A Lesson in Racing – OCR World Championships
This obstacle racing odyssey I am currently on started in 2010 at the very first Spartan Race since then I have been able to say I was at a lot of other firsts… World’s Toughest Mudder 2011, Spartan Beast VT 2011, Spartan World Championships 2011, Ultra Beast 2012, Survival Run 2012 – Nicaragua, and other smaller events like first Renegade Playground Challenge, Hardcore Mudd Run, Run For Your Lives, Shawnee Peak Challenge (first Ruckus event) and more. Recently I was called a fossil in the sport of OCR and another referred to me as “OG”, old guard, founder as well as some not so nice names. I am not sure what you want to call me really I was just there and saw it for more than a weekend activity before many others then started writing about it.
This past year has been a mixed bag for me transitioning a lot of my time to writing for About.com, Mud and Obstacle Magazine, Gaspari Nutrition, this site as well as other work and most recently filming, hosting and everything else with Obstacle and Adventure Weekly. Also have been fortunate enough to co-host several episodes of OCR Warrior. This on top of coaching athletes and my own training.
With all this going on this season I have been jetting from one place to another thinking race to race and hoping to get some training in while I am home between trips. As OCR World Championships approached I had thought less about my own racing and more about the interviews I wanted to capture, shots to get, etc… Just a week and a half before the event a mixture of stress from training and life caught up with me in the form of a reaccuring shoulder issue causing pain which made sleep difficult, after some emergency body work and exercises at home I was in quick recovery mode as I made my way to Ohio on Wednesday to help out prior to the race. Immediately after I got to the race venue it was action time, moving stuff around, hanging banners and doing all the little things, sorry shoulder. We worked exhaustive hours and work came first this past weekend. On Friday I was doubtful I would be able to run at all with tight muscles from my neck through my arm and into my back and sides. I had told a few on the team working I would have to forego the race and just work on Saturday but much to the urge of Brett Stewart I raced on Saturday.
The biggest lesson I have learned this year is you cannot race at full potential and film a show/work on an event at the same time something gives. I toed the line Saturday on a few hours of sleep knowing I would put forth what I had but going in with no expectations. I had bumped down from elite to age group knowing it would be the better option for me based on current fitness level and exhaustive schedule. As I stood on the line with the other 25 women in my age group 30-34 we all were ready to take on the unknown.
The cannon went off and we were on our way. The field was fairly close in the beginning mile with almost or all making it through the first set of obstacles. The first major obstacle were the monkey bars which no one wanted to fail as people watched from below. I did one of the most interesting and ugly monkey bars trying to preserve the strength I had in my shoulder for later obstacles. It was ugly! But the crowd was amazing and cheered myself and others on. A pack of us continued on and we wove through the woods and through more obstacles until we reached the sternum checker. This obstacle had me on my ass the first attempt then a second attempt I was over it and on my way.
Next up was the Platinum Rig. This rig would be the downfall of over 80% of the women’s field on Saturday. The Platinum Rig is a company from Canada which creates a unique obstacle challenging all athletes, during the weekend we saw three different configurations of the Rig. Friday they made an extra challenging set-up which had people reeling, and after nightfall adjustments were made to make the rig a surprise for race day. Unfortunately the set-up proved to be more than over 80% of the women’s competition was able to complete, with about a 30% success rate for the elite women. I only tried this one once, unlike many others, the first part was easy but holding my weight on the beam section was more than I could handle on that day. I walked over after a hard fall on my side and got my wrist band clipped. It wasn’t a hard decision, my body was the guide and for once I listened.
After I had my wristband cut I was out of the prize money contention, and the race took on a different feel for me. I soon met up with David Moore the creative director for BattleFrog as well as co-founder of Mud Run Guide’s Chris Lewis and the race for a while turned into an impromptu business meeting and state of the obstacle racing world meeting. We ran along, we chatted, we laughed and I would not fail any other obstacles all day. However, trouble hit towards the end of the race when my lack of race planning took hold and I bonked on course finding myself without a gu, gel or anything, it was all in the cottage, oops. My camera gear had taken priority over race essentials in the early morning hours. As my body started to slow, I saw stars as the landscape blurred, I did all I could to hold onto my bucket as I carried it. I knew I was in a bad place, luckily one of the other women racing closely behind me had a gel and offered it to me when I asked. I sat down at the end of bucket carry and waited for that precious gel, I told David to go on but he waited saying he didn’t care about his time anymore. I was so thankful to have someone around me, the next section was tough, I grasped to bark and fallen trees making my way up yet another steep ascent, it was humbling, and it was hard, this was before the glucose shot back into my system.
That gel revived me I was up and back running again and continued on the course. As we barreled down the slide and into the water the crowd cheered. I helped a woman from Sweden up one of the walls and she helped me, nations didn’t matter. Finished up the course with a few more obstacles including Tip of the Spear from BattleFrog a small sternum checker, another wall, and crossed the finish line to Brett Stewart announcing my name as I crossed. After penalties were incurred I would be the 4th fastest women in my age group for the day.
At the end of the day only one woman would finish cleanly through the entire course in my age group and it’s not due to a lack of strong and skilled women. The race was great, it was fair, and it was equal for all. All buckets were weighed and measured prior to the race to ensure they were uniform as well the Wreck Bags were all the same or the carries. The only thing I would have changed at least for the women’s race was the Platinum Rig, maybe next year two rigs or one lane modified for a higher rate of success for women. It was sort of disappointing to see only one from our entire age group on the podium, but we all knew the rules and it was how it shook out. The race was about the obstacles not the speed of athletes and unfortunately myself and the other women faster than me we all missed the same platinum rig obstacle.
That being said, somewhere on course the race transformed. Once my bracelet was cut it was just about the day, about celebrating OCR, and about being outside and being alive. It was the first race I had to rely on another for help when I failed to prepare properly. Would it have been great to be on a podium and claim a world title? Yes! But it really was about much more than that and by the end I had a renewed sense of OCR. I had forgotten what it was like to run, chat and just enjoy the day on the course.
After the race was over it was back to work and back behind a camera again. I loved this weekend and loved being able to share the experience online. The results are secondary and the bonds created with athletes from around the world is what was important. One of the biggest lessons I learned of the weekend was from the Euros, once the race was over, it was over for them and it was about the enjoyment of it all. I watched the Swede’s got back and shoot video of themselves doing the slide again. I watched as those from the UK enjoyed a PBR laughing about the race no matter a place finish. And I saw the Dutch, the crazy Dutch, showing us all what a good time OCR is suppose to be. Already pre-registered and ready to find races to qualify at for next years event!