More than Mud is an article and interview series dedicated to documenting the incredible characters and stories that we come across in the world of OCR and outdoor adventure and endurance racing events. They range from everyday heroes to extreme athletes but all have unique and engaging stories to tell.
How did you get into OCR racing?
I ran a marathon on a dare, and it was my first timed race, and my first race, of any kind. This was in 2011. I trained for 8 months and tore my meniscus at the 5th mile. I finished the race after 6 hours 20 minutes, limping and in tears. I'm incredibly stubborn, so quitting was not an option. From there, I ran a Merrell Down & Dirty 5k OCR the following year, and I was hooked. The past two years have been insane in a good way. I race pretty much every other weekend, including OCRs and endurance events.
How do you describe what you do to people outside of the OCR community? (and why you do it)
I tell people that it makes me feel alive. There's nothing quite like the jolt of electricity that courses through my body as you walk from the parking lot to the venue and pick up your race packet. From there, it's test after test as to how well you do or don't complete the obstacles. I race for the pure enjoyment of the experience - whether good, bad or somewhere in-between. Every experience has value, and the most valuable ones are the ones that you've failed at. My first, and only, DNF (did not finish) to date was last year at the SISU Iron, a 30-hour endurance event where I let the cold get to me - physically and mentally - after 5 long hours of being perpetually cold despite the two hour PT workout I went through. Was it worth doing? Absolutely. It makes you stronger as an athlete, and as a person.
What's been your most interesting or memorable moment in your OCR career so far?
My most memorable moment/experience was at my third OCR ever, when I saw a woman who was alone, untrained, young, and out of shape.She was struggling at the first obstacle. I ran with her through the entire race (a Spartan Super). I'll always remember the smile on her face when we crossed the finish line. I occasionally race for time, which requires me to run solo. I'm a very social person, so it's a real challenge for me to not come across friends and finish the course with them. Taking the time to help her, and show her how to complete the obstacles, was absolutely the right decision. I've done this at a few races, including a Spartan Sprint last December, where I was racing for time as an Elite racer until a woman was going to walk around an 8' wall within the first 30 minutes of the event. I just had to stop, help, and finish the race with her. There will always be people who race for themselves, but more often than not there are people who take the time to help another racer. The sport is comprised of so many good people, which is what makes it a community. This is one of the reasons why I race.
What's the best training or racing advice you've ever received?
The best training is to look at everything as a training opportunity. Do squats while you brush your teeth, calf raises while at the copier, etcetera. Pushups, planking, lunges, bear crawls - there's so much that can be done without equipment. Carry a bucket of rocks on a walk, hike often with a weighted pack. Get up every thirty minutes at most to walk/stretch, and invest in a FitBit or download an app to track your steps - and give yourself a mental reward for the days that you reach 10,000 steps.
What personal challenges has OCR has helped you overcome?
The biggest challenge that I've learned to overcome is confidence in myself as an athlete and as an obstacle course racer. I was always the last kid picked for a team in elementary school, and didn't participate in sports of any kind until I was an adult. The irony is that I was the jungle gym champ all through elementary school, so I suppose my OCR lifestyle was destiny. The word 'athlete' wasn't something I was comfortable for a very long time. I finally realized and accepted it recently. I eat clean (except for my pizza and chocolate habits), and I train hard. The confidence is one of the best takeaways from the sport, along with the friendships I've made along this journey.
What inspires you?
What inspires me is the community within OCR. I belong to many OCR communities nationwide, and there's something special about people who race. The whys are varied, from wanting to be in shape and losing large amounts of weight, to wanting to inspire others. I have so many incredible friends who share my passion, and I love my life. It really was a game-changer. I also started Team Dirty Girls, an OCR and fitness team with a friend in 2012 when I ran my first 'real' OCR with a friend who stopped racing soon after. It was a Tough Mudder. Another friend set up a Twitter account and said 'Here it is - start tweeting. I knew nothing about Twitter and now have over 4,500 followers there, along with accounts on Facebook and Instagram, as well. Huge thank you to Jeff for the push.
Any race stats you'd like to share? Any goals for this year?
Race stats? In my age group, I'm often in the top twenty and occasionally in the top ten. I'm actually not competitive when I race, except for the rare times when I want to race solo and run fast. I did participate in something that was absolutely amazing last summer. I answered a small, vague ad on Facebook about an adventure in Africa. Out of 6,000 applicants, I was one of twenty who were chosen. I can't discuss the details yet, but I can say that it was the most difficult, scary, uncomfortable and incredible thing I have ever done. Five weeks into the unknown was a huge leap of faith, and I was out of communication for the entire time. This taught me so much about inner strength, and about taking risks. Life really is short, and I'm approaching the rest of mine with a completely different mindset. Goal for this year? OCRWC - I qualified in October, and it will be the most challenging OCR yet. There's also a back-to-basics (think navigation by the stars, building a fire with no tools, etcetera) event on the east coast that I hope to get to as well (the Rynge).
I'm returning to the SISU Iron this weekend to face my demons and hopefully slay them after my DNF of last year. The SISU staff is incredible, and they're also friends. It's not an easy event in any aspect, and they're not your friends during the event. It's part of why the SISU Iron has the reputation of being such a tough and respected endurance event. The 30-hour Iron has an insane gear list and ridiculously difficult mental and physical challenges. Attendees come from all over the country to be put through such a rigorous event. People train hard - very hard - for this event, and sometimes it's the unexpected athletes who finish. I've upped my training and am in it to finish it. If it ends up being another DNF, I'll lick my wounds, learn from it, and register right away for the next one. Fear is temporary. Regret lasts forever.
What's something about you that other's might find surprising?
Honestly, I think my age is what people find surprising. I recently turned 54 and am in better shape and health than ever before. So many women approach me, whether at races or everywhere else to tell me that they could never do what I do. I decided to show them they can. I'm currently studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), which is the most respected trainer certification program out there. After that, I'm going for my Spartan SXG Trainer certification. I'm targeting women 40 and older, and can't wait to start this next chapter in my never-ending book.
What are your thoughts on the current state and future of OCR?
This is a wonderful time for the future of OCR. It's growing every year, and now many race organizations have included kids races, so the next generation is already hooked. In addition, endurance events are attracting the OCR participants who want something more. My favorites are GORUCK and Team SISU, and you really discover what you're made of - mentally and physically. Shows such as American Ninja Warrior and the Amazing Race are helping, as well. Everyone's why is different. Mine is that I want to experience as much as possible and push myself as much as possible. We're dying from the moment we're born, so you need to start living your life your way.
Photo Credits to Spartan Race and Tough Mudder
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