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18.08.2014 admin
It gives us great pleasure to finally introduce Andy Parry as a guest writer for Mudstacle.
Having done a few Survival Of The Fittest events in the past I knew about the significance of the hay bales in the the first 100 meters of the race. It was a good steady pace running on the flat ground until the next obstacle zone, with 6 foot walls and platforms to negotiate, it was nothing too challenging and the fast pace was starting to thin out the runners. As we entered the National Watersports Centre at around the half way point, the obstacles had been a bit thin on the ground, but that was about to change. For an 'urban' obstacle course set in a very industrial city of Nottingham, Rat Race had done an incredible job of keeping us off the roads and tarmac. Cheered on by the crowds and fellow runners, I dashed through the inflatable water baths, took a running jump into the plunge pool and managed to pass and splash another runner before vaulting in and out of a pair of empty skips, before carrying a beer barrel through the bar tent to the rapturous cheers of the early morning drinkers and supporters. Rat Race's Men's Health Survival of the Fittest is a slick well oiled machine: easy fast registration, great warm-ups, super event village facilities, very high quality technical t-shirt, and a beautiful medal for the finishers. Andy lives on the outskirts of the Peak District, which is the perfect place for indulging his trail running addiction.
Looks like a good event, congratulations on the time too, I think that’s about my road running pace!! Survival season is well and truly upon us as the second event of the year saw almost 4,000 challengers storm through the parks, rivers and woodland of Nottingham’s original course. Judgement day was chilly but dry as frightened racers gathered early in the muddied event village, which saw them filthy before they had even crossed the start line.
Please tick if you would prefer not to receive news & special offers from Hearst Magazines UK. This Men's Health Survival of the Fittest review was supposed to be brought to you by the effervescent Andy Parry who, unfortunately, was too injured to take part.
Although I had to cancel out of another race to drive up to Nottingham for Survival, I was by no means disappointed. For some reason I think that I can smash Survival and run hard but those quick fire obstacles really chip away at your energy levels and I'm normally blowing throughout the entire race.
To my surprise, the first 5km was actually fairly obstacle free, which allowed decent runners to get into a good rhythm. By the first water stop and quick fire series of obstacle, I decided that I would take my time and enjoy the experience of flipping over cargo nets and crawling through the various challenges that lay in my path.
The extended section of the half marathon course detoured into the depths of the National Watersports Centre, which included a permanent obstacle course through woodland, which was an interesting break away from the urban vibe.
Getting legs moving after so much cold water exposure is tricky at the best of times, but I really felt my pace die after that. After a few more scaffold constructions, we rejoined the rest of the 10km field in a queue for a water slide. Like all of their other Survival races, we took a detour through a major stadium, which was of course the City Ground, where Notts Forest play. Finally we came into the final field where we dunked into a watery container, carried a beer barrel through the bar, summitted an overhanging wall and faced the intimidating Men's Health Wall Of Fame. I'm really pleased to have ticked Nottingham Survival off my list and especially to take part in their first half marathon.
It looks as though this will become a regular annual feature for Paramount Fitness and all those involved with #TeamPF. Much like last year, I was keen to push our members outside of their comfort zones and encourage them to realise what they could achieve, if they were willing to take the chance and take action. The 30+ were made up of a few that had taken part in 2013, but mostly were new faces to this years challenge. I think after last years success the seed had been planted in many of our members heads to step up to the plate this year.
Due to the number of us that signed up, and the times of which sign ups were processed, #TeamPF were split across two Waves.
You can understand why these questions were being asked when the majority of #TeamPF had never taken part in an event like this or even thought they were capable of such a challenge.
The team even included individuals coming back from injury, one who had been hospitalised just 6 months earlier and others who had never ran any further than 1 mile before the 12 week training plan.
So you can imagine that there were a fair few nerves and anxious faces on the start line, as we warmed up.
Opposite to last year, the weather was nice, we had a clear sunny sky and the temperature was around 14 degrees celsius.
Much like last year, you make your way over Trent Bridge and down towards the City Ground, home of Nottingham Forest FC. With the first cluster of obstacles out the way, you then enjoy a 2.5 mile run out to Holme Pierrepont, The National Watersports Centre. As you make your way back onto your feet you need to get yourself over a large A-Frame with yet another Cargo Net to assist you – these were going to become your friend over the next 10k.
As you run over the bridges that loop the Water Rapids you soon have a taste of the River Trent. But it was time for the obstacle that most dread when they sign up for Survival Of The Fittest, Nottingham – The River Trent swim. With a new obstacle for 2014 in the way, you must fully submerge once again before you swim your way to the bank and climb out.
Your main aim now, get rid of your life-jacket and get your body temperature back to a tolerable level, so you get back into your stride and head off into the woodland.

It’s heavy on the legs, but with your body temperature having been quite low due to the Trent, you enjoy the challenge as it soon gets you warm again. After a short run through a marshy woodland, you find yourself at Lady Bay and another set of obstacles. Here you found a half pumped up set of inflatables to stumble through, a tight squeeze through some Tyres, a Lorry Trailer to climb in and out of along with a Climbing Wall, a Parkour Section and a set of Parallel Bars..
So back along the gravel pathway towards Nottingham Forest Football Club you go, passing those of later waves who have just started. Time to test the legs a little more as you run up and down the steps of the Trent End of NFFC. A chance to pose for a photo as you pass a event photographer on your final staircase before you up your pace back along The Embankment towards where it all began. One final push as you cross the River Trent over the Suspension Bridge and into the crowds. Get yourself over, under and through these and you are on the verge of an amazing achievement. But first, a new inverted wall, not the easiest thing to combat when you’re at the end of your energy supply. Whether you combat it alone and manage to pull yourself or you get a little help from your team-mates or other participants, when you’re up on that wall for a matter of seconds, you feel an immense sense of pride before you drop and stagger across the finish line. Next year I will take 100 members with me to complete Men’s Health Survival Of The Fittest, Nottingham. Above: Enjoying a well deserved alcoholic beverage with the number one fitness family in Nottingham.
Nottingham is once again hosting part of the Men's Health Survival of the Fittest season. Since 2004, they have been bringing a combination of machinery and metal to create some of the best obstacles you could ever race on, and each location brings a bespoke experience that you won't find with any other provider. You can also take advantage of our exclusive rates for digital advertising and a 10% discount on event entertainment! The last event that Andy planned to review for us sadly got cancelled, so we made sure that we got him on one of UK Obstacle Racing's sure-fire reliable events: Men's Health Survival of the Fittest Nottingham.
If you're at the back of the starting group, it will take 2 mins of waiting and queuing to get over, so I nudged my way to the front row of the starting line. Bursting off the line, desperately sprinting and targeting a clear path to the hay bales, alongside 250 other people with the same internal mission briefing. We were guided down into the water for a short and sludgy wade and crawl up the opposite bank, before running to grab a buoyancy aid and then down the slide into the freezing water for a swim to the central bank and then a second swim to the other side of the very slow moving river. Next up was the 'Men at Work' zone, where they had us carrying traffic cones, hurdling crash barriers, crawling through a spiders web and attacking a steep and slippery ramp.
I loved that obstacle, it really brought the competitors and spectators together like no other challenge and was just hilarious.
After a frantic leap over the trademark hay bale wall, the course continued in a seemingly civilised manner along the flat, rural footpaths of the River Trent, until runners were greeted by the Parkour Zone. This all cumulated in a double-dunk medley of obstacles that threw contestants into a grimy skip filled with muck and murky water, followed by an icy plunge pool. I've always been a big fan of their urban obstacle races and I hadn't ever managed to make it to the Nottingham instalment before now. As the start gun went, I was seduced by the classic hay-bale scrambles and I flew over them as quickly as possible to avoid any potential hold ups.
It's something I would normally work to my advantage (being a better runner than obstacle negotiator) but instead I realised that my body wasn't in the right place to race. Unsurprisingly though there was a hell of a lot of water in the Watersports Centre! It was a clear and crisp morning and there was a real bite to the various lake and river crossings.
There was a massive expanse of life rafts and rubber rings spanning one of the lakes to jump and crawl our way across. What I needed was something to warm me up and, just in the nick of time, the Survival team were kind enough to put an evil new obstacle in our path to do just that.
It's the only bit of congestion I hit the whole day and, to be honest, it was nice to rest my weary legs. We ran up and down a few sets of stairs and I had a real urge to storm the pitch but thought better of it. Although the Wall of Fame is "only" around 7-8 feet tall it's always a very tricky challenge.
As always the general organisation of everything was really slick, the course was hectic and fun and the bag of goodies, medal and t-shirt were up there with the best of them. Tickets are still on sale for their Manchester and London events and don't forget you get a 15% discount with Mudstacle. So 12 weeks prior to October 11th 2014, I sent out a full training plan for them all to follow to do just that. Here you carry a large traffic cone, a stone block beneath metal railings, a series of traffic barriers to jump and a slippery slide to climb with the help of a rope if you require.
Much like last year, my temptation to run on the pitch was high, but I managed to stick to the route and stayed out of trouble.
It’s right in front of you and trust me, having completed this course before, it seemed bigger this year than last. This obstacle course - brought to you by Rat Race - sees 4,000 competitors racing across this beautiful city in a bid to be the best.

Cardiff, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Manchester and London all play host to the Men's Health Survival of the Fittest season.
Massive thanks to Andy for taking time out of his preparation for the World Beard Championships (Fact - he is entering the "Freestyle Catagory" in Germany on 2nd November). The crowds LOVE it; cheering, whistling and secretly hoping for someone to take a hay bale in the face or a multi-runner pile up or Nikolai Andrianov to tuck vault and pike over the obstacle. After another couple of kilometres we enter the military assault course zone, with sand bag carries, rope swing, A-frames made of scaffolding, monkey bars and cargo nets to crawl under. Mr Super Bright Blue Shorts was nowhere to be seen as I entered the Nottingham Forest football ground, running up and down the steps of the stadium.
With only the famous 7" 'Wall of Fame' to conquer, I approached at speed and avoided the guy struggling to pull himself up. A few leaps and scrambles later, it was back to the scenic river footpath for an uninterrupted stretch of running. With the finish line tantalisingly close, the looming defiance of the eight foot Wall of Fame was all that stood between competitors and victory. To make up for it, I'll see if I can squeeze in a song or poem, as Andy often likes to do (I think he sees himself as the JRR Tolkien of obstacle racing). The most exciting part was that, for the first time, they would be offering a "Survival Elite" half marathon option. That's how I would expect a Survival of the Fittest to be though - I always find them intense.
The concept of the obstacle itself was great, and it has worked well at other events, but the rings weren't stable enough to balance on and the majority of people soon gave up and opted to swim. We picked up a sandbag and had to take it on a 50 yard crawl under crowd barriers, which is far easier said than done! Shortly after that the obstacles really started to come thick and fast, with a whole range of walls, slopes, crawls and carries - this was classic Survival.
It would be fun and everything, but it would involve more running than necessary and I was fast running out of energy.
Even if I was feeling fully fit, I'm pretty sure the half marathon would have been a considerable challenge but, if that's not your thing, it looked like people were having a lot of fun on the regular 10k course. We have bruises and cuts to show for our efforts and a medal around our neck that will be worn with pride.
In the melee is a great mixture of confused first timers (thinking the pace is a bit quick for a 10k), charity runners in fancy dress (cheering their own tutu adorned, brilliance and philanthropy), serious runners (in high tech compression Lycra with matching, well chosen trail shoes) and every other type of entrant between. This was a great zone, all under the watchful eye and encouraging shouts of army personnel in full dress.
Once out of the Trent the buoyancy aids were handed back and we were onto an awesome trail run; zig zagging up a steep bank and then through the trees. I managed to steal back a few positions through the obstacles by picking a short path through the maze and attacking each obstacle as hard as possible. Although you would expect them to double up their 10km course for that, they actually added a full extension onto it, with a whole selection of extra obstacles and terrain features. I was very thankful to be wearing a merino wool t-shirt under my vest and I spent the majority of the race internally congratulating myself for that decision, as there were a lot of cold looking people around. After a lot of huffing and puffing and the odd helping hand here and there, I just about managed to haul my broken body over it before stumbling over the finish line. Rat Race is famous for bringing you some of the toughest and greatest obstacle experiences in the world - so get your tickets now whilst you can.
I was feeling strong and running well; I had my eyes on Mr Super Bright Blue Shorts, who was about 100 meters ahead and I was slowly gaining on him. I quickly turned to help drag my fellow competitor to the top, before jumping down to sprint to cross the line. And it would be fair to say that no manner of squats, pull-ups and crunches can prepare you for the rude awakening of landing into a bollock-shrinkingly cold river in October – that is when things got truly testing. If you had your Tissot photo memento taken, you'll find it on the MH Survival Facebook page. I think you were supposed to just score one basket and move on but I got completely wrapped up in reliving my youth and happily strutted around shooting from all over the court. I was clear and sitting in the top 10 but already breathing heavy; buzzing on adrenalin and caffeinated energy gels.
After missing a basketball hoop three times I ran the maze of barriers, climbed through a burnt out car and vaulted up and down a lorry trailer, crawled through a scaffold construction and finally a wooden construction.
I put my foot down and caught up with him just as we reached the final bridge over the River Trent and managed to pull away as I entered the event village and the last handful of obstacles. Mission accomplished, tired, bruised and smiling from ear to ear after a high spirited, high speed 12 kilometres. I was tempted to see if I could slam-dunk but, having broken both my wrists doing that once, I thought it might be better to avoid it until I had a little more spring in my step!

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