The Obstacle Course Racing World Championships

The Obstacle Course Racing World Championships

AKA The Road to The OCRWC Part 5: Race Day!

OCRWC
 
The weekend for taking on the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships (OCRWC) in Ohio was finally here. I say finally, but it came round insanely fast – a big race weekend has a way of making me feel like no matter how much preparation and training has been put in, it wasn’t nearly enough.
Was that the case or was it all in my head? Read on dear viewer/reader (although you read this by viewing it) and find out!

 

OCRWC
Huge!

Without going into too much detail about travelling etc which went off pretty much without a hitch (we were very worried about losing our bags on the transfer flight), Chloe and I met up with Alex and Dita, and arriving at our hotel it appeared every UK racer was staying in the same place! Nice to be surrounded by good people for supporting each other etc.

On the Friday we went to the race village to register ourselves, pick up goody bags, and most importantly – play on some obstacles.

After seeing pictures of some of these intimidating structures all year it was great to see them up close and be even more intimidated by them. It was already clear as we drove down deep into a valley how hilly the course would be – and seeing a selection of the obstacles up close built adrenaline and excitement. Playing around on them was fantastic for building confidence – but it was hard not to overdo it as we would all need as much energy as possible left for the race. Nevertheless we all played, played, and played some more! We don’t have these obstacles in the UK so need to take full advantage!

OCRWC Dragon's Back

Dragon’s Back

Friday evening we spent driving to a group dinner with MIT Tough Team – an international OCR team – except we missed the dinner, so instead caught up with friends, ate some cake, then went and had a later dinner. Perfect pre-race prep.
 
My leg had been feeling quite painful on and off for the last few weeks, getting some sharp pain on the inside of my left ankle and up my left calf. It hurt a lot throughout Friday and had me very worried. I taped it in various ways, stretched it, and dipped it in the pool, jacuzzi, pool again etc all with the hopes of easing it off. I slept in calf compression sleeves too just to try anything!!

Race Day

OCRWC

 
The most noticeable thing about race day morning was that it was bloody cold. After a lovely Friday, the temperature had dropped to about -1 degrees Celsius. It was horrendous being up so early after all the travelling etc but knowing that I wasn’t racing until 11am meant there was no rush.
 
The Elite Wave went off at around 8am – it was just awesome to watch some of these guys race each other, Jon Albon (2014 World Champ), Conor Hancock (The British Bulldog), Ryan Atkins (I definitely would), Junyong Pak, Hobie Call, the list goes on. By the time they came back around to where we were waiting, Jon had built up a huge lead which he maintained for the rest of the course. Finishing in about 1 1/2 hours to become two-time world champion he made it look easy and never seemed to be in trouble. Honestly it disgusts me how great an athlete he is.
 
Conor stormed his way into 4th place too which is just incredible having two UK athletes finish so strongly.
 
jonconor
Jon Conor (not the Terminator character)
We watched the women finish too and they were equally as awesome coming over the line so strongly, I was watching Karin Karlsson, an amazing Swedish athlete & MIT Tough Team runner take on the final obstacle (before coming in 4th – quality) when it was time for me to get ready to go.

MY RACE!

Thankfully it had warmed up a bit and it felt like perfect running conditions. I made sure I warmed up and loosed up as thoroughly as possible, using my resistance band to target my glutes, ensuring my arms were ready for the ridiculous things they were about to do etc, and as I was doing so, I realised that I felt no pain in my left leg whatsoever, I could spring off it and land on it without any discomfort. This fired me up even more to put all I could into the race, and before I even knew it – we were off.
 
The course took us immediately up and around some hilly trails, I went off at what I felt like was a good pace and found myself with the few at the front. Weirdly it was around here as I was pushing strongly up some hills that some nerves must have started kicking in, coming down the hills I felt a bit of jelly legs and worried I might wobble a bit! I held it together though and got to the bag carry feeling comfortable.
 
Carrying this heavy bag up the hill also felt like no problem, taking it under and over obstacles – dropping it made me feel so light that I shot off happy as can be!
 
Bag carry OCRWC
Bag carry (from Sunday)
We had one or two more obstacles to face before we arrived at a long running stretch along a river bank. Unfortunately here a couple of people in front of me got confused about where the course marker were taking us and ended up coming up off the course onto a road. A lot of people caught us up and when we figured that we were supposed to stay along the bank or in the river, a great deal of people had run up the road to the next point while we were trudging through the river.
 
In the confusion and back & forth here I lost a lot of time and probably around 10 places. I was annoyed but vowed not to make any excuses, so pushed as much as I could here to start making the places up again.
 
monkey bars
Jamie and Nick on the mental monkey bars (not official obstacle name)
Back to the event village area, I took on the Dragon’s Back, Destroyer, and various walls with ease thanks to yesterday’s practice. The monkey bars were tougher to climb than I anticipated and I used a technique similar to the picture above to save my grip strength. We faced the Sternum Checker (basically a leap to try to get over a high log) shortly afterwards which knocked me down but luckily didn’t get hurt (this apparently took out a lot of people) and kept running feeling great!
 
OCRWC Rig
 
About 4 miles into the course (only 4 miles!) we faced the dreaded Platinum Rig – a cage structure full of rings, square bars, poles etc to really challenge your grip strength and almost needs a bloody map to plan your route across.
 
I got myself across comfortably but just missed the last ring, and in trying to regain momentum to catch it I left myself dangling for far too long on one arm. This proved to be my undoing as when I eventually dropped and retried from the beginning my forearms had swelled and were getting weaker and weaker. We had seen people standing here for over an hour retying earlier and even dropping out from hypothermia.
 
I took five attempts and got to a point where I couldn’t hold onto anything so had to admit that it wasn’t going to happen and submit my wristband to the marshal, I was truly gutted to lose it of course, but I couldn’t wait there for hours, my arms had swollen and they just weren’t recovering – I was psyching myself out.

OCWRC Rig

At the next rig, staring in disbelief at my own arms

I had lost a lot of time here again and watched a lot of people go past me, but was determined to make up as much of that as physically possible despite losing my wristband, even having to accept a penalty when we hit another rig in what felt like no time at all. My arms would just not hold onto anything.
 
All I could do from here was run my tits off. So that’s what I did – to make up all the time I had lost I pushed and pushed. We had to tackle immense hills, being tasked with sometimes crawling, sometimes running up (or down) them, there was a huge traverse wire balance over a big ravine, there were bucket carries and just about anything that could be thrown at us.
 
It was when we were running through a rocky river bed, clambering over & under logs that cramp suddenly struck – it was the sharpest pain I’ve ever felt hit my left hamstring right where I had cramped up during Ram Run all those weeks ago (see The Road to The OCRWC Part 1) and slowed my movements significantly – trying to stretch it off when it threatened to really emerge. A passing American runner noticed that I was trying to ward off cramp and after speaking to her for a bit, offered me a packet of mustard.
 
I assumed she was joking or there was some kind of translation issue or something, but she genuinely handed me a packet of mustard. After making 100% sure she wasn’t taking the piss out of me, I took the mustard like an energy gel and felt immediately better. That is not an exaggeration, I felt immediately better. My legs felt incredible again and I ran as fast as I physically could.
 
I don’t know who this lady is but am eternally grateful that she was there and offered that weird gesture to me. I spent a lot of time wracking my brain trying to figure why it worked – what was in the mustard? Was it the fact that I became too confused to realise I had cramp? Turns out it could be something to do with the acetic acid helping the muscles. Whatever it is, I was pretty chuffed.
 
OCRWC
Chloe tackling Pinnacle Hill
Towards the end of the race, hit upside-down rope traverses, rope climbs, and of course ‘Pinnacle Hill’ – an insanely steep hill requiring the use of ropes to pull ourselves up – I was delighted that my arms seemed to be playing ball again and I got across all of these no problem & feeling strong. Immediately afterwards came the slide – ridiculously long & taking up ridiculously fast down into a muddy pit below, awesome stuff even if I did have a head full of muddy water for the rest of the day.
 
There were another series of walls etc to get through before the final epic obstacle – ‘Skull Valley’, essentially some rock climbing grip holds, a cargo net to get underneath without touching the floor, a rope swing, ending with a cargo net-monkey bar type of situation.
 
I got across the skulls and underneath the net happily enough, but my forearms were really suffering and I had to use every little bit of energy left in them to carry myself across.
 
OCRWC
 
A short run up a half-pipe and down the cargo net the other side brought us to the end. Finishing was an indescribable experience, getting that medal, knowing everything I’ve just taken on, knowing this was a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP race in my chosen sport, knowing that I failed an obstacle and lost my wristband, knowing that I put all I had into it, gutted it was all over but so relieved at the same time. I can’t remember the last time I felt like that after a race – broken but elated.
 
OCRWC Medal
 
As of writing this I don’t know yet where I finished in my age category, overall, or anything. It took me around 2 1/2 hours which suits me just fine!
 
Kit Choice:
 
Shoes: VJ Sports Irocks
Socks: Darn Tough lightweight socks
Legs: Subsports elite RX men’s compression tights
Upper: Subsports short-sleeved compression top
Upper: Team UK t-shirt
 

Sunday…

Still reading? Good, because I’m still typing.
 
Saturday afternoon/evening was of course spent talking about nothing but the course, who kept their bands.who didn’t etc and who was still up for the team event Sunday. A lot of aches, pains, and injuries came about.
 
Chloe damaged herself on the course with what was a suspected broken rib or torn abdominal muscle (turned out to be a strained intercostal – obviously made worse by what is was being put through on the day). With that she still pulled herself up pinnacle hill, down the slide and attempted as much as she physically could. Needless to say she wasn’t up for it Sunday…
 
It was -2 degrees on Sunday when we arrived at the frosty course stupidly early. We watched the Elite men & women team go again before it was our turn. My shoulder felt awful, forearms still swollen, incredibly tired and incredibly cold, but as soon as it was warm-up time the adrenaline pumped and was so up for it you could almost see it through my tights.
 
ocrwc mit
Almost…

Myself, Jamie Burke and Alex Loudon made a team. It was a relay format with Alex taking the running section, Jamie taking obstacle technique, and me taking strength. Alex was quick on the running as usual, Jamie beasted the Platinum Rig and any other obstacles he faced, while I like to think I made short work of the bag carry, feeling strong despite what my body was put through yesterday.

We each had two sections, my second part contained the bucket carry again, a rope climb out of a water pit, hoisting two heavy bags up a pulley, then pinnacle hill again. I felt like I took them well enough, the hill I felt especially quick on, although I could feel my forearms telling me to piss off by this point.

ocrwc slide

I got myself down the slide again, holding onto the team timing chip for dear life and met up with Jamie and Alex for the final stretch. I was wet and slippery (oooer) so they hit the 12 foot wall first and I basically climbed up them, all other walls no problem, and skull valley was crowded but fine too. I could still feel my arms in pain but there was no sign of giving in. We reached the final obstacle with another group from MIT Tough Team and completed it all together.

We all ran up the half pipe, threw ourselves down the cargo net and finished as one big team. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a race in such a great way and to do it like that with these guys was just brilliant.

ocrwc finish MIT
 

All in all, it was just an unbelievable weekend. Of course it was. We got to see the best of the best in our sport competing at the top level on an unforgiving course, then take that course on ourselves to see how we fared up against the world champion (poorly).

All of this was made possible because of my workplace, the Cheltenham Park Hotel, offering to support me enough that is made the trip a possibility – without them stepping in it just wasn’t something that myself and Chloe would realistically have been able to do while we are saving up for a wedding.
 
I’m hugely grateful to them for providing the opportunity here and will (hopefully) continue to do them proud at future events. I also need to give a massive thanks to Laura Winter for setting up the initial newspaper article that set all of this in motion! It’s awesome to know that I have great people behind me, cheering on every mediocre performance I put in!
 
Let me end this by saying that I flipping love obstacle racing, whether taking it up to this level or throwing myself around a field in the UK, this sport is just so much fun and the people I know through it are awesome too. I’m the luckiest person in the world to have not only a friendship group that spreads around the UK (and the world!) but a fiance to share this bizarre hobby that we all enjoy so much.
 
That’s enough of that then. On to the next race!
 
ocrwc hug
Oh yeah, I cut my head too and don’t remember how I did it.
 

 
Did you know yet that I was sponsored by the Cheltenham Park Hotel to attend the OCR World Championships? No? Well you do now! Read the first part of The Road to the OCRWC now if you haven’t already!
 
Written by me: Keith Fairburn

Personal Trainer, Sports Therapist, S&C Coach.

Ninja Warrior Semi-Finalist, Obstacle Racer, Salming Running Ambassador.

If you have any questions about anything I’ve written in this post or want to get in touch, contact me.

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