Judgement Day Pippingford Park July 2015
Judgement Day Pippingford Park July 2015
After the disappointment of missing out on Judgement Day last year due to a sudden bout of sciatica this was definitely a race that I was looking forward to. Two weeks before, feeling confident and training going well, I managed in my own special way, to burpee myself to a bad back.
For 5 or 6 days afterwards I hobbled around cursing my luck, but with a thoughtful mobility regime and an excellent massage therapist, I approached the day a lot cheerier than I could have hoped for. Indeed, the wonky back was only one of a catalogue of injuries and niggles that I had accumulated over the months. An adductor strain that was working its way deep into my groin and up into my abs was a cause for concern. After getting it checked out, Gilmores Groin was a phrase that was being bandied around. A quick bit of research and hey-presto, one pair of Gilmore compression shorts plopped onto my doormat. Now, this isn’t a plug for Gilmore, but I really believe these shorts helped me maintain my training right up to the event.
I needed all the help I could get. Judgement Day has a fearsome reputation. The sand-bag carry and rope climbs being my particular fear. Anyway, Sunday the 19th of July arrived, and the 6 o’clock alarm went off. In my view, getting out of bed that early at the weekend was the first obstacle. The carbo-loading of the previous day, (pizza, hot-dogs and cider) was still weighing heavily on my stomach, so a large mug of coffee was all I could manage to get down me. Never the less, I was reasonably sure that my well considered nutritional preparation would see me through. My running partner for the day, Andrew, turned up 15 minutes late at my house admitting that he slept through his alarm, but more than made up for this by brandishing a bottle of dark spiced rum about. Nice.
Now, despite the previous few words, we were both serious about what lay ahead, and had no illusions about how tough this might get. So we set off and despite the website promise of being well signed as you approached, we only saw one sign/banner and had to make a dramatic left turn into Pippingford Manor. Not that this was a problem as the Sat-Nav took us straight there despite taking a rather meandering route. The check in was very straight forward. Maybe I’m getting used to check ins now, but this was by far the easiest one. So, numbers pinned to our chest and written on our arms, timing chips attached to trainer (the right one seemed to be by far the most popular choice) we found ourselves with about an hour to kill. The village was small and consisted of two tents housing check in, bag drop and t-shirt and medal table. There was only one food outlet but it did have a whole pig on offer, so I couldn’t complain.
A customary pre-race photo and shot of rum later and we were ready to go.
The usual enthusiastic warm-up followed and participated in, in my usual unenthusiastic way and off we went. The field was quite small and the starting waves had been condensed to just the two. A 9.30 and 10.30.
I hate running. I really do. Almost as much as I hate olives, oysters and my Mums cat. So 500 meters into the course, I was blowing hard, despite the terrain being flat apart from several 4/5 foot walls to negotiate, and was pleased to come to the first water obstacle so I could slow my already dawdling pace. It was a small lake that needed wading through. Everybody around me was plunging in with enormous bonhomie but I’m a bit of a blouse when it comes to cold water. The sort of person that sits at the side of a pool splashing water over oneself instead of just (wo)manning up and diving in. The water felt cold but not freezing, but enough to make me puff out my cheeks and hop around like a big fairy. Then it was on to the running.
The course was well marked with thousands of red flags lining the route so it was difficult, although not impossible to stray. A couple of runners early on had to be called back when they missed a turning and later on I was guilty of having a bit of a daydream and Andrew had to shout to get me back on track. Now there are lots of obstacles on this (20k) event and if you don’t have plenty of upper body and core strength you’re not going to complete, (to the satisfaction of the marshals), very many of them. However, if you’re a runner, then I would suggest that this gives you a massive leg up if posting a good time is your aim. After about 12k I was seriously beginning to feel the effort in my legs and lungs beginning to take its toll. The obstacles themselves I found challenging but not a huge problem, but it was the running sections that really slowed me down. But onto the obstacles most of which carried a two minute penalty if you failed to complete them.
There were three carrying sections. The first one being a tyre carry, that followed a trident shaped route. I seemed to have found my pace and was surrounded by people who seemed of the same ability as me. When we got to the sandbag carry I hefted the 30kg weight to my shoulders. I had been training the previous few weeks with a 20kg Jordan PowerBag and jogging a mile or so at a time with it. That was hard enough so when the 30kg bag bared down on me I thought “Oh my goodness” However, where as my 20kg bag was quite ridged this one shaped itself to the contours of my shoulders. Now there are many techniques employed by the runners on the best way to carry the bag, but the one I eventually settled on was to have it across both shoulders and hands planted firmly into the small of my back so that my upper arms were extended behind me providing a shelf for the bag to sit on. It worked for me but my only concern was that I looked like the love-child of Mick Jagger and Larry Grayson as I strutted/minced across the hills. I’ll let you work out that image for yourselves. Luckily the only photographs of me at this point was when I was adopting the more conventional manly technique. Although this obstacle was tiring, it wasn’t quite the nightmare I had been expecting. A rare occasion where my pessimism and dread proved to be a positive. So after nearly a mile carry, up and down hills, wades through waist and knee high water and over a 4 foot wall I could finally drop the bag. .
The final carry was a brick sized/weight rock that had to be carried overhead for just less than 1km.
Water and Rope
Then there was the water and rope obstacles to be negotiated. Apart from the many deep troughs to be jumped in and clambered out of the first real one was a suspension balance across a stretch of water with a rope strung across a little higher for a hand hold. Andrew unfortunately seemed to pick the wobbliest one and halfway over did the most graceful one eighty and ended up with his head in the water and feet in the air, perfectly balanced. After a few seconds he seemed to realise that the situation was not retrievable and dropped into the water. I dared not laugh (too much) as I had yet to take on the crossing myself. After that, a short run then a swim across a lake and up an approximately 20 foot high cargo net. The swim was fine, as was the climb, but when I got to the top, just for a few seconds I had a mild panic attack as I tried to work out how to clamber onto the platform without losing my grip and tumble back down into the lake taking several other people with me. A word of encouragement from a fellow JD’er and all was well.
The rope traverse, swim and rope climb came up later. The traverse was exhausting and when the marshal said I could drop off the rope and swim, it came as a blessed relief.
Then it was straight onto the rope climb. Rope climbs are tough enough as it is without having to start in a meter of water first. But, thanks to Mike Midgley’s expert tuition on rope climbing a few months earlier I managed it without too much fuss. Although it doesn’t look like my technique is up to much in the photo.
The toughest obstacle for me was the Complex Rig. About 15 meters long it consisted of 3 rings, then a chain, then a rope and this then repeated itself to the end of the rig and object being to swing across it without touching the floor or the sides. I’m not too bad at this stuff usually. The two other similar obstacles (monkey bars and rings) I completed with no problem whatsoever. But this rig defeated me. I could have spent all day on this and not beaten it. Having looked at the Sunday results everybody bar one person had at least one time penalty and I’m betting this was the most common failure.
Walls and the “Irish Kiss”
Although not particularly high, ranging from about 5 foot to ten foot, I was a little apprehensive about the walls as it was negotiating a 12 footer on the Nuts course that triggered off my groin issues. According to marshals towards the end of the course, they said that many runners were cramping up as they jumped/clambered over. True story as it turned out, as my left calf spasmed on me on the last few wall climbs. Luckily, the Irish Kiss (as this obstacle seems to have been dubbed) was earlier on the course. This was a 6 foot high beam and although 6 foot doesn’t seem too intimidating it was an absolute dog to get over. There was nowhere to plant your foot like on the walls and the beam was at an awkward rotation so that getting a decent grip was extremely problematic.
The final stretch was a clamber over man-made muddy hillocks and through watery ditches. A rope climb, then the rings. I’m still sulking a little bit that I got penalised on the rope climb. Up I went like a greased up cougar, then down again only to be told that I hadn’t gone high enough. I was supposed to touch the blue canvas instead of just the metal bracket a measly 4 inches lower. Everyone was shouting at me apparently, but I was in my own little oily feline world and only noticed went I plopped back down on the ground. I was absolutely knackered by now and another attempt would have surely taken me more than 2 minutes. I slunk off grumbling like Mutley.
I mean really. Should I have got a time penalty for this? (See above photo) Oh well, rules are rules I suppose and I’ll try my best not to let it eat away at me for years to come.
So that was it. What a fantastic, gruelling event. There has been quite a bit of chat about the perceived low numbers for the day and indeed, me and Andrew did seem to be on our own a lot during the running sections as the field thinned out. Some are saying that the distance put people off. That maybe so. I don’t know how well the Saturday 10k version was attended. With other events that I’ve been on, you’ve always been surrounded by people and this can lift you and make it seem less of a slog. But I believe that some of the obstacles were just too difficult to attract the fun runners. The team I did The 1 Lap Nuts Challenge with last year, many of them simply wouldn’t have been able to complete the obstacles. With other races, like Back To The Trenches, it is perfectly possible to complete all of the course albeit slowly. With Judgement Day, obstacles like the Complex Rig, the Irish Kiss, the Traverse/Swim/Rope climb, the Sandbag Carry, would have been just too much for some of them. They wouldn’t even be able to lift a 20kg bag, let alone run the best part of a mile with it. Put it this way, I couldn’t see teams like The Glittery Princesses getting through this.
But I for one am extremely pleased that tough events like this exist. It fills a niche and the sense of achievement is what I run for. I wanted to feel absolutely finished by the end of this. I was. I also wanted to finish with a grin on my face. I did. Any course that can achieve both of those things is a course worth running. At the end, I said to myself “Never again” Now I’m thinking, “Bring on Borden”