It has felt like a very long time since I last donned my obstacleman top for an OCR race. So many cancellations and postponements due to the ongoing nightmare that has been Covid. Even last week the Scotland Tough Mudder (right next to where I live) was cancelled literally the night before!
Aside from the UKOSF short course OCR Northern Time Trials in Sept 2020, my last OCR was probably MacTuff way back in Jan 2020 (18 months ago!). So needless to say, I was pretty excited about doing a real in-person race again.
I was still a little skeptical the race would even go ahead, so never bothered booking a hotel or organising somewhere to stay the night before. So instead, it was a very early start (4am) to drive 4hrs down to Leeds on the morning of the race.
Needless to say, I was feeling pretty tired and sluggish when I got there haha. I didn't feel particularly great during my warm-up, maybe partly because I had been ill the week before (not Covid), and was still suffering the effects a little.
Right, excuses out of the way, on to the race...
One of the Covid measures was to send off 5 people every 15s within each wave. Felt a bit strange, sort of a hybrid time trial format, but an understandable measure to minimise any early bottlenecks.
However, it did mean that you weren't ever entirely sure of your place in the race. Someone could've set off several minutes later, being going faster than you, and you would never know. So the only option really was to go hard the entire race and treat it as a time trial.
When it was my turn to start, with all the excitement of racing again I definitely set off too fast, something ridiculous like 3min/km pace. Though the first obstacle ("Leg It" - hill switchbacks) quickly put an end to that pace!
The start of the race was pretty much exactly how I remembered it from a couple years ago, the hill repeats ("Leg It"), followed by two 8ft walls ("Trump Walls"), then a bit of a run until getting to the first super muddy section and the fire jump.
It took me a good 2-3kms of the race to get into any kind of rhythm. By that point, I was already losing touch with the top 3, and by the 5km mark they were nowhere to be seen. Equally there was no sign of anyone behind me either, though I knew fellow Race Fitness member Chris wouldn't be far away.
So in terms of racing, it turned out to be quite a lonely race, with me running the majority of it completely by myself.
Though there were still plenty marshals all along the course and at each obstacle, cheering you on and applauding, which was nice. Definitely something that has been missed during all the solo virtual races/runs during the Covid-times.
Mixing it up
The course layout and obstacle order for the middle and end of the race were mixed up a little from the 2019 race. The giant slide into water was halfway through the race instead of at the end, and was more epic than previous years with a much bigger water landing.
The wobbly water pontoons ("Pasedero") was also in a different location, with I think also an extra short loop featuring another particular muddy section, which I reckon made the course maybe another 500-600m longer than 2019.
Towards the end of the race, I hadn't seen another racer (in front or behind) for about 30mins, but tried my best to keep the pace up. Always in fear of Chris or someone else catching up.
The layout and obstacle order for the end of the race was pretty similar to the last time: Log carry up and down a hill, two walls with climbing holds ("The Alps"), then a bit of a run back up towards the event village with the monkey bars ("Hang Tough") and the sloped wall ("Peaks of Pain") before the finish.
Overall it was a well-run, professional, and enjoyable event (as it always is with Total Warrior). My race performance wasn't quite what I had imagined, and the frustration of being ill in the lead up again didn't help. However, the joy of racing and doing an OCR again far outweighed any of that.
I ended up taking 5th place. I thought I was 4th at the time and was still 4th when checking the results a couple hours later, but there must've been another quicker time in a wave later in the day.
I was a bit annoyed with myself immediately after the race, as I felt like I didn't really capitalise on my current fitness, but in hindsight - 5th place for my first race in 18 months is not bad.
In any case, the main thing is that it was amazing to be racing in-person again, and to be back doing what I love. The very early start and 8hrs round trip of driving for a 59min race was 100% worth it!
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 G 235 - Went with the X-Talons for this race to cope with the few very muddy sections, and to drain quickly after all the water sections. There are long stretches of hard packed trail running, where the X-Talons were a bit uncomfortable so definitely wouldn't go with anything more aggressive. Could get away with less grippy shoes for this race if not bothered about being quick through the short muddy sections. (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 and in place.
- Gore R7 shorts - Very lightweight, quick drying shorts. (Amazon link)
- ObstacleMan tech vest - One of a kind ;)
- Race buff/rag - Great for keeping my watch clean-ish and readable, as well as giving me something to quickly wipe mud off my hands or face.
- Garmin Fenix 5 - Love this watch, never leaves my wrist. Perfect for OCR - durable, long battery, reasonably accurate GPS.