Roots 4th Birthday Bash – Peak District, England

Roots Adventure Training turned 4. So to celebrate, they held the 12-hour Roots Birthday Bash endurance event.  Now for those who don’t know, Roots is an adventure training company based in the Peak District in England. They specialize in team building events, survival skills & endurance races.

I’d been looking forward to this event for the past month for several reasons. The main one being that I had never actually done an endurance event before.

I was curious to see how I would manage. Having already signed up for the Spartan Race 4hour & 12hr Hurricane Heat, I figured that this would be an excellent starting point to see where my training needed to go.

I was right.

Roots-River-Crossing

Now I feel that I should note that some of my memories from the day are slightly hazy. I’m not sure if I can put that down to the lack of sleep before/after the event or perhaps it’s just down to the fact that we did so much throughout the day.

After a long drive from Edinburgh to the venue, we had a brief sleep before awaking before dawn to begin.

With a 6am start and two hours of map reading skills, we gathered outside the camping cabin to begin. Mustered in a circle, we had 60 seconds to empty the contents of our bags. This proved slightly more difficult than we’d realised. Personally, I’d prepacked everything tightly so emptying the bag was interesting. More so was repacking it in the same time. We quickly accrued some punishment points before we even began.

Our pre-event kit list had included the standard items but, within these items we also had to include a party hat and a balloon.

The balloon & party hat gave the list a sense of amusement which I think made the preparation somewhat less daunting. Now, standing together having reassembled my kit at least three times, I was starting to understand the time hacks that we’d be facing.

Onward to some warm up drills – counts of 8. It’s during these that we started to gel as a team. Position one was a low squat with palms to the floor. Two had us jumping back into plank position. On three our feet jumped out to shoulder width apart. Four, back to plank. Five saw us do a downward push-up and six saw us return to plank. Seven had us back in the low squat and eight rounded us off with a jump up to the start position. Under the watchful eye of the staff we had to get it right, an error had us sent back to the start position.

Eventually, we set off from the base camp. Our first major task of the day was to solve a riddle. Some may have heard of the river crossing riddle where the farmer has to take items across the river but can only take one at a time. This was our riddle. We had the farmer, a crocodile, a mouse & some cheese. Each team member represented an item within the riddle. This exercise was made more enjoyable as the four characters ‘costumes’.

Roots-Birthday-Bags

We completed the task and moved on to our next way point. One of our jobs as a team was to find out way points via the map coordinates given to us by our guides. All the time we marched along while passing the ammo-box between one another.

At any point throughout the day, if we failed to answer a question, the team were given punishment points. We reduced these by successfully completing more 8 counts. As we got colder throughout the day the more I welcomed these. One of my favourite moments of the day came when we got to explore an abandoned mine. It was actually Ecton mine. Climbing inside the small entry hall and into the water filled cave was fun. Getting to spend time there looking for some malachite stones which the Roots team had hidden was a good challenge. We were told the history of the mine & how it had once belonged to the Duke of Devonshire and had been mined for copper, but perhaps more interesting was that it had been mined since the Bronze Age about 3500 years ago.

However, it was also at this point in the event that I started to notice a sharp pain in my shoulder. I’ve had some minor problems with my rotator cuff in the past but I had thought that it had healed. I was silently hoping it wouldn’t affect my process through the rest of the event.

As we progressed further to locate more grid points on our maps, the sun was getting lower in the sky as we entered a small valley. Ahead of us lay supplies needed to build a stretcher and carry a new addition to the group (a dummy called The General –  or as I liked to call him, Steve). Another learning experience, this time in creating knots; the clove knot and the square knot. Binding together the beams, we lifted The General onto the stretcher while supporting his neck and limbs. Suddenly behind enemy lines, our event took a covert turn. We had to safely carry The General to a safe location.

Roots-Stretcher

The sun had set, the temperature had dropped and The General was getting heavy on our makeshift stretcher. We waded through the river Manifold, under a bridge to avoid detection, up along the bank and we reached our destination, an old animal shelter where we were given a rest, time to eat, drink & told to change our shoes and socks. We could all feel that the end was coming, be it in the next hour or several hours. I think the group had a slight surge of energy with this knowledge. Our next task was to locate and retrieve. Three new locations given in succession. With only our head-torches we trekked along to discover some wonderful caves. The items we sought were illuminated by glow sticks. One of these caves is known locally as Thor’s cave, my mind suddenly perked up from the sleepy haze. The entry to this limestone cave was up a set of stairs moulded into the hillside. The entrance to the cave was slick and certainly made for an interesting climb in and out.

For me, this was actually the toughest part of the day. Throughout the day’s events, the pain in my shoulder had been getting stronger. I had informed the Roots staff and they were nice enough to alter some of the punishment workouts for me. But to gain access to some of the caves involved a bit of clambering & climbing over walls, not something I would usually have problems with but suddenly I found tears in my eyes due to damn pain. I’m not someone who likes to cry in front of others. I know there is absolutely nothing wrong with showing your emotions but it’s just a personal preference me for. With my raw team buff pulled up as far as it would go, I gritted my teeth and got on with it.

Finally, we had gathered all the objects, four lengths of wood, a jerry can, two white bottles and two lengths of rope.

OUR FINAL OBJECTIVE

We had to fill the jerry can using the two smaller bottles. All three had to be filled and attached to a rig made up of the wooden planks. The catch – at no point should the jerry can touch the ground and none of the bottles were allowed to touch the wooden support. Using what we learned earlier we rigged up a frame, attached the ropes to the cans and secured them onto the rig. With a steady march onward we made our way back to the basecamp.
We were mostly lucky on our trek back up the hill, which suddenly seemed twice as long as it had that morning. The bottles swung a few times and tapped the wood which resulted in some more punishment exercises.

Soon enough though, we reached base camp, asking for permission to put down the rig without punishment (we’d learned from experience not to trust everything our mentors had said) we created a circle around the fire to receive our finisher medals & pins and a well-earned beer.

Roots-Ammo-Can

This experience meant a lot to me. Not only was it my first endurance event but also because I now have a starting point for what I need to work on for future events. I’m not sure I would have managed to complete the event without my fellow seeds & event staff and I’m grateful to each and every one of them for the experience. I honestly can’t recommend the Roots event enough and if you ever have a chance to take part you should.

www.rootsadventuretraining.com

Photo Credits: Turner Videos & Matt Talbot

Spartan Race UK Peterborough Weekend

Last year was the first year that Spartan Race UK used the gorgeous Elton Hall as a Spartan Venue, and it it was one of the main turning points for the company in the UK; it also very quickly became a favourite among the UK racers, This year’s Sprint & Super cemented that.

Spartan-Peterborough-Sprint-Super

This was a long week for me, but as always with a looming Spartan Race, I was looking forward to a brutal exciting weekend. We weren’t disappointed.

Finishing work at 5am, quick walk to the train station and it began. 4.5 hours later and a lift from the train station by a dear friend, I arrived at the venue.  If you’ve never been to Elton Hall, you need to visit. Spartan UK has a habit of picking iconic, beautiful venues and Elton Hall is near the top of that list.

Saturday was a bit of a washout when it came to the weather, lovely and sunny in the morning and then the rains came.

After spending most of the morning volunteering on the finish line. We lined up for the final wave,  and I was glad we skipped the warm up. Usually I’d enjoy the group burpees in the start corral, but at this stage we just really wanted to get out on the course.

While they change the format, Spartan usually use the same type of obstacles per race. Peterborough was no different. The first kilometre was a nice mixture of 4ft walls, inverted walls & OUT’s. (Over, Under, Through for those who don’t know). Running through the forested area provided a nice break from the rain and for me, it always adds to the beauty of a run.

We soon came across the rope climb (or in my case the start of my burpees). Another run through some forest and we came across the barbwire crawl. In all my Spartan Races I have to say that this barbwire crawl was second only to the French Beast last year. It wasn’t long but the twists, turns and mud pools made it fun. I’ll admit we may have spent more time than needed playing around in the mud.

Spartan-Peterborough-Barbwire

(Side note – it was here that the Sprint & Super course separated, but more on that later.)

Continuing on we had the atlas stones, Z-walls, and the block drag.  A bit more running through a forest and finally the finish line was in sight. A couple of 6 ft walls, made slightly more difficult by the rain and mud, Herc Hoist, 8ft walls and the sprint to the fire jump.

I’ll admit by the time we got to the finish line for the sprint I was looking forward to a shower, food, and sleep. The super was coming and I had a time limit to run it in.

Spartan-Peterborough-Block-Drag

So, after a cheeky Nandos with friends, curling up on a surprisingly comfy air bed, my wonderful band of misfit friends & I arose to tackle the Super. Now I mention that I had a self imposed time limit to complete the run. Well, I had a train booked back to Edinburgh at 1300 as I had work at 1800. My time limit worry wasn’t just for myself though. I was running with a friend who is somewhat new to our wonderful world of OCR.

Back on site and back in the start corral for the Elite wave. Now, I’m by no means elite. I run purely for me and the joy it brings, but sometimes the extra 20 mins can be handy.  Once more into the fray, and once again we spent more time than needed in that barb wire crawl. The course change from the Sprint to the Super led us through a gate and into a darkened forest.  I may run too many Spartan races (is there such a thing?). The forested area had a nice hilly chicane where my first thought was that it would have made a great area for a sandbag carry.

I may run too many Spartan races (is there such a thing?). The forested area had a nice hilly chicane where my first thought was that it would have made a great area for a sandbag carry.  The forest opened up and led us to a rather lovely reservoir to wade around. I wasn’t expecting that to be as killer on the calves as it was. Nice to wash the mud off though. A rather slippery cargo slip a frame followed by the the Z-wall rope traverse (Burpee time again).

Back on course, we’re once again hit with some firm favourites, another barb wire crawl, multi rig, Bucket brigade, log drag and a lovely vertical cargo net climb. Side note – I really do need to learn the flip technique at the top of these. Onto the log carry and the finish line is in sight again just across a field so we know we’re near the finish again, or at least close to rejoining the sprint.

More trail leads us around towards the A-Frame and spear through. I’m actually quite happy that I nailed my spear throw in the super, not so much in the Sprint though.
On a note one of the Spartan did well within this course was that the kids course ran alongside parts. Both the kids and the big kids started from the same start line which I think really brought it together as a family event.

Spartan-Peterborough-Finish

Back down to the walls, hoist, and onto the finish.

Spartan Race is one of the companies within in the UK that folks like to complain about, but ever since Peterborough last year, I think they have fewer legimite reasons for those complaints.

I’m aware that I’m biased. My first ever OCR was a Spartan, but they have come a long way since then (2014 Edinburgh sprint!) I know that race back then couldn’t hold a candle to the courses they build and put together now.

Overall, Spartan Peterborough was a huge success. With the support of the Volunteers and Spartan staff it was a day to remember for all involved.

On that note, I can only look forward to the Sprint & Beast in Windsor with excitement. Shall I be seeing you there?

Loki Run, Village Pillage

Down in the South of England – Thetford, Norfolk to be exact, there is a small company known as Loki Events. My friends and I came across them in our neverending search for virtual races; it’s fair to say that, upon finding them, the Loki Run virtual events are easily one of the most challenging & fun virtuals we’ve completed to date. So with that in mind when we saw that they had an actual event coming up, we took notice.

On Sunday, April 10th, 2016, they held a small, community-based obstacle race which they called the Village Pillage. Now as we were in the area for the first 2016 UK Spartan Sprint the day before we figured we should just make a race weekend and we signed up for it. The more mud the better, right?

With our small team, a mix of the Healthy Hibees & myself with my team RAW top, we had no idea what to be expecting. After an engaging Zumba warm up the individual runners took off for the midday start. The teams of four were held back to do a second warm up and we were then informed we had some extra challenges. This is where is gets interesting – the challenges were, throughout the course we had to carry two car tyres without letting them touch the ground (a lot trickier than it sounds) and more importantly, two raw eggs which had to be lovingly carried the full course – ever watched mighty ducks? I found myself repeating the mantra of “soft hands” throughout the race.

Loki-run-village-pillage-tyre-run

The tyres and the eggs made all of the obstacles a lot more interesting, but with a little team work we got there. The course was laid out at the back of the local high school and into the fields beyond. We started off with some standard obstacles, net crawls, tightrope crossing, inverted walls & some nice 6-ft walls. Also, some volunteers were dressed in sumo suits, (side note I need to stop telling people in those suits I’m going to rugby tackle them, some of them looked worried). Nearing the 1km mark, we broke free of the school grounds and ended up running through a wooded area. Time for another surprise. I can’t say I’ve ever come across a lucky dip obstacle before – ping pong balls in a bucket of water with a number written on each one. I drew no 26, so, at the next stopping point, we had 26 burpees at station one, then 26 squats at station two followed by 26 push-ups at station three.

Our next new obstacle experience was that of a slightly different nature, volunteers dressed up as sneaky ninjas playing a version of obstacle tag rugby. If they caught you, you could end up with 27 burpees, or 5 squats. The punishments varied; I think that depended on the person who caught you. We also had to swipe the tags from the ninja area.  So from the 5 ninja stations, we managed 4 tags & 3 punishments. It made for an interesting break in the 5k course. Emerging on the other side of the wooded area and we had pretty much circled back towards the start. Around 4km and we found the log carry slalom – a single log needed to be carried about this part of the course by two team members; so, with Egbert the egg in one hand and a log in the other we got it done. (Yes, I named my egg – and we also named the tyres). With the finish line in sight, our next obstacle was a mallet target throw, a lot easier than a Spartan spear throw that’s for sure. On to the final 10-ft wall and then a water slide under the very low to the ground finish line.

Loki-run-mallet-throwBoth eggs & tyres survived!

You could tell that this race was organised by a team who loves the OCR scene. The entire event had a large family type feeling towards it, with the extremely friendly marshals, enthusiastic race briefing and the overall atmosphere on the day. It seems that the race director has taken elements and obstacles from other events and combined them to bring a really great experience to the athletes. They may currently be a small company, but with the virtual races, promising race days and awesome bling I can see them becoming a company to watch out for.

Loki-run-village-pillage-team

Photo Credits: Geoff Herschell