Wonder Woman gets dirty!

This weekend, a group of us from Wonder Woman Workshops UK trekked over to Burghley House to run in the Rat Race Dirty Weekender, 20 (or 13) miles and 200 (or 150) obstacles, and it was an absolute cracker.

This was the second year WWWUK had run in this particular event, but last year I was in the midst of exams at University. They all absolutely smashed it and Suz entered the post-race selfie competition, subsequently winning free entry and meaning we all were pressured (nicely of course) into entering. And so, a year later, here we all were… all because of a picture of Suz’s feet…

We left early Friday afternoon with the aim to get to the campsite and get a decent place. The first workout of the weekend came from lugging all of our camping equipment from the car park up the hill and down into the campsite, a strength warm up for a weekend of hauling ourselves over hay bales and tall walls. As we walked on to the main site, we got our first view of what was going to be on the course, in the form of three ‘walls’ forming steps up to the height of two double decker buses.

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We knew this was going to be the penultimate obstacle and, looking at it, it seemed a lot higher than I’d imagined causing the first real shreds of excitement and fear to creep in.

We pitched up and, after a quick rekkie of the campsite, it was time for dinner at a lovely restaurant called the ‘Bull and Swan’. As usual, with this group of people, a lot of the meal was spent laughing (particularly at Suz’s love for fresh limes) and it was really nice to take some time to sit, talk and relax before the carnage of the next day.

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However, that evening the weather was not on our side and we spent the night being buffeted by strong winds and heavy rain, meaning that when we all stuck our heads out of the tent at 6:30 am the next morning, we were all slightly apprehensive at a long run with not only the obstacles to contend with, but the elements.

But Burghley House seems to have a spell on it, meaning that it’s incapable of bad weather on race day and, slowly but surely, the sun peeped out from behind the clouds and we began to warm up.

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All sporting our Wonder Woman t-shirts (including Matty, proving his masculinity by wearing bright fuchsia the whole way round the course), headed to the start line filled with nerves and excitement. The warm up, led by a PT… and a group of pirates (you learn to go with the flow), the klaxon went and off we went, hurdling ourselves over a couple of hay bales and taking a steady pace down into the grounds.

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The first few miles involved obstacles such as hurdles, cars to climb through, water to wade through and walls to climb over. My calves started giving me trouble from the get-go so the first part of water to wade through was highly appreciated. I’m very much a water baby so the water zone was the part I was hugely looking forward to.

We broke into groups depending on pace: the boys stormed on ahead, with Nicky, Steph and Suz close on their tail; next was myself and Kirsty; then Beth and Carli followed by Anne and Ez. Halfway through mile 3 we met up with Beth and Carli who were focused on pacing themselves for the 20 miles, and together we tackled the rather unpleasant army crawl under wire bars, through mud which covered our previously bright pink t-shirts.

We slowly chipped away at the miles together, discussing how a wine half-marathon should be our next challenge. We rounded a corner just after mile 5 to see Steph, Nicky and Suz. Unfortunately we’d had our first injury of the day and Suz was driven away (by the race director no less, only the best for our ringleader) and we resumed climbing, crawling and running, likening each obstacle to some of our classes.

At mile 7 we reached the area I’d been waiting for, the water zone. Before this, the water had been only wading through and trying to keep in the squeals of discomfort at the mud slushing under our feet. Beth, Kirsty and I donned our lifejackets, whilst Carli cracked into her 100 burpees (chest to floor, with a jump) and waded into the water. The water zone consisted of a lot of climbing on to floating platforms and balancing our way across, either fighting through tyres or jumping high enough to then plummet back into the water.

It was incredibly cold and the current meant you had to firmly keep moving in order to prevent drifting off course. Most of all, we had our eyes fixed on the high jump and the slide that followed it. I was determined to get the jump done without any fuss, stepping off the side and ruining all street cred with a girly scream, being put to shame by Kirsty and Beth who jumped without flinching. The slide similarly took your breath away, going at such a speed that the drop back into the water took your breath away with the impact.

The challenge in the water zone is the after-effects: getting out, moving and warming up. At this point, Carli and Beth broke away to hammer through the 20 miles, whilst Kirsty and I continued at a steady pace.

The course takes you all around the grounds and the weather was truly spectacular. We ran through forests in the Logathon zone, wound our way through bright yellow fields and past the lake that we’d waded through. One of the things I love about the OCR events is the sense of comradery, not just in helping each other over the obstacles but the words of encouragement passed on to each other as we all go through our personal mental and physical battles with the same aim of getting to the finish line.

Our wave included a group of people wearing t-shirts with phrases such as ‘I’m aiming to keep up with Nick’, ‘I’m running to make Nick feel faster’, ‘I’m running to make Nick feel young’ and many more. We actually found THE Nick and shouted encouragements to each other. Similarly, Kirsty and I joined up with two guys who we’d never met before for the final few miles, chatting to keep our minds off those painful last miles.

The monkey bars are one of those obstacles that haunt you when you sign up for the Dirty Weekender. At around 135 meters, there was no way I was going to get far and I was proved right. This, however, was Kirsty’s element and made it through the first four sections of the bars before her hands gave way. We then set about encouraging Jake, one of the guys we’d met on the course who made it just over half way before losing momentum.

We were then in the final stretch, winding our way down into the race site where we were confronted with that dreaded penultimate obstacle, the wall. This part is impossible without help and, with both the encouragement of Suz who had reappeared to cheer on her troops, and some of the kind guys on the wall, I made my way to the top and edged my way back down again. The very final obstacle seemed small in comparison, another wall but with planks of wood that made all the training on the climbing walls worth it. I dropped and rolled down on the other side and Kirsty, our two new friends and myself ran over the finish line, officially becoming filthy muckers.

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A note for anyone signing up for 2016, get premium camping. The hot shower afterwards was possibly one of the best parts of the weekend, it was really well run and we were in and out without having to queue, meaning we could get back out and cheer everyone else on.

Steph and Nicky had got in and showered by the time I’d finished, the boys came soon afterwards absolutely smashing the 20 miler, then came Anne and Ez before Beth and Carli came in triumphant from their 20 miles, followed by Luigi.

Exhausted but content, we all settled down in the gazebo, snacking and telling our versions of the race. Some napped, some sought out food from the food vans and the rest of us just had a laugh. We joked about the collective term of ‘fitfam’ and how ‘you don’t choose the fitfam, but the fitfam chooses you’, but in reality, we’re all a community and even though we’re all different ages with different backgrounds, we all have our love of training and enthusiasm in common. As the evening approached, we headed to the after party for the awards, applauding the absolute stars who ran the entire course twice, 40 miles and 400 obstacles… Matty looked on wistfully, he may be back next year.

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It was truly an amazing weekend. There was blood, sweat, tears and plenty of sore abs from laughing. A massive thanks to Rat Race for a great event and, more personally: Suz for organizing the event and driving; similarly Matty and Steve for hauling all of our stuff back in their cars; Kirsty for pulling me around when my calves killed and I got cramp, and for amusing me when times got tough; to Team Injury for the final few miles and to everyone with WWWUK who just made it a great way to celebrate the end of my degree and the beginning of my life as a non-student.

Until the next one, Endure24 here we come.

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