This weekend saw the start of my racing season and it was fitting that this race also marked the start of the 2017 Toughest series, which will again be one of my main focuses. The race was held in the new venue of Amsterdam and would provide a different racing experience to previous Toughest events…. mainly because the course would be the fastest I have ever experienced. A lack of technical terrain and hills meant it would only be the obstacles slowing us down, of which Toughest had been working on through the winter. A few new additions like the Hamster Wheel and a few alterations like making the swing-walk longer would pose as new challenges and opportunities to fail resulting in a penalty round.
It was actually the Swing Walk obstacle that played on my mind most as I was warming up. It was one kilometre into the course and the fast lane nunchuck option was considerably longer than in 2016. Once again, the nunchucks were different lengths meaning you couldn’t match your hands on some and caps over the top meant there would be no cheating by grabbing the top or the chain. To risk the fast lane could result in a 20 second lead early in the race or mean a minute penalty if you fail.
When considering which lane to take I thought about the competition I would be facing. A host of excuses like sickness and skiing holidays would mean a few familiar faces would be missing but I felt the ones that were present were the best suited to this type of course, fast runners but less strong on the obstacles. There were some unknowns with some exceptionally fast people trying their hand at this different form of racing but I didn’t expect them to take this fast lane either. I therefore concluded that few people would try or make the fast lane, so if I could nail it, I would get an early lead which I could hopefully build on.
Decisions decisions…and this was without thinking about the other 39 obstacles over the 8km course. I decided that I would choose based on how I felt after the first kilometer of running.
Even though this first stretch of running and simpler obstacles was fast I felt I had control. Spitting on my hands to give some extra grip on the nunchucks tape my decision was made. I was going for the fast lane. Half way through I missed a nunchuck and had to swing backward and forward again before making any more progress, this cost me time but I got through and skipped the penalty obstacle for taking the normal lane. I had 10 seconds lead and the hardest obstacle was done. Now time to start building.
The course seemed to be flashing before my eyes and before I knew it I was at the rig. The fast lane of this obstacle is kept a secret before the start with no one being allowed to try it. I took a chance and went for it. Swinging through using some ropes, a flying monkey, some nunchucks and a ball to hold onto I was through and once again got to skip a 15m crawl extra obstacle. I now had a minute lead and started to try and cruise fast, giving me enough gas to do the obstacles well but still maintain what lead I had.
I have been in this position a few times now and know I must maintain 100% focus and keep pushing. One failed obstacle would erase my lead and with Toughest’s technical obstacles this is always a possibility.
Luck was on my side and I cruised through the remaining obstacles without a hitch. I took the rope climb as opposed to the salmon ladder but was through the penalty obstacle in no time.
Swinging through the flying monkey I knew that was the last obstacle with a fast lane done and all that was left was the traverse walls and the ramp. The ramp is never easy when you have been pushing hard but sprinting at the bottom I seemed to be standing on top in no time.
Crossing the line in 37 minute after 8.5km of racing I was glad to don my Dryrobe and watch my wife scale the same ramp to take home the woman’s title. A fantastic start to the year and I can’t wait for the next Toughest race in Malmø, Sweden.
Thanks go to David from Dryrobe, Jacques Holst and Scott Seefeldt for the great pictures.