Muddy Monkeys

Looking for something that will challenge you but at the same time fun? Involving loads of glorious mud and even more laughter? Then Total Warrior is for you!

Clean monkeys before the start

Clean monkeys before the start (Photo: David Hickey)

When Dave Gaffney from Total Warrior first approached me with the idea to join in the action, I was a bit sceptical. Yes I’ve done obstacle type events previously but this was before I took my running more seriously so I’ve shied away from them preferring to focus more on ‘proper’ running events. You know what they say ‘A change is as good as a holiday’ and true it was, I tried it and then went away on holiday too! In all seriousness though it was a refreshing and fun change to be running around with a group of like minded friends, drenched, muddied, exhausted with my sides hurting from laughing so hard. Don’t let the mud put you off…..even I’m known for being a bit of a Princess and not getting myself muddy, but take off those shackles and jump straight in, literally!

Jump straight in!

Jump straight in! (Photo: David Hickey)

My Total Warrior event was Edinburgh, and this was held out at the Balgone Estate in North Berwick a 45 minute drive from the city centre on the 12th September. Registration is really slick, alphabetical lines where you get your number, drop bag, head and wrist band and your tattoo, yes your tattoo! Preferably adhered to your face of course before you start the event naturally! A great set up at race HQ with plenty of stands to buy a coffee, bacon roll or even a beer.

Crawling under barbed wire sporting my Total Warrior tattoo nicely!

Crawling under barbed wire sporting my Total Warrior tattoo nicely! (Photo: David Hickey)

The obstacles start before you even cross the start line with a tunnel entrance to crawl through to get you warmed up. Then you’re off, 12km of terrain to cover but don’t let that worry you as there are over 30 obstacles to get through so even if you’re not really into your running, there’s plenty of opportunity to catch your breath in between whilst you hang on to ropes, jump over burning fires, plunge into swampy icy waters, climb walls and slip and slide your way through muddy bogs to highlight a few.

Did someone yell 'FIRE'!

Did someone yell ‘FIRE’! (Photo: David Hickey)

I was in a team with my local Crossfit crew, 5 of us in total (Shona Currie, Sandra Dailidyte, Scott Currie, David McLaren & I).   Crossfit Monkeys was our name and we had a monkey call that we used continuously throughout the course to keep track of where we all were, much to the amusement of fellow competitors. Our rule was that we stuck together throughout leaving no one behind and we truly needed each other throughout.

Midway mud photo

Midway mud photo (Photo: David Hickey)

You find that in your team everyone has a different strength to draw on to help each other through; I certainly wouldn’t have made it over any of the walls without our buff men lifting me over! Note you can skip any obstacle that you are not comfortable with; I skipped the electrocution as I can’t do that again after Tough Mudder (it was horrible!) but the rest of the team did it and said it wasn’t that bad.

I did get over this last one myself after a LOT of attempts

I did get over this last one myself after a LOT of attempts (Photo: David Hickey)

So what are my Top 10 tips for an obstacle course?

  1. Wear old clothes. They are going to get pretty trashed and I prefer to have my legs and arms covered to save any grazing and scratches that can happen through the obstacles so I stick to tights and long sleeves to keep myself fully covered.
  2. Wear even older shoes and then bin them at the end!
  3. Any clothes you do decide to keep make sure you give them a really good rinse out before they go in the washing machine as there is a LOT of mud.
  4. Go naked! By that I mean leave the jewellery at home – rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings etc ditch them at home to save getting them caught on anything or worse losing them altogether. Trust me you won’t find it in the swamp!
  5. Take a bag full of dry clothes for afterwards, including a towel and some wet wipes and a plastic bag for any wet & muddy kit you are taking home. Some of the courses have cold showers/hoses at the end but there were none at Balgone Estate, but a quick wet wipe and towel dry and into some dry clothes works a treat.
  6. Make sure you’ve got someone strong in your team to help you over those walls, or a couple if you can, but if you can’t don’t worry there’s always a few toughies out there on the course more than willing to help those with less upper body strength over a wall.
  7. Speaking of which, do some upper body training – Crossfit Edinburgh put on some bespoke obstacle course training sessions leading up to the event to get people comfortable with tackling monkey bars and ropes etc but any general strength training will definitely help.
  8. Eat beforehand. Even though it might only be 12k, you can’t whiz around the course in a super quick time and using all your muscles takes a lot of energy so make sure you are fully hydrated and fuelled, we had a gel each along the way to keep our energy levels up too.
  9. Plan for afterwards. Chances are you will be pretty knackered and possibly rather cold, so a nice hot bath as soon as you get home with a steaming cup of hot tea to bring your body temperature back to normal and a chance to let your muscles relax. Wrap yourself in compression and get on the couch with your feet up.
  10. Have fun! Don’t take yourself or your team too seriously and laugh your way around the course to the finish line beer and you’ll be telling stories for a long time to come.
Monkeys that start together finish together

Monkeys that start together finish together (Photo: David Hickey)

Here is your chance to win a free entry to any Total Warrior event for next year. What do you need to do? Check out the photo below and comment either on my blog, facebook post or twitter post with your most creative caption and I’ll be choosing a winner. Entries close Friday 16th October so hurry!

Caption Contest - GO!

Caption Contest – GO!

(Photo: My Bib Number)

Edinburgh Total Warrior is already on the calendar for 10th & 11th September 2016 and early bird entries are already open so don’t miss out on the fun!

NB: I was gifted this race entry through Total Warrior, thank you for the opportunity.

Special thanks to My Bib Number Ltd for the fantastic Total Warrior tagged photos, and David Hickey for the great spectator photos too.

Gun show!

Gun show!


Incorporating strength training

Runners run, right? But what about strength training? I have come to realise through my own experiences with strength training and research into how the top runners train that it is an integral part of a runners training plan if they are to succeed.
I dabbled in crossfit last year for a few months from July to October when I was training for Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM), and was going twice a week to Crossfit Edinburgh in conjunction with my running training plan and a session of Bikram yoga (also great for strength and flexibility). I did really well at KAEM as my first ever multi day self sufficient stage race (you carry your own food & kit so approx. starting with 8.5kg without water on my back) coming 2nd lady and 16th overall so I must have done something right in the lead up.

Crossfit in Edinburgh in action

Crossfit in Edinburgh in action

On my return from KAEM I took some time to recover and then we moved house, then it was Christmas…..excuses, excuses and I didn’t make it back to crossfit before Marathon Des Sables(MdS) in April. The reason I chose not to go back was firstly I felt that crossfit had hindered my ability to train effectively on my training runs as I was suffering a lot from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) purely due to being new to it and possibly not going regularly enough, and secondly money, I couldn’t afford to do both Bikram yoga AND crossfit so chose yoga as I felt it was the better of the two (I certainly was ending up with less DOMS after yoga). But then MdS came. And I struggled. The race is dubbed the toughest foot race in the world so it was bound to be tough, but something in me was lacking. With similar distances and the same self sufficient style as KAEM I personally felt I didn’t run well enough and to me it was all down to strength, okay the 48 degree temperatures and endless sand didn’t help, but it was strength that was really missing. My pack felt really heavy, yet it was lighter and smaller than KAEM and I could feel this in my back, shoulders and arms. My legs weren’t powerful enough to drive myself up those high sand dunes but I could see other runners doing this well. Watching them closely afterwards at camp, you could visibly see they had seriously defined leg muscles and looked strong overall. By comparison I didn’t. Of course I probably look fairly fit to most, but not when you start comparing yourself to those ahead of you, so there was plenty of work to be done.
I’ve been back at crossfit for about 6 weeks now, and yes the DOMS are affecting me, but I am planning my training around them better. I know I will be sore 2 days after, so I don’t plan a heavy mileage day or a hill/speed session for that day, I try and plan that to be a rest day or an easy day at least so I am not feeling that I am letting my running plan down. I can already feel the strength when I run up hills in my legs and not only I notice, but others have commented that I am looking strong. I can see definition in my legs and arms that haven’t been there before which is great.

Starting off with some light weights for squats

Starting off with some light weights for squats

With a couple of events coming up, 40mile Clyde Stride in September and the KAEM again in November the proof will be in the pudding as they say.
At first crossfit can look intimidating and you might think it is full of muscled up, competitive lifters but from my experience it is a very open and welcoming environment with a wide range of people with a range of goals and everyone gets the same support. I would recommend before signing up to a contact of any term that you check out your trainer, make sure they have the relevant qualifications and the training environment is a safe and encouraging one as incorrect form in this type of exercise can be very damaging so please ensure that you are being trained by someone that will look after you with this.
If you are in Edinburgh I can’t recommend James at Crossfit in Edinburgh highly enough, he is a great trainer and with a running background himself he is ideally suited for me as he understands the other element of my training and how it corresponds and affects my performance and ability in crossfit so he can take this into account.

Ball slams to wall slams

Ball slams to wall slams

The gravity of the situation dawns on me!

It’s 7 (& a half) weeks to go until Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon, and I’ve fallen off the wagon. I could blame work, actually I will blame work as I was cracking along great guns until this whole help out in Edinburgh for a few weeks turned permanent move came up; and that has thrown a spanner in the works. Really, it has! Longer hours, mentally & physically challenging and draining and extended travel by train has caused my weekly mileage to plummet. I was working up well to maintain 60-70 mile weeks, ready to start pushing that to the 100 mark a few times, but now over the last 3 weeks I’ve been lucky to hit 40! Not ideal preparations. I have signed up for crossfit, and I’ve been 3 times (over 3 weeks)….the problem with a new form of exercise is the serious muscle pain afterwards (DOMS). Last week after a monster ‘Leg O’clock’ session of squats I couldn’t move for 3 days! I think I’m thorough the worst of it now though. I did manage to get a couple of runs in and even enthusiastically went via Morrison’s to stock up on 5kg of rice for some weighted bag training (finished with 2 miles if that which was a real killer). I also managed to get into the steam room for one session, 10 mins followed by 5 mins, which was long enough to reduce me to a sweating, trembling mess.  I’ve had a nice relaxing bank holiday weekend, getting in a 15 miler and a 6 miler in Formby through the sand dunes (which was a wake up call in itself), so feeling ready and raring to go. The final purchases have been made for the event, including food. Thanks Mountain House and Expedition Foods for your sponsorship discounts, it certainly helped, and look forward to giving some feedback on the products soon. The backpack (Raidlight Runner-R-Light 30L from Racekit) can be filled once this all arrives this week and we can start practising with our ‘dry’ pack weight on. I’ve tried out my new New Balance Leadville’s, see my review here, ready for the big event and all my clothing is tried & tested too. I’m scared, I’m worried and very mindful that 7 weeks is not long, but still long enough. It’s now or never. I’ve got a great level of fitness, but I need to push on now for a good 5-6 weeks, getting back to LSR (long slow runs) and B2B’s (back to backs) regardless of time constraints or energy levels, there’s nothing wrong with running late into the night or getting up extra early right? The Kalahari desert won’t forgive! And back to better eating, get into my crossfit for my 2 sessions each week, and start up this dreaded Bikram Yoga. I say dreaded as for one I’m not a yoga fan and two, the heat element! My slackness in training has meant I had nothing to blog about, hence the nervous, panicky blog today! I promise to you and myself that I will be better!