6 Tips to Make the Most of Your OCR Race

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As a grand, mad experiment, Obstacle Course Racing is hardly uniform–at least superficially– across venues. Whether you’re throwing spears at a Spartan Race, racing for charity at a local event, roughing the course with the SEALs at BattleFrog, or just here for the beer and party with Warrior Dash, each venue contributes its own racing genetics, lending themselves to the gloriously gnarled amalgam of the OCR world.

Even so, as the dust settles in these early years of the sport, a few standard practices have emerged. Below are some tips that will help you prepare for your next race and compete (or just have a good time!) at your best.


1. Study the Course

Make no mistake; all obstacle races are battlegrounds, and ignorance of the terrain will cost you on the results board. Many race series post maps and descriptions of future races on their websites. How long is the course? How many obstacles? How far are they spaced along the run? Is the venue highly technical with rocky slopes, pits, etc.? What are the projected weather conditions? Get as familiar as you can with the course so that you can train appropriately and focus on pushing yourself through to the end with fewer surprises and distractions.

2. Choose the Right Gear

With Obstacle Racing taking the sports world by storm, race gear companies are jumping at the opportunity to create tools for the OCR enthusiast. Fortunately, much of what exists in the world of trail and road running translates quite well in this new environment. Generally speaking however, successful racers utilize lightweight, water-shedding, high tread trail shoes, and lightweight moister-wicking clothing (no cotton!). I will go into more detail on specific pieces of gear in another post.

3. Eat the Right Fuel

You’ve studied the course, and you’re dressed for battle, but you won’t last the fight if you aren’t properly fueled. Specifics on nutrition vary depending on the distance of the race and your diet philosophy, however avoid gorging the night before a race, as overindulgence often leads to gastrointestinal assaults on race day. Instead if you are into grains, opt for low fiber, low fat, easily digestible carbs like whole grain/wheat breads, low sugar cereals, and starchy vegetables in the days leading up to a race. If you’re more inclined toward Paleo (like me), I find a simple smoothie of banana and a heaping tablespoon of almond butter a superb fuel choice. Either way, just be sure to eat a few hours before toeing the starting line and hydrate at least 30 minutes prior to race.

4. Pack the Night Before

Although a growing number of events litter the United States (and beyond) with opportunities to race, some venues require extensive travel, and nothing is worse than forgetting vital gear at home. Again, while every race is different, there are some standard equipment you’ll need for race day registration:

  • Photo I.D.
  • Towel.
  • Change of Clothes/Footwear.
  • Fuel for Mid-Race (Mostly for races over 10k. Think energy gels, etc.).
  • Race Day Apparel (race shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, compression gear, tape or straps, Band-Aids, etc.).
  • Cash (Many races host food and vendors).
  • Phone/Camera (While most races have photographers on-site, the OCR world is very social. Take photos with new friends!).
  • A Great Attitude (Yes, some are there competing for the podium, but EVERYONE is there to have fun).

5. Don’t Forget the Warm-Up

Pre-race jitters are a natural response to the excitement of race day, but do not allow them to distract your from preparation. Obstacle races are often demanding and include various degrees of terrain, so be sure to properly warm-up your body and stretch before the start. For this reason all racers should arrive at the venue at least an hour early, if not more. Here is a sample warm-up:

  • High knees: 60 seconds
  • Walking lunges: 30 per side
  • 60 Jumping jacks
  • 25 Leg swings for quads and IT Band, both sides
  • If you have the space, try to fit in a light 10 minute jog, as this will warm your body and calm the nerves.
  • Perform a series of ballistic total body stretches.

6. Have Fun!

Although the OCR world is highly competitive, its newcomer status in the sporting world also means its athletes form a tight and intimate community. OCR venues are notorious for their team spirit, commroderie, and after-parties. At the end of the race, when you are spent from battle, nothing beats sharing war stories, a beer, and good food with your teammates and new friends along the way. There are also many regional teams one can join on social media sites such as Facebook which offer support and advise.

I hope these tips serve you well for your future races and please share this post with folks new to the sport. What are some tips you’ve collected along the way? Please share them in the comment section below.

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