Tough Bloke - Sydney
Tough Bloke was the very first obstacle race I did back in 2011. High Tide the bootcamp I train with had organised a group to head down for the day so I’d driven down with Lesley and run around the course in the 10am wave (just after the elite runners). I’d found the course easy apart from Hell’s Gate (the traverse rope), which I’d failed at miserably. This year however I was trained up and ready to conquer that rope!
There were two OCRL races to compete in. The Saturday afternoon 2 lap wave and the Sunday morning 1 lap, sprint wave. The Saturday it was raining, which made the drive from the Central Coast down to Appin south of Sydney most unpleasant, I stopped for lunch at Campbelltown, and wasn’t really sure how or when I should eat for an afternoon race as I’ve only ever run first thing in the morning when I basically get up eat a few bananas and then go run. I ate way too much for lunch and seriously regretted it on the second lap that arvo.
Getting to the Scout Park was easy enough, it was well sign posted and with free parking (a rare thing at these events). I picked up my race pack and headed for the OCRL tent where all the other racers were gathered. It had stopped raining by this stage but the grounds were a giant mud pit, I was muddy and wet well before I started the race.
Leah suggested I have a go at the 50m rope climb, so I signed up and was climbing the rope 15 minutes before my race wave started, I got to 12m and realised that this was not going to end well, I could try for the top and not be able to race that afternoon or I could get down and go race, so I got back down. My arms and legs were now a bit sore, but not too bad, apart from some rope burn.
All the League racers gathered at the start line and we were off, the first obstacle was some large hay bales piled directly in front of the start line. I was one of the last to get over, but that’s ok, because now there was running. I caught up to Leah and followed her along the winding trails as we headed for the next obstacle the wall. The walls looked very familiar with their large blue Beach Bash X’s and I jumped up on the first 2m wall, not making it over and falling back down. Leah was having the same issue so I ran over and helped her over the wall, the other female racers had now caught up and one of them gave me a boost. The next was wall 3m, but it had some handy wooden steps in it to climb.
More running with me again chasing after Leah. We hit the Cargo net, Monkey Bars, Overs and Unders, Pipe crawl and then the winding track opened up to a gravel road and I let my legs go putting some distance between Leah and myself. The next obstacle I called the Swamp of Despair. Following everyone else I picked up 2 tyres and putting them on my shoulders I started the trudge around the deep muddy track. This wasn’t regular mud, it was sticky and unpredictable, I would be trudging along in ankle deep mud then suddenly sink up to my waist, or trip over a root, all the while carrying the two tyres. I was very glad to be rid of those two tyres at the end of the swamp. The next running leg I found the hardest, it was following a shallow creek, or possibly it was just a flooded track, it’s hard to tell. But the track was rough, I couldn’t tell how deep the puddles were and I crunched my ankle a few times in a not very pleasant way. Fortunately I only had to stop once to check it and could run it off each time. At the end of the shallow creek was a much deeper wading creek. As I dropped into it, the water was freezing and came up to my chest. I followed the creek up and then had to cross it using the rope at the fast flowing section. I couldn’t stand at this point so was holding onto the rope tightly and dragged myself across.
Some more creek wading then back onto dry ground. Leah had caught up to me by this stage (clearly she is much better then me at wading through mud and creeks). The trail here got a bit easier and was less creeky and more regular trail running with a bit of gravel road all sloping up. I pushed my legs to get some distance between us and hoped that all the trudging had worn her out as much as me. I hit the barbed wire crawl before her and crawled/rolled under it as quickly as possible. Then onto the next set of walls and managed to get over the 2m wall without any help, albeit slowly. Then the 3m wall. Some more running and over a tyre pile as the course wound back downhill towards the tyre drop. For this obstacle you climbed to the top of a pile of tyres then dropped or climbed down the middle of them and into the mud pit below. From that it was onto the rope swing, Alligator pit (a mud crawl under some mesh), flying fox, balance beams and the flooded concrete pipe crawl. There are 2 pipes you can choose between to crawl through and on this lap I randomly chose the right hand pipe, It was fairly flooded and I was forced to crawl on my belly, but the water didn’t completely fill the pipe so I didn’t need to go under water.
I’d made quite a bit of distance between myself and Leah at this stage so hit the final run leg for the lap and headed for Hell’s Gate. There was a bit of a queue at the traverse rope as the last stragglers for the day made their way across and one of the guys waiting was kind enough to let me go before him. Pulling myself up I lined it up and took off. It was very tiring hanging under that rope and pulling myself along, but I made it the whole way and not too slowly either. I was stoked. Now onto lap 2. Out of the finish and then back through the start and over the hay bales again.
The second lap was much the same as the first. Except it was getting much colder and starting to get dark. Also, I really shouldn’t have eaten that much for lunch. I didn’t see Leah on this lap and there were only a few other very late stragglers on the course making their way to the finish line besides the OCRL racers. This time around I chose the left hand concrete pipe to crawl through and regretted it about halfway through when it dropped down and was actually flooded so I had no choice but to take a breath and wriggle my way through. Fortunately I’m small. I can imagine a few people freaking out at this obstacle.
This time at Hell’s Gate I was much slower, I’d gotten cold and tired and had to stop a couple of times on the traverse, hooking a leg up to the knee and an arm up to the elbow over the rope and just dangling there while I caught my breath. Finally across the finish line and then after a rather lengthy struggle with my shoelaces and frozen fingers trying to get the timing chip off, I was into the shower.
That night after the race I inspected the damage and it was pretty bad, rope burn on both legs plus cuts on bruises on my knees and elbows, mostly from the sloped concrete pipes that I had to crawl up. I refueled with a Bounce protein shake that I’d packed and had some dinner.
The next day it was much nicer, not raining, but still quite cold. I’d switched from my short shorts into long skins in the hope that it would help with the rope burn. There were more OCRL racers there for the 9am sprint wave and we all gathered at the start line, I had a quick panicked moment when I realized I’d forgotten my gloves and had to run back to my bag to get them. All good, I made it back to the start line in time.
This time I was dead last in getting over the hay bales, which wasn’t really the best start, but it could be worse. Off and running I caught up to Leah who was leading the women and on the slightly less flooded trail I picked up speed. It was only 8km’s today so there was no reason to hold back. I overtook her just before the walls and got over them without too much difficulty. Hitting the next lot of obstacles at top speed.
I started to feel the effects of yesterdays race on the first hill and my legs were heavy and not really wanting to run up it. I pushed myself up the hill, albeit slower then I would have liked and pushed onto the Swamp of Despair. After having found out on my second lap yesterday that girls only have to carry 1 tyre, this time I picked up only the 1 tyre. The Swamp wasn’t quite as bad today having dried out a bit overnight, but it was still a slow trudge to get around it and the mud seemed to stick more to the fabric of the skins then it does to my own skin, although maybe my legs were just tired. I’ll have to retest the skins when I’m more rested.
Out of the swamp and into the creek, it wasn’t flowing anywhere near as fast today so I was able to easily get across where I’d struggled the day before, then onto the walls, It took me 2 goes to get over the 2m wall. But I did eventually make it over. Some more running and I was paced with another guy doing the course, we both hit the tyre drop and I lost my grip going down the middle of the tyres falling awkwardly in the mud. Fortunately it didn’t really matter and I just crawled out from under the tyres. Then onto the fun obstacles, straight across the rope swing, alligator pit and balance beams. We hit the concrete pipes and I knew to take the right pipe, unfortunately the other guy was just in front of me and dove into first, so I was back in the left hand pipe, taking a deep breath and wriggling through the underwater section. Out of the pipes we hit the flying fox, which was by far my favourite obstacle (I would have just done that one for fun).
The final running leg was hard, my legs were gone, I’m not used to running two races in two days, but I made it to Hell’s Gate. They’d tightened the ropes so I had to climb up the scaffolding to reach the rope, then I was off. The rope burn really hurt and the long skins weren’t helping. I was almost across, about a metre from the finish when a guy jumped up on my rope causing it to bounce unexpectedly and I lost my footing dangling from the rope by my arms. I was annoyed and yelled at him to “get off my rope” (I realise that he could technically use the rope while I was on there, but he made me fall and I was displeased). I totally failed at the whole “as soon as you fall, swing and get back on the rope”. I was too busy expressing my displeasure, still, thanks to all my hanging upside down from the gym rings in the backyard I was easily able to lift my feet back up and continue on. I made it to the end of Hell’s Gate for a third time and jumped down from the platform sprinting for the finish line.
I am now pleased to say that I’ve conquered Tough Bloke and Hell’s Gate. Overall it was a great Obstacle Course with a lot of the obstacles being fun rather then difficult, I’m jealous of the scouts that get to play on the equipment.
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