Not too long ago there was a post in one of my Facebook groups that posed the question “why do you run OCR?” As I sit on a plane flying home the thought dawns on me that this would be the perfect post to start my new website. But not just why do I run OCR, but why do I train for it and why do I make it such a substantial part of my life!
A few years back I was in a horrible place in my life personally and physically. I had just received the most amazing gift in my life! My wonderful daughter Sally was born, but this also was the beginning of the end of my marriage to Sally’s mother. I had moved away from home and through a series of events a majority of the people I was close with were no longer in my life. As Sally’s mother and I tried to move forward with Sally in the front of our minds I found myself alone in almost every way possible.
I also began to experience some difficulties in my profession. I to this day am unsure why I was met with as much adversity in my profession, and many that are close to me agree that the deck was stacked against me for seemingly no reason. Life had seemed to be dishing out a lot of challenges all at once and I did not see how I would overcome any of them and provide a quality of life for my daughter or ever be satisfied in my own. Things seemed fairly grim to be honest. Now I do have to state that much of this was me thinking of the worst possible outcomes and there are many others that go through so much worse! My divorce, as sad as it was, was done so respectfully by both sides and with Sally’s best interest in mind. We are both still extremely involved and loving parents and communicate constantly about our daughter and her wellbeing! This is not always the case, but going through difficult times it is often difficult to see these small blessings.
During this time I had started going to the gym and trying to get in better shape. I found weight training as a great outlet for a lot of the issues I was going through and enjoyed waking up early and going to the gym alone. I was never one that enjoyed working-out with others. I have found it to be time consuming and inefficient. This posed a slight problem for me however. In my youth I had plenty of experience with being active and playing sports, but not too much experience with actually training properly. I also did not want to get a personal trainer due to the divorce (I wanted to ensure I saved every penny) as well as my previous statements on working out with others. This meant that I needed to begin learning how to do things properly on my own.
Having already completed both undergraduate and graduate degrees I knew how to research new things very well. With an undergrad in History education it was common for us to write lengthy research papers on all sorts of topics throughout history, and my graduate degree involving technology I was more qualified than the average person to educate myself in these matters. This was my thought process at least. True or not is irrelevant.
I began reading numerous books, articles, and watching countless hours of videos on proper technique, form, diet, repetition schemes and routines. I found that there is a lot out there that is just fluff! The type of workouts that do little to nothing for a person yet are advertised as the next best workout routine. Or that diets and plans that claim to give you a six pack in x amount of days are complete garbage and that spot reduction is impossible.
I found myself making friends with several trainers and other gym goers. I would still not talk much at the gym, and never while working-out, but I would meet with them for coffee or a quick bite and discuss different things we were doing. Through one of these conversations with a friend that was very active we were talking about different lifts we did that week. I had just set a new personal best on a leg press when a third friend entered the conversation. After hearing the amount of weight I had done (I honestly do not remember this benchmark now) he said “maybe you should join us for the BoneFrog.” I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, and quickly found out that neither did he seeing as none of us had ever participated in a race like this. I quickly said I would desiring to do something with friends and get out of the depression I was going through being that the divorce process had really just began. I then went home and began to research the race.
I pulled up a YouTube video of what the race was and began watching it on my tablet. My ex-wife and I were still living together and she had a natural curiosity and watched part of if it with me. After a few minutes she asked what it was and I explained to her the little I knew at this point.
“It is an obstacle course that is owned and operated by Navy Seals” I said with a level of pride and fear all at the same time. When I told her that I was going to run it with the guys I spoke with earlier that day she blurted out “you’re going to get hurt!” She quickly backtracked her initial skepticism, but I have to admit the same thought went through my head but I knew I needed to do this.
Over the next few months I continued to train the way I had been all along figuring that my discipline at the gym and consistency would provide me with enough to complete the course. I did not train cardio at all and knew that I was not going to place very well. My goal was completion alone. On race day I showed up and had that scared excitement that I have found to be so comforting. The three of us lined up and awaited our que to go.
As with many of the courses that I know run, this course was set up at a ski resort which meant a lot of mountains. It did not take long for me to see that not running or doing any cardio was going to have a major effect on my day. The three of us stayed together for the first mile or two and all had struggles with the inclines. The other two were much younger and in better shape than me however and eventually went off ahead. The obstacles were not as challenging as I anticipated though. Turns out that all of my strength training had paid off quite a bit. Many people struggled to get up and over several of the higher elements and I was able to breeze through them. That is until my first rope climb!
I was never able to climb a rope when I was younger. Being tall and thin I really did not have any upper body strength. I also never really saw a need to do this in real life so I did not bother to really try. When faced with it in person in my early 30’s I was now regretting this lack of effort or care. I was able to get higher than I thought and considered it a successful obstacle for me. I also had difficulty on their rig. These were turning wheels for monkey bars and I did not have the strength to keep myself up and coordinated. I tried this obstacle numerous times and failed each one. Fortunately I was running the open and my friends had encouraged me to move on with them (I had caught up I think due to my strength, but also sure they slowed down for me).
After these obstacles in the festival area we separated again and I found myself exhausted and coming down a mountain heading towards a flat wall either 8 or 10 feet tall. I saw numerous others stopping at the bottom of the mountain, waiting for their friends and then heaving each other over the wall. My friends however were no where to be found. I had the conscious thought that if I stopped I would lose my momentum. If I did that I would have to use my exhausted muscles to get all the way up and over. I did not feel that I would be able to achieve this so I began moving faster. I ran at the wall with everything I had and caught the top lip. I planted my right foot flat and attempted to do the same with my left but I had gone too fast and smashed my big toe straight into the wall. I thought I broke it instantly, but surprisingly I held on and pulled myself the rest of the way up and over.
On the other side of the wall I writhed in pain from my foot. I new I was close and that I needed to push on. No one else had come over the wall yet so I just jumped on the trail and began back up the mountain. At the top there were 3 more obstacles that I did with relative ease considering my state, but I found myself completely alone for the first time all race. Shortly after the third obstacle a man on an ATV came rolling up on me. We spoke briefly for a moment and this is when I learned how obstacle course races do different lengths in the same day. I had not followed the tape laid out for the Sprint and instead went onto the course for the next level up. I now had to backtrack all the way back down, pass dozens of people that I was ahead of and that damned wall that may have broken my toe.
I hobbled around the turn in the trail and found myself at the last 3 obstacles of the entire race. Needless to say, I was unhappy with myself and turned that anger into one final push to the end.
The final obstacle had me nervous from the start. It is an inclined ladder that you have to cross as monkey bars. It was high enough that there was a net below it for safety. Ever since watching that first video on the BoneFrog I was sure I would make the blooper reel and fall into that net, yet to my excited surprise I breezed right through it.
Crossing the line I was astonished with myself! I had never done anything even close to this and I was happy that I finished! I saw my friends and we joked about me getting lost and crushing my toe (did not break it but lost the nail) and we headed for the car. The festival area was not all that big so we decided to go out to eat at a BBQ place close by.
Through our post race conversations we all knew that we wanted more! We talked about the things we struggled with and excelled at, but in my head a lot more was happening. I loved the challenge and I wanted more. There was a thirst building for this and I had no idea why. We talked about a variety of options and found a local mud run that was happening a month later and committed to it. Now I had a reason to train, and a reason to learn more. My training and my diet began to work towards this next race and I knew that I was going to be more prepared. I was determined to do better the next time and my race training began the next day!
Throughout the rest of this series I will discuss all of my first races and how each one has changed my life. Not just in the ways I train or eat, but also in how I live! I hope you enjoy this series and check back next week for Part 2!