Considering your first OCR?

So, you’re thinking about doing your first race, but you’re nervous about hitting the big “register now” button.

First OCR Warrior Dash

 

Guess what – I’m willing to bet that at least 90% of people who are interested in obstacle racing today sat exactly where you are sitting right now, including the pros. Yes, 90%. I’m not over exaggerating.

You’re probably asking yourself questions like, “what if I’m not ready?” or “what if I’m not good enough,” or *gasp* the worst of all, “what if I embarrass myself?”

I’d like to take a moment to address those questions.

What if I’m not ready?

Let me answer this question the hard way: you’re probably not. None of us REALLY are, and that’s part of the fun!

The thing with obstacle racing is that there are so many different components to it. There’s running, hiking, throwing, heavy carries, coordination, crawling, jumping, throwing, balance, sometimes swimming…and well, you get the picture. There’s a LOT.

It doesn’t matter what your athletic background is, at least one of these elements is going to humble you. You are going to look at the person who is standing next to you and think to yourself, what the $*@?. It’s just a part of racing. Truth is, none of us could be considered “perfect racers.” There is always something that you can improve on. If you are telling yourself that you are going to wait to register until you feel physically ready, well, because there are so many pieces, you’re going to be waiting forever.

This multitude of elements is what makes racing so entertaining. It’s fun to take a look at some of the things that you totally suck at and work on them. Then, when you try again, you can take a step back and say “wow, I used to only be able to make 2 rungs of twister, and today I made five!” It becomes an addiction, and almost like a game of How Good Can I Get?  I’d also like to go ahead and add that it is TOTALLY OKAY to be proud of yourself for completing a race. Good vibes are encouraged!

Races can provide an awesome opportunity for you to see what you’re really made of. Not only are there things that you can do in a race that humble you, but there are going to be some opportunities for you to surprise yourself. Yep, there are things that even you, the complete newbie, are good at, you may just not know it yet. Maybe, you can’t run for shit, but you are a lady who can carry the men’s weight sand-bag carries like a champ. You go, girl! Imagine racing as an opportunity to show you where you are awesome–come on, aren’t you a little curious to find out what you’re good at?

What if I’m not good enough?

I promise you; you are good enough. The thing about obstacle racing that I’ve learned is, the value of racing has nothing to do in the race itself. Racing is about the confidence that you learn along the way.

One thing I’ve learned about obstacle racing is that, for most people, tackling the challenge often deals with overcoming obstacles that are off the course. More often than not, you can listen to people tell you stories of how racing has helped them accomplish things that they have never imagined. I’ve talked to several people about how racing has helped them understand that they are better than their depression. I’ve heard how people say it’s made them feel strong enough to get out of abusive relationships. For some, they may have less serious things, like running OCR has made them feel “less bored with fitness.” Some people want a challenge, and you better believe they get that. Personally, running obstacle races has helped me have a better understanding of myself. It’s helped me come to terms with who I am as a person, it’s helped me gain the confidence I needed to say when I made a mistake, and it’s helped me gain the confidence of acknowledging when I am good at something.

Because of this trend of people-overcoming-personal-obstacle-racers, I’ve also noticed that everyone at races is SUPER friendly. Just like everything, there are exceptions, but people show up to support each other. People may offer you tips and tricks, or hey, even let you join their group. Racing often means traveling, and traveling can become opportunities to spend time with other people similar to yourself. I’ve met some of my best friends racing. It’s very exciting to listen to everyone’s stories–there are some pretty interesting people out there!

First OCR Warrior Dash 2

 

I know what you’re thinking, and sure, there’s the physical piece of it, too. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been watching a lot of SPARTAN: Ultimate Team Challenge or other shows that just feature the elites. You know what, sure, there are several people that appear to be god-tier athletes. But most people aren’t like that. I would never try to sit here and tell you that those people don’t exist, because they most certainly do, but that should not be your determining fear factor. Most of the people who come out to races are those who are looking for a challenge, or they are looking for a unique experience. But, OCR is meant to be more mentally challenging than physical. It’s meant to make you feel good, not make you feel like you can’t accomplish something. Not to mention, most bigger OCRs have some sort of “opt out” option–whether it’s burpees, a penalty loop, a lost wristband, whatever. Some race series (I’m looking at you, Terrain) don’t even care if you walk past an obstacle, as long as you are not in a more competitive wave!

 

What if I embarrass myself?

Ready for another blunt, disappointing answer?

Nobody. Gives. A. Fuck.

Really, they don’t.

 

The thing is, OCR is about building confidence. With an event that attempts to build up your confidence and character, the people try to build you up, too. With that being said, as long as you try, you really shouldn’t be embarrassed. People you’ve never met before will sit there and cheer for you when you accomplish things. If you show fear, they’ll cheer you on. If you show excitement, they will cheer louder. Volunteers will dance with you and even help you get over certain obstacles, if allowed. You will see smiles all throughout. You will be encouraged. You will be pushed and held to high standards. Why? Because the people who are out there will believe in you. It doesn’t matter if they’re your friend, someone you’ve never seen before, or someone you will never see again. Everyone believes in you. If you’re surrounded by people who believe in you and want to help you, could you really be embarrassed?

 

So, Sarah, what do YOU think it takes to be ready?

I guess I’ve told you that you’re both ready and not ready for your first race. I stand by both of those comments. Physically, there is a challenge and truthfully, there is not benchmark you must hit before you get started. You’ll have areas you’ll excel, and you’ll have areas where you are weak. Everyone does, and quite frankly, if you wait until you’re ready, you’re probably going to be waiting forever. So don’t wait, go ahead and register; use your first race as a benchmark! Mentally, if you are willing to take on the challenge, then you are absolutely ready. There isn’t as much pressure to be a total beast as you may think; especially not if you are a first-timer.

Truth is, your first race is going to be uncomfortable. It’s probably going to humble you in at least one area, but, it will also give you a sense of accomplishment that doesn’t compare to anything else. If you’re willing to take on the challenge, you are going to be great. You’re going to meet some amazing people who believe in you. You won’t find a more uplifting community. So, please join us. On behalf of the OCR community, know that you are welcome to join us, and we are cheering for you!

One Woman Overcomes Anxiety Through OCR Thanks to Instagram Contest

My story doesn’t have any shocking before and after pictures, but my transformation is just as real.

In 2016, out of nowhere, my sister asked me to do the Sun Peaks Spartan Sprint with her, without even considering it I told her “I can’t.” I had a long list of seemingly reasonable excuses; it’s too expensive, it’s too far to travel, I can’t run, etc., but the truth was, I was too scared and lacked all confidence to even sign up.

A month later at Thanksgiving she tells me that 2017 is going to be her “big year” she wants to be the healthiest she’s ever been, this happened to also be the year she turned 40, and instead of a loud girls weekend in Vegas like I was hoping for she tells me she’s doing Tough Mudder and getting her Spartan Trifecta … Shit! She’s my closest friend and we do everything together, no one else is going to do this alongside her and I sure as hell won’t be letting her celebrate “40 and fit” on her own, so now I had to put my own insecurities aside and support her … maybe she’ll forget?

Fast forward to Christmas, we both get Tough Mudder tickets, no big deal, right? Tough Mudder is just a long muddy fun run, no timing chips no pressure, I can do this!

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Here’s where my entire life changes – my cousin sends me a link for her friend’s Facebook/Instagram challenge group the “OCRGUYCHALLENGE.” (Editor’s Note: OCRGuyChallenge is done by one of ORM’s favorite contributors, Glenn Hole). January 1 is the start of the “10-day Ultra” Challenge, each participant is required to run 5km per day for 10 days. I get all psyched up and tell myself I hate running, therefore, I must run… I miss the first day! Alright, day 2 here we go, I get to the gym, I hop on the treadmill which I haven’t done in years and get going before I knew it, I had run 5K! It was awful and I tried to talk myself out of it more than once, but I finished. Day 3 – I had to make up for missing Day 1 still so I ended up doing 5K in the morning then another 5K on my lunch break, the thrill from these runs and the sense of accomplishment I felt still motivate me over a year later, I went from “I can’t run/I’m not a runner” to running 5K every day for 10 days. I was hooked, I followed everything the OCRGUY posted and all the members of the group, they were so incredibly inspiring and motivating and FIT. I felt silly posting my times, I was too embarrassed because it seemed like they were all elite athletes, but then I mustered up the courage and posted, and all I got was an outpouring of support and congrats, I felt like I was truly part of a community that cared.

Next came the “OCRApocalypse” challenge and the lovely 4 horsemen, this challenge had prizes! Second place was compression socks and I knew I was going to need those for Tough Mudder so I thought I would give it a go.  I did the challenge, the workouts were intense and completely foreign to me but I had a bunch of personal bests and ventured far out of my comfort zone which got me a  lot of weird looks at the gym. On the day of the prize draw I woke up and checked my phone, I was really excited about those compression socks! Sure enough, OCRGUYCHALLENGE had tagged me in the post! Then before I even read it panic sets in, my heart starts racing, I had completely forgotten about the first place prize, a ticket to X Warrior Challenge, what had I done?! I told myself, “there’s no way I could have won that prize, that prize would surely go to someone in better shape, an actual athlete!” I clicked the link and there it was “First place prize, Candice Llewellyn-McKnight!”

I put my phone down and tried not to throw up, now I’m thrown into one of the biggest panic attacks I have ever had, “I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I’m too out of shape. What the heck is X Warrior Challenge?!” I put on a brave face and leave my obligatory “thanks so much” message on the Facebook feed and spend the next few hours trying to calm down.

Here’s where I tell you a bit about my past: I have spent the last 15 years battling a crippling anxiety disorder, I’ve tried different medications, read all the books and seen my fair share of counselors/therapists/psychiatrists. Over the years of re-training my way of thinking I discovered that exercise truly is the #1 medication for anxiety. I developed a pretty good routine. I would wake up at 4:30 am, head to the gym for my standard “3 reps of 12” workout and the occasional spin class then off to work. I loved this routine, it kept me “sane,” until now…

The thing with chronic anxiety is you live in a constant state of self-doubt, everyone is better than you at everything so there’s no point even trying. Why would I ever enter a race, I’m just going to embarrass myself! Well, now I had a race, and my sister wasn’t going to be there holding my hand and saying “it’s ok if we take it slow.” I had a ticket with my name on it, what was I going to do? I spent that day drafting my “thanks, but no thanks” email to the OCRGUY.

After some time I calmed my brain and thought rationally. Overcoming anxiety is about testing your limits, getting out of your comfort zone, and persevering. What better way to do that then to do this race? I told myself there are specialized gyms in the area, I had been to cor.fit with my sister before to check it out, I will just have to start going there more. I went online and registered for Sunday Bootcamp. I was so nervous that morning, I sat in my car in the parking lot convincing myself to get out and go to the class. I walked in the door and everywhere I looked were people completely shredded and climbing walls with holes in them using only sticks (pegboard).

Here comes the panic again, I note the nearest garbage can and check out the exit “I can’t do this, they’re all machines, this was a mistake” then it was time for class to begin, it was hard, one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever had, but in the end I couldn’t believe I had done it. I showed up to a class by myself, where we had to work as a team and I had to interact with these “people,” and as the class went on I realized that they were actually normal people and incredibly supportive at that! I kept apologizing for slowing my team down. I remember thinking “I thought I was in shape!” but I learned that day that yes, I was healthy but I was not in OCR shape! I went to a couple more classes and I remember getting to the top of the 12 foot inverted wall for the first time and having a full-blown panic attack. I was shaking and on the verge of crying; I took a deep breath and the coach talked me through how to swing my body around and lower myself to the ground. It was the most incredible feeling to overcome not only the attack but also the wall! This may sound cliché but it was this moment that I knew that by simply trying, I could do anything! That’s when I dropped “I can’t.”

In one of my first couple of boot camps, I remember standing, waiting for class to start and this girl walked in, it was obviously her first day, she looked like I did on my first day! I walked up and introduced myself to her and we’ve been workout buddies since. That day she signed up to run X Warrior with me! I had never met someone so spontaneous, she’s completely inspired me to take on new challenges with confidence. She’s encouraged, pushed, and supported me through every race this year. If I hadn’t shown up to those boot camps I would have missed out on this amazing friendship.

"X-Warrior-Challenge-Stadium-Sprint""X-Warrior-Challenge-Stadium-Sprint-start-line-with-Coach-Pain"

 

Since getting involved with obstacle course racing I have learned so many things about myself and my capabilities that I would never have experienced had I have not won that challenge. At the starting line for X Warrior Challenge, squatting and listening to Coach Pain basically wash my anxiety away and replace it with sheer adrenaline and excitement literally brought me to tears. Not only was this happening but I was going to crush it! I ran the race, nailed the rope climb (which was another panic-inducing obstacle for me in training), then was faced with the X Dragon. That’s when I had my first face to face with my grit, I ran up and fell, I kept running up that first incline and sliding down on my forearms over and over, the volunteers tried to direct me to the burpee zone, but I was relentless. I ran at it again and made it up, once up there the panic set in, I was going to have to literally take a leap of faith and trust my body to grab the bar on the other side, and guess what? I did it!

The 2017 race season has completely transformed my way of thinking, to anyone who suffers from anxiety I can’t recommend Obstacle Course Racing enough, the sense of accomplishment once you overcome physical obstacles makes the mental obstacles that much more manageable. My anxiety is all but gone, I slew Tough Mudder and finished my Trifecta, and cannot wait to see how much stronger I am in the 2018 race season.

This is my thank you to the sport of obstacle course racing and the Alberta OCR community. OCRGUYCHALLENGE was the first to push me out of my comfort zone, X Warrior Challenge forced me to face my fears, and the amazing coaches at cor.fit have taught me my true strength by throwing me at obstacles with no time to over think about what I’m actually doing.

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Finding Your True Self Through OCR

Background

Brittney Bagley grew up in a genetically blessed family on a ranch in Florida and had an active lifestyle running track, dancing, and playing soccer and volleyball. But when she was forced to quit the Air Force ROTC in her junior year of college due to health issues, her poster-worthy lifestyle started on a downward spiral of making poor decisions. She started embracing a college life of drinking heavily and eating poorly, which made her reassess where she wanted to be.

“I’m one of four children in my family, one of whom is a twin sister to me. Being so close in age and appearance to my sisters, I’ve always found it hard to find my own identity. That, combined with a string of very unfortunate losses, made me venture out to see what the rest of the world offered,” Brittney shared.

College-Brittney

Brittney’s Travels

At 22 years old, and in her last semester of college, she moved to Alaska for a summer job working at a rafting company. For the next few years, she focused all of her time on traveling and jumping from seasonal job to seasonal job. This lifestyle laid claim to residencies in Alaska, Utah, Colorado, Florida, and even Nicaragua for a short time.

“I remember the first time I ever heard of or saw an obstacle course race was while working a promotion at a Tough Mudder in Colorado. I fell in love instantly but never would have imagined I’d be participating myself one day,” she said.

Heading back to Florida in 2014, she realized that she still wasn’t in a place she wanted to be, and hit rock-bottom finding herself in a destructive relationship and a desk-job she didn’t enjoy.

Her Turning Point

Brittney said, “When I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at me, I knew it was time to make a change. I had become this lazy person who made excuses, and I had always hated that person. I was known for seeking adventure and tackling seemingly impossible challenges, but I had somehow become this watered-down version of myself. All of my decisions were made based on someone else, and their happiness, and I knew it was time to seek my own happiness”.

She started out with a goal to complete a few 5km races and then was looking for something more to challenge herself. Tough Mudder was coming to her area for the first time so Brittney signed up and convinced a few of her friends to join her. She started running every day after work and even bought lights to put on her sneakers so she couldn’t use the dark as an excuse. In March of 2015, she ran and finished her first Tough Mudder, with her brother and dad watching on.

Brittney’s OCR Experience

“The race was hard on me and I just barely stumbled across that finish line, but it was a starting point for a whole new addiction. In 2016 I moved to Virginia and signed up for another Tough Mudder and shortly after was introduced to my first Spartan Race, and haven’t stopped running since.”

She now has a partner to train with, having met a man a year ago whom she quickly introduced to the OCR life and he found himself addicted alongside her. Together they set out and obtained a few sponsors. They have since signed up for 5 OCRs and 3 runs this season and will be celebrating their anniversary while crossing the finish line and earning their first Spartan Race trifecta in Fayetteville on September 23.

Brittney says some of her favorite things about OCR are watching weeks or months of preparation pay off and each race becoming slightly easier. But her biggest obstacle is without-a-doubt her grip strength in her left hand, having lost the use of her pinky finger 5 years ago playing on a recreation kickball league.

“The camaraderie and teamwork you find in OCRs are things that make the experience even more indescribable because everyone is there supporting one other while also working on their own obstacles.”

“I never want to be the person who wakes up and lives the same day repeatedly, hating every second of it. I always want to be better than I was the day before and I want to spend every second I’m given making memories I can be proud of,” she says.

Brittney-and-Clay

Photos: Brittney Bagley and Tough Mudder
Follow Brittney’s blog at https://thewatercolorwanderer.wordpress.com/

How Obstacle Course Racing Can Transform a Marriage

Transformation-Helmy-June-1

A couple that races together stays together and this couldn’t be truer for Helmy (46 years old) and June (39 years old) who embarked on their Spartan journey to celebrate their 15 year wedding anniversary after looking for something new to add a spark back into their marriage.

Their Story

Helmy was a cross-country runner back in school but had not exercised regularly for years resulting in an unhealthy overweight BMI reading, while June suffered a hamstring injury which took almost a year to recover from. “The thought of me being unsexy to my wife and the image of growing older with a big fat belly, extreme obesity, and a bad health condition was enough to make me do something,” Helmy said.

Making a conscious decision to find something new to do together, they discovered Spartan Race by accident as June was looking for something to make her stronger for her yoga practice.

“When we both agreed to sign up for our very first OCR, we knew we needed to be very well prepared as it’s not a walk in the park event,” June confirmed.

They soon discovered the training was no walk in a park, struggling to get through the first community session they attended. But they came back the next week after being encouraged by the trainers and challenged by the workouts. Overtime, the OCR training taught them personal endurance, upper body strength, good balance, and most importantly mental fortitude. Now they both attend multiple sessions a week and have even picked up running together.

Knowing how tough Spartan Race is as a beginner, the most memorable moment for them both was running side by side overcoming the obstacles together in their first race in Singapore, likening it to the challenges that they both had in their marriage journey.

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Transformation

Helmy credits June with being the biggest contributor to his transformation, from exercise down to the healthier eating approach they have both embraced. Even though the scales only show a 7lb loss, his BMI is now back in the healthy range having built muscle from all the training, and fitter now than he has ever been.

June attributes the amazing OCR community as helping her be successful. “Everyone comes from different backgrounds and shows such great passion and commitment. They have been supportive throughout our journey and we grew to be a fitness family and eventually great friends,” she says.

Both try and do a few HIIT training sessions a week, some yoga and run when they can. With more races now planned for the remainder of the year, they will increase their training closer to those dates, including traveling overseas to participate in the Spartan Beast in Sparta, Greece.

The best part of racing together? According to June, it’s the fact that they get to wear matching outfits!

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Photo Credit: Spartan Race and Couple

OCR Transformations- Azhar Razak

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

Being overweight, suffering from asthma and then surgery on a herniated disk is a lot for your body to handle. But then being told you may have a problem walking and lose feeling in one of your legs, was the breaking point to make Azhar Razak finally take serious action about his health and fitness and lose 57kg.

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Seeing the first ever Singapore Spartan Race advertised (Sprint distance) Azhar decided maybe this would be the thing to get him moving.  He started training by simply running, but due to his weight, he could only run 400m around a track in his first session.  Not one to give up, he perserved and managed to finish the course, and his first race, in 1hour 15mins, making the fire jump one of many to come.

Finding like-minded people was key to helping him achieve his goals, which wasn’t easy given the infancy of OCR in Asia.  Luckily for him, Azhar met the “Lion City Spartans” group founder, Shrek, and joined what is now Singapore’s, if not Asia’s largest OCR community group with over 1,900 members.  The group meets weekly for outdoor training sessions where people of all abilities are welcomed.

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Soon realising that he may have found his niche’ in life, Azhar pushed himself even further by registering for overseas races.  This dedication and passion got the attention of Spartan Race Asia organisers and Reebok, who decided his story was one that many people could relate to, and they decided to support him with his goals.  Having now raced across Asia, Australia, the Emirates and the USA, his most memorable event is the 2016 Spartan 12 hour Hurricaine Heat in Chicago, at the Richmond Hunt Club.  Interestingly it was one he didn’t finish but it has had the most impact from a mental point of view and has changed the way he perceives things in life, as well as people. It made him stronger and more motivated.

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Azhar’s current training schedule consists of:

  • A morning session which is a 5km run followed by some statics exercises – burpees/pushups/leg raises/squats/lunges or a 10km run every day
  • And then evening are dedicated to weight training 8pm

At 175cm dropping from 135kg to 78kg is not an easy task, and he still admits that he is constantly working on improving his nutrition.  With the aim of encouraging anyone on the couch to get moving and try obstacle racing, Azhar hopes to inspire people via his instagram account @ Azhar.snippets.