Well here is a post I would never have believed I would be in a position to write when I started this year, in fact, I would have laughed in your face if you had told me in January that in October I would end up racing in the OCR World Championships in the USA, yet for race 27 of the year, that is exactly what I did.
I was unable to leave for the US until the day before the race, and this in itself was a worry before we had even left, as I also had to register the day before and any flight delays would have meant I missed registration. As it was we were really lucky and hit no delays or problems and I made it to the race site a couple of hours before the deadline.
Finally registered, we got checked into our hotel and I fell into bed exhausted for a fragmented nights sleep, before getting up, choking down some breakfast and heading back out to the race site.
To compete in the OCR World Championships you had to get a qualifying result at a race during the year preceding it. In the UK you could qualify at certain Dirty Dozen, Spartan or Nuclear Races events. You then chose to compete in either the elite or age group categories, and submit your race results when you register, you’re results get verified and then you are in. The race was held near Cincinnati, Ohio at a site used by an American race called Mud, Guts and Glory. The race clocked in at around 9 miles, but over some really tough terrain, with hills that made Pippingford where I did the Spartan Super and Beast look like a joke.
The obstacles that could be seen around the event village looked tough and before I started, I joined the ladies from Obstacle Kit Race Team to watch as the first group of elite ladies came through, Including RPCC elite’s amazing Lucy Martlew. Watching Lucy, I knew I was not going to be finishing the race with my wrist band (we were all given a wrist band at registration, and if you failed an obstacle it was cut off and you could no longer compete for the prize money, you also took a 4min time penalty for any failed obstacle, but you could have as many attempts as you wanted).
We then watched thrilled as the UK’s Jonathan Albon shot down the slide in first place in the Mens elite race, several minuets ahead of second place, he stormed through the next few obstacles to be crowned World Champion and it was a privilege to get to watch, but it was now nearly my turn to race, so with a few quick hugs I made my way down to the start line for the women’s 30-34 age group race.
I set off reasonably strongly, despite being pretty tired due to the long trip and lack of sleep, but I was actually quite near the front of the pack heading up the first short hill and across a bridge that was really difficult to run across as it bounced and swayed with the momentum of several ladies all hammering across it at once, however my strong start was short lived once I hit the first set of monkey bars. I was actually doing ok, and was over half way when the bar spun, I lost my grip and dropped. I didn’t want to lose my wrist band so early in the race so I tried again… and again, and again. After about 10 attempts always coming unstuck at the spinning bars I had to admit defeat, so I sadly allowed the marshal to cut off my band and set off trying to regain some of the ground I had lost.
Next we made our way back towards the event village to take on a barbed wire crawl. I opted to roll my way through, which for me is quicker, but does leave you pretty dizzy.
Once clear of the barbed wire it was a run down into the middle of the event viewing area and first up were a set of inverted walls, I was alone and I’ve never got over any wall higher than about waste hight without help, but there was a small ledge, and I went for it, managed to hook my leg and heaved… and I was over, I was utterly elated, the first time I had ever scaled a wall alone.
This followed a little run, a hop over some tyres and then across some logs trying to keep your balance. A few low 4′ walls and then it was time for the crazy monkey bars. To scale these you had to climb a tyre wall, and then clamber down and up a set of steep monkey bars set in a V shape. I got to the top of the tyres spent a while trying to figure out how to get onto the monkey bars, they were really high, and the highest parts were not over anything but a bit of hay – in the end I bottled it and had to climb back down. I gave my number to the marshal to get my time penalty and carried on.
Following the monkey bars it was over another small wall and into a pit of water where you went over and under a set of logs before crawling through some muddy pipes. Then it was another small wall before hitting one of the obstacles I had been dredding – The castle wall. It was a really high wooden structure that you had to climb over, and being next to the muddy pipe crawl it was slick with mud. I took a deep breath, told myself not to look down, gripped on as tight as I could and started to climb. It was nice and sturdy, but the slippery mud from the racers before me made it more trecherous than I would have liked. I eventually made it to the top though, slipped my leg over the top and began my slow decent. I was so relieved when my feet hit solid ground again, I grabbed a bottle of water, waved goodbye to hubby Phil who was being my photographer for the day, and headed off into the woods.
After this the terrain got tough, rocky paths, and huge punishing hills. Eventually I hit a bigger inverted wall, and unfortunately this time I couldn’t hall myself over alone. At this point Rob Foulkes from Muddy Race caught me up and did try to help me, but I wouldn’t let him waste to much time on me and told him to get a move on, while I took yet another time penalty before heading up some more hills.
At the top of the next hill was an obstacle called the Sternum checker, which basically consisted of a low log and a high log, so you had to jump from the low log, grab hold of the high one and pull yourself over the top. I gathered my courage, took a huge leap, hit the top log, and then I was falling. I hit the ground hard. I was utterly winded, and smacked my head on the ground. The straw underneath not feeling like it broke my fall very much at all. I couldn’t move or think, I was in so much pain. The thought of broken ribs flew through my head as I struggled to draw a breath and I remember thinking that I had not come all that way to have to pull out of the race. The marshal was fantastic, she came and sat with me and kept telling me to breath, it was like I had forgotten how. After a few minutes, during which time another woman also took a thump to the ground, the pain subsided and I was able to move. The marshal that had helped me refused to take my number and insisted I tried the obstacle again. Shaking and almost in tears, but with the help of the lady who had also fallen, and a man who happened across us at the time, I got over the top, and along with the other woman set off back down a hill, feeling a bit dizzy.
This took us round to the platinum rig, a fiendishly tough obstacle that involved rings, bars and ropes. I had no hope, and this earned me another time penalty, then it was off for more running, clambering and hauling myself up more tough hilly terrain. At the top of this was the first sandbag carry. A 50kg bag, that a helpful gentleman helped me get up onto my shoulders. Once there it wasn’t too bad to stagger round the section before dumping it and running on.
The hills on this course were ridiculous, some of them were almost shear walls that you needed to use both your hands, feet and any tree or root you could grip onto to get up. Good shoes were vital and although my new Salomon’s were good, and really comfortable, the grip couldn’t quite compare to my Inov8’s and I found myself missing my other shoes. By now I was struggling, the running was tough, actually I was slowing down and walking a lot, I was feeling dizzy and miserable and was wondering why I had ever thought I could do this race. Mentally I was giving up, but I though about my friends back home who were rooting for me and about why I started and I kept going – slowly!
We came to a rope traverse, but I couldn’t psych myself up to get myself off the ground, I was so worried that I would fall again, I did attempt to get up a few times, but then, demoralised, I yet again gave my number to the marshal for my penalty and moved on.
After yet more challenging hills we came to another obstacle that I had seen publicised before the race, a wire traverse over a ravine. There was a net slung underneath for safety, but I still did not want to fall off. I very slowly made my way across, gripping hard to the top wire, whilst having a bit of banter with one of the marshals, the worst part was as you got to the end the net ended before the traverse did, and you really did not want to fall then! I made it over with no drama though, said goodbye to the friendly marshal and carried on.
Somewhere round here was a section of logs suspended above the ground that you needed to hug tight and hang off, moving along with your legs, again having to hold myself above the ground got the better of me and I took the time penalty after a couple of attempts rather than risk falling.
At the bottom of another hill I hit a rope climb, I gave it a token effort, but I know I can’t climb a rope, so taking another penalty and just wanting to be finished I hung my head and moved on. There were hills that were so steep they had ropes to help you get up and down them. At the top of one of these there was a section of walls two 6′ and a 10′ where I was lucky to get a leg up from a passing man.
There was a section of wire that you had to crawl under down and then back up a really steep hill then at the top of yet another climb was a heavy bucket carry. I made it round, but there were times when I thought I was going to drop it, I clung on tight though, with aching arms, and was so glad to put it down. At this point when I heard the marshal tell someone else that there was still over 2 miles to go I thought I might burst into tears!
After some more clambering rather than running, there came a section of mud where you had to crawl under some low tyres. The marshal here was excellent, really encouraging, and getting me running again, despite my energy levels having dipped and the fact that I was now covered in mud making my legs even heavier.
At the top of yet another hill was The Weaver, this was basically an low A shape with slats that you had to go over and under. I just couldn’t figure out how to do it, I tried a few time, but again the fear of falling had me almost crippled, I was starting to well up with tears at the thought of it, so again I shamefully handed over my number before moving onto the tyre carry. Not one, but two big tyres over some uneven ground, over a tree and through some ditches before hitting the two biggest hills, basically a shear wall of dirt with a rope to help you. Coming down was bad, and going up the steeper one was worse. I was shaking and gripping the rope so tight my hands hurt. It was here that Laura Dudley caught me up and gave me a boost at the very top. Thankfully it was literally going to be all down hill from here.
Following the giant hill it was a giant slip and slide – the longest I’ve ever seen, and it was fast, you shot down, out of control and flew off the end into a pool of water, where you pulled yourself out using some logs and crawled through a tunnel – the finish was now so close you could almost taste it.
Before you could finish there was a little section of running and then you hit the second sandbag carry. Just as heavy as the last, again I was helped to get the bag up onto my shoulders and then I was off, this time it was complicated by two barbed wire crawls where I was lucky that the guy behind me helped me get the bag back up onto my shoulders and I got round the rest of the run.
There was then a short run round to an obstacle called tip of the spear which was two A frames connected by a wooden balance beam. The first A frame had chains and the second was a wall traverse. Needless to say I failed this one and added yet another 4mins to my time, then as I rounded towards the finish I stopped cold, there was another sternum checker. At this point, with the finish in sight, I burst into tears. I couldn’t do that obstacle again, I was ready to quit and I didn’t know what I was going to do – but with the help and encouragement of a really kind marshal, I managed to clamber over it using the side of the obstacle. This left me with one final wall, where the same guy who helped me with my sandbag gave me a leg up and finally, there it was, the finish line!
I crossed the line and got my medal, I was shaking, still a bit dizzy and overwhelmed. I was grabbed into a huge hug by Laura Dudley and Ross Brackley from the Obstacle Kit Race team and burst into tears. I was finished, and it was the hardest thing I had ever done!
After the Race
After I had calmed down, the atmosphere was great, all the athletes from the UK had been amazing, and got some fantastic results, putting UK OCR firmly on the map. We sat around for a while, chatting and getting some pictures, before watching Jonathan Albon take the podium, which capped off a challenging, demanding but ultimately amazing day.