If you have been reading my recent blogs then you will know that I have been training with some elite obstacle course runners on Sunday mornings, in sessions organised by Tony Leary, and now we were back in St Albans at Verulamium Park for a workout which promised to have a focus on hill repeats.
It was a big turnout this morning, with the familiar friendly faces of Nick Day, Will Harbour, Robert Boarder, Rebecca Cohen, and Coach Tony Campbell (from Bigfoot Challenge), together with Tony’s son, and another new face to me, Neil Rainbow. Coach Campbell travels some distance to join these sessions, so I feel a little sheepish arriving on the dot of 0730 from less than a mile and a half away. I really should wake up just a few minutes earlier on a Sunday morning, or run down a little faster.
The weather was dry and mild as we set off, starting our run from the museum car park and making our way across the park and up the hill, the main group heading off to the right to loop around, with the rest of us heading straight up the hill, cutting across at the top so that we all met up at the entrance to the woods. I was looking forward to putting in a strong Strava segment (now that I knew there was one going through the woods and then back up to the entrance alongside the outside of the trees) but this time we did not continue back up along the outside of the woods, and instead we did 20 push-ups at the point where we had made our exit. As it was Remembrance Sunday I thought back to the 22 push-up challenge I had done in August to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder among military personnel and did 22 push-ups. Tony kept adding more push-ups on to the total for Coach Tony Campbell for previous late arrivals, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I was always on time. Just.
We went down away from the woods and carried on across the path, through a gap in the hedge which took us to the edge of the golf course, running round to a clearing where we jumped over fallen tree trunks, looping round to do that a couple of times, before carrying on up to a clearing where Tony had us doing bear crawls. I was running behind the others, and need to work on my recovery time after obstacles, although it did get me out of some side-to-side bear crawling this time. And then we were off again, skirting round the edges of the golf course, the main group heading off to the right on a wider loop, while some of us ran through the middle of a row of trees and carried on down to the wooden fence by the side of the running track, where we were joined by the rest of the group, and some stretching ensued while we got our breath back.
Then we were off again, running round the edge of the grass area in front of Westminster Lodge, to the far end and then back along the river and round by the weir to take us to the grass area below the Cathedral, where we were going to do the promised focus on hill repeats. We would be doing rounds of 3 laps and a trip into the weir, with each lap going up the path to a bin at the top of the hill, down the path on the other side of the hill, and then back along the bottom. It is a really good surface to be running on, so you can fully concentrate on the climb up and push it out on the way down. I would be cutting across half way up to keep us going as a group. I did the full lap and then two rounds of the half laps with a trip to the increasingly colder and deeper weir. The others did it a few times more than me, and then it was time to head back to the beginning, with a number of the group making sure to not push it too hard in advance of the 2016 OCR UK Championships the following weekend.
It had been another excellent session, with Nick covering 13.9 kilometres, myself covering 8 kilometres, and everyone else doing something in between, as we got the hill repeats we had been promised.