Exercise update: Alive and mostly intact

I survived! Worship me, I am a Colossus!

Obviously I’m not, but since I got over the line I’m going to at least pretend that I’m a physical god for the next 24 hours or so. Don’t worry, it’ll wear off.

I’ll be honest, it didn’t start well. Tall flatmate and broad flatmate were in charge of buying food for a big carb-loading dinner, and bought beef burritos instead, which was a ridiculous choice really and I’m going to call them out on it. They also decided to make a pasta salad, a la Nigella, to act as pre and post race fuel. I refused to touch it given that it was based on tuna and sweetcorn, two of the most inherently evil foods on the planet, but by all accounts it was almost inedible. We also had no proper means of transporting the 1kg of it we made, so broad flatmate had to lug it round the event site in a large mixing bowl, prompting odd looks and arm cramps. Poor form.

We met up with some workmates at the start line and it was heartening to find that they were bricking it as much as we were. Tall flatmate almost pulled out at the last minute due to a complete lack of training compounded by contracting what might actually be AIDS in the buildup to the race and spending all of Friday night vomiting. In his own words, “If my head goes below my heart it will fall off.”

As with the last event I did the warmup almost killed me, so 13 miles wasn’t entirely appealing in truth.

I think the course could be summed up in the following three words: Sadism, pain, distance. All three were to be found in abundance, but there was a good smattering of fun involved too.

Overall we ploughed through 15 zones. After a mile jog down to the opening one, our first instruction from the marshals was: “Pick a car. Now climb through it.” This rather set the tone for what was to come.

Didn't even steal it.

Didn’t even steal it.

In the next zone, we had to climb through a half inflated bouncy structure and then found a rugby team waiting the other side with pads to batter us. Light comic relief was provided by one rugby person who was too fat to chase us and had to politely ask for us to run at him. We then encountered a straight 10ft wall to navigate, which I effectively ran straight into and bounced off. One of the marshals had to give me a leg up. In my high heart rate delirium I told her I loved her, and meant it.

Tall flatmate was starting to struggle, understandably, by mile 3, and was being shepherded by broad flatmte. So I gallantly ditched them both and pushed on with a quicker group of friends. This really sums me up as a person.

The water zones were ridiculous. The first one was fine, through a reservoir about waist deep. The aptly named ‘Wipeout’ zone was a bit more of a slog. We had to wade through about half a mile of lake which was neck deep at the shallowest, through 2 or 3 feet of silt and other gunk, which was properly draining. Thankfully some of the big inflatables had blown over so we didn’t have to do them, otherwise I would have added my own hot tears to the lake’s plentiful water supply. Then we had to jump off a big platform about 15ft above the water – I executed this rather too well and almost didn’t surface. The final water zone about 11.5 miles in was a real struggle – by this point my body was no longer my friend so I had to rely on the kindness of strangers to grab me by the arse and chuck me over some of the higher obstacles to save me from flopping like a dying salmon.

By mile 10 broad flatmate had also gallantly ditched tall flatmate, caught us and overtaken us. He’s not human.

By mile 11 my legs were fucked. I’ve not run more than 10k ever, so it felt like running through treacle after so much punishment and I guess I was jogging at walking pace.

The last mile was dreamt up by somebody who should be in prison. They put the three toughest zones right next to each other at the finish. I stacked it on one of the sprint ramps (think that thing from Gladiators they have to do at the end) and received encouraging jeers from the watching crowd. Then there was the world records zone.

This included 110m of monkey bars – I managed 2 before slipping off, I blame wet hands as opposed to a chronic lack of strength. The forfeit was to climb over about 150 interlocked barriers shaped in a zig-zag, the kind they have at gigs and events where they close roads, each about 4ft high. After 12.5 miles that was a real killer. Then there was the world’s largest wall of hay bales, which was actually quite fun because I climbed it next to a man dressed as Thor, complete with hammer.

The last obstacle was monster – a big structure of half pipes and 6ft walls that you had to scale before hitting the finish line. A random Welsh bloke gave me a helping hand on those so I’m eternally grateful to him.

And that was that! Over the finish line, pouring with rain, legs no longer working.

13 miles, 150 obstacles, all done.

Overall time was officially 3:46 but we probably lost about half hour to bottlenecking and queuing for obstacles.

This morning, after 14 hours sleep and a steak, I feel moderately ok, but haven’t got out of bed yet. I tested one leg a few minutes ago and it wasn’t pretty. I do get the feeling ingesting so much lake water might not have been good for me.

Never thought I’d say this but it was brilliant fun. I encourage everyone to get involved in this kind of thing because it’s just such a unique experience.

I’ll try and get some photos up in due course so you can laugh at me falling over things.

Going for another nap now…

P.S. I hope literally everybody else in the world had fun at the Rugby Sevens yesterday, you luck, luck bastards.


Exercise Update: Strong like ox

Not me, obviously. I’m nowhere near as strong as an ox. But I’m sure there are people who are nearly as strong as a pretty weak ox.

I’d have myself down as almost as strong as an overly aggressive stoat. Three months ago I was probably at about the same level as a sickly vole, so this is actually a fair mark of progress.

To give you a run down of what I’ve been up to:

– Two to three gym sessions a week with Deepak, where I lift things, pull things, punch the space around Deepak’s face, lift other things and make manly noises. The manly noises are by far the most improved aspect of my physique; I have moved from pre-pubescent squeak to meek roar.

– Climbing. I try and get in a couple of bouldering sessions a week, although this is almost certainly placebo exercise. Whilst I can now climb some moderately hard things, I  spend a far greater proportion of my climbing time panting, having a lie down, feigning injury, making up climbing terms, abusing others, buying KitKats and asking what the music is.

– Football. After a 5-year mini-break from the beautiful game I’ve finally got back on the pitch (twice), and have lasted 5 and 10 minutes respectively before being completely, utterly broken down to a cellular level. I haven’t been asked to play for a couple of weeks. This might be for the best.

– Bricking it. They keep putting up more zones for the Rat Race and each looks more sadistic than the last. Search rat race dirty weekend on Youtube to get an idea. Pray for me.

Basically, it’s been like a Rocky montage, with the exercise bits replaced by whingeing and without any real improvement over time.

So yesterday I decided to test my progress by taking on the Major Series Midlands 10k, with a few mates from work. In short, this is a 10k over all kinds of funky terrain, mostly based around mud, with various army-looking types shouting at you while you inhale large volumes of effluent.

Pre mud

Pre mud

Needless to say, I was somewhat apprehensive. At least it was gloriously sunny and a great venue – I can think of worse places to die.

My first taste of things to come was in the warmup. My warmup for training usualy involves cracking a few jokes and maybe eating a Twirl; this warmup contained more exercise than I generally do in a week. I was shattered by the end and nearly vomited on the start line, which was not a promising sign.

We got round to the first obstacle, a small jump over a log into water, in good time, and I felt confident until I found myself ankle deep in water which smelt strongly of the country, sludging through mud and large quantities of sheep shit. This was only the beginning.

In the next vat of crap, now waist deep, I had a slight coming together with an underwater root. Retarding my purposeful forward stride, the root coaxed all the momentum from me until the only place left to go was back. Into the waist deep shit-water. Slowly.

I emerged from the pool and rejoined my kilt-wearing accomplice looking and smelling like a turd, which would explain why he was so keen to bolt ahead.

There’s a lot to be said for running with a Scotsman in a kilt. First, it deflected attention away from my turd-like qualities. Second, you here a lot of good ‘true Scotsman’ jokes from the crowd (he wasn’t, thank fuck.), which makes you think less about the pain and humiliation. Third, after soaking with mud and shite a kilt is indistinguishable from a skirt, which caused much confusion and hilarity.

The rest of the course progressed in much the same fashion – drown in shit, have a laugh, weep inside, repeat. There were also some exciting obstacles involving haystacks and really quite dangerous slip’n’slides, and some with barbed wire, which was mean.

At one point I lost a shoe and had to dig in the mud to find it.

Having said all this, once I hit the finish line I felt incredible. And unclean. But mostly incredible. I would urge anyone to give something like this a go.

There is also the added bonus of having to go back to London and get on a tube smelling like you’ve fallen into a slurry tank. I had my own carriage on the District line and got over 8 funny looks- I might try this more often.

Post mud

Post mud

So the key takeout points if you’ve just skipped straight to the end:

1) Exercise

2) I have done running

3) I am alive

4) I will definitely still die in May


I have since learned that I ran that race in 1:19 and averaged a whopping 7.54kph, making me the 150th fastest man and 25th fastest woman of the 750 runners. I AM A MACHINE.

Help me.