even without gravel my legs felt like they had taken a battering here already. We were on our way to something which Sean kept telling us was called Kamikaze, almost as though he thought that by saying the name a lot it would make us want to get there quicker. We did all appear to be more than willing to climb over a wooden fence, go through the darkended depths of The Bunker, and scramble up and down a cargo net just to get to Kamikaze.
Tom De Planta looks haunted after The Bunker
Apparently, World Champion Jonathan Albon just jumps straight off the top of the wooden slope down into the water. I was going to come down on to the first step before taking my jump. Yes, of course I was doing this. There was a man with a camera going to take a photograph of me jumping down into deep, muddy water, so there was more than a fair chance I was going to end up looking like an idiot, and I know I get far more Facebook likes on my profile picture when I look like an idiot, so this was an ideal situation for me. At the time of writing 117 people have Liked my profile picture from this jump.
You will have to go look at the rest of the photographs if you want to see what happened next…
The jump was not from such a height. The water was absolutely freezing cold, and did not taste good. I went under and came up as soaked as soaked could be. I wondered how anyone could possibly go on to do more obstacles after that.
We made our way back to the car park area for the Nutcracker and an infinity jump. In my current wet and cold state I did not trust myself to get up through the insides of the tyres on the Nutcracker, so I contented myself with watching Mel Harding handing out some training to first Katie Ireland and then Louise on how to roll over from the platform at the top of the tyres on to the cargo net which was the way down from up there.
That’s one way to get down
Simon also demonstrated how to roll down the cargo net, which looked like the sort of reckless fun I should be driving towards. Sean decided an abandoned army truck would be the final photo opportunity and as we made our way in waves through the side of it, Samuel Roberts climbed onto the front and took a look at the top.
Another water obstacle
There was a huge puddle of water pushing down the tarpaulin on top, and as Samuel looked down into it Simon jumped up on to the truck and pushed the bottom of the tarpaulin to splash him. Suddenly the army truck had become yet another water obstacle ! We managed to settle down a little for a group shot, with Sean able to stay just out of range of a soaking, and it was a great way to finish.
A great end to a brilliant couple of hours
Sean thanked us all for coming along and also gave us a discount on any Pukka Races event. I am pretty sure we would all have done this for nothing so that is a nice bonus. This had been a lot tougher than I had anticipated, with the feeling that I had been cold and wet from the very beginning, and even after changing I was cold. The obstacles were most definitely a step up for me, and not just in terms of them indvidually but also because of how they were set out. Getting through them had been tough, and despite all that I had enjoyed every second of it and had a really fun time, partly because I just enjoy doing this sort of thing, and also because I had been enjoying it in the company of such friendly, welcoming and helpful people. There had been a really good feeling to the session, and that is something which is important to me. I had also been impressed with the way Sean had run the whole thing, and if you read my blog about the Spartan Race Workout (which you can read here) then you will know that is something else which is also important to me. So now it is just a matter of sorting out dates and signing up for World War Run.
My final word must got to Leon Layman for taking so many brilliant photographs. If you liked any that I have included in this blog, then you can see a lot more of his stunning photographs from the shoot here.