Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

Gelt Gladiator Assault Course – 5 (and a bit!) km

on 17 May 2015

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*This is going to be a long one, go and get a coffee, maybe a biscuit for sustenance – I’ll wait for you*

Well, it’s finally here, today’s the day the teddy bears have their piiiiiiic-nic! And the weather forecast for said picnic?

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Cloudy with a chance of meatballs. I mean wind. Cloudy and windy. That. And the forecast was correct! It was indeed, cloudy and windy (bitterly cold when you’re standing around in wet clothing) and there were showers, but fortunately only on the drive there…or from the fire hose at the end.

We were directed to the car-pat field by local police who were out doing traffic management as the event was immediately off the A69 and I suspect havoc would have ensued if they hadn’t! It was Β£5 to park the car…I’m not really sure why unless they were making up the remaining funds for the event from the car parking if they didn’t get enough sponsorship or something. The previous occupants of the field had claimed the territory as their own and the first obstacle was getting back to the road that led to the event village by playing dodge the cowpats! Nearly had muddy, smelly shoes before we started!

We hit our first hiccup at the registration – we were in the 14:00 wave for the 5k – there was another one after us at 14:30 (saying that, I didn’t see them!), and by the time we got to registration – 2 waves being ahead of us, they had run out of the orange 5k headbands…which seemed a bit odd given that the vast majority of people would have booked in advance and they’d run out by the time half the waves had registered? J’s hoody also hadn’t arrived in the post as it should have the week before, and despite an email saying she’d be able to pick it up on the day – no tomato.

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We had a bit of time to kill before our wave left, and spent it watching the guys climbing the wall nearest to us – so didn’t notice how many up-and-downs of the motocross course would be in store for us just after the start… After a warm-up, the course started immediately as it meant to go on – with a muddy ditch to climb through immediately after the start line! Pink trainers? Noooo….mud brown everything for you. Then it was up and down and up and down and up and down (while dancing the macarena as one does), so I think we were all wondering whether we’d make it to the 1km mark (which was at the end of the up-and-downs) let alone the full 5km – and we’d only had to handle one little ditch so far! Suddenly that first wall was looking a bit harder!

There was space for three people to climb the wall at a time, if they were careful with ye olde ankle swinging, and only one of the spaces had assisting bars – and therefore a queue! We went for one of the blank options, making use of the post near the middle and boosting each other up and inelegantly over if needed – the first big hurdle down! Where next? Round the side of the hill and doooooown into the mud. This stuff was like quicksand, if you didn’t keep your feet moving it grabbed you and you were stuck. It’s a wonder none of us lost a trainer! We were all concentrating so much on keeping our footing we didn’t look up to see what was coming – cargo nets: over the mud, to crawl under.

The cargo nets meant that the mud which was covering our legs, ended up on arms and for J and I, in copious quantities in our hair – yummy.

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Some unfortunate souls also ended up completely stuck in it and had to be dragged up by people with them – one poor chap had paused too long with his leg behind him as he exited the nets and as a result his whole leg was grabbed by the mud and he couldn’t lift his knee up to get it underneath him to stand again! We all just got very muddy – only some stuck feet in our party!

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We made it to a slightly less muddy stretch where we had to do the log carry – just carry a log in a loop around a tree and then back off up the hill again to the haystacks (I love the smell of hay!) and doooooown the water slide to the big pool at the bottom.

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P’s fears of muddy water induced blindness were realised about here – 2km into the route, but fortunately there was a nice marshall lady with some tissues nearby who was able to restore his vision to him!

Next up was…jail break? I have no idea what this obstacle was called – you’ll see why when you look at the map near the bottom. It was basically several hills of mud and troughs of water and you had to climb over and drop down several times before ducking under the bar in the last pool and pulling yourself out on the ropes. Then onto the firepits…I don’t know if they were running low on wood or something before we got to them but they were more sort of smoking bbq pits by the time we got to them and the smoke was the biggest challenge about it.

We headed back to the main road and then over a fence, past the water station (glug-glug-glug) and up into the woods for the permanent build structures. The first was a wide log ladder with a bell at the top you had to ring – originally then to climb over and down the rope but someone in an earlier wave had been injured here so it was back down the ladder again by the time we got to it. The other obstacle was another big ladder with a horizontal cargo net, then down another cargo net on the other side. There was a long wait in the cold wind for this one, not much fun when you’re soaking wet, as many people were slowing right down to cross the nets. There was one chap with a pulled quad who did really well to get over it, and a few who seemed to just get to the top and suddenly get vertigo – especially as cargo nets are not generally particularly taut or stable things at the best of times! When it came to our turn, we got across without knocking knees and were relieved to be able to break into a jog again across the fields to warm up a bit!

The next obstacle in the fields was a box – out the wind, hurrah! – which you crawled into the bottom of, then up and onto the roof of the bit you’d just crawled under, then up again onto the top of the box to then jump down onto the floor. J did a reverse repeat of her spectacular faceplant at Otterburn here and gently rolled as she landed – right onto her butt and then her back!

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Apparently there was supposed to be a marshall after this directing the 5k runners straight up the road, but they’d disappeared by the time we got to here, so we followed the Gelt Gladiator tape around the field, reaching a slanted wall. I had been dreading the walls for this so was really really pleased when I was able to get up and over this unassisted in a really loud ‘Wooo!’ way. After we’d dragged ourself through another bog and back around to the box thing again, another marshall had appeared and told us that this was supposed to be done the other way round and was actually part of the 10km route…which explains why there were extra foot struts on one half of the back…oh well! I totally got over it anyway and noone’s taking that away from me! One extra half mile for the gullible fools on the left!

Back on the beaten track, it was up the hill again to the ice plunge – a skip full of water with a beam across it. Fortunately by the time we got to it, enough people had been through that it was neither as cold nor as full as it probably had been in the morning, but it also wasn’t as clean! P and I made it over the beam in the middle, J decided to go underneath, for some reason unbeknown to anyone but herself via the lowest part – resulting in the largest possible part of her going under the cold water without being completely submerged. Queue much running away from the revenge splashings when we pointed this out to her…

Next up was the shocker – 10V cables suspended down. I was hoping that maybe my gloves might mean I could push these aside without getting shocked but it was Not The Case. BZZT! Nothing major fortunately, less than an electric fence. Onwards to the….motocross hills of doom again…as if we hadn’t gone up and down and up and down these enough! Last time though, don’t have to do them again. Biiiiiiiiiig slide into the pool of foamy sudsy doom to the bottom of the hill again. They’d nearly run out of water by this stage in the big tankers, so only one of the slides was available for actually sliding down, and as there were lots of kids waiting to use it, we walked down one of the other slides and plopped into the pool at the bottom. J hadn’t got all her splashing out her system before this…

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We waited in line to get over the giant stile they’d built over the barbed wire fence (we got to here the same time as the 1 mile course members did so it bottle-necked quite quickly), then managed not to fall flat on our faces through the tyres, skipped the gauntlet (climbing over hung lines of tires) as it was also full of kids trying to climb over things the same size as them and went straight on towards Scafel Pike. There was a big foam blower before this earlier in the day, but I guess they’d run out too so it was the passage of foamy muddy puddles instead.

Scafel Pike was the obstacle I’d been dreading since we booked this event…a massive almost vertical wall of the sort I used to slide down at a family amusement park in Devon when I was a kid (they were 2 and 3 stories high and they were TERRIFYING) – and this one we were supposed to get UP?! P went first with his super man muscles and managed to gain the top like a ninja, so quick that even the photographer didn’t catch him. I was up next and managed to grab hold of the top (the gloves were a godsend for this!), which I was quite impressed with, but while I could hold myself there on my elbows, I couldn’t get any further – just couldn’t get that last push. P grabbed my arms to help, and the photographer was kind enough to grab a knee and then duck his face out the way as I rolled past him, legs in the air to die on the top.

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Next up it was J’s turn. She raced up the slope and grabbed our hands at the top. P pulled, I pulled, we roped the camera man in too, J scrabbled with her feet but unfortunately she had to slide very elegantly back down and meet us on the other side – a valiant effort and so close but none of us had anything left for that last pull or another go! Got some fab photos of the attempt though πŸ™‚

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My arms were like jelly after this, I literally couldn’t hold onto the ladder down the back of the ramp and J had to heave me out of the final mud pit right at the finish line or they would have been waiting for me 5 mins as I slowly heaved myself out on the rope!

Scafel Pike took its toll on all of us – we’d been injury free until this point! P’s got a very stiff back from tugging both of us up and a scrape + bruise on his chest, and J and I are both sporting an assortment of interesting bruises from grappling up it. I’ve got what feels like goose eggs under the skin on my right leg and both upper arms – the left arm is starting to show already but the right one is not yet…so I’m thinking by Tuesday I’m going to look like some sort of domestic abuse victim, especially as the one on my left arm actually has finger marks on it…

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J’s bruising however, completely takes the biscuit. It’s a good thing she’s off for a few days as I suspect she might be drinking tea through a straw while getting over those corkers!

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We’re really really sorry! We just really wanted you to make the top!

When we finally did cross the finish line, it was to find that as well as not having any headbands at the start…they’d run out of t-shirts at the finish too, and there was no water for the fire hose so we stayed mucky! Apparently we will be getting our tees and headbands in the post when there’s some more in but it was a shame not to get them at the end – what if we’d been counting on them and not bothered bringing clean ones as part of our clothes changes?!

We trooped back to the car – and got changed as quickly as possible in a field full of cowpat when hiding under towels and ponchos and trying to remove soaking wet clothing, which is never a nice task even if you’ve got room to do so at your leisure and it’s not blowing a gale outside! As such, our final event picture was taken with us all back in the car with fresh clothes on – but before we stole all J’s face wipes to clean up properly with – it was too cold, wet and windy to be standing around outside for it!

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Final injury count?

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No doubt the numbers will continue to grow – I keep finding more bruises every time I lean on something; there’s another goose egg brewing.

Overall, for a first go at organising an obstacle race, I think the Gelt Gladiator team did a good job – a lot of thought had obviously gone into the course, and the organisation leading up to event day was fantastic, although some things did not go to plan on the day – some stock failings and a few people injured (8 out of a total field of 2600 – though from the fb comments from some of the injured parties, they’re still going back next year!), I think if they learn from it this has the potential to be a permanent feature in the UK annual events calendar. A few teething problems, but they’ve got a fab location and all in all we enjoyed the day. There may well be hell to pay if J doesn’t get her t-shirt and hoody though…they’re nice hoodies too πŸ˜‰

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I didn’t take my GPS watch on this one, knowing I’d probably never get the mud out of it, so I have absolutely no real idea how long it took us to get around the course. It was probably the longest 5k I’ve ever done, both in terms of time and required exertion, but I enjoyed it πŸ™‚ We didn’t end up following the original course route, some of the obstacles we didn’t see at all, and there seemed to be some in different places, and that motocross up-and-down at the start definitely wasn’t on there! I was duped! I’ve scribbled roughly what I think our route was on my own version of the map πŸ™‚

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Whether or not we’re back next year remains to be seen…ask me again when all the bruises have gone down!

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