Ideally, you’ve put in the work and had the experience by racing multiple OCR races with mandatory obstacle completion (like those popular in the USA including Savage Race, Battle of the Lions, Indian Mud Run and Conquer The Gauntlet), so you don’t have this problem. However, let’s assume that things have fallen apart and you are stuck at an obstacle…now what? What can you still do to make it across the obstacle without just giving up and coming back next year?
Here are a couple of tips you can use in the moment to give you that added boost of energy that may be the difference between success and giving up your band.
1. Rest and Retry
Often you’ll see athletes fail an obstacle and try again immediately without resting. If you are in podium contention and know the obstacle fail was just a misplaced hand placement that might be okay. However, you probably want to take a couple of minutes to regroup. After a maximum effort wait 2-3 minutes and then try again. Actually look at your watch because you will probably short change the rest time and try again before you are ready. Have you ever watched climbers attempt a very hard route? They don’t fall and immediately try again, they wait a couple of minutes before attempting the route again. Since this is a race we can’t wait around all day, but we should rest more than someone trying to get a pump going in the gym.
2. Watch others
When you watch others do obstacles your brain fires “mirror neurons”. Essentially when you are focused on someone else performing an activity your brain fires like you are doing that activity, making you better at it (check out Alan Richardson’s basketball experiment). Don’t watch the people failing on the retry lane, watch the people succeeding on the rest of the obstacle lanes. Plus, you might pick up a tip or two on what is making those people successful while your brain is firing mirror neurons. Plus, it reinforces the idea that success is possible versus watching people fail over and over again which reinforces the opposite. This leads to…
3. Believe in Yourself
Arguably the most important tip is this…believe in yourself. If you don’t think it is possible, you definitely won’t be successful. Watching other people succeed can reinforce that success is possible. Don’t start the obstacle with the mindset of you are going to fail again. Instead believe that this is your time and this is going to be your successful attempt.
4. Pick Your Lane
Typically the retry lane is only one or two lanes on the far side of the obstacle so you may not have much of a choice in this one. However, occasionally lanes are not exactly the same. For example one may be in the sun and the other in the shade making the sunnier lane drier. This is especially useful for obstacles that are dual sided (like Z Man or Indian Mud Run’s Floating walls) where lanes are facing opposite directions.
5. Leverage the Observer Effect
People perform better when being watched (check out the Hawthorne Effect if you want to know more). You can leverage this fact to your advantage. If you are stuck at an obstacle awhile, tell a friend, family member or stranger to record your next attempt on their phone because you want the success on video. This not only verbalizes your plan to succeed and shows that you believe in yourself, but provides the added pressure of requiring to perform on camera. If you are feeling really bold, tell them to stream it live so regardless of the outcome, it is going out online.
These tips should help you pull out a little bit of extra effort on race day. If after multiple attempts you are no longer getting anywhere close to the end, it might be time to give up the band. Losing that band is never an easy decision but it may be the smarter decision based on what is left in the weekend’s events, how far into the race you are and what your competition is doing. Since these tips only help if you have read this article in advance of the race, make sure you tag a friend in the comments so they go into OCRWC armed with this knowledge.
Want more obstacle tips and tricks? Check out Evan Perperis’ book, The New Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite OCR, now available in digital.