Adam vs the Mountain
Updated: Jan 8
Being in the midsts of race season, it seems appropriate to share the tale of my very first OCR (Obstacle Course Race) event.
It all started about two months ago when my wife told me that a group of people we knew were doing a Spartan race as a team and she wanted to do it. I said “Meh” as I usually do, then thought about it, and said I would do it as well. My wife’s plan was to do the shorter Sunday race on a team. I, of course, wanted to do the longer Saturday race. Why not, I only had a 70.3 two weeks later.
My start was 12:30pm, which for most endurance athletes might seem a little strange. But for me it brought back memories of my road cycling days when my start times were late morning at the earliest. Good ole nostalgia. The oddest thing about the entire OCR experience was the breakfast at the hotel before the race. I have been doing triathlon, nearly exclusively, for just about a decade now and have been to many a hotel breakfast pre/post IRONMAN. This breakfast was just weird. The whole semi-nervous / semi-excited atmosphere was there, but just a little different. It felt like a Twilight Zone episode, everything was the same but different.
Cut to the drive to the race venue. The race was at a ski resort in Utah, so the drive was quite pleasant and scenic. I could not help but think how fun it would be to ride my bike up the road to the resort. The drive was going great, until I made it to 2 miles to the venue. This is where traffic stopped and I had to park on the side of the road. From there, I got the opportunity to get a surprise 2 mile jog for a warm up. Not the greatest situation, but it is what it is.
Now it is time for the race. I have done my fair share of corral start races, but none like this. I, and everyone else going the race, had to climb over a wall to get into the corral. That is when I thought “what did I sign up for.” The race starts with a nice little trail run to some walls to climb over, a little more running, then some monkey bars. Me being me (if you have or heard any of my previous race stories), I have not touched a monkey bar in my adult life, nor do I remember ever playing on monkey bars as a child. I made it to the second to last bar when I stalled out. As I dangled there, someone yelled “you need momentum”. I fully agreed, but dangling with a lack momentum, I made a last ditch effort to reach for the last bar, missed it, fell, and did 30 burpees.
Hang in there big guy
Next was a short run to a sandbag carry up and down an impressive slope. Luckily, I am built for simply manual labor and the carry was not that bad. Next was another run, or slow walk in my case, up a ski slope. Half way up was a crawl under some barbed wire and then a couple more walls to climb over. Now I come to the vertical cargo net. Not bad on paper, but in reality there is a landing one has to climb onto to get to the cargo net. I attempted to fling myself on that landing a few times (looking like the “hang in there” cat poster), until a very generous fellow competitor participant gave me a boost and helped me over. After that, everything starts to run together in my memory, I know there were several dangling style obstacles with some little runs in between. The only thing I know for sure is that I did another 120 Burpees (150 in total).
The far side of the course was by far my favorite - just trail running. The beauty of the course, in my opinion, was the fact that a shorter race was scheduled for the next day so most of the obstacles were situated in the first and last quarters of the course. However, my respite from the obstacles was short lived. The first obstacle after regaining some confidence in my athletic ability completely erased all of that. The obstacle was a wall with a rope to help climb up. I have already proven to myself earlier in the day that I can climb a wall, and I know I can climb a rope, but put those 2 things together and I am completely useless. I must have attempted to climb that wall 5 times before a couple very kind people took pity on me. It took one person pushing me from the bottom and another pulling me from the top to get me on top of that wall. I made it and continued on my way.
I knew what obstacles were on the course, and prepared as much (maybe not quite as much) as possible considering the other races I did this season. But there was one thing that completely blindsided me during that race - downhill running. Most of my running I do is on the trail here in Colorado, just not down black diamond ski runs. It blew my mind, the second half of the course was all descending in a few super steep chunks.
I finally made it to the last few obstacles. The Atlas carry followed by the bucket carry went well for me. The spear throw gave me my final 30 Burpees, bringing the grand total to 185 (for those keeping track the Atlas carry includes 5 burpees). I climbed another cargo net over and A-frame, hoisted a weight, swam under a wall, then climbed over a slick wall to make it to the finish line.
All in all it was a fun day and not at all what I expected. I expected it to feel like a 70.3 or a half marathon, but it did not. The obstacles break up the race in convenient little digestible pieces. I would say if you have an interest in doing an OCR event, go for it.