We were going to a new location, and we were going to be using some new kit !
Our coach and leader, Tony Leary, had introduced this one very nicely, “Planning another one of those race simulation type sessions this Sunday guys – Mardley Heath Woods Nr. Knebworth meet 7:20 for 7:30 start. Not actually racing but a circuit session with a rig, carries etc built into it to run around for a few laps”, before throwing in an extra surprise, “Hhmmm…….what other obstacle might we have tomorrow???”
I agreed to meet Tony at 0650 at the Sainsbury’s petrol station in Marshalswick, because the plan was a few of us would arrive ahead of time to set up the circuit. Naturally, I left my house just late enough to mean I had to run the final stretch to get there, and I think Tony is getting used to seeing me come running round a corner at the last second. There were three cars parked up – Tony, Nick Day, and Rebecca Cohen, and Tony told me to jump in with Rebecca because he had Neil Rainbow in with him. Nick was going to have to leave training early. It did not take us very long to get to Mardley Heath Woods, and as we drove into the car parking area I spotted Ray Fletcher waiting for us, and it turned out that the other car already parked up belonged to Glenn Coleman. Matt Stewart turned up very soon after, and Robert Boarder managed to arrive from the opposite direction to the rest of us…
We got the kit out of the cars, carried it across the road to the edge of the woods opposite, and as Tony put in place a rig, I helped set up the rope traverse between two trees with Ray, very sensibly leaving all the tying off to him. I tested it for my weight and it worked. I also tested the rig for my weight and did not break any branches ! Once all the equipment had been put in position we had a rig, a rope traverse, a barrel carry, and a rope climb along this stretch of the edge of the woods. The idea was that we would go through the rig, across the rope traverse, down a very steep slope to the barrels, where we would then carry them up and down another steep slope before coming out of the dip by the slope we had taken in the first place, then go up the rope climb using only our arms, before continuing to run a lap of the woods. We would run as many laps as possible in the time available, and each lap was around 1km. We ran a lap first to spread us all out, and I ran 5 laps in total. Nick ran his with a weighted vest.
The running itself was fine, mostly flat, a couple of downhills and a few ascents, but nothing too steep, and the ground was good underfoot. The rig was way beyond me, to the extent that I could barely manage to get through the first two parts. It is something I need to work on, and something that will also naturally improve as my weight goes down and my strength increases. I was much better on the rope traverse, although the rope did rub uncomfortably on my ankles and lower legs as I was just in shorts this week. It was a very steep slope down to the barrels, and there was really no choice but to go for it each time – I could feel the barrel getting heavier on each lap ! Coming back up needed a bit push, but there was a small bush near the top which provided something to grab hold of just when that sort of assistance was needed. The rope climb was impossible. I just hung there for as long as I could, before moving on to complete another running lap.
And then, at the end, Tony introduced the spear throw. Rebecca’s husband had constructed the spear, and all we had to do was throw it into the hay bale. We had a few Spartan veterans in the group, so a lot of experience to show us how it is done. Matt did a great throw, Robert did a great throw, and great things were also expected from Glenn. Glenn missed. It was very close, though. It had been a tough, fun training session, and I had covered 5.7 kilometres. Ray ran 7.6 kilometres, and everyone else ran something in between. There was still more to come, and once we had taken down all the kit and got it back across the road, we got to the best bit of the whole morning – hot dogs !!!