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 evening. 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 Harpenden – 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 evening, so I was just wearing a Rab short-sleeved base layer on top.
Once again, I thought I had left the house in good time but the traffic between St Albans and Harpenden was such that it was getting dangerously close to the starting time of 1830 when I arrived at the car park near the leisure centre. Fortunately, I was able to find a parking space easily enough, then quickly got my boots on and headed off to where I could see our instructor, Michael Cox (“Coxy”), standing with the group. There was only one group for this session so I did not have to spend the first mile chasing the group I should have been with like the last time on Dunstable Downs (which you can read about here). I recognised a few faces from that and other sessions, but once again there were a lot of new faces here, which is always good to see.
This tabbing session was going to be based around Rothamsted Park, which I knew from running the Herts 10k last year (which soggy mess you can read about here), and Coxy said that as it was flat we would be going at pace. That sounded like just what I needed. I started my Garmin as we set off down a lane from the car park, and left it running even though we then stopped for a quick stretching warm up, so the timing for the first mile will be misleading.
Having got the warm up out of the way we were off for real, running over the grass until we reached a path which goes up the side of the park, running up the slight incline in two ranks until we reached a gate, when some of us went back to loop around those at the rear and come back to the front again. This was clearly a group of mixed abilities but we would make sure we stayed together as a group. We came to a fork and carried on to the left, moving along a slightly different surface which was still flat and hard, before we reached a road flanked by trees and were told to weave in and out of them.
Those of us wanting to take it on were then sent back to do it all over again. We carried on along the roadway and, having done my repeat of the weaving, I was now at the back of the group giving some encouragement to those who were struggling. We got to the end of the road and turned right before going into a field, where those of us who were taking it on were instructed to circle round through the long grass, climb out of the field over a metal gate, and then come back into the field through the entrance off the road to catch up with the others who had carried straight on.
We had been going at a good pace up to this point and as I came back into the field I began to feel a niggle in my left shin, which was annoying, so I slowed to a quick march to see if I could ease it off, and that took me past the 1 mile mark in 14 and a half minutes, which is a little misleading because it also includes the time we spent warming up – we were going at a fast pace.
I went round a corner to see that the group had gone out of this field and disappeared off to the right, so I began to run again to catch up with them, keeping going until I had them back in sight. Now we were running along an enclosed stony track, heading back in the direction of the park, and having caught up I was again giving some encouragement and advice to those at the back, trying to get them to catch up with the group because I knew that would make it easier for them, my previous experience telling me that it is better to be running with the main pack rather than always trying to catch up.
The track seemed to keep going on and on, heading towards some trees, before we finally took a left turn just before the trees to go back into the park, and stopped for water. Except that those of us who did not want to stop for water were sent off around a tree, then down the slope to a bush and back up again, and as I had my water in my internal bladder, and so did not need to stop to be keeping myself hydrated, I set off on the extra loop, coming back to the top of the hill to join the rest of the group who by now had set off around the edge of the park. We continued around the edge, running along a tree-lined track with occasional doubling back to loop around the end of the group before pushing to get to the front again, and not before long we came out of the trees and began to run along the side of a football pitch, which had a team training on it.
I was helping at the back of the group again, holding the bottom of the bergen to take some weight off the person carrying it, and I kept us running while we were in view of those on the pitch – it is always good to look good, and we passed the 2 mile mark after another 12 minutes. We were maintaining a fast pace.
We went round the corner to the right and stopped at a bench for Coxy to explain what was coming next. There was a line of trees going down the next slope and we would be doing shuttle runs out to the first five of them, going out to each tree in turn and then back to the bench each time, up and down the slope, until we came back down to the fifth tree for some press ups, then 20 squats, before we were off again, running away from those trees to a copse across the other side of the grass.
I dropped back to make sure we were all getting across when suddenly Coxy came around from the other side of the copse and told me to get a jog on while he took over here, so I pushed on into the copse, ran round to the right to come out of it, circled around past a few others, then came back up the slope and into the copse again. When I came out this time I saw that everyone was lining up lying down at the bottom of the slope, and once we were all in position we were sent off to see how far up the slope we could get in 5 seconds, and then again in 10 seconds, and for a third time in 15 seconds, before we were off again and running around another football pitch. We got back to where we had been lying down but this time continued up the slope and around the tree at the top before running to the back of the group and going up the slope and around the tree again. We came back down the slope and had covered 3 miles after another 16 minutes.
I was talking with Anna as we ran down the slope, and she had been one of those who had been struggling at times. Now it turned out that she had only been to one Regiment Fitness session before coming along to this, so talk about throwing herself in at the deep end ! Well, she had made it all the way round and she had done it in what appeared to be a pair of pumps.
We were running towards the skateboard park and I jokingly said that we would be finishing off on that. And then we kept heading towards the skateboard park, and Coxy stopped us by the side of it and had some words with a few people there, and before we knew it we were running over it in pairs while the rest of the group held a squat. Down a ramp, across a flat bar, up a quarter pipe to the deck, across a half pipe, down a ramp, over two back to back quarter pipes, and up another quarter pipe to a deck.
It was brilliant fun, even if I was chased by a bunch of skaters as I was the last to go, and as I threw myself over the back to back quarter pipes Coxy shouted at me to not be scared of the kids ! It has to be said that they were a great bunch of kids, and they even took a couple of photographs of us warming down for me. It had been an excellent tabbing session, finished off nicely by the warm down before we made our way back to the car park. We had covered just over 3.5 miles in 56 minutes and our average moving pace had been around 13 minutes per mile, so it had been a fast pace throughout.
You can see more photographs from the tabbing session here.