The Winter Wolf Run – the race !

This was a new location for the Wolf Run and it was pretty easy to get to from Junction 18 of the M1, with more than ample parking close to the main enclosure.  According to their website “Stanford Hall offers a wide range of challenging terrain, vast woodland and stunning scenery. There is an abundance of mud and water.”  Yes, that pretty much sums it up, and just in case that was not enough it was blowing a gale when I arrived.  At least it was not raining.  It started raining as I walked across to the registration tent.  Actually, it felt more like sleet than rain, and it had driven everyone inside the registration tent until their wave was called.  Registration was a very simple and well organised process, as was the bag drop where I left my car key, and then I just had to wait until my start time.

We were taken through a very sharp active warm up and although I was yawning, I was feeling very good as we moved into the starting pen.  We had the short safety talk and then we were off, straight into the Serpentine Lake, which was cold, wet (obviously) and came up to the waist.

Obviously not my wave or I would be in the water

Obviously not my wave or I would be in the water

You can see me in this video – I am on the left, number 4202 in the red long-sleeved top, going in at 0:16.  The coldness of the water really hit me and I could feel it instantly slow me down as we got out the other side of the water.  We were out and running across grass until we went through a muddy ditch and continued along the grass which was becoming ever more muddy itself, on to the edge of woodland, following the track through there as we went over

Deadwood Hurdles, which were a series of fallen branches and logs, all over wet, slippery mud which was beginning to get a little deep around my Merrell Trailgloves.  More fool me for both my choice of footwear and for thinking that this mud was suitable to be called deep.  I was getting no grip, although I am not sure a different choice of trainers would have made an awful lot of difference, and the rest of this course soon made me realise that this was a light covering of mud.  We ran along the edge of the field until we came to another section of fallen trees, and then we were out into the open and running along a mud track, heading towards the woods.  We followed a very well-marked track through the woods, which was mostly flat and gradually became more enclosed and went on for some way before it brought us to

Forest Maze which gave a left and a right option, and I went to the left, which meant almost doubling in half to get under very low branches.  We came out of that on to the woodland path again and some logs to clamber over, some deeper mud, and lots more running before we reached

Ditched and a muddy ditch filled with water, with branches falling down into it and a very wet and muddy slope up the other side.  The mud was easily up to my calves, was not a short stretch by any means, and there was no easy route through it.  We continued on through the wood, often having to duck under branches, until we came out into the open and found

Tyred Already was much longer than at the Leamington site.  It started with much bigger tyres and then we hurdled a wall of tyres before going over another few sets of laid down tyres and continued on into the woods again.  And very soon we were into the

Hard Yards with the path taking us up and down through a seemingly never-ending series of ridges which got progressively deeper until we were back on to flatter but still muddy ground again for a short respite before we reached more ridges, the up and down really working the legs.  Then we were back in the open again and running for not such a short distance across a grass field towards

The Last Straw which is another obstacle from the Wolf Runs I had been on before, and again had been modified, so this time there were no tunnels to go through, but there were more gaps to be jumped across.  I jumped to the final part of it and was then able to give a helping hand to the lady next to me who was struggling with that final heave up.  Then she was off and away as we took another not so short run downhill towards much wetter ground and

Boggy Oaks which was a bog among fallen oak trees.  The mud was wet, thick and deep and just to add to that we had to get past the fallen trees in the middle of it all, and stretching through to the end of it.  There was no easy option with this one either, you just had to go through the mud as best you could.  And the mud continued as we ran away from this obstacle, going up and then across the brow of a hill.

There was a short queue for Landslide as we climbed up a couple of hay bales to the start.  I now have excellent technique for this and knew I had been sent off far too soon judging by how the guy in front of me was handling it.  Sure enough, I caught up with him about half way down.  We all came off covered in dirty bubbles and I got some in my left eye, which was not brilliant.

Landslide !!!

Landslide !!!

Of course, it was muddy at the bottom because of all the water being poured down the slide.  We continued on, running towards some more woods, through a ditch filled with water which was very slippery up the other side before running through more thick mud to get us to

Snake Slither where we went under a long cam net.  Fortunately the net was flexible enough that we did not have to crawl through the thick, sloppy mud under it.  Of course, there was a lot more thick, deep mud at the other end of it and we made our way through it until we got to a stream.  The water came up above the knees towards the waist and I waded through it, coming to more mud at the other end as the muddy slope made it very hard to get out before there was more mud to climb up to take us to a slippery, muddy track which finally led higher to the next grass track, and another long stretch of running.  These are probably lovely meadows to walk through on a summer’s day.  Instead I had to run through a another pool of water and up a muddy slope, which was really sapping what little energy I had left, and we were not even half way through.  Over the top of the slope and we were going downhill, following a track for another long running stretch which took us back into woods, more muddy ground and fallen trees over pools of water.  The course was not getting any easier.  And then we reached

Mud Sucker which was a lot more thick, wet, sloppy mud, almost impossible to get through, and certainly impossible to just walk through.  One of my feet got stuck and I thought I was going to lose my running shoe, and then I was dragging myself with my hands to make any sort of forward progress.

There goes my leg

There goes my leg

It was very slow going and hard work, and as soon as I got out of that and was round the corner I found a ditch filled with muddy water.  It was sloppy and came up to my knees and was like walking through treacle, with a slippery slope at the far side.  I just wanted to get away from this section now, but to do so I had to clamber over more fallen branches and through more mud until I was finally back out into a field.  Which meant more running.

The 5km mark came just before Hit The Wall, which I have to say I find easy.  The footholes between the logs which make up the wall seem to be ideally placed for me, so I was up and over in no time.  The drinks station was just the other side of the wall and I reached that in 58 minutes and 27 seconds.  More running now, and for quite some distance, heading downhill to cross a road and then carrying on through fields before we reached a big stream, or as they call it

Plunge, and the only way to get in was to sit down and plunge straight in, wade through with the water up to my waist, and then scramble up the other side where there was another muddy track to run along, which took us to another part of the same river.  I was able to walk down into this one and it was not so deep at this point, not coming up to my knees.

On a scale of things, this doesn't even count as water

On a scale of things, this doesn’t even count as water

The mud track took us back into some woods, along a track and up a muddy, slippery incline which I could only get up by grabbing on to the trees, with the track then continuing to a

Turbine Stream which was a wide stream.  It was not very deep to begin with, but it was slippery underfoot and it was long, and got deeper as it went on, finally coming up to my knees, then briefly the top of my legs before going down again, and it was not too difficult to walk out of this one.  I ran along a wet, muddy track before arriving at more water, another stream which was deeper this time and came up to my waist from the beginning.  It was also much harder to get out of and fortunately there were ropes on hand to assist us.  More running followed as the route took us out of the woods again and through the fields, and I was finding the running tiring.

Even at the best of times I am not going to get over their Monkey Bars, so there was no hope here.  I could hear the marshall telling the groups in front of me that only the top 5% of Wolf Runners managed to complete them.  He did not even bother telling me that.  I did not manage many of them, and was soon off and away, running over the open ground until I came to more water.

Swamp may have been its name but it was just a pool of water in the middle of the field, looking like it was waterlogged, though deep enough that I was able to swim through it.  Another muddy track across the fields followed, going through a number of open gates along our way until we came to

The Vault which was another wall made out of logs, but a lower one this time with no footholes.  So it really was a matter of vaulting over it.  Then more running through more fields over more muddy tracks until

River Swim where the water was immediately up to my waist and while I could have waded through it I decided it was far easier to just swim.  It did not feel particularly cold and it did not go on for too long as I progressed with my very basic breaststroke.  The exit into more woods was not too difficult either.  Another enclosed muddy track took us to some more water, only just above the ankles this time but on top of a very muddy surface.  It was more slow progress as everyone slid around, and the slope to get out of it was like ice.  Another muddy track, and then more water.  The formula is very clear.

Bridge Too Far was another swim, this time in deep water under a brick bridge, coming out on to a track through light woods, crossing a smaller stream and continuing on through the fields until we got to the next obstacle.

Equilibrium was a lot of fun as we had the choice of three different sized logs to run up at a slant, and then a run down a log on the other side, and we were off and running again through more fields.  Now we ran towards another clump of trees and very soon we waded over to

Survivor Island through the water which came up above the waist and sometimes to the chest, crossed the island through the trees and then swam from the island to the shore.  Out of the water and we were running along a muddy track by the edge of the river, taking a long loop to get back to the start, which brought us to

Sheer Face, another obstacle familiar to me and a wall which I got over quite easily by using the rope.  I knew I was close to home now.  Running over the grass brought me to a pathway and I crossed that to take me to

Acrophiobia the big climbing net.  I know how to do this so I was up and over with not too many worries about how high it was, and then I was off again, running over the grass between the trees, although I could still not see the finish but I presumed it was close.

Face Plant was within sight of the finish but I think I defeated the point of it by not crawling under the cam net, instead pushing my shoulders into it so I could move along at a stoop.  And then it was a last push along the grass track to get to the edge of the Serpentine Lake again.  I walked into the water and waded across to the other side.  I had been cold and wet from the very beginning but that did not bother me in the slightest right now because I had done it, and finished in under 2 hours, so the second half had taken me around the same time as the first half.  I posed for the finish photos, took my goody bag and the foil blanket which were handed to me and headed off to the bag drop to get my car key.

Winter Wolf Run 2013 finished !

Winter Wolf Run 2013 finished !

This had been another brilliantly organised Wolf Run and this new location was a completely different proposition to the Leamington site.  There was a lot more water, a lot more mud and longer distances to run.  I would certainly say it was a harder course, but it was still excellent fun being run in the right atmosphere.  I will definitely be coming back for more.

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

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