I had seen the event listing on Facebook for the Obstacle Race Magazine roadshow which was going to be hosted at the Wild Forest Gym (as it was known at the time this happened), and once I got paid I immediately signed up for it. I like to support any initiatives from Obstacle Race Magazine when I can, and I definitely wanted to try out the Wild Forest, so it was a perfect combination for me. It also came at a very good time, given my crazy decision to take on Nuclear Oblivion next year, which you can read more about here.
I had planned to go straight from camping at the Nuclear Races Summer Party, but the M25 conspired to keep me from being able to attend what looks to have been a fun-filled day, so instead I left my house at 0730 to drive round a now very quiet M25, giving myself more than sufficient time to arrive before the 0900 scheduled start because I had never been to the Wild Forest before, so wanted to allow some contingency to make sure I was not late.
I parked up and wandered down the obvious track into the Wild Forest, hearing noise coming from the huts so kept going in that direction, before coming round the corner to hear Lee Pickering saying my name as I was ticked off the list. Now, Lee is very well known in the OCR world and I obviously recognise him from Facebook and seeing him racing at The Elements, but it came as something of a surprise to find out that he recognises me ! I definitely need to keep my head down a bit more until I get my OCR prowess to a level where I can be recognised in public !!! I said hello to Lee, and also to Robin French, who I knew from Team Nuclear Phoenix, and I was introduced to Sharon Alexander, who, like Lee, was from Team Muddy Kit. They were all here to host the session this morning on behalf of Obstacle Race Magazine, and I was also introduced to Sam Alexander, who manages Wild Forest. Everyone was very friendly and a great atmosphere was already being generated for the session. I completed the waiver form and was ready to go, with a good number of others, as it turned out – there were around 15 of us. One of these was Robert Boarder, who I know very well from Sunday morning training sessions with the St Albans OCR Training Group (with Coffee & Cake). He was here fresh from a mixed European Championships, having won 1st place in the M40-44 Short Course, before injuring himself right near the beginning of the race the following day. He would not be doing any running today.
Robin, Sharon, and Lee explained what would be happening this morning. We would start with an induction, to introduce us to everything the Wild Forest has to offer, which would then allow us to book in at any time in the future, a more than good enough reason in itself to be here this morning. Then we could go off and do our own thing, run one of the trail laps, or get some coaching on one or more of the obstacles. It was really down to us to determine how the morning would go once we had completed the induction. Robin went through a safety briefing, explaining what dangers we might find out there, and how to avoid hurting ourselves, with Sharon and Lee adding comments as appropriate. It was all done in a very natural and informed way, and was easy to understand. We were obviously being taken through things by people who knew what they were talking about, and I was certainly left feeling that our safety was paramount.
We set off from the huts into the woods, with Robin explaining and Lee demonstrating the obstacles along the way, then took a gentle run around the beginning of the trail run until it brought us back to the Blast Wall. Robin explained in detail how we should climb this, emphasising the need to keep three points of contact at all times, and Lee proceeded to demonstrate with fewer than three points of contact.
We were all encouraged to have a go, and that encouragement was repeated by none other than Tristan Steed, who had just turned up that second to see what was going on. We moved on to the rope climb, which I am keen to improve on, and were shown how to do a J-lock. And then Tristan made it all look far too simple, going up to the top of the rope pretty much only using his legs.
We moved on from the ropes and started to go a bit quicker through the various obstacles to make the best use of the time available. The rigs, the Irish table, the weighted pulls, the cargo net climb, and the OCR Racer training class being led by Dean Johnson was running through the course now, so we had the opportunity to see them taking on the walls and the sternum checker, which was very instructive. We continued out to the edges of the training area to see a couple of obstacles which feature in the Nuclear Races OCRs – spinning monkeys and Helix.
When we had finished with the induction I headed back to the rope climb, along with more than a few others from the group. This is clearly something people are very interested in improving, and this was a perfect opportunity with so many expert coaches available to demonstrate great technique and assist us. Robin and Sharon were very helpful, as was Tristan, who had stayed with us and gave me some particularly instructive pointers. I was fortunate enough to enjoy a varied and interesting conversation with him away from the rope climbing, talking about The 100 Peaks Challenge, his life as an elite athlete within the OCR world, and his plans for the Paras’ 10 at Catterick (which he smashed, by the way).
I then decided to go off and do my own thing, following the trail run course with obstacles, including the cargo net, tyre walls, log carry and blast wall. I did them all a few times and my run took me exploring into the further reaches of the training area. It really does have everything you could want and more for OCR training.
We still had some time left so we went to the Jump Course. This is an excellent little area set away in a corner of the woods near to the huts, made up of a twisting, turning circular track which takes you through all sorts of jumps – over natural branches. They are going to keep a record of the times on a board, so this will be an excellent way to monitor progress. Lee went first and lost his footing at a couple of points, which certainly did not fill me with confidence in my own ability to take on the course ! He went away with the fastest time. Everyone was coming in at just over 2 minutes, apart from one person who did not finish due to a lost trainer ! I made it round in 3 minutes 36 seconds. Two guys went again and both improved their times. This is something I will have to do on a regular basis between now and Nuclear Oblivion.
It had been an absolutely brilliant morning, a great introduction to Wild Forest, and a very worthwhile roadshow from Obstacle Race Magazine. The organisation had been excellent and the coaching was of the highest level. I cannot praise it highly enough.