The 23rd of Juni was time for the OCRSeries final organized by Strong Viking, while the following weekend was the 3 days European Championship in OCR on the calendar. Two of the most relevant event of the spring season in obstacle race. The first one was indeed one of the best race I have been into, while the European Championship was a big disappointment, although a very good organization and location.

The OCR Series is a series of 7 races organized by Strong Viking. After the 7th race the best athletes of the series are qualified for the big final, along with many of the best European obstacle racers. The 23rd of June was the date for the final in Nijmegen (Netherlands). The event was perfectly organized with a dedicated athlete area and a press conference around lunch time, while the race was scheduled at 18:30, a quite unusual starting time for an OCR.
Strong Viking had probably set up one of the best courses I have been to so far: 19km (actually 20km) around a lake filled with technical obstacles, water crossings, mud, heavy running sessions, carries and much more (only hills were missing:)). We started off running in the water and from there you were challenged all the way for about 2 hours with a perfect mix of heavy lifting, carries, grip strength. Nothing was impossible but every obstacle could have knocked you down, so it was important to keep an even pace and effort all the way. The cherry on the cake was the last 500m: right after an ice-bath you were facing a low rig, a double sand bag carry with obstacles and an elastic band around the ankles (in the first part), moving peg-board and the Super Saga made of a flying monkeybar,  "plumber rings", flying wheel and salmon ladder!                                                      
My start was pretty controlled, aiming to gradually build up the speed, but when someone fell on me at the balance beam I lost contact with the top 20, and so I had to speed up from the beginning already. The legs did not feel particularly explosive during the course, but I could keep a good steady pace all the way, and considering the amount of mud, jumps, water, obstacles and not less many athletes with cramps, I am pretty happy with that.
The race went smoothly except for the 20 burpees at the "hammer throw" (but it seems like everyone did them), until reaching the final session. There I made two mistakes: at the low rig and at the second part of the Super Saga, which cost me penalties and the top 10, but still managing the rest and finishing strong with the salmon ladder in 16th place.


The event was amazing, the race challenging and well planned, so I was happy to get a good placement among many top athletes who I was going to meet again the following week at the OCR European Championship (EC) in Esbjerg.

I was pretty excited to compete again at the EC with three races within three days: short course on Friday (4km), standard course on Saturday (13km) and team relay on Sunday (team of 3 athletes). A few days before the race we received the rulebook of the course and the list of obstacles was quite impressive, actually a bit too impressive. Visiting the venue and checking the course on Thursday it was as I was fearing: an insane and crazy setup! There were about 4km loaded with 30 obstacles and more than 20 of these required maximum grip strength, something that looked much more like a Ninja Warrior race than an OCR.
Now, instead that aim to perform at my best in each race, my focus turned to learn how to be as effective as possible on the obstacles to be better ready for the standard race on Saturday. Starting controlled, I went through some of the first challenging obstacles until I reached an 18m(!!) low/high rig where some of the best athletes were stuck. When I finally made it I got to know I was suddenly in the top 10, so I decided to push further in the race...what a mistake!!


The rest of the race was no more than a massive amount of rigs and nets, there was no point to run because the arms were so pumped and the obstacles so close to each other that you actually had to rest some time before facing the next obstacle. Slowly but effectively I came into the final area, only 300m from the finish line. There the real madness begun with a series of 4 rigs and more grip challenges. My forearms were already tired but I got through the first two rigs and nets, reaching a flying monkey bar that was ending with three flying spinning wheels (a ninja performer would have felt at home here, see pic). I made the first jump, but when gripping the skin of my palms suddenly came off leaving me with bleeding hands. I tried a couple more times, but my hands were destroyed and bleeding and there was no point to go on. At the end of Friday's race only 13 of 120 elite athletes made it through the course and only 1 woman, something pretty questionable and sad for a race with the best European athletes.

After a huge amount of criticizing feedback, the organizers decided to modify the course for Saturday and made it a lot easier. That was unfortunately too late for the athletes that had decided to race on Friday, many of them finishing after almost 2 hours with bleeding hands, in a race that was supposed to be "short" (about 20 minutes at the previous championships).
Saturday's race was essentially two blocks: 10km mostly running and carries and 5km with obstacles as the day before, although these were indeed easier. Meaningless to say I have decided to start on Saturday with a massive amount of tape on my hands, only to test my grip for the team race.  I actually ran pretty well for 10km, but when the first real hanging obstacles came up, more skin ripped off my palms so I soon quit the race. I also sadly decided not to start in the team relay on Sunday.

The event area, the festival, the people and the atmosphere in Esbjerg was great, but there were many disappointed faces. The course itself was unfortunately one of the worst planned I have been to, not at all an OCR but just an overlap of all the coolest obstacles on the market, unevenly distributed along the track. I think the organizers had very good intentions trying to build up a cool and spectator friendly race, but the result was that many athletes running on Friday ruined their race weekend. Hopefully what happened will help the planning process for future championships, and can help define what OCR is about.

So, the very end of the first part of the season was pretty disappointing, but I still have enjoyed a beautiful weekend with my wife and met many great athletes in Esbjerg, because beside the race course everything was very nice.
Now it's time for some holidays and some proper training in the mountains getting ready for the second part of the season.
Have a great summer!

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Marco Anelli

Matematikk, naturfag og fitness lærer - Personlig trener fra TROMSO

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