This certainly ticked all the boxes for me ! A tabbing session with Graham Grover in Chorleywood at 0615 on a Saturday morning. I accept that I might have some strange boxes, so let me explain – tabbing is a military term (‘tactical advance to battle’) which essentially means moving quickly while carrying weight. Of course, we do not travel as quickly or with as much weight as the military, but as the events I am currently drawn to (The Fan Dance, Paras’ 10) are worked on this basis then this is perfect training for me. The location was not too far away, the time meant that it did not eat into my day, and Graham always pushed us hard, so, like I said, this ticked all my boxes. I took along my own bergen (rucksack) and had it loaded to 25lbs with all the essentials I might need if I got stranded in the wilds of Chorleywood – a compass, 2 headtorches, spare laces, wooly hat, sun hat, ruff, 2 pairs of gloves, mountain first aid kit, Fitzroy jacket, bivi bag, sleeping bag, gaiters, towel, knee brace, and in a separate waterproof bag in my bergen a short sleeved zipped base layer, long sleeved base layer, two fleeces, a pair of hiking trousers, long johns and socks – plus a 2kg dumbbell and 2 litres of water. I would also be doing this in the kit I would be wearing for my events, meaning long hiking trousers and my Scarpa ZG-10 hiking boots. It was a dry, overcast morning, so I was just wearing a short-sleeved base layer on top.
I was not alone in doing this as 25 of us had turned out, and Graham was not alone either because Shaun Casey was also here. After the obligatory photo we started off down Shire Lane in two ranks, those who thought they might be slower at the front, to make the pace. The track soon became more enclosed before we followed it into Philipshill Wood, continue to follow the track untilwe got to a right turn through a gap in the wooden fence. Shaun expressed disappointment that nobody had gone over the fence, so I duly obliged, just to keep him happy. Now we ventured deeper into the woods, going uphill for the first time so I took the opportunity to move from the back to a position nearer to the front, if only to try to get some photos which were not the backs of people’s heads. I was finding it pretty easy going, probably because I was carrying about half the weight I had carried the previous Saturday for The Fan Dance, and also because the ground was good underfoot. We kept on through the woods, going up and down following Graham, who I presumed knew where we were going. Actually, I knew that he knew where we were going because he told us he had covered the route on his mountain bike in preparation. We reached the end of a trail and Graham sent us to the other end and back as we waited for the others to arrive. We had been going at a good pace and finished the first mile in around 15 minutes.
Time for a quick water break and then we were off into the woods again, although I wonder if anyone realised just how close we got to the starting point along this stretch. Probably best not to mention that. Anyway, with a few ‘hurry ups’ from Graham we were soon off and going again, once more deep into the woods, keeping that good pace going, in fact to such a good extent that when we came to a stop at the bottom of a slope we found that we had lost some of the group. We had also lost Shaun, so he would be with them. Graham decided that we should run back to the top of the slope to find them, so off we went, but they were not there when we got to the top. So we were sent back down to the bottom again. We continued on into the woods when we heard Shaun calling to us, and could see him with the rest of the group over to the right, coming from another part of the woods and the wrong side of a barbed wire fence. Graham went over to help them out while everyone else took a water break. We had kept the pace going and finished the second mile in around 15 minutes as well.
We set off again along a narrow track and I found myself near the back of the group. When we emerged into a clearing I could see that we had become detached from the front of the group so decided to push ahead to see if I could find them. Of course, it would be hard to spot the main part of the group because most of their body would be hidden by a DPM bergen, but I reckoned that Graham’s red tshirt should stand out against the trees. There was nothing to be seen, though, and then I heard Shaun calling us back because we had passed the point where graham had turned off with the others. We went down that track and it brought us to the bottom of an upward slope, the one we were told would take us back to the cars. After my little recce up in the woods I was now at the back of the group so I pushed it on up the slope, Graham making the point that this was a good little stretch after the Fan, and it really did not compare to Jacob’s Ladder. It was a great way to finish off this session, though, as we got to the top and rejoined the lane we had started on, just a short stretch before we were back to the cars and finishing just over 3.1 miles, all at around that 15 minutes per mile pace.
We had been out for an hour, we had not lost anyone along the way, and everyone had come back in good spirits – this had definitely been a successful session. For me, it had been a good follow-up to the demands of the previous weekend, and it is something I hope I can continue to include as part of my training. It is all very well going out tabbing on my own, but there is something different about doing it in a group which helps with the motivation. The next session is on Saturday in St Albans at 0615 and I will be there.
You can see more photos from the morning here.