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Dirty Dozen delivers in Wales

by Paul Hayward
Tuesday 28th July 2015
Tags  OCR   |   Dirty Dozen Races   |   Dirty Dozen Races South Wales   |   The Beard   |   Doug Spencer
 
 

Race report: Dirty Dozen Races South Wales - Usk, July 11, 2015

Dirty Dozen Races South Wales - Usk, July 11, 2015

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

Regular readers will be only too aware of the Beard, the affectionate name for Doug Spence, the race director of the juggernaut that is Dirty Dozen Races and their fantastic Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) last year. Having tested all of the three distances available, Dirty Dozen Races showed that they offer a fantastic challenge and experience across some great venues.

The jewel in the crown had to be, for me, Usk in South Wales. Last year I had commented that “the venue was simply fantastic, with some of the most gruelling and testing terrain I have witnessed” (HERE). I must admit that I was looking forward to coming back to Usk, but the question was, could the Beard build on an already fantastic experience?

The answer, in short, was yes. The Beard managed to squeeze even more hills into a race that already had too many and strategically placed obstacles to ensure that even the toughest competitors’ resolve was tested. That is not to say that he did not cater for the beginners though as there were welcome additions such as steps up for the wall, meaning suddenly you could get over that huge wall!

On lining up at the start line with Run247’s OCR contributor Thomas Blanc (HERE) in the Welsh sun, the scene was shaping up nicely for another fantastic race. The question being discussed at the start line was “when was the first hill coming?” We did not have to wait long as we made our way over some little slopes to start, before being treated to a vertical hill, through the middle of a forest on technical ground, before we even clocked a full kilometre on our Garmins. The gradient was brutal and ensured that the majority, save for Thomas and the elite athletes, were reduced to walking very early on.

When the hill finally ended, the forest opened up and the hills of Monmouthshire reminded you of just how special this location was. This brief distraction was most welcome before competitors were treated to another sharp incline. On surviving these two brief sharp shocks, the obstacles began with two fairly innocuous walls.

Both of these walls had ledges and were easily surmountable for beginners and veterans. After a brief spell through the woods, I found myself on top of a hill, surrounded by Monmouthshire’s countryside and a number of sloping walls. I must confess, I had to stop and admire both at this point, as it was simply picturesque and this location really spoilt you for views of Wales.

Dirty Dozen Races South Wales - Usk, July 11, 2015

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

On climbing the walls and running back down the hill, which was very technical given the uneven ground, and through a number of streams, you arrived at a balance beam, hoisted above some water. Several competitors were brave enough, or crazy enough, to run straight across but the rest of us were forced to crawl and slide. Some individuals that had a moment of ingenuity and used each other to balance and walk across by locking arms! This obstacle provided many smiles, with people flying into the water and loud cheers when they made it across.

The break from the hills did not last too long and the Beard had, in the middle of a valley, determined it was about time for a log carry. Whilst the logs were, thankfully, not as heavy as at some other OCRs, the hill entailed that any chance of running was lost, unless you were accustomed to this type of obstacle and the heavy breathing came back quite quickly.

Fortunately you were given a chance to cool down a further kilometre into the race as the water features began to make their presence known. Ranging from simple wades through bogs to full on submersions in lakes under floating wooden rigs, competitors were not only cooled down but given a chance to give their legs some form of rest by swimming!

On pulling myself up onto the last rig and turning into the huge open field; I knew I was on my way, finally, to the finish line. The only thing that stood between me and my fellow competitors was the Irish Table and the final trademark 10 foot wall. Having previously learnt from the Beard how to scale both, I should have been confident but since Ironman training my strength training had taken a severe hit and I was already feeling tired.

For those new to the Irish Table, the obstacle provides a wall with an overhanging ledge to surmont. It is positioned just right to be awkward enough to ensure that you cannot easily get over it and on hanging on it, counting to three and hoisting my legs up they failed to connect and I came tumbling off. It is moments like this that make me love OCR as two fellow runners offered to help me get over, due to clearly looking defeated, but I could not let them I had to do it.

Fortunately my legs connected properly on my second attempt and I was on the top of the table. Surprisingly the final wall, my nemesis for so long, did not beat me and I flew across it into the arms of the Beard, who still spends the day welcoming every last competitor home.

Last year I had used the word “brutal” to describe the race, this year the same view remained but it had been sprinkled with some magic. I have missed out a number of obstacles from this review, not due to not being noteworthy but I could go all day, and all of them were fantastically put together and placed. For example the trademark small wall climbs in boxes sloping up a hill, simple but yet thoroughly effective.

Usk provides one of the best terrains OCR has seen and Dirty Dozen Races event was up there with the best our sport has to offer. Doug and Dirty Dozen Races had, somehow, accomplished the impossible and built on the great success of last year. They had squeezed even more terrain out of an already very testing race. The hills were fiercely challenging, the forest and trail sections were fantastic and at times technical, the water sections were horrendous yet brilliant and the obstacles were pitched perfectly.

In addition, importantly,  Doug and the team at Dirty Dozen Races had balanced their obstacles out a little to ensure that they are achievable and put a huge dollop of fun into them, such as the balance beams over water which caused a number of funny moments. On looking round it was clear that everyone was enjoying themselves and at the same time being challenged to make the all important finish line.

I fear for anyone taking on Usk next year if Doug and the team can build on it again. However attendance has to be mandatory on this display. Dirty Dozen Races return to Essex next month for the Destroyer (18K) and the Dash (6k) and on this display it cannot come soon enough.

Dirty Dozen Races South Wales - Usk, July 11, 2015

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

More information on Dirty Dozen Races can be found here: www.dirtydozenraces.com

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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