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 18 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 Dark 15 on 24 October. And this morning was certainly dark enough for that ! 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, Rab Vapour-rise Lite Alpine jacket, bivi bag, sleeping bag, gaiters, towel, knee brace, a couple of packets of jelly babies, 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 2 litres of water in the internal bladder. In total I was carrying 29lbs. I would also be doing this in the kit I would be wearing for my events, meaning long hiking trousers and my relatively new Aku Pilgrim GTX boots. It was a dry, quite warm morning, so I was just wearing a Rab short-sleeved base layer on top.
And this particular tabbing session certainly ticked all the boxes for me ! A tabbing session with Graham Grover in Chorleywood at 0630 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 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 pushes us hard, so, like I said, this ticked all my boxes. The drive over there was very easy at this time of the morning and I was the first to arrive, giving me time to park the car facing back up the lane so I could get away quickly at the end because I had also agreed to do the 5k parkrun in St Albans at 0900. Then everybody else began to arrive, though it was difficult to see how many of us there were because it was still so dark. I did notice that as well as Graham we also had Craig with us. Someone mentioned that we needed torches and I said I had two headtorches in my kit, as well as my mountain first aid kit, so I had everything I needed to survive. There was some laughter at that, but it can be funny how some things turn out in the end… One person I did notice straight away was Susan Hughes, who I knew had hurt her shoulder earlier in the week, so I was a little surprised to see her here, and yet not very surprised because those who attend Regiment Fitness on a regular basis are a tough and somewhat mad bunch. I was pleased to see that she was wearing a weighted vest instead of a bergen, though. Everyone was here and it was time to get going.
We set off down the track, following the same route we had followed the time before (which you can read about here), going down the track to the bottom before turning right into the woods. I was with the people at the front of the group and we were running along the woodland track now, doubling back and coming forward again, as instructed by Graham, and one of the disadvantages of being known to Graham is that it makes it far easier for him to send you off on one of these extra runs. And there were a lot of those extra runs in this first mile, including sending us off up a climb through the trees while Graham waited for the rest of the group, and then calling us back so that we could run up and down another track. We were moving at a quick pace and covered the first mile in under 14 minutes.
So far we had been running along tracks within the woods and now we came out from the trees into a clearing which had a telegraph pole at the far left hand edge of it, so, of course, we began to run rings around the telegraph pole. It was not such a distance away but it was a narrow track unless you went into the long grass, so there was some congestion as we ran the laps. I am not sure how many we did, but it felt like too many and it was at least three, and then as I came up on the final straight stretch I found Craig waiting for me, asking if I could get out my mountain first aid kit. Someone ahead of me had managed to cut the inside of his hand and now that he had cleaned the cut with some of his drinking water he needed something to cover it. We stopped to put my bergen on a bench, and I easily accessed the mountain first aid kit because I kept it right at the top. I had made sure I knew my way around it, so I was quickly able to find the right plaster and deal with the casualty, but, even so, we had lost the others by this time because they had run on ahead. We could guess at their general direction from the tracks available and cut straight through the trees in an attempt to catch them up, which meant running on softer ground than the woodland tracks and I could feel that immediately sapping the strength from my legs in comparison. Still, that is something I have to get very used to and better at dealing with given some of the events I have coming up.
We were crashing through the undergrowth, trampling over the brambles, and listening out for any human noises because we knew it would be hard to spot a group of people wearing DPM bergens in the woods unless they were running towards us. Finally we could hear them and headed off to our right on an angle towards the sounds, to find them running rings around a clump of bushes, and Graham told me to follow on at the end. A couple of laps later we were on our way again, and that was when I noticed that something had gone horribly wrong – my Garmin had automatically paused while I had stopped to tend to the casualty and I had not checked before setting off again. In my defence, I had no idea it would do that because I have never read the instruction manual. I will know for the future, and I can think of far worse situations where that could have happened and actually affected me, but here and now it just meant I had lost a record of the previous 20 minutes, so my Garmin and Strava records would be out.
In any event, from this point onwards it was just a matter of getting back to where all the vehicles were parked, doing a few shuttle runs but mostly just following Graham along the track, skirting the edge of the wood before we got to the bottom of Shire Lane. This climbs up a slope and I began to march up, swinging my arms from side to side to give me some momentum, which caused Graham to say, “someone’s been tabbing with a squaddie !”. Actually, all of the blame for my good technique must go to Sean Linehan and my practice tabbing with him for his Dark 15 event, which you can read about here. Anyway, that seemed to be enough to stir Graham into action as he told me I had to overtake four people as we were going up the lane before he would get off my case. As if that was not going to be difficult enough, he then called out for everyone to speed up. So I pushed it and managed to get past two others pretty quickly, and then I was past a third as Graham called again for everyone to speed up, which meant I had to go to my limit to get past a fourth, and as Graham backed off I had to bring it back down to a march until I reached the vehicles. The morning was not quite finished yet, though, because there were others still out there, so I went back down the lane providing encouragement until I got to the back of the group and then gave a helping hand by grabbing the bottom of the bergen to lift the weight off the carrier’s shoulders and we continued our way up the lane, taking it up to a run to finish things off. It had been another excellent tabbing session and although my Garmin recorded it as 2.9 miles in 41minutes, we had been out for an hour and according to others had covered at least 3.3 miles. There was still more to come for me today…
You can see more of my photographs from the morning here, although there are only a few of them because it had been so dark.