Primal Events ON TRIAL Training Camp 2015

Since writing this post, Primal Events has changed hands and is now called ROOTS.

Event Date: Saturday 7th February 2015

I am not sure what part of me that thought it was a good idea to take part in a 12 hour training camp in The Peak District in the winter month of February……

But there I am, driving 2 hours from Stamford to Edale at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon layered up so much that I was struggling to move my arms.

As I approached Derbyshire, the terrain became steeper, colder and to my delight (sarcasm), snowy. Snow!!! And that was on the low ground.  There was no way I was going to Edale on an On Trial Training Camp and the Race Directors were not going to put us on Kinder Scout – oh uh…..

5.30pm – Edale Car Park – 3 RDs (Race Directors) with 5 crazy people (3 females and 2 males) crazy enough to take this event on.

The training camp is designed for those wanting to take part in the full On Trial event, which can last up to 50 hours (yep, you’ve guessed it….. I’ll be doing it).

I have completed a Primal Events F.E.A.R event which lasted 25.5 hours, so 12 hours seemed completely achievable to me….. hmmm, lets see about that.

Wearing pretty much all the merino wool layers I own, a back pack full of moral boosting treats and the vital kit list items, the training camp had begun.

Kindly (sarcasm again) the RDs gave us a lantern with a tall candle in and told us that the candle was to remain lit for the entire event. There was a major flaw in the lantern, there was no glass to encase the candle.
However, we could buy glass by completing a task. Task complete, glass bought, the candle was now protected.

During our kit check, all the items I had neatly folded, rolled, packed, prepped, precisely organised and put into relevant dry bags were thrown over the car park and inspected. We then had 3 minutes to repack our bags and anything remaining would be taken away from us. I spent about 10 seconds just sitting looking at it all thinking “how on earth am I going to get this organised in 3 minutes!?” My tactic: stuff everything into my backpack and hope for the best.

Our kit list for this particular event was:

  • Rope (min. 15m)
  • Knife
  • Empty Sandbag
  • The ability to write
  • Whistle
  • Ruck Dry Weight 15kg (minimum)
  • White fabric at least 2ft x 6in.

From previous experience and wanting to be prepared, I put my (unorganised) backpack on and stood to attention. Not the best move as we then had to do a PT session which involved press ups, and with 15kg on my back, I didn’t feel great within the first hour of the event.

As well as carrying our candle, we also had to carry ‘Henry,’ our new friend the atlas stone for the entire event. He went straight into one of the guys backpacks.

Our journey from Edale began, with our candle and Henry, navigating our way in the dark to our first checkpoint. En route we were instructed to arrive with a ‘nice’ log each and by nice, the RDs always mean big and heavy.

As the terrain became steeper, the weather was getting colder and the ground becoming icy, so with a log on our backs weighing in the region of 20-25kg, we were moving relatively slow.

At the first checkpoint, we were told to split into 2 teams and head off in different directions to find a glow stick. With the glow stick were instructions for a message to be sent via morse code to each other. At this stage I felt completely confused as morse code has always baffled me.

With our logs on our backs and a trek uphill in the snow to find a glow stick – a pretty normal Saturday evening I’d say – my log was getting heavier and heavier. It had nobly bits on that kept digging into my back and neck.  I tried an alternative method of dragging it using rope, but the nobly bits kept getting caught in the ground and on fences and the snow made it so difficult, especially going up hill.

Finally, we found the glow stick and morse code instructions.  I think the other team had been waiting for us for quite a while, which wasn’t great, as they would have been cold sitting still.

Stupidly, we had not communicated with the other team before parting ways, on how we were going to initiate communication, so as soon as we got to our position, the other team flashed away their head torch and we were confused fumbling around for a pad and pen. Sitting on the snowy hill, we started trying to make sense of what was being sent. Surprisingly, it was easier than I expected to translate the morse code. Although we did not get the full message, we got the majority of characters correct.  Morse code complete, back down the hill with our logs, returning to our first checkpoint.

Oh yes, I am forgetting to mention, during all of this, we were still responsible for the candle.  I think perhaps it had gone out by this time.  I can’t remember because in the end, we let it go out / dropped it so many times, we lost count. Looking back it was quite funny, as when I carried it, I fell over during our icy hike up to Kinder Scout and not only let the candle go out, but completely destroyed the lantern, breaking the glass…. The team didn’t seem too impressed but I thought it was pretty funny that I had completely demolished the ‘On Trial’ candle – oops ; )

Anyway, back to the training. When we returned to our first checkpoint, we did some Primal Events PT with our beloved log and was then instructed to head to the next checkpoint.  We had 90 minutes to get there and back (no logs this time) and we would have to leave our candle at the checkpoint.  It seemed reasonable – we had to hike about 4km in 90 minutes, “yes, we can do that…..”

2.5 hours later, scrambling, falling, candle breaking, a mini blizzard, 20mph winds, knee deep snow, at the top of Kinder Scout, maybe minus 10 degrees (if it wasn’t minus 10, it felt it) lost, cold, looking for the checkpoint…… the RDs had come to rescue us and told us we had to go back down.  They put us into single file and we moved at the pace of the slowest person.  It seemed the training camp had been turned off for a while and their priority was to get us down safely.

I am always impressed with how the RDs handle situations like this, despite putting us through challenging situations, they are always completely on the ball and taking care of us.

Once we reached the bottom, we had a chance to take care of ourselves – food, water, foot care etc.  We were told we could buy a fire but stupidly I refused as I thought that we would all get too comfortable and not want to move. This wasn’t the best decision. We were instructed to make a bow and 3 arrows from scratch. Luckily, the team felt experienced in this field and we cracked on.

In hindsight, we should have accepted the offer of a fire, because as soon as we stopped, my body temperature dropped fairly rapidly.  As I suffer from a condition called Raynauds, my feet began to lose feeling due to the low temperatures and become quite painful.  We decided that fire might be a good idea to boost moral so got one going instantly. I decided the best way to continue would be to keep moving and collect wood for the fire. Sadly though, once that toe-numbing moment hits, it is very rare for me to be able to come out the other side successfully. The rest of the team were doing incredibly, making the bow and arrows and getting warm by the fire, while my mind and mental strength began deteriorating.  It frustrated me that I felt physically strong and determined to continue but my body was telling me different things.

Thinking back, as soon as I saw the snow as I drove into Derbyshire to start the event, I knew deep down that it was unlikely I would finish. That tiny seed of doubt, had eventually grown so big that I had to quit the training camp.

I had a little cry when telling the RDs that I couldn’t carry on. I never thought I would quit an event, especially after only 10.5 hours. Knowing my condition, one of of them walked me back to my car.

With only 2 hours remaining the rest of the team had to do another hike with one of them being a ‘casualty’ which meant one person and their belongings (including log) had to be carried by the rest of the team. That must have been incredibly challenging having one man (me) pull out of the event.

Within 2 hours they had returned to the car park, where I had fallen asleep in my car, and competed the training camp.  I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that I hadn’t competed the event however I have learnt from previous experience that my health is my number one priority.

Despite not finishing, I still learnt a lot about the do’s and don’ts of a ‘death race,’ what I am capable of and as always, the RDs teach us survival skills throughout.

I have not written about everything that happened during the training camp as I want to keep an element of surprise and intrigue attached to Primal Events.

As endurance races, death races and endurance races continue to grow in popularity, I urge you to enter a Primal Events event.  You will be pushed to your limits physically, mentally and emotionally, however you will come out the other side stronger, more determined, resilient and with much more clarity for life!