I hadn’t planned on making the journey across the country to True Grit in Sydney, but as I saw more and more friends talking about going, I made a last-minute decision to book a flight to Sydney.
True Grit is a 12km military style obstacle course race which also had an Enduro option for those hard-core (or crazy) racers. True Grit Enduro is Australia’s only 24-hour Obstacle Course Race and is like World’s Toughest Mudder, except with more hills and less fancy obstacles.
My lack of organisation for the weekend meant I was a race orphan, and thankfully a kind Enduro participant had some room in her car and offered to drive me to the event. So after arriving on the red-eye flight from Sydney, I got the train to her house, we had some breakfast and away we went.
On the drive out I noticed the big black rain clouds that hovered overhead. This was going to be a cold and wet weekend! I was glad to only be doing one lap on the Sunday as I’m a wuss when it comes to the cold at the best of times and couldn’t imagine being cold and wet for 24 hours.
We arrived and set up the tents before I had a chance to wander the pit area and say hey to everyone that I knew. There were people with tents roughly the size of a small marquee, and others with tents so small that you couldn’t even call it a swag. I found my friends from the US who were over with team SISU #likeagirl and admired their thermal tent (sans floor) before heading over to help others put up their tent.
As I acted like a human pole in holding up the tent, and just before the Enduro briefing started, the heavens opened and the rain started to pour. In the space of 10 minutes our pit area went from being slightly muddy to underwater. This isn’t an exaggeration – just ask anyone who was there! I had gone from standing on wet grass to standing in 20cm of water. Tents were flooded and it was a mad scramble as everyone picked up tents and belongings and moved to higher ground. The tent I was meant to be sharing hadn’t flooded, but the floor was already getting wet from the water pooling underneath.
We were in for a long night.
At 2pm the gun went and the Enduro participants were off and racing. There were a few hundred people taking on the challenge and all did it for a different reason. For some it was to win, but for others it was to prove to themselves that they could. It would be a while before the first racers would make it through the 12km course so the pit crew set up the tents for a second time.
As the first racers started trickling in an hour later we could already see exhaustion on their faces. The word was that the ‘mud mile’ was a hellish trek and the sandbag carry was nearly impossible as it went straight up a muddy hill. There was an onslaught of obstacles at the end of the course including the rope climb, monkey bars, 8’ walls and rope traverse.
The non-existent sun disappeared just as most racers were preparing to go out for a third lap. It had been raining on and off for a few hours and the cold was starting to get to some as they struggled to get into wetsuits and head out again. By the end of the third lap people were cold and tired and the burpee count was increasing by the obstacle (there was a 10 burpee penalty for each obstacle not completed).
The full moon shone brightly for an hour before the clouds reappeared and the rain started again. I joined some volunteers at the monkey bars as we cheered on participants as they struggled to grip the bars in the rain. There were groans as people fell to the floor to do their burpees in the mud, but they all trudged on with a determined look on their faces.
Just before midnight I bailed on the obstacle and returned to the pit area to stand by the fire and warm up. Two of the people that I’d travelled with had finished their third lap and weren’t heading out for a fourth and would head home instead. After a quick scramble to get my gear out of their car and into a friend’s car the lack of sleep had kicked in so I curled up and had a few hours of sleep in the warm car.
I awoke on Sunday morning feeling a lot better than the previous morning. I had a quick snack before going to volunteer at an obstacle for a few hours. I resumed my cheering duties and warned people of the giant hole that awaited them as they stepped into the water nearby. I was met with a lot of tired faces yet everyone seemed determined to finish.
When it was my turn to head out I grabbed my GoPro and ran out with my friend James from Obstacle Racers Australia. We climbed over and crawled under obstacles before running to the next one (thanks James for making me run :-P). The terrain was rocky and tough to navigate at times which probably excited some of the more technical runners.
The course took us up and over boulders before going back downhill to a man-made obstacle. Every now and then we’d come across an Enduro racer slowly plodding away so we’d slow down to chat before running off again.
Tired legs were given a brief chance to recover in the freezing water during the swim, but it did little to help those of us who weren’t in wetsuits as we just shivered and ran in an attempt to warm up. The course took a few muddy turns as we tried to run through ankle-deep sludge before taking to the sides and running on the nice grass.
After more climbs it was James and my turn to reach the mud mile. What had been a short walk through the mud on the Saturday had turned into a 1km long wade through waist deep water. Everyone’s hip flexors were sent into overdrive as you were forced to pick up heavy legs and drag them through the freezing water. There was a brief pause as we tackles some spinning monkey bars before trudging on for another hundred metres.
The sandbag carry proved to be difficult as the bags themselves had almost doubled in weight overnight thanks to the rain. The slope was slippery and I saw many people sliding backwards as their grip-less shoes were no match for the mud. It was one of the few compulsory Enduro obstacles and I could see why people were hating it!
As we headed towards the finish I managed to get almost to the top of the rope climb before freezing. I’d been forced to use a different technique and my fingers were so cold that I was afraid I’d fall if I let go one more time. I reluctantly slid back down and continued on another loop before arriving at the last few obstacles. With the monkey bars, 8 foot walls and rope traverse complete it was time to head up one last ramp wall and pick up a cider at the finish line.
Thankfully an Enduro racer turned volunteer had heard that I was searching for a ride back to Sydney and offered to give me a lift. After getting out of my muddy clothes I said goodbye to my friends and scoffed my face with food as we drove to the airport.
Witnessing the Enduro racers and the chaos that occurred gave me ideas of how to manage myself and my gear at World’s Toughest Mudder later this year. It’s not about the quantity of gear/food – but the quality! Despite the rain and the freezing cold I had an incredible time and I will have to test my abilities out at Enduro in 2018.
Event: True Grit (Enduro)
Type: Obstacle course race
Distance: 12km. Plus a 24 hour option
Location: Sydney (Australia)
Date: 11-12 June 2017