Guest writer this week is Mudstacle regular and editor of Mud Is My Makeup Francesca Chiorando - take it away Fran:

I’m sure we’ve all seen it: those insufferable “mothers” who make us all feel bad, showing them crowded with their offspring and six pack abs asking what our excuse is? Why aren’t we as good as her…what’s wrong with us that we can’t do this? I know I know, some people love it, but for the majority of us it just makes us want to punch the computer screen.

I am not here to do that. Since I started OCR I have had one aim: that is to get more people into the sport. I’ve always wanted to show that if someone normal like me, who has a full time job and no special amenities available to them, can get around a course, you can too. The purpose of this post is to do exactly that. I want to show you you don’t need to be scared, no matter how well or badly you think you may do something, just try it! You may hate it, but chances are you will love this cuddly little sport, and it will push you to try new things and make new friends.

The purpose of this post isn’t to okay doing an OCR whilst pregnant, that is an individual circumstance and I can’t comment on what you should or shouldn’t do. Rather, it’s to go out to all those people I’ve ever met who have said “I can’t”, to encourage them to give it a go…if you feel like you want to, but you’re scared, try it anyway, you never know what could happen…and if you don’t finish? So what? You still got out there…and there’s always next time.

As a very wise lady says, the only failure is to not try…

It’s a rare case when you know that despite training (can I even use that word?) you will actually be worse on race day than you have been in the lead up, whatever I did; I knew I would decline. Although I’ve already started finding running tough (my hips don’t seem to enjoy it too much), I’m trying to keep to at least a slow and steady 5km a week, and walking roughly 4-5km every day with the dog.

I thought long and hard about taking part in a Spartan race whilst pregnant. I know there are lots of opposing views, but the race allows it, and I know what I am doing enough to know whether something will be risky or not. Trust me, that weird mum fear has already set in, where I get a bit freaked out over something which in the past wouldn’t have bothered me.

To run the race I had two people with me: my boyfriend Tom who is a PT, first aid trained and very experienced in OCRs, plus my friend Paul who can run damn fast if I had a problem and needed help, as well as being a great support.

I know Spartan Races well enough to know what to expect, and beforehand I’d already discussed what definitely wouldn’t be possible (very heavy carries, and I would see how I felt about walls when I got to them) and things that I am confident enough on to not be a problem (monkey bars etc), what I didn’t know is how will my body react to a familiar situation but in unfamiliar circumstances.

Morning of the race day I was better prepared than I have been for an event since the early days. Eating and drinking steadily throughout the morning, taking on gels and a heavy duty breakfast milkshake plus water just before the event. I know at the 2016 Windsor Beast [last year's last Spartan Race], Spartan had provided lots of gels and water out on the course, but I couldn’t rely on this and knew I would probably need them more than I would in a normal circumstance, so I stuffed a few SIS gels down my bra, and got ready to set off.

I have only two small criticisms of this race: First, where was our starting line Spartan, AROO-ing us into the race? This is an element that people love and I missed it.

We set off and here is where my second criticism came in. Very quickly we came to a narrow path which led uphill, and the pace slowed to almost stop. I had popped myself at the back of the pack fully expecting to walk, but realised I was up for a trot (my competitive side is tough to shake). Whilst not a big deal for me, I imagine it could be slightly more problematic for competitive racers.

After this, however, I cannot fault the course. For such a short race (around 6km) The course designers managed to pack a lot into it. Beautiful and testing trails, plus the big obstacles set in a good field but with enough distance to avoid congestion, a few more hills, followed by the finishing obstacles by the event village. It flowed beautifully and never felt like it was being dragged out to make up distance.

So how did I fare?

The day was baking hot, hotter than I expected. I was sun creamed up but after not long I was suffering in the heat. In all honesty, I feel like this was my biggest risk out there. I wish I had been in shorts and wearing a hat. At the two well stocked water stations Tom soaked his shirt so I could wear it over my head or cover my neck, which definitely helped.

I think I’ve always taken my body for granted, I’ve always been fit and strong (ish) with no major issues apart from a sore knee here and there. This was a totally different experience, it was so much harder than when I was at peak fitness, and it’s true, everyone runs their own race. People judge others for not doing like they do, but if they’re leaving something out there, who cares? It’s human nature to push, and whether you are on the podium or the last one home, you deserve respect.

Whilst I’ve always struggled with hills, I really struggled with these ones. Walking up every single one, at one point I stopped and genuinely thought how am I going to get to the top? It took a nudge and encouragement from Tom and Paul to continue.

At many points I had to be more cautious than anything else, one very steep downwards hill, where many people had slid on their bottoms, I crawled like a crab on my hands and feet, with my back towards the ground, or walked sideways down hill with log carries and tyres.

This race was a lot more achievable than I expected, whilst not being easy. I failed one obstacle: a wall with climbing rope which you shuffle across, having zero core left makes things tricky. I also didn’t even attempt the Atlas ball carry, but Tom did this for me, and for my penalties I took squats instead of burpees, which the marshals were happy with. In an open wave things are different, it’s not competitive and it’s more a personal challenge than anything else. This is one of the reasons I am such a fan of Spartan. You can have the top dogs running their race and competing for the podium, the top woman coming in at 45 minutes, or me bumbling around and stopping for breaks, taking twice as long. We both pushed, we both gave it our all, and we both achieved something. A Spartan race is something for everyone.

From the Barbed wire onwards my pace picked up considerably, I’m not sure why, but it’s good to know the I wasn’t fatiguing as much as I felt.

Slow and steady was my pace on the hills with carries. Take a rest and march up, get to the top. Ok, I took a break hallway with the sandbag but I got there. The weights were totally achievable and not something I was scared of carrying at all. It was just a case of keeping my body in check.

Even the walls I managed, from inverted to the ten foot finishers, but I didn’t do this alone. Tom would give me a leg up, and then run round to the other side to help me down. Making sure I didn’t rest my midsection on the walls, or even let it touch took a lot more arm strength than usual, but it was important. The inverted walls were scary as they require a fine point of balance, and if I were to do it again I would think twice about doing them.

After the final hill we crossed a bridge and were back in the event village…and pressure was on! Thankfully for me I got all the obstacles here, monkey bars (an old favourite after putting the practice in) rope climb (which I attempted because the course had been dry, had there been any water I would not have taken the risk) and even the spear throw! My first ever spear throw landing on course. I did a little happy dance after that one!

The final walls took forever, but with a lot of support from the marshals I made it, before finally jumping over the fire and getting that fantastic new medal, hugs, and several glasses of much needed water

The race day itself was brilliant, the good weather helped, but Spartan did a great job. Having a steady team for two seasons in a row is showing, and everything was just right. A big well stocked event village, places to sit, a covered area for shade, good and accessible parking, toilets, bag drop…everything you could need.

The marshals and crew were on top form, I received so much support out on the course and was very grateful for that… I did get in trouble for bringing my dog along, which I have done in the past, but apparently they are clamping down on this so be prepared for future races, no pets allowed!

Would I do it again? Well, I do have the Super in May booked but like this event, I’m going to see how I feel on the day and call it. A Sprint was a good distance, but a Super at 13km could be a lot more difficult, seeing as I’ll be 30 weeks pregnant as opposed to 24 weeks, I think we can safely say it may not happen…

*DISCLAIMER: Taking part in an OCR is risky, I would never take one on for the first time whist pregnant. Nothing in this post is advising on your own personal circumstances whilst pregnant and whether you should take part. Always consult your Midwife/Doctor before taking part in any extreme activity.

Feeling inspired? Sign up to a Spartan Race with 15% discount using code MUDSTACLE15

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