In 2016, my friends and I decided to hit up a few European Races. Enjoying different race whilst having a long weekend in a different culture. As my friends had tried and loved Toughest when it came to the UK last year, it was decided to go to their season opener in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Race booked (£60 early bird), Flights via Easy Jet and FlyBe (£100 return) and hotel/apartment CityDen Up South (£80 each). We decided to fly in on the Friday, race Saturday and fly back on the Sunday.
First of all, the hotel room / apartment was great – large enough for 4 with fridge, dishwasher, cooker and microwave. It was right next to a metro line which meant we were in central Amsterdam within 20 minutes. Nearest shops were 5 minutes away including the best Greek Restaurant I had visited (for the “carb loading” of course)
Unlike many races in the UK – the location for Toughest was well served by public transport (this is something I have noticed for many large European races I have been researching). The race was located at Spaarnwoude Houtrak and served by a train station only 1km walk away and only 10 minutes and 3 euros from Amsterdam Central station.
For those not familiar with Toughest, it is one of the best known pan European race series with many of the top OCR racers competing for prize money. When I got there, Jon Albon had just come in first with a time of 37 minutes whilst his wife won the female competition in 54 minutes.
Toughest Race is just that – a race of individuals meaning all of the obstacles can be done alone (unlike Tough Mudder for example where team work is the ethos). Many of the obstacles are technical and require upper body strength – rings, monkey bars and rigs were all in play. What makes Toughest different from any other race I had participated in was they have 2 lanes – “Fast” and “Slow”. Slow lanes have an easier option – rings for example – but after that, competitors will usually have to take on a crawl or “up and under” to slow them down against a competitor who has taken the “fast” lane – usually technically more difficult – in this case there were fewer rings spaced further apart, but no crawling required once this was completed. Any “failure” of an obstacle means a penalty run which was around 200m in length (sometimes with a carry). This was a great way to compete against other racers and seemed to make it fairer. I took all the slow lanes, but have an idea of which fast lanes I can take in the two UK races I am doing later this year. Trampoline jump was awesome – and the only obstacle which made me take a step back before going for it. A 4metre high platform, with a mini jump onto an exercise trampoline before bombing into water.
I managed to finish with only 4 penalties (ring slide, platinum rig, ninja walls and final half pipe) in a time of 1hour 10 minutes – 276 out of over 1300 so around top 20%. I know I can complete all of the course without a penalty, so dependent on the course, I should be a little faster next time – the course in Amsterdam was pan flat as you would expect.
The medal and wristband was awesome, but no t shirt (no biggie for me, I will finish with 30+ t shirts by the end of the season) and very few photos 🙁
The rest of the day was spent sight seeing around Amsterdam, enjoying the nightlife of city. A particular highlight was Cafe Zilt – a great bar with over 100 whiskies to try and 20+ draught beers.
I have two more Toughest Races later this year – London South in June and Milton Keynes in August. Really looking forward to racing them and improving my performance. We loved the vibe so much, that we are looking for other European Races – Already have Tough Mudder in Ireland booked – but now looking to do Tough Viking in Stockholm, Sweden at the end of August.
Watch this space!