Tim Talks Toughest Ice
We’re excited to bring you a guest post today from Brocket Gear Race Team member and all time OCR legend Tim Lovett. Tim and Faye recently got the chance to travel to Sweden to compete in the world’s first OCR made entirely from snow and ice. In this post Tim explains EVERYTHING about Toughest Ice, from the moment he entered to the competition to the minute he finished.
“March 14th was just another day: Sat at work and thinking about the next race whilst trawling through the hundreds of Facebook notifications that pop up on my account. Amongst them all was a tag from Faye on the Icebug FB page, saying that she had entered us for a competition to win tickets to Toughest Ice, an obstacle course race set on a frozen river in arctic North Sweden. I thanked her and thought nothing more of it… Until the following week!
We’d won. Actually won! I’m so glad it was Faye who entered us, as I never win any competitions online. Whilst I was feeling blessed to have been picked by her from the hundreds of people she could have picked, I was more elated that Faye was able to go as I know she’d been dreaming of this event for a very long time.
My ever-considerate wife showed no objections (star!) and Faye’s work colleagues kindly helped move shifts so that she could make it to Heathrow on time. So, after a few emails back and forth to sort the kit being provided by Icebug and Skins and to get our flights sorted, we were on our way to Sweden.
We arrived at the Ice Hotel very late on the Friday night, almost midnight, but thankfully the other competition winners Martin and Lisa who we were staying with had kindly stayed up to let us into our “Hot room” cabin. Time for some rest before race day!
The race didn’t start until 12pm. We therefore had plenty of time to have a bit of a lay-in, breakfast and to squeeze into the Icebug branded Skins base layers and shoes before heading off for an interview for Icebug. Icebug also provided us with Zeal OLX studded shoes, specifically designed for these conditions.
We met fellow Brits and OCR family members who had made the journey over including Dan Hogdson, Liam Docherty, James Ruckley, Jackie Stretton, Justin Horrocks, James Lodge and James Finn. This rag-tag bunch were a real sight for sore eyes as I can’t remember the last time I went to a race and knew so few people.
The event village was great, packed with stands and two MC’s who really helped get everyone motivated. Set on the frozen river, we could see a few of the obstacles both on the river and through the Ice Hotel. It was a surreal landscape and as Faye said, it felt like we were in a film: It simply didn’t feel “real”. There was an abundance of togs around and a few drones flying around as well. We decided to go in the second wave and enjoy the experience of seeing the first wave set off. In the back of my mind I was also thinking this would be a good way of testing the ice thickness before Faye and I got out there 😉
Wandering around we could see that this event had attracted competitors from all over the world including some seriously high level athletes like Siri Englund, OCR World Champion. After watching the first wave set off, we dropped our Dryrobes at the bag drop and headed to the start line. Apprehension about how cold we would actually be due to the sun shining so righteously was playing on my mind and the urge to resort to just running in my X Racewear shorts was getting stronger. But as Icebug had kindly supplied so much kit, I stuck with it. Faye complimented her baselayers with the awesome Zero point Merino Compression socks to keep her warm and add additional compression.
We set off promptly, enjoying the atmosphere and stunning surroundings and starting to get used to running on ice. The Icebug Zeal OLX shoes that we had been given were superb: Loads of traction when I wasn’t expecting it. It was strange to be able to to grip so well on ice, and even when sprinting there was no slipping just traction and speed. Very, very impressed. This brings me on to the other strange thing about this race: Tackling man-made obstacles with metal studs. Traditionally, we’re not allowed to use these in the UK due to damage to both obstacles and other competitors. The thing that made it really odd is that it completely reverses what we are used to: Normally wet wood is difficult to grip on with OCR shoes but metal is fine. Now it was the other way around with the metal studs giving Spiderman-like grip on wood but having to be far more cautious on metal.
With the race underway, we shot off over some ice-block hurdles and on to the opening straight with some near-vertical walls and an Irish table made from a hanging log. This was the first taste of the difference with the metal studs as our more cautious approach to these proved inefficient whereas in hindsight speed and momentum would have been more appropriate.
At the end of the straight we made a sharp right and headed back to the event village with a few ice-holes to jump over and balance beams to negotiate. The sun was blazing down on us, the air was crisp and fresh and the company second-to-none. Just half a kilometre in and I knew this was going to be a very special day.
Moving back on to land we faced a crawl through snow during which I very nearly took a studded 4.5 shoe to the face, which reminded me not to get too close to Faye during the crawls. As excited as I was, I didn’t fancy returning to England without any eyes! We followed on around the outside of the Ice Hotel taking on steps and walls made of snow, a crawl into the Ice Church and back out again before climbing a cargo net/bridge and onto the ice climbing wall.
The climbing wall was carved into the side of a huge ice dome which you traversed like a bouldering wall. As your arms and feet went into the carved holes, it was easy to catch your shins which I managed to do several times. Coming around the edge of the wall was a series of ice blocks to jump from. Again, still learning to trust our shoes on this foreign surface meant that Faye and I approached cautiously but made it safely across before tackling a wall-rope climb in the snow.
Next was an obstacle that I hadn’t tackled before: A wall traverse where you weren’t allowed to touch the ground. Bridging my legs and arms between the two walls I made it about half way before falling and was ordered to return to the start. Faye took it on and flew across it, proving what I already knew about her being superb at obstacles! After removing my gloves as my hands were getting way too hot, I succeeded and took chase. A few ice block climbs and a tunnel to crawl through and we were back on the ice.
What followed was the longest running sections as we ran out into the river and back a few times taking on walls, ice crawls and a heavy log carry. There was no “light” version of the carry, but that didn’t stop Faye’s relentless pace as she threw a log almost as big as she was and continued on. As we tackled the walls, we were both clearly getting more comfortable with the metal studs as they were completed faster each time. A tricep dip walk between two blocks of ice followed and straight into a rope traverse. This was tackled with ease after previous training at Doug Spence’s Backyard Jam. He’d have been proud of our efforts
We then face some more walls and a very high Irish table. This is normally an obstacle that I’m good at, but it stumped me on my first few attempts. I found my shoes gripping in wood that they would normally slide across and therefore had to adjust my normal footing. Again, another unique challenge put forward by this course. A few more walls and log carry later and we arrived at one of the key obstacles, The Dragon’s Back.
The Dragon’s Back was somewhat unknown to me, comprising of a high-angled wall to run up with drops then more high-angled walls. We struggled to realise exactly how we were supposed to tackle this as we were on it on our own so began dropping down each vertical and re-climbing the angle walls. By the time it came apparent we were on the final wall, but enjoyed it nonetheless.
We were then onto the rig: A large swing onto a hang-tough with both rings and grip-balls. Exactly the sort of obstacle that Faye and I love and as with the wall traverse and Irish table, she embarrassed me by smashing the entire thing when I forgot about the final grip-ball. It’s fair to say that we were both buzzing with excitement after this obstacle and thoroughly enjoying the experience. We moved into the Ice Hotel itself and onto the monkey bars which I completed with ease. Faye only fell due to the competitor in front of her being far too slow :-/ She was given a short running penalty and we headed for the snow half-pipe which we flew up with ease thanks to the Icebug Zeal OLX’s awesome traction.
A few over and unders on massive ice blocks and we came around to finish the last three obstacles comprising of sloped ice-blocks to run up, the moving ice platforms and the dip in the nice refreshing water. I knew Faye was a little apprehensive on the last two but as always pulled straight through and we crossed the line to a hot drink and the most beautifully crafted medal to date. We had done it: Not the toughest of races that we have ever done but certainly the most memorable and unique experience.
Not feeling too cold considering the dip, we stopped for some photos and were invited into the open-fire heated outdoor hot tubs on the way back to the changing rooms to warm up. Sitting in the hot water was a great time to reflect on the truly amazing experience that we had both just had. Sure, we could have done it faster especially now that we were used to the grip and surfaces, but we managed to take in every aspect of this race which will stay with us forever.
After changing in the inside facilities (Which were superb!) we met up with our fellow Brits and new friends from around the course to exchange war stories. While we waited for the after party. The after party came and went with some crazy drinking and shenanigans and before we knew it we were on our way back to Kurina to our hotel ready to fly back early Sunday morning.
I’ll leave you with a few clips from my GoPro: A full video is to come. If you’ve yet to travel abroad for an obstacle course race and want to ensure it’s a special one, I can’t imagine that they come more special than this. The organisation was superb and the kit provided by the sponsors, Icebug and Skins, simply amazing.
Before I finish, two people I have to finally thank: My Ali for letting me abandon her for yet another weekend and Faye for entering me into the competition in the first place. I’m eternally in both of your debts!”
Clips from Tim’s GoPro:
Half pipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxnwVdVGApA
Home straight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si25HkvvcaI