There's nothing quite like news of a cold-snap to really get you ready for a race! Desptie being a cold-weather person, after the terror of the Winter Tough Guy in January I was looking forward to some slightly warmer runs! Luckily, the snow wasn't due until Sunday, but we still had a chilly and foggy start for the long drive across to Redhill.
The site was easy to find using sat nav and following the signs when we got close. It helped that I'd been here before for the Spartan Sprint last July. The marshals in the parking area were good and with free parking we were soon onsite with plenty of time to go.
We were a team of 10 mostly of friends from Salisbury and a few guys that I had met through previous Spartan races. A lot of the team were using this as their first obstacle race to prep for Tough Mudder and as always with team runs the focus was on having a laugh and getting through together.
Registration was quick and easy with a single form and timing chip. Key and bag drop facilities were available as always. We made our way to the start line for the obligatory group warm up. Unfortunately it was impossible to hear the instructor, but I never really have been one for those warm ups :-)
The race was either a 5 or 10Km race, the later being two laps. Cost was the same for either option and very good value at £25 for each team member.
We set off towards the back of the pack. There was a single start wave of ~250 runners, which was really nice when I've been used to cramming in with a few thousand people at a time. I was armed with two GoPros for this race and for some reason my head mount camera battery died on the start line :-( I've since re-tested it and it's fine, so I can only think that I'd accidentally turned it on when packing my bag. So, when the race started, I was running back to my bag and then back to catch up with the rest of the team!
Anyway the Priory Events venue is very hilly and straight away we were greeted with some lovely muddy hills. After some turns and muddy tracks, we were at the first obstacle, a ~5foot hurdle. Nice and easy and although there was some queuing, this gave chance to split the main pack up and there was very little queuing once this obstacle was out of the way.
We moved on to further hills with a plastic sheet slide down one. Great fun, but it could have done with some extra water to help you slide down a bit easier. The majority of the course was based around natural obstacles, primarily very, very muddy steep hills. This wasn't a problem for most of us after a furious ordering-spree of Inov-8 Talons and Mudclaws, we were able to breeze through these obstacles whilst others crawled, slipped and slided. It was also easier for us to help out Joe as he was on road shoes.
The rest of the run was pretty standard stuff for these mud runs now- Crawling under barbed wire in thick mud and a separate water section, a sandbag carry and 2 x tyre carries. There was a very good cargo net climb and 2 exceptionally steep, muddy hills with ropes to help you get up them.
There was also a fun "grenade" throw where you lobbed a water bottled at some army targets and yelled "Grenade" at the top of your voice. Silly stuff, but a lot of fun and a very good laugh. We moved on further to a trench maneuver and another water slide before starting a second lap.
Having 2 laps of a 5Km to make up a 10Km isn't ideal, but it actually suited this course very well. The reason for that is that there were very few areas that weren't thick mud, and on the second lap this had been chewed up very nicely and made it more boggy and thick (Not allowed to use the words mucky or sticky apparently ;-)). It was good, but the obstacles themselves could have done with a change up. This is something that last year's Super Spartan in the Midlands did very well- Lap two started by picking up a house brick which you had to carry for the entire second lap. Whilst this may sound trivial, by the end of the second lap that brick got heavy! This small change made the second lap have a whole new challenge and is something that Back 2 The Trenches could have done with.
As far as post race goes, the times were viewable on the finish line, photos went up on Facebook very quickly and within a few days the professional photos were up for sale as well. The organisers were also very good at asking for feedback on the Facebook site and have kept a good rapport with the runners commenting on there. This bodes well for the future, which I'm told are going to involve some longer runs with new obstacles. I'd be very interested in them designing a course involving the lake that they have there :-)
The best thing about Back 2 The Trenches is the value for money. It was a great day out for the team and a very good introductory race for anyone looking to get into obstacle racing. Everyone was friendly, the race was easy to find and well organised. A top day out and looking forward to the next one!