• Generation Sufferfest – Why Is Obstacle Course Racing So Popular?

    Sufferfest Obstacle Course Racing OCR Why so popular

    These days, most people you know can say they've run a marathon and running along a smooth, flat road for 26.2 miles is no longer a notable achievement. For Generation Sufferfest, obstacle course racing and Ironman triathlons are the real challenges. But why? We take a look.

    What is Obstacle Course Racing (OCR)?

    Obstacle Course Racing is more than just running and it's more than just being fast. These events (notably, not always a race) are 5k, 10k, half marathon, or even further in distance with a scattering of obstacles along the way. These obstacles take many different forms and event organisers are always developing crazy new ways to challenge the participants. Some obstacles are simple, taking the form of having to run up and down the side of a hill several times or wading through mud which is waist-deep. Some obstacles are more severe, such as climbing over a 10ft wall, swinging off a rope from a 20ft platform into icy water, or crawling through a tunnel filled with tear gas (yes, really).

    Read more: 8 Things You'll Only Understand If You've Done A Tough Mudder

    Sufferfest Obstacle Course Racing OCR

    Many of the obstacles encourage solidarity and helping other participants such as Everest which is where people try to run up a 15ft (almost) vertical wall. Your teammates wait at the top for you and help you up, and in turn you wait and help other people reach the top. This is why it's not really a race, because staying behind to help others is essentially the spirit of the whole event.

    The two biggest brands in the OCR world are Spartan and Tough Mudder. Globally recognised and with events available all over the world, these events are not necessarily supposed to be competitive or done in as quick a time as possible, and instead encourage camaraderie, teamwork, and testing your own personal limits. If that's not enough for you though, there is Toughest Mudder which is a 12-hour race through the night, World's Toughest Mudder which is 24 hours, and there's also the OCR World Championships which do reward those who are complete the course as quickly as possible.

    For obvious reasons, you are not exposed to any real danger when participating in an Obstacle Course Race (think of the liability). However, you can expect to be left bleeding, scratched, electrocuted, and generally pretty battered by the end of it. These so-called Sufferfest events are now gaining popularity at a fast pace and are being enjoyed by people all over the world who find that running along a pavement for mile after mile just isn't exciting enough. Can we blame them?

    Tough Mudder Spartan Racing OCR Obstacle Course Racing

    Why the Sufferfest?

    There was a time when saying you've run a marathon was a big deal and you'd get a lot of respect. Not to say you don't these days, however so many people can now say they've run one that it's no longer special. The slightly overweight guy from your accounts department has done one, your aunt has done one, your kid's teacher has done one. It's human nature to want to evolve and discover tougher pursuits, which is where OCR comes in. 

    Sufferfest Obstacle Course Racing OCR

    It was once seen as a sign of wealth if you had pale skin and were overweight, because this signified a luxurious life spent indoors (Henry VIII being the most famous example) whereas the tanned, slender farmers who spent all their time in the sun were seen as less desirable. Now, those roles have reversed, and it's the people who have the time and money to go travelling, exercise recreationally, sunbathe, and get sun-kissed skin who are the desirable ones, while the pale overweight people are the ones who are unfortunate enough to spend 10 hours a day sitting in an artificially-lit office and rarely take a holiday.

    Our ancestors would spend their days in the fields doing manual labour and then even more manual labour back in the home just to do things that we now consider simple everyday tasks thanks to developments in technology. We don't have to hand wash all of our clothing, we don't have to walk everywhere, we don't have to harvest our own food. Our lives are significantly easier, so we fill the void with insane physical challenges and events.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • 8 Things You'll Only Understand If You've Done Tough Mudder

    Whether you completed your first OCR this year or you've done 10 already, the feeling at the end of a Tough Mudder is always the same... get me in a hot shower! Here are 10 things you'll be able to relate to if you've made it to the finish line of the famed obstacle course race.

    1. Being electrocuted is way more painful than you thought.

    You heard about it before you started and you promised yourself you'd go for it. But it was even worse than you anticipated!

    2. Running. So much running.

    When your friends convinced you to sign up, your worst fear was the obstacles. No one warned you just how much running would be involved!

    3. And hills. So many hills.

    Scrambling up inclines so steep you have to put your hands down in front of you wasn't something you expected but you smashed it anyway. Running uphill definitely isn't a favourite, though.

    4. You realise you haven't tackled monkey bars since you were 5.

    You approached this obstacle and saw how many people were dropping into the water and realised you haven't so much as looked at a set of monkey bars in years. Or, maybe you knew it was coming and you trained your butt off to be able to get across!

    5. Wow, it's cold in May and September.

    Being caked in mud and plunged into an ice bath would be great in July or August perhaps but those British grey clouds in May and September leave something to be desired! Note to self: take a blanket for when you finish next time!

    6. You're stronger than you thought.

    Whether you went into the obstacle course race raring to go or whether you were coaxed into it by friends, when you get to the end you suddenly realise you can do things you never thought you could, and what a feeling that is. 

    7. There's a real sense of achievement to hauling a heavy guy up a ramp.

    The whole point of Tough Mudder is not to finish lightning fast, but to work as a team and help everyone out. Standing at the top of the pyramid scheme and helping people up is a really great feeling, especially when they're twice your weight!

    8. You can't wait to do it all over again.

    You're soaking wet. Caked in mud. You've been thrown off walls, electrocuted, and crawled under barbed wire. Your knees are cut and you're freezing cold, and yet for some reason you're already itching to sign up for next year!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Cecilia Frisari Athlete Ambassador

    OCR World Championships obstacle course racing

    Cecilia was born in Italy but when she moved to the UK she found a love for obstacle course racing. She tells Sundried about training and racing in this sport.

    Have you always been into sport?

    As far as I remember yes! I have been competing in sports since I was 6. I did swimming for almost 10 years, 3 year of athletics where my mum was actually my coach (she was in the Italian national team for high jump) and I also did 6 years of volleyball, which I loved.

    What made you decide to enter the world of OCR?

    When I moved to the UK from Italy I stopped practising sports as it was difficult to find a volleyball team or find something that could motivate me to compete. I never liked going to the gym as I found the use of the machines a bit boring. In October 2017, I decided to try to do an obstacle course race with my boyfriend, and even if we did not train for it (in particular for the obstacles) we really enjoyed the race and I realised that I could do most of the obstacles. The variety of challenges in a single event and the mixture of training styles required made me sign up for further races. One race led to another and within 6 months I had qualified for and competed at the OCR World Championship.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    My favourite race was in June 2018, a sprint over 5 miles with 20 obstacles. I was a bit scared as the race is well know in the UK to be really tough due to the many steep hills during the course. They call it the Death Valley. I didn't have any expectations for this race as I didn't really train for hill runs but I pushed myself hard, in particular in the sections of the race where the running part was flat and I finished first in my age group.

    The result allowed me to qualify for the second time that year for the World Championship but also the European Championship the following year in June.

    And your proudest achievement?

    My proudest achievement was when I qualified for the World Championship after only 3 months of competing in OCRs.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

    Yes, unfortunately that happened last October, 2 weeks before the World Championship. The day of the race it was raining a lot and I had to run 25km plus all the obstacles.

    It was really cold, my fingers couldn't bend leading to limited grip and I couldn't hold onto any obstacles. On top of that my IT band troubles from earlier in the season hit me again.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    I think that setbacks can happen at any time: during a race, at work, or in your life. When that happens I always try to focus on how to finish the task at hand in a positive way.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    No matter how you feel during the race, do your best but do not push yourself over the limit – it is better to compete slower than not compete at all. Remember that for every race you learn more about your mind and body and will improve for the next one.

    What are your goals for 2019?

    Qualify for the World Championship again and improve my running.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    I do not have one specific person that inspires me. I get inspiration from different people in the sports world; one of them is Jon Albon for his racing quality but also his modest yet strong personality.

    What do you like about Sundried?

    I love the fact that nowadays we can use so many different sustainable materials as fabrics and I love the fact that companies like Sundried utilise these materials for making environmental sports wear without compromising on quality and comfort. My Masters thesis was about sustainability in the fashion industry and I cannot agree more about Sundried’s philosophy!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • James Sackley Athlete Ambassador

    running mud run fun obstacle course racing

    James is an Obstacle Course Racer and enjoys getting muddy as much as he loves running. He talks to Sundried about ice baths, mud, and the challenges of this unique sport.

    Have you always been into sport?

    Yes, always. I was the kid at school on the running, tennis, rugby, badminton, golf, skiing, and cricket teams.

    What made you decide to enter the world of Obstacle Course Racing (OCR)?

    I have been trying to find 'my' sport and I've always thought army assault courses look cool. So, in 2015 I entered an Obstacle Course Race (OCR) and I was hooked! That race was just for fun, but these days I take them more seriously.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    That is really tough. I have three for differing reasons. The Nuts Challenge has to be included as it's the only race that breaks you apart piece by piece and I still come back for more every year. Any of the Nuclear Race series is amazing, well organised and challenging. Also Spartan has to included, as I love the spirit and those horrible carries!

    obstacle course racing

    And your proudest achievement?

    That has to be qualifying for the OCR World Championships by completing 4 laps of the Nuts Challenge, 30ish kilometres (18 miles). This was especially impressive as this was early March 2018 and the ice was 2 inches thick!

    Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?

    Yes, I had a big disaster 2 years ago at the Nuts Challenge. I wasn't fit enough, I didn't prepare my nutrition right, and I didn't have the right clothes. Due to all these mistakes I got hypothermia and got carted off the course. It was a hard lesson to learn, but not a mistake I've made again.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    Setbacks are part of life and it's the only way we learn. When I have a bad race, bad training session, or anything else, I think about what I could have done differently, think about any improvements I can make and then move on. The moving on is the most important part.

    challenge mud run fun obstacle OCR

    What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?

    OCR isn't all about strength; a lot of it is about technique and having a cool head under pressure. Spending more time on the skills compared to lifting weights makes a huge difference.

    What are your goals for 2018?

    Compete at the OCR World Championships and retain my wristband by completing all the insanely difficult obstacles. If I can come in the top 50 in the world in my age group that will be a great bonus.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    Many people, but Jon Albon is right up there.

    running racing fun run

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    Sundried is an awesome company and I love the ethical stance on clothing. My favourite piece of kit is my cool tech t-shirt. It barely feels like I'm wearing anything, I love it!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Adam Fretwell Personal Trainer

    Adam Fretwell Personal Trainer Smiling Obstacle course race

    Adam is a passionate PT who loves training himself as much as he loves motivating his clients. He talks to Sundried about life as a personal trainer.

    Please tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up.

    • Isle of Wight Challenge: running around half the Island in under 8 hours.
    • London to Brighton bike ride.
    • Nottingham and Ramathon Half Marathons.
    • Colour Obstacle Rush – so much fun in the paint and inflatable obstacles with clients.
    • OCR events – Airfield Anarchy Mud Fest 5k, 10k and 10 mile mud runs over a weekend. Mudnificcent7, X Runner (all of them, Men’s Health Nottingham. The list goes on……)

    Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?

    I was always active as a child playing cricket, squash, badminton, and going on long walks with family. I loved PE at school, especially athletics, or if it rained so we could play cricket in the hall. I wasn’t 100% sure what path I wanted to follow after school and college but I ended up at Nottingham Trent University doing Sports Science and Management. It was the best of both worlds for me; I was still learning about sport and exercise while gaining what turned out to be vital management skills I’m now using every day as part of my business. I graduated in 2007 and took a management job in retail to gain confidence around the qualification I had gained. In 2010 I started training as a Personal Trainer with Premier Training and qualified in 2011. I’ve now been running my own Personal Training business for 6 years starting from my garage at home to now working from my own private Studio at AJKM Hockey Barn.

    I was a finalist in 2015 at the Derby Telegraph Sports Awards and a winner at this year's Erewash Borough Council Sports Awards in the “Active for Life” category for getting my clients engaged in their sport and exercise.

    What are your training goals now?

    They are the same as they have been from day one really. Keep improving, pushing myself, and aiming for improvements. It’s nice to see my 10k times slowly come down while I’m lifting heavier weights with better technique than ever before. If each year I can have small all-round gains I’m happy.

    Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:

    I’ve got a massive DVD collection. For me, there's nothing better than chilling out with a film after a day full of training.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?

    Expect the unexpected! In the last six years I’ve been asked the most random questions by clients and it reminds me of something my business lecturer said: “There’s no such thing as a stupid question, just a stupid answer.” and it’s true. If a client asks a question no matter how ‘daft’ or ‘trivial’ it might sound to you as a trainer, they have asked it for a reason so give a respectful answer and you will build up a great rapport with your clients.

    Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?

    Nope, I just have a healthy balanced diet with everything in moderation. I enjoy my food and love cooking so it’s great to try out different recipes and see how you can mix them around with different fruits and vegetables.

    What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?

    Make sure they’re enjoying their training. If they enjoy their exercise and activity they will stick with it and earn the benefits they set out to get. I also work with MyZone so clients can see their effort level live in front of them. This gets their competitive sides working in group sessions to help each other burn more calories or earn more MEPs.

    Talk us through your training regime.

    I join in all of my group exercises sessions; I can’t expect a client to do the exercise if they don’t see I do them myself. Then I aim for 2 to 3 weight sessions a week and 2 to 3 cardio sessions. Sometimes these are a quick blast on the assault bike in a gap between PT sessions, other times I can get out for a longer run.

    How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?

    I’m a geek so in 6 years I’ve done around 10 years’ worth of CPD courses to keep expanding my knowledge, plus reading online articles, blogs, and books.

    What are your top 3 trainer tips?

    1. Enjoy your exercise, sport and activity.
    2. Work hard at the basics and the rewards will come.
    3. Find a fitness family you can be part of and the physical and emotional benefits are amazing.

    If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

    A difficult one and not the healthiest but probably homemade lasagne. 

    Why work with Sundried?

    It’s a company built around exercise, sport, activity, healthier lifestyles all in an ethical way. We can train healthy while looking after the natural resources of the planet all at the same time.  

    Favourite fitness quote:

    "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden (University of California head Basket Ball Coach)

    Posted by Alexandra Parren