Pretty Muddy Kids

As my niece and nephews get older I find it increasingly difficult to buy something they would like for Birthdays and Christmases. When they were younger it was much easier to buy the latest toy, that they would inevitably grow out of in months, but now as they are getting to the point in their life where they cherish days out and making memories buying experiences and adventures for special occasions is something that I prefer to do.

At Easter, when most kids were being spoilt with mounds of chocolate, I took it upon myself to purchase an entry to Pretty Muddy Kids instead. After taking my Niece (12) and Nephew (7) to their first Park Run back in January and booking them into the 1K kids run with the Willow Foundation back in October, they have embraced the racing life and love the thought of getting their hands of a bit of bling at the end. Perhaps they take after their Auntie with their passion for medals and adventure?

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I actively encourage their passion. I love being outdoors, I think it imperative that kids embrace the outdoors and get active. And it is the perfect way to get them excited about exercise and make it an every day part of their lives.

So, last weekend, we headed off to Cassiobury Park, in Watford, to take part in Pretty Muddy Kids. Having completed Pretty Muddy myself several years ago I knew it would be a perfect opportunity to get them into the “obstacle races.” With tame, bouncy obstacles and abundance of mud the race offered them a chance to be challenged.

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The route in Cassiobury Park offered a mix of terrain – with grass, gravel and concrete path ways, and a few hills to overcome too. With the heat of the day it was not easy, my Niece went against advice, possibly caused by being overexcited, took off too fast and struggled with the running towards the end. But we slowed the pace, overcame every obstacle and given the choice she even declined the “short cut” that was offered. She did not want to miss a single obstacle.

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Being at the upper age limit of the kids race, she was rather disappointed that she was not able to take part in some of the adult obstacles. Being the same height as me – it would not have caused her any issue – but understandably rules are rules and she simply had to carry on through the kids course.

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And she did just that, loving every minute, and even managed a sprint finish up the hill to the final obstacle.

Buzzing with excitement, medal around her neck, she was already asking when she could do another one.

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So I’m already looking out for the next junior adventure. I will always encourage racing and will happily run along aside them.

Though next time we will have to upgrade the adventure, to give them more thrills.

Perhaps a Nuclear Races Rookie course is waiting…….

Nuclear Races – The Big One

On Saturday 19th May, when most were sipping on mimosas and watching the Royal Wedding, others were preparing for epic muddy fun at the Nuclear Secret Bunker.

For the first time, on a morning of an OCR race I woke to bright blue skies and promises of soaring heat. A perfect day to run a obstacle race, without fear of freezing after the water obstacles and, due to the lack of rain in the lead up I thought there would be less mud.

Boy was i wrong.

After a quick warm up, we were on our way and straight into the boggiest, stinkiest trenches you can imagine. Whether they were this way naturally or the event organisers ensured they were extra muddy, either way most participants were covered with mud within the first 5 minutes and the theme continued throughout the course.

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This race was called the “Big One” and it certainly lived up to its name. With a choice of 7km or 12km participants were faced with numerous obstacles, from natural muddy trenches and fallen tree trunks, to adrenaline fuelled zip lines and monkey bars over undulating terrain, there were challenging obstacles galore.

I was particularly excited about the “Lake” section of the course. Here participants had numerous water obstacles including the famous Death Slide. With the weather being so delightful the lake provided a refreshing break from the heat and mud. Previous OCR races have seen me shy away from many of the water obstacles for fear of remaining cold. This time round I embraced them with gusto.

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The Zip Line and Death Slide in particular were exhilarating – two of the obstacles I would quite happily enjoy over and over again. I definitely need further practice on the Death Slide, as where other racers remained upright, I entered the lake with an almighty back slap and gave myself a bloody nose in the process.

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For the second time I completed the 7km course alone, finding my own company and the ability to run at my own pace quite refreshing. To not have the pressure to keep up with others, to skip obstacles I was just not that comfortable with and to overcome many on my own was rather invigorating. That said – as with all OCR races – should you find yourself struggling there is always a stranger who will give you a friendly shove. The only place were it is socially acceptable for a stranger to have their hands on your backside and you actually appreciating it.

As with all Nuclear Races there is no pressure to complete all obstacles. If there is something you are not comfortable with, you can simply skip it without judgement or ridicule. I attempted around 90% – skipping the cargo net (I still have issues with cargo nets after Rat Race Dirty Weekend), and a few of the final obstacles where the panic of having too many people around when attempting something at height brought me out in a sweat.

What makes Nuclear Races so great is the way that no matter how many times you have taken part, you can never get bored. The route is always planned down to the minute detail, the organisation is always first-rate and the finish is always epic. The Big One saw a new addition, with participants sliding face down on a water slide to the finish line. A great way to end a race on a hot day.

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Yet another thoroughly enjoyable race day at the Secret Bunker!

In the lead up to the day I stated that the Big One would be my last OCR race, that I would be hanging up my muddy trainers and sticking to road races.

However, less than 24 hours later, whilst admiring my OCR kisses, cuts and walking around the house on stiff achy limbs, I signed up for the Big One in 2019. Though next year, I will have to spend more time preparing for the race itself – after all hauling your own body weight over many obstacles takes strength, something I was definitely lacking after less time dedicated to training recently.

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It is clear to see why Nuclear Races are known for their award winning fun. The atmosphere, the adrenaline and the spirit from organisers and participants alike is second to none.

If there is one OCR race I would happily be addicted to it is certainly those you can find at the Secret Bunker.

Roll on to the “Big One” 2019!

 

 

London Winter Walk

Sunday 14th January saw me take on my first challenge of the year, London Winter Walk – A 20km walk organised by Action Challenge as part of the Ultra Challenge series.

It was the first event I have taken part in with these guys and was booked as a attempt to kick start my training in preparation for the Isle of Wight challenge, also organised by Action Challenge.

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The walk promised the opportunity to get in some early training for one of the many events they have scheduled for the year ahead.

Setting out from Southwark Park, at the break of dawn in my case, the route saw participants pass over Tower Bridge, west along the River Thames into the City – taking in many of the capitals iconic landmarks en route. A quick rest stop, lasting around two minutes for myself, just after the half way point in Vauxhall, before the route sees you walk along the South Bank, crossing Blackfriars, Millennium, Southwark and London Bridges on the way back to base camp.

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Starting in the first wave, at a bright and early start of 8:30am, gave me somewhat of an advantage. For the first half of the route, there were very few pedestrians – especially in the city area – so there were not many people to weave in and out of. This enabled me to see a good time for the first half of the challenge – 18th in my wave.

 

The way back to base camp differed slightly. Growing numbers of tourists, cyclists and runners started to appear – slowing the pace and generally making you more aware of your surroundings.

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That said, by the time I was heading into the 19th kilometre it was not even midday. As some of the final waves were heading out at the start of the walk, I was finishing. And the timing was not too shabby either – 3 hours 9 minutes! My time saw me finish 22nd in the 8:30am wave, as the 10th Female.

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Obviously, throughout the day my rankings dropped somewhat as other participants completed in each wave. However, I was still considerably high up the charts considering this was the first walking challenge I had taken part in. Finishing 64th over all (out of 1600 participants) and being the 41st Female.

I took great pride in my results. I am not accustomed to walking challenges. Don’t get me wrong, I walk fast – years of commuting has done wonders for my walking speed. However, I have never walked as fast and at distance, as I did on Sunday.

Fuelled by those around me (not that there were many after the first hour), I power walked like I have never power walked before. I saw myself becoming a tad competitive when those more seasoned walkers over took me. I hated the feeling of someone approaching from behind. And when I crossed the finish line, I did so with no one in around me at an average pacing of just over 15 minutes per mile.

A pace that will definitely not be attempting for the Isle of Wight challenge, that’s for sure.

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The London Winter Walk was something new to my training.

Having run so many races over the last few years simply walking was a nice change to the norm. In the lead up I did not feel the pressure I would normally feel when participating, I didn’t feel nerves and I felt uncharacteristically relaxed.

The walk also made me a little more mentally and physically prepared for the challenge ahead. I now am aware that despite my trainers being wonderfully suitable for running, for walking they are not. Where you need the bounce when pounding the streets at a faster pace, with walking you need a little more stability and support. By the last kilometre I could feel every cobble in the street!

It also made me aware of pacing. Whilst the 15 minute mile pace was fine for a shorter distance I need to be aware of slowing it down as my training walks become longer and arduous.

The final factor I take away from the London Winter Walk, and one that has been mentioned to me on numerous occasions, is that walking is not easy. For someone who has spent the last few years developing my running pace and mileage, it was incredibly difficult to stop myself from breaking into a run a times and keeping the steady walking pace. Its not as easy as it looks!

The event was one that I would definitely look at completing again. The organisation by Action Challenge was outstanding; the staff were friendly, the rest stop had a multitude of snacks and refreshments, and to finish off a freshly cooked hot meal upon completion.

London Winter Walk is the first of the Ultra Challenges this year; with the Easter Walk (25km from Windsor) and the massive Isle of Wight challenge (106km) both booked in.

I am sure to become an ultra challenge addict. Not stopping until I have completed them all!

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The Bucket List

The “Bucket List.” Often seen as the list of things you want to see, do or accomplish in your lifetime – before you “kick the bucket.”

I have read so many bucket lists lately. I’m not sure why so many bucket lists are suddenly coming to my attention. Maybe big birthdays are on the horizon or maybe people are just ambitious in life and want to achieve things, and as such are sharing to aspire others.

Either way it has made me take a step back and look at the bucket list I made in my twenties, to see what achievements I have made and what is left to “cross off my list.”

So we go back several, dare I say ten years, to see what I have accomplished:

Travel

  • Take city day trips to Edinburgh, Brussels, Paris, Lille and Cork
  • Go on a Baltic Cruise
  • Kiss the Blarney Stone
  • Be a tourist in my home town
  • Fly First Class
  • Wine tasting in the “Wine Country”
  • See Niagara Falls from both sides
  • Walk the Great Wall of China
  • Climb Kilamanjaro
  • Watch the sunset in Santorini
  • Visit the Valley of the Kings

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  • Drink bubbles in Prosecco
  • See La Sagrada Familia 
  • Run in a foreign city    Running in the one and only Central Park
  • Drink a pint of Guinness in Dublin 
  • Visit the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

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  • See the Astronomical Clock in Prague
  • Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • Swim in the Great Barrier Reef
  • Hike down the Grand Canyon
  • Visit the Roman Baths, in Bath
  • Take a walk in the Lake District
  • Complete the Lord of the Rings Tour in New Zealand
  • Visit Loch Lomond
  • Take a city break to Madrid, Lisbon, Prague, Dublin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam, Dubrovnik, Zurich, Vienna, Venice, Istanbul, Barcelona, Budapest, New York, Rome, Nice, Hamburg, Milan, Bucharest
  • Go on Safari in Africa
  • Shop at the Christmas markets in Europe

Adventure

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Achievements

  • Learn to drive
  • Complete the Great North Run
  • Run the Royal Parks Half Marathon
  • Learn Italian
  • Complete a 10k race under 60 minutes
  • Start a Blog –   almost two years in to my blog and I still have things to talk about.
  • Run a half marathon – there have been one, two……and a few more
  • Become an organ and blood donor – becoming a blood donor meant I discovered I have a rare blood type. B+ – only 8% of the UK have this blood type.
  • Go on a fitness weekend
  • Run an OCR race  to name a few: Rat Race Dirty Weekend, Nuclear, Commando. There is nothing like a muddy OCR race.

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Looking back on my bucket list; I am rather proud. The majority of the accomplishments I have ticket off the list are physical. Those that require an element of determination and discipline.

I remember the day I added some of these to my bucket list. The London Marathon in particular was added after watching the marathon on TV, crying my eyes out and thinking ” I can do that, that is a piece of cake.” So easy to say when you are sitting on the sofa and when, in fact at the time – I could not even run a mile.

But it was added to the list none the less. If I only ever run one marathon in my life I was determined that it was going to be my home town – London.

And between the time I added that to my bucket list I have ticket so many physical accomplishments off my list it is hard to imagine what I did before.

Then we come to the travel bucket list. A list I think will be never ending until the day I actually “kick the bucket” as quite frankly I cannot imagine a life that did not allow me to travel, to see the wonders of the world and to experience everything that it has to offer.

So as I review my bucket list I start to wonder how long the list will become over the next few years, where my travels will take me and what more I can achieve.

Because life is for living. You should never stop trying to achieve things in life. You should aspire to see more, to do more and experience everything you possibly can.

Keep ticking things off that Bucket List.

Nuclear Blast – 2017

Nuclear Races are known for award winning fun; relentless amounts of mud over undulating terrain with numerous obstacles in between.

Nuclear Blast certainly followed suit. After deferring my entry for Nuclear Rush after the London Marathon I returned to have some muddy good fun.

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I was tempted to cancel. Recent trauma has left me physically and mentally exhausted. However in an attempt to regain some normality in my life I decided to go ahead. It was my first OCR event running solo. I was apprehensive – worried about going at it alone. But with many months training alone and running regular road races by myself I shook it off and went along for the ride.

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The race did not disappoint. Nuclear Blast is a 5k race, where you have the option to complete as many laps as you wish within a two hour window. If you finish a lap at 1 hour 58 minutes you are encouraged to run another lap if you have energy left in the tank. If you run one lap and decide that’s enough for you then that is absolutely fine too.

Personally, I have an issue with running laps (something I am slowly building upon), so the single lap was more than enough fun for me. I had been out on the course for an hour and a half – with plenty of obstacles and mud to appease me.

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And there was mud galore. Whether it was the recent wet weather contributing to the muddy terrain or simply just a natural mud fest, I’m not sure – but either way I have never experienced so much mud during an OCR race. And it was a laugh.

I completed obstacles at my own pace, laughing at myself and generally having a good time. Obstacles I would normally avoid were completed with gusto – mainly due to the fact that I was in my own world. And unlike most OCR races, there was very little waiting around to complete the obstacles – meaning less time to stand around getting cold.

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Despite completing many gritty obstacles over the course, I could not get over my knew found fear of cargo nets after falling off at Rat Race Dirty Weekend, so It was one that was quickly bypassed. However, with so many other obstacles I was not disappointed.

 

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Nuclear Blast was simply amazing. As usual the spirit all around was something that cannot be replicated. I have completed many OCR races now, and nothing compares to Nuclear Races. The course, the obstacles, the thrill level, the organisation, marshals and even the fellow participants – who are always willing to offer a hand or a friendly shove – makes Nuclear stand out from all others. It is clear to see why they are award winners.

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The only thing that was missing from Nuclear Blast? The death slide. So, roll on Nuclear Rush 2018 – death slide, zip lines and all.

 

Return to Fit4OCR

Today was a good day, it was the day I returned to Fit4OCR (an obstacle course training facility), after a year of being absent from the arena. After months of just focusing on cardio, this summer my focus is to get back my physical strength and returning to Fit4OCR is part of that plan.

Fit4OCR is a obstacle course training facility where you are able to practice and learn technique to get over obstacles. From tyre mangles to monkey bars – you are taught and encouraged to overcome many obstacles you would face at an OCR race, whilst having fun.

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I first discovered Fit4OCR around 18 months ago, when a group of boot camp friends and I made our first visit to the facility in Baldock. Within the first five minutes of arrival I knew this would be my new playground. Run by an extremely friendly team – Gill and Marc – and a bunch of like minded participants, we had fun from the get go. Throwing ourselves over walls and into water filled trenches, we came away cold, muddy and buzzing. Safe to say we came back several times over the next few months, bringing along other friends each time. And each time we went, we had a blast. No matter who went, you were made to feel welcome, everyone introduced themselves and it had a great team spirit – no matter who you were grouped with.

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So the fact that it has been a long year since I have headed up to my favourite playground saddens me. But with a serious illness to overcome and then fear of developing an injury before the London Marathon – I simply had to prioritise and put my OCR training to the back of the list.

My performance at Dirty Race Race Weekend proved that I needed to get back to it, get dirty and harden up my now super soft hands. And that’s what we did today.

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On a beautiful sunny Sunday morning Jo and I headed up to the new location, ready to build back our strength – mine neglected due to recent events and Jo missing paying attention to her own training due to training others – we were ready to throw ourselves at it. And that’s what we did. Albeit – slightly slower than the other participants taking part today, and probably looking rather soft with our gentle approach to the obstacles, we made our way round – excited to see the new arena and just to be back.

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Slightly cautious at first, but then starting to throw ourselves at the obstacles – with Gill’s guidance – we began to fall naturally into our happy place. There is nothing quite like looking at an obstacle in front of you thinking “that is not possible” but then remembering that anything is possible if you practice, practice, practice. And that’s what we did today – quickly hardening the calluses and even ripping the skin, which put a stop to further activity on the monkey bars and the rings – which were not available at the previous location. That did not deter us though, we kept on, throwing ourselves at other obstacles – our muscles remembering we can overcome them with ease and summing up those we could not for next time.

 

We came away from the session, as we had done before, buzzing, determined and ready to come back and try again. In the meantime we have put a plan in place to keep the practice going. To harden up the hands and get them used to the motion of monkey bars we will be heading back to the local town parks to practice, practice, practice. We have achieved our goals before and we will do it again. The goal for next time – to conquer the rings like a true ninja warrior.

 

If anyone is looking for strength training or is planning on their first OCR race I would thoroughly recommend looking Fit4OCR up. There has not been a session we have walked away disappointed. Every time we go we achieve something new. Today, I climbed the cargo net after falling from one at Dirty Rat Race Weekend thinking I would have to come back down the way I came. But I didn’t. I was shaking at the top for some time, trying to calm myself down and work it out. But there was no pressure, Gill was there at the bottom, not rushing me, not saying a word and eventually I made it over the top and back down to ground level. I overcame a new found fear, simply by being there today. So when they say the best thing to do is “get back on the horse” they are right. That’s not to say there was no fear, there was. I was still slightly shaking when I got back to the car, but it is the tactics they use at Fit4OCR that enables you to overcome an obstacle that makes them special.

That and the fact that you feel like a valued family member every time you go – it is simply the best place to train.

I can’t wait to go back and overcome more! In the meantime, it’s off to the park we go!

Rat Race Dirty Weekend

I have never been one for camping. Don’t get me wrong I love being outdoors. I simply do not enjoy spending the night sleeping on the floor and in the cold.

However, when a group of my Boot Camp friends decided to sign up for Rat Race Dirty Weekend the plan was to camp for the two nights. Much preferring to book a hotel but not wanting to be a spoil sport – I signed up for the 13-20 mile obstacle course race, paying an additional £20 to sleep out doors for the night. Booked back in August, it was quickly put to the back of my mind, especially after receiving the news, in October, that I would be running the London Marathon.

To say I was under prepared for this event is an understatement. Months of training for the marathon meant that my strength training was put to the back burner. Every spare moment was spent racking up the mileage and endurance to run the 26.2 miles. I did not take a moment to think beyond the marathon itself and what I had booked in the weeks and months following. To be honest, it showed.

From the get go I was struggling, for a few reasons. Firstly – despite running over 20 miles a couple of weeks prior my body was tired, my legs were still suffering and I had tightness in my quad that simply would not shift. Secondly, I had been running on road surfaces, not fields, farmlands and woods – the kind of terrain that is expected at an OCR race. And finally, like I mentioned above, my strength training had been rather lacking and therefore hoisting myself over obstacles proved rather difficult.

That said, Rat Race Dirty Weekend is by far the best OCR race I have completed to date. Not just because of the race, but the whole weekend itself. Starting with a tame “school disco” in the festivals big blue tent, with the race following on the Saturday morning and a big messy party to follow. It was one of the most enjoyable events and one that I feel was worth every penny.

If you love a good obstacle race, then I would thoroughly recommend this. Boasting over 150 obstacles for those who want to run the 13 mile course, 200 obstacles for the 20 miles or if you were completely mad – 400 obstacles for the “Double Mucker” race – which involved two laps of the 20 mile course. Yikes!

Being of a sane mind, I decided to stick to the 13 miles. Not only did it have more than enough obstacles to appease the most seasoned OCR racer, but it had more enough running too.

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I have to give it to Rat Race – they certainly are experts in their field. Not only did they use the natural obstacles of the Burghley House estate, for lack of a better word every single obstacle was simply epic!

I tried my best at as many obstacles that came my way. Some required a friendly shove up the backside or a leg up, some were simply spot on. Some, simply terrified me to the point of a panic attack. The first of which came on a Fire Man’s pole – which thanks to being vertically challenged – I could not quite reach.

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The second panic attack, and one that set the mood for the rest of the course, came around mile 10. What I can only describe as a the biggest adult climbing frame – complete with cargo nets, tunnels and tyre climbs was swarming with OCR fanatics. Excited to get involved I tackled it – only to loose my footing from one cargo net and diving head first onto the cargo net below and getting kicked in the head by another runner. In true OCR spirit, there were plenty of racers (mainly muscly men – so I shall not complain too much) to lend a hand and get be back on my feet. Though as soon as I was on solid ground the panic started. And so the rest of the course was ruined for me.

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With a new found fear of cargo nets, heights and falling – most of the obstacles that followed were bypassed.

Although shaken and disappointed I did not let that deter me – after all this was one of the toughest obstacle races I had encountered to date. I did, however, have to get to the end.

So moving past obstacles that saw many runners shivering whilst they waited their turn, I kept moving forward to the one obstacle I was determined to conquer – the Travelator!

And I did it. I kept my legs moving and got to the top, elated!

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That was simply enough for me. 13 miles and nearly five hours out in the field, wet and cold, I was happy to get to the finish, get warm and have a well deserved drink!

I am gutted to have missed a large number of obstacles, including the epic slide finish, but I don’t regret doing so. Whatever challenge you are facing, you have to listen to your body and sometimes even your mind. On this day, my body was just not ready.

In hindsight, I probably should have deferred my entry. But after missing out on Hackney Half Marathon the week prior I was determined to get back out there.

However, with every race I learn a little bit more about my strengths and weaknesses. In this case I now know that I need to spend the next few months building up my upper body strength, so I can face further OCR races I have planned for the year with full gusto!

Nuclear Rush was the next race on my list, for this coming Saturday. However, the lovely people at Nuclear already advised I can move my entry to another race after I raised concerns a few days after the London Marathon.

So with that in mind, and a couple more OCR races planned in the diary, I shall be upping my strength training and returning to Fit4OCR (a OCR training facility) to make sure I come back ready to take them all on!

And maybe a return to Dirty Rat Race Weekend in 2018? Who’s going?

New Year, New Goals

With only a few days remaining for 2016 it is time to refocus and look forward to the year ahead.

From the 1st of January, my 15 week training plan for the London Marathon kicks in along with a big change to my diet in order to help me cope with the increase in training.

Although the Marathon is my core focus for the first part of 2017, there are plenty of other events I have signed up to to keep me busy.

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London Winter Run – 5th February – My sole aim for this race is improve on last years performance. With an illness developing that I was not aware of at the time, I struggled with every step. This Winter, so far, I think I have done a better job of looking after myself and listening to my body. Therefore, if I continue to train and look after myself right, this time round I should improve.

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Hampton Court Half Marathon – 19th February – My first time running this route. Originally booked to give myself an idea as to where my running progress is for the London Marathon, my goal is to get round and see what time I can get. With the course being a “flat, fast route” I think this will give me a good indication on timing and progress in the next few months.

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North London Half Marathon – 12th March – I have been told by others that this will be a hard race. Starting from Wembley Stadium this route is rather testing with the hills of North London. I will not be worried about time for this one. This is simply to help with the stamina and endurance. Being a North London girl at heart, this route will see me running some of the areas I grew up in.

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London Marathon – 23rd April – The big one! The one I am petrified of. And the one that takes all my focus from now until the big day. Running for the Willow Foundation means I also have a £2,000 fundraising target. Lately, the smaller runs have been tough – so trying to get myself in the mindset to run 13.1 miles more than I have ever run before is rather hard. But with the training plan due to kick in any day now, i’m hopeful that some of my fears will dissipate in the coming months.

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Hackney Half Marathon – 30th April – Just a week after the London Marathon I have planned to sign up for Run Hackney for the second year running. I should be in the best place to run this for the second time. My hope is to improve on 2016’s performance. I’m keeping my fingers crossed with this one – with the date being moved forward I hope we will avoid the unexpected heat wave we saw this year.

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Rat Race Dirty Weekend – 6th May – This I am excited about. After running London Rat Race in 2016, friends recommended the Rat Race Dirty weekend. A weekend camping, with a 20 mile obstacle race, followed by an after party in the evening. With a group of friends going, this is set to be a little adventure.

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Nuclear Rush – 13th May –  After lots of fun running Nuclear Fallout in 2015, I return to Nuclear races in 2017. This time running the early summer event instead of the colder event in November. A 12k obstacle race I am looking forward to. Nuclear are the best for OCR races so this should be lots of fun. And as it is the last race before I take a nice two week holiday I shall be very cautious to ensure I don’t get an array of OCR kisses.

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Great Newham Run – 2nd July – New entry for 2017. I saw lots of friends running this in 2016 and had race envy. One lap round the Olympic park, this one finishes in the Stadium and has a very snazzy medal. Lets hope I can still run at this point of the year.

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Born Survivor – 9th September – Another new entry for 2017 sees me travelling further afield to the Lake District. Hearing good reviews and jumping at the chance of a cheeky weekend getaway I was very quick to sign up for the early bird prices several months ago.

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Commando Series – 11th November – Not yet booked, but definitely on the schedule for 2017. I am looking forward to returning to Commando Series at Hever Castle. By far the best OCR race I completed in 2016 I am hoping that I will be able to complete the water obstacles I bypassed this year due to health reasons.

So that’s it. My 2017 line up. Returning to runs I have previously participated in and including new races in the mix will definitely keep me going, give me new goals and focus for 2017.

I hope to keep the adventures coming throughout the year. So please keep reading and following my journey.

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2016 Round Up

As the year is drawing to a close I can’t help but look back on the obstacles I have overcome this year. If you asked me how I thought 2016 would go this time last year I’m pretty sure that I would be a lot different to how it turned out.

For starters I never dreamed that I would suffer from a bout of Pneumonia, with it taking the best part of a year to recover from.

I also didn’t dream that I would have taken part in so many events. But the thrill of a finish (and a medal) can draw you in and as a result signing up for more races becomes extremely addictive.

Here I look back at some of those races:

London Winter Run – the first of many 10k races I took part in, was one of the hardest. Little did I know under the surface I was developing an illness which was the cause of my bad performance. That said, it was a great route with an amazing atmosphere. I shall be running this one again in February 2017 – hoping this will be more enjoyable and that I will train enough to get a sub 60 minute time.

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British Heart Foundation Olympic Park 10k – One that I will not be running again. This was 2 loops round the Olympic Park on one of the coldest days I have ever encountered. The cold from this run was the nail on the coffin for me. A week later I was in A&E and eventually after being misdiagnosed twice, hooked up to IV antibiotics, under house arrest for two weeks with nurses visiting three times a day. It’s not a race I look back at fondly. In addition it was a shambles. Thinking I had knocked 10 minutes of my PB I quickly discovered that the race was not measured out correctly….So it was actually less than 10k.

The Gauntlet Games – The first race post Pneumonia. Great to get me back into the racing world but utterly boring and quite frankly disappointing. Built for those new to OCR racing rather than seasoned racers. Not one that I would personally run again but would recommend to those who want to have an introduction to the OCR world.

WAR Adrenaline Race – Second time racing this one. In a new location for 2016, I found this quite difficult to get into. In vast private grounds, the opportunities for spectators to cheer you on were few and far between. Obstacles were limited and often repeated – lots of inverted walls. Probably not one I would run again – but one that has always involved a big group of Regiment Fitness members, so has the potential to be fun.

Hackney Half Marathon – The hottest day of the year. No training could prepare us for this day. The fact that I ran this (or ran/walked this) so soon after my recovery was an achievement itself – especially when so many said I shouldn’t. 2 hours 46 minutes – 26 minutes over my half marathon PB is pretty good going with gammy lungs and on the hottest day of the year. This is planned in the diary for 2017, a week after the London Marathon, in the hope to prove to myself I can do better when I am fit and well.

Hatfield Broad Oak 10k – An old faithful, local event. A race that brings a nice group together to run, followed by drinks and lunch nearby. Sadly, due to holidays booked, I wont be running this one in 2017. But it is definitely one I will run again in the future.

Hatfield Forest 10k – This 10k was set in the stunning Hatfield Forest. It was a race that made me realise that my health and strength was coming back to me. Running through the forest was simply amazing. I intend to get back up to the Forest for some training runs in the coming months.

Mission 24 – A 24 hour boot camp run by Regiment Fitness. The second year I have taken part and something that only those that have the strongest mind would be able to complete. I was personally over the moon to complete this the second time around, managing 18 out of 24 sessions, an epic acheivement. Though, not an event I am looking to complete again. Improving on my previous years performance is enough for me.

The British 10k London – This route was amazing. The crowds were inspiring. This is definitely a race I have my eye on for summer 2017. After a year catching up on the fitness I lost, I managed to get my best time of the year for a 10k race. Mainly flat, running amongst the amazing sites of London, it is one I would thoroughly recommend to all – new and seasoned runners. Plus they give an amazing medal and t-shirt upon completion.

London Rat Race – Mixed reviews on this one. It is very costly for what it is. If you enjoy water you will love this one. Throwing ourselves in and out of the Thames it was a good laugh. My only issue – running laps. There were three laps in total. When I run an obstacle race I want that – obstacles – the more the better. It was still a fun race to complete as a group. Next year I will be running Rat Race Dirty Weekend – a 20 mile obstacle race weekend run by the same company.

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Bear Grylls Survival Race – Sorry Bear Grylls, but this was the biggest disappointment in my running calendar. Over priced, minimal obstacles, lots of running. Here you are just paying for the name. Bear Grylls was no where to be seen and obstacles were actually closed. We did recieve an invitation to run again, after complaining, but to be honest I have other events I would prefer to try out.

GR8 10k – Another local run around the farm lands of Bishops Stortford. Raining, hilly and generally quite slow. A dissapointing performance for me. However, the day prior to this event I had completed the same route tabbing – so it is no surprise that I just was not feeling this one. Two years running this race in a row (no medal), I will be skipping this in 2017.

Commando Series – An epic end to the year. The best OCR race I have completed in 2016. Amazing organisation, friendly staff and stunning backdrop. This was a great way to end my racing year. I will definitely be returning to Commando Series at Hever Castle and I would recommend this one whole heartedly to others.

So that’s it. Six 10k runs, five OCR races, one 24-hour Boot Camp, one Half Marathon and a partridge in a pear tree!

The year has proved to be a rollercoaster of events and emotions – with me appreciating my health and strength more than ever before. Having fun with exisiting friends and making new ones.

With nine events already scheduled for 2017 – I am hoping the next 12 months to be bigger, better and stronger.

 

Do It Like A Commando…..

 

Saturday saw me complete the final race in the diary for 2016 – Commando Series. We certainly saved the best for last.

I have completed many OCR races this year; Gauntlet Games, WAR, London Rat Race and even Bear Grylls survival race. But none of these compare to how great Commando Series was.

Set in the stunning grounds of Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the back drop for this race was something beyond imagination.

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From the get go the whole event was well organised – with the warm up alone enough to get you going. The instructor got all racers ready to face the obstacles. No talking allowed, it consisted on high energy exercises and a lot of rolling around in the mud. So we were wet, muddy and ready for action.

In previous obstacle races you will find that the waves are very segmented. The elite go first, then regular racers and finally the kids/ family. Not in this race, everyone was in it together. Our wave ranged from the obvious elite looking runners to young families. Each person had a colour coded wrist band so the instructors knew how they wanted to be treated – you could choose from “treat me like a commando” or one that stated “just get me round.”

Another visible difference between Commando series and others of its kind was the fact that there were so many obstacles. You have no idea how frustrating it is to sign up for an obstacle race and end up having run for miles between each one. Here you completed an obstacle and could see (or hear) the next one. Commando series took full advantage of their surroundings – making use of natural obstacles as well as those they had built. Caves, swamps, river crossings – these obstacles were so simple yet gave you a break from those that were slightly more challenging. They even had re-enacted a battle scene in the woods with smoke and gun sounds to make you feel you were in a battle zone.

There was nothing that was unachievable. In previous races I have come to obstacles that have been build so high or so badly that only the super elite can pass them. Or you throw yourself at the obstacle with such gusto you end up with a multitude of bruises. Commando Series got this spot on – they clearly wanted you to feel challenged but at the same time actually be able to tackle each obstacle. There were no OCR kisses to be found the next day.

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In all the races I have been to I have never met a more friendly group of instructors. Each and everyone one of the Commando Series team encouraged all the racers and took the time to ask us if we were enjoying ourselves. If waiting for team members they encouraged us to keep warm by jogging on the spot. These guys really showed they cared.

When we finally passed the finish line volunteers were ready with medals and a hot Ribena! A hot Ribena!! I hadn’t had one of these since childhood – and it was a perfect refreshment to hit the spot. Just what we needed to warm up.

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In addition they had heated out door shower cubicles and changing rooms. There was no wriggling in your towel by the car at this race.

To sum up this event…. Simply amazing. Everything from the organisation, staff, volunteers, obstacles to the hot ribena… It was spot on all round.

If I was to have one criticism – it would be the lack of action photos. It seems that there were not many camera men and they moved around. So we were missed at the most fun obstacles – like the slide. Going down as a group of five that would have made for a great picture. However, if this is my only critism it shows you how good it actually was.

I was starting to loose my OCR mojo and these guys have revived it.

Well done to all the Commando team for helping me finish my racing year on such a high.

Our team will definitely be back next year!

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Being a WAR Marshall!

I don’t often say no to races but when WAR – Warrior Adrenaline Race – released their race date for September two days before I was due to go on holiday I had to say no.

So when Regiment Fitness send an email requesting people to be a Marshall at the race I signed up straight away. In return I would receive a free place for April 2017, a free T-shirt (the things us racers do for a free T-shirt!) and a free months membership.

The day before the race all Marshall’s had to meet at the beautiful Woodhall Estate to receive our instructions and to pick our obstacle. Keen to be close to the race village and therefore, lots of atmosphere I chose the “Sheep Dip.”

Problem being with this obstacle is that it is second from last, and the wait for racers to come through was long and boring (especially as we were on site from 7:30am).

So I waited, and waited, and finally the hardcore elite racers started to come through. The racer in third place was a Regiment Fitness member from my area – Bishops Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and Harlow – Andy! It was fantastic to see him come through in such a great time. Showing his sheer strength and speed.

Once the elite runners started coming through, I began to see some familiar faces; members past and present, who I have trained and raced with.

As much as I enjoyed Marshalling at WAR, I did find the wait rather tiresome. I think such activity is more suited to those who don’t like to participate but want to be involved. Personally watching others take part left me with envy – I wished I was racing myself. Plus standing in the rain all day is not much fun, its all about the taking part for me.

That said I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the day, seeing fellow members and taking memorable pictures of them in the sheep dip!

If you are happy to give up your day I would really recommend becoming a Marshall. The free entry to the next race alone is incentive enough. After all, the entry for races does end up totting up if you are a regular to OCR.

Whether you want to just Marshall or race; join me at the next WAR race on 22nd April, with 5K, 10K or an epic 20K – there is a distance for everyone!

Bear Grylls Survival Race

When I signed up for Bear Grylls Survival Race, I was extremely excited. When someone famous puts there name against an event, you would be wouldn’t you. I watch many of the Bear Grylls programmes, so I suppose the expectations were high!

I had no idea what to expect from this, the teaser videos I had seen did not actually give much away in terms of the obstacles you were expected to face. I knew we would have to participate in survival challenges, but to what exactly they would be – none of my fellow racers had a clue.

We arrived at the Wimpole Estate, on a very windy Saturday morning, in plenty of time for our 9:30am wave. This gave us ample time to suss out the “festival” and the obstacles you could see at the event village; where we saw the famous “Mountain” obstacle – which remained closed throughout the event due to high winds.

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As with many OCR races I have completed, I expected an element of cross country running, obstacles, mud and water. What we actually experienced was more cross country running than usual; for the first ten minutes we spent running through the woodlands of the estate all we saw in regards to obstacles was a tree trunk placed along the footpath.

The obstacles themselves were very few and far between. Some were virtually impossible for most (rolling a boulder across the field, climbing ropes and then attempting a tight rope), so most got a “penalty” of bear crawling for not completing the obstacle.

The majority of the better obstacles were within the event village, but to be honest I was far from impressed. Of all the OCR races I have completed, this was the most disappointing. There were more tasks than obstacles, with Jerry Can and Hammer carries seeming to be thrown in wherever possible. There was no mud and only ankle deep water. The obstacles in the event village were of good quality; however the biggest attraction was closed.

I finished this race extremely deflated. This event cost a fair amount to participate, the additional charges were completely unnecessary (£15 for spectators and £10 for parking), obstacles were closed and there was no sign of Bear Grylls himself.  We did receive an email in attempt to redeem themselves a few days later – stating we could attend a future event for £25, due to the fact that they had to close the obstacles. However, with the Summer fast coming to an end the chances of the weather being suitable for all obstacles is fast dwindling and to be quite honest – I would rather spend my money elsewhere.

Although myself and my fellow team mates managed to enjoy ourselves together; I would not recommend this event. Here you are simply paying for the Bear Grylls name, that’s it. The only pro being that you get free event photos – not that there were many obstacles to photograph.

There are far better organised and planned out OCR races that I would advise others to sign up for. I have never finished a race of this type almost completely dry and mud free.

Maybe if they were to make vast improvements I would consider running this again – but not as it stands. It seems I am not the only one who has such opinion either; with other racers taking to social media to express similar views to mine. Enough said!

With a couple of 10k races left this year, including what should be a very muddy, challenging OCR race with Commando Series – I have more opportunities to get dirty before the events of 2017 kick in.