Stacey Owen Obstacle Course Racer!

Stacey Owen Obstacle Course Racer!

On a freezing cold day in October, Stacey Owen, from the DIO SD Accn licence disputes team, represented Team GB at the Obstacle Course Race World Championships (OCRWC). Held in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, the 10-mile course contained 56 obstacles, a total of 1700 people from 26 countries having qualified for the World Championship.

This is Stacey’s story

Saturday dawned crisp and cold, with below freezing temperatures that never really warmedup. Indeed, the icy winds would play a big role in the race, with several athletes suffering from hypothermia, and others having trouble keeping their hands warm for the many obstacles that required a strong grip.

Unlike some OCRs, the World Championships stipulate mandatory obstacle completion, rather than penalties, such as burpees. This would play a huge role in the race, as giving up on an obstacle meant your wristband being cut, and you no longer being eligible for one of the monetary prizes. Additionally, for each bypassed obstacle, a four-minute penalty would be added to your finishing time. Setting off with the otherathletes in my age group, my goal was to keep my wristband, albeit I’d not faced many of the obstacles before. I honestly didn’t know if my goal was attainable.

The first few obstacles included monkey bars, a fairly long 50 lb wreck bag carry, and pipe dreams. This was followed by a relatively flat but long loop into some woods, which included multiple river crossings. After a 30  feet high log castle, we tackled the Destroyer and Dragon’s Back, which I completed fairly easily; Dragon’s Back had us jump from a platform and grab a bar, a steep angled wall laying in wait if we missed. Although not a huge physical challenge, it was certainly a mental one, several athletes hesitating

Mud Guts and Glory was next up, the epic declining and inclining monkey bars spanning pools of water. Slippery bars from the constant splashing made this tricky, but I made it safely through. It was then into the water for an over and under logs obstacle, before going back into the woods, and up some hills. Although not exactly huge, they were still steep in places, the trail very technical, and often along rocky creek beds.

About four miles in (only four miles!) we faced the dreaded Platinum Rig; a cage structure full of rings, square bars, and poles, etc. Challenging both brain and brawn, I managed to make it all the way to the last ring, only to miss it, and leave myself dangling by one arm. Unable to regain momentum, I inevitably dropped, and started the obstacle again. Feeling weaker and weaker, as I tried for the fifth time to beat the rig, I conceded defeat, knowing that I’d already lost a lot of time. Truly gutted, I submitted my wristband to the marshal and continued onwards. Others faired worse, dropping out with hypothermia, some having spent over an hour trying to complete the rig.

Despite losing my wristband, and having lost a lot of time, I was determined to make up as much ground as possible. Hitting another rig in no time at all, my arms were in melt down, and I could hardly hold on to anything at all. All I could do from here on in was run for my life. Pushing as hard as I could, I had to tackle some immense hills, one leading to a huge traverse wire balance over a big ravine. The obstacles seemed to be coming thick and fast now. It was relentless. Then, as I was running through a rocky, river bed, clambering over and under logs, cramp suddenly set in, leaving me desperately trying to stretch it off.

The latter half of the course included upside down rope traverses, rope climbs, and then Pinnacle Hill, an insanely steep hill requiring the use of ropes to pull ourselves up. Fortunately, my arms seemed to be playing ball again, and I crossed with ease, surprisingly feeling strong. The Slide followed immediately after, the ridiculously long, and fast descent dumping you in a muddy pit below. Awesome stuff, even if I did have a head full of muddy water for the rest of the day.

Last of the epic-sized obstacles was Skull Valley, consisting of rock climbing grip holds, a cargo net to climb on the underside without touching the floor, a rope swing, and then a cargo net meets monkey bar type section. Despite my forearms again suffering, I somehow managed to use every last bit of energy left in them to carry myself across. A short run up a half-pipe, and down the cargo net on the other side, and I crossed the finishing line.

Finishing was an indescribable experience; Getting that medal, knowing everything I’d just taken on; knowing this was a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP race in my chosen sport; knowing that I failed an obstacle and lost my wristband, yet still finished strongly; and gutted it was all over, but so relieved at the same time – I can’t remember the last time I felt like that after a race.

This race taxed me like no other has ever done, and later that evening my hands, forearms, and biceps began cramping at odd intervals; when I went to change my shoes, while taking a shower, and when trying to eat awhile later. There is no doubt that I left absolutely everything I had on that course; I’m ridiculously proud of myself, so, roll on next year!

Eagleye wanted to know a little more about Obstacle Course Racing (OCR), and the sort of people who get involved in the sport. So, who better to ask than Stacey Owen!

How long have you been competing in Obstacle Course Races? – I have been competing in OCR for about a year.

Are you not interested in any sports normally considered more mainstream? – I think OCR is becoming more and more mainstream, and getting bigger and bigger in the UK. In Sweden, America and Canada, it’s now considered a professional sport (That told me! – Ed)

What do you enjoy most about OCR style races? – They’re never the same; you have to have good all round fitness, not just be good at running or circuit training. You also have to push yourself hard, and be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.

Do you compete regularly and, if so, is there a league or a series of events that you can take part in? – Yes, there is a UK league, and a Mudstacle league, points awarded depending on where you finish. The Spartan races also have their own world championship called Spartan Worlds.

How do you prepare for OCR? – I run for an elite team coached by an OCR training expert, who is head coach to our national team. Based in Brentwood Essex, TEAM Wild Forest Gym has obstacles I can train on, and there is plenty of help available with the technical aspect of training. I also run locally for the BRJ club and use RAF Wyton’s sports facilities, regularly using the Station Trim Trail, and attending circuits. I also go to a local boot camp called On Mission Fitness.

What are among your proudest achievements in OCR to date? – Going to the World Championships, and racing for Great Britain is certainly up there. Not many people get to do that! Other than that, qualifying for the UK Championships, coming third in the Spartan Race, and a few wins in other races stand out.

Can you list a few events that you have taken part in, and that we might have heard of? – Spartan, Nuts, Rat Race, Nuclear, and Locally Insane Terrain are a few you might have heard of.

How many Brits took part in the OCR World Championships? – I’m not sure of the exact number, but there must have been about 85 of us.

Was there a selection criteria, or do you just have to be mad? – All participants in the OCRWC have to qualify. You can’t just turn up! Qualification involves being placed in ten races recognised by the OCR governing body, and sending off proof with the official entry forms. The OCRWC was also subject to drug testing, and competitors had to be familiar with the rule book.

What next for you on the race front? – By the time Eagleye has been published, I will have participated in the UK Championships. I will then start training for the Spartan season.