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|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 11, 2021 at 9:25 AM|
Going out for a run, maybe do a pull-up or two, possibly flip a tire, then go run again. Sounds like a general approach to training for an OCR, right? But what if I told you there is a better way, a way to specifically target your training for your race? Well this article is the ticket to give you those tools, so read on and thank me later. Factors to consider There are a number of factors to consider when training for your next race, distance is a big one and the major requirements/physical demands of the event should be accounted for. For instance, if you are going to run a Spartan Stadion working on speed while being able to recover from a near max heart rate quickly will be beneficial. If your next event is Conquer the Gauntlet, grip strength should be a more of a priority due to the mandatory obstacle completion; running speed is still important but if you canï¿½??t finish the rig your speed doesnï¿½??t matter. What about a more general approach? What if you just want to be ready to compete at any race but not specialize in one brand? Then a more balanced approach to training is needed, working on a broad range of OCR skills will be required, but at the cost of specializing in a specific set of skills. Training Phases Off-season How to train and when is a big factor in getting ready for your next race. I advocate for a periodized training program that has you focus on different outcomes at different parts of the year. In the off-season, roughly 12-16 weeks out from your first race, you may want to focus on strength. No, I do not mean getting up to a 3 times bodyweight squat (although that would be impressive). We do want to get stronger though. First and foremost, strong things do not break; while yes, it is a clichÃ© there is an element of truth to it. When we lift weights not just our muscle gets stronger, our bones and connective tissue get stronger as well. This in turn acts as an internal insurance policy that lets your body protect itself when you accidentally put it in bad positions. If you are generally stronger everything gets easier, and you can put more force into the ground with each step which means you run faster. The off season is also a great time to work on your base level of cardio. Using this time to lift heavy and run slow will give you a great platform to build the rest of your training from. Pre-Season As you get closer to the race, what we will call pre-season, approximately 8-12 weeks out, your running volume should increase. But we also want to start working on running faster. That doesnï¿½??t mean you just try to get your long run done sooner. Instead this is where you may want to put interval work into your program. 200m, 400m, 800m or any other distance you want to try if you are going all out and giving yourself time to nearly fully recover before you run again. If you have heard of ï¿½??repeatsï¿½?ï¿½ they are similar, but different from true intervals. For a true repeat we are still running fast and resting for a set time however, on a repeat your run may not be 100% effort. Instead set a goal time or pace and maintain that pace for the prescribe sets, your rest period may be a bit shorter because your focus isnï¿½??t on all out speed. Instead your focus should be on being able to keep a pace while not fully recovered. In Season During the racing season maintenance is the key, your race schedule should also dictate your training schedule. If you have a couple months between races, then you can probably train a little harder between races. If you race every week or two then it will be hard to gain any ground because you will need to recover from your first race, train for a day or two, then rest for the next race, and boom it is race day. This makes performing at your peak very difficult for each event. Keep in mind depending on where you live the race season can last anywhere from six to nine months, or even longer in some areas. That is a long season where a lot can happen, mitigating the risk of overtraining is important. You can help yourself out by setting certain races as more important than others. That way you can set your training schedule to peak for those events, and train through other less important races. Post Season After that championship race there is still a whole section of training to not forget about, even if there is not much true ï¿½??trainingï¿½?ï¿½ to be done. I like for this block of training to last 4-6 weeks after my last event. I treat post season as an opportunity to recover, we have been training and racing for over half of the year. Physically, neurologically, and hormonally our bodies need a break. We canï¿½??t perform at 100% everyday of the year, we need to recover and let our bodies get back to something that resembles normal so that we can start building again. My recommendation is a solid week of rest maybe even two weeks after your last race, I know you will be bored, but your body will thank you. After the week of rest a simple program with low volume weight training and lower running distances for another 4-6 weeks will be beneficial until you get back to off-season and can start to really get serious again for next season. What it all means While this article does not give you specific set and rep schemes, it does give you a direction to go in when you do decide to plan out your training calendar. Do some research on the best ways to reach your individual goals, find a trainer who specializes in OCR, find and join OCR groups on social media in your area, etc. Good luck as you move into what we are all hoping is a more open OCR season, and I wish you all the best in reaching your goals for the season. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jared is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with a masterï¿½??s degree in exercise science. Jared ran his first OCR in 2014 and was able to compete at OCRWC in 2016 finishing top 50 in the world in the short course event for his age group. Jared is the owner of JRenFitness which offers personalized online training for Elite OCR athletes and general population clientele.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on April 3, 2021 at 2:20 PM|
The Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) industry has taken a hit over the last two years, there’s no doubt there. Brands like Spartan and Tough Mudder that normally hold dozens of events a year dropped down to almost zero (Spartan held five OCRs in 2020 plus some Hurricane Heats and Tough Mudder held zero). This has no doubt caused a financial burden on Spartan (who owns Tough Mudder as of early 2020). While I have a slight concern about the future of Spartan, I’m more worried about the future of Tough Mudder and here’s why.
Of note, I’m writing this article based off publicly available information and my experience watching other companies rise/fall.
Spartan is Spartan owner’s Joe DeSena’s baby. Joe built Spartan from the ground up and has created a worldwide movement with races all across the globe. He led the industry in almost every aspect of the sport creating regional and world championships, having the biggest prize money, creating a pro team and not just building a race but a lifestyle brand. Without Spartan leading the charge and “breaking brush”, OCR would not be where it is today. Every brand including direct competitors have benefited from the actions of Spartan. Like I said, Spartan is Joe’s baby and he cares about it more than just a simple CEO. He’s the CEO and the founder. Decisions aren’t simply a numbers game of profit vs. loss, it’s defining his legacy. This is his project to get people off the couch and change the world….and he’s doing it successfully.
Now let’s look at Tough Mudder. Tough Mudder was Joe’s rival for most of its 9 year lifespan. Created by competitor Will Dean, Joe was fighting to outdo them for most of the last decade. In 2020, Joe bought Tough Mudder and all of its debt to consolidate the brand/sport/business. Tough Mudder is not Joe’s baby and therefore is a business acquisition. If Tough Mudder fails to be profitable or at least trending in that direction over the next couple of years, I would guess Joe decides it is a bad business move and cuts his losses. He already saved Tough Mudder for complete destruction once, I don’t think anyone would blame him if he ends up deciding massive losses aren’t worth his time and effort. Unlike Spartan, I would guess Tough Mudder is a numbers game comparing gain vs. loss and therefore he is not emotionally invested in its success.
I’m not saying don’t sign up for Tough Mudder because it is going to go out of business, in fact I’m saying the opposite. DO SIGN UP FOR TOUGH MUDDER or it will go out of business. The one thing Joe DeSena and Spartan have always been known for is taking care of their customers. We’ve seen it during COVID when registrations were transferred and we’ve seen it when Warrior Dash went out of business as he transferred registrations to his race despite not getting that registration money. Everyone got to race after paying for registrations so I wouldn’t worry about not getting to race. In fact if you signed up for Warrior Dash, you actually could have used that registration to race for free in about a half dozen other races, talk about a good investment. Instead, I would worry about what happens if you don’t bring your friends out to race and don’t sign up yourself. I’m fearful at the end of one of these year’s Tough Mudder concludes with World’s Toughest Mudder…and doesn’t come back. The first Tough Mudder of 2021 kicks off in Atlanta April 24-25, so sign up and don’t wait for the “I’ll do it next year” plan.
This isn’t meant as a “HA! I called it!” article. It’s a warning to come race, bring your friends and keep your favorite brands going. The actions of the OCR community over the next couple of months will help determine where the sport goes in the future.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 23, 2021 at 4:35 PM|
“Who care’s there’s no prize money” I’ve heard this statement by people crossing the finish line after inappropriately keeping their bands as they failed an obstacle or cutting parts of the course. Similarly, I’ve also heard people say things like “just worry about your own race” and not what others are doing. Let’s take a look at why you might want to rethink that logic and why athletes are
1. Personal Accomplishment: Let’s be real. Most of us don’t races as a primary source of income. For even most of the athletes that win any prize money in a year, when you add in all other expenses (travel, hotel, training costs, etc.) the prize money is merely cost offset or reduction rather than pure profit. So why do we race? The answer is simple, personal accomplishment. The feeling of crossing the finish line in a given place or given time makes us feel good. If someone cheats, they are stealing a placement away from someone’s personal accomplishment or satisfaction.
2. 2nd / 3rd Order Sponsorship Perks: Brands like seeing their product and athlete on a podium. Last year I started adding up the amount of perks I’ve received from sponsors since getting involved in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). The amount was staggering and would require me to have another full time job for a year to pay for all those items. So when people say there “who cares there is no money” I would argue that as an athlete, the material goods I’ve received are often as good as or better than money.
3. Qualification or Point Series: Sometimes it is not about that race but a bigger goal. Athletes race year round trying to qualify for OCR World Championships and that is a big goal to shoot for. While it may be easy for some for others earlier in their fitness journey’s it is at the far edge of their capability. Bottom line is someone who has an attitude of “who cares there is no money” may be stealing a spot from someone who has their sights set on something bigger. The same goes with point series where athletes race at a series of events like Spartan’s Honor Series, Stadion Series, Mountain Series or National Series trying to accumulate points. Again if the series they are competing for has no prize money or they are placing out of the prize money I refer you to points one and two of this article.
The bottom line is just because there is no prize money races can still have a high value to the participant. My top four favorite OCR prizes are not my top four biggest prizes cash/product. One of them, my 2nd place Pro Coed medal at 2018’s North American OCR Championships medal I received nothing for besides the medal, but that medal is invaluable to me.
Next time you think, “who cares, there is no prize money”, think again because racing is a lot deeper than that and can have 2nd/3rd order significant consequences for those participating.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 15, 2021 at 4:25 PM|
Sometimes it is hard to realize what is going on until it is too late. Earlier this year I wrote an article about how we can support our favorite race brands during COVID quarantine (read the article here). The article is as relevant now as it was when I first published it. Perhaps I’m still too close to the problem (in both time and involvement) but we may be at the end of the Golden Age of OCR. Don’t fret though, it isn’t the death of our sport. Read on and see what I mean.
Many sports use the term Golden Age to describe a period of time in their sport’s history that people idolize in hindsight. Bodybuilding has the golden age when Arnold Schwarzenegger was competing, baseball had its golden age when Babe Ruth was playing, and basketball had its golden age with athletes like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. A recent rock-climbing documentary I was watching referenced a golden age in Yosemite National Park with climbers climbing new routes in new ways. Will people look back on 2014-2018 as our Golden Age?
To be clear, Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) as a sport isn’t going anywhere, but I do think we are at the beginning of a couple of years of a lull. Races will still be happening but with a strong possibility of less attendance, prize money may go down, brands may stick to what they know will make money instead of trying new things and number of available races may be lower than previous years. We can already see it happening. Spartan and Tough Mudder have fewer projected races than previous years, Conquer The Gauntlet only has one event planned for 2021 and national brands like Warrior Dash are no longer operating.
Instead of going by feel let’s look at some numbers and time stamps:
Number of Major Championships: Peak in 2015 with 4x different brands (Spartan World Championships, World’s Toughest Mudder, BattleFrog Championships and Warrior Dash Championships)
Prize Money: High points in 2015-2018 (World’s Toughest Mudder peak prize money in 2015-2016 with $100,000 bonus prize offered; Warrior Dash World Championships (2014-2015) with $50,000 top prize for each individual; $1,000,000 cumulatively offered for BattleFrog’s 2015 season; Spartan on the other hand continually has been offering more cumulative prize money on a yearly basis based off number of paying races). Spartan offered a million dollar prize purse but I would argue that was set up largely for publicity with little chance of anyone actually realistically covering the distance on a very difficult course).
OCR on TV: Spartan World Championships (2013-Present), Spartan National Series (2014-Present), Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge (2016-2017), World’s Toughest Mudder on CBS (2016-2018), Toughest Mudder on CBS (2017), BattleFrog College Championships (2015-2016), BattleFrog League Championships (2016), Broken Skull Ranch (2014-2017), Ultimate Beastmaster on Netflix (2017-2018), Million Dollar Mile (2019) and American Ninja Warrior (2009-present). There are a couple of other shows that had OCR competitors but some of them were more reality show than competition so I left the list as you see it.
Athletes: We tend to idolize the athletes that are popular whenever we get involved in the sport or started following the sport. So whoever you think of as your favorite, is probably a byproduct of when you entered the sport. While there will always be greats in every era, everyone’s opinion hear will be skewed slightly. The point is, there are always great athletes around and our sport changes so much as of now, the greats are probably linked to the opportunity that was presented to them.
With minimal racing occurring last year and possibly continuing into this year, everything is at a lull. There are less OCR podcasts actively producing episodes, less articles being written, less people training (since there are less races). Is this a minor hiccup or the new normal? You can call it what you want. At the very real risk of being completely wrong and putting my foot in my mouth. I think we are at the end of the Golden Age of OCR. For a couple of years we can look back and realize that we didn’t know how good we had it.
Of course, I might be completely wrong. Maybe the lack of in person races pushes the industry to adapt and highlight the sport in other ways. Spartan held their Spartan Games and made a video series out of it. Other are showing signs of adaptation too with things like Strongman/Powerlifting holding live lifting records on live social media platforms. In the Midwest, Battle of the Lions just launched a series and one of our own William Shell announced Mythic Race for 2022. Maybe this isn’t the end of something but the start of something even better. I guess only time will tell.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on March 4, 2021 at 3:20 PM|
2020 was a different year for racing and made training a little more challenging because it seemed like every event was in flux. While talking to my filmmaker friend Bobby Ross, he casually mentioned “it might be time to pivot”. At the time I was upset by this, I’ve invested too much into Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) in both time, money, effort, sponsors and articles to pivot to something else.
Well I took a little bit of his advice, and honestly I hope other people did that too. I’m still producing podcasts, still writing articles for both Mud Run Guide and Strength & Speed, however I’ve picked up some new hobbies.
While this will still be an OCR focused website with touches into other sports like running, strength training and endurance training, we are adding in a new touch, martial arts. After picking up a long ago retired hobby of karate, I’m going to post the occasional martial arts related article here along with increasing the amount of OCR content I’m producing specifically for Strength & Speed.
I have no intentions of pivoting away from OCR, but rather you are going to get all the usual great content (podcast, articles, Ultra-OCR charity events) plus a little flare of something new.
Did you pivot in 2020? Or planning a pivot?
Listen to Episode 147 of the Strength & Speed podcast: The Pivot to hear what some of our athletes adjusted to with limited OCR occurring.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on January 27, 2021 at 8:00 PM|
When I first started training for Obstacle Course Racing (OCR), my initial reaction was, I NEED an OCR gym or ninja gym. While an OCR/ninja gym does provide the most specific training, there isn’t always one that is nearby or convenient to visit. This is where the “Playout OCR Game” comes in. Here’s a quick review of Playout The OCR Game, one of three options available from Playout.
What is it?
Playout OCR is a 56 card game and exercise deck. It includes:
10 Terrain Cards: Exercises that simulate running, going uphill, swimming and more.
10 Skill Obstacles: Exercises that simulate doing obstacles.
12 Strength Obstacles: Exercises that simulate obstacles that require more muscle like rope climbs, log flips, tire drag and more.
Plus, 8 mini-games and 12 wildcards, more on that later.
How is it used?
The very simplified explanation is that is a workout card game. I used to do something similar with a deck of regular playing cards but this is way better. You don’t have to try to remember what each suit stood for and you can have more than four exercises.
Aspects I Loved:
When talking OCR training in my book Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite OCR, I list three pillars that OCR training needs to be useful: Progressive, Specific and Enjoyable. Using this model to assess Playout, every card has an easy, medium and hard level listed on the top. This makes it scalable and progressive (i.e. you can make it harder as you get better). Furthermore, every card has what it is supposed to simulate (for example, hang switch simulates monkey bars, dragon walk simulates barbed wire crawl, pushup rolls simulates rolling under an obstacle, etc.). This makes the training specific.
Finally, is Playout enjoyable? They hit it out of the park with this one. Whether you are an adult looking for a good workout or a kid looking to get moving you will love it. My five year old daughter wants to play daily (I scale the training down a little bit further and modify the games).
There are so many options I don’t even know where to start. You could simply go through the deck doing every exercise on easy/medium/hard, you could pick a couple of cards or you could follow one of the nearly dozen suggestions that is included in the deck. There is 8 mini-games, a team race version (multi-person), an open heat version (easier/more scalable), an elite heat version (harder/more competitive) and the combination game. The combination game is essentially taking Playout OCR and combining it with either Playout The Game and/or Playout The Game 2.
The game is a ton of fun. I think it is a great option for something to change up your training, incorporate as part of your weekly routine or as I found out recently do with your kids. Pick one up for yourself, you kids, relatives or anyone that wants to have fun while getting in some great OCR specific exercises.
Order yours here: www.PlayoutTheGame.com
|Posted by Strength & Speed on December 22, 2020 at 9:15 AM|
2020 has been a weird year for racing. While there was some live events put on by brands like Savage Race, Conquer The Gauntlet, KC Timber Challenge and even a couple of Spartan Races, much of the sport was put on hold. Many options for racing came in the form of local events for me personally. As a competitive athlete who uses race results to gain perks from sponsors and uses my results to help promote my books, it got me thinking, “What defines a race and which of these non-standard events should I count in my results tally when talking to sponsors?”
As I compiled my stats for the year, do I count “virtual races” in my results? What about races with no entry fee? Do I only count it as a race if certain level of competition shows up? What about FKT (Fastest Known Times) or Strava segments? What about the charity event I did OCR America 2: When Hell Freezes Over where my pit crew and I were the only ones that participated at some level all 8 days?
Here’s my attempt to define what makes an “official race”:
1. INTENT: The race organizers declare it as a race and athletes show up to the same starting location at around the same date/time with the intent to do their best/win.
2. RECOGNITION: Athletes either pay for entry, receive prize money, receive prizes OR have some sort of recognition (i.e. results online, announcement at race, podium ceremony)
3. COMPETITION: It is open to the general public, requires qualification OR invite only where competitive athletes are invited.
Clearly there is a lot of subjectivity here, but here are my thoughts on each and where some of these non-standard events fall:
INTENT: The race organizers declare it as a race and athletes show up to the same starting location at around the same date/time with the intent to do their best/win: First off the race organizers need to declare it as a race, so I don’t count events like KC Timber Challenge’s Yeti and Family Timber Challenge which the race organizers specifically say aren’t races but personal challenges even if people show up with the intent to be the first one across the line.
The same starting location is a specifically a reference to virtual races. While a Virtual Race can be very competitive (or more competitive than live events) if the right people sign up, I list them separately from my live races. I think Virtual Races are their own category of events. The same goes with Strava segments or FKTs, which I would list as two separate accomplishments in my bio/resume. Both may be more difficult than a live race but they are run at different times/dates from other athletes in different conditions.
RECOGNITION: Athletes either pay for entry, receive prize money, receive prizes OR have some sort of recognition (i.e. results online, announcement at race, podium ceremony): I ran a KCOCR event earlier this year that was completely free but with a small field. Somewhat interesting the small field proved competitive and my 3rd place finish was my only non-win race (out of five races) result of 2020. Furthermore, the prize for reaching the podium was a pass to a local climbing gym (ROKC Olathe), valued at $155. That’s a better prize than many races with entry fees like Tough Mudder or Rugged Maniac.
Is it only a race if there is prize money? I don’t think so, if that was the case World’s Toughest Mudder 2019 wasn’t a race since it had $0 in prize money. However, there does need to be some sort of recognition for the winners whether that be physical prizes, cash prizes, public announcement, podium ceremony or results posted online via website/social media. If you are competitive athlete looking for sponsorship you may want to break down your results even further by stating things like X podium finishes with cash prizes or Y wins where the prize money was in the four digits. More refinement can help express your value to sponsors in a more clear way that makes you stand out from other athletes.
COMPETITION: It is open to the general public, requires qualification OR invite only where competitive athletes are invited: If we say they are only “official races” if it is open to the general public then things like the “Spartan Games” recently held by Joe DeSena aren’t “official” races or events. That also means events like “Barkely’s Marathons” wouldn’t be official events since the entry process is convoluted and requires being “in the know”. However, I would consider both the Spartan Games and Barkely’s as official races/events that if I were a competitor in those I would list as part of my race results.
You can get around this open to all by “requiring qualification” like events like the Boston Marathon or OCR World Championships, both are definitely official races. Finally, if neither is an option the invite needs to go out to a large enough or highly qualified enough field (which is open to a large amount of interpretation). Not all the competition needs to show up, but the invite should be put out allowing them to come if they desired and if their schedule is open. For example, not every athlete shows up to every major race each year. Some of them pick and choose where they are going to peak/perform.
Who cares if it’s an “official” race?
This also begs the question, why should I…or really anyone care? I can’t answer for everyone but for me personally it’s about being transparent and honest with current or future sponsors and other opportunities. I don’t want to say I’ve won five races last year if they were “races” of me challenging random people on the street to Obstacle Course Races (OCRs) that no one else was invited to. For me personally, I’ve received more benefits in stuff and prizes than in actual cumulative dollars in cash (look for my next article “Should I Care About Placement If There is No Prize?”
If I’m applying for a competitive TV show like Eco-Challenge or American Ninja Warrior I don’t want to claim something that isn’t genuine. Perhaps my time in the military influenced me where I feel there needs to be standards for things, like this example of “combat deployment”.
Deployments are labeled combat or not regardless of what my personal experience would state. For example, while deployed to Kuwait tasked with training the Kuwaiti military I was receiving combat entitlements, drove a civilian car through the city and lived in apartment in downtown. Yet, technically according to me records this is a “combat” deployment despite it looking nothing like what I would actually consider combat or experienced in Iraq. It doesn’t meet Evan’s standard of combat but officially according to my records those two months are listed as “combat”.
My OCR America events aren’t races but challenges based off the above definition. Mostly because I didn’t declare them as a race and while I invited others to pace me the invitation wasn’t really out for people to run every single mile of the event with me (assuming someone would want to do that).
That’s a quick summary of the conclusion I came to. It helped me identify what I would list as official results in my bio for 2020, a very weird year for racing. If this isn’t a good enough solution, I think it is a pretty good starting point to help identify races and keep things transparent. Feel free to drop some comments below or in the Facebook post.
|Posted by Strength & Speed on December 10, 2020 at 2:05 PM|
Strength & Speed is opening the application window for their 6th S&S Developtment Team. Each year has brought success to our athletes with a list of different benefits that change but also expand slightly every year. In the past the team has included accomplishments such as athletes getting their first sponsors, several becoming ambassadors for brands and many hitting new PRs including first Ultra-OCR win, first win, first cash podium, most podiums in a year and more. To check out some of the athletes from the last three years, check out the Teams page, under the Athletes tab.
Unlike Pro Teams which often provide larger benefits like free access into races spanning multiple states and other perks, the biggest benefit of this team is access to knowledge for improvement not published elsewhere. Upon entrance into the team you will have small group access to personal trainers, a nutritionist, physical therapist, OCR professionals and other sponsored athletes. As part of the Development Team, you will get unprecedented access to knowledge includes training information, workout templates and guidance when applying for sponsorship.
Additional benefits of the team include name/S&S score on the website, a couple of items of free apparel (choice of book(s), audiobook or apparel), marketing support, discounts not available to non-team members and the opportunity to expand you influence in the OCR world. As S&S gets perks they are allowed to share, those discounts, free items and free entries are passed along to the team. In 2019 alone we gave away over $500 in race entries to team members, 2020 was substantially less due to the cancelation of most races. Companies want athletes that not only provide them quality finishing results but also have an outlet for spreading their message. Being a part of Strength & Speed gives you an established platform to spread your desired message to a larger audience rather than trying to build something on your own from the ground up.
Getting sponsored by a larger company is not an easy task and it requires significant work. The athletes at Strength & Speed have already solved a lot of the challenges associated with this process. If you do not need training advice but just knowledge on how to get sponsored, the Development Team will also help you with that.
Apply today by filling out the information below and sending it to Evan@TeamStrengthSpeed.com as AN ATTACHED WORD DOCUMENT if you are interested. We are not necessarily looking for the best athletes, just those with a strong desire to succeed. Application window closes on January 15, 2021 and selectees will be notified during the first week of February 2021.:
(Cut and paste the below into a word document and fill out)
Is this your first year applying?:
Major Goal for 2021:
Minor Goals for 2021:
Races for 2021:
2019/2020 Race Results:
Race Highlights from 2018 or Earlier:
Social Media Sites (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube/etc.):
Other Relevant Information You Think We Should Know:
Other Sponsors (if applicable):
Possible Interests in Expanding Influence (interested in writing articles, reviews, videos or other ideas?):
(Reference Criteria section of the website for below information. Proof of score not required at the time of applying.)
|Posted by Strength & Speed on October 10, 2020 at 12:45 PM|
To the outsider my list of Ultra-OCR charity events may seem like a blur and equally as hard across the board. Is the 24 hour treadmill OCR (1 mile run + 4 obstacles repeated for 24 hours) hardest due to boredom? Is the 48 hour multi-lap of Conquer The Gauntlet hardest due to length of time? Is OCR America hardest because it was 7 days long and the first major charity event I ran? Or could it be the Ultra-OCR Grand Slam since I competed in 6x 24 hour OCRs in 365 days with different competition that were usually only racing in one 24 hour that year? I’m not sure which was hardest, but the most impressive one in my mind was OCR America 2: When Hell Freezes Over, an 8 day, 8 venue, multi-lap event where I ran a marathon length OCR every day for eight days in late January. Here’s why:
1. Flash to Bang: One of the hardest parts about doing these charity events is not only do you have to physically do them, but you are organizing and planning them too. I found out in late December work wasn’t going to let me travel to Kuwait for Hannibal Race, so I took an idea I had for 2021, OCR America 2, and pivoted it to 2020. On December 19th I made the decision, then proceeded to start emailing sponsors, contacting brands, calling venues, finding a pit crew, designing shirts, designing belt buckles, setting up online registration and everything else that goes into an event. A week later, on December 26th, I placed the order for the buckles (after several back and forth adjusting designs), ordered the shirts and made the first public teaser announcement. Four days later the announcement was public and on January 19th, one month post decision I began running.
2. Training? That’s overrated: After World’s Toughest Mudder (mid-November) I go into off-season mode where I stop running but continue to strength train. With the event a month away, I had time for a two week training block and a two week taper. Essentially I was relying on the last 20 years of my life and consistent fitness to perform on event day. I was equally worried about injury for such a sudden increase as I was about physically being able to run that much on what I would consider “no training.”
3. Best Performance: When you are the only athlete covering the distance it is hard to judge how well you are performing. In OCR America back in 2016, I did a lot of walking after day four. With OCR America I was still jogging at a decent pace on Day 6 (day 7 and 8 are a different story). However, the video from Michelle Warnky’s Movement Lab Ohio captures it well. Despite logging lots of miles and completing hundreds of obstacles, Amy Pajcic and I are playing around on obstacles like it’s a normal day at the ninja gym. Going into day 8 I had covered 191 miles, that’s over 27 miles a day for seven days. In 2016 I was only able to cover 161 miles and that was without having to deal with single digit temperatures and snow.
4. Arguably the Hardest Event: Finally, I think you could make an argument that this was my hardest event. While they all had their challenges, 8 venues, 8 days, 200 miles and 1000+ obstacles is a lot of wear and tear on the body. Add in that most people don’t like being outside at all in the winter but I was doing it for 8 days in a row for up to 12 hours a day. Actually, I thought 48 hours of Endure The Gauntlet was harder but that’s because I don’t like the heat, my hands were ripped to shreds along with swollen, my pit crew was pulling ticks off my legs every lap, I was covered in bug bites that itched for days and Conquer The Gauntlet’s obstacles felt like an ass kicking on every lap.
In the end, I performed above my expectations for OCR America 2: When Hell Freezes Over. This was largely due to a stellar pit crew. My dad, an experienced member of my pit crew, was there who knows me better than anyone but my wife and he handled a lot of the logistics. Strength & Speed’s Jacob Stone handled the driving and his conversations kept me amused while pacing me. Obstacle Running Adventure’s Mike Stefano produced, what I think is, the best OCR podcast content ever (listen to episodes 112-119), Stoke Shed’s Bobby Ross the filmmaker kept me motivated by pacing and producing daily videos that were the highlight of my day.
When you are being beaten down by the course day after day you certainly don’t feel tough. However, seeing Bobby’s videos every morning made me visualize an ideal version of myself….Ultra-OCR Man that allowed me to tap deeper into the mental grit bank. There were days I was limping all evening because my ankle was swollen. I would go to bed not knowing if I could continue the next day. I never externalized the feelings because I worried they would manifest themselves into reality. Instead I silently prayed, pushed it out of my mind and decided sleep would make it go away. It worked…kind of. Every day that passed my ankle would start hurting earlier and earlier in the day. From my now skewed memory I think on day 5 it was 18 miles, day 6 it was 14 miles, day 7 around 10 miles and by day 8 after only 6 miles I was in pain.
With 2020 being a slow race year it has allowed me time to reflect on my biggest event of the year and one of the best experiences of my life. That’s it for OCR America…or so I keep telling myself. Keep training and I hope to see you at 2021’s charity event, which is less than a day in length...thank goodness
|Posted by Strength & Speed on September 15, 2020 at 10:20 PM|
There is no substitution for hard work. This phrase has been repeated so many times in history, I’m not sure anyone knows who said it first. Despite the overuse, it still is a phrase that I don’t always grasp. I like to find the fastest and easiest way to get something done. There’s no sense in wasting energy. This will sometimes get me into trouble, like it did the other week when I decided to run my first alternative marathon, with absolutely no training
If you aren’t familiar with the idea of an alternative marathon, it’s simply 26.2 miles completed in a unique fashion. In this case, the idea was to run a single mile every hour, for 24 hours (doubling up in two hours and adding a little for the 0.2 miles). For extra spice and an upper body workout, I added in ten pushups for every mile. Ideally, the mile and ten pushups would take roughly fifteen minutes, leaving me around forty five minutes to do chores and little tasks. That way, at the end of 24 hours, I would not only have done a marathon, but a dozen little tasks as well.
Marathons have always been a daunting idea, because I don’t like running. Before this event, I had never run more than three miles at once, and the most I had done in a day was thirteen miles. So the idea of just running 26.2 miles has never been appealing. But I like doing hard things and when I saw this crazy Australian, Beau Miles, doing a 24 hour alternative marathon, it caught my interest.
My big mistake came from not training or preparing at all. There was no running plan, no fueling strategy, nothing. But I was so confident I was going to breeze through this event. It was only a mile an hour, after all. I thought I could just trade practice for more time. Looking back, my confidence was more arrogant than anything, and I was about to be put in my place.
Sure enough, once the event started, it didn’t take long for things to start going down hill. It started with heat exhaustion and dehydration around mile five. This forced me to abandon the idea of doing chores in between each round and focus solely on recovery. After recovering a little, a blister started on my foot after mile six. Nothing duct tape couldn’t fix, but the wheels were falling off and I wasn’t even a third of the way done.
I managed to run a total of 10.2 miles on schedule. Then the night hit, and my ability to move was limited to a walk. At mile thirteen, the chafing set it. No amount of youtube videos could prepare me for that agony. After that, my walk turned into a waddle. I managed to get a total of 20.2 miles before I had to throw in the towel and admit to myself that I was not going to win.
Despite the failure, I’m still happy and proud with the attempt. I think I learned more in those eighteen hours than I have in years. I finally have an understanding for what no substitutions really means, and how to apply in the future. I also have a better understanding of my current limits. Now I can make a game plan to push past them. At the end of the day, I encourage everyone to do something crazy like an alternative marathon. You learn a lot about yourself and really do gain an appreciation for the work and effort that goes into becoming a better version of yourself.
Michael Giles is an engineer by day and an OCR weekend warrior. He has completed nine obstacle course races, including Conquer the Gauntlet, and the Spartan Trifecta. In the evenings, he trains at his local Crossfit gym, and enjoys rock climbing. In addition, he occasionally creates his own unique challenges to test himself.