At some point, you just have to let go of what you thought should have happened
and live in what is happening.
There is no doubt about it now. I have officially transitioned from road racing to obstacle course racing (a.k.a. OCR). I was excited for what this season would bring after running some courses (and landing on the podium) at the end of last year. I dove in hard with two months of OCR-specific training to get ready for this upcoming season after experiencing the Olympic trials for the marathon in February. The transition was not easy, but it was enlightening to learn in depth about my weaknesses in some aspects of my fitness.
My season started a couple weeks ago by running a short distance OCR in and around Citifield Stadium in NYC. I managed to squeak out a Top 10 position despite throwing my spear like a baseball! I then quickly recovered to run an 8-10 mile rocky and muddy race in Austin the following weekend. I failed four obstacles, but gritted my way to a Top 20 placement. Both races taught me a lot. I’ve learned that while I can climb up steps with the best of them, I’m not crazy enough (yet??) to haul myself down flights of stairs, which cost me positions in NYC. I’ve learned that I am strong at running up steep inclines, but I am timid when running down rocky single-track trails. Going fast up but going slow down equals a moderately fast obstacle course racer. This was never an issue for me on flat concrete road races where the biggest thing that I would have to worry about was a sock bunching up in my shoe. I’ve learned that failing obstacles and having to pound out 30 burpees as a penalty tends to slow your running pace. I’ve also learned that I need to consume more calories in OCR than in road racing – the main factor for my bonking in Austin. To put it matter-of-factly, I’ve blasted out of my comfort zone in this new adventure, which motivates me to improve my overall fitness.
If you know anything about my athletic experience you know that I pushed hard in road racing to go from a casual runner excited to hit an 8 min/mile paced marathon to a woman sponsored by THE BEST women’s running apparel in the world hitting 6 min/mile paces to qualify for the Olympic trials. This evolution in running performance took time. During that process I knew I had the time. There was no pressure or expectations. I just woke up every day and put in work. When Oiselle came knocking on my door I was ecstatic to represent their sisterhood. Things subsequently snowballed in a very good way with additional sponsorships from Zensah, Roll Recovery, Generation UCAN, and most recently, Hyperwear.
I take my responsibilities with my sponsors very seriously and I am busting my ass to be competitive (and represent them) in OCR. It is not about temporary tattoos for me or self promoting my ego. I need to trust the process of my training just like I did in road racing. To be honest, having sponsors while entering a new sport provides a strange and added pressure where you feel like others are conditionally investing in your ability to take something potential (my abilities) and turn it into action (get on that damn podium, girl). It creates, within myself, a spotlight on my deficiencies so that I can bust my ass that much harder to ensure that everyone knows how much I appreciate their believing in me. I need to be patient. I need to keep working hard. I need to believe that others believe in me. I am excited to take my losses/failures as lessons to help me improve because OCR is a fantastic outlet to continue representing who I am as a person, and to be the fiercest and healthiest woman that I can be.
The realization of just how empowering OCR is for me was put in beautiful perspective for me when I ran the Austin course with my brother the day after coming up short in my big race. Running with Adam was not about a finish time or placement. It was not about nomenclature like elite, pro, etc. It was not about winning at all. It was about running with a decorated war veteran who was challenging himself after enduring some hard years. I got to watch him tenaciously attempt every obstacle and was amazed at how he made the rope climb seem like child’s play. I was inspired to see him push himself, and to watch him encourage others, including Veterans, along the way. The palpable communal support in the “open” heats seemed more about the transcendence of overcoming obstacles and facing certain fears than it is about being a tunnel-visioned respected racer in an amazingly fast growing sport. Running with my brother helped to remind me of the true meaning of the sport and the transformation that so many people experience when they overcome obstacles and face their fears. What a wonderful metaphor for a courageous life.
I have a long way to go to establish myself as a consistently competitive obstacle course racer, but I am oh-so-very-much looking forward to the challenge. My hunger to find my best level of fitness is strong. I’m looking forward to sharing my journey – one where all the focus will be on trusting the process just as it was when I started taking road racing seriously.
Over the next several months I’ll be training for some longer races, with the first being a 13+ mile Spartan race in Ohio. I will take over the Oiselle Snapchat account next week to share some of my prerace preparation and silliness. OCR is all about tapping into human potential, the emotional and physical grit, about finding a stronger self in the midst of exhaustion. The outcomes will come, but the journey is where the fun and growth happens.
I break chains all by myself
Won’t let my freedom rot in hell
Hey! I’ma keep running
Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves