Over the winter i’ve been enjoying taking part in a number of trail runs, the Wildman and the Iceman. As fun and muddy as these are it is time to take it up a couple of notches and tackle ‘The Major’.
Billed as an obstacle race, I think of it myself as more of an extreme 10km trail run. There are a few man-made obstacles but mostly the challenge is to be immersed in cold rivers and mud for extensive periods. There is still plenty of running and a number of stiff little hills to help the leg muscles burn.
When I did this race in March 2013, not long after I started doing BMF I did it in 1:54:00. This time I managed1:12:59 and a much more impressive position of 55th out of 1545 finishers. Obviously I am considerably fitter than last time but my position was helped a lot of setting off in the first wave where, at most, I may have had 100 people in front of me. This is important as there are quite a few bottlenecks on the course where you literally have to queue.
Despite having over 40 of my BMF Hyde Park buddies also running the race I found myself running and finishing on my own. Still kind of wish I had someone to high five at the end.
All told though it was fantastic fun and I’m really chuffed with my time and placing. I look forward to tackling this again next year. Or maybe I should do ‘Tough Guy’ instead?
I know where I got the vague idea for this, it was a year or so ago when I heard that someone had done back to back green bib BMF sessions. Two hours of incrediblely tough high intensity training. At the time, although it sounded impossible, I said to myself ‘one day, that’ll be me’.
So as I’ve recently mentioned, I’ve been coming up for my two year anniversary of joining BMF and wanted to do something a little crazy. I’ve been feeling pretty fit recently but it has been a very long while since I’ve done an activity where I thought there was a possibility of not finishing. So how about three BMF sessions in a day?
To make it stretching but doable I’d do the sessions in descending difficulty: green bib (scarily tough), red bib (my usual level) and blue (easy/beginner).
I felt unusually nervous at my first session at 7am. It was the day of reckoning. This wasn’t helped when I told the BMF park manager what I was planning and he said ‘oh, I wouldn’t recommend that’. As a royal marine I was hoping he’d be a bit more enthusiastic! It also now seemed a bit foolhardy to do a green glass for the first time ever. What had I let myself in for? Well unsurprisingly (duh?) I was pretty ‘smashed’ after the class. I hadn’t managed to keep up on the runs with the ‘real’ greens but i did do all of the extra reps that were called for. Normally this class would be more than enough! At least I had most of the day to recover.
Walking up to Hyde Park for the 1800 class, I was still feeling a bit jelly legged and very worried that I wouldn’t manage it. The red bib class was as tough as usual but for once I was happy to hang at the back and take it as easy as I felt I could get away with. About three quarters of the way through I knew I’d be fine. Exhausted, wobbly legged, but fine. Blimey, I was actually going to do this. Between classes I piled on the warm gear and had a snickers and a pint of milk to keep my strength up.
Ok, only a blue-bib class to go which in the end turned out to seem actually quite easy. I was generally at the front on the runs but this only caused the others to hate me when the instructor said ‘why is this guy beating you, it is his third class today!’. I certainly must have come across as a bit of a nutter? My main enemy turned out to be cramp and my calves in particular were really pinging, but with the odd little stretch I got through it.
So I did in fact complete this really quite mad enterprise of three BMF sessions in a day. It feels like quite an accomplishment, in part because I think there was a real chance I might not do it. I did (and still have) actual difficulty explaining why I wanted to do it and even to BMF regulars there was quite a bit of bewilderment. The truth is that I wanted to really test myself and this seemed to have the right balance of challenge.
The question now is: What crazy thing can I do next year?
In a months time I will have been going to British Military Fitness for two years. I have just read my ‘one year‘ blog where I seemed fairly pleased with my progress. Well, not only have I continued going, with only smallish breaks when on holiday but I can now report that I now go three times a week (since April) and that i’m feeling fitter than ever.
There is no denying that going up to three sessions a week was very tough at first, but it has been exactly what I needed to move my fitness onto the next level. It has been as much about a change of attitude as anything else. I try to be very focused not to ‘break the chain’, even to the point of exercising even if I’m feeling tired or achey.
The upshot of all this is that there hasn’t been a single week of 2014 that I haven’t done some kind of exercise and at least once I have done four proper sessions. In addition to this i’m feeling so good that I’m burning to do some ‘crazy’ events such as tough trail runs or even non-running things such as kayaking or climbing.
The great thing about the good level of all over fitness that I now have is that I can just go and do a bit of hill walking, climbing etc. without feeling the need to ‘train’.
First bit of ‘Crazy’
To celebrate two years of BMF I wanted to do something a bit above the norm. I have sometimes joked with my fellow participants about how crazy it would be to do a ‘double’ of back to back BMF sessions. That would have been crazy enough but it doesn’t seem that memorable and lacks balance.
I’m therefore proposing to do three sessions in a single day: 7am Green, 6pm Red and 7.30pm Blue. This way I get to do all the bib colours in descending order from toughest to easiest. I’m hoping to do this on 5 Nov 2014 so we shall see if I manage it and have the energy to blog about it?
I’ve thought that I should be planning races ahead a lot more. Partly because they often need to be booked well ahead but mainly so that I can just get things in the diary early. Here are some possibilities that come to mind although a few are clashing. Iceman or winter run? Mudman or Major?
5 Nov 2014 – BMF triple session
22 Nov 2014 – Wildman 10k or 15k – £28
1 Feb 2015 – Winter run 10k – £39
7 Feb 2015 – Iceman 10k or 15k – £28
7 Mar 2015 – Mudman 10k or 15k – £28
28 Mar 2015 – The Major South – 10k – £40
Jun – half marathon – somewhere
11-12 July 2015 – London to Brighton Night Ride
Aug 2015 – half marathon – somewhere
27 Sep 2015 – Loch Ness marathon 42k – £45
The one that I feel strongest about is the marathon which I feel more than ever that I want to give another go to. I did try the ballot for the London Marathon but sadly didn’t get in. Loch Ness would be an extraordinary setting to do another one. It keeps nagging at me that I can do under four hours.
Also hoping I can be a bit better at the blogging…
I realise that I’ve not updated my fitness progress on this blog for some time and it is in need of an update. Part of this is because I’ve been writing a separate daily blog and partly because for most of 2012 I had nothing to update.
Where has my Mojo gone?
After the birth of my first child I managed to complete many 10k races, a marathon and, after one notable DNF, a (sprint distance) triathlon. Things were a lot harder after my second child came along and I tried to get by with some cycling and/or the odd run. By the middle of 2012 my mojo had almost completely gone and I was despairing of ever enjoying exercise again. I needed a boost, maybe even a shock to get me back into things and finally I found it – British Military Fitness (BMF).
My brother-in-law has been going for years and sang its praises and is in pretty good shape. The signs looked good and so in November 2012 I bit the bullet and signed up for a tester session.
Shock and Awe
BMF run sessions from public parks all over London (and the rest of the UK) but the nearest to my work for me is Hyde Park. It was a dark and chilly November evening and the rendezvous point was in a dark, poorly lit car park. After a quick chat with one of the instructors I found myself pulling on a blue (novice) bib and lining up with the others.
We were led off and proceeded to do various exercises round a pitch black park. Lots of sprinting, press-ups sit ups, planks and lots of fun games. You are constantly partnering up with one or more people (where you gasp your names at each other). After an hour of this it was over. I was a broken man, almost dizzy with exhaustion, legs like jelly, lungs burning, just broken. I absolutely loved it, this was just what I was looking for. In the days that followed I could barely walk I was so stiff but all the time I couldn’t wait for the next session.
I started out a lowly blue bib, going just once a week but in February I made the jump to red bib and in April the even bigger jump of going twice a week. I have been supplementing these session with a bit of jogging so that I get at least two bouts of fitness training a week.
The single best thing about BMF though, and possibly the genius of it, is that you cannot rest on your laurels and are always asked for maximum effort. This means that every session is hard but you see steady progress. It never gets easier, you just get fitter. I like that line.