It's been just over a week since I took on the test required in order to try to qualify for the 2018 World Championships O.C.R (Obstacle Course Race). In order to qualify I had to complete two laps of The Winter Nuts Challenge fast enough, and without faults. It was not the easiest of tasks.
In order to qualify I need to be in a top 5 or a top 50% position for people trying to qualify within my age group.
With more people wanting to qualify than ever due to the fact this is the fastest growing sport in the UK, I know that qualifying was not going to be easy. With the O.C.R championships being held in the UK this year I was up against fierce competition. I qualified in the same event last year as I came 1st within my age group but I felt that this year would be a different feat. I was also one year older within my age group so qualifying would be harder.
In order to boost my chances, first of all I ensured my body was prepared slightly better than last year:
From January I conditioned my body - added more muddy and longer trail runs, added specific strengthening exercises, adjusted my diet (more omega 3 fats - more yummy avocado's, more greens, more fruits, no beer, only one glass of alcohol which was red wine a week) - which would all help. I also changed my footwear, opting for more grip but less comfortable trail shoes.
Wonderful timing, the week leading up to the event brought cold weather that covered the country in snow and ice. The Winter Nuts Challenge is a notoriously cold weather race due to the slow going through constant mud, ditches and water sections, which is energy sapping indeed. Last year it was about 10c and this year the temperature hit a maximum of 5c with plenty of sheets of ice still in water obstacles. I remember suffering from the cold and some cramping during last year's race so I made some additional small changes. I increased magnesium and carbohydrate intake 3 days prior and on the day I added goose fat as extra protection against the cold to keep my body temperature ok.
I added arm sleeves and I doubled up on neoprene socks. After one lap, which is about 7km and 60 obstacles and usually takes about 1.5 hours to get around, I would have the option to go in a transition area to refresh or refuel such as adding layers of clothing, eating and so on. Warm tea would be waiting for me, a fresh pair of gloves with hotties in them and a quick food snack. Standing still too long can mean game over during this race as morale and energy can flow away whilst hyperthermia can settle in.
The Event Itself
Next, I had to collect a yellow bib from another tent which indicates you are a participant who aims to qualify for the O.C.R WC. This wearing a bib thing is a new addition to help organise the race event. The event would be closely watched by marshals to ensure completion of all obstacles properly. If you failed an obstacle, and the obstacle was one without a penalty loop option, then your bib was taken away and you were no longer in the running to earn a qualification spot to the O.C.R World Championships.
All set, I set off and after about 5 minutes the first water contact was made which was quite refreshing, to say the least! I felt I made the right choices to clothing, I was nourished well. Most participants were there mainly to try to qualify, just like myself and so far so good as I fared well with all obstacles including going through tunnels, ditched, climbing walls, cargo netting, ropes, carrying car tyres through very wet and muddy terrain.
Then after about an hour, I jumped in water which had a severe uneven surface which threw me off balance and it made me turn my left ankle quite badly. I heard a crack, a shooting pain rushed through me and I felt I had lost some stability on the inside of my left ankle. It hurt. What to do? I was about 30 minutes away from the main base, it is cold and it would take time for a first aider to get to me so I decided to take smaller steps, carry on and see how it goes. When completing my first lap I refuelled, changed gloves for another pair which had hotties in them and I decided to head out for my second lap.
I felt pain but adrenaline gets you through and I managed to complete all obstacles. You crawl, pull-up, jump, climb, carry and try to jog in slippery mud best you can give the circumstances. My second lap was substantially slower than my first but I was generally ok, not worn out and didn't cramp or suffered from the cold. I finished quicker than last year but the course was slightly different and shorter this year as the 'water slide' and the 'lake' were taken out as the water was still frozen due to the cooler weather.
Upon finishing I left the venue as soon as possible as I was worried about my injured ankle. Pain emerged as adrenaline was wearing off and I decided to get it checked the next day. The diagnosis is that I have damaged and torn the ligament on the inside of my left ankle which takes about 5 weeks to heal. Not ideal!
Did I Qualify?
The provisional event result showed I came 2nd within my age category which should be good enough to qualify. All good I thought and worth the effort despite getting injured. When the official event results came in, however, it showed that not only did I not qualify but that a person within my age category who was slower than me did qualify. What!? I queried and challenged the result with success. Plenty of other participants had the same issue. The organisers thought I hadn't completed all obstacles as I didn't hand the qualifying bib back where I got it from after the finish. Event photos were submitted by me and checked to see I was wearing a bib throughout the event and so confirmation came through I was indeed qualified for the O.C.R World Championships which is to be held for the first time in the UK (Essex) during October this year.
I am thrilled to be part of the WC O.C.R event again at the highest level possible. Now to rehabilitate this ankle, and forge on with my training.