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 40 here this morning (so many, in fact, that it caused me a problem I will get to in a minute). 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 Dark 15 on 24 October. I took along my own bergen (rucksack) and had it loaded to 20lbs with all the essentials I might need if I got stranded in the wilds of Dunstable Downs – 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 two dumbbells wrapped up in various items in the bergen, and 1 litre of water in the internal bladder. In total I was carrying 38lbs. 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 (not running shoes). It was a dry, warm morning, so I was just wearing a Rab short-sleeved base layer on top.
I thought I had left the house in good time but it was getting dangerously close to the starting time of 0615 when I arrived at the car park at the top of Dunstable Downs, just down from the Visitors Centre, only to find that it was more than full already ! I drove around again, still found no available spaces, so just parked it to the side, then quickly got my boots on and headed off to where I could see Graham standing with the group. He asked me if I was in the harder group, to which of course I replied that I was (and he already knew that would be my answer), and as I got my camera out to take a photo of the group just before we set off he took some delight in pointing over to the footpath which leads away from the car park and telling me that was the harder group so I had better get a shift on to catch them up.
This was not what I needed to start my morning ! I had noticed at the Regiment Fitness morning bootcamp session in St Albans the day before that my legs were still feeling the effects of my running of the Paras’ 10 at Catterick on the Sunday before (which you can read about here) and I was pretty sure they had not completed their recovery overnight. At least I knew this part of the route very well because I had run and tabbed over it many times before, and although it was undulating, it was mostly heading downhill, and I was able to keep the group in sight as I pushed it to catch them, covering the first mile in under 10 minutes, and catching them just at the top of the track part of the Icknield Way Trail which goes steeply down to the grass area. We ran over to the trees, which was when Coxy noticed I had joined the group, went around them and them came back up the slope to take the track which runs along the bottom of the Downs.
I had joined in at the back of the group and we were going along at a good pace even though we were now going back uphill. The guy in front of me was beginning to struggle as he had not got a lot of sleep the night before and I stayed with him as we began to drop back from the main group. As I have said, I knew this area well from previous outings, so I had no worries about getting lost. We carried on along the bottom track as it gradually rose before we went over the top and were able to open our legs as we ran down to the hollow in the bottom. The rest of the group were gathered at the bottom of one of the chalk tracks going up one of the slopes and Coxy sent us up for 10 seconds before we came back down, and then for 20 seconds before we came back down, took a quick water break, and carried on along the bottom track. I knew we must be heading for Regiment Hill, and as we moved along I wondered if we would go all the way to the top when we got there, and I must admit I was relieved when we just ran for 30 seconds up it before coming back down. That first mile had finished off whatever was left of my legs and the second mile had taken under 15 minutes so we were maintaining a good pace.
We went through the gate at the bottom of Regiment Hill and carried on along the meandering, undulating bottom track as it gradually rose, until we got to another gate, at which point we turned left. Up the slope. The very steep slope. The very steep slope which seemed to go on forever. I was more than grateful when a few of the others came back down to provide me with not only encouragement but also a helping hand as they grabbed the bottom of my bergen to share the weight as I made my way up to the top. And by the time I got up there everyone seemed to have learned my name and was shouting encouragement, which always helps. There was no time to rest at the top, or at least no time for me as the others had enjoyed something of a rest at the top while they waited for me, and we were off down the grassy track with Coxy telling us we had 20 minutes left so we would go for 10 minutes in this direction and then come back and carry on back to the car park. So I was a little worried that we were going downhill now.
Down we went at a good pace, eventually coming to a small rise which Coxy had us run around, with some of them getting around it a few times while I did it once and then followed Coxy up yet another steep slope, with everyone encouraging me as they overtook me. This had taken me to 3 miles (although some of the others will have done more as they looped around from the front) and the third mile had been done in 19 minutes, which was not bad considering it had included two uphills.
Some poor unfortunates had been doing plank or press ups while they waited for me to get to the top, and once we had got to the top of the slope it was time to come down again and make our way to the car park. I was definitely not looking forward to this. I ran down to the bottom and began to make my way up the slope, talking with Coxy for part of the way up this initial part and discussing the Regiment Fitness plans for their own tabbing event, Tab 10. Not before long others from the group were passing us and I was dropping back as my legs felt like they had nothing left to give, which was unfortunate for them because we still had to get to the car park. I pushed on and was very grateful to some of the guys for coming back to push me on yet again, encouraging me to run it down a slope, and once we had turned right through a gate to take us into the next field and had an upward slope ahead of us to literally push me on as we formed a bergen conga. If only I had been at the top to get a photo of that.
Then we turned left and were back on the Icknield Way Trail and a familiar route over the grass past the Visitors’ Centre and down the slope to the car park, picking up the pace and running it in to finish things properly. The fourth mile had wiped me out and taken just over 22 minutes. In all, I had covered 4.1 miles (and others had done more than that) in 1 hour 7 minutes and I was knackered. I had got back in time to see Natallie and some of her friends going off for an extra run, so Graham could not have pushed them very hard in their group, because I was thinking I had not been very clever in agreeing to run the parkrun in St Albans in just over an hour from now.
You can see more photographs from the tabbing session here.