If you have read my previous Regiment Fitness tabbing blogs then you will know I love these extra sessions, and although they are presented as Regiment Fitter sessions they do cater for all levels of fitness and it is great to see so many people turning up for them, with over 25 here this morning. For me, they are a great general training session, and also very specific for some of the events I have entered, the next of which is the Paras’ 10 on 31 August. I took along my own bergen (rucksack) and had it loaded to 30lbs with all the essentials I might need if I got stranded in the wilds of Hemel Hempstead – a compass, 2 headtorches, spare laces, wooly hat, sun hat, ruff, 2 pairs of gloves, mountain first aid kit, Fitzroy jacket, Rab Vapour-rise Lite Alpine 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 three 2kg dumbbells and 3 litres of water (2 litres in the internal bladder and 1 litre in a bottle in one of the pockets). In total I was carrying 35lbs. 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 morning, so I was just wearing a Rab short-sleeved base layer on top, remembering how much I had sweated with my jacket on when I did the session in St Albans.
The drive over to Hemel Hempstead was easy at this time of the morning and we met at Gadebridge Park, where Regiment Fitness run their bootcamp sessions. We went over the bridge from the car park to the grass area, and I wondered what we would be doing today. I knew there were some slopes in the park, but there was no wooded area like we had run through in Chorleywood, no lake like at St Albans, and no big hill like at Dunstable Downs. Yes, I was clearly too asleep still to have thought about the fact that we had crossed a bridge to get to the grass area. Anyway, this session was being taken by Shaun and Tom (though you might not recognise Tom without the beard !) and they got us into two ranks, split into two groups, with one for those who wanted to push it. I joined that group. Shaun instructed us to start off at a quick march, then two seconds later said that had gone on long enough and we were off, running to the left, to the far end of the park, before running up to the wall at the top of the slope and back three times.
Then we were off running again, going over to the other side of the park where there are a number of green, metal benches. We kept our bergens on and split into groups of four, with two each side of the bench. Once we had wiped them down so they were not slippery we did step ups for a minute (with the bergens still on), and as we were doing it my group noticed the explicit graffiti on our bench, which was somewhat reminiscent of an Alan Partridge sketch, though I doubt that was the intention of the yoofs of Hemel. We still kept the bergens on for press ups while holding on to the bench, which we were to do until we could no longer do them, and for me the hardest part of which was the way it felt on the palms of my hands. Then we were running back across the field to…the river.
I had forgotten there was a river, and now we were being told to go into the very cold River Gade, which immediately went over the top of my boots. My boots are brilliant for hiking, with their solid form and the Gore-Tex lining being very beneficial out on the hills, but the drawback with that is when water gets inside the boot it is not coming out, so I would now be tabbing the rest of the session with a pair of concrete blocks on my feet. I do need to get a pair of boots which are more suitable for this.
The water was very quickly above my knees, I could feel the coldness of it in my toes, and as we pushed on it went higher up my thighs. I was not so worried about that because I knew my trousers would dry out in no time. There were high rushes either side of us and the water was flowing fast, so it was a good idea to keep your footing sure on the stone floor of this part of the river, and especially when we had to go over a fallen branch which had got stuck in the flow.
We went down the river until we got to Tom, then were sent around for a second time, by which time that fallen branch had moved, and then a third time, by which time my legs were either used to the coldness of the water or were too frozen to notice.
We ran back to the benches and took our bergens off, but not to have a rest because now we were doing a minute of crunchies with our legs up on the benches, before a minute of burpees, because it would not be Regiment Fitness without burpees. We did not put the bergens back on, but instead got into two ranks and held them by the shoulder straps with the people either side of us so that we formed two daisy chains with them, and off we ran. It was certainly awkward, not least because there were some straps hanging down off the bergen in front of me and I was in danger of stepping on them as we ran. We came to a stop at a familiar location, dropped the bergens on to the ground and were into the river again for another three loops. It was not necessarily any easier without the bergens as the depth of the water created a resistance to running. We were out and picking up the bergens and I was trying to get mine secured as I followed one group as we ran over to the bin and then back to join up with the other group, but I had safely stowed my camera in one of the side pockets when we were daisy-chaining and now I was trying to get it back on to the waist belt, and I had that twisted, and basically my admin was now in crap order. I eventually caught up, just in time to line up at the bottom of the hill and be sent up to the top corner to go round a tree and back, and then half way up to go around another tree and back.
There was some more fun and games as we did leopard crawls to Shaun with the bergens still on our backs, and then we lined up in our two ranks again, with Danny and I finding ourselves at the back almost under a tree, despite the fact we had the whole field to line up in. We were running back to the van now, but things could never be that simple. We were going at an easy pace with those at the back running to the front, and Danny made the comment that we were never going to finish before it was time for us to go again. Sure enough, Shaun sent us off again but not before he had told Tom to pick up the pace at the front. We made it to the front and so did the next few pairs, but it was becoming clear that the pace at the front was pulling the line apart, so Shaun stopped us. And told us we would do it again until we got it right. I definitely got the impression this meant the people at the back had to go quicker, rather than the pace at the front dropping. So we set off again, put everything into it and finished on a high. It had been an excellent session and we brought it to a close in the car park with a warm down with bergens off. We had covered 2.8 miles.
You can see more photographs from the morning here.