* From: Andreas Redbeard
* Event Details
Conflict of interest statement: I am the founder and RD of my own OCR race series, and thus will be extremely picky when it comes to reviewing other races 😉 I also may be biased when it comes to reviewing other races in my own town. ENJOY!
TOUGHEST, OSLO. SEPTEMBER 6th, 2014
I think Toughest is one of the few, and maybe even the only, homegrown European race apart from Tough Guy that has gotten attention in the US. This is mainly due to very slick marketing, and some awesome signature obstacles (100 feet of gymnastics rings over water anyone?).
Pictures of awesome obstacles and the race name turned up the expectations. With the wide array of OCRs we have these days – an event named Toughest better be damned tough!
In advance, the course was announced to be 8k, featuring 45 obstacles – and taglined “the most intense obstacle race”.
Event details (parking, facilities, vendors, schwag, etc.)
Driving and parking were discouraged in advance (which is usually the case for events in Norway since public transportation will usually take you straight to the starting line, and parking lots are small), but I still drove. The parking fee was $8 – I thought it would be free, but after I parked I found no attendant actually taking cash, so it ended up being free anyways. AWESOME!
The venue was fantastic! Holmenkollen ski jump is used to hosting many international winter sports competitions, but does not have a lot of activity during the summer. However I think the owners have now realized its new potential – two weeks earlier they also hosted Color Me Rad with 6000 participants. For the final obstacle, the race organizers really exploited what was unique about this venue – more about that later.
They had a very cool automated/ recorded countdown before each heat. A deep movie trailer-ish voice counted down from 10. That was very cool.
Facilities: They had three toilet stalls for 1300 participants…nuff said.
This was the first OCR in Norway with some financial muscle. The festival area was huge, with a fantastic atmosphere. For some reason this Swedish race does all of their marketing and communication in English – I guess they think it’s really cool – so, they’d hired an American MC as well. He did a great job!
The schwag absolutely sucked. No t-shirt included. No finisher medal. One could buy a t-shirt for $40, but when you crossed the finish line all you got was a rubber wristband (think LiveStrong).
* Race Details
The course featured some really cool obstacles. The gymnastics rings obstacle is always great – and at this race it was placed so your hands were dry when you reached it – so little chance of slipping off.
There was a trapeze obstacle that was cool, but if you didn’t know the technique you had to use to complete it, it was very difficult. I got halfway, but with not enough momentum, so I was just left hanging there – with no way to reach the next bar. (Secret technique: same as on the gymnastics rings – do not let go of the first ring when you get your hands on the next one, but rather, use the first ring to pull yourself back a little bit to gain some momentum before letting of it).
There were two very cool rope swing obstacles. One where you had to swing from a small hill up to the top of a scaffold (safety measure on this was horrible – more on that below), and another rope swing from a scaffold and into a small lake. Just like going to the cabin!
Monkeybars XXL looked extremely cool in a video posted online. These were 35 meters (115 feet) long, suspended above a small lake. But, they were made from aluminum ladders with extremely thin steps, so the “bars” were a bit painful to hang from. The whole obstacle was very unstable too. There were only two lanes, and they could only hold 5 people at a time, so a huge line formed. The unstableness lead to people falling off that wouldn’t have if these were real monkey bars. Because of the huge lines, many people opted for the 3 minute penalty of failing the obstacle instead of even trying it.
Difficulty: I’d say it equaled a Spartan Sprint, but with a couple of bigger and more impressive obstacles.
There were a lot of missing obstacles. Several obstacles were drawn on the map, but were simply not featured on the course. Take out the missing obstacles, and you’re left with 39. Many of these 39 were repeated throughout the course, and series of over-under were counted as 8 obstacles and not one. So – count those series as two instead of 16 and you’re down to 23 obstacles on an 8k – pretty standard. Some of the obstacles also looked way bigger and more impressive in the graphics than in real life.
There were no Berlin Walls. Not one! The over-under obstacles were steel scaffolding with banners on them.
Zero mud. It was more an urban obstacle race – but the marketing campaign had promised that it was time for Oslo to get muddy.
All the obstacles were built from steel scaffolding and aluminum ladders, which gave the race a very urban feel. I think this is only something an OCR-puritan cares about – I thought it got a bit boring after a while – over this scaffold, under the next.
From the online videos, I’d say the quarter pipe and the gymnastics rings over water are the signature Toughest obstacles. There was no quarter pipe, and the gymnastics rings were on land – and very short.
The ice tank was warmer than the natural water obstacles. Granted this was held in Norway and the water is cold here, but so is the water in Sweden – a Swedish race should not be skimping on the ice cubes. I doubt they even used ice cubes.
There was a lot of running on asphalt – I prefer rugged forest trails.
Part of the official Toughest Rules were announced over the speakers before each heat: “You can help each other out there on the course, but you don’t have to.” Lame! That is the opposite of what OCR is about.
Safety was not priority number one it seemed. The Monkeybars XXL broke. The edges of these monkeybars were not secured either. The edges being the sharp bottom legs of aluminum ladders. The whole obstacle was very unstable, and it was moving in all directions. As a participant while waiting, one could’ve gotten knocked out, or gotten a huge gash in the face, if there had been a freak accident.
Many of the larger obstacles had just thin mats as the safety measure. Rumor has it a lady broke her arm on a rope swing obstacle. This has not been confirmed, but I spoke with the medics after I finished, and they said there were certain aspects they were not happy with, but they didn’t say what.
These things are completely unacceptable. Granted, OCR is a risky sport – but one should do one’s absolute best to reduce this risk.
The safety on the water obstacles were impeccable though!
All in all – this was a good event. A couple of Berlin Walls, t-shirt and finisher medal would’ve made it great.