If there’s one event that most OCR fanatics aim to compete at it’s the OCR World Championships (OCRWC). I had the opportunity to compete in the Pro wave at the 2015 OCRWC and it was an experience I’ll never forget. So when it came to the 2016 OCRWC I knew I had to return.
Earlier in 2016 I completed several events in the aim of qualifying for the competitive waves but only just missed out. So after completing four qualifying races I signed up for the Journeyman division which is for those true blue OCR fans.
The location for the 2016 OCRWC was Blue Mountain Resort outside of Toronto, Canada. The excitement kept building from the day it was announced and I was so excited to redeem myself after last year’s shocking performance out on course. The 2015 race was cold (it was -1 Celsius when we started on the Saturday morning) and involved many water obstacles and creek traverses. I left everything out on the course that day and there were many tears involved. You can read about my 2015 experience here.
I drove up from New Hampshire with my friend Laura Messner on the Thursday and we stopped for border burpees at Niagara Falls. I roped a Dutch guy into joining us for some burpees before we crossed the border into Canada. After 14 hours on the road we arrived at Blue Mountain and I was so excited.
After watching everyone in the short course championship on the Friday I instantly regretted not signing up for it. But I had a weekend full of racing so I focussed on the task at hand.
2016 was the year to redeem myself. The terrain was much more mountainous than the previous year’s and the time-cap had been shortened to five hours, but the lack of water obstacles and warmer weather meant I had a better chance at getting through.
I told myself that I’d get through the 15km race in three hours, but deep down I knew it would take longer than four based on comments made by others.
Being in the Journeyman division meant I didn’t start until 2:30pm on the Saturday. That was certainly something foreign to me as I’m used to being in one of the first heats of the day. That morning I had a late breakfast and then felt so nervous that I barely ate anything else. I downed plenty of water and grabbed my Camelbak and headed to the start line just before 2:30.
OCRWC had brought back Coach Pain to motivate us before we took on the biggest race of the year. In his speech to the Journeymen and women he told us that our problems are nowhere near as big as the problems as some of those around us and we need to be grateful for what we’ve got in our lives. As he yelled “GO!” we all took off running.
First up were some low hurdles before the course took a turn and sent up us the first of many hills. Halfway up was a ramp wall and at the top of the hill was a 6’ wall with the most incredible views. I had to take a second to take in the view before running through the trees and over to the first barbed wire crawl.
I was barely 3km in and I was feeling miserable. Despite the amazing scenery I didn’t want to be out on the course and I wanted to just go back and hang out with my friends. I had negative thoughts running through my head and with each step I regretted being out on course. At the top of the first hill I told myself to snap out of it. I wasn’t going to let the OCRWC be my first ever DNF (did not finish). I was in Canada with the best of the best and I’d earned the right to be there. I looked down at my wrist and saw my Lone Star Spartans wristband which had the words ‘Shatter Your Limitations’ on it. I realised that I was there to do just that – shatter my limitations. I wasn’t about to give up so I focussed on positive thoughts and the task at hand and kept going.
My aim for this year was to keep my band for as long as possible. I told myself to attempt each obstacle 3 times and if I failed the third time then I could give up. I climbed over the inverted walls and cargo net before heading downhill to a massive slant wall. It looked like the wall that caused me to have a breakdown at in 2015. I wasn’t going to let it defeat me so I planted my feet as I walked up the wall and successfully conquered something that previously had me in tears.
I got through Savage Race’s Pipe Dreams before clambering up and over another slant wall. It was then time to head back downhill to some mini pyramids where people could either run through (Ninja Warrior style) or traverse in a downward dog position. I chose the latter of the two and then headed to the bottom of the hill for my old nemesis – Toughest’s Dragon’s Back.
This year I knew what to expect and knew I could make the leap but I still hesitated for a few minutes on the first jump.Then I remembered a conversation I’d had on the previous day. A guy named Mark came up to me and asked if I was the person who was stuck on Dragon’s Back in 2015. I said yes and he commented that both he and his sister were inspired by my courage to make the jump and they were both fans of mine. He’d sent her a photo of the two of us the previous night and I was surprised that she even remembered my bib number from 2015!
Eventually I jumped and then tried to encourage some other girls to do the same as they were all crying out of fear. After my second jump I headed back up a hill, climbed through a hole in a wall and headed back down a hill to the Platinum Rig. As I ran down I knew I’d be saying goodbye to my band, but not before my three attempts.
My first attempt was truly abysmal. The rig was set up with a long rope first, then short rope, T bar, ring, black square bars, round bars, rings and some final bars. I got to the first ring before getting tangled in the rope and touching the floor. My second and third attempts weren’t much better so I reluctantly said bye to my band and headed to the Wreckbag carry.
The carry was 400m up then 400m down a ski slope with a 50lb (23kg) Wreckbag (sandbag). I headed up and stopped twice to catch my breath before turning and heading back down and over an 8’ wall. It was then time to climb yet another hill and run through more bush. I got over the two ladder walls and climbed under the barbed wire and cargo net before arriving at the top of the hill.
Skull Valley was waiting for us all at the top of the hill and I gave it three good attempts before giving up. The rig was set up with a ring, skulls (instead of monkey bars), ropes and more skulls. I kept sliding off the ropes so I took the time penalty and walked the 50m to the low platinum rig. I stared and wondered how tall people got through the 4’ high rig as my brain couldn’t compute. I was starting to get hungry and I needed to keep moving if I was going to make the time cut so I gave it a go and then headed off back down a hill.
I met up with some others at the weaver – a great obstacle that involves you weaving over and under square logs. I got halfway up before my calf cramped and caused me to let go. I stretched it out and almost had it cramp again as I climbed over and under more walls. Luckily the cramp subsided by the time I got to the Apocalypse ramp wall.
I watched some people get up the wall whilst others failed to grab the short grips at the top. On my first attempt I ran, grabbed the grip and my brain went “oh, they’re square” and I let go in surprise and slid back down. Laughing I gave it another go and made it up and over. I helped another girl up and together we ran along and got over another 8’ wall and another ramp wall before arriving at Conquer the Gauntlet’s Stairway to Heaven. I couldn’t get it at CTG Arkansas and I certainly wasn’t about to get it here, so after one attempt I kept plodding along.
One thing that I found amusing on course was the confusion created when I spoke in metric. At one point I was running alongside some Canadians and a few girls from the US. I was talking to the Canadians about the distance and temperature in kilometres and Celsius and the American girls had the most confused looks on their faces. One Canadian girl reminded them that they were in “the land of the metric system” and we all laughed.
I continued jogging down the hill and got past the Hercules hoist and another ramp wall before getting to the Z Traverse Wall. Normally the traverse wall is my nemesis but this time I made it through but managed to scratch myself after I almost slipped off the wall. I was starting to feel really good about myself but was also feeling tired. The sun was setting as I hopped along some logs and trudged up a small hill to the rope climb. The volunteers told me that it was all downhill after that which made me smile, but I still had more obstacles to conquer.
As I ran down the hill I knew I only had 30 minutes to finish before they pulled me off the course. I headed into the woods and walked as quickly as I could whilst trying to avoid tripping over roots in the dull light. I almost had the shit scared out of me by a squirrel but eventually I exited the woods and walked towards the last few obstacles. It was getting darker by the minute and by the time I got to the monkey bars I could only just see what I was doing. I got across successfully and then conked out at the Irish Table and Indian Walls (floating wall traverse). It’s quite difficult to do a traverse obstacle by torchlight!
As I looked into the sky I saw a huge blood moon rising behind some clouds. It was stunning and made me feel so blessed to be out on course at that exact moment. There were plenty of lights around me as I attempted an obstacle that looked like a flying fox, but with bumps in the middle. My hands were sore and my grip was fading fast causing me to fall repeatedly. I picked myself up and started my way across the Sky World obstacle before I was blindsided by a GoPro to the head. Mine had become unattached and swung into the top of my eyebrow (in the middle of my forehead) and left me in pain.
With a throbbing head I climbed the final slant wall and ran to the finish with a smile on my face. The finish line was lit up and the sky was pitch black as I crossed the finish and saw one of my friends. There were almost no spectators left but I heard my name and saw Rin (Manager, OCR Team Australia) rushing towards me and giving me a huge hug. I looked at my watch and it was 7:20pm. I made it with 10 minutes to spare! I congratulated a few other finishers who I’d run with and headed to the pub for food and a much needed beer.
I was so proud of myself for getting through, even if I had moments of negativity and didn’t push as hard on some obstacles. Running in the Journeyman division was an eye-opener and I was truly grateful to have had the chance to do so. The comradery shown on course was incredible and everyone was there to support and cheer on each other. There were some people who didn’t finish but they had given it everything they had on the tough but fun course.
*** DAY 2 ***
Day 2 was team day! I was running with my friends Chris Cow and Anne Plourde in Team SISU and I had the strength portion. Saturday night had brought rain and thunderstorms and the nice terrain had turned to mud and mush overnight. The rain continued as the pro teams headed out and we heard stories about some of the world’s best sliding down the muddy slopes during the Wreckbag carry.
We didn’t start until 10:15 and there was plenty of time to warm up as Anne headed off for the speed (running) leg of the 7km course.
Anne returned and handed the timing chip to Chris to attempt the Platinum Rig. They’d changed the configuration from the previous day and unfortunately Chris wasn’t able to get through with his band. He handed the chip to me and I headed off for the Wreckbag carry. The distance had been doubled for the team event meaning it was now 1.6km (1 mile) long. I thought that 400m up a ski slope had been tough and now I was about to do 800m.
The first 400m was easy but the second 400m had me struggling to breathe. My legs were sore from the previous day so I rested a few times but eventually made it to the top. Before heading out Laura had told me to walk on the ‘fluffy grass’ to avoid slipping so that’s all I had going through my head as I trudged up and down the hill. I managed to keep my footing, even in the muddiest sections (thanks Icebug), and got to the bottom before handing the chip back to Chris for his obstacle portion.
The three of us met back at the last slant wall and had to get over as a team. The ropes had been shortened from the previous day so we had to make a human ladder. Chris was at the bottom and Anne was on his shoulders as I climbed up both of them to the top of the wall. I then helped Anne up and a stranger helped Chris. Together we finished with huge smiles on our faces and had another awesome medal put around our necks.
The final event of the weekend was the Make-A-Wish run. I donned a USA Legendborne jersey and after a quick drink I headed out with the Legendborne guys for a fun 7km lap. One of the team members was Marie who had never done an OCR before. She spoke about how she wished she had bought the Icebugs before the race but I told her that it’s the rule to do your first OCR in the most inappropriate shoes you can find.
The mud made the hills very slippery and some obstacles difficult to do alone, but luckily there was only one major climb of the day. We approached the first downhill and it had turned from a trail into something resembling a mudslide. I slid down on my butt but some others decided that headfirst was the way to go.
We got to Dragon’s Back and I made it through the first jump but failed the second thanks to a muddy bar. Marie was worried about jumping and I stayed with her as the others ran along. After 20 minutes of coaching and encouraging she decided to skip it so we headed off to the Platinum Rig.
After getting through the last few obstacles (some with assistance) we met up with the others at the finish line and crossed as a team.
The best part of my day happened as I walked to rinse off. One guy was struggling to get up the final wall and decided to walk around. I jumped a fence and called out “no, no, no, come back!” and made him come back to the front of the wall. The finish line emcees had a running commentary going as I helped him up and over the wall. It was the last obstacle and there was no way I was going to let someone skip it!
Overall I had an absolute blast on the weekend. I learned that my attitude plays a huge part in how well I do at obstacles and I am glad that I managed to run my negative thoughts into positive ones and got through all the races. It was a weekend that will not be easily forgotten and I can’t wait to do it all again next year!
Event: OCR World Championships
Type: Obstacle Race
Distance: 14km (long course)
Location: Blue Mountain, Ontario (Canada)
Date: 14-16 October 2016