Having volunteered as event zone supervisor at the previous two Rock Solid races at the hugely impressive venue of Silverstone woodlands it was great to finally be racing an event I always look forwards to on the obstacle course race calendar.
The nature of OCR means you often go into races not really knowing what to expect with the sport still developing all the time and most races using course secretly as part of the challenge but this time I knew exactly what was coming my way which only added to my excitement.
Once again this was a Saturday race meaning I found myself getting up extra early and rushing to get my post round delivered before making what was luckily only a short journey before the 10.40am start for the first wave.
The event offers 3 different distances of 5k, 10k and 15k which all start at the same time but all follow a one lap course which is cleverly designed to split off in different directions at certain points. I had chosen to do the 10k for several reasons.
The first was that I had again offered to help out volunteering for the rest of the day, the second was that my little girl was taking part in the kids races this event also offers, so both meant I wanted to get done quickly, but didn’t want to only do the 5k as I knew it didn’t include the courses best section involving a bulk of the best obstacles including the new water slide, ‘the bomb’ water jump and the monkey bars.
I had also had a break of almost two weeks without any training after the Joust 24 hour race and a family holiday in Spain.
As I arrived I was immediately sucked into the awesome atmosphere this event always gives out as I passed through the smooth registration process in the giant marque before hitting the arena area with loud music pumping and the MC motivating the masses.
Everything you could want from a race venue is on site. A pub, the widest catering choice I’ve seen at any OCR, ample seating, camping, permanent toilets, wash basins and hot showers, merchandise tent, ice cream van and even a climbing wall and bouncy castle for the kids. There is also a shuttle service that transports spectators to various points around the course which is a great idea.
I did my own warm up as I always do then headed into the starting pen for the official race warm up which I normally tend to take a back seat at while doing the last of my stretches and drills. This one went on for quite some time, a bit too long in my opinion. I’m all for high energy warm ups to get the body prepared and the mind in gear but there is a fine line between being ready to race and tiring yourself out before you’ve even started. The enthusiasm and motivation was spot on but I did feel the amount of high intensity exercises was a little over done.
There was then a ten second count down and we were finally off over the hay bales and into an open field where the competitors began to take order. After what felt like a steady start I still found myself in second position and the gaps were already appearing behind me. After crossing a boggy lake, jumping a wall and clearing a mud mound I took the lead with the green mile to follow for all those doing 10 and 15k.
This is a straight mile of running on soft grass so I was confident of extending my lead as I put my foot down for the first time. The completion of this run marked the next split as 15k runners would turn to the right and I was tasked with a log carry up and down two long hills. As I reached the summit of the first hill I looked back to see the majority of those behind me were 15k runners so my lead had grown future.
As I finished the log carry the second 10k competitor was just starting it meaning I had roughly a three minute advantage.
I wasn’t about to rest on my laurels and wanted to keep pushing hard in preparation for Spartan Beast next weekend so by the time I had completed the next 10/15k only section I could estimate I was over 5 minutes ahead.
This section was great. It started with a big slide followed by a huge climb over a cargo net that was suspended between to tractors, through a tunnel, then a traverse across a lake before going back over the tunnel via a climbing wall. The whole way round I had a clear view of the entire section meaning I could be safe in the knowledge that nobody else had even started it as I left to enter a part of the course I was greatly anticipating as the whole zone was manned by volunteers from my Parklands Tough Running team.
This was another thoroughly enjoyable section of this great course involving a sloped platform rope pull up, a climb over a mass of logs and a full under water submerge into an ice skip before moving into the war zone themed woods with serval tyre walls, a very tight tunnel crawl and an extremely wet and muddy barbed wire crawl all in the shadow of a fighter plane, with music booming out and smoke streaming through. It was made even better by the encouragement of my team mates.
As another run followed I felt really strong and relaxed as I began to pass many of the 5k runners before the course once again split directions leaving me solo again with an incredibly long cargo net crawl to get through then another full head submerge under a telegraph pole laid across what way described as the ‘muddy dunk’. As I was one of the first through it was yet to churn up and I managed to avoid what would later become some epically muddy conditions.
A bit more running brought me to the obstacle zone that had lead me to choice this distance of race. First up was the bomb. A 10 feet high jump from the top of a storage container straight into deep water below. Then it was the newly build slide. It was high, it was long and it was fast. With the added bonus of a curved ending that elevated you into the air before hitting the water. One of the favourites was next, the monkey bars, followed by a balance beam then a water crossing with yet another full head submerge.
From this point I knew the end was near. It was going to take something out of the ordinary to deny me victory now but the nature of OCR means you can never take anything for granted and I kept my speed up while making sure I cleared the last of the obstacles. Before I knew it I was in the final zone, again manned by volunteers from my team. I needed no help from them though as I jumped another high wall and negotiated the final climbing wall before skipping joyfully down the hay bales to the finish line.
As the converted Rock Solid dog tags were hung around my neck I was surprised to find no one taking bib numbers down. I knew they’d taken the decision not the used chip timing for this event but didn’t realise this mean there wasn’t going to be any results published at all. They said it was to save money which they were putting into the build of new obstacle but to be honest other than the slide, which was awesome, I didn’t notice any others and this decision did disappoint me.
This is a huge event in terms of obstacle course races and one that was competitive enough to be involved in the Mudstacle league last year so to drop the results all together was by far the biggest negative of what was otherwise a massively positive day.
On a personal note I was very happy with how I felt for the duration of my race and really enjoyed the course as did all my team mates who ran throughout the day.