You may or may not know that I’m a competitive OCR athlete. What is OCR you might ask? OCR stands for obstacle course racing or more well known as Spartan Racing. There’s less than a month left to my first race of the season and I thought I’d spread some OCR wisdom to fellow racers!
I’ve been competing at OCR for about four years now. It wasn’t until last year that I really got the hang of it and started consistently placing top 5 and actually won one of the races! If you’re wondering how I did it, there was actually a reason for my sudden spike in performance levels and that was my race strategy.
Using fuel and properly getting your body to take on all that is OCR racing is important and my race results improve drastically once I realized that. Last year, I improved my Killington Beast race time by FOUR HOURS, literally cut it in half!
All I did differently was how I approached the race and how I prepared myself. A month before this race my OCR mentors approached me at the OCR NORAM Championships and asked where my gear was. I had no answer because I had no idea what they were talking about.
I learned the hard way and had to be carried over one of the obstacles because of extreme cramping and fatigue. At the time I thought I wasn’t fit or strong enough to compete at this level, but dang was I so wrong.
The lesson I learned completely changed my perspective on racing and led me to win my next race. Placing 1st out of 1,000 other female athletes allowed me to regain my confidence and be more excited about OCR racing. I knew I couldn’t keep what I learned to myself and I should share my racing strategies with others!
This is why I’ve created a list of four habits you should use every time you race! These habits can be applied to training and generally long hikes, doesn’t have to be for OCR!
Proper breakfast & dinner
PROPER BREAKFAST & DINNER
The first habit you should get into is making sure you eat a good fueling dinner and breakfast before any big climb. Complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein are always good combos. The mistake I made with this was not eating enough calories.
I knew the next day I would be running around in short spandex and a sports bra and thought if I ate a bunch of food I wouldn’t “look as good.” Trust me guys, it’s even painful to write that… we’ve all been there.
Set yourself up for success and you’ll thank yourself later. I’d rather look fat and happy on top of the podium than pretty and last place folks.
This was the real game changer for me. Energy gels are an actual lifesaver. Up until I realized this, I thought they were only for “intense endurance athletes” like marathon runners or doing the Iron man. Newsflash Court, running 14+ miles up and down an intense ski mountain with over 6,000’ of elevation gain qualifies as an “intense endurance event.”
So my approach with gels is to take them every three or so miles. I found that every three miles of racing was where I started to feel a bit more sluggish. Taking one gel every three miles keeps me pumped and gives my body what it needs to sustain itself.
So what gels should you use? There are a couple brands that I really like and they taste so good I actually used them as topping on my ice cream! My favorite gels are GU Energy Gels, Clif Shot Energy Gels, and Honey Stinger Energy Gels.
Hydrating throughout the race is obviously important, but I wanted to share my approach. Since I don’t like carrying around bottles of water or a hydration packet, every Spartan race or any OCR race really has water stations every so often.
I found that drinking three cups of water at every single station, even if I wasn’t thirsty or not, keep me hydrated really well. Sometimes I had to force it down and every time I stopped a few people passed me, but in the long run I beat them because my body was properly hydrated.
Taking the time to stop and drink water is necessary during a 5 hour race. Don’t worry 20ish seconds of chugging water will help you more than it will hurt you.
I saved this one for last as it’s the holy grail. If you think I’m talking about mustard packets from fast food places… you’re right. For whatever reason the salt content in the mustard is what does the trick.
The trick for what? Cramps!! Cramps are the reason why I would never place the way I could during races. 75% of the way through my body would just breakdown and I noticed many other people around me experiencing the same thing. Couldn’t move my legs or arms and it hurt so bad that it almost made me cry.
Taking a mustard packet as soon as I felt a cramp coming on immediately got rid of it. Throughout the race though as your muscles want to cramp more and more, the mustard does stop working to an extent. For the most part though they’ll get you through and work for about the first 5 times.
Remember when I said I had to get carried over an obstacle at that last race? That was because my body was cramping. Someone told me to take a mustard packet and within 15 seconds the cramps went away and I was able to SPRINT across the finish line. It blew my mind and always surprises everyone else I tell too. Stock up on these guys anytime you go to a place that has them and you won’t be sorry!
Spartan racing is no easy task, but anyone at any fitness level can do it. It might be intimidating, but trust me you’ve got it! If you take the leap and sign-up, remember these four habits and let me know how they help!