In 2017, most of the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) world was introduced to an obstacle from the mind of OCR Pro, former Olympic Biathlete and Northman, Marco Bedard. This obstacle, called La Gaffe proved to be challenging for much of the field.
As La Gaffe took lots of bands, athletes struggled to figure out how to cross vertical poles that tilt to allow for transition to the next one.
At the 2018 North American OCR Championship, the rain continued to make this a challenging obstacle even for Pros, despite the addition of grip tape. This drastically changed the finishing order and times in more than a couple of cases.
With such a challenging obstacle, you better believe you should be training for Northman’s (a NORAM and OCRWC qualifying event) La Gaffe obstacle. The easiest and most sport specific way is to head to one of Northman’s events based in Canada.
However, if you can’t do that, here are some useful training tips:
Mimic The Hand Position
Smallest parts first
When looking to improve at any obstacle it is a good idea to break it into its smallest parts first, so start working on hand position. You’ll notice La Gaffe has a nunchaku grip so you are going to want to do some training where you are practicing this grip.
A few ways to practice the La Gaffe grip:
- pull-ups hanging from nunchakus
- practicing crossing a rig with nunchakus
For those that lack the upper body strength for these, try:
- attaching a nunchaku grip to a lat pulldown machine in the gym
- practicing single arm nunchaku lat pulldowns
The more your hand gets used to being in this vertical position, the better off you will be on La Gaffe.
The ability to climb the poles on the obstacle is largely dependent on grip strength and friction. If you have amazing grip strength you could theoretically cross the obstacle without your legs every touching a pole. However, most of us are going to rely on a mix of the two.
Creating friction involves putting lots of surface area of your body onto the pole. Preferably, via bare skin. This is going to stick better than a sweaty jersey or wet compression pants. If you normally race with your Akuma jersey on, you may want to roll it up slightly to expose more skin to help create friction.
Ways to create friction for your legs:
- Squeeze the pole with your thighs/calves
- Wrap your legs around the pole
Whatever you find creates the most friction for a secure hold.
If you are hanging on the pole on the near side and trying to get it to tilt in the opposite direction, you are going to have trouble. The most mass is going to be on whatever side your body is, so you are going to have to rotate to your body before the poles will tilt and you can make the transition. If the concepts of basic physics are too much for you, just play around on obstacles enough and the movements will become intuitive.
Practice Climbing Poles
You can find poles in lots of places….but you probably shouldn’t be climbing most of them; the owners/managers might get upset.
Personally if I want to practice La Gaffe, I opt for a swing set at the local park. They usually have support structures that include angled poles, allowing you to climb on the inside or outside. They often have vertical poles to allow you to practice climbing.
Take a look around and you may even find ways to practice the transition onto another pole or just onto another part of the playground. (I know I just wrote a paragraph on friction, but try and keep your Akuma jersey on and not scare the children). During the actual race you will have to transition between the poles. Most people prefer to reach across with their hands first before transitioning the legs. Once the legs and hands are on the pole, rotate your body to the far side to make the tipping of the pole easier. This will allow you to repeat the process all the way until the bell on the far side.
La Gaffe can be a challenging obstacle, like many others on the course of NORAM and OCRWC, so be sure to approach it with a positive mindset.
Walk up to the obstacle with a plan and with confidence and your chances of success will increase greatly. If you have time to watch others attempt the obstacle at the event it will give you ideas of what works and what doesn’t. You could also look back at historical footage from things like OCRTube.com.
Keep training and I’ll see you in Stratton!
Evan Perperis, NSCA-CPT, is an athlete on the Conquer The Gauntlet Pro Team and author of three books on Obstacle Course Racing. Included in his 39 podium finishes is a 2nd place Pro Coed Team at the 2018 North American OCR Championships and 1st Place Team at 2018 World’s Toughest Mudder. Find more of his content at www.teamstrengthspeed.com. Looking for more great tips from the same author? Pick up a copy of Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite OCR and if you are planning on racing long at Enduro, Mud Run Guide’s Ultra-OCR Bible.