Sometime in early September I began to see a few snippets about a totally new format obstacle course race, something called Urban Attack. I was offered the opportunity to attend their preview trial night by the lovely chaps over at Mudstacle, and seeing as this was a rare opportunity to attend an event in Manchester (my home town), I jumped at the chance.
Whilst I had enjoyed the preview evening, and thought the premise was excellent, I had quite a few reservations about the format and running of the day and was in two minds whether to attend the actual event taking place on the 29th November. This was mainly down to the cost being quite high for the event, and also the format of the day itself.
Fate intervened and my Grade 5 Ballet exam was booked for the same day as the Official race on November 29th, so I thought little more of it.
Until the stars aligned once again, and within a few days my exam had been cancelled and I had been sent a 50% off voucher for the race day. Realising that anyone who is anyone in the world of OCR would be attending, and it would be a great opportunity to see these Elites racing up close, and have a chance myself to compete in this environment [my first race running for Richard Pringles new team, RPCC Warriors] I took the plunge and decided to attend.
Race day dawned, with my plan of travelling in from Altrincham to the Velopark in Manchester using the very handy free taxi ride provided by Uber. This didn't quite work out for me: without getting into a rant, let's just say that I did not arrive by taxi, but by Metrolink, and was at least an hour later than planned. A shame, as i'm sure this was not the advertisement that the Uber app owners had in mind when they proposed sponsorship for the event, but that is no fault of the organisers Urban Attack.
Arriving a little flustered, but on time to register, I met up with Scott (From RAW Obstacle Race Team) who very helpfully guided me through the rather confusing registration and set up area.
Changed and ready to rock, I came up upon the legend that is Joel Hicks of the “Always with a Smile” foundation in his trademark teeny tiny pants, and sporting a very colourful wig. Scott had decided to accompany Joel and his crew of “Smilers” around the 5km fun run. “Join in!” they cried... dilemma! Being a bit of a weak kitten, I had decided to not fully run the 5km, and just potter round the track trying out the obstacles, saving myself for the competitive heats later in the day.
Obviously that went out the window, as I donned a fetching clown wig and Always with a Smile T shirt.
All the competitors and fun runners made their way up to the stands, ready for the start time. We took our seats and waited. And waited. And waited a little bit more. One of my worries for the day was running a 5km at 1pm, cooling down and racing at 4pm, cooling down again and racing again at 6pm. Eventually after little information given (and several trainer choice panics from yours truly) we made our way down to the start line for a brief introduction and (slightly dangerous-but fun!) warm up.
Doing two laps of the course, we achieved our target, first to start, last to finish, laughing the whole way round. I now eagerly have my eye on the #AWAS calendar to see what I can join in with next year!
A little more advice throughout the day wouldn't have gone amiss, as after the 5km fun run had been completed we were unsure at what time the sprints would be kicking off. However, after we all made sure we were fed and watered, we prepared ourselves for the races which began in due course.
The first competitive section of the day was the “Skinny Chimp” heats. We lined up and it was briefly explained to us which way to run round the course (as there were several longer options for later in the day). We were all pretty confused and had to badger them a little to get someone to run round to show us which path we would be taking.
We were divided into groups as fairly as possible, given a number and we would be racing with those given the same number. The first 5 of your heat made it through to the semis and so on. Thankfully the men and women were separated, which had not happened on the trial evening, so I am glad that they took that advice on board, as it gave all the women a chance to compete against each other.
The course itself was tough, and I mean Tough. I've always been a reasonable sprinter, but despite what my husband Kev says, hills are not my friends! I think had the course been 30% shorter, I could've really blasted as fast as I could, without worrying about pacing myself (which is something I am not good at!) It would be great next time to see an even shorter, and more intense sprint length.
The obstacles were minimal, but worked for this length, just slowing down the group here and there, with the length of the race, I don't think it would have been possible to fit more in. The only issue we had was that there had been no penalties stated for skipping an obstacle. Unfortunately, as often happens in this sport, two women in my heat decided to take advantage of this, one brazenly running through the monkey bars, not even pretending to attempt them. This was met by a cacophony of Boos from the crowd. Another competitor at least pretended to jump up, jumped back down and ran across. Annoyingly, I fell off at nearly halfway point, which bothered me as i'd successfully completed them twice earlier in the day. (Click for Video)
I finished 5th in my heat, which meant that I progressed into the semi finals, with quite a large margin between the top 5 runners, and those coming after.
My first thought when I finished? “Oh god...i've got to do that again!”
When we got to the semis, the heats were decided quite differently, depending on what they had seen, they chose who would be racing against each other.
For this heat I was tired, and racing against some very accomplished athletes. I managed to stay in roughly fourth place up until the last corner where I started to flag, and then as I approached the monkey bars, I panicked and had no idea where to go (one of my pet hates at OCRs is when someone comes up behind me on an obstacle and I rush and fall off). Making my way across the monkeys I realised at about halfway that I was going to come dead last in this heat. (Click for Video)
“Well” I thought to myself “You said you didn't mind how you did as long as you were dead last. You are dead last, and that's ok. You made it to the semis”. With the little bit of strength I had left I did my best on the monkey bars, missing just the last one. Very kindly, the marshal didn't bother inflicting the newly applied 10 second penalty, due to the fact that we weren't timed, and I was still going to come last whatever happened!
After the remaining mens semis and finals, and women’s finals, it seemed like an interminable wait until the next round of races. Whilst it was a nice idea to have entertainment, it should not have taken precedent over the racing, which is what we were there for, and without being too negative, it could've been of a slightly better quality, and less lengthy.
Here I faced a bit of a dilemma. I was knackered, absolutely knackered, and freezing cold. I was quite torn. I wanted to take part in the final race, but I didn't want to get halfway round and not be able to carry on. I sat there discussing it with Kevin, saying that I knew I would regret it the next day, but right now, at this point, there is no way I could go on the course and run another race against these women! This is my biggest failure, mental grit. I'm sure I could push my body further than I do, but my mind gives in so easily. I know that that is one of the biggest things I have to work on. So, whether it was the right decision or not, I failed to try, rather than tried and failed. I am quite ashamed of this, but as a positive, it shows me what I have to work on for next year.
These heats were again, highly competitive, and I was very proud of my buddy Scott making it through to the semis, when he must've been tired, on a very long course.
After the races and entertainment had been completed, the organisers moved on to the prize giving. One problem was that they had offered a £1000 prize to the fastest racer on the day, they did realise that this was slightly unfair on the women, and it was very graciously agreed that this prize money would be split evenly between the top male and female.
Now, I feel bad because I feel that I have been rather negative in this post. Let me be clear, the race idea in itself is fantastic. I love that the great facilities we have in Manchester are being used, and that there is another race up here. The races themselves were good, the only thing that let this day down was organisation and understanding of the competitors, but this can be worked upon. I imagine it's an incredibly expensive race to put on, and i'm giving huge kudos to the organisers for taking the risk and putting on a whole new event. With some tweaking, and better understanding of how to run the day, it could become a great event, and a totally different race to what we are used to. I hope it does. I am excited for what next year holds for Urban Attack, and I sincerely hope they are able to run another event with what they have learnt from their first.