Well, it’s been a while… this is my summary of the OCR Series race in Amsterdam at October 17th, 2021.
This post is probably not that readable - I mostly wrote it as a summary of the facts, for myself. I realized that in the past I struggled with race blogs, because I wrote them for some imaginary reader rather than just for me. They’re just a tool for me to get my thoughts written down. If it entertains somebody else, then that’s just a side benefit. I don’t really advertise my blog at all, so I suspect nobody cares, but I wanted to point that out anyway.
The last time I lined up for an OCR Series race was in April of 2018. After finishing with the latest in a string of disappointing performances that year, I decided that I needed to take a short break from running to let a nagging injury heal. Six weeks of cross training would do it I thought. Instead, the situation took several years to sort out. I ignored everything relating to OCR during that time (couldn’t really deal with it to be honest), and along the way I kind of forgot why I even did it in the first place. So, on my way to this one, I was most worried that I wouldn’t get that back.
The worry quickly dissipated after arriving at the venue though, first because I got a reminder of all the great people that I hadn’t seen for so long. Several blinked in surprise or did a literal double take upon spotting me, and everybody seemed genuinely happy to see me back. And then, when the race started, just that familiar feeling of being thoroughly entertained, despite the obvious self inflicted suffering. Can’t think of another way to describe it. It’s just fun.
Now it didn’t seem very likely that I’d be able to seriously contend for a good spot in the ranking on this day. I’ve only recently started to specifically train for OCR, and even that with an asterisk - I haven’t found a way to properly train obstacles in the area yet. I noticed that recently those obstacle container thingies have started to pop up all over Amsterdam, you know, right after I left, so thanks for that Ams 😘. I don’t have nearly enough running under my belt to go at it hard on hilly trails for 90+ minutes. What I do have is a whole bunch of strength (I’m quite probably stronger than I’ve ever been now) and general aerobic fitness. That tends to get a person far in a race, 6-7 years ago maybe even to the podium, but fortunately the sport has evolved beyond that. So my plan was just to give it a solid hard effort and see where that took me.
Early on I had about half the field sprint out in front of me, this was neither surprising nor discouraging, on any given race there are usually 30-50 people going out way to hard, and I wasn’t going to be one of them today. I started passing people without changing my effort early on; especially on the first downhill. It appears to me that most people back off on the descends; but if it’s runnable and you don’t go too hard on the uphill flying off is a great way to make up time. The rope climb seemed to have roughly the same height as the one I have at the gym - one proper foot lock gets it easily.
Ivar’s Walk, where you have to jump a course with an elastic around your legs, is always a doozy. The elastics aren’t remotely tight enough, so you end up having to press your legs out significantly. The muddy course included some crawling and 1.20 hurdles, which, trusting the current power in my legs, I just jumped without rolling. The worst case scenario (muddy face palm) seemed acceptable to me. I also found that jumping sideways or even slightly backwards is a bit easier on the legs, nevertheless this “obstacle” was pretty hard on my calves.
The hammer throw is always a bit of a gamble. I threw my hammer slightly wide. This caused it to end up with a horizontal spin however, and at the right moment the handle twisted to hit the wood. No points for execution there, but I got to skip the penalty (which would’ve only been a short crawl) this time.
Nothing noteworthy happened in the next series of obstacles either, apart from one poor young girl stationed at a buddy obstacle apparently not being instructed that the first wave was supposed to skip that one. I had already started heaving the 5m long log when she instructed me to do it together with the guy behind me - I knew enough after that. She’s forgiven for the 15 seconds that cost me.
A few of these new saga obstacles are entertaining but not otherwise very interesting. Ravning bridge is straightforward, as is Sprint of Faith. Mud trenches are always simply kind of a drag. I do think they should wire the course lint over the trenches, because as always it’s kind of vague how far you can go to the side before it becomes unacceptable. I went straight through the middle to avoid the issue entirely. Storm the Castle had pretty large nets hanging down, so that was never going to be an issue either. Ring swings were awesome as usual. There was a Viking Rig that wasn’t on the course map, which I overthought entirely. The whole thing was entirely doable hands-only in short time, but for some reason I made it complicated. I suppose that’s just practice, or rather lack thereof.
I had done special preparation for the Fjord Drop today. There’s nothing to this as an obstacle, but every single time I go down this big slide, the friction burns through my pants and boxer shorts at the point of my lowest two vertebrae. That gets expensive really fast, so I was just wearing pants and boxers that already had holes in them from three years ago. And I taped my low back. I’ve literally come out of this bleeding in the past; this time it was reduced to some chafing.
Wad would’ve been one of the hardest obstacles of the day potentially, the hovering pegboard, turned out to have been swapped out by the much easier horizontal pegboard traverse. I’d never done that one before, and it took me a few steps to figure out exactly how easy it was - next time this will be 15 seconds faster at least.
Basically my only frustration of the day was the sled pull. It was on a slight hill, and when I arrived most of the sleds were located at its bottom. I didn’t actually think twice about that, because these sleds aren’t that heavy, and I’ve been doing lots and lots of weightlifting, so I figured I’d make short work of it whichever one I chose. Instead, I ended up not having enough grip in the slippery mud to move the thing at all, though I was pulling myself down the hill quite successfully. For about half a minute I was worried I might not get it to move at all, but with great effort and very careful foot placement I eventually got it through. I was passed by several people here that seemed not to have the same issues with their sleds and got the whole thing done in about 10 seconds.
At this point in the race I started to get pretty bad cramps in my hamstrings and calves, despite feeling pretty good otherwise. This didn’t surprise me, my legs are simply not used to all this pounding at this point, and they were bound to give out before my lungs would. It was unfortunate though, as I think I could’ve had a good sprint finish in me in the final kilometers.
The more interesting obstacles are typically located in the last 19km specific part of the race. Strong Wall isn’t hard but always feels kinda good anyway. The new (for me) Berserker Crawl is interesting. I’d spotted before the start of the race that the rightmost lane had the bell easily 20-30cm closer than all the other lanes, so naturally I started there. At some point I saw I could reach it, so I stuck out my hand and smacked it before falling flat on my belly. The bell moved but didn’t “ring”, causing the marshal to think that I actually missed it (despite it coming back and whacking me in the head, at which point, ironically, it did ring). Fortunately I had another marshal and a number of spectators vouching for me there, because while I could’ve quite comfortably done that thing a second time, it really is quite time consuming.
Atlas stones went without a hitch despite my cramps. The 40kg ball is actually much harder than the 60kg stone, because that first one needs to go overhead, whereas the last one only goes to about chest height. Thor’s Oddysey is usually a good place to redline - but not if you’re cramping. I messed up on the low rig by going through the whole thing and then missing the bell. I was already on my way to the penalty area when I realized that the rule book allows retries now. The penalty probably would’ve been faster, but I didn’t really care about getting passed by a few extra people at this point. This time I got the bell just fine - had to stop to stretch out my hamstrings after that though.
The final obstacle was again pretty easy, though the final spinner I needed to grab was rotated away from me, so I needed to pause to build momentum. That did force me to sprint onto the Walhalla Steps though, with a set of no-pause frog jumps that I was surprised I could still do. They gained me one place in the ranking, for what it’s worth.
All in all this race was on the easy side from an obstacle perspective. I used to kind of like that sort of race, where I could really open the gas on the runs. I don’t have the legs for that yet, and quite possibly not the general long endurance either. That’s fine for now. I had a great time. I remember why I want to do this now. Next year is going to be fun!