An obstacle race in a beautiful country? Sounds like the perfect excuse for a holiday to me!
The race weekend started off in a familiar format with volunteering; I like to volunteer at races for a few reasons, you get to see what goes on behind the scenes as well as meeting the organisers, other volunteers and see a different side of the participants, get to try out the obstacles before the race and of course, get a free race pass! This may sound a bit thrifty, but if you do as many races as I do, they all add up!
At Tough Viking, it wasn’t possible to volunteer and race the same day, the friendly Hanna, who co-ordinates the volunteers (amongst many other things no doubt!) so instead I was asked to come to the venue the day before race day to help out. In my head I expected to be helping putting up obstacles or assembling tents, however, that was probably the engineer in me thinking of things I’d like to do, and luckily enough for the racers, the obstacle assembly was left to the professionals! Instead, all the volunteers were in the registration area so people could come and pick up their race packs in advance.
Initially, I was a bit apprehensive of being in a customer facing role in a country where I can’t speak the language, however, that soon subsided as every Swedish person who came up to our tent could speak better English than I! As the race location of Stockholm’s Djurgården is a little bit out of the city centre, this meant that most people wouldn’t make a trip purely to pick up the race pack, so therefore we weren’t that busy so us volunteers had plenty of time to chat amongst ourselves. Another unexpected bonus was Hanna provided a tasty vegan lunch which we ate in the sunny Maritime Museum grounds within eyeshot of the 80kg Altas Stones that confirmed the rumours were true! At the end of the shift, we quickly registered for the race and received the most badass Tough Viking black and gold T-shirts going!
The following morning, I met up with my new Spanish amigos who also volunteered the day before as we were all register so race the 11:30 wave. I felt the flu coming on for the last couple of days so wanted to get through the race reasonably quickly so I could get to my bed so I set off quite quickly and unfortunately left the other volunteers behind. That was until I came across what I thought was a little bit of mud…however, this must have been cryptonic mud as it stopped everyone dead in their tracks. Think quicksand, mixed with glue and liquid nitrogen from Terminator 2 (have a look at the people in the background in the picture below!). After scrabbling through this “mud” my shoes weighed at least 10kgs each and my hands were easily 2kg heavier than normal! I was happy to see the next obstacle was a water one as this would wash off the mud, even if it was an ice bath. The ice bath was a big container than you jumped into and then had to go under a wall causing you to be fully emerged in the nippy liquid, only to find some guy jumped over the wall you were meant to go under and landed on my head. Thankfully I don’t know how to say ‘bonehead’ in Swedish so I bit my lip, shook it off and soldiered on.
After an eventful start to the race, I got into my stride didn’t have much difficulty with the other obstacles. It was good fun to try the Ninja Steps out and Irish Table out for the first time – the dry weather definitely made these a lot easier but I’m not complaining! As I’m not a strong swimmer, Aqua Royal was a bit daunting however even if I was pretty slow, I got through it without drowning which is a good thing! The only obstacle I failed was the Sternum Checker – I’ve done this one many times in other races but even after 3 attempts I ended up doing the penalty loops. After contemplating this afterwards, I think the fact that they had logs to stand on and jump across and up, instead of jumping straight up from the ground. Next time, I’ll try going straight up!
The final obstacle “10,000 volts” was a surprise – I’ve done electroshock therapy in Tough Mudder races many times so I thought I was well prepared and was expecting a little sharp pain at the point of contact but I was wrong… I expect the amperage to be much higher as the shock was a dull, paralysing thud that you could feel travelling down through your body to the foot that was in contact with the ground. Boom!
· Work on Sternum Checker technique
· Don’t get the flu before a race!
Overall, a well organised, fun race with a good variety of obstacles (although a few more challenging ones would be a bonus) in beautiful surroundings – worth the trip and I’ll be back.
Hej dor Sverige!