Posts Tagged ‘muddy


grim challenge race review-smells like team spirit

Kurt Cobain would, no doubt, be spinning in his grave if he could see the dreadful wordplay above but it was too good an opportunity for a pun to miss. Besides, it sums up the ethos of Grim so well it would have been rude not to.
I’d been looking forward to this for weeks… the postponement from it’s original date only serving to make me more keen. So it was, a little before 9a.m. in a field somewhere near Aldershot, myself and Hauling My Carcass stood shivering and discussing how we “should have brought a wooly hat”. The weather forecast had said 9 degrees (positively tropical in comparison to the last month) but failed to mention the chill factor of the wind making it feel more like 2 or 3 degrees.
We had arranged to meet with FitArtist (see her review of the day, complete with pictures here) by “the yellow skip near the Beer Tent” so wandered over, met up and watched Hector play in the puddles before heading to the start. Having done the race before, I knew what to expect but there were a few nervous looking faces around. “Remember, if it looks like more than a puddle, it probably is” and with those words from the announcer we were off.
I learnt two things last year. The first was that there is no point avoiding puddles as it only prolongs the inevitable so it is best to get the first soaking over with early on. With this in mind, I decided at the first sizeable puddle, to run through it. The second piece of wisdom that I discovered last time was that the puddles tend to not just be puddles – they can be deceptively deep and very uneven. I remembered this half way through the first puddle of the day when I took my second step within the water and found that the ground just dropped away from under me causing me to trip and fall forward into the puddle. It wasn’t a text book face-plant but wasn’t far off and I scrambled back up and carried on, very wet and with one hand covered in a strange green clay-like slime from the murky depths. This obviously raised a “dropped plate in the school dinner hall” type cheer from all the onlookers assembled near the start.
Grim is not a race to be taken too seriously ( in front of me at one point was a gentleman who had the legend “if you’re at the front, you are taking this too seriously” written in marker pen on the back of his shirt), so HMC, Fitartist and I had decided to stick together, picking our way single file through the sometimes congested trails. The race covers many different types of terrain and the first 4 miles is full of knee deep puddles and varying surfaces. Through particularly deep or tricky puddles, we clung to each other for stability, sometimes catching others around as they stumbled and it is this cameraderie that really sums up the event. It is a silly idea – running around an army vehicle testing site – and anybody who takes part is advised to bring a sense of humour – there were a few people who looked like they weren’t enjoying it but they were very much in the minority with most prefering to muddily smile their way around the course. There were tough parts – running across exposed scrubland headlong into a wind, the only audible sound the crackle of runners race numbers flapping violently in the gusts. Other parts brought a smile to everyones faces – the muddy waist high swamp followed by the waist high puddle full of hundreds of little yellow rubber ducks. I was fortunate to have Fitartist just behind me for most of the time so my race was punctuated was little gasps, shrieks and giggles as she plunged into swamps and through puddles.

Oh no... another Grim/music related pun!!!

After the big swamp/puddle at between 4 and 5 miles, the race becomes mentally and physically tougher as it opens up to long stretches of running through woodland paths and up several inclines on already tired legs. The sounds of the finish line drifts across the route, making the end sounding closer than it actually is and the last mile is full of short, tough inclines and slippery descents. Both HMC and Fitartist seemed to be struggling toward the end, the former because this was the furthest he had run in the last 6 months and the latter because she has been running each day throughout Janathon. Had I been in either of those positions, I would have been significantly further down the field so hats off to them both for pushing so hard. A final loop with the finish in sight, one more wade through a big puddle and we were, 8.8 miles later, wet, smiling and over the line.
It is such a great event – well organised, fun, unlike anything else I have experienced. Fellow competitors are a friendly bunch and the sense of satisfaction (and this years very cool finishers t-shirt) are great.
And now I remember why we vowed to do it again the moment we finished last year. Fortunately, this year there are other Grim events so am now off to sign up for their Beast In The East….

Soundtrack to this post: Tommy McCook – Heatwave


It’s Grim… Race Report

No Car Blues – Swampland – The Grin Challenge

Anyone who read my last post will now that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to tackling the Grim Challenge. This was solely because of the intensity of the last few weeks, starting a new job, doing a large amount of driving and not very much sleeping. So the thought of tackling a notoriously muddy, cold and wet 8 mile run on very little sleep and 2 weeks of no training did not fill me with joy.
Add to this the fact that the dealership that were supplying me with my company car (and my transport to the race) failed to get it sorted and I was, less than 12 hours before planning to leave for the race, still trying to organise (for the 3rd time!!!) delivery of the car that was to get me there. After a fairly abrupt phone call to the dealership during which I threw many toys out of the pram, they assured me that the car would be with me at 7a.m. on Saturday morning – 35 minutes before I was due to leave for the race!
True to their word, the car was delivered at 7a.m. and I quickly checked it over, signed all the paperwork and then threw all my bags in the back and headed off to Aldershot.
I arrived a little before 9a.m., met up with Hauling My Carcass and his LG and went about getting prepared, dumping my bag, visiting the Portaloo… the usual pre-race routine. The assembled competitors and the smell of Ralgex lifted my mood and I was by now very much looking forward to what lay ahead. There were many overheard conversations about the mud, the water, injuries obtained in previous years. Hauling My Carcass and I assembled at the Start and I felt it only right that we should celebrate this moment so I reached down, took some mud and smeared a little on each of our faces. We were ready.
We had been advised to avoid the puddles for as long as possible but once the race had begun, trying to stay dry and clean seemed futile so headed straight through the first puddles we could find. The first mile is fairly easy and we had decided to tackle the race at a steady, easy pace. Aiming to run at 10 minute miles, I quickly settled into a rhythm. A few big puddles and a hill in the first 20 minutes set the tone for the first half of the race and very soon I was really enjoying being there, amongst other runners, ploughing through mud and puddles, across scrubby fields and along rutted woodland paths. At the 4 mile mark, we were slightly off 40 mins so within our target time. This was the only time I checked the watch and things were about to get much more demanding.

It's all about to get very messy.

We could hear shrieks from a few hundred yards ahead and were soon about to find out why. A long puddle, thigh deep and stretching for about 75 metres in front. And the first sign of spectators. Loads of them, lined up with cameras and football rattles, gathered to watch us all, run, wade and slide our way through the mixture of dirty water, mud and clay that slowed us all to a sticky, trudging lurch. What makes these swampy obstacles more demanding is that you have no idea how deep it is going to get and every step becomes tentative. One minute you are up to your ankles, the next step takes you thigh deep and you emerge unable to feel your feet and a good portion of your lower limbs. But you cannot help but enjoy it. There is something hugely fun about disregarding any worries about your timing and just concentrating on staying upright and finishing. The remaining 4 miles are tougher than the first four, with a cargo net, more puddles, more swamp and a very technical final 2 miles that takes you up and down inclines, through a series of craters and finally through another long deep puddle just a few hundred yards before the finish. I was beginning to find it hard at about 6 and a half miles, weighed down with water and clay. I was regretting not being able to train for the past couple of weeks and also only tackling approximately 10kms in the runs I had managed. As I neared the finish, I was glad the end was in sight but also really enjoying myself. I must have looked absurd as I waded through the final “water feature” and crossed the line with a huge grin on my face. My time was 1:35:53 but that wasn’t important. I had finished the Grim Challenge and had a great time in the process. It is messy, and uncomfortable at times but that is the point. And the feeling of acheivement and the look on everyone’s mud spattered faces as they finished is second to none.

Soundtrack to this post: Police Truck – Dead Kennedys


and now for something completely different

Selective Memory – Here Comes The Rain – Dirty Boots

I swear that when I entered the Wheathampstead 10k, there was no mention of it being “off-road” and “challenging” but when I looked back at the blurb on the website, there it was. Clearly, I had found these descriptions too traumatic so had blocked them out. So, when I looked at the race pack that had arrived in the post and came across the above descriptions, it sent me into a dilemma… Challenging – How challenging? It’s only a 10k, surely I must be able to complete a 10k. How challenging can it be? (gulp!). I had a look at the website – the organisers had not posted a route so I was running blind. I looked at the Runners World reviews – they ranged from “beautiful, scenic” through to “something to challenge everyone”. Hmmm… suppose I was just going to have to find out for myself.

The weather first thing on Sunday was near perfect – light cloud cover, gentle breeze, a bit of rain the previous day so the ground wouldn’t be too hard or too soft. “Hope it stays like this” I thought.

It didn’t.

SonNumberOne was running the 2k and I was going to run with him as a warm up to the 10k. Half an hour before the 2k started, the heavens opened and everyone rushed into the race HQ to stay dry. Fortunately, just before the start of the 2k, the rain eased and became just a very sparse drizzle. The 2k passed in a flash and SonNumberOne seemed to enjoy it. There were a couple of bottle necks where we had to form an orderly queue to cross a bridge or file down a length of muddy single track with brambles on each side but 14minutes and 54 seconds later, we crossed the finish line and he picked up his medal. At that moment, he was the happiest 7 year old on the face of the planet.

Moments later, the heavens opened again. So, back into the race HQ for 20 minutes or so and then I was off to the start of the 10k. It was hammering down as we walked to the start and the it was a sea of kagouls and baseball caps as we made our way along the now very muddy track to the start.

At 11 o’clock, we were off and straight into a gentle uphill leading to a bridle path. The start was quite narrow, so everybody stayed in approximately the same order until about 1k, where the bridleway widened and it became possible to pass. I was feeling pretty good so craftilly nipped around a few other runners until I could hit my pace and had a bit of space to move. From the bridleway, we moved down a short, sharp slope and onto a mud track. I began to feel comfortable and hit my stride. Then at 4km there is a hill. About 1km long. Along the edge of a farmers field so the going is muddy and uneven. A gravelled path was next and then, in no particular order, a muddy downhill, some muddy steps (queue up, single file) another longish climb at 7km, a kissing gate (single file again) and a very muddy and slippery bit which meant that a few people literally had to hang on to the person next to them to steady themselves. After that, because of the twisty-turny nature of the course, the race HQ and finish line is visible with about 1 and a half km still to go.

My official time for the race was 59:37 although, oddly, there was no timing mat at the start of the race, so that time also includes the time it takes to get to the start line. My Garmin says I did it in 58:14.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable race. All of the races I have run up ’til now have been road races, all Half Marathons, all fairly large events. To run a 10k, off road, in a relatively small, local race made a pleasant change. The area at around the race HQ had the air of a village fete with a barbecue and a bouncy castle and everyone seemed to be smiling despite the rain. There were all ages there, from pushchairs to wheelchairs, an absence of in-your-face corporate sponsorship and a friendliness between competitors and from all the marshalls, giving the impression that the day was organised, first and foremost, to be a genuinely enjoyable run.

If you want a personal best, this is not the race for you as there is too much waiting to navigate obstacles and the hit and miss timing could be improved. But, if you want something enjoyable and inclusive and a little different, then next years race is on 23rd May 2010.

Soundtrack to this post: Black Ships Ate The Sky – Current 93

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