OCRWC 2017 – Short Course/Day One
I am not sure how or where to start. This weekend was the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in Blue Mountain Canada. Four days of mud, grit, steep climbs, sloppy downhill slopes, camaraderie, and adventure.
Thursday morning I packed up the car with all sorts of gear, every pair of trail shoes I own, my teammates with their gear, and of course lots of snacks.
We set off for Blue Mountain, Ontario Thursday morning when everyone else was headed to their regular 8-5 jobs. I was much more optimistic on my commute that morning than my usual trek to the Corporate Cubicle job. I was Bilbo on an Adventure! And I do so love adventure!
The trip up was a little long, but doable in a day with enough time for the occasional Tim Horton’s stop and dinner/lunch at a Chipotle in Buffalo, NY.
The long drive was more enjoyable with my MIT Tough Team teammates up this time. We made it to the Blue Mountain Village enough before dark so we could go to Athlete check in to pick up our race packs.
The registration was eons better this year than last – with lines separated by last name instead of everyone together in one line. The Merchandise room was a little more crowded as it was indoors in the main building instead of outside this year. This was likely due to the amount of rain we were due to get this year, I imagine.
The OCRWC 17 jackets that were posted for sale the week prior were already sold out in small sizes by the time we got there Thursday. We tried a few of the medium sizes, but given they were not women’s sizes, the mediums were too large. The medium was baggy on me, and it was a dress on my 5’5″ ish friend. I ended up getting plenty of other Merch, however. Because…you always need more souvenirs and swag for racing! I ended up wearing all of my new gear all weekend – my OCRWC Buff, ORCWC pullover, and sports bra.
After we checked in and got all our new swag gathered, we headed over to our rooms. We were sharing rooms at one of the Chateau ski condos with a bunch of our OCR teammates. The rooms were actually walking distance from the village and race start line – it was wonderful!
The room my friend and I shared had two sets of massive bunk beds. They were full sized beds with fluffy comforters and super nice to sleep in – except for the temperature control for some reason. At night our room seemed to have two climates: frigid or sweltering. It felt like all the air control for the entire condo emanated from our room, which didn’t make any sense. However, it was right next to the bathroom which was a plus.
We had a full kitchen, stove, oven, dishwasher, giant dining table, and refrigerator. We had a fireplace with disco lights! The lights were amazing! Definitely dance party worthy. Alas, by the time the final night came around most of us were too sore and beat up to move much, let alone throw a dance party.
The floor space in the living area was nice, and we utilized all of that space for our foam rolling parties every night. And by parties, of course, I mean everyone rolling out their sore, broken, cramped muscles every night while trying to drink enough water to not cramp the next day.The 7 or 8 people we had in the condo ended up trashing the place at the end of the weekend with dirt – but we did our best to take out all the trash and pile our formerly white bath towels in one place.
Friday the 13th was the 3k Short Course Event! It was so much more relaxed being so close to the event space this year. Then again, I also had to wait until 11:45 for my heat to go too. We went with our other teammates to check out the course ahead of time, and to watch our other teammates take on the obstacles first.
The new obstacle from a Canadian (I believe) race this year was one of the front and center prominent obstacles in the festival area this year. It had a few names. The official French name I could never remember (la gaffe or some such). The other name it went by was the Northman.
It was a metal pole to square wooden post to metal pole transition obstacle – where you had to use your body weight to make each pole tilt from one side to the next to transfer to the next pole. The last pole had a bell at the top that you had to ring to complete the obstacle.
I had been worried about this obstacle when they first released the video of it. After watching the earlier waves of runners go through it, I believed I had a plan of attack for it for later. It was a nice idea. Harder to implement than I thought it would be when actually doing it.
Coach Pain – famous in the OCR community for his motivational speeches and personalized race send offs – was our starting line announcer all weekend.
I am always amazed at how he comes up with so much to say for every single group that he sends out. I struggle speaking up in a large group of people I actually know. The short course sent people out in groups of maybe 8-10 at a time, to help keep the course and obstacle lines as clear as possible. It was hard not sprint the start with all of the adrenaline and excitement when you heard the “Go!” There was a bit of a hill at the beginning though, so I tried not to gas myself out too fast.
We went up our first climb almost immediately into the 3k. This ended up being the easiest climb of the whole weekend, looking back on it. The grass was still mostly intact. It hadn’t started to rain too much. There was an inverted wall at the top and then we went right back down. We did have two heavy carries on the 3k course as well as the long one.
It was originally going to be a Yoke carry – with a bag of sand on each end of a wooden post that you had to carry up a hill. Given the weather forecast and conditions, they changed it to a farmer’s carry instead for safety.
Luckily, the double farmer carry wasn’t too terrible high the first day and again still had grass on it. Felt great doing that carry.
When I got to the Northman obstacle that I we had scouted earlier, I tried to go right after it. I failed immediately. It was trickier than I had thought.
I knew I wanted to get around to the opposite side of the middle pole to use my weight to pull rather than push the pole to the next position. I kept sliding off the wooden pole, however, before I could get myself around it. The foot holds were very small and ended up not working out so much for me. I did have to try it four or five times before I finally got it.
I ended up not relying so much on the foot holds and just wrapped my legs higher around the poles instead. I remember feeling like I got grip the poles really well with my hands that day – compared to what I thought I’d be able to do. Climbing the last pole to ring the bell felt great!
It might have taken me a good deal longer than I had wanted, but my teammates talked me through that thing and I was able to get through! I really hadn’t wanted to lose my 100% obstacle completion band at that one, even though it did end up being one of the big band eaters of the weekend.
The Wreckbag carry felt great to me too on the 3k – probably one of the most badass feeling moments for me when I walked up. Several women already there were just trying to get the 50lb bags up off the ground. They struggled and tried to squat down to get the back onto their shoulders. I walked up, grabbed the straps on the first free bag I saw, cleaned it up into my arms, raised it over my head onto my shoulders, and took off like it was nothing. To be fair – it was only the first event and I was just physically bigger than a lot of the women there.
I still ended up wiping out on a small portion of the Wreckbag carry due to a small steep incline that was already getting muddy. My butt hit the ground pretty good, but I didn’t lose the bag off my shoulders so I kept going.
The series of rigs at the end of the course though, were a whole other challenge for me. I am good with moving heavy things around. The rigs – the series of ropes, money bars, rings, and other hand or foot holds – are always difficult for me. My grip strength and technical skills could use some work. I was not surprised to fail the rigs. I gave the first rig several tries, but my attempts weren’t getting any better.
I didn’t want to spend all of my time and energy on them when every attempt was pretty much the same or worse than the time before. Especially when I knew I had several more events to go.
Even though I failed to navigate the first Orange rig and the second large Green rig, I did get the rope climb that was grouped in with them at the end.
I caught up to a teammate at the rope climb. He started two hours before me, so I was a little surprised to see him.
Apparently, he had spent 2 hours at the rig before the rope trying to complete it. In the end, his grip was shot and he wasn’t able to get up the rope.
I was nervous looking up at the rope, for sure. It seemed higher and only had some straw on the ground in case of a fall. The bells this time were also in between ropes instead of at the top of the ropes this time.
There were a couple of people there struggling to ring the bells.
They’d climb the rope and wouldn’t be able to ring the bells. No bell = no completion. Once I got over the anxiety of ‘what if you fall’ I made a go at the rope. I managed to get to the top, smack the bell, and lower myself down gently on the first go. It hadn’t really started raining yet then, which helped.
The last rig-like obstacle in that gauntlet of grip and upper body obstacles was Skull Valley. This year they had a ring on a strap you had to use to even get up to the board with the skulls. Then it was a section of skull grips to two sets of swinging monkey bars, back to the skull grips and then the bell. I am not necessarily short, but I still found it difficult to get up to even start the obstacle at the skulls.
I am not even 100% certain now how I managed to get hands on the first skull, but I made it. I had to use the green strap on the ring to pull myself up high enough where I could grab one of the skulls.
Once I got to the skulls, I felt super easy. It was great!
The next obstacle I remembered from last year as well. It’s like a zip line handle, and you have to kip over 3 little stops in the track to hit a bell. I somehow got it first time last year.
This year I fell off pretty quick. I wasn’t really ready for the falls either so when I hit the ground I was a little rattled. One of the times I wiped out, I hit my back and my head fairly good so I was a little dazed. Not exactly how I wanted that to go. Even though I’d already lost my band at one of the rigs before that, I didn’t want to give up on something I knew I’d done before.
When I finally took a few breaths and slowed down a little more on it, I was able to get the handlebars over the stoppers and to the bell.
Then it was off to the two-tiered floating walls and cargo net from a local race we have at home! It was a little different than the versions I personally had done before. The second higher level makes it more intimidating, even with the net underneath for falls. I felt my one calf and foot give the slightest hint of cramping when I hit the walls, but I made it over them just fine even with it starting to rain.
The last obstacle to get to the finish line was a giant slip wall called The Knot. There were a few small ropes with knots in them to help you up. I had a little trouble even reaching the ropes on this one. It also didn’t help that just as I reached that wall it started to rain. A lot.
This time, I struggled. It was a steeper incline, and it was wet. So, so slippery. I couldn’t get to the ropes to hold onto them, and it just kept raining more. I had another teammate at the wall at the same time, and were both smacking into the wall without success.
The backup at the wall continued to grow as it continued to rain. The volunteer told us if we go around it, it would only be a 10 min penalty. I hated the idea of going around, but I wasn’t making and headway. The last attempt I made I smacked my knee into the hard wooden surface that kind of had me limping for a second while recovering. So my teammate and I made a deal to sprint the finish together and take the penalty.
We raced to the finish line. I would have liked to say I would have won the sprint, but it was even more slippery on the cobblestone/pavement at the finish so my dead sprint turned into a ‘trying not the face plant’ instead.
Even though it took me a little longer than I would have liked, and I took a penalty I didn’t want to, I really enjoyed the 3k race. The distance was probably one of my favorites! The rigs back to back, and the amount of time I spent on the Northman obstacle, though, did tax my hands a lot more than I had thought they would.
Overall, the 3k day was a lot of fun! My teammates followed me around on almost the whole course and provided all sorts of encouragement. The camaraderie with the group I am lucky to be a part of now was amazing and I appreciated being able to run with them this weekend. I’d love to have more short courses throughout race season too, but that’s just me.