I’ve have been training consistently since March of this year for the OCRWC (Obstacle Course Race World Championships) which just occurred at Blue Mountain, Ontario (Oct 14-16) which is beautiful ski resort village not too far north of Toronto.
This post will focus on the actual weekend experience as I get a lot of questions about these kinds of things (as opposed to the rigorous training and race schedule I followed this year).
Make sure to find the 3 different video link embedded to see some of the action!
How to qualify?
There are several ways and categories to qualify for this event (visit www.ocrworldchampionships.com to find out more) and since the event is just 3 years old, they are still ironing out the kinks. Many of you reading this who are FF members or people in ‘decent shape’ would be surprised to know that it not very hard to qualify when compared to any other world championship type events. Having ages of 13-50+ give the event a very diverse feel and also enables more likelihood of more participants which helps to put on the expensive event.
What were the events?
On Friday, there was a 3km short course event that ran in heats and contained about 20 obstacles. On Saturday, there was the classic 15km course that had around 50 obstacles. On Sunday, there was a 3-person team relay event about 5km in distance where each participant had a focused leg on either speed (run fast with easier obstacles), strength (carrying heavy stuff up and down mountain), or technical (lots of upper body rigs).
What were the categories?
There were PRO divisions for men and women (harder to qualify for) and also Age Group divisions broken down into 5 year increments. For example, I competed in the Men’s 30-34 age group division (although qualified for PRO did not register on time before it filled up and felt for my first year seeing how I stack up in my age was a good step). Furthermore, there was a Journeyman category where people who did not qualify but still race quite a bit and show a passion for the sport could be considered to race. Overall, there were well over 2,000 competitors. There were over 40 countries represented!
What were the obstacles?
There is lots of info and footage online (OCR World Championships, Mud Run Guide, or Obstacle Racing Media Facebook Pages or websites for example) but there were quite a few different style walls (shorter, taller, ramp, slip etc.), many rigs (think Ninja Warrior, or things where you need to use upper body to monkey around and not fall off), and a variety of other things of which no one really knew much about ahead of time. Some were original obstacles whereas others came from various Race Companies from around the world (i.e. Battlefrog (R.I.P), Savage Race, Toughest…..etc).
What if you can’t do an obstacle?
What I love about this event is that it is “mandatory obstacle completion”. You can’t just do burpees and run away. You can try as many times as you want and keep persevering until you either complete it or you succumb to reality. This results in ones “band” being cut off whereas now you can’t be considered for the prize money or legitimate rankings for the race. It is a harsh reality but gives you information on what to work for in the future. To avoid people being there all day and for some safety reasons, there was a 5hour course time limit on the 15km (I think so anyways). Hundreds of bands were cut off across the weekend! If you got your band cut, you keep doing the race and giving it your all and hopefully you can complete as many of the rest as possible.
What was the most difficult part?
By far for me it was simply trying to get up and down the mountains as the angles and impact on the body is very hard to master without practice and for someone like me who is in his infancy of developing his running game. As I write this 10 days post-race, I still have calf cramps and tightness which is kind of amusing. I had no issues with any of the man-made obstacles due to my training routine this year which was nice!
Why again do you do this?
Many reasons to be honest but one that may surprise you is related to my mental health. We are focusing on mental health at the gym this month through various activities and charity events so its a good time to bring it up! I am just not the person I want to be mentally/emotionally when I lack consistency in my physical training…ask my wife…its probably a 75% difference in the man she gets to partner with.
Therefore I need something to train for that will get me up and get it done no matter who I feel. I can’t let emotion, motivation, or feelings dictate if I take action or not or else I am in BIG TROUBLE. As soon as I register for an event like this I have something specific to move towards. I make a plan. I train for it because I want to do well, I want to be prepared and every day I train its likely I will eat better and also likely I will go to bed at a good time. This works for me. It is part of the “Johnny Fukumoto Handbook” that is aware of some of my weaknesses and prepares for them.
I do enjoy the races and literally overcoming physical situations that can be a metaphor for life’s challenges. I enjoy working towards a goal and seeing small changes over time. I feel a need to demonstrate a work ethic and integrity in an industry where there is very little of that. I like having things in my calendar to look forward to. It is rewarding seeing others try new things in life and as a partial result of my journey.
However, every day I train along the way for this race is a day where my family, my colleagues, the people at our gym, my friends have a higher % chance of getting a better version of me. That is the BOTTOM LINE. That is my WHY.
What events did you do? How did they go?
Saturday 15km Race, Men’s 30-34 Category
Time: 2:16:11 Official Result: 31/199 (159 Men completed all obstacles)
Slow Start But Gaining Ground Very warm day (over 20 degrees) and got off to my usual slower start off the line in about 40-50 place for first few minutes. We hit our first ascent and many men starting to struggle immediately and began walking so focused on guys ahead of me and tried gaining ground step by step. By the time I got to Dragon’s Back where some of my family were waiting maybe 3-4km in I had managed to creep up to about 14th place! Coming up to some steep hills to run down, I decided to run backwards to ease the forces on my quads and knees and found I was passing quite a few people and in little to no discomfort at all but definitely got a few weird looks! I definitely found I was hiking or power hiking more than I would have liked but I was still feeling confident.
Referee Issues and Cramping After another ascent I hit up a Platinum Rig that was very short and a fun challenge. This is where things got interesting…I completed the rig, got my feet over the line and asked the referee if I was good to go and he said “yep!”. Online tracking had me in 17th place at this point about 9km (I was super pumped as I am a strong finisher and was doing better than expected at this point). As soon as I jogged away, another referee came and said I had to go back in the “re-try lane” and do it again and I was baffled. He said I had touched the outside of the apparatus after standing up therefore was relegated to go into a long line of other ‘failed attempters’ which is a big problem. There are usually long lineups and not enough lanes to keep a good flow coming…coupled with the fact that I was cleared to go by the first referee, there was not clarity pre-race or during (in my opinion), and several people around me and in lots of online footage were doing the same thing and being cleared to go. I thought “I’m screwed. My goal is now crushed…and when you’ve put in 100 runs and 120 gym workouts in 7 months up to that point, its a bit upsetting to say the least. I went to back of line (although going into the ‘first attempt’ lanes would have been quicker yet against the rules) and stood there for about 8-10 minutes waiting and beginning to cramp. I got through the 2nd attempt and found myself now in 42nd place.
Coming Back I decided to keep pushing! I got caught in another log jam on the Weaver right after the Platinum Rig before I tried to run hard downhill through windy trails, some of them pretty steep (for a prairie boy at least). In the last km, there were about 7 obstacles (most of them upper body or rig types and you can see a few on the video below) and I pushed HARD. I managed to pass about 10-12 guys in the last 5km of the race and collapsed at the finish line (after winning a great sprint battle with a guy from the Netherlands).
Content and Frustrated At Same Time! I was happy with my performance but to be honest, quite disappointed with something in the race that was out of my control. I was proud that I kept my integrity in that instance even though It cost me a top 20 finish and maybe a top 10-15. I had to exercise more patience as I was after the race, incorrectly assessed a 10 minute time penalty and ‘incomplete’ obstacle ruling for another rig that I completed (thus relegating me to 156th and an ‘incomplete’ race status). Thank goodness my little sister had videotaped the obstacle in question which I submitted for review and was approved (that rig completion is on video below)!
Sunday Team-Relay 5km, Men’s Open Category
Time: 42:40:07 Result: 14/111 (85 Teams Completed All Obstacles)
Strangers! I had trouble finding a team for a few months but connected with a few guys a month back and we decided to go for it even though we really hadn’t met each other before! I was supposed to be the ‘speed’ guy as the other 2 are more suited for other things and are more ultra-distance runners in their own right. We called ourself the “Undrafted Canadians” and represented Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.
Wet and Fast Start It was POURING rain for this event which was super fun and actually felt it gave us an advantage as we didn’t really let it affect us too much. I gunned it off the line and was in about 12-15 in the early minutes. It was very muddy and noticed that many men were having a lot of trouble running down very slippery slopes. Some were falling quite a bit and even beyond the safety tape and into the bush! My shoes were quite good for this event so I just ran with abandon and a few times did a 10-20m butt slide as it was so wet, it seemed like a good tactic.
Tagging Off and Great Finish I only had to hurdle a few small boards, traverse a pretty easy pipe, climb a wall or two, and do Dragon’s Back again in the 3-ish km leg before handing off to my teammate who did a quick rig. We were in 11th place at the time. He then passed the torch to our strength guy who took a 50lb sandbag and trekked a half mile up the mountain and back with some good slipping and sliding along the way. He tagged our technical guy back in and we ran to meeting area near the end as we had to summit a wall maybe 12ft high all together before crossing the finish line. We did it in one fun and epic attempt and then sprinted hand-in-hand across the line for a memorable finish to the weekend!
Excellent Experience Overall, it was a fantastic weekend because I was with my family, the venue was fantastic, the organizers and racers contributed a very special experience, I was injury free and performed to my expectations. I was frustrated by the inconsistencies in the results but want to extend grace as the event is only in its 3rd year and will continue to get better and better.
Let’s do that again I am excited that it may be in the same location next year and will be ready to set new goals (after I rest up a bit!). I also look forward to my wife joining me for a potential co-ed team next year and seeing her develop as an OCR athlete next season after much interrupted training in the last 3 years with the arrival of our 2 boys.
Humanitarian Night Highlight I also want to mention it was a privilege to attend a dinner highlighting the 2016 OCR Humanitarian Award on the Friday night and connect with a few more people in the OCR community who love helping people, using their strength to do good, to give and not simply just race for themselves. It was an honour to be recognized as a finalist and to anyone reading this who has had any active part in the humanitarian work my blood, friend, and gym families area apart of, thank you.
Thanks for reading and I hope you were informed, encouraged, and perhaps have a fire starting in your heart about something you can work towards no matter what that is! Thanks for my family (especially my wife Jen), friends, and Fukumoto Fitness family for the support and encouragement and for every person who helped with training, childcare, fuel, gear or just a listening ear along the way.