They said; “The Intrepid Series is the toughest event series in the UK, designed to push participants to their mental and physical limits.”
So what better reason could there be to give it a go?
Having taken on many obstacle races and endurance events, I recently decided to take on something which promised to be a little different. Intrepid Series was pitched as the UK’s toughest series with the toughest challenges, an event designed by ex-Special Forces, designed to break even the toughest challengers to force retirements and filter out the strongest players over a series of 4 stages to ultimately find “The Lone Wolf“.Tony Bruce and Jonathan Catchlight
This event invited teams of two to initially try to make it through stage one ‘The Hunt’ and find the top twenty teams to carry on through the series. Not much was given away about the content of the challenge except it offered an 8-mile obstacle course plus “The Pit”. Clues on the lead up indicated that we’d need to look after our ‘buddy’, expect to be wet and colder than you’ve ever been before and to know that you can ring the bell to quit at any time.
They were expecting 300 teams of 2 to take on the challenge, and the top 20 would go through to the second stage. I’d carefully chosen my trusty wing-man weeks before, a chap in the form of Craig ‘the beard’ Heron. Craig is a well-known character in the OCR world, his very distinct long beard and bare chest is often featured in OCR magazines and doesn’t go unnoticed. Fortunately, however, he’s not all-show-no-go, Craig has placed well in many top racing events so was an easy choice when I needed someone to help me through this and I’d be willing to bring spare t-shirts too for when his ‘accidentally’ falls off.
Upon arrival, we saw some pretty basic looking obstacles and only a handful of them too, so we wondered if we’d driven 2-3 hours for a flop of an event as we’ve seen so many OCRs trying to outdo each other with bigger and wackier structures yet this was stripped back. In my opinion, we certainly had not, this was simply a very different beast to other gimmicky events. This would be about raw physical and mental determination and defiance. Not only that but all credit to the organisers, as this is a non-profit event as they aim to raise money for two very worthy causes; Talking 2 Minds and Who Dares Cares.
It turned out that this was not going to be like any regular OCR but more of an absolute barrage of pain in the hope of making as many people quit as possible. The proceeds would be charitable but the challenges would not. Racing the course would be a welcome treat and a chance to rest in fact.
For those of us who camped there ready for the 4am start we wasn’t to know that they’d prevent us from sleeping by playing constant loud eerie stress-inducing music all night. This included wolf howls and growls, haunting laughter and children chatting, the kind that you get in a horror movie that just creeps you out, this went on for what seemed like hours. Plus there was a mix of fireworks and bangers every 10-15 minutes, so after hours of awful noises stopping you from drifting off, you’d almost dare to believe it had finally stopped, start to doze away but then be startled awake by another bang or someone shouting “EVERYONE GET THE F*** OUT OF YOUR BEDS NOW!!” It’s safe to say we were mentally and physically wounded before we even started.
Instant pain, just add water
We got up at 3am to fuel and get ready for the 4am start. Then they lined us up in ‘The Pit’, an arena of sloppy mud in the cold dark night and things got serious, aggressively shouting at us to not speak, don’t look at the floor, “now 300 jumping squats GO!!!”.
I’d counted my first 57 jumping squats thinking I’d never reach 300 when the guy shouted, “That’s one”… there would be a lot of messing with minds, not knowing how long anything would go on for. At least if you know you have 50 reps to do, you can pace yourself. My legs were on fire already and I was spitting and panting and we were only a few minutes in.
What followed was around 2 hours of constant punishing exercises, squats, lunges, push-ups, arms out by your sides spinning in circles with no clue as to how long you had to keep going for. People picked at random and told “not good enough, get in the skip” then sent to be submerged repeatedly in a skip full of cold water, climb a wall, crawl through a water filled tunnel then back into the group to keep jumping, squatting, lunging, arms above your head, arms out to the side, push-ups…. Even if you were doing a good job that was no escape, we were told “You look too fit, get in the skip!” Endless drills until you could barely hold the weight of your own arms up. It’s amazing how heavy your arms feel after being above your head for 30 minutes.
The drills were painful and tedious, but that was the point, these guys were aiming to break people physically and mentally, there was no let-up and no sign of it ever stopping. The bell would ring every so often, people out with exhaustion, cramps, and hypothermia, that’s why we sign those waivers right?
The first team had quit after just 10 minutes and someone had already been sick by then, the bell would ring each time a team quit. This however was a little bit of motivation for us knowing that if you’re still there then you’re one team closer to making the top twenty…
The sun finally started to come up towards 6am and we were then set up to go and race the 8-mile assault course. Finally, a break from the mind-messing, body-breaking drills and a chance to stretch out and do what OCR racers do.
Carrying a 20kg sandbag between the two of us we raced hard as to try to make the top 20, however we were all very drained already. Deliriously dizzy and gasping for air, legs and entire body screaming, we raced the course, taking it in turns to carry the sandbag, Craig struggled and swore at the bag that wouldn’t sit comfortably. We’d run ahead of one another to pass the bag over an obstacle and take it to the next one before swapping again. Pushing or pulling the bag-carrier up the hills to ease the load. We made it back to the Pit after one 4-mile lap expecting a second lap and at that point were about the tenth team through. However, they kept us all there for more circuits, commando crawls, piggy backs, walking lunges and more squats, push-ups, sit-ups, hosing us down whilst shouting in our faces to break us mentally. They were constantly telling people to quit, asking “what are you trying to prove?! Go home!” This messed with our heads as we’d just raced all out for this lap only to then have more drills whilst the slower racers caught up and regrouped. So we actually got punished for being faster. Gutted.
We were now only halfway through the hell before this cycle repeated itself…
We then had a further two hours of torturous and merciless bullying, sectioned into smaller groups so we could be picked on more easily with sprints, skip dunks, squats with your partner on your back, stress positions and more drills before being sent out to race a second lap of the course with our sandbags.
The final charge
Now everyone still standing, was beaten and battered after nearly 5 hours of those lovable men making every inch of our bodies break and hurt then had to race on empty in an effort to make the top 20 teams back to The Pit. It was time to scrape the bottom of the tank.
On this final 4-mile loop, the bag was heavier, our legs were in bits, my quads had been cramping up for two hours already and as I’d not had the chance to hydrate or fuel enough I was light-headed and in a dream like state. Craig at this point was physically the stronger of the two of us, and as he just had the one leg cramping up we figured we could move quicker when he carried the bag so he did the bulk of the work and I’d literally push him forwards to share the load because that’s the level of exhaustion we were at. I did my share of load bearing, but as soon as I took the weight my quads locked up so I was running through cramps which was bloody awful.
As we finally reached the end we had mixed feelings as they told us we were the 20th team and had just made the cut. It felt great to qualify but this means we’ve got to face stage two. From what we can gather, this will be even tougher doses of suffering, navigating our way over 20 miles Welsh terrain and some time on a beach in and out of the water and sloppy sand. We’ll be in a smaller group too so we’ll be open to even more scrutiny and one-to-one abuse.
Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…
In summary, the Intrepid series is not for the feint-hearted, it’s not just an OCR, it’s far more testing than that so I wouldn’t recommend it for someone expecting another jolly mud run. This is for those that want to see how far you can be pushed without breaking physically or mentally. You’ll need to dig deep and ask yourself why are you doing this? What are you trying to prove? Do I even need to be here? and keep pushing through.
Some people commented that the drills got boring, but that’s the point, isn’t it? mind-numbing suffering and repetition with no visible finish line, no frills, or gimmicks just you and a test of physical and mental strength and determination not to bend or break.
I can’t say I’m looking forward to stage two but I think in the two months leading up to it I may just lunge everywhere I go whilst holding my arms above my head only lowering them to throw cold water over myself every ten minutes. That might help prepare me for what lies ahead.