If I was to tell you that on Saturday 16th August 2014, my female breakin’ boundrez team and I totally BOSSED their way around the UK’s wettest aquatic obstacle course would you believe me? Add to that a life changing experience when a young lady (moi) overcame her ultimate fear of heights by jumping 10 ft into the freezing cold and utterly filthy River Thames despite her lack of confidence in water and atrocious nonexistent swimming technique. THIS my friends is what my team Breakin’ Boundrez is all about, finding that inner strength to go that little bit further and surprise yourself!
I have to take a second before I continue to congratulate my five strong team of brave courageous ladies. They each did exceptionally well that day, also conquering and overcoming their own fears! Together we swam, crawled, cussed, paddled, climbed, squealed, laughed, splashed, grunted, ran, jumped and smiled our way around the entire course who just a few hours beforehand were each questioning how I managed to talk, who am I kidding charm them into accompanying me on yet another one of my crazy sporting adventures.
Getting up at an ungodly hour on a Saturday morning usually doesn’t sit well with me, but like an excited child at her Birthday I couldn’t contain my excitement when my alarm went off at 5.30 pm. I agreed to meet my friend and kickboxing colleague Lakshmi at Harrow on The Hill Station for 7 am for we are local to each other.
Calls and humorous text messages were coming in thick and fast from the rest of my team mates, all expressing their anxiety, whilst double checking with me they had everything they could possibly need for the days shenanigans ahead.
The time came for me to head out the door, but such as my forgetfulness I left behind a change of footwear. Laks and I met the rest of ladies at Prince Regent Street Station and after exchanging group hugs we nervously made our way through the Excel Centre where we met my professional photographer friend Colvin Hazzard, known on Twitter as @hazpics (go n follow him if you’re not already!)
This is where ish got real! As we glanced over the waver form, things like Legionnaires’ disease stood out! My ladies faces were a picture as we all paused to spare a thought on what we could be exposing ourselves too.
Registration and waver forms complete we had 20 minutes to spare and used this time to catch up with each other and clown around taking funny pictures whilst changing into our technical and very comfortable shelter race tee. We watched with anticipation the first wave of the day start and before you know it, it was our turn to grace the warm up area.
The energetic people of My Gym led us through mobility exercises to loosen the joints, these were quickly followed by high knees and fast feet, exercises bound to increase ones heart rate. Deep squats and alternating lunges were next before the warm up began to draw to a close. Our bodies prepared for exercise the dreaded countdown began bellowing through the massive speakers and echoed around the hall (1 minute).
I quickly rushed to the side to put the kindly lent go pro head cam on, making sure it was fastened securely whilst also putting on my waterproof Garmin forerunner. I knew from the get go when I first agreed to partake in this race that I wanted to capture the event as it unfolded, so you lovely lot reading this can see for yourself what an aquatic 10 km obstacle race entails.
The 10 second countdown began and we all were pumped and rearing to go…. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 I bellowed, mimicking the voice of 90′s Gladiators referee John Anderson and as quick as it took to blink we were off!
A few strides in at we found ourselves hurdling over traffic blocks. This quickly followed by getting up and over a truck, up and over a Parkour style wall made of wooden boxes before jogging back down towards the starting point.
As we turned the corner we were met with endless tyres followed by another short jog before attempting to climb over what looked like 20 meters of metal barriers. It is worth mentioning that I have never quite had the technique down to jump and hoist myself over sideways so resorted to tackling this bum numbing part of the course by getting a leg over and using my upper body to hoist on top and flip over.
My team and I laughed out loud and occasionally grunted (I know I did) our way through this part before ducking under what looked like another obstacle overhead before being directed to make our way down the stairs and outside turning right.
The stunning views of the docklands and iconic buildings distracted the brief pain my poor bum had suffered from those metal crowd barriers and we welcomed the cheers of encouragement from race marshals and passersby as we continued to jog around the side of the Excel Centre. In the distance we saw a big inflatable yellow thing and as we got closer to inspect our first outside obstacle, realized this would be our first taste of getting wet (sighs).
We each squealed and cussed as our feet hit the ankle deep icy water. If that wasn’t enough, we had to literally duck right down to an almost crawl like position to get under the metal strips above the inflatable pool to reach the other side. The commentary from my team straight after this was hilarious, feet soaking wet in our cotton ankle socks and squeaking rather annoyingly with each stride I can confess we were NOT looking forward to what was ahead of us!
After briefly running what felt like a minute or two we were met with a Parkour incline wall. The height of this wall made it impossible for us to get to the top so each opted for a bunk up from the marshals in order to get up and over successfully. At this point my go pro head cam kept bouncing around so slowed down to ensure it was securely fastened.
We were then met with a scrim maze which we all breezed through before running around The Docklands only to be met by our first submersion task. As we approached the area a race marshal explained we had to go waist deep in the water and swim under two inflatable water sausages. I instantly declined for fear of losing a contact lense or two (this would have been disastrous) whilst the other ladies donned their lifejackets and headed into in the murky waters. I followed suit cheering my ladies on within a few feet of them. Let me just say the stench that came from this section of the water offended my poor nostrils in ways you wouldn’t believe. Rancid, Foul, Gross is a severe understatement, there are no words that could do it justice! I don’t want to even think what was in these waters that made it smell soooo bad!
Water sausages complete we took a minute to walk so team members can get their selves together before embarking on an approx 8 min jog. This involved a bridge run up the stairs, across the bridge and back down the stairs again. We were met by another inflatable swimming pool before making the short jog to the parallel bars. I few years ago I would have completed this no problem as I was mad on calisthenics but due to not actively practicing such exercises could only manage half way before dropping. Monica on the other hand, who blogs over at Fuzzy Monz Star completed this section like a royal marine (check out the athleticism!)
In the distance we saw more water based challenges and recall everyone sighing whilst mumbling under their breath. Life jackets were given to us and were instructed to ‘zip and clip’ which is what I did. We were informed to swim 25 m to the next platform and being someone that is NOT confident in water due to my lack of swimming technique I opted to drag myself along using the tiny yellow rope. My cousin (pictured with me below) chose to follow suit whilst the rest confidently swam ahead.
My cousin and I laughed soooo hard whilst bobbing up and down in water and were relieved to be back on dry land if only for a few seconds. Shock Horror is the only way to describe our next challenge! Now who in their right mind would think to put inflatable rubber rings for the next 25 m? I watched in despair as other rat race revelers belly crawled their way along to the next platform. Some managed to complete this task without getting wet, others, well they fell in lol.
All I can remember thinking as I lowered myself on my front was ‘Dani don’t fall in’. This was TOUGH!
To my left I heard a squeal followed by a splash and looked over to see Lakshmi in the water before swimming the remaining meters to the platform.
This had me slightly nervous as I felt the unstable rubber rings sway from left to right with every attempted move. You see if the person in front or behind you makes a mistake thats it, you’re in!
Bei cleared another ring to make it across successfully and as I attempted to slide onto the vacant ring something HORRIBLE happened! I wrestled with the ring doing all I can to in an attempt to stay on but the rubber ring wasn’t having none of it, it tipped me straight off and to my fear, into the water!
What you see here is my epic fail at trying to get back on which had my cousin and team mates watching from the sidelines in stitches. I didn’t feel like my life jacket was giving me adequate support to float so outright refused to move for a solid minute.
I was conscious a tailback was starting to form, and with my cousin in my ear telling me to politely MOVE I took a chance and attempted to swim a few meters to a rope that was thrown out to reel me in.
Everything was heavy and I wasn’t getting nowhere fast due to not kicking enough. My head cam had fallen around my neck and recall chasing down the rope much to the amusement of everyone else watching from the sides.
Not impressed at being in the water for a longer period than intended I was hoisted onto the platform to face ANOTHER horrifying challenge! Now I love watching Total Wipe Out and the wacky things they have to do so couldn’t help but think the organizers of this race took inspiration in the form of not one, but TWO inflatable trampoline type things.
Could it be that simple? Jumping on one trampoline to the next? Hmmmm… I was about to find out!
I took a few seconds to compose myself before leaping onto the first inflatable. I just about made it and looked around to see where my other team mates were.
Now trying to stand up and steady yourself on these things is practically impossible and didn’t make my second move until the other trampoline was near jumping distance. I took one massive leap, bounced off the second trampoline back onto the first (captured amazingly by Colvin) and would you know , I ended up in the water yet again!
What happened next was by far the scariest thing that has happened to me to date!
I had a full blown panic attack in the water *shakes head*
The support from my life jacket was, for some reason reduced and being someone that could not tread water I panicked… Big Time! A safety kayak came to my assistance instantly and I reached out to grabbed on to the front with dear life. She told me to take deep breaths and calm down before being gently maneuvered to the platform. I was a total mess at this point.
A little note to the organisers: Please, please can you ensure that ALL marshals advise participants to fasten their strap when we clip for a tight fitting, not just ‘zip and clip’! Now this might be stating the obvious but when ones busy focused on the task at hand, we will not think to do this ourselves unless advised to do so or if we’re familiar with water sports where a life jacket is necessary (I am not, and a complete newbie to these sort of antics).
Hairy moment out of the way whilst making a mental note to now fasten our life jackets tightly, we made our way north where we had to complete a few up and overs.
Not quite fully recovered from my trampoline blip, I didn’t want to see another water based task for a while and was absolutely mortified to see scaffold platforms in the distance where I could see people jumping off of them.
I stalled in my tracks with Bei and Nicole behind me whilst Monica, Lakshmi and my cousin Kala put on their life jackets, ensured they were tightly fastened, by passed the lower platform and made their way to the 20 ft tower. Bei, Nic and I cheered our hearts out as Monica walked up to the edge and just threw herself off without moment’s hesitation.
Ladies and Gents THIS is how you BOSS a 20 ft Jump into water! My Go Pro head cam captured this moment perfectly and can be viewed by clicking my Instagram Link HERE.
Lakshmi was next to jump and just like Monz she too threw herself off with hesitating. My cousin however, took a few minutes to eventually jump. She made the mistake of look down when on the edge and for a second, thought she wasn’t going to jump. She took a few seconds to compose herself before also jumping into the murky River Thames below. I am sooo proud of my cuz, Monz and Lakshmi for completing the jump as they too were scared to some degree.
Inspired by their jumps I had a few quite words with myself before opting for a life jacket, bracing myself for the dreaded jump. In the week leading up to the race I knew I needed an incentive to actually commit and make the jump so thought of my late Uncle who passed away from Motor Neurons Disease late 2012 aged just 38 and decided to fundraise whatever I could for the MNDA.
I couldn’t stomach the 20 ft jump so slowly walked towards the 10 ft platform. How on god’s green earth did my team mates jump from the higher platform, for the one I was standing on was ridiculously high by my standards. I asked my team mates to kindly count me down, but missed it numerous times as my body refused to connect with the brain and take that leap. Petrified is an understatement, I was overcome with fear, my whole body was numb but thoughts of my Uncle spurred me to somehow, to put on foot in front of the other and jump.
And jump I did (main pic), putting my arms out wide to try and slow myself down as my body plummeted towards the water. I was under water for no more than a few seconds before popping back up and swimming towards the cargo nets. I slowly clambered up the sturdy nets, still in a state of shock and massively overwhelmed that I actually jumped!
You would be forgiven to think there was a street party going on near the Royal Victoria Docks as my team mates cheered, whooped and whistled loudly at my accomplishment. They knew just how scared I was at completing this and knew the significance behind my jump for my uncle. Our team spirit was high as we jogged up and around a few corners only to be confronted my a massive bouncy castle.
Bouncing around and falling on ones backside numerous times was tiresome to say the least and having found the energy to get between the small letterbox type gap and down the inflatable slide we jogged over to the kayaks. Now this had to be one of the funniest moments of the course for me as my cousin and I, despite our best efforts didn’t get far at all and just keep going around in small circles lol. We were in stitches the whole way through and I’m surprised we didn’t capsize from the vibrations of our belly laughs.
It was a quick jog back past the jump and before being met with ridiculously high walls to climb up before shooting back into the Thames courtesy of a 50 ft water slide!
Male participants pulled themselves up and over these walls so easily leaving us females to get assistance by way of a bunk up.
Once at the top, the slide looked worse than the jump, just because of the sheer speed everyone hit the water. Bei went first, and couldn’t help but laugh at the way she tried to slow herself down by spreading her arms and legs to form a star shape as she slid down at lightning speed before plummeting into the water. Nicole went next and I followed straight after her.
As I re emerged a sheer of panic descended upon me, not because I was in the water again but because I honestly thought I lost my friends Go Pro Head Cam and was scrambling around in the water desperately looking for it until Nicole kindly pointed out that it was around my neck. PHEW, I breathed a sigh of relief!
The only way out of the Thames was an EVIL rope climb up the wooden boxes. How wicked can you get! Like really? Body soaked from head to toe made the attempted rope climb extremely hard. Poor Nicole was sooo exhausted at this point she just couldn’t find the strength to lift her weight out of the water and started to get a little distressed.
I spotted a ladder to the right of the ropes and told her to follow me. We climbed up the metal ladder and were back on top of the box where we started. Getting off involved yet another 6 ish ft jump and Colvin captured Bei’s jump perfectly whilst Nicole and I opted for assistance. Nicole’s face is priceless!
By the time we had completed the 50 ft slide our team naturally split up into pairs. Monica and Lakshmi were in front with Bei and Kala just ahead of Nicole and I. We completed our second helping of the scrum maze before jogging a further 10 mins back up, over and down the bridge and to the last water base task. This included a 25 m swim out to the buoy and back (50 m in total)
Nicole and I exchanged looks and both went ‘errrr naaaahh’ Call it a cop out but I for one had more than my fair share of water for that day so chose to jog on by for our last set of parallel bars and up and overs before we made our way back inside the Excel Centre, up the stairs and into the very hall we first started. The end was in slight, but not before a few more parkour style obstacles to complete for good measure.
We climbed / balanced our way up an incline wooden slope before belly crawling our way for a few meters, this was repeated again. My energy was completely zapped and just wanted the race to end. A couple of strides later and the only thing between Nicole and I and the finishing line was our last Parkour Wall. We kindly asked for a bunk up to which I flipped myself over and slid down. I waited for Nicole before crossing the finishing line together hand in hand and boy was I relieved it was over! The look of delight on our faces says it all.
Finishers medals were handed to us before we all were ushered to refuel our tired, battered and bruised bodies with fizzy drinks and a snickers bar. We were encouraged to douse our hands with sanitizer to kill off any bacteria we picked up along the way. Ecstatic to see each other we had a group hug and exchanged stories when we went off in pairs.
Completing this course with five inspirational and amazing ladies is something I will treasure forever. We BOSSED our first ever obstacle course and despite more than a handful of serious hairy moments I seemed to have picked up the bug and am seriously contemplating Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest Challenge with these ladies and others in November please god.
I would have been nice to have had shower facilities to freshen up (you can’t have it all I guess) but made sure we came equip with a full change of clothes. We couldn’t resist a group picture with the our post race fuel courtesy of the lovely people at Frank Bars. These got devoured in record time and kept the hunger at bay until we reached home. Thanks again 🙂
To view all 39 awesome pictures captured that day by the ever talented Colvin Hazzard, you can view them in by clicking on my Facebook Album Team Breakin’ Boundrez – London River Rat Race In Pictures
I am currently in the process of editing the spectacular video footage captured from the Gro Pro head cam so watch this space and be prepared to cry tears of laughter *covers face*
A MASSIVE Thank You goes out to my friend Colvin, for capturing some truly spectacular images along the way and creating memories that will last a lifetime for sure.
A BIG Thank You to the PHA Media and Rat Race Team for the Complementary race places.
Thank You to teammates Bei, Monica, Kala, Nicole and Lakshmi, without you ladies I wouldn’t have got around the course! Lakshmi n Monz, you’re my HERO’s, reppin’ the fit Mother’s out there.
Last but not least, THANK YOU to my friends, family, work colleagues and total strangers for sponsoring my jump! You all played a part in helping me raise £300.00 for Motor Neurons Disease Association in memory of my late Uncle Del Deanus, May He Rest In Perfect Peace xXx