The Big 4 of Emotional Resilience : Self-Control

The fourth of the Big 4 of Emotional Resilience goes far deeper than its tag Self-Control might suggest, because it is informed by a robust certainty of your Why.

In Unbeatable Mind we work through the 3Ps of Passion, Principles and Purpose to determine your One Thing, your Why.  Imagine your Purpose as the force behind your life, and your One Thing as the major driving initiative which moves you toward that Purpose.  Your Why is what keeps you going day in and day out as you pursue your One Thing toward your Purpose.

To be emotionally resilient, it is crucial to know your motivation.  Then back that emotion up with self-esteem, a positive mindset, and a focus on others in your circle.

Remember the WIRM hack from my note on a Positive Mindset.  It becomes so much more powerful once you can inform your Redirect with something positive which is aligned with your One Thing and Purpose.

There is no simple hack for this one.  When we work together this will not be the first item we find an answer for.

Why do you want to work with me ? Because I am not just an executive coach.  I have relevant and current knowledge of your business :

26 years qualified as a solicitor

16 years working in-house

15 years at C-suite level

12 years working in logistics and supply chain

12 years working in technology

Worked in British, French, American and Japanese companies To tell me more about the executive coaching requirements of you and your team, and to find out how I can assist you with them, Comment on this post, DM me, or email me at james.allen5012@gmail.com

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The Big 4 of Emotional Resilience : Positive Mindset

Positive.  Mindset.  This third of the Big 4 of Emotional Resilience and a whole series of articles in itself, or a workshop.  Contact me for more details about that and anything else in this article.

It should come as no surprise that a positive, optimistic attitude impacts emotional resilience.  When you are positive and optimistic, you are naturally inclined to look for solutions; your conscious and unconscious mind are working together to spot opportunities.  This all ties in with abundance, which I talked about in respect of Self-Esteem earlier this week.

As in previous articles, I am not going into detail about aspects such as visualization.  Contact me to learn more about that and other aspects, because more than with any of the other Big 4, this is really skimming the surface.  I am going to give you a quick hack.  Note, I specifically said quick and not easy.  This takes practice to even get to step 1, let alone to perfect it, not least because we all believe we have a positive mindset.  So, give WIRM a try, and then keep trying it.

  1. Witness negative thoughts
  2. Interdict the negative thoughts with a “Stop !!!”
  3. Redirect your thoughts with positive self-talk
  4. Maintain your new positive mental state with a mantra

You’ve totally got this !!!

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Big 4 of Emotional Resilience : Service Oriented

This second of the Big 4 of Emotional Resilience is simple to explain, harder to put into practice, and powerfully fulfilling when you do.

Being service oriented means having the attitude of being oriented toward others versus just yourself.  A most poignant example is Victor Frankl, and he describes the effect of being more emotionally resilient through being service oriented in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, which chronicles his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp.  Part of the reason he survived was by finding meaning through tending to the needs of others ahead of his own.

At a more basic level, those who are self-absorbed tend to be defensive and less emotionally mature than those who serve others.  Learn to think about your teammates and you will gain humility and a generous attitude, strengthening your emotional resolve.

As part of my training to become an Unbeatable Mind coach we were put into Boat Crews, and assigned a Swim Buddy within that Crew.  My Swim Buddy, Luke, and I have become great friends and I do not see us ever breaking that Swim Buddy bond.  It is very clear we are attentive to the needs of each other and that we work with an attitude of cooperation and service, pitching in to help each other when needed. It has to be authentic service.  Where it is provided grudgingly or as part of a task list, it becomes an obligation, not service, and it not only loses its power, it can become negative.  Where it is provided as a service, everyone steps up to the plate at an entirely different level, with a powerful positive energy.  Imagine how I could get you and your teams to that level.

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Big 4 of Emotional Resilience : Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is the emotional state of feeling worthy and respected by others, and the first of the Big 4 of Emotional Resilience that I am going to explore.

Here’s the science : at times of stress our adrenal glands continue to release increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  One of the effects of this can be an attack on our self-esteem, which is why we should be thinking about boosting our self-esteem right now.

Obviously, this is a very wide-ranging topic.  In fact, I have one client whose overriding goal is to raise their self-esteem, so everything we do is geared towards that.  I am not going to get into aspects like affirmation and visualization in this note, as I simply look to present a few easy hacks.  If you want to know more about them DM me.

Belief in your inherent goodness is critical for self-esteem to flourish.  Show yourself some compassion.

Consistent application of positive self-talk will multiply positive feelings about yourself.

A regular gratitude practice with journaling can help you stay focused on the positive and is especially helpful when negative thoughts and feelings threaten to overwhelm you.  As part of a morning routine, you can list in your journal at least one good thing about yourself.  I am seeing an increasing number of negative posts on LinkedIn about morning routines, so look out for my own post about the positive effect of a morning routine.

List your wins.  Hitting goals will increase your self-esteem. Abundance and an abundant mindset is another topic in itself, so let me just finish this note with a line from the excellent book The Source by Dr. Tara Swart, “one of the most prominent voices in neuroscience.”  “Abundance feeds our self-esteem and confidence, helps us stay resilient during the tough times.”  Start using the simple hacks I have listed and you will start to cultivate an abundance mindset.

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Big 4 of Emotional Resilience

In these strange times, and especially in times of lockdown, we could all do with some extra emotional resilience, and it is something you can build on, whatever your circumstances.

Over the course of this week I will look more deeply into the Big 4 of Emotional Resilience and give you some tips to boost them in your life.

I will start with Self-Esteem tomorrow, and in the meantime, and at any time, post a Comment or DM me if you have any queries.

Hope you all like my 4/10 graphic…

Emotional-Resilience-Chart

Picture 1 of 1

#emotionalresilience #unbeatablemind #mindsetcoach #mindset

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Obstacle Course Race Training : Verulamium Park (Loops)

Simple instructions from Coach Tony Leary as we prepared for another Road2Worlds session on the Sunday :

“Sat morning again this week team
720 meet for 730 start at the museum car park again – bring a wrec bag if you have one, trail running and wrec bag carries through the wooded trail section – let me know if you are coming and if you have a bag or not”

A comment from Kirsten Whitehouse on the sunny Friday was somewhat ominous and, as it turned out, entirely correct, “tomorrow mainly running…in snow,” although it was not until I left the house that I became aware of the weather we would be training in.  It made no difference to me because I had already decided to wear a hat and gloves, and I ran the 2.5 kilometres through the falling snow down to the museum car park at Verulamium Park, arriving just before Tony drove up.  We agreed it was very cold as we waited for anyone else to turn up.  Rebecca Cohen would not be joining us as she was feeling ill – she had made a very wise decision !  The clock was ticking towards 0720…  Kirsten arrived at 0721, protesting her innocence, but Tony had been watching the time since he got here.  Robert Boarder was late for the second week in a row, this time by two minutes, and Steven Lamb arrived a minute later.  Tony had already checked that there was a suitable puddle available for lay downs, and as we picked up 3 wrec bags and a log (a different log to last week, which you can read about here) between us and set off, I presumed we were just heading to the puddle, so I started my Garmin and slotted in behind the others, just walking to the puddle.  However, they carried on straight past the puddle, so I was already struggling to keep up !

We ran down the main path which runs from the museum car park beside the football pitches, going past the playground and the Adizone before cutting across the grass to the woods beside the Roman wall.  There 5 of us, 3 wrec bags and 1 log, so Steven was not heading into the bushes to quickly relieve himself before we set off, he was actually looking for something to carry, and came out with a big slice of wood which looked more like a crocodile than anything else because of its bark, and especially when Steven had it lying on his shoulder.  Tony set out the plan – we would be running the lap we all knew very well by now, up through the woods and down the boundary on the outside of the woods, which is around 1 kilometre.  We would run 1 lap, then 1 lap with a carry; run 2 laps, then 2 laps with a carry; run 3 laps, then 3 laps with a carry.

Crocodile (on its back)

The ground was muddy and wet in the woods, making running very difficult for me.  I definitely need to invest in a new pair of trail running shoes.  I am more used to running this loop the other way round, and it certainly poses different difficulties in this direction, running up through the tracks in the woods.  Which is not to say that running down the outside of the woods is any easier than running up, and especially not this morning in the cold wind.  My gloves were doing nothing to keep out the wind, and while my hat was keeping my head warm, my face was cold and my eyes were watering.  I kept going as well as I could, and, of course, it all got much harder when I had to carry something.  The light wrec bag had gone by the time I got back to the start, and thankfully the crocodile had also disappeared.  I picked up the remaining sandbag and set off, pretty much at walking pace.  The footing was even more uncertain now that I was holding an external weight which was affecting my balance.  I did keep going, though, and Rob and Tony only passed me as I was coming to the final stretch of my second lap, which I definitely took as a win.  The next time Rob passed me he told me the session had changed so that we would only be carrying for one lap in between the unloaded runs.  As it turned out, that made absolutely no difference to me because by the time I came around for my second carry, my hands were so frozen that I could not pick up the wrec bag, let alone contemplate carrying it for a kilometre.  Of course, it was not only the cold which was having this detrimental affect on my hands and fingers, but also the physical position of carrying the bag, with my arms bent and my hands up at my shoulder level, which was draining the blood from them.  Steven passed me as I finished my third lap, and Kirsten caught up with me as I started out on what would be my final lap.  Overall, I was happy with that performance right now.

As I came down to the finish of that final lap I saw Tony, Rob and Kirsten walking towards the football pitches to make their way to the car park.  I began to cut over to them before Tony told me to get to the end of the lap first, so I curved back to the end and then ran over to join them.  I took one of the wrec bags to carry back and we all looked out for Steven and the crocodile.  At one point we thought we saw him coming down the slope on the outside of the woods, but nobody appeared further down, so Tony went off to find him.  The three of us continued, walking back through the somewhat amazed stares of the crowd awaiting the start of the St Albans parkrun.

Wait for it..

The weather had made it a very tough session, and I had covered 8.35 kilometres, which I would consider to be tough in itself at the moment.  Tony and Rob had covered 10.89 kilometres, and Steven and Kirsten had covered somewhere in between.  More to the point, Steven got Kirsten with a snowball.

Gotcha !!!

It is interesting to read Tony’s comment after the session :

“Described this morning as a ‘not fun but got to be done’ kind of session
Bitterly cold, very muddy tricky underfoot conditions, 5 hardy souls
1 lap 1k hilly technical trail loop, repeat same lap with 25kg wrec bag, 2 laps just running, 1 lap wrec bag, 2 laps running, 1 lap wrec bag, 2 laps run – just over 10k total – very tough session, mentally and physically”

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Obstacle Course Race Training : Verulamium Park (Carries)

Saturday morning was going to be busy.  Being something of a tool at the best of times, I had already volunteered to help Kirsten Whitehouse dismantle a rig,

“HELP PLEASE 💕 Looking for a few lovely people to help Rebecca, Lee and myself take down my rig next week Saturday (10 March).  Any help you can offer will be hugely appreciated and richly rewarded…somehow…some day. An hour or all day (I’ve been assured there’ll be pizza), every little helps. Tools welcome”

and now Coach Tony Leary had come up with the training plan, “Spartan carry, run repeat.  Saturday morning this weekend due to R2W on Sunday.  Meet Verulamium Park for 0730 start.”  This was all made busy by my requirement to get to Amersham for 0845 so I could drop the children off at their drama class by 0930.  As I would need to leave OCR training early, I decided to add in some training of my own beforehand.  I am currently trying to follow the Intermediate level programme from The Para Fitness Guide book by Major Sam McGrath, former head of Para training and selection.  Over recent weeks, work and the weather have conspired to prevent me from completing all sections in the week in question, and although it was looking the same for this week, doing something on Saturday morning before OCR training would at least get me closer to completion.

A training plan that really works for me

I drove down and parked in the car park near to Westminster Lodge so that I could make a quick exit after training to get to Amersham, and ran the short distance to the Adizone in Verulamium Park.  Then it was down to business – 3 x 20 push-ups, 3 x 20 dips, 3 x 20 sit-ups, 3 x 45 second plank, 2 x 20 squats, and 3 x 5 eccentric pull-ups.  I feel like my eccentric pull-ups have improved, which means I do not plummet to earth quite so quickly.  It is a great little session, and as soon as I had finished I ran from there to the museum car park, arriving before 0720, although I must admit I had not really registered that was a requirement this morning, given that I was only turning up for part of the session.  Anyway, my arrival in good time was fortunate.

I had seen Tony arriving as I was finishing my own session, and Rebecca Cohen was also already here.  At 0721 Steven Lamb arrived, and we all clock-watched until Robert Boarder finally drove up, and finally, finally parked, at 0724.  Although as he got out of his car it was obvious he still needed to change into training kit, so he had saved himself a little bit of punishment there.  We had equipment to carry to the start line, but first would come the punishment for late arrival – one puddle lay down for every minute late, and there just happened to be a big puddle ready and waiting for Steven and Robert.  1 and 4 burpees later they were both wet through.

We don’t use the barrels only to rest things on

We carried two jerry cans, one beer keg, one big log and one lightweight sandbag to the start line, which was the junction between the two fields just above the lower football pitch, and over to the right.  I carried the sandbag, while Tony made sure Rebecca was comfortable just carrying her water bottle.  We would work in pairs, running one lap to begin with, then a lap of carries, before bear crawling around the football pitch 18 yard box, going across the crossbar twice, and finishing off with 20 burpees.  The lap would be up the field on the left side of the hedgerow divide, across the top to the right, down the track which followed the road right to the bottom, then turning right again to come back to the gap and the start line.  It was about 1 kilometre.  The carries would see one of each pair carrying either the jerry cans, the beer keg or the log, with the other carrying the lightweight sandbag, and swapping every 50 strides (counting up to 50 on one leg).  I was probably only going to be around for one lap and would carry whichever of the three heavy items was left after the pairs had gone.  The carries, the crawl and the burpees would all be done in the style required by Spartan Races.

Not an actual photo of the log

The first lap was fine.  The pairs picked themselves – Tony and Rob, Steven and Rebecca, and me following on behind.  I know this area very well from previous runs over the last year, but I am not sure I have ever run this full boundary before.  It is definitely a kilometre to remember for the future.  By the time I got back to the start point, the other pairs had gone off with the jerry cans and the beer keg, leaving me with the log.  It is a big log.  It most definitely earned its place in the higher category of heavy carries.  It was also awkward, with a number of large bits jutting out where branches had been cut off it.  I tried carrying it in my arms to begin with, and it very soon became too heavy for that, so I moved it up on to my left shoulder, then round so it was a bit more behind my neck, then over to my right shoulder, and I kept on swapping it at stages around the lap.  It seemed to be taking forever, and compared to the others it probably did, and I could feel the hurt in my shoulders by the time I got to the bottom of the loop alongside the road.  I put in a final push to get me back to the gap and it was over.  A quick look at my watch confirmed I would not have time for another lap, so I rushed into the bear crawls.  Tony and Rob got back from one of their laps just as I got to the corner of the 18 yard box, and Tony made the point that I need to get lower, on my elbows, because there would be barbed wire overhead at Spartan.  I replied I would just use my wire-cutters…  The bear crawling was tough, and I am hoping my daily Kokoro Yoga practice will help with that.  I could not get any sort of grip on the crossbar, and my time available had come to an end anyway, so I made my way across the grass to the footpath and back to the car, walking past the guys preparing another trial variation to the St Albans parkrun.  It had been a tough lap.

You can see the log in my place

During the course of the full session, Rob managed to cover just over 7 kilometres.

On the plus side for me, Kirsten brought bacon rolls to the rig dismantling session.

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Obstacle Course Race Training : Aldenham (Ditch)

Coach Tony Leary got straight to the point this week, “Fancying a hill based session on Sunday, maybe a bit of bridge action too – can only mean 1 place!! Aldenham- meet at the church at 7:20 for a 7:30 start” and that suited me just fine.  My running has been coming along well over the last few weeks and adding in some hills will only help that.  The bridge would also present an excellent challenge to measure progress in other areas over those last few weeks.

I was collected by Rebecca Cohen at 0645, we picked up Kirsten Whitehouse (on time) on our way over, and everything was going very well until we encountered our first obstacle – the police had closed off the road because of something serious just out of view.  Tony had parked up just off the main road and we followed him on an alternative route.  At one point he went past a junction we needed to take, so we ended up in front of him, which was good because it meant we could not be any later than him, and I was certainly prepared to use that as a defence and mitigation against any river burpees.  Parking restrictions have come into force since I was last here, so instead of being able to park between 0730 and 0900 on a Sunday morning at the top of the track we run down, we now have to park outside of the village church.  You can guess the potential complications with that one.  We do ensure we park as close to each other as possible to take up as little space as we can.  Daniel Spears was already parked up, Steven Lamb arrived shortly after us, and very soon we were all ready to go.

And stretch…

It was a cold, dry morning, with the wind certainly adding to the coldness, and I wisely wore a pair of gloves, as did everyone else.  We would be carrying lengths of rope with us to use at the bridge, but after Tony had handed them all out, sadly there were none left for me to carry.  We ran away from the church and down the road, getting onto a track as soon as it appeared, for the moment following our usual route down to the main area we train in here.  We stopped at a gate for calf stretches and a totally natural, completely not even slightly posed photograph, and I took over the rope carrying duty from Kirsten.  We headed off to the left, which was a different direction for me, and if I had thought the tracks we had run down were wet, it was nothing compared to the waterlogged ground we were soon running over.  The group had naturally split into Tony, Dan and Steven; Rebecca and Kirsten; and me, and now, as Rebecca and Kirsten turned right into the woods, I heard Tony shouting that they had gone the other way, and I cut into a gap to see them on the other side of a bridge.  We proceeded to cross it in a number of different ways, none of which were simply walking across it, and one of which, from Kirsten, is probably banned in a number of countries worldwide.  Tony had had enough by now and we set off running again, across wet, muddy fields, before crossing the river, on a wooden bridge this time, which was more than a bit dodgy on the far side.  It looked like it could have been one of the obstacles from Tough Guy. 

Who needs a bridge ?

Not that we  actually needed it, because now Tony took us from one bank to the other, going through the knee-deep river, zigzagging there and back again, before we pushed on, and those at the front found another water obstacle to loop through as those at the back caught up, until finally we arrived at our usual bridge. 

Finding obstacles everywhere

My legs had definitely felt tired and stiff getting here, but I was happy that my feet and toes did not feel too cold despite the river crossings – the Inov8 socks are working very well for me. 

Great socks

Kirsten was not able to do much running today, so she stayed behind to attach the ropes to the bridge, while the rest of us made a run to the hills.  Tony explained something completely different to anything we had done on this section before, and maybe it was my fatigue but it simply did not compute with me at all.  Everyone else seemed clued up, so off we went with Dan leading the way, as he carried straight on past the point where we should have turned to go down into a ditch…  It was steep going down and so much steeper trying to come up and out of it.  I got near the top after a big effort and slipped back to almost half way, wondering if I would ever actually get out.  Forget hill repeats, it felt like I was going to be lucky to even see the hill at this rate.  I moved further over to the left and found more branches and debris to help me, finally making it out and being able to get back to the main track to continue my stumble up the hill.  The climb out of the ditch had been very energy sapping and I was pushing to get any sort of upward movement as the hill loomed ahead of me, and now my hands were cold through my gloves.  I definitely need better gloves for winter OCR stuff.  Coming down the hill presented its own set of problems as my foot grip was hardly worth mentioning and any sort of pace saw me rushing headlong towards a tree trunk or some bracken.  I have worn my current running shoes into the ground (literally) and my kit wishlist just keeps growing.  I got to the bottom, did 10 push-ups, climbed over the gate and did another set of 10, before heading off on the loop again.  This time as I neared the bottom of the ditch and was looking for a way up, Tony shouted at me to go further to the left, to pre-rig the obstacle, and, of course, he was right.  The next couple of times getting out of the ditch were still a hard effort for me, but much easier than the first time. 

The ditch was tough to escape

Everyone else was bombing up and down the hill, and Kirsten joined us as we were some way into it.  The next time I passed Tony he told me to call this my last lap and begin the run round to the bridge.  I followed the track, and as I approached the bridge everyone else appeared from other routes.  Everyone was getting ready for the bridge crossings when suddenly Kirsten spotted blood. 

Surprised I can still stand

I had not realised I had grazed my knee until she pointed it out.  It was very much only a flesh wound (if that !), but that was not going to stop me hamming it up, wiping a streak of blood down my cheek as photographs were taken. 

Not sure I’ll live…

Getting back to serious matters, I had not got near the water yet and my fingers were already freezing. 

Rope traversing

I could see that Kirsten had attached the 4 ropes along the bridge, to allow a J-lock traverse on the ropes from one end of the bridge to the other.  That sort of move is still beyond me for the moment, so instead I climbed along the outer edge of the bridge, which was hard enough, given the state of my fingers. 

Climbing along the edge as Tony begins the rope traverse

To keep us warm (as if) Tony added in a run from the far side of the bridge to the top of hill and back, and once everyone had had enough fun trying not to dip in the water while hanging from the ropes, we began the run back to the cars for bacon rolls and pancakes from Rebecca, before clearing the cars out of the way of the morning church congregation, and heading home to get ready for an afternoon bouldering session at The Arch in Burnt Oak, Edgware. 

Some of us had far too much fun

I had covered 8.5 kilometres, Dan had covered 9.6 kilometres, and everyone else had covered somewhere in between.  It had been a tough session, and had given me a very good idea of where I am with my fitness and OCR ability right now.

Another brilliant morning with great friends

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Obstacle Course Race Training : Greenwood Park (Boundary Lap)

“Hi everyone, gonna do 1 more week at Greenwood Park this Sunday – will mix it up a bit – running a longer lap before some goalposts and playground action – repeat
Meet at 7:20 for 7:30 start”

You can read about the first session at Greenwood Park here.

You can read about the Greenwood Park circuit here.

You can read about the Greenwood Park pyramid here.

Reading those blogs will fill in the gaps from this one, which built on those previous three sessions.

Coach Tony Leary had spoken, and we were going back to Greenwood Park for my fourth time, which I did not have an issue with at all because I had really enjoyed what we had been doing there these last few weeks.  Once again I was very fortunate to get a lift from Rebecca Cohen, who picked me up at 0700, on a very mild, dry morning.  Which was nice, because it had clearly rained overnight.  I brought my gloves with me, just in case, and in the end did not wear them.  Ray was back !  After a few weeks’ absence, it was good to see Ray Fletcher already parked up in the car park as we arrived, and Steven Lamb was also already here.  Tony arrived just after us, and then Robert Boarder.  We carried the jerry cans, the beer keg and the heavy sandbag over to the other side of the big red climbing frame, ready for the carries in the circuit, and as we left the playground to get started on our warm up run, I saw a new sign which seems to indicate that not everyone is happy to see us here.

Get orf my climbing frame

Anyway, we set off on a long boundary run, following the path of the North Orbital Road before turning left at the corner of the park.  The ground was firm, not too wet or muddy or slippery, although some care was needed with footing in places.  At the top of the hill we turned left again, with Tony, Robert, Ray and Steven adding in an extra loop, while Rebecca and I headed straight on, following the track which would take us to the woods.  By this point we had naturally split into distinct groups – Tony and Robert, Ray and Steven, Rebecca, and then me.  Tony and Robert went past me after the extra loop and headed off to the woods, with Rebecca following them.  Ray and Steven went past me as we got closer to the woods, with some great encouragement for me from Steven as they did so, but they could not have seen where the others had gone because they began to head towards a track leading off to the right.  I called to them to carry straight on into the woods, and as they did that they appeared determined to turn right on entering, so I called to them that we turn left and follow that path, and potential disaster was averted.  Anyone who wishes to claim that this is organised has obviously never run with us.  We followed the track round to a part near the other side of the wood where we could run down into dips and then struggle up the other side.  I was very thankful for the roots of a fallen tree, which gave me something to pull myself up by.  Then we followed the track again before coming out on to the football pitches, running across them back to the playground.  We had covered 3 kilometres already.

Goalpost rope traverse

The plan now was to do one circuit of the obstacles, then run 4, 3, 2 and 1 laps, doing the rope traverse on the goalposts on the final lap of each run before going through the circuit.  We would go up the front of the big red rope climbing frame on this lap, and the challenge on further laps was to climb up the underside of the rope until the first level. 

That’s where all the carry items got to…

All the carry items had gone by the time I got to the other side of the climbing frame, so I was forced to just run up and down the slope unweighted.  We continued round the lap and gathered on the other side of the last goalpost, after going over the top of it.  Rebecca had picked up something of a strain, though she did not know from where, and in the following speculation I suggested it might have been from the sprints at the end of the bootcamp circuits session on Wednesday.  Tony made a comment about touching the far wall on the sprints, so I reminded him that I beat him on the final sprint, probably because of the extra momentum I gained from pushing off at that far end.  Tony tried to push me over from my squat position.  And lost for the second time this week.  Robert confirmed I had won the sprint, then added, “Although I gave him a huge head start, which he mostly gave away.”  Who needs friends, eh…

Then we were off, doing our 4 laps, 3 laps, 2 laps and 1 lap, with the obstacle circuit after each run.  I had been pleased to keep running through the warm up lap, and now my target was to run as many and as much of these laps as possible.  I can feel my running coming back together and sessions like these will only help.  I got to the ropes as I came to the end of my fourth lap, and tried just holding a position with the J-lock on each.  I really need to work on it because it kept slipping.  I cannot help but think that is because I cannot hold my leading leg in a bent position while hanging from the rope.  My current Road2Worlds training will help with that. 

Unconscious Competence on the Bridge Of Doom

There are areas of progress over the last few weeks – I can now climb through a picnic table without touching the ground, so I am looking forward to that obstacle at Nuclear Oblivion; I am also able to traverse across the swings. 

Ray shows how to climb on the top of the big red rope climbing frame

In between those obstacles, on this circuit lap I stuck with climbing on the top of the climbing frame, rather than underneath it, and carried the sandbag up and over the slope and back. 

Rebecca does it properly

I was definitely slower on the 3 laps.  It is interesting just how much doing the obstacles takes it out of you before you set off running again.  I tried hanging by my hands from two ropes this time, which was as successful as I suspect you are thinking it might have been.  I carried the jerry cans up and over the slope this time, and really struggled with fatigue on the goalpost traverse. 

And here is how you do the goalpost traverse

I got good encouragement from everybody as they passed me on the 2 laps and that really helped me to keep going.  When I got to the ropes this time I tried holding on to the first while trying to fix the J-lock on the second.  I just keep sliding down so my feet touch the floor.  Definitely something to work on.  I carried the beer keg this time, and it always feels heavier than the other objects.  Everyone else had finished, so I decided to run the final lap while everything was tidied up and taken back to the cars.  It had been another tough session.  I had covered 8.72 kilometres and Robert had covered 9.68 kilometres, with everyone else somewhere in between.  Still, we had bacon rolls from Rebecca to look forward to !

The finishers of Tough Greenwood Oblivion 2018

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St Albans Striders : Fred Hughes 10 – A Marshal’s View

I was not in a fit state to run the Fred Hughes 10 this year – at the moment I cannot run 10 kilometres without having to walk some of it, so 10 miles was definitely not in my schedule – so I decided instead to put myself forward as a Marshal after I saw a post from Amy Heap, one of the Race Directors, in the St Albans Striders group on Facebook.  It was a very easy application process, sending in an email to offer my services, receiving a confirmation email almost immediately, and then receiving a further email from Peter Blackaller with all the details I would need for the day.  It was a very comprehensive email, containing a welcome letter, marshal allocations, a map of all the marshal points, marshal position instructions, general marshal instructions, and a runner flow diagram for where the route crossed itself, which was not relevant to my marshal position, so I would not need to worry about that !  I was allocated to Marshal point 13 with Tony Lillico, at the corner of Stanley Avenue and Chiswell Green Lane, with specific instructions to direct runners to continue along Chiswell Green Lane, because the race used to turn left into Stanley Avenue.

The weather forecast was not looking great, and as I knew I would be standing around as a Marshal, I dressed appropriately in my mountain hiking gear, and packed my rucksack with a fleece, waterproof jacket, two pairs of gloves, Mudstacle ruff, Judgement Day woolly bobble hat, a packet of Jelly Babies and a freshly made flask of peppermint tea.  It was lightly snowing when I left my house to walk to the Race HQ at St Columba’s College, but my choice of clothing meant I was prepared for it.  Even so, and despite it being less than half an hour’s walk, without having put on either of my pairs of gloves, my hands were cold by the time I arrived at St Columba’s College, the Race HQ, just in time for the scheduled 0845 check in time for Marshals.  I joined the fast-moving queue in the main hall to register, confirmed my Marshal point, was given a numbered fluorescent St Albans Striders Marshal vest, received a reminder of the specific instructions for the Marshal point, as well as being told to watch out for cars coming down Stanley Avenue to Chiswell Green Lane, took a photo on my phone of the numbers for the medics, while being reminded that 999 would always be the first call for a real emergency, and then I was ready to set off.  It had been a very smooth process.

Race HQ

I dropped off some flapjack at the kitchen for the after-race refreshments, put on my hat, ruff and my inner gloves and then ventured outside again to begin the walk to Chiswell Green Lane, which was just a straight walk down the main road out of St Albans.  The snow was still only lightly falling, and I was well wrapped up now.  I turned right down Chiswell Green Lane when I reached the Three Hammers pub, and Stanley Avenue was the next road on the right. 

Other Marshals got into position early too

I had got into position at Marshal point 13 in very good time at 0930.  The race would be starting at 1000 and I reckoned it would be at least 15 minutes after that before any of the runners made their way to this stage.  Tony arrived not long after, confirmed he was in the correct location, and then moved his car to a better parking place.  He very sensibly stayed in his car until much nearer the start time, while I sheltered under a tree, to the extent that you can shelter under a deciduous tree in winter.  The snow was definitely falling harder now and settling in places.  Our position came just after a corner, so I hoped everyone would keep their footing. 

I come with my own warning sign

I took the obligatory Facebook selfie, and received a very nice message from the team at the Three Hammers pub, “Good luck to runners today in this awful weather.”

Three Hammers pub, at the end of the road from my Marshal point

I had brought my camera with me, so I stood just in front of the tree to get a good view of the runners as they came round the corner.  My position would also serve to deter them from turning left up Stanley Avenue.  Tony took on responsibility for managing any traffic. 

Lead cyclist

At around 1017 the cyclist in front of the lead runner appeared, with a little group just behind them, and with everyone moving along at a great pace.  I think we must have been about 3 miles into the course and everyone seemed very comfortable in what they were doing as they went past, even with the snow now falling harder than ever. 

Not just St Albans Striders

It was wonderful to watch the field running past, all the different colours of the various local running clubs who had supported this event so well, together with the assortment of brightly coloured kit being worn by the non-affiliated runners, and everyone giving their best. 

Brightening up the morning

They certainly brightened up the gloomy morning ! 

Such a variety of runners

It was also great to witness the variety of runners taking part because this was by no means only for the elite – there were young and old, male and female, elite and fun runner, and also a couple of guided runners who were going very strong. 

Very determined running in the conditions

The runner I know of from the St Albans Striders group, Tim Seaton, guided by Julianne Nightingale, even knocked 3 minutes off his performance from last year, posting a personal best of 1 hour 27 minutes 18 seconds, which is a remarkable achievement at any time, and especially given the weather conditions. 

Tim Seaton, guided by Julianne Nightingale

All of the runners looked happy to be out there, even in the snow, and so many of them thanked the Marshals as they ran past, with some even waving. 

Always nice to get a wave

Nobody fell or even stumbled as they approached our position. 

Any cars all gave way or allowed lots of room

All of the traffic was very courteous, and the last runners came through at 1041. 

Last few runners still going strong

It had been a quick shift !  I had just about managed to take photographs throughout, although my fingers did get very cold after a while and sometimes it was hard to actually push down on the button !

Other Marshals found ways to keep warm

We had a Caution Runners sign planted at our Marshal point, so Tony packed that into his car to take back with him, and I set off on my walk back to Race HQ, passing up the offer of a lift from Tony, and from another couple of Marshals who passed me when I got to the main road.  I met Jack Brooks on the way and we enjoyed a quick chat, when he told me they had had lots of traffic going through their Marshal point, which must have kept them busy.  The walk back was without incident, I returned my Marshal vest, and then popped into the kitchen area being run by Andy Normile for a cup of tea and a delicious fairy cake with a cherry on the top.  That pretty much made my morning.  There was no charge for refreshments, and instead a collection was being taken for the Cancer Treatment & Research Trust in memory of John Hope. 

Very generous donations from everyone there

They raised £1095, which is amazing, and very well deserved for laying on such a feast of refreshments.  From my point of view it had been a perfectly run event, with excellent communication and organisation throughout, and it had been a pleasure to be able to be of some assistance.  I would definitely volunteer to be a Marshal again if I was not intending to take part.

You can see more of my photographs from the event here.

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