Mud, Sweat and Beer

So in a bid to keep me motivated and training over the last few months of the year (didn’t work) I entered a couple of races, the Marlow Half Marathon (covered here) and then for some reason best known to myself I also entered the Mens Health Survival of the Fitest race, the last time it would be run in Battersea Power Station.Battersea Power Station

Thanks to Octavia, the logistics were pretty easy with the family dropping me off at the entrance (and several hours later picking up a dirty, tired but elated version of the same person).  Walking into the temporary village that had been set up to cater for the athletes and spectators it was clear this was a well organised affair.  It needed to be, with 12000 athletes taking part in waves starting every 15 minutes the registration, bag drop, warm up and race start was pretty slick.  I joined the queue to register, filtered through to get in the next queue to get my t-shirt by passing through the tent (Note to anyone running a large registration for an event, don’t make the athlete go back through the queue once s/he has registered) and then strolled out to start getting ready.

The earlier clear blue skies and chill in the air had been replaced with cloud with a threat of rain, I joined what I hoped was the end of a very long queue for bag drop and got myself ready, removing all valuables and tech.  Shuffling forward with my bag as the queue moved forward at a faster pace then I expected, in the process losing my tag for my bag, handy.  At the front of the queue, I grabbed a replacement tag which had my race number written on, attached to the bag and strolled back out of the tent, just 20 minutes to kill now until the start of my wave, 10 minutes or so until I entered the start holding / warm up area.  There was a brief appearance by the sun which was nice and I headed off to the on site barbers to see what the queue was like for a free haircut, too long for my start time, but the tent was heated and a good place to hide.

Ten minutes before the start of my race my wave was allowed into the holding / start area, for a quick briefing about the various signs we would see on the route, the obligatory cheering and shouting, which for once I found myself taking part in and enjoying, followed by an even bigger shock, the warm up!  Yep I even did some of the jumping around and stretching ahead of the countdown from 10…9…8…

…3…2…1 and with a loud cheer we were off, except only the front row was, the first obstacles were large hay bales which backed the wave up as people clambered over the bales, but also meant that the rest of the obstacles didn’t require any wait before tackling, the race was essentially broken into thirds, the first part around Battersea Power station, a run into the Battersea Park, and then back into Battersea Power Station for the final set of obstacles (including the nice muddy pools, a person with a fire hose, cold water, and the wall at the end)

To get an idea of the course and the obstacles there is a handy review with photos and videos from the event that you can watch here.

The course was great, loved it, the way it works you are gradually built up so that when it comes to the muddy water filled pools that you crawl through you don’t care, you just get in and crack on with it, by then you’ve got wet doing a lap of the Battersea Park running track, once with a traffic cone, (of course) and then with steeplechase jumps, the last being a water jump which as I entered the track I saw someone fall into rather than jump into, getting considerably wetter than expected.

The third of the race that added the distance in Battersea Park was the hardest part for me, my running fitness not being that great at the moment, I was certainly amused running past the Peace Pagoda in the park, which Barnaby and I used to use as the marker for starting a sprint, I tried to pick up the pace and went past some people who had just over taken me, but soon dropped back to the pace I knew I could survive.  Looking around I was still being overtaken by people in my wave, which was nice, by the time I completed the second lap of the running track the wave after us was coming through.

After the run through the park it was nice to get back into the power station grounds knowing I’d be facing lots of obstacles over long running, people were heading out to the park still, climbing through the cars and finding the one with the working horn to great cheers from those around, there were queues again for some of the obstacles as fast people from the wave behind us were pushing through (note: if you want a fast time, get in an early wave) amused by someone behind me complaining that another bloke was holding her up, I didn’t care, and I’m not sure that anyone around her did, maybe she felt better for it.  Coming up on to where the fire hose was, was an exercise in getting wetter and muddier, jumping into water filled skips of various depths.  A few people were avoiding the fuller skips and ponds, I didn’t really see the point and happily waded in, or crawled through, I’d signed up to get wet and muddy and I wanted my monies worth ;-) the camaraderie was great throughout the event with people offering help on all of the walls and higher obstacles, it was also great seeing teams racing together and waiting for each other having completed an obstacle.

So my first obstacle race, but not my last.

And the beer at the end, tasted amazing.