Since 1978

#ThisIsMyYear to do an Obstacle Course Race

I have made a lot of rookie mistakes in my OCR career. Having completed everything from the Dirty Dash to coming in second at the 2014 World's Toughest Mudder 24 hour Obstacle Race Championship, mistakes were a part of the process. As such, I am hoping to be able to impart some of the lessons that I learned to you the easy way. 1. Train: This should be pretty obvious, but a lot of people show up unprepared to tackle the distance or obstacles. Sure, you can survive it… but this article is about crushing it. You'll also have a lot more fun and be less likely to get injured on route to the finish line. Your training should consist of body weight exercises like planks and squats, climbing ropes and walls, doing monkey bars and rings, crawling under and over stuff, lifting slightly awkward objects like painters buckets and sandbags, and of course… lots of trail running or hiking on steep terrain. 2. Team Up: Most of the obstacles at Spartan and Tough Mudder are far easier with a team to help you get through. It also makes the event a lot more fun. Don't hesitate to enlist coworkers, family or hang a poster at your gym. Then of course, train together and keep each other motivated from day one. 3. Shoes make the Mudder: The most important piece of equipment might just be your shoes. Trail shoes that fit snuggly and do not hold water are your best bet. Some treads stick better on wood and feel better wet. Like anything else, make sure to try them in the conditions you'll experience before the big day. 4. Get Snug: I know, not everyone is comfortable in skin-tight spandex. But that has to change. Anything baggy or made of cotton is sure to become water soaked and heavy. Get yourself a set of compression gear: long tights and sleeves for cold weather events, and shorts and sleeveless for hot weather. You can also go shirtless if you roll that way, but keep in mind that those iconic mud pits have bits of sharp gravel that will peel the skin off your tender tummy. Again, wear it wet and muddy and see how it feels. 5. Pack it in: Particularly if you are doing a longer distance like Tough Mudder, you may want to store some water or nutrition in a pack. Generally you can find some water and unreliable fuel at aid stations, so it's nice to have your own. I love the Nathan Hydration race vests. They are light and hold almost no water in the material when wet. At Spartan World Championship, I forgot it was there several times. You want to make sure there is minimal mesh to get caught on the barb wire, and few zippers to get jammed up. I just shove everything into the elastic pocket at the front and have never had a problem with losing anything. 6. Throw away the Watch: Tough Mudder isn't even timed and no one really cares how long it took you to complete a Spartan Race. Even with the top finishers, the courses are so diverse that time is almost irrelevant. Just go out, have fun, don't stress over the traffic jams at obstacles and make it to the finish line happy. 7. Don't Overthink Things: Like Nike famously says, "Just do it." Of course, if you ever feel like you are in past your comfort level, ask for help (most people are more than willing to lend a hand) or skip it. At Spartan that means 30 burpees and at Tough Mudder there is no penalty at all for skipping. 8. Think Happy Thoughts: Remind yourself that you can do it. You will at times, during training or the event, feel as if you can't. Those thoughts are totally normal and being able to quiet them is part of the process. The more doubts you had, the more successful you will feel at the finish line. Trust me. 9. Keep Moving Forward: Whether you're in a challenging swim section or waist deep in mud. The best piece of advice I ever got was to just keep going. 10. Plan to get Muddy: So many first timers are so focused on preparing for the event itself that they aren't prepared to be standing on the other side of the finish line covered in mud from head to toe. I bring a backpack with a couple old towels, flip flops, a pair of fleece pants, tee shirt, sweater, soap and scrub mitt, bag for dirty clothes, water and a snack to every race. Don't forget sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses if you're sticking around.
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