Waist deep in mud, plunging into pools of icy water, scaling heights and scrambling back down with a real fear of breaking limbs – this is what I do for fun.
Last week, I travelled to Al Ain to take part in the Wadi Adventure Race. The idea behind the race is similar to other concepts like the Spartan, Tough Mudder and Ninja Warrior, pushing your body to its limits of strength and endurance while overcoming extreme obstacles. It doesn’t sound like much fun to some people, but I was in my element and loving every exhausting, sweaty minute.
Almost a year ago, a friend asked me to take part in a similar endurance competition with her. At the time, my fitness levels were embarrassing and I knew it wasn’t possible for me. From that moment on I made it my mission to get myself in shape and to stop being the person left behind longing to join in. After the initial sign up for the adventure race, I was not content at just entering and taking part – I wanted to do it to the best of my ability. This meant long, hard training sessions over the past few months, but where is the fun in dedicating yourself to a lonely training life with hours in the gym all by yourself? So I roped in my fittest friend, Sarah, for the journey as well.
Training for an event such as this requires all-round fitness – you have to be able to run, crawl, jump, climb and swim. Most of our training took place at the gym under the watchful eye of Coach Yoka, who trained me especially to improve my upper body strength and be able to hold my own weight. I’m the type of girl who can’t usually run a bath, so running a race was daunting. Thankfully, the wonderful Muscat winter weather has been kind to us and we have been out hiking and running, which helped to build endurance and coordination. All our meals have been based around an eating plan made for us to be able to maximise strength and energy to get the best from our bodies.
Race day finally arrived and the nerves began to kick in, even more so when seeing the fit-looking contestants arriving to join the same category as us. I was scared about how I was going to keep up with the pack, but from the beginning, our survival plan was to just keep moving and finish the race in one piece. It didn’t matter how fast or slow we were as long as we did our best. As the countdown began and we stepped over the starting line, the competitive side of me clicked into action and it was full steam ahead. Bounding over hurdles and a tyre pit, it was on to the first real challenging obstacle – a 150m crawl through the mud on our stomachs to avoid the sharp barbed wire above. By this point, we had completed three obstacles out of 27; I was nervous for what was ahead, but my body was filled with adrenaline and it just kept powering through.
Surprisingly, my favourite parts of the race were running through the wadi terrain. I enjoyed this mostly because I was well practiced and my body felt strong and coordinated. All our running and sprint training in the mountains of Muscat had prepared us well for this as we lapped past people who previously had an early advantage on us. My least favourite and the only obstacle that I could not manage was the monkey bars. This has never been my strength. It’s mostly down to technique and I just couldn’t manage it as I plunged into the water pool below. Maybe next time.
Crossing the finishing line, I felt a mixture of emotions from relief to I have survived without serious injury and sadness that after all those months of training it was over so soon – I wanted to keep going!
I completed the 5km race and all 27 obstacles in a time of 56 minutes, ranking me right in the middle of the women in our category. Although it was a good place on the board, I know that I can do better than this next time.
All that training for so many months and it was all over in less than an hour! But the whole event was a wonderful experience and I already have my sights set on the next challenge. I’ll call this first event the warm-up round because now I have an idea of what to expect and I’m going to come back better and stronger for the next one.
* To see more of Heather’s hardcore adventures, check out theduncanadventures.com