A Marathon Virgin's Journey to the Virgin London Marathon
On the 9th of November… it was time for the Spartan Beast Race, and after people complaining it wasn’t hard enough last year… They made damn sure it delivered this year, along with the help of the British Weather.
After massive amounts of rainfall and getting stuck in traffic, we arrived at Pippingford Park and started our race an hour after the last heat left, at 1:30. Luckily they let us begin the race, as we signed our lives away in the waivers.
And so… We set off on what we knew would be a difficult journey.
As the race began, there was no doubt the water was seriously cold, and the torrential rain and wind made it impossible to get warm while running.
Before long, we were having to swim through bogs and swamps, parts of which you would be neck deep and your leg would get caught, sinking up to your hip. We’d decided to cover as much distance as we could before it got dark, as it was hard enough to navigate in daylight and the last thing we wanted was to be on our own in the dark.
Jamil was also struggling with his ankle, and after a difficult decision, he made us go on without him as myself and Howie were beginning to really struggle with the cold.
The obstacles themselves were brilliant; 40foot monkey bars over freezing water, a 30foot rope climb, atlas ball carries, tyre flipping and 30foot climbs up slippery slopes with nothing to grab onto. The biggest obstacle, however, was the cold.
Not only had they decided to make a good percentage of the course in water… They’d added ice to some of it too!
By the 15k point, the smiles had been wiped off everybody’s face as it became a mission to stay warm enough to make it to the finish line, and many people began to give up.
I’ve done loads of difficult obstacle races this year, but this is the first one where I can say I saw absolutely everybody struggle.
People were being taken out of the race due to hypothermia, and others refused to give up but walked on with foil blankets, not even responding to people checking they were ok. It was pretty scary stuff.
The weather had got so bad that many of the volunteers manning the checkpoints and obstacles had gone back to the main area, making it a lot harder to get people help.
I then gave the last of my energy bars and Shot Blox to a man suffering with hypothermia, making the last 10k even harder.. But there was no way I wouldn’t be finishing the race.
The cold had got to the point where we were shivering uncontrollably, our hands wouldn’t grip anything and every movement made our joints hurt.
You know a race is hard when nobody says a word, you just hear grunting. As it began to get dark, our pace quickened as we began to worry we wouldn’t be able to make the finish line if the temperature dropped much more.
It’s funny how you get another burst of energy when it’s actually necessary.
I don’t remember much of the final 10k but I can say I’ve never been so glad to get near the end of a race. The last part involved carrying an atlas ball, then climbing up slope using a rope. I managed to get to the top but there was then a rope down. Until this point, this has always been my best and favourite obstacle… But I was now at the top and my arms wouldn’t work to grip or hold onto anything. I ended up coming back down the slope, failing to hold on to the rope and hitting the floor hard, head first. Then there was the final obstacle… a 30 foot rope climb.
Needless to say, I had no hope and did the final 30 burpees of my 2013 Trifecta. The happiest 30 burpees of my life.
The Spartan gladiator stood between me and the finishing line, and although he barely touched me, he sent me flying before I crossed the finish line. And that was it - SPARTAN TRIFECTA complete!
We were given our Beast medal, and were told we have to wait for the trifecta to be sent to us. Something which I saw make a few people go mental in the form of shouting or crying. How they had enough energy to do that… I’ve no idea.
We stood by the fire until Jamil made it to the finishing area, and just like that… The three of us had done it. Nearly 30k, soaking wet in 2c temperatures, and it definitely felt that long and cold.
A few hours later I could feel my feet again. And after a good 15 hour sleep.. apart from having the shakes, a massive headache and an awful cold, I feel fricking awesome!
The Spartan Beast… Truly living up to it’s name, and the first race I’ve ever reached the end and thought I couldn’t possibly manage another 100m. The London Marathon literally seemed a walk in the park compared.
Massive thanks to the Spartan Race team - there may have been a few issues with organising (and hundreds of cars getting stuck in the flooded field) but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the 2013 Spartan Race Season - and will no doubt be getting a 2014 Race Pass (and some neoprene clothing!)
On Saturday, it was time to travel West to Wiltshire on 3 hours sleep. This meant catching the first train and going on my own into the middle of nowhere to effectively roll in mud, and come home again.
My dedication to these races has hit an all time high, and I’m determined to finish off this season far stronger than I started.
After being delayed for over an hour on the London Underground, I sprinted for my last train only to miss it by two minutes. I then didn’t have time for food, and had to go to Kemble; a different place in the middle of nowhere.
The next step was to travel for 40 minutes in a taxi… with a taxi driver who apparently had no idea where he was going and would rather not listen to my satnav. I arrived at Charlton House with about one minute to spare.
Changing my top in the middle of the car park, as I had now lost all hope and dignity, I ran to the baggage tent (which luckily had no queue!) and practically threw my belongings at the unsuspecting lady standing there.
The next thing I knew… the 10 second countdown was beginning, so I sprinted across the grass to the start line and straight through it, starting at the back of the pack.
So that was the first challenge before I even began the race.
The course itself was brilliant; with a freezing water swim just as you warm up from running, and plenty of obstacles, many of which I’d not yet encountered on mud runs.
There were overhanging walls to climb, and even a pyramid of hay bales which were different ones! These were of course accompanied by the usual mud crawls, wall climbs and hurdles.
The course had a 6k and 12k route, both of which were brilliantly set out and organised.
Along the route there were many marshals and first aiders; another thing you don’t see too commonly on mud runs.
Personally, I loved the fact there was a short distance between obstacles, as I enjoy the obstacles more than anything, and see the running as more of a way to simply get to the next obstacle or challenge.
A brilliantly organised run, full of innovative obstacles and friendly volunteers. Well done Monster Race!
And so… Having run 18k by Saturday evening, I decided there was nothing better than a massive gym session on Sunday morning.
Blog again soon! We have the Spartan Beast coming up next Saturday - the hardest one yet! Holly x
I took part in today’s Zombie Evacuation Race, based in Pippingford Park.
Having done similar events in the same military base, I thought I knew what I was expecting… I didn’t.
The race wasn’t physically demanding and the course was 5k; avoiding most of the hills and not using any water obstacles, however the zombies made the entire event AMAZING!
There were sections of the course involving crawling beneath obstacles, and some shed-type areas filled with fog where you were suddenly bombarded by zombies. As ridiculous as it sounds, you actually begin to feel as if you are in a real situation.
Every time a group would come across a zombie (or ten) they’d all freeze and work out who would be sacrificed and go at the front. The great thing was that this run was more tactical than just running and climbing.. You really had to think about tactics and plan your route to avoid becoming ‘infected’.
The starting area was made to look like a military base and there was creepy music playing through the woods. The idea was that we had to get back to safety without becoming a zombie.
Each runner was given a belt with three Velcro tags on. If all three tags were taken by the zombies, you were classed as ‘infected’ when you finished. There were also antidotes hiding along the course which meant you would be a ‘survivor’ regardless of how many tags you had left at the end.
As you got closer to the end, the number of zombies increased and inside a shelter filled with fog I lost my last two tags, in sight of the finish line.
Then there is the final section - filled with zombies which means the only way through is to run for your life (always helped by the adrenaline and cheering crowd!)
Then the finish line; a final crawl before you’re presented with your medal, t-shirt and the best cup of water ever.
I’d say that this run is suitable for everyone (who isn’t terrified of zombies and mud) - everything can be taken at your own pace and everyone has a great time.
Zombie Evacuation was perfect for those who want a great day out… After all, what is better than being chased by a bunch of zombies on a Sunday afternoon?
Having had wisdom tooth problems, I was referred to a specialist for an emergency appointment on Friday. Having not had much sleep, I couldn’t help but notice how comfortable the dentist’s chair was.
Next thing I knew, the lady was yanking my wisdom tooth out, and it wasn’t too much fun. My lovely lie-down suddenly didn’t feel so relaxing.
I decided to stay awake so I’d know what they actually did… As last time I had two out, I literally felt as though someone had beaten my face up.
It’s happened again, but only on one side. So there’s only one hamster cheek and one black eye. Plus, my painkillers aren’t making me feel drugged… So I can at least pretend I feel fine. HOORAY!
Wisdom teeth really aren’t that full of wisdom… Otherwise they’d know they’d be pulled out for acting like assholes.
I got to keep my tooth this time, so technically I still have that bit of wisdom. Score!
Sunday’s workout has destroyed me.
I’ve done tough workouts and been achey before but this is in a league of its own. I seriously hurt.
The only way I can describe it is the feeling you get when you do sit-ups til you drop… That second where you relax the muscles as you stop, with the burning feeling. But ten times as bad.
I knew I was pushing myself during the workout as it hurt like hell, but that usually just lets me know I’m working hard enough.
I even like the ache after exercise, as I feel I’ve accomplished something.
But this… I do not like.
Fingers crossed I’ve not done any damage to my stomach muscles and will soon be able to sit up again without rolling onto my front.
That and my wisdom tooth is being a bastard. There’s no space in my mouth for it so it’s kicking up a fuss. It needs to man up. So do I.
I’ve got tomorrow morning off so I’m gonna try that sleep thing - It sounds pretty good!
Having been asked numerous times to explain how I train and diet, I have decided to post regular updates and might even share some of my secrets.
The first secret being that in terms of diet, I do nothing. I eat anything and everything. Apart from cinnamon, that tastes like crap.
I’m a strong believer in eating whatever you fancy, whenever you fancy and just leaping around a bit to burn it off. That way, you have plenty of energy and I’ve also noticed progression much more quickly.
There are only two rules I have:
- Don’t eat a massive meal before a workout. It’s gurgley.
- Drink loads of water
Every morning I do 50 sit-ups, 20 press-ups and then hold a plank for as long as possible before crawling downstairs to eat Weetabix. It’s a brilliant way to start the day as it wakes you up and can also be done in bed, meaning you don’t have to get cold.
Today I went to the gym and did a whole body workout as follows:
- Treadmill - 5 min walk, 15 min run, 1 minute sprint, 10 minute run
- 15kg dumbbell press - 10 x 3 sets
- 15kg dumbbell flye - 10 x 3 sets
- 300lb leg press - 10 x 3 sets
- Leg lift push-down - 30 x 3 sets (10 down, 10 left, 10 right per set)
- Ab roller - 15 x 3 sets
- Plank - 2 minutes
- 20 kg Bicep curls - 10 x 3 sets
- Pushdowns - 10 x 3 sets
- Leg extensions - 10 x 3 sets
- Arm bike machine - 8 minutes
- 30 minute swim
- 1 hour badminton
I don’t tend to do weights as I gain muscle mass quickly, but thought I’d mix up the normal routine to incorporate a bit more strength training.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a ballot place in this year’s Virgin London Marathon, but it just means I’ll have more time to train before I do get a place.
Having had a charity place last year, I absolutely loved the support we were given, and managed to raise over £1800 for CLIC Sargent… But it was seriously hard work to raise the money they ask for, and as much as I’d love to - I won’t be able to dedicate enough of my time to that this year.
I have also lost another of my training partners… Tom
Tom is my cat, and he liked to fall asleep on top of wardrobes, often plummeting to the ground and waking up surprised. Unfortunately he did that one too many times and ended up passing away yesterday on the way to the vets.
He used to chase me around the house… Anywhere I ran, he’d run too. He’d even do a figure of 8 running in and out of my legs.
He also liked to try to sleep on my face, partially suffocating me.. But we won’t go into that now.
So RIP to the only thing I’ve ever known to beat me running up the stairs, and thank you for an awesome 13 years.
Here he is, asleep - doing what appears to be the Thriller dance.
On a positive note, I’ve been nominated for ‘My Local Hero’ in the Fundraising category and am through to the final three! This means I’ll have to dress up like a female and attend a 3 course dinner and awards ceremony on the 29th November at the Hilton. Crazy times!
If things always went to plan… Life would be boring. That’s what I say to make myself feel better.
Saturday I took part in the 10k Hyde Park Run, and having told myself I’d take it easy in preparation for Sunday’s event… I ran my little legs off and got a PB of 39:52.
Then I went to a wedding where I danced in heels for hours, and drank just enough alcohol to hate myself in the morning.
Sunday morning I woke up aching, and headed off to Salisbury Plain to do the Gurkha Run Half Marathon with my friends; a 13 mile course usually used to test military tanks, full of natural obstacles.
I should probably mention at this point, that I promised Nick’s mum that I’d bring him back in one piece… As a joke. He is also my training partner, and one of the few people brave enough to join me in the races I sign up for..
3 miles into the race we reached some waist-depth murky water with sinky mud at the bottom, and Nick managed to fall. My initial reaction was to laugh, until I noticed what can only be described as a large piece of his shin, missing.
Before long, Nick was on the floor with his leg in the air and white as a sheet, but still determined to finish the race. He’d not yet looked at what he’d done, but I reckon my unconvincing “it’s fine”s may have given it away..
Long story short, we were taken in a Jeep to an ambulance, and then to Basingstoke hospital, where Nick had operations and much leg-poking before finally being let free (watch out!) on Wednesday.
He now hobbles around the house, watching movies and hating being a cripple.
This is also the first time I’ve ever not been the one ending up injured, so I’ve thoroughly enjoyed throwing abuse at him wherever possible… Like a good friend.
On a serious note, wishing him a speedy recovery and I’m sure he’ll be kicking some ass in a marathon before long!
A MASSIVE well done to Jo who finished the run in 2 hours 12 minutes, and still managed to look this great!
She’s even agreed to do another race with me! Happy days!
And so… that is the tale of last weekend. The moral of the story is to always wear leggings in obstacle races. Even man leggings. It’s better to lose some dignity than to lose some leg.
Also, it’s probably not wise to join me in signing up for ridiculous races, and I’m a terrible friend, and a very bad influence.
Having completed the Spartan Sprint last month, and deciding I wanted to get the trifecta (by doing all three levels of race) - I went off to Birmingham to take part in the Super Spartan this weekend.
Simply put, it’s a very long obstacle course. This one involved a lot of carrying, running, dragging tyres and dodging underneath things.
Compared to Pippingford Park’s Spartan Sprint, the course was (obviously) much longer, and also had a lot less mud. It did however, have a lot more slippery hills and obstacles.
Spartan races begin with everyone getting warmed up by a ‘Spartan’. Basically a man in pants with a cape and gold mask. Your average attire…
The circuit involved huge amounts of lifting… Concrete blocks, tree trunks, tyres, water containers, boxes full of stones - and mostly while you walked up and down some seriously steep (and slippery) hills.
Unfortunately, I was the first person I saw fall on the course, as I slipped going downhill with an ammo box and went flying into some brambles. I did, however look substantially more badass with the scratches on my leg.
The course was brilliant and had plenty of other obstacles; cargo net climbs, monkeybars, spear throws and fire jumps… pretty much anything you can imagine.
The second lap of the course involved carrying a brick with you… All the way… Through every obstacle. Oddly, I found myself becoming attached to my brick; which I named Miley Cyrus, after much thought.
Miley was often thrown through obstacles, and was once dropped and lost for a few moments within the murky waters, before being picked up and making it back to the finish line. Then I took Miley Cyrus home with me and left her in the porch.
After going through registration for the Sprint last month and realising I’d left my GoPro in the car… I made sure I had it with me this time, and aside from making my head feel strangely heavy, it was great!
I managed to get footage of all obstacles in the first lap, and about 4k into the second lap before the battery died - here it is… Enjoy!
And so, that’s pretty much all there is to say about the Super Spartan… It was amazing, and I’m seriously excited to do the Spartan Beast next month.
Months ago I applied to take part in the Bupa Westminster Mile; as I’ve become somewhat addicted to challenging myself.
A week ago I received an email saying I’d been moved into the UK Championships for the race. I double checked this was correct, as I’m ok at running but by no means UK championship standard. They said yes. I was a little baffled.
Today I turned up ready for the race and as I’d thought, I was held in a holding pen of many many women who looked like they fell out of the Olympics. Their legs were about twice the length of mine and they towered over me like… Towers.
I also had my phone confiscated as you’re not allowed to listen to music when running in championships. Something which scared me a little more, as I started to realise what I’d got myself in to.
So we were brought up to the start line and had our names read out to the crowds who cheered us on… When the 5 second call happens.
Suddenly all the women around me take some stance as if they’re ready to sprint away. The klaxon goes off and they do exactly that.
Being extremely competitive, I kept up with them and even decided to overtake as many as I could… Then after about half way I realised I’d been a bit silly as I could barely breathe.
I carried on running and was overtaken by one in the last 100m when to my absolute shock I heard over the loudspeaker than I’d finished in 5th place!
How on earth this happened, I’ve no idea. I know I ran fast and panicked about looking slow but I’ve never run a mile competitively in my life… So to come 5th in the UK Championships is just a little bit of a shock.
As soon as I crossed the finish line I doubled over with the urge to throw up when I noticed Mo Farah looking at me… A little bit embarrassing.
I then got to stand on a podium with him, which is something I never thought I’d say.
So it was a truly amazing day. And I’d gone from expecting to be in a mass fun-run to being in a highly competitive UK championship heat.
Also got a hello from Hannah England and David Weir which was cool. They were all lovely!
What a day!
And so, I shall go to sleep! The Watford game at Wembley awaits tomorrow!