We often read about the elite athletes in the sport or even for OCR World Championships the Age Group Championships. Rachelanne Gladden shares her journey at the OCR World Championships racing in the Journeywoman Division as well as with Operation Enduring Warrior on Sunday.
I went into my race schedule for 2014 having decided that it was not going to be a year about points, placement or times. This year was going to be about the experience and sharing it with others. So with most of my races having been done with amazing adaptive, blind or new-to-the-sport athletes, I was not exactly a ringer for qualifying for the Inaugural OCR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS. I had one more race on the docket to qualify for my age group and I let my little-person ego get the best of me, grabbing the “men’s” sandbag, slam ball and hoist – costing me precious time and my placing for the event.
Whoops. Those 40-44 year old women are seriously IMPRESSIVE.
However, with this being the first OCRWC ever, there was no way I was going to miss being a part of this historic event, so pride aside, I signed up under Journeyman/Journeywoman. This category allowed for anyone who is an OCR enthusiast who has done 4 or more qualifying events – no matter how you place – to join in the excitement, and race with your peers, either for your personal best, or for the pure fun of it.
I found out a few days before the race that my good friend Paul Jones from NE Spahtens would be racing in the same heat, so we decided to go at it together, having little idea as to what to expect. Christopher would be racing in the elite wave, Saturday at 8am, and mine was not until 12:50, so I had plenty of time to enjoy the fairgrounds. Generally, that would be WAY too much time to spend mulling about, but there were a couple of factors that made it not just bearable, but absolutely enjoyable:
One, if you do OCR on a fairly regular basis you begin to see many of the same faces, and get to know a lot of the people. OCRWC was like a huge family reunion. There were good friends, familiar faces and International athletes who would soon become extended members of the family. Everyone was there for a common cause and it showed. The camaraderie was palpable and the most highly-touted podium finishers chatted nervously and excitedly with age-groupers and journeymen/women. There was no “Elitism” felt anywhere – just a gathering of OCR athletes all there in the spirit of both competition and unity.
Two, the spectator area was beautifully laid out. The starting line, finish line, and about 15 obstacles (including the famed monkey bars and platinum rig) were in clear, accessible view, and you could cheer on your favorite competitor, or if you had a loved one in the race, you could walk right up to them and give them much needed encouragement and even get a brief muddy embrace. With spectators not being required to pay to be on site, the families were out in full force, and the support was felt with every athlete that came through the gauntlet.
After getting to spend a bit of time with my own loved one after he was done, Paul and I were off. This race was NO joke. It was challenging, both in the natural terrain and in both the unfamiliar obstacles, and the creative spins on the familiar ones. No burpees or body-builders if you could not complete them, you just keep trying over and over until you do, or forfeit your bracelet and take a time penalty. Like so many others, I lost my bracelet at the nefarious Platinum Rig, and admitted being walloped at three other obstacles as well. However, at NO time did I feel like I had no right to be there. Even as I laughingly threw my hands up at the “Weaver”, I was already planning revenge on it in 2015. The course was gorgeous, and at times insidious, the obstacles both tough and downright fun. It took some people under 2 hours, others over 9 hours, and on Sunday, when I joined the phenomenal group from OPERATION ENDURING WARRIOR to support the incredible Earl Granville through the course we were out there for over TEN inspiring, amazing hours. But the overall feel amongst the athletes, no matter how long it took, was that this was not only one of the best races they had ever done, but one of the most fun. I completely concur. If you are a lover of obstacle course racing, no matter if you do it for sport, competition or fun, this is THE event to have in your sights for next year.