It was time for the Men's Health annual fitness challenge to hit Nottingham and with it being on our doorstep, it was something that we couldn't let pass us by.
I (Lee) decided that it was the perfect opportunity to gather a group of our Members together and challenge ourselves physically & mentally and get out of our comfort zones. So I signed 10 of us up to represent Paramount Fitness but more importantly to go out and have a day of fun together.
With the event just a few weeks away, those that had put their names forward to be in the team stepped up their training. Additional training sessions including some road running were on the cards. Some of those sessions as a team, some as individuals. One thing for sure was that we were looking forward to our first event as #TeamPF.
The momentum was building, we were looking forward to it more and more as Race Day approach. We'd even recruited another team member.
Our team included myself, James Hargreaves, Scott Montgomery, Adam Montgomery, Alec Taylor, Simon Smeathers, Mark Ellis, Holly Evans, Cat O'Flynn, Rachael Shepherd and Alison Pritchett.
It was a great team. A mixture of pace, steady speed, strength and determination. Of course there was some apprehension amongst the group. Some of us had never taken part in an event like this, some had a fear of water, some were unsure they could run the distance. All self-doubt faded when we got together as a team, as you knew you could rely on your team-mates if and when the going was to get tough.
It was Race Day. Saturday 12th October. It was wet, windy, typical British miserable weather. Perfect weather to get covered in mud and run 12k.
For those of you that may not know, the SOTF Course is advertised as 10k. However we found out during the Race that it was in fact 12k, thanks to the signs reminding you along the way - very sneaky. The 12k was covered in Obstacles. Obstacles included climbing over Hay Stacks, Assault Courses consisting of Monkey Bars, Climbing Frames, Cargo Nets, Parkour Stations, swimming across the Trent, carrying Sand Bags, Beer Barrels & Traffic Cones to finally climbing the famous steps of the Trent End at the City Ground. There was certainly a lot of climbing, jumping, crawling, swimming, slipping and sliding.
The warm up was done, we had our numbers pinned to our SOTF TShirts and we faced the first obstacle - The Hay Stacks. The countdown sounded, 10, 9, 8, 7.... Butterflies gone, we just wanted to get going!
We all started well but with obvious different running speeds and strength capabilities, the team started to split up into 2's and 3's.
With the Hay Stacks out the way, we got into rhythm and ran along the River Trent out towards Holme Pierrepont. With only one other obstacle station on the way (some hurdles to jump and some parallel bars to get across) it was a boring 3.5 mile run out to the first set of obstacles - an Army Assault Course.
Grab a sandbag, carry it 30m, drop it, leopard crawl under a cargo net in a pit of mud, climb a very large A Frame, make your way across a Tarzan Rope Swing, a test of your upper body strength across 10 Monkey Bars before leaving the Assault Course with a final large A Frame and a heavy duty cargo net over an even muddier and rockier pit. You were COVERED in mud head to toe by this point.
The running continued for just a short distance. We worked our way around HPP up and down a number of VERY muddy hills, going into a little Cross Country run. In one of the troughs you had to make your way across the first water obstacle - a nice chest height (in my case) - dip into part of the River Trent. You were in and out of this water obstacle within 10 seconds, but enough time to certainly drop your body temperature and wake you up.
After a short run across a very wet and muddy car park, you reached the slide that takes you into the River Trent once again. This time for a 40-50m Swim. The only downfall to this obstacle was the waiting time. You'd be waiting 4-6 minutes once you'd been kitted up with your life-jacket to take to the slide and get into the water. A negative if you're looking to challenge a previous time if you'd completed this event before.
The water was COLD! Given that the temperature was approximately 10 degrees on the day, I think it was fair to say that the water temperature was only a few degrees above freezing. Either way, we were in! Completely submerged, you reach the surface to catch you breath but with the shock of the temperature, it takes you a good 10-20 seconds to achieve that, as your chest tightens, lungs don't seem to want to work and body temperature plummets. It is your prerogative to reach the other side as quickly as possible!
We were out. VERY cold, but we were out. The plus side of being dunked in the River Trent half way through 12k? A chance for your muscles to cool down and to kind of look at it as mid-race therapy.
The race continued - next up was a cross country run up and down many muddy banks, slippery when wet, that's for sure! On the return leg back to The Embankment, you reach a couple of Parkour Stations. Carrying Traffic Cones, Slalom Runs and climbing up various platforms on your hands and knees to then climb back down again. Your Hands & Knees knew about it.
You could see the floodlights to Meadow Lane (Notts County FC), you knew you were getting closer to the final obstacles. Crawling under park benches, climbing through derelict Cars and onto an Artic Lorry and off again certainly tests your legs at this stage. You finish this section with some further crawling through barrels, large inflatable zones and more parkour stations.
We reach the City Ground. Time to climb the steps of the famous Trent End (Nottingham Forest FC). I must say I was tempted to run on the pitch, but i'll save that for another day!
In and out of there as quickly as possible, the end was in sight. One final push along the River Trent back to The Embankment.
Just a few more obstacles to go. One final dip in a couple of pools of cold water, jumping in and out of two large Skips and then a carry of a Beer Barrel over a short distance through the Beer Tent where spectators cheer you on over your final strides.
We turn the corner to the final obstacle - the 8ft wall. Men's Health Survival of the Fittest 'Wall Of Fame' plastered all over it. You have one task. Get over it! Some needed bunk ups, some were pulled over, some managed to pull themselves over alone. It didn't matter how you got over it, you gave it everything.
You've climbed an 8ft wall. What goes up, must come down. You drop to the ground using whatever leg strength you have left and cross the finish line.
WE ALL SURVIVED!
Adam Montgomery - "A very fun event. Challenging, muddy but something I will definitely be doing again"
Alison Pritchett - "Initial fears crushed. It was fun, enjoyable and with good support from the Marshals and my fellow team-mates, a day I would love to repeat again. Be prepared to get muddy!"
Bring on 2014 - I am sure that #TeamPF will be even bigger next year!