Following completion of the 2018 UK Challenge in the Brecon Beacons the RE Resource team were keen to better last year’s 50 place; having been told that this year they would be competing against 88 other teams, an increase from last year’s 72, including teams from CGI, AWE, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Airbus and the RAF the team knew that in itself would be a challenge.

The 2019 Challenge was the 30th edition, and for the first of seven physical, mental and strategical challenges we travelled to Caernarfon Castle in Wales on empty stomachs.   On arrival, we learnt that each challenge was to be initiated by a sprint from one team member. Kick starting it all off, Nic took on the first of many sprints with a race around the Castle.  Then we tackled the “Straight to the point” where the team had to accumulate as many points in order to purchase ‘dragons’, of which would be of advantage to us later.  In groups of three, we attempt to solve as many puzzles as possible to earn points, either by running or cycling our way to each pinpoint scattered on our maps.   Regrettably, after two hours of continually gathering points and purchasing dragons, we marginally missed the cut off for the number of dragons required for the top level!

With the first challenge done, we were then able to resort to some much-needed food.  Well nourished, we were then prepared for Challenge #2…to solve the six “CSI Caernarfon” cases.  Having done the initial sprint for this challenge, I stayed at base while four of our team were sent to retrieve clues from different rooms for to decrypt.  In the meantime, Sam was sent to the asylum, for where he was left in a dark basement, accompanied by clowns.  Not only a traumatic and harrowing scene, but one that was followed by a memory test to challenge Sam and others on how much was remembered.  Finishing just past midnight, it was only during the latter half of the challenge we realised the ‘Archive Room’ was completely missed by ourselves and so ended with a slightly disappointing result of just two out of six.

Rise and shine, breakfast at 6am we learnt our fate from the night before with the overnight positionings available we found ourselves languishing in 64th spot, however with bellies well lined we were confident that we could make up some ground. We headed to Llanberis at 07:15 at the foot of Snowdon.  We now face our first water challenge in “Out of the Ordinary”.  Following a 300m swim sprint by Rory, we tackled a four-person boat challenge in the lake.  Featuring more puzzle obstacles, the 4 of them had to make smart investments based on visuals and graphs provided, over a period of two hours and 15 minutes; Lance and I were meanwhile developing a strategy for our next five-hour challenge loosely on a board game that involves taking over kingdoms.

“Game of Tribes” was a massively physical and strategical challenge! In pairs, two pairs navigated around the lower mountain ranges of Snowdon on bikes, while the other two did so on foot.  Attacking the crazy hills with all force, we all get lost!  The challenge didn’t exactly go to plan with everyone getting lost and time taken between checkpoints being higher than we envisaged, we had to re-plan halfway through the task.

We then moved to Surf Snowdonia a purpose-built lagoon situated at the base of a large hill that James had to summit as part of the Eliminator challenge. The sprint for this stage was a surfing sprint taken on by Lance (body boarding across the length of the lagoon) before all running laps round the lagoon for “Total Recall”. This challenge sure was a test of our multi-tasking ability; we had to memorise and continually repeat, in order, a group of colours whilst continually running for two and a half hours.  Clearly not a problem for us at RE having smashed this challenge finishing 21st out of the 89 teams lifting our overall position to a lofty 41st spot.  The team didn’t get too excited however as they knew there would be teams looking to overtake them on the final day.

The penultimate challenge took part on the campus at Bangor University, I began proceedings with a sprint across a two-level sports field that saw a lot of competitors fall over – fortunately I didn’t face this undignified start to the day. A quick promotion saw me become CEO Chris, assisted by CFO Sam, for “The Pharma King”.  Acting as owners of a pharmaceutical company and employing a team of researchers (the rest of Team RE) investing and raising funds – with the aim of ultimately making as much money as possible.

With no time to spare we headed near to Betsy Coed for the final challenge “Critical Flight Path”. This was started by a sprint from Sam, followed by a 16km bike ride in the hills by myself, Rory, Lance and Nic.  Though before commencing our final challenge every team would first have to crack a riddle. Short yet cryptic, we were first to solve the riddle out of all the 89 teams and so were quick to set off on our bikes!  Sam and James would join us for an 8km run for the last stretch.  Estimating ourselves to take two hours 40 minutes for this challenge, we were not far off with a completion time of 2hour 31minutes.

The team were delighted to finish and celebrated with several finish line beverages whilst receiving T Shirts and medals for their efforts. We learnt shortly after that we finished in a very respectable 44th spot – given the size and lengthy selection process of some of our competition we couldn’t have been happier with this result.

After between 10-15 hours sleep over the previous 72 hours you may be thinking that sleep was number one on the to do list for the team – however we had other plans. Heading for the after party we enjoyed a few more drinks before I took a turn on the karaoke to sing “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – shortly after the team agreed that we should probably all go – and get some sleep!