If you’ve been in the OCR (obstacle course racing) game for more than three years, you probably know what I’m talking about when I say “OCR Fatigue”. If not, or you’ve just started, then I’m going to spell it out for you. You’re tired of obstacle course racing, you find yourself uninspired by the race courses, or you participate in a race and part way through you find yourself looking around and wondering “Why the hell am I even out here doing this? This is pointless.”
And you’re not alone.
When you first started racing, whether it was a neon run or one of the Big Three, (Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash) you were excited. It was new and different and you felt like a kid again. The event was the most fun or challenging or toughest thing you’ve done in a long time. Like a drug, you were hooked and you started searching for your next OCR fix. If you started with the Big Three , you compared the other two and every other event to your first race, and in your opinion, they all lacked.
As humans, our systems are designed to adapt to changing conditions and increasing burdens and workloads. We are built to face adversity, overcome it, and adapt to it so that it is no longer adversity, but mild exertion. Facing your first OCR might have been tough, but expose yourself to it enough and suddenly, the challenge and toughness disappears. Why? Because you’ve grown stronger. You’ve adapted. You’ve become immune. You’ve started training, running, working out. You’ve joined groups of like-minded people on social media, you follow several exercise and fitness pages and trainers, and you’re starting to surround yourself with others on the same mission. And it is working.
But with any drug, your system develops a tolerance. It adapts to it and the only way for you to feel the effects of that drug is to increase the dosage. Or in the case of OCR, increase the distance or challenge. From the humble beginnings of running and gasping your way to a 5k finish, you’re now pushing yourself to complete an UltraBeast and seriously eyeing Fuego y Agua as an event. Even World’s Toughest Mudder is on your radar.
Why? You’ve run Spartan and Tough Mudder and BattleFrog and every other mid level and light event there is, and you’ve found that each obstacle can be categorized into a few general categories:
1. Jump & Climb (6,8,10 foot walls, cargo nets, slip wall),
2. Hang/Grip Strength (monkey bars, every sort of rig),
3. Rope (climbs, traverse, balance),
4. Over/Under/Through (OUT, Weaver, barb-wire/other crawls),
5. Weight-based obstacles (buckets, Wreck bag, Atlas balls, hoists).
There are no surprises.
You know that Spartan will utilize hills, you know that TM will have team-based obstacles and always around 10-12 miles distance, you know BattleFrog will have their Tip of the Spear and water obstacles. You’ve become immune and that immunity can quickly turn into apathy. There is no challenge, no surprise, no reason for being on the course. How many medals and finisher shirts does a person really need?
And you only have one head (maybe two if your gender is male) so how many headbands do you really need? Does anyone really wear headbands anymore? Everything looks the same in your dresser and the medals pile up if you don’t display them. But three plus years into the OCR game and it’s starting to become way too boring and way too similar.
So what is there to do? You start branching out, trying other types of races to quench your thirst. Or you run your races with a handicap such as being blindfolded or carrying extra weight. Or you run a Ragnar Trail, or a Death Race, or you start looking at endurance events such as GORUCK, Spartan 12 Hour Hurricane Heat, Agoge, World’s Toughest Mudder, and every other endurance event in between as your higher dosage of the OCR drug. Hey, new medals, patches and shirts for your collection. But most importantly, new challenges. And it is in these new challenges and new ways of forcing you to grow once again that you go from drinking the adrenaline from OCRs to mainlining it from endurance events.
In the end, as you prep your several hundred dollars’ worth of OCR specific gear to run a race that you don’t even know if you even want to run, think about this. You started off bored, out of shape, negativity surrounding your daily life, and drabness defining your routine existence and now you’re fitter, healthier, surrounded by more positive influences, and your current life is better, louder, clearer than it used to be. Your problem isn’t the race course, it’s your approach. What used to be fun and able to keep you on your toes, you now approach with lackadaisical effort. “Been there, done that” is not the right way to tackle anything in your life. If you’re not challenged enough at a race, then challenge YOURSELF. Make the challenge so tough that you have to force yourself to exert the effort to hit that goal. There is always a way to make things more challenging, and it is the challenge where we truly live. Even if it’s “I’m going to go out there and RUN up the hill with that sandbag and pass ten people. If I don’t, I’ll do ten burpees for every person I didn’t pass”, or “I won’t drop the bucket once on the carry” or “I will not use the foot holds for Tip of the Spear”. I’d also recommend trying events out of your comfort zone and doing things that don’t allow you to give half ass effort to finish. Do something that requires your full ass.
See you out there!!
Barbed Wire Crawl, Bucket Lunges (HH12HR): Spartan Race
Mt. Everest @ Tough Mudder: Eileen Garrison
Muddy Finish: Warrior Dash
Spartan Race Bucket Brigade: Andrea Trowbridge
He can be found on the weekends exercising and exorcising his demons on the OCR course and in endurance events.