This is not a negative review.
The UK OCR championships were hosted at Nuclear Races on the 14th November. On the 9th of November, I sent an email to OCRA and the hosts asking if I could pull out of the race. Whilst I was perfectly entitled not to turn up, my race entry couldn’t be transferred to the non-competitive heat, Nuclear Fallout.
So I was sort of stuck. Of course, I could have just bailed and not done the race, but god damn, it’s NUCLEAR. The course is unparalleled in terms of excitement and constant innovation, and tonnes of my friends were going to be there. Most of all, people were probably expecting Remy to attend.
So after a single training session in the pitch black on Monday night, feeling possibly the weakest I have felt in terms of physical and mental fitness this year, I went to the champs.
When I start a race, I usually make some sort of target for myself: If I’m feeling optimistic, I want a top three, a top five, a ten. Sometimes I just want to beat a particularly nasty obstacle or keep my wristband.
Some days, I just want to get through it.
I have never not wanted to race so much, and honestly I still don’t know why I started the race (I didn’t even prepare enough to do a pre-race toilet visit, such was my consternation, and that’s like suicide. Pooicide, even).
The mood was fairly subdued for an OMGBIGEVENT, and I saw several people whose heads were so far out of the game, they may as well have been back at home in bed. I think a lot of us were tired, and there to save face.
Anyway, the race began with much pomp, ceremony and explosions (none of which I even noticed at the time, but they were retrospectively spectacular). I stuck to the back of the first wave, and trundled through the first few trenches and obstacles without much drama.
The course itself was absolutely brilliant. I mean, really. It was testing in all the right places, but not impossible. The obstacles were well designed and the Marshals were enthusiastic and helpful. The only real downside is that it had rained, which adds a totally unwelcome element to obstacles such as monkey bars. It also makes my old nemesis, the Irish Table so slippy that it may as well have been constructed from eel skin, but despite the Marshal saying ‘it’s okay, you don’t have to do it, you can just run on’, I clung to it like a homesick limpet, and got myself over it. One nemesis down.
Unfortunately, the monkey bars stole my band, but honestly, that little green band is like a tiny little horcrux, putting undue, and insidious pressure on me. I didn’t care. I think I handed it over with such glee that it surprised the Marshal.
After the band had gone, any pressure evaporated, and believe me when I say I truly did not care about my standing or time. I just wanted it to be over, but I wanted to enjoy the course at the same time.
Beautiful trail runs, and several really cool, tall obstacles made me feel pretty lucky to be there, and as usual, being a slowpoke meant that several buddies caught up to me from later waves, which meant that I almost always had someone to talk to, to be encouraged by, and to laugh at when they flailed around in the lake. My favourite companion of the day had to be Adam, who manages to be simultaneously good at things AND a nice person, which is a rare quality in life. He saw my tears of disappointment (falling off the sternum checker) and my even MORE scary tears of joy (turning around and getting over the sternum checker), and stuck with me until I practically forced him to run on, as he was in contention for a good position in his category.
I think at this point I went from wondering why I do this to myself, to realising that the joy I get from having these sort of people in my life MORE than makes up for being cold, wet, dirty and tired.
I also realised what my problem is and has been when ‘racing’. And that is, I give up too easily. I’ve gone from being too hard on myself to letting myself get away with failing obstacles that I am totally capable of doing. I’ve allowed myself not to achieve my potential because I’m sick, and I’m not going to do that anymore. My limits have become some sort of prison, and not the flexible barrier that they should be. I need to push them, and after a little break from racing, I really feel that I can.
After several explosive weeps on my friends who I spotted along the course, it came to the last obstacle, the weaver. Now, I can totally do the weaver, so I was absolutely MORTIFIED to drop a foot on the last rung, mere metres from the finish line. But, new epiphany in full swing, I was not about to allow myself to get away with just taking a penalty and continuing to the finish.
I turned around, buoyed by the the little pocket of support that had congregated around the obstacle, and started it again.
That’s how it’s going to happen: from the ground up. I’m going to start again.