I meant to do a race report after both races but unfortunately post-race rehydration* got in the way. So instead please enjoy this slightly delayed report about Day One of the 2012 Total Warrior Total Weekend.
On a dry and sunny(ish) Saturday morning, the Tough Gaffs team rocked up to the second ever Total Warrior 10k at Shap Abbey in the Lake District. After completing the inaugural event in 2011, we might have mentioned to the very lovely organisers that it was a great event but it needed more obstacles. And bigger and scarier obstacles at that. From the various pictures posted in the run up to the weekend, it seemed that they might have taken us at our word and we were keen(ish) to see what had changed from last year and if the toughness of the course had been increased.
The answer for those keen not read the rest of this post is a resounding yes. The new obstacles are inspired and the placement of obstacles throughout the course was much better thought out this year, making greater use of the natural terrain of the Lakes. There’s nothing quite like trotting up a hill to then face a series of increasingly higher walls to haul your ass over.
The first new twist was having to crawl through a tunnel just to get to the start. Having managed to lose the valve of my camelpak on the initial crawl, I had to do that one twice.
Then the off – a quick trot up hill, then Leg It, a thigh burning double descent and climb, which I think was twice as long and had double the legs of last year. Then back down again to the Human BBQ. Last year we might’ve said the flames needed to be closer together and this year they were, it was a very nice hot, smoky jog through ankle deep muddy water. Then off up again to Step it up – a series of increasingly high obstacles to get over, as mentioned above, the placement seemed better this year, as did the arrangement of the tyres in the next obstacle, Tyred. Last year they were neatly lined up, this year they were much more higgidy-piggidy but they could still be messier to slow down the speed monsters.
The next obstacle, Worm Muncher, is quality. Far more barbed wire than last year, which is why I left a chunk of my hair decorating it. Thanks to the nameless warrior behind who tried to free me without pain, or a bald spot, before giving up and telling me to just man up and yank myself free. I also had a quality mud fight here on the second day with another competitor in which I managed to take myself out by falling completely on my arse. Sean did suggest on the first day that the mud was too smooth and could do with some added grit, fortunately he got his wish later on in the course. Then on to YouTube, again better than last year, longer and with the tunnels angled up hill, which in the muddy conditions made it almost impossible not to slip back down. The next three, Ball Breaker, Muddy Funster and Dunking Time remained the same as last year, muddy water to try and cross, then wade through, then fully submerge in.
Next up was the Widow Maker, last year a nice slide down hill under a cargo net. This year a much longer crawl up hill under a cargo net, apparently this was one of our drunken suggestions the organisers did take on board.
It was at this point we resolved not to suggest any improvements for 2013.
The Spiders web was also much improved, last year it was an annoying clamber across a cargo net, this year a much more challenging and knackering clamber through a string maze. Think Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible but instead of red lasers that if touched will trigger an alarm and certain death, blue nylon rope that if you get caught in will ensure laughter from all around you.
Then the Grand National, again bigger and harder than last year. One thing I’ve not mentioned yet was just how much muddier the whole course was, partly due to the rain but obviously also due to the course builders tearing up the course at strategic points. By the time we reached the bigger-than-last-year-walls they were slick with Cumbrian mud. Apparently we missed a quality moment where Sean was hanging from the top spinning his wheels trying to get some grip, before sliding back down. We took quite some time over this obstacle, mainly due to Sean and Ray pretending to help over lots of other people while actually having a sneaky rest and leaning against the wall.
Obviously want you want after vaulting 10ft walls you really want to climb hay bale pyramids. I seem to remember there being more than two last year but I’m not complaining (just in case anyone who has anything to do with the course design is reading this). The next obstacle, Claustrophobe, was the same as last year too – a nice crawl through a muddy (natch) tyre tunnel.
Next was a new one, the Trenches, and definitely the team’s favourite addition to the cause. A treacherously muddy mound of about 8 foot in height, manned by a very cheery marshall who was making matters far worse. Both with his happy demeanour and by hosing down the muddy mound and the people trying to run up it. Up it we went, slide down it we did and straight into another muddy pit full of grit. A serious of muddy moguls then had to be negotiated, seems easy, but thanks to the low hanging cargo next, they had to be negotiated on your stomach. So crawl up, and slide down, crawl up and slide down, each time into a cold, muddy, gritty puddle
Pure misery and joy. It could do with being twice the length.
We’re now onto the final stretch, a massively muddy path with a lovely, muddy, rocky climb plus another new water obstacle – this one full of freezing water – fortunately the requirement here was to clamber over a telegraph pole and not submerge your head. Which was nice.
The next bit was less nice and the one obstacle I came close to bottling, The Shocker – does what it says on the tin. I’ve done a few of these races now and I’ve decided that willingly running into something that you know is going to hurt is not something I relish. It was nice to get out the way before the end of the course though, especially as the next obstacle is the most fun one. All that is required is to climb up the hill and then Slide Away down it , then to climb back up yet a-bloody-gain.
At this point the 9km marker greeted us and remembering last year we though “hurrah’, it’s just a jog down the hill, then back up along the road and job’s a good un.
It seems that the 9km lied to us as it was a very long last one thousand metres. Not helped by having to carry a log down the hill and then back up it, to place the log back on the same bloody pile you had got it from in the first place. Then back down the hill once more we went, expecting to turn right at the bottom and then head for home.
But no, one more new obstacle had to be conquered. Another river crossing to swim and a steep muddy bank to clamber up. Then back down to the road and finally up the last hill to…a wall climb. Only about 12 foot and thankfully with both feet and hand holds to assist the tired little
teddy bears warriors who are desperate to cross the finish line and get that free beer t-shirt.
One final obstacle, the monkey bars or one final dunking as tired arms and slippy hands failed to Hang Tough as instructed and the end was there.
Nice happy people then thrust water, kendal mint cake, a beer, a buff and the all important t-shirt into our muddy paws and we were finally down. Taking only 45 minutes longer than the previous year.
The course has improved dramatically since last year, it’s much more challenging, and therefore fun. We can’t wait to see what they add/change/tweak for next year as it’s definitely heading in the right direction. The number of competitors had doubled from 2012 and the post-race atmosphere was far greater too. Though to be fair last year it poured down all day on the Saturday and so not many people, us included, seemed to want to hang around for long.
The t-shirt is better quality and having female and male versions available was a nice touch. As was the free buff, which came in handy for day two and not leaving chunks of hair on bits of barbed wire. The free race head bands were vastly better than last year too, and I still love the Total Warrior tattoos, even if I did miss getting one on day one.
Basically a great event and one that I’d thoroughly recommend anyone do. If this year is anything to go by, next year will be even better.
10 miles report to follow.