Having missed the inaugural Back 2 the Trenches earlier in the year I was really keen to check out this new event series for myself.
Annoyingly this weekend’s event clashed with Brutal10’s 12 hour endurance race over in Hampshire. Struggling to choose between the two, I decided that the only solution would be to fit them both in. Brutal finished at 9am so, after a bit of faff, that left Haemish and I just over an hour to drive to Redhill and get ourselves to the start line for the last wave of Back 2 the Trenches.
I wasn't in the best physical state as we warmed up for the race, but thankfully the five other members of today’s Team Mudstacle weren't up for hitting the course too hard. Even so, I still couldn't resist belting off the line and up into a narrow hilly track. I definitely wouldn't have been able to keep the pace up, but the track looked like it could be prone to congestion, so I figured I’d rather get ahead.
From the word go, the course really didn't hold back on hills and obstacles. Within the first 5 minutes, we had carried a sandbag, climbed over some wooden barriers and hay bales, then wound up and down a steep grassy hill several times before sliding down some wet tarpaulin. Even after the slalom, the course wound up some more steep narrow pathways through woodland. The hills were relentless, which was tiring enough for the fittest amongst us, but after running three lots of 10km overnight with very little sleep, it didn't take me very long to start crumbling!
Thankfully we weren't out to set any records, as a lot of the woodland paths were very narrow with very little room for passing. If you wanted to put in a good time at Back 2 the Trenches it was clear that you’d be better making your move sooner rather than later to avoid congestion in the woodland.
The obstacles continued to come thick and fast, with a good mix of carrying, climbing and crawling obstacles and a few really nice natural terrain features, like steep muddy banks and river runs.
There were a couple very different and challenging crawls under barbed wire. Normally you'd have a fair amount of room to crawl underneath a series of barbed wires, fixed tightly at a consistent height. However the barbed wire in these obstacles was much looser, making it impossible to crawl underneath without moving it up with your hands. It was very fiddly and made it quite difficult to make it through without cutting yourself up or ripping your clothes. In a way I appreciated a new challenge, but I'm not sure whether it was particularly “Health & Safety” friendly!
There were a couple of fun muddy sections, one in particular where you have to get your face right down in the mud in order to squeeze under barbed wire wrapped branches that spanned the width of the mud pit. It was definitely the best place for a photo op!
After heading back down through the hilly woodland again, we faced chest-high logs to climb over. It was made harder than it sounds because the logs were greased up with mud and water by everyone that had been before us, so I made a bit of a meal of it and ended up on my back a couple of times!
Then, there was a new one on me. We had to stand behind a line and throw a 500ml bottle of water towards a marshal. If you hit him, you got to take a bottle with you. Pretty crazy! I'm not sure I’d want to be the marshal, but hey-ho!
I soon started to hear the commotion of the event village but we had booked ourselves into the 10km option, so instead of heading towards the finish line we were ordered back around and on to the hill slalom again for another lap. This time around I really started to drag behind the rest of the group, my tiredness was definitely getting the better of me and my knees were starting to ache as Haemish and I approached our 40km mark (since the previous evening that is). We battled on though and had a great time in the process!
This time around, as we headed towards the events village we were directed over a few fire jumps and then on to a lake crossing, which was actually quite pleasant - it washed the worst of the mud away! Then all that was left was a unique electric shock feature. I'm not the biggest fan of electric shock obstacles, but this way slightly different to the norm. It took the form of a spiders web, where you could avoid shocks if you were careful not to touch the wires. I actually quite liked it (I'm sure a lot of you will be shocked to hear me say that!), it makes it more of a challenge - you get shocked if you fail, rather than just being shocked for the sake of it.
As I crossed the line I was presented with a medal, a bottle of Lucozade and a tin cup. The tin cup was an awesome idea and possibly one of the best finish-line gifts I've had, especially with the military theme. It was a big surprised to see that it wasn't branded though. Never mind, I will always think of Back 2 the Trenches when I drink from it 🙂
All in all it was a good course. I love hilly challenges and they definitely didn't scrimp on obstacles. Not all of them were the highest quality constructions but that didn't matter a great deal. In my experience, the marshaling was spot on, with a massive amount of them on course. At the end I caught up with a few people who pointed out some problems with the first wave. Apparently half of the wave headed in the wrong direction shortly after the start and had to double back on themselves. It’s definitely not ideal, especially in the competitive wave, I’d have been pretty gutted. I'm sure they’ll learn from that though and all markings and directions were fine by the time we were on course.
Back 2 the Trenches are still new to the market and I'm sure they’ll iron out any issues soon enough. They were certainly more proactive than any other organisers I've seen, in the respect of asking people if they had a good time and seeing what they'd like to see improved. It's great to see and is the kind of attitude that could lead to them building something very special.
On 19th October Back 2 the Trenches plan to return bigger and better. Their “Big Push” event will have 6km, 12km and 18km distance options. When you’re contending with those hills, I'm sure that 18km race will be a leg burner. I'm looking forward to giving it a go... and will try to get a bit more rest before hand!
Find out more about Back 2 the Trenches on: www.back2thetrenches.co.uk