Spartan! (Round Two)

Remember I mentioned Spartan Race recently?

Well, this weekend was Spartan Training Camp in the beautiful Pippingford Estate in Nutley (daan sarf for those, like me, who haven’t heard of it before), and let me tell you, IT WAS EPIC!

I’ve been contemplating something to replace road races since my marathon success and obstacle racing seems to be the answer.  It involves running (which I love), climbing (which I love even more) plus getting soaked and covered in mud (which is one of my favourite things ever). Winner!



Waist deep in stinky water, it just doesn’t get any better than that!

I learned a lot about myself on the training day; in particular that I am neither a bear nor a crab, that I am stronger than I thought (though not strong enough to do a full pull up), that the millions of squats I have been doing over the past year are paying off, and that I have an apparent talent for balancing on logs on one foot with my eyes closed…

McNuff vs Wyn-Jones
Also known as the Flamingo Face-off!

New talents aside, I am seriously excited about Spartan Race.  For starters, I may have decided that the 5km was not enough of a challenge, and perhaps decided to sign up for the 20km race, also known as The Beast!

Squat jumps onto a handily located picnic bench

In fact, there are three distances you can run (crawl?); the 5km (ish) Sprint, the 13km (ish) Super, and then the fabulously named 20km (ish) Beast.  If you complete all three distances in a calendar year, you’ll received the coveted Trifecta Medal! Sounds like a challenge to me, folks!

So, going back to the training day…

After a 6am breakfast I headed south down the M6 in torrential rain, with a small diversion to Teddington to pick up the very cool Anna McNuff.  She’s hardcore – she can do real press ups! After having a giggle about how much fun the training camp was going to be in the heavy rain (no joke, we were seriously excited about it), the sun ruined our plans by coming out from behind the clouds and turned the day into a scorcher.  Suddenly my outfit of full length tights and a long sleeve t-shirt didn’t seem quite so practical…

I thought I was running at this point…
It appears I was mincing instead

We arrived on the Pippingford Estate, which is not only stunning, but home to a herd of deer, lots of squirrels and some ponies.  It was almost like being on safari. 

We headed over to the ranger station and met up with our coach Brian from Toughen Up.  We also got to catch up with the (very muddy) folk from the previous training session.  There were lots of smiles – and lots of groans when it came to getting up from the picnic benches.  What had I let myself in for?! 

I’ll admit I was feeling a little apprehensive at this point, mainly because I’d decided that if I was taking part in the Beast, I’d better skip the beginners training camp and go straight into the advanced session instead.  I tried getting a bit of information out of Brian but he remained tight lipped about what we could expect…

After our team mate Graham arrived, we had a warm up and then headed off at a run down into the valley, with a short stop where we were introduced to the bear crawl.  As mentioned above, I’m not a bear and I can’t crawl.  I also can’t do the alternative, known as the crab.  They both require a certain amount of dexterity and co-ordination.  I have neither.  A lot of giggling was involved at this point.

This is NOT how to crawl under imaginary barbed wire! 
You would have no head left at this point

After our introduction to animal movements, we made our way over a bridge – then back under the bridge to a stinky boggy pond with a very conveniently placed rope hanging under the bridge, right over the middle of the pond.  We became very well aquainted with this pond. 

I found out two fundamental things about myself at the pond of doom; firstly, I’m shorter than is ideal when it comes to reaching for ropes hanging from bridges.  Secondly, I can’t do pull ups.  Literally, not one. 

The shameful moment I found I can only do half a pull up…

I can, however, hang off a rope pretty well and do knee lifts.  Every cloud…

Bring on the knee lifts!

In between pond sessions, we covered press ups (I did the girly ones), squat jumps, the dreaded burpees, oh, and gate climbing…

Concentrating hard!

After several hours of being well and truly beasted, it was time to head back to the rangers station with, of course, some more burpees on the way.

Reach for the stars!

After guzzling down several gallons of water, changing out of my wet stinky clothes (and fishing my spare contact lenses out of the loo, where I cleverly dropped them – don’t worry, they were sealed!), it was time to make a move. 

I spent the entire four hour drive home grinning like a fool.  It had been an amazing day, and I am counting down to race day in October.  I’ve learned new skills, I’ve made new friends and I can’t wait to become a Spartan!

If you’re thinking about taking on the Spartan Race (which I think everyone should do), then I’d highly recommend the training camp.  Firstly, it’s enormous fun, and secondly, it’s a great way to find out what you’re going to be facing (not in detail, the obstacles are kept a closely guarded secret!) so you can prepare.  In my case, I shall be spending the next few months learning how to do pull ups. 

So, who’s joining me?!?

It’s fun, honestly!

* For Spartan Race events, see www.uk.spartanrace.com. To attend Spartan Race training camp, email alec@aleclom.com

All photographs courtesy of Epic Action Imagery

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