Date: 12th March 2016, 2nd & 6th July 2016
Location: Dacorum Modern Pentathlon, Hemel Hempstead & Brooke Farm Stables, Alresford & London Aquatics Centre.
Rules: Over one day, competitors epee fence against every other athlete before moving on to swim 200m freestyle, then ride a horse over a 12-jump course. After the first three events, athletes total scores are converted to a time handicap which determines starting times for the combines run and shoot. During the final two events, athletes shoot a set of five targets with a laser pistol within 70 seconds, then run 1000m and repeat three times. The winner is the athlete who crosses the finish line first.
Olympic Gold Medal London 2012: Laura Asadauskaite, Lithuania
Day One- The things we do for this Challenge. After an incredibly busy working week, I dragged myself out of bed at 6.30am and we drove to the depths of Hemel Hempstead to join the Modern Pentathlon club for the Eastern Region at one of their training sessions. We kicked off with the combined laser shoot and run element; we did ten laps of the track (a total of 4000m; 1000m more than the Olympic athletes!), pausing to shoot our target at the end of each lap. I tried to hold my breath and shoot to get as steady as possible (not that this had much effect on my aim!), and we were told afterwards that it's best to arrive and shoot as quickly as possible whilst your heart rate is still rising. After lunch, we stepped up to the piste for some fencing. It was interesting re-visiting this event, but it's not one of my favourites and I was ready for the metaphorical final whistle two hours later. After the sweaty matches, it would have been brilliant to jump in to the pool for the final event of the day, but unfortunately I'm still unable to get the operation wound on my leg wet, so we had to call it a day. As the club doesn't do the horse element of Modern Pentathlon (surprisingly few clubs in the country do...our nearest is Yorkshire!), we'll stretch our competition to a second day later in the year when we can complete the Show Jumping and Swim elements in the same day.
Day Two & Three- Well, it was the plan back in March to complete the final two elements in one day, but bad scheduling meant we had to spread them over two days! We completed our horse element in our lessons at Brooke Farm Stables; walking our horses over a course of 'jumps', and a couple of days later visited the Olympic Pool for the 200m swim. Although we've had a bit of a dis-jointed experience of the Modern Pentathlon, I've enjoyed the variety of sports involved and have way more appreciation of how exhausting it must be for the pros completing all of these in the same day. Each event seems so different from the other, and the skill to complete each at such high standard is very impressive. . .
Thank goodness for Sarah and her car and her being able to drive her car and being able to drive her car at 7am. We began this event in Hemel Hempstead and finished a few months later with our horses and swimming nearer to home. It would be a real test of stamina to complete all of these events on the same day and I look forward to checking in on the event during Rio 2016.
Run: Never my strength, but I did like the combined nature of this part of the Mod. Pen. as I'm going to term it. To make the Mod. Pen in general and the run and shoot in specific, more interesting to watch for the spectators, the run and the shoot were combined in 2009. Some say the event should be renamed the Tetrathlon... but that is a proper tongue twister!
Shoot: I really enjoyed the shooting element to the Mod. Pen. It was interesting to use a new type of gun, the laser, and good to hear the different knacks needed to succeed. I also liked that you aren't penalised as such if you miss the target. You can shoot as many times as needed in 50 seconds to reach 5 on target shots with the benefit coming from finishing quickly to continue your run.
Fence: I really did enjoy fencing. It was nice to revisit the sport and to see what aspects of the training had and hadn't remained in my brain. Enough that I don't think I disgraced myself which is all I ask!
Horse: After a bit of a delay we picked this event up again and completed our riding/jumping. I'd never ridden a horse before and the mod. pen and equestrian events have been a valuable way to dispel my horse anxiety.
Swim: After our long distance outdoor swim a few weeks ago this 200m swim seems like luxury and a nice, gentle end to an odd and out of the ordinary event!