Position: 222/432 (Gender Position: 40, Category Position: 25)
I originally signed up to this race as a ‘test run’ for Tough Mudder Scotland, which is now 4 weeks away. I also liked the idea of a multi-terrain race speckled with obstacles – - and mud! Unfortunately, after my LETR (longest EVER training run) last Sunday, my calf has been giving me jip, so much so, that I had only run 3 gentle miles this week. I was a bit apprehensive about running as I:
- Didn’t want to be in crap loads of pain afterwards, and
- Didn’t want to injure myself further.
Clearly I am not often described as sensible, and so armed with 4 meters of bandage wrap from Superdrug, I got ready for the race. I had stayed over at my friend Grant’s house the night before, as he lives in Ellon close to The Meadows Sports Centre, so I also had a delightful rendition of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ courtesy of his 8 month old niece’s sing along book. Way to get PUMPED! Here is what I looked like before he 12k course:
The Meadows Sports Centre had plenty of room to get changed in, and plenty of toilets so that queuing wasn’t so bad (although this could have been down to limited entry numbers). After picking up my t-shirt, timing chip and race bib from registration, I mulled around with my friend Grant, who unfortunately missed the small window between registration opening and entries filling up. I also chatted with Ronnie, from the gym, Niall, Rhona, and Kynon (pronounced Kin-non, not K-eye-non, as I initially thought – pronunciation really doesn’t come across well on Twitter!).
We were to set off in 4 different waves, the colour of your race bib indicating the wave you were allocated to. Wave 1 was orange, Wave 2 was yellow, Wave 3 was blue, and Wave 4 was green. I was in the blue wave, and a few minutes after the yellow wave set off, we were being counted down to start.
I set off at a reasonable pace, mainly because I wanted to make sure running on my sore (I’d rate it 6.5/10 for pain at the start) calf was not crippling. After about a minute, the pain numbed into a dull ache, and I decided to ignore it for the rest of the race. Just as I settled into my stride the pack came to an abrupt halt. “The first of many,” a fellow runner commented, throwing me an eyeball roll. We were waiting for runners to navigate single file down some steps to a riverside path.
Once down, it was good to get moving again, but the narrow path made it difficult to overtake, so I guess I was successful at not shooting off too quickly! Eventually the path widened out, and, despite being branched in the face by a gentleman directly in front of me (who laughed when he heard my ‘Oooof’ as my face got owned), this section was rather uneventful. The gentlemen did say it was unintentional, but had it been his son, it would be another story!
After crossing a bridge and running/sliding through the woods, things started to get interesting. I can’t remember the exact order of the obstacles, but there were plenty of hay bales, which I didn’t realize would be so tall! It was a bit of an effort pushing myself over them, but they’re much easier at the start – to that I can attest! There were also a couple of sections where we had to crawl under netting, which was easy enough to get through. The real ball buster, for me, was the damn Ythan River!
I should make you aware, reader, that I am not a fan of the cold. It is mid June, and I haven’t changed any of my heating settings from January. Friends often complain that my flat is like a sauna and could I not, “put on a [censored] sweater?!” I recall watching an episode of Bear Grylls: Man Does Stuff that Inevitably Ends in Nude Push-ups. In this episode, it is explained that one of the dangers of jumping into ice-cold water is a heart attack because of the shock your body experiences. I feel that I was not far off from experiencing this horror today after trudging through the ‘bog’ and then sliding into the freezing river.
As soon as the cold water surrounded me, I was rendered completely useless. All I could do was take short, sharp gasps for air while I stood tit-deep, paralyzed in the river, wide-eyed and stunned. Now, I can’t remember how the topic came up, but one evening a few years ago, my boyfriend and I were discussing rape. I argued that unless the attacker had a gun to my head, or something similar, it would be practically impossible for him to rape me. Ian disagreed, and said that with brute force, rape would be achievable on my person, especially by someone with his strength. This led to 30 minutes of pretty aggressive wrestling on our part, concluding with his admission of defeat. Status: un-rapable. Well, future-potential-rapists, I have found my kryptonite – freezing water.
Thankfully (for me), there was one other woman experiencing the same reaction to the cold as I was. After several moments, we grabbed each others’ hand and started moving – quickening steadily with a goal of getting out of the water! Once we’d been hauled out, we set to running again, feeling the extra weight of wet kit for the first time. Soon we were faced with a second dip in the Ythan, but thankfully it was much shallower here (thigh-deep), and it wasn’t so traumatizing wading through. Unfortunately, this is when I got a heap of grit inside my shoes (and socks, somehow) that caused me to stop no less than 3 times during the course to remove a shoe (and sock), wipe away the grit as best I could, peel my wet shoe (and sock) back on, and start up again.
It was around this time that I had a spectacular face-plant into the muddy trail, landing hard on my wrist and knee. I’m sure I was the picture of grace, but I brushed myself off and kept going.
Amongst the pleasures devised for us on the rest of the course were more hay bales, tree trunks to hurdle over (including one with a ridiculously robust twig that snagged a ridiculously sensitive part of my anatomy – thankfully I was still numb from the cold water), tyres and tubes to crawl through, and neon sticks to run (uphill) through whilst trying to avoid smacking yourself in the face (unsuccessful).
Once we passed the 10k mark, there was an audible sigh of relief from the runners, and we soldiered on to the field where we started. I had been warned that those trickster race organizers would have more treats to greet us before the finish line, so I wasn’t surprised to see some steep up- and downhill parts to conquer before the end as well as yet more bales of hay! After the final bale, it was the home stretch, and I broke into a sprint (why do I always feel the need?!) to overtake the woman ahead of me. I crossed the finish line and proceeded to gasp for breath and experience extreme nausea, as normal, before realizing I hadn’t stopped my Garmin, as normal. After bagging the medal and some water (thank you Kynon!), popping some painkillers, and seeing Rhona cross the finish line, I found Grant and headed for the showers, which were totally necessary. Witness:
Overall, I had a great time. The race was really well organized, and the marshals were extremely helpful, particularly the ones who were stuck in the river guiding everyone through, and those who helped haul people out of the bog and river! The route was clearly signposted with red and white tape, and they had bananas at the finish line! I would definitely come back next year (if I can get a spot in time) and I’m pretty psyched about Tough Mudder next month. And I must say – that’s one really sleek medal, guys, bravo!
And now? Time to pop some more painkillers, ice my calf, and plan work for tomorrow.