The Commando!

Guiding at The Commando – Hever Castle, Kent – 14th November 2015

Alison has struggled to participate in sport having lost her sight ten years ago. I was put in touch with her by the British Triathlon Federation just over a year ago as Alison had wanted to take part in a triathlon. We successfully managed this at the Hercules Festival of Sport back in September and I was keen to find another challenge.

I thought an off road run with obstacles could be fun and approached my good friend Nina for some advice as she was working with The Commando Series. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we found ourselves welcomed with open arms by The Commando Series and before we knew it we were on the start line! This event appealed to me as I knew there were Commandos on the course to help out if Alison’s visual impairment meant we came unstuck at any point.

23066911375_5680d19595_o

©colinbaldwinphotography

I need not have worried. I had described each of the fifteen obstacles to Alison and she did not appear to be phased by anything! We thought through our tactics and before we knew it we found ourselves at Hever Castle in pouring rain and a boggy field. There was a lovely heated marquee for us to keep warm and dry in whilst waiting for our start wave and within a short time we found ourselves rolling around in the mud in the warm up pen!

IMG_6861

The Commando Series is a 6km obstacle challenge designed to give the participants the opportunity to experience the mud, sweat and pain of real, modern day, commando training, taking on 15 gruelling obstacles over a wild terrain course. Many of the obstacles were designed to be exact replicas of the training obstacles found at the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Devon including a 30m neck deep wading pool and the dreaded Sheep Dip a 2m long tube submerged in muddy water.

After the warm up we were already fantastically muddy. It was pelting with rain too. The terrain itself was tough enough without any obstacles!

We had a briefing from Brian Adcock the Commando in Chief, an ex-Commando who had ultimately made our participation possible.

COMMANDO-27

©colinbaldwinphotography

The torrential rain had made the ground extremely slippery even in trail shoes. It was tough enough just for me to stay upright and I could see where I was going!

The course consisted of the following obstacles:

  1. Tunnel Rats – 10m long winding tunnels crafted out of wriggly tin and earth, crawling through on our hands and knees.
  1. Smarty Tubes – 8m long and 2 foot wide drainage pipes sunk into the ground, semi-immersed in muddy water and getting progressively deeper.

COMMANDO-88

©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Wires – a 40m long wooded glade dissected with metres and metres of elastic cord – this was really tricky! It wasn’t just the wires there were logs and very slippery, uneven terrain.
commando-15_1984994

commando-15_1985909
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Slippery Slope – a 30m long steep muddy slope with large ropes hanging down that we had to haul ourselves up on. It looks flat in this photo but I can assure you it wasn’t! It was like mud ramps so it was tricky for Alison as there were sudden drops in the ground at repeated intervals all the way up.

IMG_6873

  1. Monkey Bars – OK this one beat us so we chose the easier option of a balance beam instead.
COMMANDO-188
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Scramble – an 8m high scramble net. Not a problem for Alison, just scaled it like a pro! This was the view from the top.
COMMANDO-171
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Doom Drop – a 30m slippery slide with a steep entry and long run off. This was so much fun we wished it was twice as long. Alison went off first and then I followed. She showed no fear just throwing herself off the top of the steep hill onto a tarpaulin covered hill side flowing with water and washing up liquid. We literally bombed down it!
22648027228_8d77f64560_o

©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Catacombs of Doom – A 30m long cave system originally tunnelled out by Lord Astor’s workers on the estate. I don’t know why I led us through this Alison would probably have done better! It was very dark and so slippy we ended up crawling through on our hands and knees. No photos – it was dark!
  1. Peter’s Pool – a 30m wide clay marlpit once used for brick making and now filled with chest-deep muddy water, we are both quite short so I am sure it was more like neck deep! This was tricky to get into and in fact Alison ended up have a pretty quick immersion as I hadn’t realised until we were hanging off the ropes that the sides of the mud bank were cut away where she was hanging. She was still grinning when she resurfaced though!
23076813031_95c79e6f43_o
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Creepy Crawly – a 12m low scramble net that we had to commando crawl under.
COMMANDO-199
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. River Cross – A crossing of the River Eden – neck deep but assisted with a rope
commando-15_1981096
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Chasm – A 20m crossing of another clay marlpit this time on a high wire, we crossed using the Tyrollean Traverse method. It was daunting enough to get onto the wire let alone traverse across not attached to anything knowing there is quite a drop if you fall AND not being able to see! Huge KUDOS for this one Alison! All I could do was describe how far she had left to go from the other side!
commando-15_1988554

commando-15_1990192

commando-15_1987685
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Frogger – a 15m crossing of the River Eden using inflatable tyres or an option to go back in the water again using a rope to navigate the crossing and that is the option we chose.  This is us clambering out.
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Sheep Dip – 1 2m long drainage pipe submerged in muddy water – pushed through from one end by a commando and hauled out at the other!
COMMANDO-282

©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Wall – the finish line – a 12ft high wall with a scramble net over it. Tough enough for anyone that could see where they were going let alone Alison that couldn’t but it was no problem, Alison was at the top very quickly and calmly!

IMG_6878

Then the climb down the other side to the finish!

COMMANDO-1
COMMANDO-393
©colinbaldwinphotography

Another highlight? The warm showers afterwards:

COMMANDO-357
©colinbaldwinphotography

All in all this was an amazing day out. We are so grateful to Nina and all at The Commando Series for enabling us to participate and for their help and support both before, during and after the event.

Thanks too to Colin the photographer at Peachy Snaps Photography for some amazing shots.

Thanks also to Martin for being chauffeur, photographer and most importantly Ted, Alison’s guide dog minder for the day in awful weather conditions!

None of it would have been possible with the help of Lesley Keddy and all the volunteer guide runners at South Oxhey Park Run that enables Alison to keep run fit.

Last but not least I would like to thank my sponsors for their continuing support.  Giant Radlett spoil me rotten with fantastic bicycles to ride and neverending support.  Not only does this help my triathlon racing, it has also meant that I have been able to keep fit in spite of having to take a long break in my running due to an Achilles injury.

Its a wonder I am able to run at all but Simon Costain from the Gait and Posture Centre continuously supports me with these awkward feet of mine!

I would highly recommend this as a superb day out for anyone and we hope to be back next year.  Finding the next challenge is now on the cards but this will be a tough one to beat!

Alison you are gutsy, fearless and an amazing inspiration to others.  I cannot wait for the next challenge.  Any ideas anyone?!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: