The first OCR I ever ran was a Spartan race. Throughout 2014 I eagerly awaited the start of the Spartan season in August. Having been very active on Spartan Chicked up until the end of 2014, a mainly US based group, I wasn't really aware of many of the other OCRs run in the UK as I wasn't playing a huge role in the OCR Family.
Imagine my delight when I realised that come May 2015 we would be treated to the UK’s first Spartan Stadium Sprint. (a unique event taking place in and around the home of the Saracens, involving all the Spartans favourite obstacles, and also including epic crowd support from the stands) this means that I wouldn't have to wait until later in the year to start my season, amazing!
Obviously, the more I have become involved with the UK scene, the more races I am learning about (to the point that now I am pretty much jam packed with OCR weekends). However, to me Spartan will always be my favourite race, and with Mr “awesome” Rich Pringle at the helm, this years Spartan races are going to be on another level.
I was even more delighted to learn that the very first Spartan event would be taking place in January, a training day at the Saracens ground, Allianz Park in North London on January 24th.This would be a day with Rich and his SGX coaches, jam packed with nutritional advice and spartan focused training, to get us ready for the big day in May.
Off we set at 6.30am on Saturday, to get from Manchester to Allianz Park for the 10am kick off (luckily sans puppy this time). After a few misdirections, we made it just before the nutrition talk began.
After a brief introduction from Richard Pringle (UK's Spartan Race Director), we were treated to a 45 minute Nutrition 101 by Boris and Barney (who, I cannot believe were not a double act before becoming Spartan SGX coaches!) Straightforward and to the point, the nutrition talk covered the basics with a few added extras thrown in for those more advanced. I imagine it must be very difficult to know where to pitch a talk such as this to a room full of people, some who are 20 x spartan champions, and others who are just beginning their OCR journey. However, Boris and Barney provided us with an amusing and informative talk which covered the key points. A summary handout for those who may have wanted it may have been useful, but not a necessity.
We then moved outside, to the pitch of Allianz Park, for the bit we had all been looking forward to, the training! Equipped with our matching “I am training for a Spartan Race” T shirt, we all lined up for a few photographs and then the hard work began.
I must admit, I was slightly confused when we entered the pitch, all I could see were cones set out in a grid formation. On the journey down myself and Kevin had been discussing what we would be doing today: I had hoped for spear throw practice. However, on the pitch there were no obstacles...
The genius of this was soon revealed.
After being sent off to each stand by a cone- which would be our home for the afternoon- we were put into action by the SGX coaches. After a warm up one of our first exercises was to sprint ¾ of the length of the pitch and back to our cones. The penalty being if we didn't find our cones straight away we would be doing burpees (the dreaded burpees!).
Exercises carried out included old favourites such as push-ups, squats, squat jumps, and the spartan staple of burpees, interspersed with sprints. The atmosphere was fantastic: excited, jovial, and full of the OCR community spirit. The SGX coaches managed to encourage people to the correct level, and had their eyes on everyone (as the camp was attended by both Spartan Royalty, such as Thomas Blanc & Lucy Martlew, but also by those who were new to the sport.) No one was left behind, and everyone was worked.
We were encouraged to count down the final 5 seconds of the 20 second bursts of activity we were doing, followed by a loud AROO. Hearing 300 Spartans in training booming AROO! Across the Saracens pitch, on a clear crisp day, as it echoed around the stands was wonderful, and were I Richard Pringle, I would be incredibly proud of the community and spirit that he is building across the UK.
We then moved onto the next phase of the afternoon. We were advised that there were three groups to choose from
for a short run we were going to take part in: The super speedys, the steady eddies, or the “I need to stop every now and again”. I headed straight for the middle group (I know full well that my legs cannot keep up with the likes of Katie Keeble- also, this group was led by the lovely Zak Horsley...ahem...)
We set off for a gentle run around the stadium and surrounding area, broken up by squats and burpees, finishing with exercises up and down a short steep bank just outside the stadium. Fortunately only Joel Hicks of Always With A Smile was crazy enough to decide to take a dip in the ice covered pond outside, as we all headed off to get snug in our hoodies and dry robes.
As we finished up Richard Pringle treated us to a rousing finisher speech. Reminding us that as we had seen today, we did not need tons of equipment or fancy gyms to achieve results, that many of the exercise we had done can be done at home in little time, that basically, there is no excuse!
I saw a lot of people online say that the session was expensive at £20. Personally I disagree. Having been treated to training from the top SGX coaches, and Richard himself, I think this is worth it. I pay £7 for an hours class up here. I will be champing at the bit to get to another one if they decide to it.
What did I learn? Well, one, was to start the day with a pint of water (Thanks Boris & Barney!) and secondly I discovered that no matter how well you perform at your home town classes, this means nothing when Katie Keeble is hammering out the push ups next to you...I have a lot of work to do this year!
Oh, and I got to see the 2015 medals. All I can say is, they are awesome.