A good few months ago, in the height of the summer, I saw a video on YouTube showing ‘The Grim Original’ in Aldershot. This one in fact;
How much fun does that look!!!
I blogged about it briefly a while back. It’s an 8 mile off road race around the tank/4×4 testing ground and is renowned for being a bit of a tough challenge. I saw the video and it looked quite fun, in fact it looks like a hell of a lot of fun, so I entered it as that was obviously the sane and rational thing to do and it seemed to fit in with my marathon training plan perfectly. 1st December saw me doing a fast 8 mile run on my plan, followed by a 20 mile long slow run the following day. “Perfect”, thought I, “I’ll replace my training run with the Grim, and smash out my 20 mile LSR the following day.”
Well December 1st and the day of the Saturday ‘Grim’ soon rolled around and despite it being quite mild through November the temperature had dramatically dropped and the ice set in a couple of days before the event. Perfect, just what the doctor ordered.
So at 06:45 when I checked the weather it was showing as being -2 up in Aldershot but somewhat reassuringly would be warming up to a balmy 1 degree by the time that the race started. Then warming up a bit more as the day progresses. I can live with that I guess, as long as the temperature is above zero then how bad can it be right?
So at 7:30am I was out de-icing Rochann’s car, warming it up and generally getting ready for the off. The original plan had been a shorts/vest combo. However, by this point I’d already decided that a long sleeve base layer was going to be required but shorts were still going to be order of the day. No, not the long white shorts I’m wearing in the picture, but my usual running shorts that I’ve got on underneath them.
We hit the road at 8am, the family all bundled up and in the car ready for the morning ahead (or so we thought!), one quick stop to drop Ellie off with friends so that she doesn’t spend the day with us freezing her little socks off. As much as I’d love to have her there with me I equally don’t want her getting ill, so we thought this best, and besides, she’d get to spend the morning playing with our friends kids.
It took us a good hour or so to get to Aldershot due to road closures and general unrelated traffic issues, lots of diversions, but we soon spotted the neon bright ‘GRIM’ signs pointing us to our destination. Hats off to the organisers here, the signs were very well positioned, the car park marshals were superb and getting on site and parked up was like clockwork. Brilliantly done. We were on site and parked up by 9:45 and heading up to the start line amidst a throng of cold but happy ‘Grimmers’. It was at this point that Josh revealed that he didn’t have a coat with him and he was cold. Marvellous, what a great start to the day, despite us telling him to get an extra jumper on, wear an extra pair of socks, get his hat gloves, wellies, he didn’t listen or take in the fact that he would need a coat. Aaron on the other hand was as snug as a bug in a rug in his massive blue puffer jacket, at least one of the boys listens to us!!! I give him my coat which drags around his knees and swamps him completely.
So here I am, at the start line, still wrapped up nice and warm contemplating the challenge that lies ahead. Things don’t seem to bad at this point, yes it may be a bit chilly, but that’s not going to kill me right?
Moto of the day….
GRIM AND BARE IT!
Well, being a bit chilly may not kill me, but the ice covering one one the ‘puddles’ I have to run through just might! You can see all the stones/rocks that people have thrown in an attempt to break the ice sitting there, almost mockingly.
No time to stand around worrying about the ice, we have been called to the start line so I strip off my hoody and my shorts, kiss Rochann, tell her I love her and that hopefully I’ll live to see her again, high five the boys (who at this point are more interested in throwing stones at the ice than cheering on their heroic father ) and wander off to the start line for the warm up. The warm up basically consists of the 3000 ‘Grimmers’ being crammed into a starting pen and then being given instructions, like jog on the spot, ok not too hard, raise your hands in the air and pump them up and down whilst jogging on the spot, again not too bad, but given the close proximity of your fellow ‘Grimmers’ it gets a little awkward. Turn around in circles whilst jogging on the spot and then moving on to a game of ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ was a logical progression in the warm up, but very difficult and very funny! The warm up did go on a little bit longer than it should have done though, and for good reason.
The reason was that it was taking longer than expected to break through and smash up the ice covering the ‘puddles’ that we were just about to be running through. I say puddles for want of a better word to describe these knee to thigh high expanses of frozen muddy water. The ‘puddle’ pictured below was a hundred or so yards from the start line and yep, you guessed it, I fell victim to it. It seemed like nearly everyone was running around the edge of it, which sort of defeats the whole object of taking part in the Grim, so with a burst of speed I break off from the group I was with and plow straight into the middle of it. Sadly I miscalculated my entry trajectory and found that my body was indeed moving faster than my legs could go through the water what with it being somewhat deeper than I had expected. This resulted in me, much to the crowds very vocal delight, face-planting into the icy cold water.
So I clamber back to my feet and get going, blood dripping down both my legs, knees and legs screaming ‘you wally’ at me! Scuffed and bleeding palms caked in mud, freezing cold ice/mud water on my face, dripping down the front of my shirt and everything from the waist down soaked to the bone. What a great start to my first Grim Challenge!! I admonish my self for the first mile or so and then my focus returns to the matter in hand, running through mud and puddles!! About a mile and a half in the bigger puddles appear and remain a prominent feature of the race throughout! Now I really wish that I had invested in a head cam like this chap had, check out his video to get some grasp of the challenge I took on.
The course photographers managed to get a couple of shots off me whilst I was soldiering through. This one is right after the first deep mud/cargo net section, and yes that is just mud down my legs, I had not had a moment of panic! Again here, I stuck with the philosophy of straight down the middle and actually seemed to fair a lot better than the people who were trying to crawl/scramble their way around the edges. See the steely look of determination on my face, I was in full on hero mode at this point, with one goal in mind, whatever you do, do not fall flat on your face right in front of the photographer!!
The second time that I was caught by the official photographers was a little further on after a particularly large and somewhat bracing puddle. I’m looking quite happy in this picture, I’m presuming that’s because I’d just managed to navigate through them without falling!
There were plenty of moments during this 8 mile jaunt around the forest where I genuinely couldn’t feel my feet. Usually after the longer sections of puddles! You could tell when particularly nasty segments of the course were approaching as you could hear peoples screams and shouts in the distance. I have to say that I am so so glad that I invested in some trail shoes and felt genuinely sorry for those that didn’t, they helped me tramp my way through the muddiest of the muddy sections and the wettest of the puddle sections, up the steep hills, down the ravines, through the wooded areas and across the open muddy plains. There was also a bit of an obstacle course at roughly 7 miles which consisted of running over logs, steps, railway sleepers and moguls and things. This was one part that could have been made a lot harder, but that said, I’m pretty glad it wasn’t too bad as I was pretty knackered at that point!
Aaron managed to catch me at roughly 8 miles heading into the final ‘puddle’, again I’m looking far too happy given that I’m just about to steam straight into waist high ice cold water and finish up my ‘Grim’ experience. Note that most of the mud I was caked in earlier is gone, why is this you may ask? Well it’s because I didn’t skirt around the puddles and tried to stick to the middle of them as much as possible. This had the effect of not only numbing the senses but of washing off a lot of the mud too.
So once the final ‘puddle’ was traversed it was a case of running a few hundred yards and crossing the finish lines, arms pumped in the air with elation and a massive sense of achievement! What an epic race! Now to quickly remove my timing tag, collect a drink, make my way through the competitors tent, collect my T-Shirt and goody bag and meet up with the missus and start cheering on others coming through the final ‘puddle’.
Here’s my run log from my trusty Garmin 310xt, a good choice of watch for the conditions for sure! I had my heart rate monitor on as well, you can see instances where my heart rate rocketed, these peaks pretty much coincide with ‘puddles’
Grim Challenge Results
I came in 622nd out of 2922 runners in a time of 1:17:08. Seriously happy with that as I didn’t think my pace was that great given the water, hills, mud and obstacles.
Grim Challenge 2013
Q: Will I be doing this event again next year?
A: You bet!!
Want to join me? I’d be well up for entering this as part of a team next year, running it solo was great fun but I reckon it would be much more of a laugh to do this as part of a team. Shame on those who said they would do it with me this year and then just left me to it on my own!
Grim Challenge Official Website/Results/Pictures