Total Warrior: Clare Smith’s endurance challenge week 13

Claire Smith battles through her training.
Claire Smith battles through her training.
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Clare Smith is venturing where other 40-somethings fear to head – the Total Warrior endurance race in North Berwick where the obstacles include fire, ice and mud. Could you accept the challenge?

It’s 13 sleeps until Total Warrior and I’m beginning to feel the pressure.

Team Wojtek has officially formed, we’re a magnificent seven (so far) and are raising money for St Columba’s Hospice.

Do I feel fitter? Yes. But I certainly don’t look like the vest wearing muscle-clad women on the Warrior website. Have I lost weight? A grand total of three pounds.

Disappointing, however my clothes feel loose and people lie and say I look slimmer, healthier.

And I can run 10k without stopping.

So there has definitely been progress, however, like every exam I’ve ever sat, I don’t feel I’ve done enough and so find myself doing some last minute cramming...

The lovely people at Foxlake Adventures got in touch, suggesting that I might like to try their ropes course. Over water. Before I could think of an excuse, Kieron, my trainer from Race Fitness, bit their hand off, laughing, ‘It’s about time you got used to being wet!’ What could possibly go wrong?

Foxlake is just beside Dunbar. It’s an oasis of two man-made lakes, an excellent café, changing facilities, and a shop. The large lake hosts cable wakeboarding, the smaller has a ropes course constructed over it.

It’s hard to describe – it’s a giant obstacle course meets a play park suspended in the air with water to break your fall if you fall. When you fall.

It’s one of this summer’s rare scorchers and I squeeze into a wet suit wondering if it’s really necessary. We’re kitted out with helmets and buoyancy aids. A quick safety briefing and we’re ready for action.

We navigate a climbing wall, spiders web various logs suspended, therefore moving, from bars to use as stepping stones, hanging tyres. It’s a ten year old boy’s idea of heaven. And despite Kieron being four times that age – he’s in his element. But it is great fun. And it’s exhausting.

Upper body strength has never been my strong point and as I pull myself across a climbing wall I’m not in the least bit reassured by David Gaffney, Total Warrior’s event director, telling me this is perfect preparation for what’s in store in a few weeks’ time.

‘There are 32 obstacles to navigate. Monkey bars, slides, fire jumping – this climbing wall is the perfect taste of things to come. But the one at Warrior is a lot bigger. And slopes towards you, so it’s harder to ...’ He trails off seeing the fear he’s caused in eyes.

I made it around the ‘easy’ run, getting soaked only at the compulsory zip slide dooking. And we attempt the harder circuit. It’s all going ok until I get to sort of log sea-saw contraption. The object is to balance yourself part way across it, use your weight to tip it down to allow you to balance the last few steps to the safe platform.

Legs bent and trying to keep my back straight I shuffle out a few steps. I’m still upright when I tilt the log. My thighs are burning and I’m trying to stay balanced, looking ahead rather than at my feet. Another shuffle is all it takes. Plop – I’m in.

Peals of laughter from the team. And in fact people who don’t even know us.

Thankfully, it’s one of the warmest days of the year so doesn’t feel so bad. It’s just infuriating to watch Kieron literally dance across the obstacle that brought me down, and leap onto the trapeze bar, gracefully and staying dry.

It was great fun, I’d really recommend it. And I felt I’d earned my smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel from the BoardWalk café after a hot shower.

On the advice front, I had a great chat with Dr Andrew Murray, who wears many hats but in this instance I was asking his advice as an expert runner and founder of the Scottish Running Clinic, University of Edinburgh.

The other Andy Murray’s top five tips to get round Warrior…

1) Get a friend to sign up with you – both the event and the training can be easier if a buddy is doing it too.

2) Get some decent grippy traiers. Shoes with plenty traction will help you get over and through the obstacles.

3) Think like a warrior. If you think you will get to the finish you will probably get there.

4) Obviously running training will help, but building some strength either in the gym or by doing press ups and the like will help power through those monkey bars.

5) Don’t eat too much before the start – a little food an hour before will do, otherwise you’ll get a stitch.

Total Warrior takes place in North Berwick on 12-13 September.