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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
Photo Credits: Turner Videos & Matt Talbot