The Rat Race Dirty Weekend is billed as the longest assault course in the world. At 20 miles (straight with no laps) it is a long way and they certainly plough a lot of money and effort into building an extremely memorable course. Not only is it a great course, with every type of obstacle you can imagine…there is also a camping option and a music concert!
The weather was looking bleak with a forecast of much rain and wind, so I was pleasantly surprised to arrive on the Friday night to a sunny campsite where people were happily pitching tents in the dry. Through the night the weather really did turn nasty; fortunately I was sleeping in the van and woke to the relaxing sound of rain hitting the roof.
With such changeable weather it was a tough decision as to how many layers to wear. Especially as there is a lot of water on the course and even a fair amount of swimming. I ended up in a compression thermal base layer top with my new team inov-8 vest, shorts and x-talons. I did get too hot at some points during the race and found myself looking forward to some of the water sections to cool off! Even if this did mean I had to watch Ross swim of as I was left doing what a martial described as ‘doggy paddle’!
It was made clear from the start that for the first wave this was very much a race as well as a challenge; there was a substantial purse on offer and a set of rules was even released providing guidance on obstacle completion and assistance etc.
I was feeling strong and being a long course I was confident I could finish on the podium. My main competition, as ever, was in the form of my own team mates, Ross, James and David. The majority of RPCC were absent but we had heard that Conor Hancock, who beat Thomas Blank into third at last year’s Spartan Beast, was going to be racing as well as Seb Palmer and many others.
The course was similar to last year’s but with some subtle changes. The most welcome change was less time in the reservoir, the inflatable icebergs had been replaced with floating platforms to clamber onto, hang tough type rings, a high jump and a massive slide. There was still a fair amount of swimming but the combination of shallow water and really deep silt made for the real challenge, too tough to wade through and too shallow to swim… some interesting techniques were tested.
Ross and I were close throughout the first half of the race; I would push on during the running sections with Ross catching me once we got into anything deeper than a puddle. This made for a fun time and we chatted as we ran, discussing the course and reminiscing about how we felt at the same point a year ago. Completing the Ewok Village together was fun…the year before Ross struggled through it with cramp and I couldn’t remember it due to being so cold after the lake.
This meant, like the year before, Ross and I got to the monkey bars at the same time. In a somewhat less embarrassing display we both managed something like 2/3’s of the way meaning we could negate the forfeit of barrier hops. From here we completed the ‘Men’s Health Zone’ and were sent onto another loop out for the final 7 miles. I felt strong and pushed on enjoying the relatively flat running section, eventually managing to finish ahead of Ross with Conor beating another competitor on the final walls into 3rd. James suffered with a little cramp at half way but did incredibly well to push through the predominantly running based second half to cross the line in 5th. Clare hadn’t had the ideal run up to this race but still managed to fight the other ladies off to come 1st. She was caught at half way but David ‘Hero’ Hellard also appeared with some encouragement and extra energy gels to help Clare pull away once again.
I couldn’t not mention the stinging nettles which could be described in many ways, sadistic being one of them. All the front guys must have suffered and deserve a big thanks from the following 6000 who might not of even noticed the blanket of trodden down ‘stinging bastards’ they were running over. Three days on and my legs are still talking to me in white noise type sensations.
With the race over we turned our attention to inov-8 OCR’s true talent, drinking and marvelling at David’s ability to talk to just about anyone. After he had given a few complete strangers a hug we bumped into the Dutch Mud Men and continued the rest of the night chatting, drinking and enjoying the concert with them. The Dutch really do know how to enjoy an OCR!
With an alarm set for 6 the following morning and a big bottle of water to rehydrate with I crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep with mixed feelings about Nuclear Rush the next day…(to be continued in another post)…