A Pro’s Tips: How to Start Obstacle Course Racing
by Craig Randall (from ultimatedirection.com)
We’re excited to be working with professional runner and obstacle course racer Rea Kolbl. After finishing her graduate program at Stanford she decided to move to Boulder to pursue a pro career full time. She’s charging hard and turning heads and we’re excited to have her on our ambassador team.
In this “tips” piece, Rea breaks down OCR in five steps.
Step 1: Assess Your Strengths
OCR is a beautiful sport that encompasses so many different skills, chances are you already excel at some of them. With so many different race types currently available, you can find the one that fits your current fitness abilities well.
If you can’t run more than a mile, don’t sign up for a Spartan Beast which will take you through roughly 15 miles of running with 5000+ feet of elevation gain. A Spartan Sprint might be better to start with, or TMX that literarly involves only 1 mile of running. On the other hand, if you’re an ultrarunner, but can’t do a pull-up, then go for the longer races – you can pick between distance or time, anywhere from half marathons, 30+ mile long Spartan Ultra events, 8 hour races, or even some as long as 24 hours with the winner being the one covering the most distance. These races will give you more time to catch up after doing burpees or running those penalty miles in case you don’t make it across an obstacle.
Step 2: Sign up
Once you’ve picked your race type don’t get too boggled down with training and wait until you feel ready. There are so many things to train for it’s hard to figure out what to focus on and a race itself will actually be a great indicator on what’s missing the most in your training. Sign up, then do what you can until race day!
Step 3: Go for a jog, hang on a bar, and carry your milk home
There are some things you can start doing right away that are going to help you for whichever race you choose. Running is still the most important component of any race so if your time is limited, going for a run will give you the most bang for your buck on the race day. Since all of the courses are out on dirt trail running is great preparation. Grip strength comes in close second, also an essential component of any race. And it’s easy to start working on that – find something to hang on (playground, door frame, tree) and see how long you can go before you have to drop. Then repeat. When just hanging becomes too easy, you can add pull-ups, one arm hangs, or attached some weights to your ankles.
Strength is the third component – carrying buckets, logs, and sandbags up and down hills. While you can train for that specifically by getting yourself a bucket and filling it with rocks, you can also just do real life instead – parking your car far from the store and carrying grocery bags rather than pushing the cart, or borrowing your friend’s child and going for a hike.
Step 4: Get Some Gear
When it comes to gear, you don’t need much more than what you would bring on a trail run, but there are some things that would make your race experience much more pleasant. One big difference between an obstacle course and a run is that you will most likely get wet. There will be river crossings, dunk walls, and water pits (some even filled with ice). If the race is not in the peak of the summer, it’s likely that staying warm will be challenging without proper gear. How fast you’ll be moving depends on what kind of gear you’ll need, but something simple like a windbreaker goes a long way to help you stay warm. I also like to use gloves whenever the temperatures drop below 45 degrees, since my grip strength diminishes significantly when my hands get wet and cold. Gaiters and good quality socks are also important, otherwise wading through mud and creeks inevitably leads to collecting trail souvenirs in your shoes. A regular pair of trail running shoes will do just fine – I usually look for something with good traction and drainage to help me through those muddy, wet, and slippery sections.
OCR races rarely provide any nutrition along the course although water stations are available. Depending on how long you expect to be on the course, bringing a Ultimade Direction hydration vest with some snacks is a good idea. Expect to spend 50% more time on the course than you would on a trail run of a similar distance.
Step 5: Race, Reassess, Repeat
Have fun at the race! That’s really the most important thing and easy to do when you’re swinging through monkey bars on top of a mountain with beautiful views. Just like any other sport, there will be hard times and beautiful times during any event. But make sure to take time to notice the views, cheer on others, and just have fun. There’s something amazing about being able to roll around in the mud, and to do it competitively. Once you’re done, you can look back and see where you did great and where there is room for improvement. Then for your next race, change your training to incorporate more of those weaknesses that will eventually turn into strengths.
If you’re like me, you’ll soon find that there aren’t enough days in a year to do everything you want, and not enough weekends to race every single race and venue on your bucket list.
For more details about Ultimate Direction, click here: https://chrissports.com/collections/ultimate-direction