The OCR World Championships is usually the race to end my official season on, it’s the one that I actually properly rest for and aim my training towards, it’s the one that if necessary, I would plough all my energy into in order to win.
Waking up in the morning I could tell I had raced the short course the day before, not because my legs hurt but for some reason my chest. Either from breathing so hard or carrying the wreck bag the muscles in between my ribs felt soar. I wasn’t too phased though, my legs felt ok and they are what I would need most.
Having competed in the Toughest season this year, where in order to win I have to take the hard lanes of obstacles, I was confident the obstacles featured in the World Championships course wouldn’t pose as much of a problem. Especially as over the years in order to get a fair completion rate amongst the age group racers the obstacles have actually been getting easier.
I was therefore sure the race would come down to the running and the wreckbag carry. The running was set on beautiful semi technical trails which went up, down and across the blue mountain ski resort, just my thing and I was looking forward to it. The wreckbag was set up and down one of the ski slopes and would be over a kilometre in length! I was still confident that I could carry a wreck bag as well as any of the other competitors though and a surprise was in store for the carry anyway.
There wasn’t even any swimming to worry about. I was a little disappointed that there was absolutely no water on the course at all. In my opinion water is a key element of Obstacle Course Racing and should at least be present to get your feet wet. Not getting too upset I studied the course map and decided in a perfect world it would be good to have a lead before the wreck bag carry at halfway. I was intent on only pushing ahead if it felt right to do so though, I knew my running should be on par if not better than the others but didn’t want to force things.
Still with a fire in my belly from being pipped by Ryan the day before I underwent my usual pre-race routine of trying to be as relaxed as possible. As we lined up to start it was a little chilly in the air but it was due to be a clear nice day with a warm sun.
Before I knew it we were off and charging up the same hill we had the day before, this time instead of turning back down we carried on up and reached one of the first main obstacles, a small ramp. Running up and grabbing the top I threw myself over the other side and down the net. I would later find out that this ramp was a key piece of the entire race for so many. The wet surface was making it tricky for some and once one failed it caused a backlog of people who had lost their run up. This problem was especially potent as so many poorer racers start so fast in the first kilometre, this left better racers who were pacing correctly stuck in a backlog of people.
All this was unbeknown to me as I was currently reaching the top of the ski slopes and was trailing one especially keen racer who had started quick. Coming up behind him I shouted so I could go past but immediately fell over. Catching him back up I once again I shouted and this time sprinted past. I was now free and on undulating technical trails. Without thinking my foot went down and I started to speed along. It had only been 2km so this was extremely early to ‘make a move’ but I had sunk my teeth in early and started to build a gap between me and whoever was behind me.
Later analysis would reveal that the majority of my lead I built in this first section of the course. This allowed me to start taking the obstacles smoothly and efficiently, without a frantic rush of being neck and neck with other competitors.
This must have shown on the rig as a swung through skipping the majority of holds reaching the other side in no time.
I was now halfway and ready for the wreckbag carry. I tried to bury the bad memories of trying to carry it as quickly as possible the previous day and the fact todays carry would be longer. Hoisting the bag onto my shoulders I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. By halfway (yesterday’s turn around point) I faced some tape across the path directing me back down. I couldn’t believe it, slightly confused I headed back down, the carry was the same as the day before. I later found out that having seen the carnage that can be created by an especially long carry the organisers had decided to not use the planned full length.
As I was dropping of my bag I got to see my competitors who were now about 20 meters into the carry. Ryan was in something like 4th and I shouted ‘half’ at him. It was a weak warning but I knew that he would want to push harder if he knew the carry was shorter, I don’t think he even heard though.
Now free of the bag, that was it, I had decided no one was catching me now. I still had another big climb to the top of the slopes which was where the majority of the technical obstacles were but I didn’t care, no one was beating me.
Taking the climb at a steady pace I reached level with the top of the wreckbag carry at the same time as 2nd, 3rd and 4th, they still had to descend with their bags and run back up to where I was though.
On the rest of the ascent some walls and crawls really zapped your energy but once up these were replaced with ramps and more technical rig like obstacles. One of these was the low rig which was probably my favourite obstacle. Using different holds we had to clamber along just a meter above the ground, being sure not to touch it as to do so would mean doing the obstacle over again.
I got the technical obstacles done but had begun to be so careful not to make mistakes, my technique was actually deteriorating.
Just a big descent left which was scattered with obstacles before re-joining the end of the sprint course for the final flurry.
I was now getting reports that I was 4 minutes in the lead, some people even shouted slow down! Listening to this advice I climbed down over the ladder between the spinning wheels and the helix monkey bars, slipped and cracked my shin into a rung. That’s what you get for doing things at a different speed than you are accustomed too!
Clambering up the final slip wall I was soon over the line and happy to realise I had won the obstacle racing world championships for the third time in a row.
Ryan ended up repeating our positions from the past years by finishing in second but the true surprise was fellow brit Conor Hancock who passed Robert Kilian and another race in the final obstacles to secure third.
The next day would be the team challenge and I was once again looking forward to forming team GB with Conor and James Appleton to defend our title from the year before.