Signing up for your first obstacle race can be daunting. OCR are events are supposed to be difficult and events will challenge you no matter your fitness level. While you definitely want to train appropriately in the lead up for your event, it can be easy to undo all the good work you have done with poor race week prep. Here are some of my top race week tips to get you to the start line in the best shape and then to the finish as quickly as possible.
Taper off your training the week of the event
The last thing you want to do is start your race with sore muscles or tired from a massive week of training. So find somewhere to lay down and take it easy. Your tapering protocol is going to depend entirely on your fitness level, work capacity and the size of the event so try not to dance to someone else beat here. Just take it easier than you normally would. For most of my clients who might be training 4 - 6 days a week, I tell them not to hit any gym workouts after Monday to Tuesday on race week and take those easy, maybe hit a short pace run with some pull ups on Wednesday, a rest day on Thursday and a little easy shakeout run Friday to get them in good shape for a Saturday morning start.
Hydrate the week before
Hydration is super important in physical performance and OCR events won't always have water stations where it's convenient. Sometimes they don't have many at all. The better hydrated you are in the lead up to the event the better you will perform on race day, also the more you have in reserve the less you'll have to drink on course which could save you critical seconds if a personal best is what you're chasing. Your hydration efforts should start the week of the event, and you should check yourself in the lead up to make sure things are optimal, (message me if you're unsure what colour your pee should be, trust me people message me way weirder shit than this.) I add some Hydrolyte or Nuuns to my water a few days out, but the brand doesn't matter too much, just that it agrees with you so check my point about nutrition below if you're unsure. I'm taking Hammer Nutrition Enduralytes Fizz at the moment if that interests you. If you're pressed for time or forget, hydrating a few days out will do the trick, just try not to drink a shit load of water the day before. This will most likely mess up your electrolyte levels and leave you worse than you started. On another topic, get as much SLEEP as you can the week of the event.
Don't eat what you haven't tested!
Spending race day in the portaloo is a pretty shit time. I've known a heap of good athletes who have made a nutrition mistake that has completely ruined their race day, myself included. While it can be tempting to go all out on your pre race carb load, (Carb loading isn't really important either TBH but that's another topic 😂), try to stick to meals that are tried and tested so you have nothing unexpected on event day. If this is your first race then stick to foods you would eat before big training sessions. If you didn't train at all then I wish you the best of luck, don't eat a curry the night before 😂 The same rules apply on race day, you should be running your event with the same nutrition that you tested in training. resist the urge to take race fuel offered by other racers halfway up the mountain on the day. You see this happen in road marathons, they put the sponsors gels out on the tables three quarters of the way through and the first timers who are struggling at this point in the race dig in. A kms later you see them spewing on the side of the road. The big exception I will say to this is anti cramp products. If the cramps hit you hard, a little spew at the cost of your cramps going away is a pretty decent trade off. I personally use CrampFix when I need it.
Wear suitable gear
It's important that you wear the right attire during your race and over the years I've learnt what to lean away from. Avoid any clothing that's really loose. It will find every bit of barbed wire and get caught and loose clothing is also a bitch when you get wet, which you probably will. Moisture wicking clothing is great, also I find tighter fitting clothing tends to keep the mud out of most of your sensitive bits. Finding clothing that doesn't chafe is important so ideally try all of this stuff in training. If you think you might chafe, Body Glide is your friend. Hydropacks are not essential but I would suggest them if this is your first rodeo. More on them below. If you don't have OCR specific shoes, wear the most aggressive runners you have tread wise.
Do I need a hydration pack?
I hear people say things like you don't need one for a 10k but you do for a 21k, I find this language a bit misleading. Most of the elites will run a 21km event without carrying hydration but they know what they are doing. I would be asking yourself how long you will be on course, that will help you answer whether you need hydration. Take your average running pace, allow an extra 1 min/km for the terrain and 2 mins per obstacle. So if you usually run 5km on the road in 35 mins, (7min/km) you'll probably want to expect 8 min/km plus obstacles. Examples at this pace. Spartan Sprint 5km with 20 obstacles - 1 hour 20 minutes. Spartan Super with 25 obstacles - 2 hours 10 minutes. (I'm not the first person to come up with this system of estimating times but I saw it years ago and can't remember who to credit so if you know then tell me. It's probably a bit different through a fault of my memory.) If you can run for an hour without water then you'll be safe hitting a 5km event at this pace, I would take it for the 10km. Bottom line is, a pack isn't really going to slow you down very much. Working out the cost/benefit it makes sense to just take it. If you are so fast that you know a 1kg pack will slow you down and encumber you that much then chances are pretty damn high that you already know what you are doing and aren't reading this post.
Don't forget to warm up
There's been plenty of athletes who have walked to the start line of a race and taken off with the front runners only to blow up and pull a muscle shortly afterwards. Spend a bit of time warming up before your race so you aren't one of them.
The most important rule is to just relax and have fun. Obstacle racing is absolutely incredible and the community is full of legends so just enjoy the whole thing for what it is. Don't take yourself too seriously and be as positive as you can on course, if the rules allow, help others over obstacles. Introduce yourself to new people too. Some of the best friends I have now just happened to be next to me on a course years ago. If you don't already have an amazing community that you run and train with, join mine 🤙🏼