Run/bike/run/bike/run/fall over

Stupidity, Me, Bikes 2 Comments

The wall

Regular readers (hah!) will know that I have, in the past, dabbled with “multisport” events. Most recently I teamed up with Carl and Chris to take part in the Dirty Double run/bike/assault course adventure race thing organised by votwo. The venue was Itchen Valley Country Park near Southampton, and with the weather in the previous few days being bordering on the biblical the conditions were, well, soft. Much of the running legs were on the water meadows bordering the Itchen, likely to be moist at the best of times. On this occasion large areas appeared to be considerably below the actual river level and there were a couple of waist-deep stretches.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Our team’s secret weapon was Carl - he’s training for the London Marathon, aiming for a sub-three hour time and prone to returning from 22 mile training runs without apparently having broken a sweat. Chris is working up to a triathlon, while I’m OK on a bike but hadn’t run for over a year (not since the previous adventure race I’d done, in fact). It wasn’t all that surprising that Carl basically led us round, with Chris and I swapping position depending on the current modality…

We all got a bit of a surprise, though. Heading off from the start at a comfortable pace we very quickly found ourselves at the front. We were expecting to be reasonably competitive on the bikes, but we were still on foot at this point. There was a way to go yet, though, and with the format being run/bike/run/bike/run an awful lot of changes of shoes to negotiate. I’d equipped my shoes with stretchy laces, which made for brisk transitions but also meant that the sticky bits of the run course (ie all of it) could fairly easily suck the shoes off my feet. Still, it only happened about nine or ten times and they were quick to put back on.

We held on to our lead through the first bike leg, giving a comfortable buffer for the run through the water meadows (and “through” is definitely the operative word). I was still quite happy at this point, and somewhat buoyed by hearing the team behind us call, “There are the leaders!” from the other side of a loop in the course that we knew would take at least a couple of minutes to complete. In traditional adventure race style, the run leg passed right by the transition area and then went back off into the woods the other side of it, allowing us to approach the transition across an open field into a biting headwind. To add to the fun, there was a scramble net to negotiate before getting back on to the bikes.

Alarmingly, we overtook a team at this point - they’d just got on to the bikes for the first riding leg, and therefore looked likely to be out on the course for quite a long time. Two fairly straightforward laps later and if anything we were a bit further ahead of our rivals. It started to go a bit wrong in the final transition when the act of changing my shoes caused a mighty spasm of cramp right up one leg. Fortunately it freed off again, but with lots of twinges on the final run lap I wasn’t getting any faster and we definitely needed that gap over the second-placed team.

Somehow we managed to keep our distance for most of the final run leg, helped in no small measure by Isla shouting “Go, Daddy, Go!” from the sidelines (she’d already attempted to join the race at the start), and in fact it was only a mild degree of faffing to negotiate the final 9ft plywood wall obstacle that allowed the others to close up. The last 50 yards of the course featured a scramble net, two chaps in gorilla outfits attempting to impede our progress, a fenced-off area full of exercise balls and the aforementioned plywood cliff. I decided that I was lightest, so gave Carl and Chris a leg-up to the top before realising that I could only just reach high enough to get pulled up. I had to ditch my now rather slimy gloves for better grip, and having lost the use of my legs by this point it was pretty much down to my team-mates to get me to the top. We made it, though, and crossed the line just over a minute clear.

It’s now Tuesday, and I hope to be able to walk properly again by the weekend.

There’s an official report on the votwo site (notable for referring to us as “highly trained” - if only they knew…) and a report from the Southampton Daily Echo that possibly marginally exaggerates how unpleasant it was.

(Ali took the picture)

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