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!
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.
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.
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!
With the heatwave we’re currently experiencing what better way to spend a weekend than doing a 24 hour running relay!
This weekend I took part in the Spitfire Scramble in my local country park. The event starts at 12pm Saturday and ends 12pm Sunday and consists of 5.6 mile laps. Although 5.6 miles doesn’t sound like much, anyone who has done it will tell you the course is not easy! It’s undulating and the night laps can be quite scary!
I entered with 7 team mates but it can be run solo, as a duo, or in teams of 4. My team, Scrambled Legs, are very easy going and we go to have fun. There is no pressure to get a certain time on Laps and the support you get is amazing!
My first lap was at 3.30pm and it was already a scorcher. I set off with my headphones on enjoying the scenery of the country park. It’s also nice that members of the public are cheering you as you go round, although initially they just be thinking what are we doing! There are a few big hills on the course which are never easy but in 30 degree heat they are very exhausting.
This year they changed part of the course to include running through the campsite half way through the course. This can be daunting as you always want to look like you’re breezing through it so people don’t realise the struggle! You also get the feeling of ‘so close but yet so far’ to the finish line but I dug deep and carried on towards the big hill. Once at the top it’s only a kilometre to the finish line which is a satisfying feeling! I ran back to the finish line through the campsite to hand over the snap band to my next team mate. My time was 58.12 which I was happy with given the heat!
There is then a lot of waiting around until the next lap. This would be at midnight for me. I’m not a fan of night running through a park and neither is my bestie Lisa who would be running after me. We had an idea to run both laps together so we wouldn’t be on our own. I run with Lisa a lot so we both feel comfortable with each other’s pace and if it turns into a run/walk were quite happy.
We set off for the lap and we’re quite pleased with our pace but with each step we knew we would be having to do this again in roughly an hours time. Ok so it was midnight so it was dark but our head torches didn’t give us much reassurance- it’s very eerie running around a countrypark at that time of night I can tell you!
We got back from our lap in 1 hour 12 and went straight into our next lap. This was was mentally and physically challenging! We can only describe it as feeling drunk! I think dehydration had kicked in so we called this the walking lap! It was gone 1am and it was now cold! All we could think about was getting back to base camp and getting a few hours sleep! Every step seemed to feel painful. There were blisters, chaffing, cramps and general muscle acheyness. We finished in 1:30 and was relived the night naps were over. We also agreed that doing 2 back to back was probably the most stupidest ideas we’ve had!
Despite the pain, tiredness and weather - would I sign up again? Of course! The encouragement from other runners and spending the weekend with friends is amazing!
I just need a few days to recover then training will be resumed!
About the author: Emma Vincent is a personal trainer and Sundried ambassador.
From forgetting something to going the wrong way, we've all been there. Sundried asked our ambassadors "what is the dumbest thing you've ever done at a race?" and these were their answers! Have you ever made any of these racing mistakes?
Helene Wright - Triathlete
I was once on the bike leg of a duathlon and knew I was second lady so was chasing down the leader. I saw a cyclist in the distance so pushed on to catch them. As I got closer I soon came to realise they weren't wearing a number so they weren't even in my race... But worse still I'd followed them off course and down to the bottom of a hill! Fortunately, after getting back into the race, I hadn't lost a place but didn't track down the leader in time to win first place.
John Wood - Team GB Triathlete and Coach
A client of mine raced Cardiff Triathlon as part of training and forgot his wetsuit.
Dominic Garnham - Triathlete
I trained hard throughout all of last winter for a race early this year. I felt very confident and very excited for the race and I was in the best shape I've ever been. I turned up to sign in at registration on the day only to find I had forgotten to actually enter the race!
Nick Lower - Celebrity Trainer
I fractured my ankle 7 miles into ‘Man v Mountain’ (a 20 mile race up and down Mount Snowdon). I stupidly just strapped it up and completed it!
Alice Tourell North - Team GB Triathlete
At a recent race I forgot to put my race belt on! I had the best swim I’ve had this season, flew into T1, got to my bike... and then had to stand there for over 3 minutes whilst the race officials tried to find my husband who had the race belt in my bag. Total nightmare!
Steve Sayer - Triathlete and Coach
My swim hat pinged off and I lost my goggles at Ironman 70.3 Wimbleball, but I had the fastest swim stroke ever!
Martin Owen - Team GB Triathlete
I had an issue until recently of not being able to pedal and drink at the same time. I used to have to coast very slowly to drink. In a standard distance Duathlon, my bottle wouldn’t go back into the holder and it dropped out on the first lap. 35 more miles on 1 gel and no water...not nice!
Anne Iarchy - Personal Trainer
I hadn't ridden my bike for a couple of years due to injury. I had entered a triathlon last year, hoping I would have the time to get back on beforehand. Unfortunately that didn't happen. As I got onto the bike leg, I had totally forgotten how to change the gears on the bike. I managed to take them up, but not down. So when pedalling into the wind, it was really hard work. Thankfully I managed to figure something out on the 3rd lap!
Simon Ward - Team GB Duathlete
I turned up to the European Duathlon Championships with a broken neck. I ran 10k, biked 60k, and then ran the final 10k in the most pain I have ever experienced!
If you're looking to run your first ever 5k, 10k, or half marathon, follow our top tips to beat the nerves and make the most of your day. You never know, it could be the start of something big!
1. Make sure you know all the race information in advance
Usually, race organisers will email you important race information before the big day. Make sure you check your emails regularly and keep an eye on your spam and junk folders.
If you don't receive any emails, keep an eye on the official race website so that you're sure you know all of the important race information before you arrive at the race.
2. Check the race route and elevation profile
There will be many different reasons why you might have chosen this particular race. Maybe it's close to home or you have friends taking part. It's important to bear in mind, however, that it's the route that could make or break your day, especially if you haven't trained for it.
If the course description says it is 'undulating', you should be prepared for a few hills! If you can, check the elevation profile of the course beforehand and make sure you know whether it is all on tarmac and roads or whether it goes off-road and onto trails. Is there a large downhill section that could help you get a PB if you push hard enough? You'll be gutted if you realise afterwards that you were seconds off! So long as you're prepared, you'll have a great time.
3. Arrive in plenty of time
There's nothing worse than arriving late and having to rush to the race start. If the race is done on closed roads, there is a chance the car parking may become compromised and you won't be able to park close to the start of the race. Check the race information beforehand and make sure you know where you can park, if you are travelling by car.
Give yourself plenty of time to use the toilet, warm up, and make your way to the race start. If you need to pick up your race number on the day, allow yourself even more time to do this. Starting the race without stress will make a huge difference to your performance and enjoyment of the experience.
4. Give yourself time to have a comfort break before the race starts
One thing that is for sure at a lot of races, the queues for the portable toilets are epic! It's understandable that you'll want one last comfort break before the race starts, but make sure you join the queue in plenty of time as the race organisers won't wait for you to start the race.
5. Take your own hydration and nutrition
Especially if you've been training with a specific sports drink brand or with particular gels, you should take them with you so that you know you'll have them. While some races do offer aid stations, it's not guaranteed that they'll have what you're used to and it's not guaranteed they'll have enough for everyone.
Avoid disappointment by taking your own water so that you know you'll be well hydrated throughout the race and won't go without if there isn't enough. It will also mean you aren't gasping for water between water stations and you won't be preoccupied the whole time wondering when the next station will be.
6. Don't forget to warm up
Nerves can get the better of you on race day and this can cause you to forget your usual pre-run ritual. Especially if you're in a rush or things aren't going as expected, you could easily forget to warm up, but this could mean disaster and you could get injured.
Take some time to relax and do what you usually do pre-race so that you're in the best condition to run well and finish with a smile on your face.
7. Listen carefully to the race brief
At all good races, there will be a race brief conducted by the Race Director before you set off. There will be important safety information as well as information about the course and aid stations so make sure you listen carefully to anything you need to know.
Being well prepared will hugely affect your enjoyment of the race, so listen carefully to the race brief and don't be afraid to ask any questions if you have them.
8. Stick to your pace
You'll inevitably end up running faster on race day due to adrenaline and chasing other runners, but make sure you don't burn yourself out. Your first ever race will be a crazy experience and you won't know what to expect.
It's natural that you'll end up running much faster than usual, and this will happen at most races, but so long as you don't over-exert yourself, you can use this to your advantage. Try to stick to your planned pace as much as possible, but don't be afraid to push a little harder and maybe even get a PB.
9. Take a change of clothes
Most people plan well for the race but then forget about what will happen afterwards. Even in winter, you will be sweaty and uncomfortable after the race and if you have a long way to drive to get home, you'll want a change of clothes.
It's also a good idea to take a friend or family member with you, not only for support during the race, but so they can help you afterwards. If you pushed hard, you'll be exhausted as well as hungry and thirsty, so your support crew can help you get food and water and can drive you home while you relax in the passenger seat and enjoy a job well done.
10. Enjoy yourself!
This is certainly the most important point. If you adhere to all of the points above, there is no reason why you can't have a very enjoyable race. Being part of an organised race is a fantastic experience and you could well become hooked after your first one. Make sure you remember to enjoy yourself as that is the whole point! If you have prepared well, there is no reason not to.
As summer fast approaches and the weather warms up, it's time to start adjusting your training and racing tactics for the heat. Follow these top tips so that you can perform at your best in hot, humid weather and finish safely in good health.
Don't drink only water
This is possibly the most important point on this list. We all know that we need to drink plenty of water when it's hot, however an increasingly common mistake seems to be drinking only water and potentially over-hydrating. Didn't realise that over-hydrating was a thing? It can be potentially deadly. News broke this year of a woman who was left in a coma after over-hydrating at the London Marathon. The mistake this woman made was that she only drank water and caused her body to enter a state called hyponatraemia. This is when your body's sodium levels are dangerously low and in this context is caused by replenishing water but not electrolytes or salts.
The best way to stay safe and healthy when running in the heat, especially if it is a long endurance event like a marathon, is to top up your sodium before you run and then keep it topped up by drinking a sports drink or taking electrolyte tablets. Team GB duathlete and Sundried ambassador Louise Douglass says, "practise in training with different brands until you find the best one that works for you." This is important as the race you do may not have the sports drinks or gels that you're used to, so sometimes it's best to take your own, especially if your race is in a foreign country.
Of course, you need to keep a safe balance between water and salts, so try to work out how much of each you need before you start. You could do this by doing a sweat test, such as the one offered by sweat experts Precision Hydration, to see how much salt you personally lose when you sweat and go from there.
Adjust your hydration and nutrition from winter training
If you live in the UK and have signed up for a spring or summer race, chances are you've done most of your training in very cold, windy, and miserable conditions. What this means is you will need to adjust your hydration and nutrition for the actual race and it may differ from your training as the amount of water your body required in December will be vastly different to what it requires in July and August.
Make sure you are flexible with your hydration and take extra water and sports drinks with you to the race just in case so that it doesn't come as a surprise on the day. Most, if not all, races will have water available so stay topped up but as highlighted above, don't be tempted to over-hydrate!
Wear a hat or cap
Wearing a hat or cap is a great idea whenever you're in the sun as it protects your head from the heat and can reduce the risk of developing heat and sun stroke. Not only this, wearing a white, fabric cap when you run can mean you can keep a wet sponge under it to keep your head cool and keep soaking it with water to keep your basal temperature down.
"I would recommend wearing a white hat for sure, I’ve found wearing it backwards with sunglasses on actually is best." says Team GB age group triathlete and Sundried ambassador Sam Mileham.
Reduce your pace and listen to your body
You may have been able to push your body hard during training throughout the winter, but race day might be a different story. Especially if you're not expecting a hot race or race day is unseasonably hot (something that can often happen during the big April marathons) you may need to reduce your pace. Even if this means missing out on a potential PB, it's far better to get to the finish line with a smile on your face than being carted off on a stretcher!
Team GB triathlete and Sundried ambassador Paul Suett says "listen to your body and slow your pace down if it’s feeling too hard. London Marathon this year was my toughest race to date, the heat was insane and took a lot out of my body. Throughout the race I constantly listened to my body to make sure I was running sensibly."
Ironman athlete and Sundried ambassador Jon Dixon says "If you know in advance that the weather for a target race is going to be hot, then acclimatise by running in conditions similar in the lead up, preferably start at least 2 weeks out." Team GB age group triathlete Ali Trauttmansdorff adds to this by saying "I trained a few weeks before racing in Mexico by training in similarly hot and humid conditions in Florida to try and replicate the conditions as much as I could. I deliberately went out for my runs at 10am instead of early in the morning so that it wasn't cooler."
It may be difficult mentally to take yourself out for a training run when conditions seem tough, but this is how to train smart and will certainly pay off on race day!