The hunt for "The Lone Wolf"
I received a phone call from Si Weatherall a few months back. He explained that he was organizing an endurance event like no other. Myself and Si served together at 42 Commando, Royal Marines. Si explained how the competitors would be put through a challenging, military style beasting with an 8 mile obstacle run thrown in for good measure. I was asked to be the lead photographer and so I couldn’t resist.
I travelled down to Simon’s house in Hampshire from my home in Hertfordshire and arrived at around 10pm. I was expecting to see a house full of ex marines, sprawled in sleeping bags all over the place but when I went up to his house all the lights were out. I put a quick message out on the facebook messenger group and straight away “Coach Pain” said he was just around the corner and that he would come and let me in. He’d nipped out for a Kebab and explained that all the other guys were up at the farm where the Intrepid Series was being held adding the finishing touches. Coach Pain (as he likes to be known) had flown all the way over from Arizona to provide some motivational speeches for the competitors as well as put them through their paces using his own fitness methods. Si arrived back at the house at 12am and we didn’t get to sleep until 2am.
At 6:00am the alarm went and we had breakfast and headed up to the farm to finish preparing the course.
Competitors started arriving for the 4 mile fun run at around midday. I managed to chat to a few of the first arrivals and even helped a few set up their tents due to that fact that there were large rain clouds looming. It rained on and off all afternoon with sunny spells in between.
Coach Pain kicked things off with a motivational brief outside The Pit before leading them in for the “fun” to begin.
The event itself was held in a valley on farm land normally used to graze cattle. At one side of the valley the competitors arrive and park before heading down a steep track to the camping and admin area. Up the other side of the valley The Pit looms ominously.
The Pit was a square approx 50m square which looked like something out of a prisoner of war camp. Barbed wire lined the area and added a rather menacing touch. Within The Pit there was a skip filled with ice cold water, monkey bars and a kind of sheep dip which reminded me of the kind we had to submerge ourselves in during the Endurance Course on Woodbury Common back in ’99 as part of the commando tests.
After a good 30 minutes of a military style beasting from Coach Pain the competitors were asked to grab a sand bag between each pair and set off around the 4 mile course. Along the way there were various obstacles and a 20 meter long water slide. Once back at The Pit competitors make there way through the sheep dip, across the monkey bars and then through the skip. Once out of the skip, it’s high fives all round as that is the fun run over.
As the runners came through they grabbed a quick photo with ex SAS veteran and co-event organizer, Rob Paxman and then headed down to the base of the valley for a shower and a change of clothes.
I joined the runners around the camp fire for a steak burger and a sneaky beer and watched as more people arrived for the main event. Amoung the new arrivals were guys from my very own fitness bootcamp, DCF (Detonate Commando Fitness). 6 of them were brave enough to take on the event. I spoke to a pair of lads that had come from Hull and another from as far as Glasgow!
I unpacked my sleeping bag around the fire and managed to get a few hours sleep even though wolf cries were being blasted out over the DJ’s sound system for most of the night. I heard later that the wolf noises and rumors of getting “bumped” by the DS (directing staff) during the night kept most of the runners awake and on edge.
I was rudely awakened by the sound of a fire extinguisher and panicked voices. When I managed to squeeze my head out from my bag I could see the beaming smile of Si Weatherall, extinguisher in hand. He said, “that was close”, as apparently most of the hay surrounding the fire had set alight. I managed another 10 minutes sleep before I had Si waving a torch in my face this time, “wakey wakey” was the greeting. I got up and it must’ve been about 3:00am. The place was buzzing. I could see head torches all around me coming and going. Competitors were still registering.
With the vast majority of the competitors around the camp fire Coach Pain gave a stirring speech under the illumination of head torches and the camp fire. At 0355hrs they made their way to The Pit where the DS were waiting and Si was stood on an over turned hay bail acting as a podium. Behind him the blues and twos of the medical team were flashing through the smoke coming from various oil drums dotted about. The scene looked quite daunting and I’m sure that the realization of what was about to come was sinking in for the runners now. They knew to expect a beasting and an 8 mile run thrown in somewhere.
Si went to speak and a funny remark came from the gathered crowd. He asked who ever it was to come forward with their partner. They were sent to the flank for some “correctional exercises” by DS Nigel John. The good humour that had lasted until now was firmly stamped out by Si. All head torches were now turned off and the only ones left on were that of the DS. While this correctional exercise was being conducted Si explained to everyone that all of the DS were to be addressed as “Staff” from this point onwards. Si closed his brief with the sentence “we are looking for one of you”. From the outset the whole Intrepid Series has been marketed with the slogan “Are you the lone Wolf”. The top 20 pairs from this event will get through to the next stage held in a few months time.
For the next hour or so in the darkness the crowd were put through their paces which gave me flash backs of my Royal Marines training. When the competitors weren’t squatting they were running on the spot, arms held above their heads. Press up after press up, stress position after stress position time dragged on, all the while choking smoke billowing from the barrels wafted over The Pit. The DS were moving in and out of the crowd watching for anyone trying to get some respite or not working hard enough. One at a time, teams that were loafing were told to double straight over to the skip and to fully submerge themselves in the freezing, muddy water before rejoining the main group. If this wasn't enough, one of the DS was walking amongst the crowd spraying freezing cold water from a hose pipe.
Upon registering the competitors were handed an arm band with the Intrepid Series Wolf logo on. This was to remain on at all times during the main event unless you decided to quit. At about 10 minutes in the bell rang for the first time signaling that the first pair had quit and left The Pit. Arm bands were removed and thrown into a waiting barrel.
At first light a quick water stop was allowed before the runners lined up in pairs (a sand bag between two) expecting an 8 mile run. They set off -some at break neck speed- around the course. Once everyone was back in they were given the bad news. The 8 mile run was actually going to be split in 2 with the competitors having only completed half so far. I’m sure the front runners were regretting their decision to go all out at this point. The beastings continued well into day light with the bell ringing more frequently now. I even got a chance to provide a portion of the beastings using some of the methods that I practice at my own boot camp which I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed in a twisted way!
After what probably seemed like a lifetime for the competitors they were gathered around the podium one last time. Si then explained that the 4 mile course would be run once more, only this time, the top 20 teams back would go through to the next stage. This time it was an all out effort.
This was no OCR (Obstacle Course Race) but a test of an individuals will power and stamina. The Intrepid Series pushes people to their limits and beyond. The feed back that was received at the end was overwhelming. Some said it was the hardest thing that they have ever done. The over all consensus was that this event gave competitors an enormous sense of achievement. Even if they didn’t make the cut, simply to finish without ringing the bell is a great feat. I have the utmost respect for all competitors that finished the event.
The hunt for the lone wolf continues....