Primal Events F.E.A.R. : 24 Hour Endurance Event

Saturday 28th November 2014 

I’m eating my dinner one evening and checking what Facebook has to offer when I see a post about an event called Primal Events F.E.A.R. I give it a ‘Like’ and write a comment like “this looks cool” and think nothing more of it.

A friend saw I’d ‘Liked’ the post, he knew the Race Directors (RDs) and could get a free ticket so offered it to me. It seemed like a sign I should enter.

FEAR stands for Find, Endure, Achieve, Race.
It would be the first of its kind in the endurance race industry, offering a team event experience as opposed to a solo race.  Instantly, I knew I needed an experienced, physically and mentally strong team and so began my first task – finding 5 people crazy enough to join me in my first 24hr+ adventure.

Thankfully, Luke Lawrence (previous Primal Events finisher), Jason Goonery (previous Primal Events finisher), Jack Mason, Richard Palmer and Andrew Rodgers agreed to join me without any hesitation.

On Saturday 29th November 2014 at 9am, we stood with the other participants at The Crooked Spire in Chesterfield with our mandatory kit list:

  • Ice cream
  • 50cm pipe
  • Blindfold
  • A digging tool
  • Plasticine
  • Jigsaw puzzle

All of a sudden we were ordered the RDs shouted at us to stand in a perfectly straight line and get down into the plank position. A few people messed around and it soon became apparent we should do exactly as the RDs said. Immediately!

The group was divided into 3 teams and we were named Team 1.

After a kit check, we were ordered to take our ice cream out of its container, hold it in our hands and run up the street. Everyone went crazy, ice cream was everywhere. 13 people were running wild up Chesterfield’s busy Saturday Market Street with ice cream dripping through our hands. It didn’t take long for the freezing pain to turn our hands into ice blocks and for our clothes to get covered in it.

With our heart rate high and already looking a mess, we then had 30 minutes to trade a 1kg bag of sugar for the highest possible value of items.  Our team worked great, with a mix of extroverts and introverts we managed to return with a mixture of items totally £86 including a brand new mobile phone! All items were traded in for cash and the money donated to a local charity, which I thought was a great touch.

A grid reference was given to us and we were onto our first checkpoint. Here, we were instructed in a foreign language to use the digging tool from our kit list to transport water into a bucket from a lake 500m away. We decided to trade our digging tool for a dry bag knowing we could transport more water with the bag. This meant that any future task that involved our digging tool was now void and we would have to use our drybag. It was a risky decision, but we won the task.

At this checkpoint, we were instructed to decorate a 25lb concrete plate with spray paint, which we then had to carry for the entire event, AND it wasn’t allowed to ever touch the ground.

With our new ‘friend’, the concrete plate, and our bucket full of water, we travelled 3km to the next checkpoint. Any spillages from the bucket would result in punishment. Teamwork and a few clever ideas meant we only lost about 1 inch of water, resulting in some PT punishment at our next checkpoint.

It was here we were introduced to The Unlucky Dip bag, a bag full of coins with punishments on. We pulled out ‘Heavy’ which meant find a heavy object.  I noticed a builders site close by and haggled a Heras fence support block. The Race Directors accepted this as ‘heavy’ and confirmed our thoughts, we would have to carry this until further notice.

Here’s me asking for a heavy object from the builders, lol.

The next checkpoint overlooked a lake where we had to hunt for an object. This task took ages and we started to become frustrated since the other teams had found theirs quickly.

We were then instructed to get the jigsaw puzzles from our kit list out, the part we were all dreading. Should we have brought an easy puzzle? Or a difficult one? We’d brought a mixture. The Race Directors picked the puzzle with the highest number of pieces and we were instructed to build the puzzle with one person blindfolded and one other giving instructions with only 4 commands; up, down, right, left.  Any other words or communication from anyone else resulted in punishment. Fortunately, somehow we managed to escape using the 1,000 piece puzzle we’d packed but was still almost immediately punished for bad communication and we ended up in the lake!

Onto the next checkpoint, we were about 8 hours into our adventure and it was starting to get dark, but we were all in good spirits and I personally felt relieved the jigsaw had been used.

After building a bridge to cross a river, it seemed obvious we were to play a game a Jenga next to the river!? It was Saturday evening after all. Whoever lost the game of Jenga would, of course, end up in the water. Although only shin deep, it was fast flowing and ice cold.

With no warning in the middle of a game, we were told we had 2 minutes to memorise the current format of the blocks. We then had to take 2 pieces at a time each, wade 200m up the river and rebuild it in exactly the same format within a wooden cube suspended off a bridge!(see picture below).  As Luke, Jason and I considered ourselves to have a good memory, we memorized the format and began transporting the pieces.

Next was a 3km run around 2 reservoirs to warm us up, racing against the other teams. I thought we might have this task in the bag as our team was full of fast runners but it all depended on us not getting lost.

It was dark, we had to stay on the ball and not take a wrong turn.  This got the adrenalin PUMPING! We were flying!  I think it was the fastest 3km I have ever run in my life. It was my favourite part of this event. The team stuck together shouting motivation at each other and once again we won our task.  We were on a high!

We were then told we had to make our way to a camp in the woods. I joked ‘was this our opportunity to drink beer, light a fire and have a dance?’
When we got there, we were instructed to collect 50lb of firewood each and then start a fire. This proved a challenge as all the wood was wet, but after about 2 hours of persistence and a very talented and determined team member Jack, we succeeded.  We then had an opportunity to take care of our hydration, nutrition and foot care and have a well-deserved rest.
If ‘beer’ was interpreted as ‘potato’ it turns out my joke wasn’t far wrong. We’d been carrying a potato with us since the start which once cooked in the fire tasted divine! Especially with butter and cheese (provided by the RDs – they can be kind).

After a survival lesson on how to break free from being tied up with cable ties and a challenging mental test, we tidied our camp and were on our way once again.

Strict PT was to follow, where we were also introduced to what we named ‘The Snake’ – a 7m long thin-ish red sandbag.  We had to fill a hessian bag with 30lb of dirt each, using our digging tool….. oh, hold on, we traded that in earlier so had to use our hands and the dry bag. Our 6 hessian dirtbags then had to be attached to ‘The Snake’ which once assembled weighed about 250lb+ in total!

Carrying this through muddy farmers fields, we were onto our next checkpoint. By this time it was about 4am on Sunday morning, 17 hours into the race and morale was starting to decline, especially as we took a wrong turn. This was the lowest point of the race as ‘The Snake’ was uncomfortable and the entire time someone was still carrying the 25lb concrete weight as well, plus our packs. Rest stops became more frequent and much longer. At one point I momentarily fell asleep whilst walking with ‘The Snake’ which seems impossible considering I was carrying 30lb+, plus my pack whilst physically attached to my teammates.

Thinking we could see another team on our tail, we gave ourselves a kick up the backside, along with some caffeine, and got a shimmy on making it to the next checkpoint.

Throughout the race, I was punished twice. The first was a voice ban, which if you know me, you’ll understand how difficult this was. If I spoke, ALL participants would be punished.  This lasted for about 2 hours and was by far the hardest challenge I have ever encountered ; )

As soon as the voice ban was lifted, I had to wear a respirator mask for another 2 hours, this was about 22 hours into the race. One benefit, at least my face was warm. We did get some funny looks from early morning Chesterfield walkers. We looked sad, tired, muddy, we were carrying The Snake and I was wearing the respirator mask.

After more tasks, to round the race off, we navigated our way to Chesterfield Town Hall where the Race Directors stood triumphantly at the top of a 250m tarmac hill. We had to crawl to the top without our chests leaving the ground. After 25 hours of being on the move and knowing we were so close to the finish, this was challenging.

When the last team member finally reached the top, we all held hands and walked towards a toolbox which held our finishers plaques. We had been given 2 pieces of wood during the race that when put together formed the base of our trophy.

Wow, what a feeling! Especially as the Sunday sun burst through the clouds to celebrate our victory! Not only had we completed the race, been a super strong team but we had also won!

Fortunately, the weather throughout the event was really good, it didn’t rain and wasn’t too cold.  If it had rained, it would have turned our race into a very difficult one and I suspect we would have hit some very low points.

There are so many things I have not included in my review of the event. I do not want to give too much away.

Primal Events offer several different kinds of events. FEAR is a team event where we were taken to the edge of our comfort zone but encouraged to think as a team and to also finish.  They also offer a 12-hour Training Camp and then finally On Trial, a 48-hour challenge that claims to break its participants.

I encourage you to enter one of the events, so you can push your boundaries and see what your body and mind are capable of. I personally learnt survival skills, navigation and how to think quickly and laterally. And I now know I can complete mental and physical tasks even when I’m exhausted and cold.  I feel stronger about future events and can no longer complain about carrying a sandbag in an obstacle course for a few miles.

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