I started with the Toughest tour when I became a full-time athlete. I needed to challenge myself in the most competitive races, hone my obstacle skills and support something that was good for the sport of OCR. I also got to make friends with and inspire some amazing athletes, who in turn have continued to push me to become better.
Three years later I was standing on the start line of the Toughest chasing start tour final for the third year in a row. Like before, having earnt maximum points in the tour, I had a small head start against my fellow racers. 20 seconds back would be David Nordstrom, 5 seconds after him Ludvig Werkmaster and 10 seconds behind him, Ross Brackly. Having kept a clean sheet all year it would be a shame to not perform during this race, which decides the final placings for the entire tour…but as always, this could be a possibility.
Having only arrived home from the USA a few days before, I was far from wide eyed and bushy tailed. In fact, the jet lag, 25 gruelling kilometres of Spartan racing at altitude and many hours of traveling had left me somewhat yearning for a hot tub and a cold beer instead. But, this is the theme of how races are for me at this time of year and it doesn’t take too long before some obstacles knock some life into me.
The great thing about the final is I get to start alone and therefore take the first obstacles without the usual flying feet and fists battling for space. I get to cruise along controlling my speed and work rate. Concentration can be on myself and no one else, it’s practically idyllic compared to usual.
Taking the first obstacles, which were all mainly agility ones, I could hear athletes getting sent off in accordance to their performances throughout the season.
David would have me in mind but I also knew he would most likely just concentrate on beating Ludvig. I just had to flow through obstacles making no mistakes and hopefully I would stay out of sight.
Three obstacles could cause me problems. The first of these was the flying monkey. I am pretty confident on this but as it was only 1.5km into the race my heartrate would be high and a mistake can be made.
Running up and jumping out to the first bar I swung and flew my way through, not with the best technique but good enough.
The next tricky obstacle was at around 5km. It was the nunchucks fast lane of the swing walk. Lack of concentration can make a mistake here likely, especially with it located only meters after the traverse walls.
I traverse my way along using my knees to generate momentum and making sure to grab the bottom of each nunchuck with my first hand leaving room for my other hand on top. Feeling more confident as I made my way through I was soon on the other platform and away, skipping the following obstacle for those that take the normal lane.
The third obstacle I was nervous about, was back in the event arena with just 1.5km to go in the 8km course. It was the hard lane of the rig. First was the big jump into water, then the rope climb, then the rig. Keeping my cool and remaining composed, I took a quick glance at the fast lane before committing. I fancied my chances; complete this and I knew winning was likely.
Still wet, I jumped up to the flying monkey start, swung to the first ball hold, then ring, then rope skipping a long metal bar, then another ball, long rope and finally a triangle ball hold before ringing the bell.
I was through and another couple of kilometres with easier obstacles was left before rounding the corner to something I had forgot about…the ramp. Usually straight forward, the wet ground and mud made it more difficult than usual. No time to think, I ran up just grabbling the bar. I had done it.
Three years in a row and my 14th consecutive win at a Toughest race. Even though my competition has improved, it’s seems I have too with a faster average speed on a similar course to years previous.
The ramp, it would turn out was something to worry about. Ludvig, failing, was overtaken by Ross Brackly. It would also feature massively for the ladies with many attempts from the final winner Linnea Ivarsson and second place Karin Karlsson.
Without too much time to reflect it is now time to travel back over the pond to Canada for my fourth OCR World Championships.
Great photos as always by Jacques Holst and Scott Seefeldt.