I was going to write a piece about my “race” at the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships, held in the absolutely stunning Blue Mountain resort in Ontario, Canada. I was going to write a piece about how I was prepared to go out there and race, and race hard. A piece about the chances I had of doing really well. The expectations that had crept into the back of my subconscious mind. I had a thesaurus next to me, open to words like success, achievement and potential ….
…. and then I participated in the 3km Short Course on Friday!
So let’s go back a bit! ….. (insert your own travelling back in time soundbite!)
Leading up to the OCRWC, my training had all been towards Ironman Austria (another pound in the IM box!) and then I had added 4 or 5 weeks of obstacle training at the absolutely superb facilities and knowledge set, owned and run by Dave Peters, Rumble Fitness based in Swanbourne, near Milton Keynes. (www.rumblefitness.co.uk). I had done pretty well last year at the UK Championships and it appears that I had a reputation for being better than I thought I was/am.
Now, many who know me, know …. or maybe surprised to hear …. I have a constant battle with seriously low self-esteem which I normally hide behind a thin veneer of silliness, something close to humour and a light-hearted approach. I have backed off from “being upfront” because, quite frankly, whatever the result, I felt I would have been told that I had not released “my true potential”.
I share this not for sympathy, I neither want or need it. I have spent many a year working on it and am comfortable with the whys nowadays. I share this because I don’t believe I am the only one who feels like this. This story is about how I felt good whilst failing! It was an awesome feeling! Liberating!
Tash and I flew to Canada on the Tuesday before the race. I won’t deny I was buzzing and nerves had, unusually for me, get the best of me. I normally have a mantra of “I am not a victim” and “Is that all you’ve got!?” to get me through, to empower me, to get all those chemicals flowing in the right direction …. not this time.
Blue Mountain is about a 2-hour drive outside of Toronto and we arrived in the pitch black of night. I woke very early and, as the sun peaked over the horizon, I slipped on my running shoes and ran around the resort, getting to know the area. It’s something I always do when I travel; it’s a sort of connection for me. As I ran around, I could see the course, stretching up the long grass mountains. To the top, I must climb! And off I ran! The view from the top is simply beautiful! It is worth the trip to Canada just for that, let alone the run-up. I found a fantastic single track back down through the woods. My feet light, I skipped, jumped, ran, leapt to the bottom.
…. I was feeling good!
Friday morning came. I had not slept for what felt like 10 years and my stomach had decided that anything and everything in there was poison! I had been drinking (water!) constantly but as I stood on the line, my mouth was dry, cotton-mouth had come with a vengeance! Coach Pain gave a motivational speech …. I was not really listening at first, but his words, his passion started to saturate and my emotions built up! My fists clenched, heart pumped …. “take it easy, Nick” I said to myself, “use this to get aligned, get in balance for tomorrows big race!”.
Straight up a long hill, around the corner and we were racing …. and I was feeling really good! Up with the front runners! And only really running at about 70-75%! I flew across obstacles I had not seen before, tried before, I was starting to think …. “maybe, Nick, just maybe …..”
Now obstacle course racing really is a test but has always had an element of lightness to it. A community of fun loving people, looking to conquer demons, prove a point, laugh with mates, raise money for charity amongst so many other walks of life …. but it is a huge challenge for all, at every level. The harder you go, the harder it is! And this was the World stage, the first time I had been to it. The best in the World! And the course needed to reflect that …. and it did!
My nemesis came in the form of a technical rig. It went something like …. monkey bars, to a rope, to ring, to loop, to ring, to a rope, to nunchuck, to a rope, to a rope, to ring, to a vertical bar, to horizontal bar to bell, the bell being the target. I heeded Dave Peters advice and walked along the side to check it out. Remembered all the advice about keep moving, momentum etc ….
I got my head in the game and went for it …. my foot locks working, swings working …. I reached for the vertical pole and gripped with all I had! I slipped straight off; no grip, nothing!
My forearms were screaming nearly as loudly as the voice in my head …. “There's nothing left! What am I going to do!?”. I paused, for a long time. 10 minutes! Stretching my forearms out, trying to get something working again. All around me were athletes with bigger arms, forearms, smaller waists …. all looking down, shoulders hunched with the prospect of not only losing their band but the fact you can not place without your band …. dreams vanishing.
I tried again, teeth gritted! I touched the horizontal bar, swang for the bell …. MISSED! I could not believe it! I was at Tex Rex stage, my arms short and useless! Don’t give up Nick! The race has gone but keep going!
A good friend of mine had also been re-trying, JJ Jelfs. I watched him jump up and try again. All the “re-triers” urging him on! With Herculean levels of strength, he did it! I was elated for him …. but another part of me broke.
I tried twice more, each time getting close to the bell but close is not good enough. With more obstacles to go, I decided to move on, my band removed and added to a huge pile on the ground.
I eventually finished, my arms spent but I managed to complete everything else. So, I had my medal and had crossed the line at a World class event. The expectation had gotten the better of me. I had tried but came up short ….
…. but not everywhere, I began to think! I ran really well, I got further on most obstacles than many, and overcame many more than I had seen before! I had been thinking this is the end of my OCR Racing “career” …. but hang on! It was actually only one obstacle! It may well have been more, or even one later on, but in this situation, it was one obstacle! I don’t give up. I learn from failure. I grow. I have more to give. Now that's an exciting prospect! I’m in Canada at the OCRWC, with friends!
100% was given. If I can grow 1% more, I wonder what that will look like? I like this though ….
This was one of the best events and weekends I have spent and I thank everyone for adding something to it. I do have more to write about it inside of me, but I think there is only so much dribble anyone can handle! 🙂