I remember it like it was yesterday. The excitement, the anxiety, the anticipation. And no, I’m not talking about my last Valentine’s Day date. I’m talking about my first OCR. It was June 14, 2014. The Rugged Maniac in Dade City, Florida. I’d spent months working out and training for this day, but aside from the obvious, there are a few things I feel like every first-time obstacle racer should know. Here are my tips for your first run.
- Bring cash. These races often take place in remote areas, so the reliability of Wifi and such may not be very…reliable. So if you want to grab extra food, drinks, or souvenirs, you’ll find cash to be really helpful. Plus, and obviously, most races charge for parking, and they only take cash. Be sure you check the event’s website beforehand to know how much parking is. Bringing exact change is highly preferred and will make your experience (and theirs) much better.
- The Best Spot to Change Your Clothes. “I’m going to get through this race without getting dirty,” said no obstacle racer ever. (Actually, I had a couple guys in my group at Warrior Dash that tried to see who could get through the race the least dirty. They both lost.) There is literally no way around it. You’re going to want to change your clothes when you’re done with the race. Plus you’ll need a change of everything, including socks and underwear. The difference for me is where to change. One of the first tips I read about was to bring an extra gallon of water to use after the race to wash off. I loved the idea. At my first race though, I put my gallon in my bag (with my change of clothes), checked my bag before the race, then brought everything back to my car to change. It was a total waste of time and energy. What I do now is leave my change of clothes and extra water in the car. I bring one small bag for my personal belongings that is checked in at the bag check. After the race, I go back and change back at the car. (I’m looking to add a new piece to this puzzle soon. I own an SUV, and I’ve got my eye on a portable tailgate cabana. It’ll hang over my tailgate like a tent and give me a changing room.) Sometimes the event may have a changing tent and places to clean off, but since they are often backed up if they are there at all, I’ve found it easier to just take it back to the car.
- Bring an extra gallon of water. Going back to the previous point, I read this a while back and it has become part of my OCR routine ever since. I hinted at it above, but let’s dig a bit deeper. Or as deep as you can go when talking about a jug of water. These events have a showering area, but again, due to remote access, they’re not exactly the best shower offering. Usually they’re hoses or pipes hung up high and riddled with holes. It’s not great, plus they’re also usually backed up. The extra gallon of water gives you a means of cleaning up on your own without waiting. Also, it’s handy to bring a couple of extra towels along. I always have at least two.
- Use the bag check. Many of these races will check your bag for free, and even if they don’t, you should still do it. I now use a small drawstring bag to keep my personal stuff in, and that’s all I’ll bring into the featival area. If you have a group, bring one big duffle bag and put everyone’s stuff into it. And as mentioned, some places do charge for bag check. Go to the website to double check and bring cash if they do. That’s another good reason to join with people. At Savage Race, for example, it costs five bucks per bag. If you’ve got five people in your group, instead of putting in five bucks each, everyone puts their stuff in one big bag, and each person chips in a buck. Another key reason for checking your bag is your important items, like keys and cell phones, will be safe. No chance of them falling out of your pocket while you’re crawling under barbed wire if it’s safe in the bag check!
- Don’t forget to smile! Okay, this last one is really corny, but it’s true. Remember why you’re doing this: to have fun! I know many of us get competitive and want to push ourselves (I include myself in that), but if you’re not one of the beasts in the sport like Yuri Force or Hunter McIntyre, don’t sweat it if you’re going a little slower than you aimed for. Enjoy yourself! You’re outside, doing something different and exciting instead of watching TV or getting into political debates on Facebook (the number one most pointless activity some study says maybe). Plus with all of the photographers out there, they want to see everyone having a good time. So show that you are! I tend to go to these events alone, so I crack jokes with other racers and try to meet new people. Also, enjoy the festivities at the after-party. Yes, you often get a free beer, but many of these races have other stuff to do as well. Rugged Maniac has pull-up and stein-holding contests along with dancing. Savage Race has giveaways and they love taking pictures. And no matter which race you do, they all want you to celebrate your accomplishment. Enjoy it! (What does your favorite race do as part of the after-party? Leave a comment below!)
Will you find these tips elsewhere? Maybe. But I can tell you that I’ve lived these things in just the two years. Obstacle course racing has become my main hobby, and I mainly do it for fun. These tips will help you enjoy it all the better. So get out there and get muddy!