This was my first OCR in over 6 months due to recovery from injury, so I was buzzing with excitement and anticipation in the weeks leading up to it. When the weekend finally came, it definitely did not disappoint!
I headed down on the Friday evening with the Race Fitness team to stay at a campsite in Penrith, near the Total Warrior venue. Was set to be a busy couple days, so an early night was on the cards in preparation for the race on Saturday.
I never had the best of nights sleep to say the least, but after some breakfast and getting changed into my gear, I felt ready to race. The event venue had a great atmosphere, and some pre-race banter with the Race Fitness guys alleviated any nerves. As always, the time shot past and before you knew it everyone was climbing the initial small wall to gather at the start line.
After a rather lengthy wait and countdown, we were underway. Those right at the front shot off at a tremendous pace up the hill towards the first obstacle: "Leg It".
"Leg It" is simply very steep hill switchbacks, and is a great way to spread everyone out a bit right at the start, without the congestion often seen with man-made obstacles early in races. It was a punishing pace near the front of the pack, and the steepness of the hill was a proper quad and calf burner.
Unfortunately for me, it highlighted immediately an issue that would plague me throughout the race: fear of injuring my gammy knee while running downhill.
I injured my knee back in February, tearing my ACL again, slipping while running fast downhill. So I couldn't really help being apprehensive with these steep downhill sections.
It was frustrating to say the least, as I was being sooo slow and cautious, and then having to work extra hard to try and catch up on the flat and uphill sections. Not to mention that going slowly on downhills also ends up burning out your quads due to constantly putting on the brakes.
After the initial hills, there was a short muddy wade through the obstacle called "Warrior Crawls", and then over a couple 8ft walls. The "Mud Moguls" was up next, and again was fairly straight forward, just down and up 3 or 4 muddy trenches.
This was my first Total Warrior event so I don't have any frame of reference for these mud moguls, but others were saying they were a lot smaller and fewer than normal.
I was under no illusion of being near the front of the pack. I actually never really had any clear goal, except from enjoying it and not getting injured; which in hindsight properly didn't help things.
I spent the majority of the race running with the same group of 3-4 guys, including fellow Race Fitness team member: Abe. He was flying on the downhills, so was a proper struggle for me to catch up again on every flat or incline.
I was still right there with him when we came to the ice bath obstacle called "The Plunge". I vaulted into the container expecting the usual cold water shock, and was surprised when it felt almost luke warm haha. (Luke warm is maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but certainly wasn't the brain freezing, "where am I?", inducing temperatures I've seen at other races).
Feeling refreshed from the full water submersion, I was able to make up some time on the next couple obstacles. The "Hangover" - an 8ft tilted wall, and "The Trenches" - similar to mud moguls but while also crawling underneath a cargo net.
The "Hangover" may sound and look daunting, but as long as you can jump and grab the top, you can quickly do a heel hook and get over it no problem. (There were also climbing holds on the underside of the wall for those who were vertically challenged).
I was able to take the lead over Abe coming out of the trenches, but it was short lived as he flew over the next obstacle, a couple high wooden A frames with climbing holds, called "The Alps".
Next up was a short separately timed sprint section called Sprint King, maybe about 60-70m in length. I was in two minds whether to go all out, not wanting to expend too much energy mid-race; so ended up picking up the pace only slightly.
The winning time for this sprint section was something like 8s, which is ridiculous. Think they must've taken their shoe with the timing chip off, and thrown it over the finish haha.
A few of the super wet and muddy obstacles were on the cards next, including the "High Jump" - jumping off a platform to try and hit a bell suspended over water, and then the marquee Total Warrior obstacle (and premier photo opportunity) "Human BBQ".
Suitably wet, it was time for the renowned cement mixer mud obstacle - a super sticky mud pit that was supposed to be difficult to get through. This being the first wave of the first day, it wasn't really churned up or particularly sticky, so was actually pretty easy. Would be a different story the next day.
About this point in the race, after a couple more muddy crawls, there were a few more prolonged downhill running sections. So unfortunately this meant I started to fall further and further back from the small group I had been racing against.
By the time we came to the section in the woods, I had more or less given up trying to chase, and just settled in to enjoy the last couple km's of the race.
The final stretch was great fun, apart from the "Shocker". Similar idea to Electroshock Therapy in Tough Mudder, loads of electric wires hanging down which you need to run through.
I think the Total Warrior version is pretty weak, and good chance you won't get shocked at all, but after some traumatic experiences in the past I'm really not a fan of electricity.
So I chose to boycott the Shocker. Although there are no obstacle penalties in Total Warrior, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I just skipped something, so instead did 20 push ups at the side (which in hindsight, would not have helped my time at all!).
The last km was brilliant fun, with several obstacles back to back. The giant water slide was first, and as far as giant water slides go, this was a great one. Long and fast, and could slide for a decent distance after the tarpaulin finished as well. I would be back the next day to go down this many times haha.
Immediately followed was "Peaks of Pain" - a ramp with a rope to help climb up it. I thought I could maybe just run all the way up and ignore the ropes (as there was a step halfway up it), but quickly became apparent that it was more slippery than expected; so rope it was.
Then a short run over to "Log It", which was simply carrying a large log up and back down a hill. I imagine it's difficult for races to get the balance of obstacles like this right, as they want to challenge people without destroying them, at the same time as making it achievable for the majority. However, I thought this one definitely could've been a slightly longer distance (maybe another up and back down), as the logs were not particularly heavy.
Back It Up
The next obstacle, "Back It Up", I managed to gain a little time back on. On the side of a hill there was a tarpaulin with a slightly raised cargo net over it, and you had go on your back and use the net to climb up it.
Instead of what most people were doing (essentially crawling slowly on their backs, grabbing the net one hand and foot at a time), I opted for the two arm reach as far I can, and then a forceful drag. The tarpaulin was wet, so you could almost slide a little extra distance after the pull with your arms.
Having a large wingspan obviously helps with this, but definitely seemed significantly faster than what everyone else was doing.
Up another short hill, over the small climbing wall called "One Last Climb", and it was time for the final obstacle: "Hang Tough". The name "Hang Tough" makes me think of the rings from Gladiators, but in this case it was monkey bars over water with the last few feet being loops of rope instead of rungs.
It wasn't that far a distance, so I opted for the reliable 90 degree locked arms technique - requires a little more upper body strength, but your hands are reasonably static so very unlikely to slip.
I thought it was pretty straight forward as far as upper body obstacles go, though watching later, the transition from the rungs to the ropes seemed to be catching out quite a lot of people.
Finally over the finish line in just under 58mins, I felt tired but still plenty in the tank; which is never really a sign that you pushed or paced yourself correctly. I thought I finished in 18th, though checking again now I seem to be 22nd, so presumably there were faster people in a later wave or corrections made in the timings later on.
I did feel a little disappointed with my time and placing, as I don't think it represented my current fitness levels; as well as frustrated with my myself for not having confidence in my knee on the downhills. However, I did have fun and I completed it unscathed in a respectable time, so this is what I'll take away from the race.
Sunday was a phenomenal day. I was back at the race venue early in the morning again, but this time it was to take part in a photoshoot for Inov-8. They were looking for authentic OCR photos for their new autumn range, so we donned all the new gear and trainers and set off to the course.
It was brilliant fun, just running different sections and re-doing certain obstacles while they got all the shots they wanted.
After the photoshoot was over, had just enough time to change into a Race Fitness top before joining the last wave of the day for another fun messing about lap. Was refreshing not to worry about racing at all, and instead just having fun on the obstacles and in the mud.
Would definitely recommend Total Warrior to everyone. It's a fun, very well organised professional event, is reasonably priced, and the event village has a brilliant atmosphere. I also reckon it's a good one for newcomers to OCR, as it doesn't take itself too serious, and all the obstacles are achievable by most.
The only bad thing about the weekend was having to go back to work on the Monday...
If you're planning to do this event (or similar), here is the gear I used with some notes on what I might change:
- (Shoes) Inov-8 X Talon 212 - Loads of mud and water in this race, so go for whatever trail shoe you have which has maximum grip and drains water well. Something like Mudclaws or X-Talons are ideal. (Amazon link)
- Injinji trail socks - My usual merino wool socks, perfect for preventing blisters in any conditions. (see blog post here)
- SubSports compression shorts - For keeping the vital bits warm.
- Inov-8 trail elite shorts - My usual shorts, durable and light, perfect for OCR. (Amazon link)
- Skins A200 sleeveless top - Great for regulating temperature, and doesn't really hold on to any mud or water. (Amazon link)