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Trace Gathering 2007

This week, Fieldhead Campsite in Edale in the Peak District held host to 115 or so traceurs for the Trace (or TRACEur) Gathering 2007. An absolutely brilliant few days of hanging out with over a hundred people who live for parkour – camping together, talking about parkour, and training in the most amazing natural areas of the Peak District.

Day One, Tuesday, we all arrived at the campsite at different times, pitched up and then just hung around playing catch with a ball, trying to catch frisbees in our mouths, etc. before all heading to the local play park for some getting-to-know-each-other light training. It was great fun, we had one of those “let’s see who can make the cat pass past the line”-type exercises which are always fun, and there was a tricking demonstration from Daniel Ilabaca, who was watched by many awestruck contingents, often interrupted by someone who would think “oh, I can do that trick almost a millionth as well as him, I’ll show him my feeble attempt”.

Day Two was the first full day of training. My group, led by Daniel, started at Padley Gorge (which, by the way, Jason told me last year he loves and thinks is better than Lisses!), and after getting ice-cream (chocolate knickerbocker glories) moved onto Higger Tor and surrounding peaks. Danny (Sheffield) and Paul (Manchester) were in my group that day, which was cool.

On the long trek to Higger Tor a few of us listened to what Daniel had to say – it was so inspiring hearing him talk about his philosophy on life, youth, and passing on the message of parkour to anyone who was looking for the thing that was formerly missing from his life until he found it in the art of movement and related activities. He’s such a sound guy and I felt privileged to be training with him and that I had the chance to listen to what he had to say.

The day finished by us being sorted into new groups for the following day and then a presentation by Jin’s Dad about their charity: New Foundations, who provide medical and surgical services to areas of the Niger Delta where there is currently no present provision. We raised £581.76 for the cause.

Day Three started off with an oddly-coordinated warm-up led by Jason at Grindleford Station. Oh and a few weeks previously I’d been asked about doing some filming for the BBC and I’d told the guy about the gathering and he expressed interest in joining us and filming so I got him in touch with Jason, and anyway, he turned up to meet us at the station, which was a promising start.

I was meant to be in a group with Shane and Scott (one of the guys I’m going to Lisses with), but in deciding which way would be less boggy, two groups got mixed up, and I was with no-one I knew, which sucked at first, as I was stuck with a big bunch of people who interact with others on WorldWideJam, which for some unknown reason I’ve always been rather skeptical towards, anyway, these guys all knew eachother and had no intention of including me in their discussion, so I was doing my own thing on Higger Tor and then joined in with Blake (from the Saiyans), Brad Moss (the guy who was part of ‘The Freerunners’ on Britain’s Got Talent) and Moses, who had travelled all the way from Austria just to train with us, I got really into the stuff they were trying and we got on really well and I ended up training with them for the rest of the day. The guys from the BBC found us up there and filmed some parkour. We then headed back to Padley Gorge and had some fun on the rocks and in the trees and headed back to the campsite.

I think it’s worth mentioning that it was very useful getting on the train with over a hundred traceurs, as the conductor has no chance of getting round you all, and often decided not to bother charging anyone. What we did was wait to see which end the conductor was positioned, and get on at the opposite doors and create a barrier of more gullible traceurs between ourselves and the conductor in case he made the attempt of getting blood from a stone.

After tea and a rest at the campsite I headed to the park again to do some parkour with the Manchester guys who had decided to drive home that night as no training was planned for the last day. We got there and quickly realised we had neither the energy, manoeuvrability nor the motivation to do any physical work so we went for a session of “let’s film amusing things for Paul’s video” which mainly involved purpose bails. Then pretty much everyone from the campsite arrived at the park for Jason and Dave’s conditioning session, which turned out to consist of 30 push-ups followed by “that’s it for conditioning” and everyone pounding on Jason and almost successfully removing his trousers.

Day Four consisted of nothing more than packing up our tents and stuff, saying goodbye and going home. Shane had gone home the night before so me and Danny bode our farewells to those remaining, mostly Trace Reps. I wished Jin an awesome year, as he’s going to China as part of his Uni course in a couple of weeks, I spoke to Moses about my plans to travel next Summer and hopefully pay him a visit and train with him in Austria, I spoke to Blake as I had a great time training with him and I’m certain it won’t be the last time, I thanked Daniel, Dave and Jason and left for the station to get the train back to Sheffield.

Many thanks to Jason and Dave for organising and running an awesome week of meeting people and training in a fantastic atmosphere. Also thanks to all the Trace reps who made it what it was. Roll on TRACE 08!

Most of the photos courtesy of Shane Rounce. Check out his photographic display at Flickr.

There’s more to come on TRACE 07 – there’ll be a feature in the Sheffield Star soon and I should have more info on the BBC thing – all I know at present is that it’s for a programme called Inside Out and should be shown in September. They’re also filming some more parkour in Sheffield soon.

Presenting at ShAFF 2007

On Thursday afternoon I received an email from Luke Markey from TT, who was meant to be standing in for Daniel Ilabaca to present the parkour films and do a talk on parkour at ShAFF – the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (Daniel couldn’t make it as he’s currently filming in India), anyway, Luke asked if I could step in for him.

So I spent most of Thursday afternoon sorting things out with Luke over msn, trying to ascertain exactly what I would have to talk about and what the films were and then speaking to Matt Heason (the guy who runs ShAFF). I didn’t have much time to prepare (as it was in two days’ time), but I managed to cobble a mass of notes together on the Saturday and structure them in between each of the films. I wanted to show something local or from Manchester, but on such short notice had problems getting hold of anything at all, never mind on DVD as requested. My good friend Jess kindly lent me her laptop (an iMac, but nevertheless still capable of burning a DVD), so I put my hatred for anything Apple to the side and tried to figure out how to do it. It was real simple and I had a DVD working on my TV ten minutes or so later, the DVD I made had a menu screen with cheesy default music, and two options; one for each of the videos – I used the NP strength training video and NP Lisses trip video.

The order of the films was:

The ‘Urban Freestyler’ video was a few guys who do amazing football tricks around the streets of London, I have no idea why it was in there with the parkour films, but I managed to talk a little about it (bearing in mind the first time I saw it was in the cinema with everyone else lol) and I tied in links to parkour like the level of practise required for both and the fact that this is socially acceptable as everyone knows what football is, but people’s fear of the unknown usually makes them scowl when they see us doing parkour purely because they don’t understand what it is we’re doing.

Things I talked about included the media’s misinterpretation of what parkour is, parkour/freerunning/tricking, Lisses, healthy living, strength training and conditioning, benefits of parkour, and teams (including mentioning TT’s moral values).

There were about 25 people who came to see it, including a handful from the SPK lot. Surprisingly, there were no other teenagers, most of them were 20s, 30s. They asked some quite good questions, the usual ones like “Are there competitions in parkour?” (followed by “You could have competitions to see who can do the most flips”…) and “Can fat people do it?”, but the most intriguing questions was “What do you want for the future of parkour?” which I answered with something about it being more recognised as an activity so that we can train with less hassle and the coaching association succeeding.

I hope they’d all learned something about what parkour really is, and I made an impact on some people’s thoughts on it all. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t get across well enough. I think I made my point quite well, I did my best. Oh and I have £100 in my pocket for doing it, there starts my Lisses trip fund. Woo.

Just to finish, here’s a short film I saw on Thursday night at the exclusive private pre-screening ShAFF event with Wine & Canapés I was invited to. It’s absolutely brilliant, it’s hard to explain without making you want to not bother, so just take my word for it and check it out. Very skillful – Balancing Point:

Millers Dale Viaduct

Sam Doyle got us the licence to do ‘rope training’ on the viaduct at Millers Dale, so we took the chance to have a go at abseiling off the side and towards the river.

Miles led the evening and him, Burdy, Bob and Batley were in charge of belaying.

Basically, what you had to do was abseil the first few meters where there was brick to support them with your feet, and then as you got to the point where there was no more brick (as seen on the red line drawn on the picture above), you had to keep your feet on as you let your body drop more so you didn’t swing into the brick when you released your feet and smash your face in! Then once you’d cleared the brick, you just had to lower yourself with the rope (all your support being in the harness) until you were close enough to the surface that you could be pulled in from the bank by one of the helpers. Oh and all this was done at night in pitch black.

Some people got a bit wet…either because they were stupid enough to lower themselves all the way into the water, or because Miles decided that that person deserved a bit of a splash and hence released a few extra meters of rope…

Here are some photos:

Apex Challenge

This weekend I’ve been on the Apex Challenge, which is a competition for teams of four (this time in Castleton in the Peak District) where the teams involved have to navigate through a large geographical area racking up points from taking part in various activities at bases set up all round the mapped area. My team, Team Toe, went out to try and win the competition, and got off to a great start…

Friday night was the start of the competition, where we had to all compete in a mini competition in order to decide the starting positions (i.e. the team finishing first would set off first, the second team a minute later and so on) and we finished third, which was a good start. The activity was called The Glow Company Challenge, where (in the dark) we had to throw glow sticks to a member of our team to catch in a fishing net, and they had to catch one of each colours. We finished in under 3 minutes, and came third, so we were given our starting time of 10:02 for Saturday.

Saturday’s event, the main part of the competition, which was to last 7 hours, from 10:02 to 5:02 (points deducted per minute late). We planned our route and completed a variety of bases and made our way to several control points along the way to rack up the points total. At 4:00 (and hour before we finished) we came across a guy who had broken his leg in a gully between the hills. Since our team consisted of two qualified lifeguards, another one in training (all 3 trained by Richard Garrett, a senior member of Woodseats Venture Unit with us), one with an SPA for climbing, and we all have general first aid qualifications, so we sorted him out, got him into some warm clothes and put a survival blanket round him, gave him some chocolate for the sugar and checked his leg out. His ankle was quite bruised, so we carefully removed his shoe and sock, and gave him another sock.

We phoned the Mountain Rescue, as he needed to be taken out of there, and got cut off after reporting the incident, without having told them our position, so we tried to reach them again, and after unsuccessful attempts, a member of our group headed to the closest base to inform an organiser so that he could contact the main Apex people on the walkie talkie and they could ring Mountain Rescue with our grid reference. While he was gone we called 999 to try to get through to M.R. but for some reason they said they couldn’t put us through to them. Anyway, we had been talking with the casualty, he was a first year student called Liam, studying History and English at Sheffield Hallam University, originally from Nottingham. He was in shock, and shaking quite badly, so we ensured he was warm enough and had the sugar inside him. He seemed alright under the circumstances. The M.R. guys came along with their stretchers and sorted him out and took him to hospital.

We must have been waiting with him for over 2 hours, so we were obviously late returning for the competition, and had missed out on a fair amount of points in our final hour of that part of the contest, but they didn’t penalise us for being late, and thanked and congratulated us for stopping to help him out. We found out later that we were 2nd in the leaderboard up to then, so we did very well considering we lost an hour!

Everyone else had had a long rest at the finish site before the Saturday night part of the challenge, but we had to set off straight away when we got back, we did ok in it, but would have done much better after a rest.

Sunday morning’s activity was from 10:00 ’til 1:00-ish, which consisted of a race completing two bases; one canoeing (canadian open boat), which was cool, with 3 keen canoeists in our group (well…kayakers, near enough) and then a walk back to the man base to complete an assault course, and since parkour means that I practise that sort of thing (on different terrain lol) all the time, I was loving it! An assault course made up of ladders, rope and things in between piles of bales of hay. Great!

Anyway, we came 6th in total, out of 36 teams, which was pretty good, all things considered. We were completely knackered on Saturday night and Sunday morning, so we couldn’t really give it our all. Regardless, we had a fantastic weekend, and although we came home prizeless, we enjoyed it and actually dealt with a real life casualty in an actual real situation, which will add to our experience.

I’m off to the Yorkshire Dales next weekend for my Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition, which I’ve been looking forward to for some time, it’ll be a great way to spend the half term. We start at skipton on Sunday morning (I’ll be in Southport on Saturday for my Gran’s 90th birthday! :O ). See this page for a write-up (and vLog) of the 4-day expedition.

The Apex site has now been updated and now includes all the details of what happened on the event, including an article about the rescue.

Here are some links to the media coverage of the incident:

Autumn 2006 Event – Report” – Apex Challenge website
Hitting the Headlines” – Apex Challenge website
Scouts Praised after Rescue Drama” – UK Scouts website
“Scouts in Mountain Rescue Effort” – Community Newswire
“Scouts in peak rescue drama” – Sheffield Star, page 5
“We Were Prepared” – Doncaster Star, pages 1 and 2