Obstacle Course Race Training : Aldenham (Rebecca’s Blog)

Getting our Arses in Gear for Canada            Sunday 10th September

I am going to tread very, very carefully in the shoes of the eloquent James Allen to write a brief review of St Albans OCR Training Group latest Sunday morning training session – so bear with me!

Early in the week, Tony posted a great little video on FB of a low rig he’d set up on the bridge at Aldenham, where we often train, with the opener, ‘I need to get my arse in gear for Canada’. Don’t we all?! He received many responses and it looked like there’d be a good turn-out. Tony added a late disclaimer about the chances of getting feet wet – only feet Tony?? – we’ll see.

Sunday arrived and it was synonymous with going back to school; summer holidays at an end, new term starting and back to serious training sessions. This doesn’t mean we had all taken time off over the summer, you only need to look at posts in FB or Strava to see that everyone was running, racing and staying active.

However, there is something very special about the Sunday morning training sessions that leaves you feeling on top of the world (as James often relays in his blogs, so make sure you read them). This Sunday was no exception. By 7a.m. outside the church in the beautiful village of Aldenham, 7 of us were sorting gear to take for rigs on the bridge. The two missing were Kirsten (I’m on my way dude) and Dany (I’m not getting wet) – last to arrive but not late! It was great to see everyone, especially Neil (been a while), Matt (hadn’t been to Aldenham before) and Rob (still nursing an injury from the Euros), not forgetting the lovely Ray (also nursing injury) who brought a fantastic piece of kit to set up a rope traverse over the river. Actually, I think all of us are nursing some kind of ache or pain at the moment – a bi-product of loving to race over obstacles!

Stunning start to the day

It was a stunning start to the day – blue sky emerging from the mist, clear, crisp air, not a whisper of a breeze and no-one else around. Perfect. We set off down the lane to hit the trail towards the bridge. Myself and Kirsten led as we had nothing to carry (not sure how we managed that!) and Dany, the two Tony’s, Neil, Matt, Rob and Ray followed on, carrying a mix of slings, ropes, chains, rings, nun chucks plus a long metal bar. Exciting!

The jog along to the bridge doubled as a good little warm up. Once at the bridge, Tony gave us instructions as to where attachments should go to make an easy rig and a hard rig on either side. Tony L did harder rig as Tony C organised easier one. Ray and Neil jogged along the river to set up the rope traverse.

Hanging around

As he hung attachments, Tony L tested to check grade of difficulty; the first version was obviously too difficult as he ended up in the river pretty quickly! Not his intention so early on but it gave us all a laugh !

Within a very short time we were ready to start the serious training. Tony gave us instructions on the course which was as follows:-

  • Start from the bridge, run/jog around the outside of the field, cross a ditch and join the track.
  • Follow the track to the gate where the hill section is in the woods. Then three reps of running up the hill and back, over the gate with 5 press ups. Each time over the gate, we had to do 5 press ups – that was made very clear! On the first run up, we had a carry to do from a pile of logs and tree stumps –
  • just to make it a bit more challenging.
  • After hill set, run back along main track, through the field and up to the bridge.
  • Do easy rig first followed by the hard rig, feet were not to touch the ground or water at any point.
  • Next, the rope traverse. Once across on the rope, then wade back to the other side through the river.

    Rope traverse

  • Repeat!

We set off altogether. Tony is excellent at making sure everyone knows where to go and what to do. Only once has he lost someone! By now the sun was out and warming, the ground was soft through the field and we had a nice steady pace going. One of the best features of Sunday group training is that anyone can join in. There is absolutely no pressure to compete nor to keep up with the leaders, although we all aim to. We work our hardest within our own capabilities and one of the best qualities Tony L possesses is his ability to adapt exercise to people’s needs.

Inevitably I ended up near the back (this is where I missed you most James Allen!!) and arrived at the gate to find the others doing press ups whilst they waited. Tony explained the route again, adding a log carry to the first rep. There’s never any hanging about – off we went. Any brief chat soon stopped as we worked hard on the incline. The only voice was the booming one of Tony C as he hollered ‘HOLE’ randomly as we ran!

Arriving at the log pile, I chose a light but long log to carry across my shoulders; some of the guys carried tree stumps which were extremely heavy. This made the next stage much harder on the calves but reminded me it was nothing compared to the steep inclines we would face in Canada.

The run back down was speedier, Dany reminding us to recover on the descent. Although I stomped up the track, I ran back down each time, taking care with my footings and missing the holes! We all remembered to launch over the gate and drop for press ups. Our heart rates were high by now.

Rig time

Once this section was complete, Tony led the way back along the track, heading for the rig section. He was straight on the rig with Rob and Ray waiting to follow. I headed to do the rope traverse with Neil so we weren’t queuing. What a great job the boys had done with the rope – they had found an excellent spot with the rope up high in the trees. I whizzed across, dropped down and strode straight into the river, enjoying the water cooling me down.

There were many interesting was of getting along the easy rig which turned out to be not so easy! Hauling myself up over the top of the bridge, I was pleased I hadn’t fallen in. This was short lived, as I struggled to reach from the ring to the thin rope on the harder rig section. In I went. As did everyone in the end I think! Dany was determined not to get wet and she worked brilliantly on the hard rig, but inevitably got wet feet!

Determined not to get wet

Unfortunately this was not the time to play and practise. The nagging voice of Tony L cut into our reams of advice for each other, telling us to get a move on. He was quite right. Focus.

The second lap of the route saw Tony way out in front (his injuries definitely improving). We followed, now knowing exactly where we were going and what we were doing. Unsurprisingly, the second lot of hills was tougher. Tony thought it would be fun to add some quick sprints up the first steep hill section to end with – a mean trait he has of adding more, just when you think you’ve finished!

Time to pose

Back at the bridge, we all completed the rope traverse and as much of the rigs as we could manage before we were then allowed to play! By this time we were all soaked at least up to our waists and because the water temperature was cooling in the warm air, we were happy to hang out in the river. It was turning out to be a beautiful morning, and a great opportunity for a photo shoot!!

Very arty

Rebecca smashing it !!!

We did some transition practise on the rigs, as well as the usual challenge of climbing out of the water onto the bridge, over the top and back underneath the bridge without touching the water. There are some bars under the bridge that you can hook feet onto to help, but it is still quite difficult; lots of upper body and core strength needed.

Finally, it was time to head back to the cars. Selfie done, rigs dismantled, we steadily jogged back through the field and track to the village. Kirsten and I headed off first, chatting as we jogged (any opportunity). We could hear everyone behind chatting too. The camaraderie of these sessions is one of the many reasons they are so popular and successful (much like the OCR community in general).

End of session selfie !!!

No session would be complete without coffee and bacon rolls (unless I really can’t haul my arse out of bed early enough). As everyone tucks in before they faint, I am reminded it is always worth getting up extra early or staying up late to make these because everyone is so grateful and I am always starving at the end! However, in view of eating healthily for Canada, it will be yoghurt, fruit and porridge options from now on!

Only four more Sunday training days before the big one…

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