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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