Avalanche events runs a series of events based very closely on UK Special Forces Selection. One of their events is the notorious “Fan Dance” which is a 15 mile traverse across a little corner of the Brecon Beacons in Wales taking in southern Britain’s highest hill – Pen y Fan, not once but twice! Meaning that the route takes in over 900m of ascent and over some very difficult terrain. There is a summer and winter Fan Dance but as it is growing in popularity they have put 3 races on this winter an additional night time event race (yet to come). I had done the inaugural Fan Dance race in 2013 which was infamous due to the amount it had snowed and I had also completed the route several times in the army so knew what I was letting myself in for all said and done I was really looking forward to a good run out on the hills and my body certainly needed work out after too much booze and food over Christmas!
I arrived early in order to register and get my kit ready for the start, going clean fatigue meant that I did not have a minimum weight to carry but I still had to carry a minimum kit list to ensure safety on the hills. So with food, water, warm kit and a few other extras I had a decent bit of weight to run with but was glad once the saw the incoming weather system and snow on the high ground. In terms of kit I went with the Inov8 X-talons as I wanted enough grip in the mud and snowy patches, especially when descending quickly downhill. Under my legs I had a pair of Zeropoint compression socks to give my lower leg muscles some additional support and assistance on the long up hills. upper body I wore a pair of light weight Inov8 gloves and a Zeropoint long sleeve compression top under my goretex jacket. A buff helped in many ways to keep both and head, ears and neck out of the wind at various pints during the race as well.
Time for the race and it was straight into a very steep ascent and quickly we were starting to spread out as the hill took it’s toll. Towards the top of Pen y Fan after what seemed like an eternity and we were treated to some stunning views of the valley below us and the route ahead. By this point the snow was all over, which was thresh from the night before. Coming off Pen Y Fan I started coming across the load carrying racers who had started an hour before us. Slipped a few time coming down but was ok fortunately. Then cam a long drawn out descent to the turn around point at which point I ate as much food a drank as much as I could before turning around and re-treading the route. The clag was starting to come in again so had a nice blizzard to keep me going!
The climb back up to Pen y Fan from this side was even worse because of “Jacob’s ladder” a horrible ascent which gets steadily steeper the higher you go to a point where you need 3 points of contact on the ground as you climb. My lungs were fit to burst by the time I got to the top so with some relief a started the descent back to the start/finish point. Not sure if it was the prospect of a cup of tea and pork roll at the finish but I managed to throw myself down the hill quick enough to overtake a few runners ahead of me. Finally into the finish after 2hrs and 43 minutes for 7th place which I was very pleased with considering my ever growing gut!
Great challenge and thoroughly recommend it as something different to do whether you normally do OCR, road running or what ever, the weather conditions and terrain make it much tougher than the 15 miles or so it is on paper. I was really pleased with how my kit stood up to the challenges’ especially after seeing people slip over a few times. After a long hot bath I stuck on my 2XU compression shorts for the evening and a day later my legs feel surprisingly good which is proof enough for me they work in same way!
The Marathon des Sables is a gruelling, multi-stage adventure through the Sahara desert. Over 1000 participants from across the globe cover 150 miles of running, walking and trekking over 6 days in the Sahara desert of Morocco. That’s the same as five and a half marathons! It is an experience of extreme conditions in 120 degrees Fahrenheit while carrying everything you need to be self-sufficient including food, clothing and medical supplies. It is an unforgettable experience.
I completed the Marathon Des Sables in 2015 and what a fantastic event it is. I had an amazing time and it made all of the long hours of preparation worthwhile. Here is a quick review of my time in the desert.
Struggling over yet another dune in the heat of the Sahara
Each day had its own challenges, be them dunes, jebels, blisters, the ground or heat. I pushed it as hard as I could over the obstacles that each day brought though and was happy with the what I put in. My training schedule worked as well as it could I think, and I struck a good balance between endurance and cross training. It is easy to over do it, no matter what your fitness levels are going into it and I made sure that I worked hard in training but got plenty of rest. I didn’t just run long distances, but mixed my training with pilates, OCRs, cycling and walking.
A very common sight!
I had aimed to carry as little as possible and achieved this without ever going hungry or being overly uncomfortable, although the cold meals and cold sleeping bag got a bit boring after a few days. Saying that there is little I would change in terms of kit selection and everything I took had a purpose and was used. A lot of people were throwing kit and food out from day one, but it is a learning process. I did improve my running strategy from the first day however and became more effective as the week progressed, mainly by carrying less water between checkpoints (I was even overhydrated at some points) and also by maintaining a steadier, more consistent pace rather than going fast, slow, fast, slow. The compression gear I wore on my calves and quads really did seem to helo during the day and I also slept in the same kit to recover during the night (yes – I did stink!)
Home for the 8 of us over the coming week….
I benefitted from being in a brilliant tent for the race as well. Chris, Martin, Kate, Barry, Brett, Stuart and David were all fantastic company, easy to live with and we all worked for each other. This made the week easier as down time was more fun and there was less to worry about. I was very impressed with the robustness of people in general on the race – some people had an horrendous time with feet, bad backs, injuries or just the heat. Hats off to those who had to spend a lot longer out on the course each day as well. We were a real team and bonded over the shared challenges that such an event brings.
The terrain we ran over was varied and beautiful (despite the discomfort and often pain being endured at the time). Like any race this made the whole thing more bearable, especially given the amount of time running each day. It varied from sand dunes, to dirt tracks, rocky outcrops and the long day (+50 miles) even had a small mountain in the middle (thank you organisers for that….)
I won’t give you a day by day account of the race because it’s been a while since I finished and I can’t actually remember each day in detail! I finished 55th overall and was the 9th fastest Brit, which made me very happy indeed! I spent about a week after in a very fatigued condition and was glad I’d taken another week off work.
Me at the finish with my best bit of bling to date
I’d recommend it to anybody whether they be a seasoned ultra runner, OCR die hard or anybody in between. My race followed a long period of training as I was very content with how it went, enjoyed it immensely and would love to do it again. More importantly I raised over £6,200 for Walking With The Wounded which is a charity very close to mine and Brocket Gear’s hearts.
No matter which sport you are training for it is always easy to let your guard down in the winter. It is important to maintain a steady state of fitness throughout the winter season so that come Spring time you will not find it too much of a struggle to bring your fitness levels up to race pace. Whether you are a rookie or a pro, it is worth understanding the importance of winter training and how best to prepare.
There are a number of important considerations for winter training, these are broken down into the following categories:
Weather – Always check the weather forecast to ensure you dress suitably for the conditions. If it is icy, consider waiting until it thaws or ensure footwear is right for the conditions under foot.
Ensure your footwear has decent grip for the conditions
Route -It’s very important to plan your route and/or training session. The sun is generally low in the sky in the winter so consider running routes where you will not be running face into the sun in dangerous areas such as next to busy roads. If you live in an area where outside training is impossible, consider looking around for an OCR or Cross Fit style gym. Parks are also great for winter training. Go on routes where you know there will be street lighting.
Time – Set a side more time for your winter training sessions. You will need to consider extra time for warming up and cooling down.
Visibility – The short winter days mean we often end up training before or after work in the dark. It is essential to remain visible at all times.
Clothing – Upper Body
The key to winter running especially for your upper body is layering. Firstly, you will need to keep your hands warm with a good pair of gloves. You can lose a great deal of you body heat through your extremities so it is important to cover those hands. Next, you want a fitted or compression base layer. This layer is the closest to your body and should have contact with your skin, this layer should only consist of wicking fabrics such as wool or synthetic materials and not cotton.
A 2nd layer is needed for colder runs and is made of an insulation fabric such as fleece. This layer has the perfect balance of trapping air to keep you warm while
releasing enough vapour to avoid overheating and chills. As a final layer, you will want to protect yourself against the wind, rain and snow but at the same time allow both heat and moisture to escape to prevent both overheating and chilling.
Your legs generate a lot more heat than the rest of the body while running and therefore you will not need as many layers on your lower body. Shorts are generally fine, however if the temperature is cold, you may wish to consider a pair of running leggings or tights. Your feet also have the tendency to keep warm and there shoes with breathable waterproof membranes to help protect your feet from the natural elements. Choose shoes with an aggressive sole for the best grip, for added traction there are shoes with metal studs, remember however that these type of shoes are not permitted for most OCR events in the UK but do offer superior grip when running snow and ice. Do not use cotton socks when running because they will not wick away the moisture, leaving your feet wet and prone to blisters. Instead use socks with wicking fabrics such as wool and synthetic fibre.
Accessories: Dryrobes: One accessory that has become a ‘must have’ in the OCR world and we
see a lot of at events are the Dryrobes. These jackets are roomy, fleece lined
and exceptionally warm. With all the space inside them, they allow the user to get
changed under them in warm conditions.
These are a water proof, modular type bag, enabling you to zip together to
use on race day in whatever configuration suits you. Essential for any athlete,
family or sports team, KitBrix is the most functional and most effective of all the
sports organisers. Big easy pull zippers, military inspired design, well thought out
shape for open access and a hardwearing tarpaulin as well as a moulded base
which makes this durable bag set outstanding.
While training through the winter you may not sweat or feel as thirsty as you
typically would in the summer, but it is important to be aware of this and
remember to keep drinking and eating before, during and after your training
We at Brocket Gear want to help you to enjoy Adventure Running and Obstacle Course Running as we do. If you have any questions or queries about what gear you should be using particularly as wecome into the winter, do not hesitate to ask us. www.brocketgear.co.uk | email@example.com
Brocket Gear Race Team’s Ross Brackley and Jason Brunnock took on the UK OCR champs recently and here we have Ross describing the day….
Potentially the biggest race in the UK this year was about to unfold and right on schedule, the rain came as we stood tentatively on the start line. This race would be defined by two things, the planning behind the course and the number of competitive racers who showed up on the day. Thankfully, the best guys on UK shores at the time were littering the event village and I knew some of OCR’s most passionate organisers were behind this one. Game on. Focusing mostly on the OCRWC a month earlier, I hadn’t thought too much about preparation for this but some time off hard training left my legs feeling pretty good, so I had everything to run for.
The starting pace was typically fast and with numerous quick guys on course we snaked fairly tightly for the first kilometre or so…we were racing. Heading into Wild Forest Gym a small group broke away, at this point Conor effortlessly leapt from a cruising pace alongside me, straight to the front group. Awesome! Tristan had set the starting pace and together with James Appleton and Conor, pulled out quite a gap as we headed into another running section.
Arriving at the slippery monkey bars a little behind, I made sure I just safely got across, knowing we had a lot still to come and risky gibbon like behaviour was unnecessary at this point. Next came the leg sapping ditches, complimented by the endless cargo crawl, such a pleasure. It’s often these simple obstacles, which almost everyone can complete, where an efficient technique will put you in good stead for the rest of the race. However, stuck at this point in a battle for fourth, and with Tristan, Conor and James all pulling away, chances of a podium finish weren’t looking good.
We were on our feet again now, with a chance to open up a run and it was evident I had plenty left in my legs compared to my opponent battling for fourth, so I quickly put a gap between us. Now I was in danger of being subject to a lonely OCR slog, which many races often become. Luckily, as I reached the apex of the hill I could see the gap they had opened wasn’t unachievable to respond to. This was almost disappointing…it meant I was going to have to try, rather than settle for fourth…but that’s what you want from the UK Champs, right?
We entered the stream with a log in hand, as you do, it was at this point Tristan was close enough to make contact. We exited the stream together, entering some good running sections, where I managed to stumble my way into a small lead, we were back in business. Some technical obstacles followed, the rig being one of them and after what I’m calling ‘knotted rope bounce ball thing’, which is trickier than it looks, most the grip intensive obstacles were over, until the final few kilometres. I safely got through these again, still employing the ‘safety sloth’ technique, not wanting to lose any time from a big mistake.
James and Conor were gone now, I watched James disappear after the first water heavy section, and the battle for me now was going to be with the elements. Water obstacles were deep, swimming not wading, once your chest is in you’re going to lose heat fast and I was feeling this. I know I can suffer through the cold but it can have an effect on your ability to manage the more technical obstacles and needless to say, my hands were numb.
Scott was flying around with the GoPro and lifted me through many of the running sections, forcing a quick pace to get me warm and competitive again, thanks dude! Arriving at ‘Cliff Hanger’ I was lucky to find my grip was solid, which gave me confidence heading into the Ninja Rings, where many peoples’ races slipped away from them. A quick look over my shoulder following this and I knew 3rd was probably mine.
However, dropping off the penultimate obstacle and looking to the Weaver, I caught a glimpse of a runner coming through. I knew I had get across fairly swiftly and that a mistake now would cost me a podium finish. I went for the ‘safety gibbon’, the perfect hybrid, crossing the line in 3rd. Nice.
It’s been mentioned all week but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said again. This race was challenging but in my opinion achievable, with enough variation to allow most the different strengths of an obstacle racer to show through. Mark and James smashed it and although weather kicked our butts, which we couldn’t control, measures were taken to help keep the obstacle safe when slippery. Great work guys and well done to Jason on his 6th place as well!
The Bog & Bryn race is part of the Welsh Fell Runners Association calendar and a +13 mile loop in the valleys of Cwmbran Wales. Stuck for an event at the weekend I thought I’d give it a go as it promised to be a tough hilly course with plenty of mud thrown in.
I was not disappointed and set off on one of the hottest November days on record into the beautiful Welsh countryside – a little apprehensive as it seemed the majority of my fellow runners were in club vests which told me there were some seriously keen runners taking part!
We set off at s quick pace and within a few minutes we started our first ascent up a vey steep muddy hill. It was hands on knees stuff and as I was not fully warmed up yet I certainly felt it in my heart and lungs! From the website I knew roughly to expect and the fact that this first hill was a small one didn’t bode well. We were then into a stage of fields which were pretty tough under foot owing to the herd of cows occupying them but my trusty Inov8 X-talons held up pretty well and stopped me from falling on my arse or turning on my ankles.
Once warmed up I really started to enjoy the race and managed to stay with a fairly quick pack of runners, the weather was beautiful and the Welsh country side equally lovely – a great way to spend a Sunday.
After about 9/10 miles (felt longer) we hit the biggest hill which seemed to drag on and on and at that moment I was conscious of my baby inspired lack of training and sleep! But no better way to brush the cobwebs off than with a tough race. I reached the final ascent and it was a fast decent back into the town. My legs had been begging me for this following the long ascent but I think the Zero point compression socks helped ease the pain on my calves going up and my 2XU compression shorts helped my quads on the fast descent. Once into the town is was a fast dash down the canal and back to the start where I was very pleased to be finally finished and in 24th overall.
I’d recommend the race and at £14 it was great value; with a good bit of food and a very nice mug to keep at the end. This type of event is fantastic training as it really works the cardiovascular system whilst working and strengthening feet and legs.
The Icebug Xperience is a 3-day event on the West Coast of Sweden, there are options to run or hike the 3 days. I was invited to take part as part of Team IcebugUK.
Travelling out on Thursday to Gothenburg it was an early start to the day arriving at Heathrow for 6:15 ready for the 7:40 flight. Arriving in Gothenburg I met up with the rest of Team Icebug UK members and we headed into Gothenburg for the day where we visited Icebug HQ to drop off bags before heading into town for a spot of lunch to get to know the 2 competition winners Martin and Craig along with Jim who travelled with the team, after some sight seeing we all met up again ready for the coach transfer up to Ramsvik where we would be based for the next 3 days.
Arriving in the Ramsvik holiday village we were allocated rooms, this was very efficient with envelopes being ready with keys and all the details we would need. Registration and race pack pick up was completed quick and easy, the race pack received containing race number, dibber, race t shirt (high quality merino wool) and a head over.
As part of the race package everyone receives breakfast, lunch after each stage and an evening meal along with accommodation, this was in the form of chalet’s with a living area downstairs and beds on the 1st floor accessed by a small ladder which was pretty cool.
The first evenings food consisted of a buffet of pulled pork, salad and potato wedges, all food for the event is locally produced and organic giving a great chance to sample Swedish food. After a look around the holiday village it was off to bed for an early night.
Day 1 – Woods and Islands
Up for breakfast at 7:00 which was a great mix of traditional Swedish food including smoked elk!!! As the first day didn’t start until 12:00 we were able to spend some time taking in the amazing scenery around the Ramsvik area. Coach pickup was at 9:50 to travel to the ferry to take us to the start lane
Stage 1 started at 12:00 on the island of Bohus-Malmön, after a run along the harbour area, along pontoons we headed up into the rocky area where fun really started, this was around 6k of very technical running across rocks and boulders, having never ran on this terrain before found this hard going. The ferries run every half an hour back to the main land where stage 2 would start, I soon realised it was going to be tight to make the 13:00 ferry back due to the terrain being run over, turning the last corner could see the ferry was being loaded up ready to go, finished the 6.5 miles of stage 1 in 59:23, so just making the ferry, quick grab of a cinnamon roll which was heavenly along with a sports drink from the fuel station after dibbing in, it was on to the ferry.
On landing back on the main land we had a short wait before all the runners started off on the next 18k, straight up a hill!!! The 2nd stage was a mix of more rocks, woodland and along the coast. Again the scenery was incredible, with the next 2 days in mind I was trying to keep a fairly steady pace but with the heat of the day and the tough terrain this caught up with me at around 9 miles, turning off a short road section to run up a trail both inner quads cramped which made the climb up the hill an interesting walk/hobble. From here on in it was a case of run then walk/ hobble and try and stretch off the cramp. Between miles 10 and 11 I started feeling very dehydrated despite taking on a lot of water and sports drink at the water stations, found myself having to dig deep to keep going and the run/walk swayed more towards walk with small bits of running. Another runner came past me and shouted out come on keep going there’s around 250 meters left to go, not sure I have been so glad to here how far there is left in a race before and kicked on to run the final section onto the harbour area at Kungshamn.
The evenings meal was locally sourced fish, not being a great lover of fish I’ll admit to not being overly keen but enjoyed trying different fish I’d never heard of let alone eaten. Rounded off the evening with a massage, clean bill of health given just some tightness which he worked away.
Summary of day 1, far harder than I had anticipated with the added heat which was not expected made this a challenging but great days running (and walking in places). Beautiful scenery and great atmosphere. Finished the day in 46th/118 runners with a time of 3:16:08 and 3rd Brit out of 13
Day 2 – Ramsvik Rocks
How different a start to the day today was, we woke up to heavy rain and thunder storms which were forecast for the day. Breakfast slightly later than Friday so as to be fuelled nearer to race start, added in some of the smoked elk for extra fuel, very tasty.
Today’s race started in Ramsvik holiday village, luckily the rain had moved out and we were presented with perfect conditions for running. A last minute decision not to run in a rain jacket was made which was a great decision. The race started off by heading off to the reddish granite rocks around the Ramsvik area which after the mornings rain were quite slippery so a steady pace was needed, a few people were slipping but no such problems thanks to the IceBug Anima3’s. As the race progressed we moved through wooded areas with the type of trail running I love and very Brutal10 like, narrow wet and muddy trails, more rocky areas and some road with a climb up and over a bridge before heading down into the harbour area and to the finish. Finished the race feeling a lot fresher than the previous day and with a big smile on my face after a great mornings run seeing yet more amazing scenery.
Lunch was served in the harbour area which was some locally sourced chicken and vegetables, tasted really good, after seeing in the rest of the Team IcebugUK runners we headed back to Ramsvik by coach. Tonight’s meal was a meat feast consisting of neck of pork, sirloin steak and slow cooked lamb with locally produced vegetables, like the previous night the food was very good. Ending a great day with a well needed massage it was off to bed for some rest before the last day.
Summary of Day 2, a great trail run, although tough not as tough as the previous day, amazing scenery yet again. Finished in 18th place on the day and first Brit home, overall standings moved up 16 places into 30th and clawed back 11 minutes on the top Brit from day 1, 7 minutes 30 seconds to make up on day 3…..
Day 3 – Hunnebo Haut Route
A very windy start to day 3 and feeling a lot colder than the previous day’. Not having had a great nights sleep due to achy legs, I walked around and used a roller stick and Tiger Balm to ease the legs ready for the start at 11:30.
To get to the start line today there was a short ferry trip across to Hunnebostrand, assembling at the start line I was still in 2 minds as to whether to try and claw back the 7 minutes 30 seconds needed to finish top Brit, looking at the course for today pretty soon after the start we would be presented with a steep climb, decided to give it my all and see how much time I could pull back, legs were still feeling pretty tired at the start but after the first 1km started to loosen up and was able to run at a steady pace, as we climbed the rocks out of the harbour area I was just behind the leading pack and around runners who I had been near the previous day so felt comfortable tucking in with these guys, once over the top of the rocks the wind dropped and left a pleasant temperature to run in, today’s run was another great mix of rocks, trails and small road sections, after around 10k I was feeling strong so moved ahead of the 2 guys I was running near, we swapped positions again for around 5k until going across the bridge which left around 4 to 5k left, decided to give it one last push and moved ahead and away from the 2 guys, a final section across rocks and trail lead to the road leading in to the Ramsvik holiday village, being aware every second could count today I pushed hard right to the end and finished feeling I really had given every I could which is always a great feeling.
After seeing in the rest of the team I headed off for a shower and to pack final items ready for coach pick up at 16:00. Lunch today was grilled chicken with roast veg and potato, enjoyed with a beer with the team before watching the prize giving and closing of the event.
During the coach journey back to the airport, the final results were published and found I had made up 8 minutes 7 seconds to finish 37 seconds ahead of the 2nd placed Brit and 25th out of 118 starters, this was a real bonus given the 46th place finish on day one, 16th on day 3. Met up for a farewell beer at the airport before heading off for our flights.
The Icebug Xperience really lived up to being a one of a kind event, amazing scenery, tough yet great running, lovely food, great people and a very friendly atmosphere all mixed together to make this a must do event for all trail runners with the bonus of a few days away thrown in. Packages for next year are due to be released soon which are great value with race entry, accommodation, food, transfers to each stage and coaches from and back to Gothenburg included. I’ll be booking up to go back next year as soon as I can.
Thanks to John Ovenden of Icebug UK and Jonas Fernström of Icebug for making it possible for me to attend and have such a great time.
I thought that this would be a good time to reflect on the upcoming 36+ hour mental and physical endurance event ‘The Unknown’ bought to us by one of our favourite OCR organisations, Judgement Day. It’s 2128 on Sunday evening, and while I watch friends Martlew, Miller, Lacey and Hellard on BBC 2’s Hell Week, my mind is focused on the fact that by this time next week, my personal weekend of hell will be out of the way.
Judgement Day: The Unknown promises to test us mentally and physically over a period of 36+ hours, starting next weekend. We have been given a kit list to take alongside food and water, including 20 empty water bottles, a teaspoon, a space hopper and various other weird and wonderful objects. From the moment the list arrived, the mind has been racing: What will they be used for? Are some of them red herrings? There’s been a lot of theories on the Facebook group setup to help the competitors chat. I1ve got my own theories, but keeping them to myself for now.
There’s about 30 of us doing it, and I’m glad to be joined by fellow Brocket Gear Race Team members Jason and Phill, along with a host of good friends from the OCR community. While I’ve no doubt at this point that this will be a very personal journey, I’m sure there will be an abundance of team spirit throughout.
I’m currently starting to panic about the kit. The pre-event mind games have begun already, as the mandatory kit list can be a little open to interpretation. There’s also things to consider like fuel: What should I take to eat? How many calories should I be looking at? How can I get maximum energy with minimum weight? And what about water? It’s enough to drive you mad before you begin!
My home has been overcome with kit now. Everything has arrived, lists have been written and there is barely a floor or work surface that hasn’t be claimed by The Unknown. I think it¹s safe to say that my wife will be happy once it¹s out of the way. I’ve gone with merino and neoprene clothing, with two spare sets in dry fold bags inside the rucksack. I’ve also gone with an emergency hypothermia dry fold bag with full fresh baselayer, neoprene, wraps and my Dirty Dozen bobble hat. My plan is to only use this if I get too cold and feel like hypothermia is getting the better of me. I’ve got a new version of my favourite Smartwool beanie for my head with Darken neoprene gloves for my hands, Inov-8 Stormshell Jacket for outer layer water/wind proofing and some waterproof trousers. In essence, I know that the waterproof outer layers won¹t stop the wet when I’m burpee’ing in the sea at 2am, but hopefully they will stop the wind when I’m trying to warm up again.
For food, I have a selection of the amazing Chia Charge bars, Mountain Fuel and a few thousand calories worth of sweet and savoury sticky rice cakes from the Feed Zone Portables book (Lovingly created by my ever-suffering wife and amazing cook/baker, Ali). I’m also going to take a regular water bottle and my Water-To-Go bottle, which will allow me to purify water on the go.
Finally, in addition to the required kit, I¹ve got a small selection of survival items that I feel may come in handy at one point or another. Only time will tell! I’m now killing time, waiting for the big day, and trying to remember that I’m doing this for fun
5, 10 or 15 miles were on offer when me and Josh signed up to Dash Of The Titan. We were planning to set up stall there after a kind invite from Alan, aka Muddy Duck. Alan was also kind enough to stick me on the elite invitation wave alongside some top OCR athletes including Team Brocket Gear’s very own Jason Brunnock. No pressure!
We arrived at Thoresby and after setting up stall I was quickly away to get ready for the 0945 wave alongside Jason and the rest of the invitation wave. We were having to do two laps for a position and were informed that the 5 mile lap was closer to a 6 mile lap (bonus!). The weather was good though and after a week of rain I was expecting a nice muddy course. Alan kindly invited us all to crawl through a ditch in order to get to the start line where we then given a nice tyre to carry. A good start to a good race!
I wasn’t disappointed, there was plenty of runnable ground and because our wave was so small we soon got spread out. The course was a good combination of monkey bars, tyre and sand bag carries, crawls, ditches, water features and a few hay bales! I felt pretty slow on that first lap if I’m honest but felt better on my 2nd lap, at which point a number of other waves had previously set off so it was good to be amongst other runners again.
Anyway, I picked it up and finished in 6th position, which to be honest I was very pleased with given my lack of training and advancing age. It would have been good to get a 3rd lap in but it was time to hand over to Josh to allow him to race and for me to take over the Brocket Gear Stall. The Inov8 X-Talons were ideal for the terrain and very grippy, my ZeroPoint compression socks and 2XU shorts helped my achy muscles!
There were some great efforts during the race and hats off to those who made the podium including Team Brocket Gear’s very own Jason who came 3rd, but also to Monika Lampart (Team Ram) who completed 4 laps and Joe Towey who was awarded the DOTT spirit of OCR award. A well done also to Alan who was non-stop on the microphone all day and who put together a decent little race. Some more races and exciting things to come from DOTT as well, can’t wait.
With 3 weeks to go until I take part in the Icebug Xperience in Sweden with Team IceBug UK, the Brutal 10 Minley was a perfect opportunity to test out the nutrition and kit I’d be using, I’d entered the 20k and planned on completing a 3rd lap to bring up 30k to simulate day 1 of the Icebug Xperience, (Day 1 – 29k, Day 2 – 24k and Day 3 – 21k).
Brutal10 put on a series of races over the year using only natural obstacles such as hills, steep hills and flat hills. There are often water obstacles, mud, uneven ground, and hills, full details here, I cannot recommend the Brutal10 events enough, they are without doubt the best organised and friendly whilst still tough races out there; run by a team who have one aim and that is to put on great races that anyone can take part in regardless of ability, all races will challenge the most experienced of runners whilst giving a great fun challenge to newcomers, all are made equally as welcome. The Brutal element’s of the Minley race are the hills and the option to take on 2 laps of the 10k course.
With being a fussy eater I decided to try the Mountain Fuel products to ensure I am able to take on enough nutrition and fuel for the 3 days in Sweden, so Friday night I used the Mountain Fuel Night Fuel which as per the instructions I drunk over a couple of hours. Saturday morning I combined the Mountain Fuel Morning Fuel with a hand full of mixed seeds and made up one of the Xtreme Energy Fuel drinks to drink in the 2 hours leading up to the start at 10am.
As a keen member of the Brutal10 volunteer team I arrived at Minley Manor, the location for the race at 7:45 ready to man the t shirt stand with my daughter (who would also be running the 5k race) for the morning before running the race, the time passed quickly chatting to all the other volunteers who would either be marshalling or running the race after helping on out on registration and the regular Brutaleers arriving to run.
Finishing my t shirt selling duties at 9:30 it was off to get changed and a warm up before the race start. Kit for the race was to be, Icebug Anima3’s, Ronhill Advance Twin Shorts, Ronhill Pursuit SS fluo yellow technical t shirt (supplied by John Ovenden of IceBug UK as part of the race package, thanks John ), ZeroPoint Compression Socks, Ronhill cap, Dirty Girl Gaiters and Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12 SET 2015 backpack. I wouldn’t usually wear a backpack for this distance race but wanted to test running with the backpack carrying the mandatory kit.
As usual with the Brutal10 races the Canicross runners go off at 9:45 to give them a clear course before the runners start at 10:00. With the aim of 3 laps in mind I started the race a couple of rows back from the start to avoid the temptation to try and stay with the front runners who would be taking on the 5k and 10k options. With the race underway I settled into the a comfortable pace I was happy I could maintain for the 20k leaving myself with enough to get a 3rd lap in. Soon into the race the wife of one of the RD’s, Sarah Rollins, who was also taking on the 20k passed me, knowing she would very likely be the ladies winner I decided to try and keep Sarah in my sights for as long as possible, not an easy task by any means. A small group of us found ourselves a little back from the front pack and ahead of the rest of the runners which was ideal to enjoy the excellent course put on for us, this was a mix of fire paths and technical trails through the forest, as we came up to the 8k marker the sting in the tail of the race started, this was a series of hills which you really didn’t want to see at this point of the race but it wouldn’t be a Brutal10 race without them….
Coming round to the end of the first 10k loop I was feeling really good having taken a few sips of water over the course of the loop, the fuelling plan was working well, a quick check of the clock and seeing just under 48mins, Sarah was around 150 meters ahead of me at this point, happy with both the time and being able to keep not too far behind it was past the finish area and back out for the 2nd 10k loop, with fewer runners on this lap it was great to concentrate on running and enjoying the course instead of the usual racing. Around the 17k point I started to feel a slight drop in energy but pushed on, around this point Sarah put some distance between herself and I, as we approached the bridge for the 2nd time which involved running up the steps across the bridge and back down the steps the other side I spotted a chasing runner so pushed on to keep myself ahead, tackling the hills from 8k onwards it was a final push to the finish line. To my surprise I came in 5th overall, 2nd place male vet and taking the 3rd place male finisher prize, a great bonus to the mornings run. With fellow Brocket Gear Race Team member Tim Lovett taking 1st place in the 5k race a good day all round for Brocket Gear.
After stopping for a photo and taking one of the Mountain Fuel “On the Go Fuel” mixes I had made up earlier in the day and topping up water bottles it was back out for a 3rd lap, I dropped the pace a lot from the race and ran a tough but enjoyable lap to get in miles and time in the legs. Once finished I mixed up the Mountain Fuel Ultimate Recovery drinks and drank this over the course of the next hour. In summary the nutrition plan worked well, I will take a bottle of the Energy fuel with me when racing in Sweden to top up energy supplies to avoid the slight drop I felt around the 17k point in the race. Very happy with all the kit used so just some final testing of kit for changes for the other 2 days and everything will be ready for what is sure to be an amazing experience.
The day was finished off with a BBQ put on by the Brutal10 team to say thank-you to all the volunteers who give up there time to help put on the events each time, I don’t really think any of us who were there are volunteers as such but all friends helping other each other to put on these great events, a huge thanks to the Brutal10 team for all the races and training events they put on and for me in particular great advice on training over the past couple of years, in particular to Colin Dickson and Dave Rollins.
Get signed up to the next Brutal10 event which is also a Mudstacle League event on the 10th October which has the slowest winning time of all the races, giving a good indication of the toughness of this race.
To celebrate Brocket Gear’s stocking of Xtenex laces, Tim has dragged out his old Xtenex review and here it is untouched and its original glory. He still stands by his words as much as he did the day he wrote it:
“When you read through some “advice” articles on obstacle course racing there are always a few things that pop up. Normally some rubbish about only wearing cheap shoes as you’ll never be able to wear them again (but we’ll save that rant for another time), and a section on how to tie your laces to make sure your shoes don’t come off. The lace thing is a tricky one: lacing your shoes with a double-knot makes it difficult to adjust when you’re in the middle of a run and during winter events taking them off with freezing fingers can be a real issue. There are a few quick-tie/quick-release options out there, but most with some flaws when it comes to the obstacle course racing environments that we have to deal with. We think, however, that we have the perfect solution…
The problem with traditional QR systems
As always, when looking at suitable solutions, we’ve been testing several different types from different manufacturers to try to get the perfect product for you all. The traditional toggle system used in a lot of triathlon shoes caught our eye and we tried several solutions. They all had one common flaw: the plastic mechanism used to both secure and release the laces were constantly flooded with stones and grit (as you would expect during an OCR) and because of this, more often that not, these mechanisms would jam. During our tests, 80% of the time these failed by the end of the race and the ability to quickly remove your shoes when you have cold hands was soon lost. Not cool. So we needed to look for a new way of thinking. In stepped (no pun intended) Xtenex.
What is Xtenex then and why is it different?
Xtenex is a patented elastic shoelace technology which uses the eyelets in your shoe for anchorage providing instantly adjustable tension across the lacing eyelets. The unique “knotted” design and elastic properties of the lace addresses issues with discomfort and pain that you sometimes get when trying to tie your laces for a race (foot pain, numbness, friction blisters and restriction of natural foot swelling).
Even better, the tension applied throughout the shoe at the eyelets is produced at each eyelet by the knots already in place, not at the top of the shoe where you would normally tie your laces. This means that you can run in your shoes without tying the laces at all. You’ll never need to stop to re-tie your laces, because you’ll never need to tie them in the first place!
As always we didn’t believe the manufacturer so we drew straws as to who would run without their laces tied and lo and behold, it was me. Again!
Pukka Races and The Obstacle
After giving them a go on our normal test circuit and being pretty impressed, it was time to give them the sign off at a few races. First up was Pukka Race’s World War Run, which turned out to be ideal as I was up to my hip in mud at some points in the course. Just what I needed to try and get them off of my feet! So, sat in the carpark before the race I threw in a set of the orange Xtenex laces on to one of my Inov-8 X-Talon 212 shoes and left the original laces on the other, for comparision.
Following the guide, I laced them in with the appropriate tension. It was noted in several places that they shouldn’t be over tightened and although the tension in the lace was much lower than I would normally have them, I put faith in the technology.
The first thing I noticed was how comfortable the shoe felt- like it was on securely but at no point did my foot feel restricted. I crossed the laces over at the top to stop them getting in the way but there was no tension there. I started to make up excuses in my head for the members of RPCC that I would be running with just in case I spent the next 5 miles with only one shoe or constantly adjusting the laces. I was very pleased to not need them.
The shoe stayed on perfectly- even in the sort of thick mud where you have to scrunch your toes to get your foot out at all, the X-Talon always followed out. I honestly couldn’t believe it. On the other foot, the normal knot needed re-tying 4 times during the race but on the other foot: nothing. It simply stayed in place perfectly and comfortably, even with the change in temperature as we went from long runs in the sun to dipping into cold water. When it came to the removal at the end, the pressure of my hand on the heel was enough to slip the shoe off. Amazing- accurate pressure from my hand removed it but otherwise it was perfect for keeping the shoe snug and firmly in place without being too tight. So, to prove it wasn’t a fluke I again tried them at The Obstacle but this time on both shoes with no tying at all, not even just to make them look neat (I have pretty bad OCD :-)).
Again, they were perfect- no slipping on either foot over any of the obstacles from wall climbs, ramps, crawls, etc. Just comfort and security the whole way around.”
We are pleased to offer the Xtenex laces at Brocket Gear, adding yet another quality tested product to our range. Check them out now!