England, the origin country of my OCR team, my favorite obstacle racing country, so the 2016 UK Championship was something that I just HAD to do!
Only British citizens could enter the elite and age group divisions, but the Journeyman division was open to all. Additionally, best team awards were being given for Journeyman division. With this in mind, I and two Dutch teammates traveled to England to attend the event.
When landing, we saw the area and cars were covered in ice. It was COLD! Outside temperature only about 4 degrees Celsius and wind-chill below freezing point. Once we got to the site, we quickly made our way to the Team RAM tent. Some of the team already started. We had to wait until the Journeymen wave, which was the last wave to start.
While waiting for our heat, we watched elite racers struggle with the cold and obstacles. We realized it was going to be a tough one! I already was wearing winter proof tights and decided to go with the thermal baselayer as well.
Since we arrived early, we had a lot of time to meet up with friends and be amazed by the perseverance from so many people struggling at the obstacles. The drive, the motivation and the companionship of the Brits are why I love them so much. Always friendly, almost always humble.
Mark Leinster got us prepped and ready to run before taking off from the start line. After the countdown, the race took off with a quick run uphill. It only took me about a hundred until I felt my chest was about to explode, gasping in the freezing air, tasting metal and with my legs feeling like a post-leg day. I got startled. How was this happening? Was this how the entire 16km was going to be?
We then entered a bit of forest with lots of up and downhill. I regained a steady breathing pattern and started to get a steady pace. I managed to move up in the field and went past the first obstacle, some low inclining walls. We reached an area with the Monkeybars. They were positioned over water, with metal bars and weren’t exactly stable. I decided to do them sideways, making me able to skip every other bar. I was wearing gloves, mainly because of the cold, but decided to take them off. It was cold, but I didn’t feel I had a good grip on them.
Then came the Gladiator Rings. I saw people struggle to get past. I felt confident running up to the obstacle, but that slightly faded when reaching it. Got to my first try and managed to skip rings! No time wasted there, off to the next obstacle!
I feared the obstacle called Slack Lines, because of the dreaded Spartan Slacklines, but they ended up being a slackline with a rope above them to move across a small river. Then the Hoist, hoisting a tire and easing back down. Saw people lying on the ground to get their weight on the tire, but didn’t want to get on the cold ground so decided to do it upright.
I came into an open area where the Bucked Carry proved to be a pain. It was a soft, flexible bucket with two handles filled with sand. We had to carry it uphill and back. The flexibility of the bucked made me struggle a bit to get a good hold of it. I ended up hanging it on my back, gripping the handles with my arms around my neck.
Next was what I would call the “Bridge-of-uhh-was-that-all?”, into the water one side, climb up a cargo net and down a rope on the other side. Hardest part was climbing out of the water on the high bank on the other side. Heading back into the fields up to the trenches I realized the water wasn’t necessarily that cold, but the wind and slow pace made it feel a lot colder afterwards. I upped the pace and reached the trenches. They looked deep, so I sort of clumsily jumped into the first. Ended up being just below the knees, so almost face-planted into that one. Quickly over and through the remaining trenches, smiling at the camera and off towards the starting area again. This time it would be those feared obstacles!
First off Reapers Revenge(s), starting with a slippery inclining wall. Ran up towards the wall, completely slipped in the dirt in front of it and almost slammed into the wall. Retry and over I was. Next the Pentagon. Jumped up, grasped the ledge, pulled myself on and slid down the other side onto the ledge to prepare for the jump towards the third part. Third came the mini dragon-back. We saw a lot of people struggle there before we started, so I got kind of nervous. I decided to go for it, made the jump, grabbed the top and pulled myself over.
Next through a crawl, trying to keep my hands clean and off towards the Mud Monster Ninja Rings. Also an obstacle which proved to be an absolute band cutter. There was a line, which made me able to check out the competition and make up my mind on how to do the obstacle. I saw people struggle on the first two pegs. Not able to swing, because they would slam into the obstacle, they had a hard time getting the front ring to the next peg. I decided to try to start on the second and third peg. The first few pegs it was hard to get the swing in. I had to use some strength to manage without swinging, but then got a hang of it and quickly moved to the end without disrupting the left/right swinging.
After the rings was the first drinking post. Energy drinks, bars and bottles of water. I have bad experiences with drinking energy drinks during a run, so opted for the water. The water was stone-cold, so I decided only to take a few sips and move on.
Next came The Suffering: Legends Leap. A high wall with a hole at the bottom and followed by three climbing skulls. I wasn’t that tired yet and still excited by the rings, so got over it quickly.
Immediately afterward came another uphill part. I noticed people in front of me slowing down and quickly figured out why. It wasn’t that steep, but still inclining enough to take the air out of my lungs, making my legs burn and cooling down a lot because of a mild but steady wind. I did manage to overtake some and hadn’t been passed much since the first few obstacles.
Back into the woods came the Irish Kiss. I should’ve known this would be some Irish table. I saw people try to get over in different ways. The first one I saw was a technique I recognized from the Survival sports. After that, a few attempts just climbing over the beams with no result. I decided to give it a go. Gripped my arms around the beams from underneath, kicked my legs up and before I knew it I was on the other side. It went so fast I wondered if I made it over. The looks on the people in front of me confirmed I made it, so I was off into the woods.
After some lovely scenery again I ended up at the rope traverse. They warned us it would be a swim, a cold swim. I picked the first rope and started out cat crawling. I soon found out it wasn’t going as quick as I wanted because of the rope not being tight, so I swung around to continue traversing. The rope was slacking so much I was hanging in the water with my back and head. We were allowed to just use our hands, so I let go of my legs and pulled myself towards the red ribbon, indicating that I had to let go completely. I plunged into the water and swam the rest of the distance. I realized I only felt the cold water on my hands and … well let’s call it a genuine nutt-freezer, so I made the right choice in clothing!
Afterward came a nice bit of downhill running, so I quickly got the temperature back up.
Next came the Tunnel. Not really an obstacle, but cool none the less! A tube we had to crawl through which had a turn, so was too dark to see in front of you.
Then back into the woods, over the 5ft inclining walls and up a massive hill. Up top, we reached the sandbag carry. We were told the bag was going to be our friend from now on. A 30kg bag, oversized so the sand shifted a lot, and a long walk downhill. Then around the hill and up the steep side. I had some trouble getting the bag to stay stable on my back. Up-hill was covered in deep mud, so the pace slowed down to somewhat of a snail’s pace. Upon arrival back at the drop-off point I decided the marshal was wrong. I did not have enough time to become friends with the bag. So I swung it back into its cage and moved on.
After this, I managed to pick up speed. Ran with a fellow team mate, having him chase me on parts, me chasing him on others. Eventually broke free and ended up at something I later found out was described as an obstacle.
The Trail Climb. It seemed to take ages and everything was up-hill. I picked up speed on the level parts, had to slow down on the climbs. Noticed the kilometer signs where nearing the 15km mark. They were all spot on with my gps, so I didn’t expect the course to be much longer or shorter than the predicted 16km. I swirled out of the woods onto a vast field and ran into “THE RIG”.. I’ve seen it called numerous of things since, but officially it was called Deano’s Rig. I ran towards the rig and got shocked completely. Basically all runners in front of me appeared to still be at that same rig, even some team members that had started waves prior to ours! What was going on here? I soon found out.. The rig was an absolute upper body killer. Rings, ropes, bars, chains, balls and ending with a bell. First tries where on the right and the line there wasn’t too bad. I quickly got my first turn. Made my way across a lot easier than I expected. Until the final meter.
Rope/Ring/Little rope/Ring/Bell. I got a good lock on the rope, grabbed the first ring, but couldn’t reach the little rope or ring. I got told to swing from that first ring towards the bell. I let go of the rope but realized the band the ring was hanging on was twisted. I started rotating and couldn’t get a swing to reach for the bell. My hands where freezing, so I couldn’t hang on long enough to regain a grip on the rope.
Back in line at the retry lane. I got handed a blanket, a beanie, and some warm gloves. I still had both bands and decided to give it only one more try. I saw people around me that had tried multiple times get nearer to hypothermia on every try. I didn’t have that much to lose, so didn’t feel like doing the same. The line seemed to take ages. I saw teammate after teammate finish the obstacle, cheering them on as loud as I could. It motivated me so much!
The teammates that were there to comfort us were lifesavers! It took almost half an hour for me to get to the front of the line again. I got my temperature back up, could feel my fingers again and went for my second try. I felt confident! Motivated! The final hundred meters made sure I gripped the ring and started to swing while still on the rope, instead of after letting go of it and tried to reach the bell. I missed completely but managed to grab the little rope just after the ring. Both hands had grip, so I managed to get a swing. Another try at the bell and DING! Adrenaline through the roof!
Hearing the people cheer, off towards the last few hundred meters!
One more high wall, not much effort probably because of the adrenaline rush from the rig and then the rope climb. It started to rain there, so I wanted to do the rope as fast as I could. I realized my arms took a beating on the rig, but with the correct technique. Downhill towards the finish came to another tire carry. I slowed down, got asked I if I still had “a wristband,” shouted yes and got steered towards the tires. He then realized I showed him both bands and got steered around the tire carry. Both bands, no need to do the penalty lane! Off towards the finish!
On the finish line, I received the “Conquered all obstacles” wristband and championship medal. Then a hot chocolate, which was fortunately watered down a bit to make it a little less scorching hot. I made my way to the team tent. A lot of teammates were there, patting me on the back for finishing with both bands, making my chocolate end up all over my hands and clothes but I didn’t care. I made it! Got handed somebodies dryrobe to warm up a bit and got to put on some warm and dry clothes.
At the end of the day, the results came in. We ended up getting called up on the stage. The three Dutch RAM managed to put team RAM on the stage for being the fastest team in the Journeyman wave! Two of us being among the 8% of contestants finishing with both wristbands! A perfect finish to an excellent day!
Thanks to our fellow teammates for supporting us, motivating us, and cheering. We are so proud to be part of the team! And thanks to the UK Obstacle Course Association and Judgement Day for setting up this fantastic event!