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The Reaper - the water was cold, the paths slippery and the obstacles a real challenge

by Paul Hayward
Wednesday 1st April 2015
Tags  The Reaper   |   Reaper Events   |   Paul Hayward
 
 

Race report: Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward joins in some March Madness at the Reaper - Saturday, March 21, 2015

March Madness at the Reaper - Saturday, March 21, 2015

Photos © Paul Hayward

After suggestions that I should check out the Reaper Obstacle Course Race (OCR) at the beginning of the year, I was excited to see what the event could offer as one of OCR’s newest entrants. With the option of taking on a day race, estimated to be 8.5k, or the evening race against the Reaper with head torches (or both races!), the stage was set for a fantastic day.

Since signing up to the day Reaper, the newly formed Obstacle Course Racing Association had designated this race as an official qualifier for the United Kingdom Championships and on arrival to the race village at the Heart of England Conference Centre, Coventry, there was a lot of excitement for this event. Adjacent to the race village stood the start line and the finish line, running parallel to each other. In the distance a number of obstacles, muddy trails and one horrendous looking wall blocked the final stretch.

I decided to try and swap my place to the elite wave and join those racing for qualification, wich luckily for me was no trouble and the Reaper Event staff were only too happy to swap over my race number and place me in the first wave. On joining the elite wave and looking around, I was pleased to see a mixture of some faces I knew and a lot of people I did not. On a weekend that played host to some cracking OCRs, I took encouragement from the amount of people making the journey to this event and the amount of new people that I was meeting.

March Madness at the Reaper - Saturday, March 21, 2015

Photos © Paul Hayward

From the start line it was a small sprint to a huge wooden block, with various methods of entry and exit. Although it looked a simple obstacle, it was quite a beautiful thing in that it allowed competitors to choose their preferred method to navigate through it. Some people opted for through and under, whilst others went all out and went over and under it. This is not a normal occurrence in OCR and it was a nice touch to have a sprinkling of innovation from the word go.

After navigating the block, it was off into the main body of the course. With the sun threatening to shine there were fears that a number of us could be over dressed. Luckily, or in an act of kindness, the Reaper provided a huge reservoir to wade through and then required full submersion under the floating platforms to pass through. As I resurfaced I could feel the cold striking through my body and as my breathing became sporadic, I remembered that I was not even one kilometre in and I had been treated to two tough obstacles in quick succession.

March Madness at the Reaper - Saturday, March 21, 2015

Photos: Paul enjoys a challenging course© Good Sport Action Photography

Shortly afterwards I was back in the water and asked to climb out of the water and up a slide with the assistance of some ledges. The ledges were just placed far enough apart to ensure that the obstacle required a good combination of balance and strength. The final pull up over the top of the slide knocked further momentum out of me and on climbing down I was worried that this was going to be the format for the whole course!

I regained some composure as I entered into the adjacent forest and I managed to find some form of rhythm. This, however, was broken once again through a mixture of tyre walls, cargo nets, muddy bogs up to my chest and wooden walls. Although these obstacles were not too testing, they came thick and fast and the constant climbing, crawling and running shattered my ability to find a decent pace. Coupled with some small hills, the Reaper was turning out to be a lot more challenging than I could have thought.

March Madness at the Reaper - Saturday, March 21, 2015

Photos © Paul Hayward

On leaving the forest I found myself at a tyre carry, a classic obstacle that attempts to sap the energy out of you by making you run with a weight. Despite selecting a medium sized tyre and sprinting off, my pace was reduced to a stagger as I was made to go through another bog full of water and over a wall. The bog full of water drastically reduced pace my as my tyre acted like a sponge and took on far too much water.

I admit that around 6.5 kilometres in I was feeling a little broken. I would like to say that it was due to my Ironman training, but sadly I think the real reason was the quick succession of obstacles. The organisers had been quite clever in ensuring that the obstacles were fairly close to each other, which meant that when I returned back into the forest I was blowing quite hard and my pace had dropped a little.

March Madness at the Reaper - Saturday, March 21, 2015

Photos: Paul embraces the mud © Good Sport Action Photography

The forest offered a further succession of walls, wooden a frames, cargo crawls and muddy bogs, albeit with the difference that the walls had become slightly larger, the bogs were much thicker and the cargo nets required you to climb over and across them, rather than under. The final wall, which was sloped like a pyramid with a rope hanging down, did not look as fearsome as I had initially thought and, with the crowds spectating, I charged up to it and grabbed the rope.

A whisker from the top however I ran out of elevation and pace. This caused me to hurtle back down the ridge to the gasps of “ooooh” and “so close”. This final wall was a little deceptive and was just high enough to cause competitors a problem and was maybe a little mean. On a second attempt and with a little assistance; I cleared the wall and sprinted, in some form, to the finish.

Reaper Events, through their 8.5k course, had provided a challenging course that not only pushed your fitness levels but also tested your resolve. The mixture of obstacles, with a sprinkling of innovation, and excellent terrain ensured that they had provided an OCR worthy of being considered a United Kingdom OCR Championship Qualifier.

March Madness at the Reaper - Saturday, March 21, 2015

Photos © Paul Hayward

Although some of the obstacles were easy to navigate, the fact that they were placed in quick succession of each other meant that they were just as tough as some of their bigger brothers and required every ounce of energy you had. Couple with a mixed terrain of muddy bogs, broken trails, fields, woodland and some tricky larger obstacles, the Reaper provided a ghastly shock to the system and showed that the Reaper Events team has the passion and the innovation to create a blast of an OCR.

I spent some time watching the later waves and talking to competitors to gauge the mood and the feedback. It was unanimous; everyone was smiling, laughing and telling me that the Reaper had been far from easy. I came away smiling and thinking I was glad that I made the decision to race the Reaper; although my body may not thank me for it later.

For more information of the Reaper OCR please check out: www.reaperevents.co.uk

The next Reaper event is on Saturday June 20, 2015 and should you be brave enough, you can take on both the night and the day races.

March Madness at the Reaper - Saturday, March 21, 2015

Photos © Paul Hayward

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
 
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
 
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
 
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 
 
 
 
 
 

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