“Hi everyone – we are in Verulam park this Sunday – 720 meet for 730 start – please don’t be late as a couple of people need to be off by 915. Not sure of the plan yet but I’m thinking beasting.” And so the tone of the session was set by Tony Leary, and the name of the blog was also chosen by him.
Tony needed some help setting up the session and by the time I arrived just after 0700 on a mild morning after walking through the park by the lake, I saw Tony, Jake Barber and Neil Rainbow heading off from the museum car park towards the field off to the right hand side of the football pitches, by the road. I passed two sandbags and a tree stump as I ran to catch up, and was pretty sure I would be coming back to get them, but did not want to spoil anything which had already been set up. Of course, once I caught up with the others I was immediately sent back to get the sandbags and the tree stump. Fortunately, by the time I got back to them Coach Tony Campbell had arrived and we were able to share the load. I carried one of the sandbags up to the others, who were now in the copse setting up a rope traverse, and Tony said to put the sandbags and the tree stump on the other side of the copse with the beer keg. The rope traverse was tied off by Tony Campbell while Tony and Jake attached some hanging straps to tree branches, and a length of rope was attached to the crossbar of the nearest set of goalposts, on the other side of the hedge. The session was all set up and we went back to the car park to see who else was here for it.
Everyone had arrived, so we had Rebecca Cohen, Kirsten Whitehouse, Matt Stewart and Glenn Coleman to join us (all of whom had been at Tough Guy last Sunday, which you can read about here). It is remarkable how this Sunday morning group has grown, because we had a few ‘regulars’ missing this morning and still there were 9 of us setting off at just after 0730. Tony said we would do a warm up lap, during which he pointed out the various stations for this circuit : after the tyre pull, with a sandbag in the tyre, we would run round the outside of the bottom copse, then cut across to the main copse which contained a few stations : the hanging straps in the copse, where we would go from yellow to green to purple to a second yellow and a second green; the rope traverse between two tree trunks, which we would do using the monkey crawl technique; the carry shuttle runs, going out and back around 20 metres, with a heavy sandbag, a not quite so heavy sandbag, a tree stump, and a beer keg, where we would do each carry before going over the portable step they had used to put up the rope traverse; we would continue our run up the hill, cutting across to the left at the top into the next field, and we would come down from there to the first set of goalposts to do a crossbar traverse, where a rope had been attached so that it hung down from the crossbar and we could use it to help us get up. Tony had in mind that we would do 5 circuits.
We would start off by running one lap without the stations, to spread us out a little, and by the time I got round to the tyre pull the front runners were clearing the stations in the copse. The tyre pull is something I can definitely do, and I always feel where it is hitting me. From there I ran round to the first bit of the circuit I was not looking forward to, the hanging straps. Sure enough, I found myself stranded on the first yellow one, just swinging there. I got down and moved on to the next bit of the circuit I was not looking forward to, the rope traverse. I surprised myself by getting my feet up and around the rope at the first attempt, and then continued to surprise myself as I moved from one end of the rope to the other. It was most certainly not a smooth, gliding motion, but it was still a success. I also managed to finish the carry shuttle runs before Jake reached me, which is definitely a success in my book, as he was smashing up the course. He went past me going up the hill, not very much longer after that. I continued on the running part of the lap, and as I was running down the hill, Tony and Glenn passed me at the goalposts, with Tony telling me that if I was not able to get across the crossbar I should hang for as long as I could instead. Over the course of the three circuits I ran, Jake, Glenn and Tony all passed me twice. I achieved another partial success When Tony coached me on the hanging straps, and I managed to get from the first yellow to the first green before becoming stranded trying to reach the purple as my feet were basically in the wrong order…a lot more work is required here !
We carried all the equipment back to the car (and that seemed like a long walk with the tree stump !), but we were not finished yet and took a warm down run over to the weir for some water training for Rebecca and Kirsten ahead of them taking on a couple of laps of the Winter NUTS. I have been on part of the NUTS course before when I was in a photoshoot for Pukka Races, which you can read about here, but I got injured before I could take on any of the races over the course that year, so maybe I should have a go at the real thing now. Luckily I did not have that thought at the time, or I might have found myself in the cold water.
As it was, Rebecca and Kirsten did two outstanding runs up the full length of the weir with much encouragement from both Tonys, with Coach Tony Campbell managing to encourage Kirsten to fully submerge herself at least 3 times. The cold water came up pretty high on both of them anyway.
Nick Day had not been able to join us this morning because of injury, but his dog Buster did make an appearance to also provide his encouragement ! We ran back to the car park, with Rebecca and Kirsten taking occasional dips into the river as we made our way, and not before long we were back at the cars.
Kirsten had made us some blueberry muffins from the Lean Machine Project cookery book, which were delicious, and we also had delicious chocolate brownies and coffee from Rebecca. If anyone ever asks why we do OCR training, this has to be part of the answer ! I had covered 8.1 kilometres this morning, which meant everyone else had covered at least that distance. I had also managed to achieve a 6th Overall on the Strava segment Westminster Lodge XC Figure 8 (although once Tony Leary got his morning on Strava I dropped down into 7th Overall). It had been another brilliant Sunday morning.