This adventure was completely out of the blue, but after participating I’m sure there will be many more of the kind to come!
The day before the event, myself and a few friends decided to go down to the sand hills at Cronulla for a bit of a run. This was the first time I had done this sort of exercise at Cronulla (I usually just enjoy sliding down the hills on a body board) and the second time that I had ever been for a run!
We spent half an hour or so doing “Mexican runs” which takes you up and over the two biggest of the slopes until we were all buggered. We then started to make our way back to the car park but came across a few guys throwing tires from a truck onto the dune. One of them called us over and asked if we’d ever heard of an event called “Kings of the Sand”. We hadn’t but he likened it to Tough Mudder except without the mud.
The deal was, if we helped him set up some tires on the dune for the event, he’d give us free tickets for the race the next day, worth $99. Being the advantageous type we are, gladly accepted and went to work unpacking, carrying and rolling car tires down the face a sand dune. We were done within half an hour and rushed home so we could register before 8pm, the cut off time.
The next day myself and a friend were sitting in my car, watching the rain pour down and the wind gust. It had bucketed down over night and the weather was pretty poor. Reluctantly we exited the car as the rain eased off in order to get our numbers, electronic timers and our bag of goodies. Just as we reached the end of the line, the rain started again and soaked us. Eventually we were given everything that was required and we headed back to the car so I could get changed into my first secret weapon – a spring suit! My plan was to run the race in the wetsuit so that the rain wouldn’t weigh my clothes down and so the material would keep me warm.
After changing, we jumped out of the car and my friend, being a sprinter, showed me some stretches (I had no idea what I was doing) to warm up. We then went for a light jog, concluded with some more stretches and joined everyone else for the pre-race briefing.
The race was to be around 7km in length incorporating running along tar, sand dunes, sand tracks and beach. To add to the challenge, 23 obstacle had been set up along the course and had to be completed. These included doing push-ups and squats, crawling under nets through sand and water, running up hill through tires, running with sandbags and being attacked multiple times by pole wielding Gladiators.
The start time of 10am came and went but eventually, delayed due to the poor weather, the race began around 10:30 with the event organiser lighting two orange flares. The first wave of competitors (those who wanted to win) left first and around five minutes later the second wave (those who just wanted to finish) ran through the timer with me. Being the first serious running event I’ve ever been in (school athletics doesn’t really count) I wasn’t too sure what to do except to run, and that’s what I did.
Before we reached the first obstacle I was at the front of my wave and could start to feel the effects of running on my body. The second thing I noticed was the pain in my feet – part of my second secret weapon. I had decided that due to the event being a sand based race, I would run barefoot in order to help prevent my feet from sinking into the sand. Unfortunately, over 1/3 of the race was on rocky and broken tar and the down hill sections certainly took its toll on my feet.
The challenges were definitely as described – challenging, but some were easier then others I particularly found doing things such as push-ups and planking quite hard due to my lack of upper body strength, and a few people did overtake me here. However, in the stretches between stations I could catch up and do some overtaking myself. Mentally, one of the hardest parts was right towards the end when you hit the sand for the last time. As I could see the green grass of the finish line, I was expecting the race to be nearly over, but unfortunately the course had us running in the opposite direction up a long stretch of the beach through the soft sand before crawling through a tunnel like net and making our way back to the finish. Here, the wind was blowing hard into my face and with close in front of me, the only people I could see were those from the first way who were doing the return leg.
Eventually I was pounded by the Gladiators one last time and after a sprint to the finish line the race was finally over. I was tire, wet and quite thirsty but I had complete the race, and what a race it was.
My friend finished soon after and after good rehydration I went for a swim in the surf to wash off. We then jumped in the car and headed to the Sting Bar in Cronulla for free after race pizza. It was here that I was told I had somehow come 13th overall in the race of near 200 people. For someone who had only run twice before, I was stoked.
Thanks to Jesse for dragging us down to the sand dunes in the first place, teaching me how to stretch properly and running the race with me. Hopefully members of AOAC will participate in these sorts of events in the future. I believe they are really worthwhile and rewarding, and a nice pace change from the casual bushwalk. Maybe we might even end up in the NorthFace100 one year!