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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.