Training Tips
grim 8
© Guillaume Royer - FOTOLIA

"There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people."

Quote by-Bill Bowerman



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Race Reveiw

The Grim Challenge, Dec 06

The preamble

The harbingers of doom were out in full force on the run up to the Grim Challenge 8.

My training leading up to the race took a 1 month hit due to a broken toe, then  the week before the race I came down with a severe case of ‘man flu’ .

Unperturbed and still looking forward to acting like a 3 year old jumping in and out of puddles for a little 8 mile jaunt around some hostile territory, I jumped in my car the early hours of Sunday morning to drive around the M25 with gale force winds and torrential rain battering us. Fortunately, as we arrived at Aldershot, the skies started to clear and things were on the up. The weather turned out perfect by the start, clear blue skies and the wind was subsiding.

After parking up and having a chat with some of our fellow sadists/competitors, we found that most were repeat offenders of the Grim Challenge, who looked forward to this tom foolery annually and after the race I could see why they got hooked.


The facilities

The parking was ample and the race was impeccably organized. The changing and baggage tents were suitably adequate, with open muddy floors adding to the expectation of how messy we were all going to get. This is not a criticism, for me this added to the whole event. After all if you signed up for the event and read the website you knew you were not going for a pampering day at the spa.

The shop was spot on for what was needed, a small table and a rail of essentials for items you may have forgotten. Only the foolhardy would want to buy brand new kit to then trash over a muddy 8 mile course. The tea van was a godsend at the end of the race.


The Race

The land is used to test army vehicles and as the web site said it will be interesting.

The start was crowded with around 1500 eager participants ready to splash along the 8 mile ‘Grim’ course. This did lead to some crowding over the first 2 miles, but after that, except for a few pinch points the field opened out.

Just after the start you reach a long hill which on a cold morning with little warm up is a great taxing start on the legs. Then a descent allows you to get some breath back and settle into a nice rhythm before you are suddenly herded like lemmings into a water filled ravine. This is the first taste of the ‘puddles’ to come, wading thigh deep through the ravine I was not sure who were screaming loudest, the men or the women.

The course from there on in turned very interesting, the surfaces changed from slippery mud, to sand, to flint and rocks. We run over knee deep puddle-strewn paths that constantly slowed you down and numbed the legs. The further I went around the course, the less my legs were willing to get moving again after another deep puddle. 

It was at these puddles that a guy in just a pair of Speedo’s shot past me, followed by a Santa Claus who I think was slowly realizing that a Santa suit does not constitute technical clothing, as he absorbed most puddles that he passed. 

One unfortunate competitor, not listening to the race stewards to stay to the edge of a large puddle, suddenly realized what they meant by ‘watch out for the big potholes’ as she disappeared up to her neck in water.

Around the 4 mile mark a small camouflage net barely slowed down the runners. Up and over some undulating mounds before arriving at and running through some more rather large puddles. Cruelly you are lead close to the finish line where you are then sent off for a further cruel 2 mile loop.

Finally, when arriving back at the finish, all competitors are taken through a final long thigh deep puddle for a great finish photo.


The end

A couple of gear tips, my brother and I both wore Salomon xa pro trainers, which shipped the water out as quickly as it got in. From some previous adventure racing I had found that it is not worth wearing Gore-Tex waterproof trainers which do just a good a job at keeping water in as they do out if you step in a puddle that covers your shoes. We also both wore ‘smartwool’ socks which did a fantastic job of retaining some warmth even after multiple dunkings. They far exceeded my expectations.

All in all the Grim Challenge was a fantastic race that will be on my calendar for years to come. 10/10

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‘If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, the triathlon must have taken Him completely by surprise.’ P.Z. Pearce:

I think that quote can now be rephrased as:

‘If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, the Grim Challenge must have taken Him completely by surprise.’


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