Obstacle Racers Raw Challenge Camp

By  Melissa Robertson

The Obstacle Racers Australia group had hired out the Raw Challenge venue for the weekend to allow anyone who was willing to fork out the $25 to cover expenses to come along and train on the obstacles. I got to the venue in the early afternoon of a very hot Saturday and met up with the two dozen or so people who were milling around the unofficial camping ground, some of the folks I knew from different exercise groups or had seen online, but most of them were new faces.

James who runs the Obstacle Racers site got a large group of us together and led us out onto the course, the run leg wasn’t particularly challenging as we charged down past the cricket fields and through the very dry bush. Some of the racers who had done the Raw Challenge before pointed out where various obstacles normally are but weren’t setup for that day. The first real challenge we got to were the pipe logs, essentially very high hurdles. A log of wood covered in a slippery plastic pipe set at about chest height (for me). My first attempt was a complete a failure as I just slid back off the pipe. I then watched someone slightly taller do it and realised that I had to jump higher and get at least half of me on top of the pipe rather then pulling myself up with my arms. This time it went much better, so I practiced a few times on the 3 pipes until I had the knack of it.

Clearly missing out on mud most of the obstacle racers headed for what little water and mud there was at the bottom of a ditch and trudged their way through it, I didn’t really feel the need to get that muddy so just wandered on to the next obstacle which were the walls. The first two walls were about 2m high and I managed to get over both of them unaided, it did help slightly that both had a protruding board at least somewhere in the wall. I made a note of where these boards were for when I would be back here in a couple of weeks running the Raw Challenge for real. The third wall was much larger at 3m. I watched as the first couple of tall athletic guys flung themselves at it and managed to reach the top and pull themselves over. My attempt did not go so well, I ran full speed, planted a foot and leapt for the top of the wall…. Not even close, I then tried another dozen or so times before accepting that it is not possible for me to reach something that is twice my height. Or, at least not possible yet. Kylee was then kind enough to give me a boost to get up and over the wall.

A bit more running and we got to the monkey bars, pretty standard bars about 3m long above a shallow pool of water. Normally there’d be more water, but the course was hot and dry on that day and there hadn’t been any rain for some time. This did however give me more incentive to get across the bars without falling into the shallow pit below. Monkey bars are one of the obstacles I struggle more with, upper body strength is by far my greatest weakness in obstacle racing so I was particularly keen to practice on these. The first couple of people made their way along the bars and one of the guys gave me a boost to get up to the bars and off I set, It was hard, but I managed to get across one bar at a time and jumped off at the opposite hand. My hands were a bit sore when I came off and I looked down to see bits of skin hanging off my palms and bright red fresh flesh where skin had been ripped off altogether. I was completely horrified that I had destroyed my hands and had been so focused on getting across the bars that I hadn’t even noticed. However, I wasn’t alone, several others were missing skin and one of the guys had lost all the skin at the top of both palms. I abandoned the course at this stage and went back to the campsite to rinse off my hands and put some gloves on. The guy who had ripped off the large chunks of skin was taken to emergency as he started to go into shock.

Back on the course, now in gloves I caught up with the rest of the racers and we made our way across the balance beams and the rope bridge which was pretty straightforward. Some more running, a slippery climbing obstacle and then into some sloped tunnels. Tunnels and any sort of crawling is where I’m strongest, they lend themselves to smaller people and generally I can either stay on my feet or at least on my knees when others are forced to army crawl. I have been known to push larger guys out of my way when they are blocking a tunnel as they attempt to wriggle their way through. The sloped tunnels were fun, and very easy. When it’s sloped and muddy I stay on my feet so I have as much traction as possible.

Hitting the cargo net pyramid wasn’t any great problem. I just climbed up and over, then watched as everyone else was spidered their way over. The big ramp (with rock climbing grips) was closed for the day, so we just had the skate ramp left. Nowhere near as big as Everest at Tough Mudder It wasn’t any particular challenge.

By now my hands were really sore, I guess that’s what happens when you burn your skin off. So taking off my gloves and noting that my hands were now shaking, I headed for the beach with a group of other racers who needed a break from the hot course. The cool salty water made my hands feel a lot better so when I got back to the course I stuck to the obstacles that didn’t require my hands as much. So after doing the balance beam and rope bridge a few dozen times I started practicing on the skate ramp. Run, jump, pull myself up, climb down the other side, then repeat.

Most of the racers who were staying for the night had now gathered at the campsite and there was talk of heading over to the Doylo for dinner, I was fairly dirty and smelly, but, being the Doylo I was sure I’d fit in fine. Over dinner I got to meet a few of the other racers I didn’t know which was great. Back at the campsite after dinner a few guitars were brought out and I decided it was time for me to get some sleep once the Britney Spears sing-along began.

The next morning I got up early and headed over to the cricket fields to bust out the 400m of burpees which was the current Obstacle Racing League challenge that was due that week. It was hideous, I made it across 3 cricket fields, maybe it was 4? I mostly just tried to block it out of my memory. I will say however that I got good at jumping as far as possible so as to avoid doing as many burpees as possible. After 19:36 minutes I was done and headed back to the campsite for breakfast.

Sunday morning was spent practicing various obstacles that I was having trouble with until I managed to further damage my hands while practicing on the walls and decided at that point I should pack it in and head for home before I made my hands completely useless.

Big thanks to James for organising a great weekend.


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