Total Warrior was the first OCR I ever did back in 2014 and is responsible for the resulting addiction. It is a race that everyone seems to have heard of but very few seem to have done. Still, it is a huge event in both Leeds and the Lake District, with numbers that even the giants Tough Mudder and Spartan would envy.
When I saw that they would be doing their ultra event again this year I knew I had to go; 5 hours to complete as many laps of the 10k course as possible. It would be a tough event as evidenced by the current record of 3.5 laps.
With the event being in the Lake District, it is quite a journey for anyone living around the south east stronghold of the UK OCR scene, but the journey means a weekend can be made of it. There are great campsites and some of the most beautiful sights in the country available to you before and after the event.
Shap Abbey is a stunning event venue with easy access and parking. For those that choose to camp the night before it's just a pleasant 15 minute walk through the picturesque village should you want to avoid hunting for your car or filling it with mud after the race! On site registration is handled quickly and efficiently with runners given both a headband and a colour coded numbered bib (10k yellow, 10 mile white and ultra red). This would make it easier to be identified on course.
There is a great event village that offers a number of food stalls with something for everyone. It's also great to see a presence from a sponsor like inov-8 allowing runners to test and demo their shoes during the race. The atmosphere was great both before and after the event with runners and families sticking around to enjoy the weather and surroundings.
The ultra takes place on the Sunday, meaning that the course is already well bedded in by all of Saturday's runners. The briefing was handled well, with all the rules explained clearly. The ultra get the first wave of the day, followed by the 10 mile event, before the 10k waves start in earnest. This, in theory, allows ultra runners to complete at least one lap on a clear course. Subsequent waves were asked to allow ultra warriors priority at any obstacle, and wave sizes were reduced to avoid congestion. It's clear that Total Warrior put a lot of thought into how the ultra would work.
From the start, the course headed straight for a steep set of hill repeats (manned by some of the most enthusiastic volunteers I have ever encountered, from a Leeds youth project) to thin out the field before heading to the first of a number of shallow river crossings. It was shin deep at most but well marshalled for safety.
The course made the most of the natural obstacles available with some narrow technical paths, steep hills and quick descents, all broken up by well built, fun and accessible obstacles. The large incline walls with climbing holds were a particular favourite and I looked forward to them on every lap. The plunge was also one of the coldest ice dunks I have done, but with the blazing sunshine it was refreshing every time. The floating crocodile heads made for some great photos too!
On subsequent laps, the encouragement from other runners, marshals and the watching crowd was incredible. All were very keen to alert other runners that an ultra runner was coming through, and everyone was gracious enough to give way and let you pass easily. This level of support and the atmosphere on course are, I'm sure, what pushed a number of us on to achieve the lap totals that we did.
Total Warrior’s Lake District event was a huge success and I will be back again next year to see if I can add another lap (or half) to my total. This, and their Leeds event should be on the calendar of anyone who loves OCR - from those wanting to compete, to people wanting have fun with friends in the mud. All will find something to love and challenge them. They are also now deservedly an OCRWC qualifier, so be on the lookout for next year's dates.
[Ed's note: He's being modest. He won ;)]
Photographs courtesy of MyBibNumber