One aspect about OCR that I constantly overlook is being mentally prepared for each event. These events are not just physical challenges. Sure, you’ll need your muscles to climb over an 8’ wall or swing across the monkey bars, but you’ll also need some mind over matter with each obstacle. Some obstacles seem so intimidating that your mind will dictate how you do it or if you should skip it. Physical limitations are real, but I don’t believe in mental limitations. Do you remember the phrase “you can do anything if you put your mind to it?” That phrase can be applied at each OCR event. I spent some time thinking about the all the races I’ve completed this year, the obstacles I skipped and the obstacles I failed. There a few common things I’ve noticed amongst the skipped and failed obstacles. I’ll highlight each of my thoughts with an explanation.
- Be prepared to question and doubt yourself: At the Tough Mudder in 2015, Spartan Beast and Spartan Super I was constantly asking myself “why am I here or why did I sign up for this?” When it gets tough those questions constantly run through my head. No one ever said endurance events would be easy. Sooner or later I will have to accept that. I signed up for this because I wanted the challenge. Also, I know I can do these events. I just have to believe in myself more.
- Be prepared to face your fears: Whether its heights or tight spaces you’re guaranteed to find an obstacle or two that will test these fears. I’m more afraid of tight spaces than heights, but every time I get to a height obstacle there’s always someone stuck at the top because of their fear of heights. My advice to you is simple. Get up and over and quickly as possible. This is the same thing I do when I’m crawling through a pipe. I slide up as quickly as possible and sometimes even close my eyes while doing it. I’ve found this to help tremendously. I should also mention you should wait for a clear path. Nothing is worse than waiting for the person in front of you to finish the obstacles while you’re either waiting at the top of the cargo net or stuck in the middle of a pipe.
- Be prepared to attempt an obstacle you “think” you should skip: I face this constantly at each race. Most of the time my mind out duels my physical ability and I end up skipping. While there is nothing wrong with skipping, you should approach each race with that not being an option (unless you physically can’t do it example: swimming, in my case). This is where I let myself down recently at the Spartan Super. It was my worst race for obstacle skips. Looking back on it I wish I could go back and change what I did. If I ever attempt a Super again I’ll know what to expect of myself.
- Be prepared to be someone else’s mental support: One common theme I constantly see at every race are words of motivation. A simple “you got this” is all that needs to said or cheering for someone after they complete a tough obstacle. No one knows a stranger’s battle on race day. Your words or cheers could be their motivation to keep moving.
- Be prepared to try something new: If you’ve been at a Tough Mudder then you’ve probably heard the emcee ask you “when’s the last time you tried something new?” If you approach each race asking yourself this then you’ll probably end up trying something new before you cross the finish line. I finally decided to try Sawtooth at the PA Savage Race and was shocked and thrilled when I completed it. Had I not thought about that phrase I wouldn’t know if I could or couldn’t complete that obstacle.
- Be prepared to get a little stressed: These races are all meant for fun, but stress can hinder your experience. Whether it’s stress from an obstacle or stress from meeting course cutoffs. You should have a plan on how to deal with stress. My plan is to talk to anyone around me. Even if no one responds it helps me get through it. So if you’ve ever come across me on the course you’ll understand why I’m talking to myself.
The next time it’s the night or a few days before the race spend a little extra time mentally preparing yourself for the race day. You might not think it’s a big deal, but just give it try to see if anything changes for you. By preparing yourself both mentally and physically you’ll be a force to be reckoned with on the course.
My first ever terrain race is my next race. In the next mile I’ll have my pre-race report of this up and coming event.