A fun and enjoyable race with some tough obstacles and sections of challenging terrain. My first obstacle course race of 2016 as well as my first attempt at qualifying for the OCRA UK Championships.
It was probably the most nervous I've been before a race for quite some time. My last proper obstacle course race before this was a few months ago, and so I was anxious to see how all the training I had been doing would translate to the race.
It was also a qualifying event for the OCRA UK championships, and my first attempt at meeting the required criteria of a top 10 finish in age group / gender.
It didn't help that I had an awful night's sleep before the race. I had chosen to stay in a cheap motel pretty close to the venue, and let's just say that it wasn't the cleanest, most hygienic or comfortable place I've ever stayed. In any case, I was up early and only a 5 minute drive to Bordon for the race.
The race was quickly underway, with everyone setting off a fairly quick pace. I resisted the urge to speed up, telling myself that it was a long race and I had to pace myself accordingly; which would later prove to be possibly the wrong mindset.
After a very brief tarmac section, it was on to the sandy wet mud which would be the terrain for most of the race. I hadn't done any training running on sand, so it felt a bit alien to run on, but after 1km or so I was fairly comfortable on it.
The initial obstacles included some tilted hurdles to jump over, a few deep cold puddles, and a couple walls to roll under and then through.
For those who were trying to qualify for the UK champs, there were 4 mandatory obstacles. If you failed to complete one of them then you lost your wristband and no longer had a chance at qualifying via this race. (You could argue that all the obstacles should be mandatory, though due to the number of available OCRA accredited marshals at the moment, the races only have 4 obstacles that you must complete correctly.)
The first mandatory obstacle was the monkey bars. Simple enough, though the rungs were fairly wide apart, so I took the slow deliberate approach (as you can probably tell from the video). With 1 or 2 rungs left, another participant flew past on the left and gave me a decent (accidental) nudge in the side. I managed to hold on, but it added a little drama to the end of the obstacle.
Was my own fault really, as was taking far too long. I normally fly through monkey bars but the "mandatory obstacle" part of it messed with my head.
Water, water everywhere
A little bit of running and some minor obstacles later, it was then time for the brutal heavy sandbag carry. This consisted of wading through a lake back and forth 8 times while carrying a heavy sandbag on your shoulders. It was fun, I think, haha. However, the water was freezing cold, and at random points you would step into a massive dip and the water would suddenly be up to your chest.
I'm not quite sure what the smaller runners did at this point, as I'm 6ft 2 and it was up past my chest at various points. The sandbags were apparently about 30-35kg for men and 20kg for women, and that is when they were dry! Once the sandbags were soaking wet, it was tough going to say the least.
After running through some difficult terrain and scaling some 8ft walls, the next mandatory obstacle was the rope climb. It was a fairly high rope climb, which I think put off a few people who were scared of heights. No issues for myself fortunately, and flew up it no problem and with no drama.
The Invaluable Heel Hook
The next section of running featured some pretty challenging terrain, with deep puddles as well as sections of fallen trees and branches. The obstacles were pretty evenly spaced out and it was never too long before you had another one to tackle.
The heel hook technique (that you can see me using the video) proved invaluable for easily and efficiently getting over all the high walls, tilted walls, and sternum checker.
The Military Zone
Next up was a really fun and technical army assault course area. Quickly over, under and through some walls and cargo nets, and was then time for the 3rd mandatory obstacle: the rope traverse.
The runners in front of me were all using the army style (along the top of the rope) technique. Though I opted for the underneath (monkey or sloth) approach. I had recently watched a tutorial video by Doug the Beard (from Dirty Dozen Races) on how to tackle this exact obstacle, and was very glad I did; as I crossed this with no issues despite never attempting it in any other race before.
The final mandatory obstacle then immediately followed: the rope swing. Although a little bit daunting, this was great fun. Making sure I had a firm grip of the rope, I channeled my inner Tarzan and swung across to the other side. Would've loved to go round for another go, but there was still plenty of racing to go!
The final few km's had plenty of fun and varied obstacles: a barrel hoist, another sternum checker, dragging a concrete block on a chain through mud, and a heavy log carry.
Before we could cross the finish line, an impressive ninja warrior-style rig stood in the way. Having this right at the end of the race was a challenge to say the least! It consisted of hang tough rings, followed by a horizontal pole, another ring, a vertical pole, a chain, then some globes.
I gave the rig a good effort, and taking my time, I made it as far as the chain until ultimately my grip gave in. If this was one of the mandatory obstacles for qualification, I imagine myself and many others would've been there for a while!
Finally, after quickly clambering over another 8ft wall using the heel hook, it was across the line.
To Qualify, Or Not To Qualify
Immediately after finishing, my legs were still feeling totally fine, and I began to think that I had not paced myself correctly at all and left way too much in the tank. Then, low and behold, when the race results were released, I was 51st overall and 14th in my age group (and so missed out on qualification).
However, this was the results from all participants doing the race, and not those who were trying to qualify and had kept their wristband by completing the mandatory obstacles. So the next day, the official qualifying list was put out, and I was 9th! Just sneaked into the top 10 qualifying spots. It was a bit of an anti-climax, but I was pretty happy that the pressure of qualifying was now off.
Unfortunately, this was very short lived! It turned out that many people were either missing from the qualifying list or were in the wrong age group. So when all the mistakes had been corrected, I was knocked down to 11th place; painfully missing out on the 10th spot by 17 seconds!
It was painful and annoying being unqualified - qualified - unqualified. However, there is nobody to blame apart from myself. I ran the entire race at a comfortable pace, not really pushing myself at all, and I think nowhere near the speed I could've done it in.
Oh well, live and learn I suppose. Next qualifying race I'll be sprinting from the start and not stopping until I cross the finish line haha.
Overall it was a really fun race, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The obstacles were tough but achievable, and evenly spread out. The terrain was equally challenging in places but not too difficult.
A well run obstacle course race that I would definitely recommend!