It wasn’t long after I had crossed the finish line of the OCR World Championships that I had a course map thrust into my hands with a clear set of instructions.
The team relay was the next morning and the year before myself, Conor Hancock and James Appleton had won it as Team GB. The seriousness in James’s eyes as he handed over the map told me no stops were being left in order to repeat that victory.
The format is that the course is split into three clear sections, one favouring running, another strength and the third, skill on technical obstacles. Last year we had analysed each-others weaknesses and ended up with James running, Conor on obstacles and me strength! This year James showed his tactician skills and gave me clear instructions on which leg I should run and how I should do it.
‘Jon, you should go first on the running section…and get us a minute lead’.
I’d then pass to James for the rig who would then pass to Conor for the kilometre long wreckbag carry who would pass back to James for the final stretch of obstacles from the day before. We would then do the final slip wall together and cross the line, hopefully in first.
A minute lead though! Over three kilometres! Against the other running ‘specialists’, I wasn’t too confident about that one.
Still, maybe I should have harboured more faith, if not in myself, then in my shoes.
The gun sounded and once again I was amazed at the speed that people start these races. I was being overtaken by people in full out sprint mode, going uphill! It didn’t last long though and as we turned the first bend many of them noticeably pulled up as if the interval was done and they could begin to rest. They were now in the way but what’s a few more obstacles in an obstacle course race! Weaving my way through we soon hit the main climb, heading up for about 200 vertical meters we turned left away from the course from the day before.
I checked back over my shoulder, only about a 15 second lead and I was almost halfway… James was pretty clear, that’s not enough.
Help seemed to coming from above though. As soon as the gun had sounded a torrential downpour had begun. On the climb the ground had become more and more wet with no let-up in the rain.
The descent was going to be interesting!
With one of the few obstacles on my stretch, the pipe traverse, done, I knew it was now time to head back down. I let my legs fly and concentrated hard on eeking every little bit of grip out of my VJ Irocks. There was no time to look back but I was flying on the treacherous ground.
Reaching the bottom, I completed the rest of the obstacles on my stretch and started on the small uphill section that had caused me so much pain in the sprint race two days before.
Now on the final descent and in view of the pass-over point I slipped on the wet grass but maintained forward momentum, jumping up before coming to a stop I continued to fly and was soon handing the chip onto James.
My instructions back to James had been just as clear, ‘do the obstacles smoothly, no risks, no rushing’. He seemed to be doing just this and calmly nocked the rig out in the still pouring rain. As he passed the chip to Conor my attention turned to how far in front we were.
With a smile I felt as if I had done my bit for the team and with change.
Because the carry went so far up the ski slope Conor was soon out of sight in the terrible weather. James standing next to me was ready to go but still no sign of Conor as we both anxiously looked up.
Suddenly we could see him at the halfway point heading downhill. Still in the lead but giving his all to be there he was continually falling in the treacherous conditions but as I had done, still managed to keep forward momentum, only he was doing it while holding a 50lb wreckbag!
Passing over to James, Conor had maintained just over half of our lead. The course now looped away hiding how much margin we had but James’s tactics were still to be careful with no mistakes, this may lose us some time but we only had to win by seconds and one failed obstacle would ruin everything.
As James finished the helix monkey bars we could see the next competitor starting them, maybe ten seconds in it, it would all come down to which team could get up the slip wall together fastest. Shortened ropes and the wet weather meant teamwork had to be used and we were ready.
Kneeling at the bottom Conor boosted me up to the rope. He then did the same with James. Grabbing onto the top Connor ran and grabbed my feet. Attempting to do a pull-up with Conor hanging on he just managed to grab the bottom of the rope. And that was it, in mere seconds we were over and heading for the line to claim our second team title in as many years.
I am continually amazed at how being a part of a team can produce a far higher effort level than you give in the A race of your season. I guess this shows that not letting your friends down has more power than any desire to win alone.