5 Things I Learned While Running an Obstacle Course Race (OCR)

Reveille Park in Burnet, TX – a beautiful, picturesque place, especially in the spring. Delicate yellow, red, and violet wildflowers paint the landscape. Huge granite formations, steep hills, prickly pear cactus, massive oak trees and rough Mesquite are pure Texas. Such a great place. Add hundreds of volunteers, thousands of participants, a few dozen obstacles, lots of mud, and running water and you have The Austin Spartan, an adventure Obstacle Course Race (OCR).

How did I get myself into this?

I signed up for the run a few months ago because I had nonchalantly told my friend, Nicki, who had already signed up, “Yeah, I’ll do it with you.” My husband and another friend, Luke, were doing it and I had some experience with a Spartan race so I knew what I was getting into.

Mark and me at Sprint finish

Last year, a big group of us did the Spartan Sprint (3+ miles and about 20 obstacles) and I had trained for that one. This year we were doing a Spartan Super (8+ miles and 24 + obstacles) and I hadn’t done any special training for it. At the age of 53, one should commit purposefully to this type of event, but I felt kind of wishy-washy, not 100% committed, even as the race date got closer.

And then, just 6 days before the race, I tweaked my back while jumping rope and I couldn’t move without it hurting. I massaged, applied heat, and visited the chiropractor twice that week to re-gain mobility, but it hurt. I was on stand-by for race day.

The day of the run, I felt well enough to do it.

Out there on that muddy, rocky, wet course, I had some real-time life lesson reminders that I do my best to live by, but sometimes fall short.

Here are my top 5 Life Lessons from the OCR Trail

1. Keep moving forward.

One foot in front of the other. It’s tough to be at mile 2 and know you have at least 6 more miles to go and think, “I can’t do 6 more miles. I

just can’t.” Just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t think about how far you have to go because the only way you’re going to get there is to keep moving forward. One step at a time.

It wasn’t pretty, but I finished.
2. When you think you can’t, you won’t.

There was at least one obstacle that I decided to skip and do the penalty because I didn’t want to risk a hard jolt to my back, but when I looked at the obstacle more closely, I saw how I could’ve done it pretty easily with a little help. Had I taken a minute to look it over more carefully, I would’ve been able to figure it out.

3. Don’t be too proud to ask for help or to receive it.

One of the really cool things about the Spartan is that people help each other. Mark helped me by giving me a boost up a wall and once even carried me through an obstacle (I think that may have been illegal help) but even strangers offering a hand up out of a mud pit can make a big difference when you’re tired. Sometimes I want to try obstacles on my own to see if I can do it and that’s ok too, but to stubbornly refuse help when you need it can keep you stuck in a mud pit longer than you need to be.

Smiling Luke
Our friend, Luke, flashing a smile
4. Have fun along the way and smile; it’ll improve your experience.

At one point, there was an event photographer right at the edge of a creek

and I was tired and just wanted to be done and all I could think about was how much I wanted to get out of the mud. But my poopy attitude and refusal to smile for the camera didn’t get me out of the mud any faster. When I laughed at myself for mad-muggin’ the photographer, I instantly felt better and enjoyed the whole experience a lot more.

Our friend, Nicki, showing her great attitude
5. Run your own race.

It’s tempting to compare yourself to others, to compare your own progress with the progress of others, but your only competition is you. You’re the only one who can keep pushing or stop yourself. If you’re putting in the work, moving forward, doing your best, finding solutions instead of excuses, getting over obstacles, that’s the true measure of your progress.

Mark at End
Mark’s jubilant finish

Lessons learned

When we crossed the finish line, I had such a tremendous feeling of euphoria, absolutely happy to be done. Even though I was tired and hungry, I was also very thankful for the challenge, for being able to be there with Mark and our friends and for the good health to be able to be out there at all. I don’t know if I’ll do another OCR but I’m thankful for the lessons I got from this one.

What keeps you going when you want to quit?

2 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned While Running an Obstacle Course Race (OCR)

  • May 4, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I so enjoyed your post. It may even get me to sign up for a race this summer. I enjoyed you laughing at yourself with the photographer. We do have to take a step back and have a chuckle.

    • May 4, 2016 at 5:02 pm

      Oh good. Yes! Do a race and let us know how it goes! That would be great ????

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