Just one week before the event I sat at my computer deliberating whether I should go or not. On one hand the flight tickets were incredibly expensive and on the other there was a chance (and I would like to think a good one) that I could walk away with 5000 Euros in prize money. I finally decided to go but more because I wanted to test the event and see what it wold be like, try some different obstacles and battle it out for the chance to call myself, ‘the Obstacle Racing European Champion’.
The Obstacle Course Racing European Championships is organised by an affiliation of the obstacle racing federations. Following the same format as the world championships there would be a short course (around 3km), a classic course (around 15km) and a team event, all spread over one weekend in an outdoor centre located about an hour drive from Amsterdam.
I am of the opinion that the 15km course is the real race and with this distance being the only one with cash prizes, it would seem the organisers feel the same. I was still entered for the 3km though and saw it as an opportunity to stretch my legs and try some of the obstacles. A good plan which was almost ruined by one of the craziest starts to an obstacle race I have seen.
After just 20m of running we hit a steep bank which dropped down into a waist deep ditch containing reeds that were taller than me. Charging through these we quickly made a u turn and dove back in. After some 9 repetitions, we were finally away and running. I got a bit caught up but after the first crawling obstacle soon made my way to the front. From here it was a case of run smoothly and try to pace as if I was doing a Toughest race. Coming into the trickier obstacle I had enough breath to swing, clamber or climb through without too many issues.
Before I knew it, I was through the final obstacle and a cross the line after some 18 minutes on what turned out to be a 3,6km course.
As expected the low rig and stairway to heaven seemed to be the trickier obstacles and I was glad to try them, which built my confidence for the next day. I started to hear rumours about what the longer course would be like and hearing that there was an especially long carry to begin with I figured I had better get some food and an early night.
They weren’t joking about the carry, an equally hectic start which left me much further behind this time saw me only catch up after 2km. Just as I reached the front we picked up a long stone filled sand bag. This would be my friend for the following 2km! Thankfully it was mainly flat running but my shoulders definitely didn’t appreciate the abuse from the banging bag as I tried to open my stride up under the added weight. I was now in joint first but would gain a small lead by the end of the carry, once I dropped the bag though my stride opened up completely and for a short time I felt as if I was flying.
With this long running section done we now had many obstacle and a fair amount of water to contend with. My lead was now growing but I was still concentring on running fast and smooth leaving enough energy for obstacles.
Coming to the tyre carry I could tell this was also going to be long but the addition of doing many obstacles and a fair number of muddy pits with the thing was quite a surprise. It certainly is fun to take on races where they are thinking outside the box. Dropping the tyre of it was now time for some more usual style obstacles (including a really annoyingly hard weaver) before we hit one of the toughest strings of obstacles I have seen.
A 20m rope travers was the first, which pumped my forearms a bit. Next was the ninja pole traverse, hamster wheel monkey bars, low rig, UFO rope climb, stairway to heaven, multi rig and more, all within something like 500m! By the low rig I was stretching out my forearms as I ran and was glad not to have someone breathing down my neck. Clambering my way through using skills I have learnt from bouldering I rang the bell and scanned the chip on my arm to register that I have completed the obstacle.
I glanced at my watch and it told me I would soon be done, a final long running section helped speed things up and I was once again into the final string of obstacles. Swinging through the famous clog travers I was soon over the line in just under 1 hour 18 minutes.
Altogether it was a fun race which I am glad to have executed well, the mix of running sections and stretches of difficult obstacles with a fair amount of water made for great course and a really enjoyable weekend.
I now have the opportunity to take some holiday and concentrate on training before recommencing my season at Tromso Skyrace in five weeks time.