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OCR European Championships, Denmark 2018 – Ulrikke Evensen

OCR European Championships, Denmark 2018

Note: The following post is a run-through of my own performance on course during the 3 races of the championship weekend. I’ve read many debate articles about the championship discussing the difficulty of the courses, this isn’t one of them. If you want my opinion in short, this is where I stand: The European Championships in Denmark had the most professional setup and execution I’ve met at an OCR to date. No other race has had such amazing organizing around all aspects of a sports event; marketing material, sponsors, spectator friendliness, live coverage, event village and more. It was a true Championship worthy event. The “sport” is still so new that adjustments will be made down the road to make it an official sport, but I believe the organisers did a damn good job overall. When it comes to the course difficulty, I am only speaking for myself and how I want to stack up in the field which is: If one woman (of normal height/size) can get through the course, I should be able to. If I’m not, that’s on me. Period. But note, that’s how I feel about my own performance, not about anyone else’s or the general field, as we all have different goals.

Now, let’s get to what happened to Ulrikke Evensen at OCREC 2018 😉

 

As the European Championships was approaching the nerves had starting getting to me, and in the weeks leading up to it I started having a lot of doubts about my skills and my readiness. Despite having had an amazing race season so far, fear and uncertainties started creeping up on me.

My focus was on the Standard Course (15 km), and with all my races and results being abroad so far, I felt I had something to prove on home ground. Because I won silver and gold in my age group last year, I decided to run pro this year, which made the pressure intensify.

 

Short Course (4,5 km – 27 obstacles)

My original strategy for the weekend was to use the Short Course on Friday to get a taste of all the obstacles, take some chances and make the mistakes I wanted to avoid on Saturday, so I could have a clean run on the Standard Course, having tried a lot of the obstacles.

I had seen some of the testing of the obstacles Thursday evening, and I knew it was going to be very grip intense and challenging.

I showed up at the start line Friday morning and everyone looked more ready than ever. I tried to remind myself of my gameplan and not get too distracted by my competition. I started off with the front girls but I didn’t push the running pace. Despite this I got ahead of a lot on the running in the beginning. After a few walls and a 4-beam, we got into the field containing all the grip intense obstacles.

I got through the first few smoothly, a bit cautious not to make any mistakes. I got down to the Low Rig to High Rig by Urban Sky, and I could see a lines forming at the retry lanes on it. It got my nerves up and my doubts started creeping up on me before I had even attempted the obstacle. I stopped for a second, took a breath and got started. I got all the way to the end section with rings and I mistakenly tried to grab the thick rings onehanded. Normally that would be fine, but after around 18 metres of hanging from your arms, you want to play it safe. I got in the retry lane and I saw several other girls and guys there. I tried focusing on something else, but I got quite effected by the fact that a lot of other athletes were struggling, which made me more insecure. I tried again, falling down the same place, making the same mistake. It was like my mind wasn’t connected to my body, and I couldn’t act according to the strategies when approaching the obstacle. I kept trying, taking long breaks, but for every try it got worse. I even tried putting my elbows in the Supersnake section before the rings, but I couldn’t find a rhythm to get my arms moving well in that position. Everything hurt and the lactic acid started building up rapidly.

I considered cutting my band, as I though the race was over after a lot of tries and the queues getting longer, but then I heard the speakers announce that the time cap was being cancelled, as only one elite woman had made it through within the 2 hour time cap.

I was really battling with myself, as I knew I had an important race the following day, but the thought that they didn’t have a podium yet made me think I still had a chance, and I’m known for not quitting, so I kept at it. The obstacle was in direct sunlight, it was 30 degrees Celsius, and we weren’t allowed to receive outside assistance, meaning no one was allowed water from the crowd. Breathing and focusing got harder and harder, and at some points I felt like I was going to faint from the heat and the constant pressure on the body. One of my friends from Denmark from a later wave who’d caught up with me (along with a lot of others) on the obstacle, told me that water was springing up from the waterslide behind us, so I did what every desperate dehydrated athlete would do in that situation – I went and drank water from the slide. It wasn’t a lot, and I was still being grilled, minute by minute with the sun at its highest, but it kept me on my feet.

I was too stubborn to quit, and I told myself that this was a resilience test, and only those who was willing to suffer and not give up would get through the course. It wasn’t until 4 hours had gone by, and 3 ladies had crossed the finish line that I gave up my band. I tried the rest of the obstacles, but I knew by then that the organizers would make a lot of changes for the Standard Course the following day because of the very low finishing rate, that my experience with the obstacles now wouldn’t necessarily serve me for the next day.  When I got to the finish line I had spent nearly 5 hours on a 4,5 km course, but at that point I was still smiling, as part of me likes to be challenged to my outer limits so I can find my weaknesses and improve.

 

It wasn’t until the following day I realised how not sticking to my plan on Friday and being too stubborn, was the worst thing I could’ve done for myself both physically and mentally.

 

Standard Course (15 km – 52 obstacles)

After Friday’s Short Course slaughter I had done everything I could to repair and recover my body for today’s race. Still I felt tired and sore, and even more nervous for my performance at my A-race of the weekend. I was annoyed with myself for being too stubborn the day before as I knew it was going to affect me on the 15km course despite a lot of changes to the grip obstacles on course.

The start time was the same as the day before, and we’d be racing in direct sunlight again, which meant the rules about not receiving water from spectators had been changed. It was simply way too hot. Having been grilled and dehydrated on course on Friday, I brought a lot of energy with my for today’s race, and I could tell a lot of my competitors did the same, running with belts and filled pockets of gels and chews. The women’s elite wave would be sent off in two heats, and I chose to line up with the first one. Looking back I probably shouldn’t have, as I already dealt quite poorly with my nerves and focus, and this wave was definitely the more competitive one, putting more pressure on myself. The race was determined by chip time, so it didn’t matter which one of the two waves you started in. For me the better choice, my mind being where it was, would probably have been to choose the second wave where I could’ve focused more on my own race instead of being derailed by my competition.

Despite the obstacle changes I knew it still wouldn’t be a runners race, so I didn’t push the pace more than to a comfortable level that wouldn’t get my heartrate too high when approaching the obstacles. I got off to an okay start keeping myself in the middle of the pack, and slowly gaining ground during the run, even though I wasn’t pushing it. It was great to feel how my running has improved and it boosted my confidence during the first part of the course.

The course terrain was very varied with everything from running on the stadium at start, to running on open fields, on trails in small forest sections, up and down the beach and back on concrete and grassy sections. Coming back towards the venue from the beach I had moved up quite a lot of places and I felt good, but I knew we hadn’t entered the hard section yet that would determine everything. It wasn’t until 10,5 kilometres into the 15 km course that we faced the grip intense part of the course.

I was quite shaky from my bad performance yesterday, I am usually very good on obstacles that require grip strength, but failure from the day before was stuck in my head which made me doubt my every move on obstacles today. I got through the first few that I also cleared on Friday, but a lot slower and more hesitant. The Low Rig to High Rig had been divided into sections today, and the break in the middle made me get through in first try today. The following was a large wooden obstacle from Hang On and a Polish obstacle from Barbarian Race. The wooden obstacle went fine, and I got to the Polish one I had been a bit worried about, as it started with a jump from a small trampoline onto a trapeze, another trapeze followed by a spinner, some rings, a spinner and a bell you had to hit at the end. I surprised myself by making a good jump and reaching the trapeze in my first attempt, but I made a mistake trying to grab the first spinner with one hand instead of two (you would’ve thought I had learned from yesterday) and slipped off. From then on I had several tries on the retry lane before I could get a hold of the first trapeze from the trampoline jump. I finally got to the end of the obstacle, but I couldn’t reach the bell, and I almost lost the power in my arms before I pulled myself up, quickly threw my elbow over the bar of the spinner and reached to ring the bell.

I had lost a lot of time doing several retries on this obstacle, and even though I knew the race wasn’t over till the finish line, I wasn’t that optimistic about my chances. I was running alone for the next part of the course, which suited me well, and I cleared the next couple of obstacles that wasn’t that grip intense, while I tried to get my arms ready for the next gauntlet of lactic acid challenges. The obstacles North Pole and Stairway was waiting at the open spectator field.

North Pole was a mix of thick ropes, steal nets and hand anchors to swing through, and even though it was “basic” elements, I was so scared of losing grip that I was so slow getting through.

Stairway was right after, and it had a wide gap for first try and a more narrow gap for the retry lane. In my head there was no way I was going to clear the wide gap, so even though I got to the top, my attempt to make it across wasn’t wholehearted. I got in line for the retry, and I was so nervous even though I have tried this obstacles many times at other races without having any problems. I was shaky, but I got to the top, cleared the transition and made it safely back down to ring the bell.

The course continued through small trail sections, a few basic obstacles such as a wall and a hoist, down to one of the last obstacles before you re-entered the stadium (that had 3 grip obstacles more before the finish), the Ovals/Spinners combo. This is where I made the biggest mistake of the day.

I started the obstacle, going from an Oval to three Spinners quite far apart, down to one last Oval at the end. My hands were hurting and my blisters had gotten blisters underneath, so it wasn’t exactly pleasant to hold on to anything. I got all the way through to the last oval, I got my elbow up in it, but then I made a huge mistake. When I was on the obstacle and runners were approaching it I heard the marshals say “Hands Only!”, what they meant was no feet, but I panicked and dropped down from my elbow, which was a safe grip, to my hands, that didn’t have anything left, and I fell down. Literally right at the end of the obstacle.

From then everything went south. For every new try my hands hurt more, my confidence dropped, and I had no belief in my abilities, so even though I made several attempts, as soon as I touched the obstacle my mind went

“this is never going to work”

and surely it didn’t.

I got upset with myself, I was so close to the last grip obstacles on course and now I failed, once again, on something I shouldn’t be failing at.

I kept trying and trying. I was devastated. I knew I shouldn’t have raced the way I did the day before, I didn’t have any power left, and I was the only one to blame for my screw up. Usually my stubborn mind is what gets me to my goals and allows me to push through barriers to grow, but this weekend it had been my downfall.

As I was sitting, sobbing at the beginning of the obstacle, trying to regain any strength I had left, Tristan Steed came running by with Rachelanne by his side. Tristan had cut his band on one of the obstacles on course, and he approached me along with Rachelanne, telling me to stop while I still had my arms and hands intact. I was very resistant as I told them I didn’t want to be a quitter, I even wrote it on my arm before the race, reminding myself who I was, and a quitter wasn’t part of it. I was willing to sacrifice myself for another 5 hours this day too, if that was what it would take me to get through. Tristan and Rachelanne talked to me about looking at the bigger picture, I am a professional now and I should act like one. Having the Tougher Mudder European Championship the following weekend it destroying myself make any sense. They were right, but it was a very tough decision for me to make, and I usually don’t listen to reason when I’m in race-mode.

I finally made the decision to cut my band, and even writing this a week later I can feel the hurt from it in my chest, but I know it was the right decision, and I learned so much from that talk and that decision. I am very grateful Rachelanne and Tristan was there to have the conversation with me, and it will change the way I think about racing going forward.

There’s a big difference between racing for the challenge and fun, being an amateur, and racing as a professional trying to live from the sport, and I have to learn to be able to make sensible decisions even when I’m in race-mode and have the “no quitting” mentality, especially if I have another important race around the corner.

Though it hurt like hell, and I’m very disappointed with myself looking at my performance and my mental game, I learned an important lesson that’ll serve me moving forward.

 

Team Race (8 km – 4 sections)

With the defeat from the two days leading up to Sunday’s team event, I must admit I didn’t really have any incentives to race. I knew I had two team mates I couldn’t let down though, so I showed up, ready to give the last bit I had left in me. My two teammates were just as physically destroyed after two days of racing, and we agreed the goal was just to try to keep the band, support each other and have a good time.

The course was divided into 4 sections; the first 3 being a relay with a strength specific, a running specific and a grip specific person and the last section being a team effort. I was the technical runner, having to do a lot of the grip specific obstacles from Saturday solo, before finishing the last few grip obstacles with the team.

I got ready at my transition point which was at the water slide right before the Low Rig to High Rig as the race started. The whole course was around 10 kilometres (advised 8, but a bit longer in reality), so it took a while before anyone from our women’s wave were approaching. When my teammates got in sight I think we were around 5th place, but we knew a lot of athletes had problems with one of the obstacles inside the stadium at the end, The Dominator, so we didn’t worry too much about anything before we would get there ourselves.


My two teammates had done their solo parts, and it was time for me to do mine. I was just as shaky as the previous days, especially having so little left in the tank, but we were all very supportive of each other and the girls cheered me along as I cleared one obstacle at a time, not rushing anything but playing it safe. I took the retry on the Stairway to get the shorter transition again today, but everything else was cleared in first try. We got to the transition point where the rest of the route would be completed as a team, and from there on the rules were that just one from the team had to clear an obstacle solo and the two others could then help each other through. We communicated very well and changed who took the obstacle solo depending on our strengths. I took the Urban Sky pegboard, the other girls took the hoist and the Ovals/Spinning Wheels that I’d had problems with the day prior. We all ran up the ramp together, entering the stadium and the final gauntlet of grip obstacles. The first one was The Dominator. It was divided into three sections, and I cleared the middle one with hammer nun chucks and ropes. Then we got to the last section that had caused a lot of problems for a lot of runners; Flying Monkey to Nutz.

I am working with Reborn OCR who made the obstacle, and I have tried the Nutz (octagon shaped big grips you have to do a flying monkey between) before, so the natural thing would’ve been to put me through it solo, but like the other days, and especially due to my performance leading up this last day, I was a mental mess who didn’t believe in myself and my abilities. I let one of my teammates go first to try and clear it solo. She almost made it all the way through at her first attempt, loosing grip on the very last of the Nutz before she could ring the bell. I then had to give it a go. I jumped up, made the first flying monkey, looked at the first of the Nutz and as I was swinging my mind went

“You can’t do this, you can’t do this”

I couldn’t fight it and I fell down on my jump to the first Nut. I felt so dump. I had practised the jump Friday morning on Reborn’s training rig that they put up on site, and I’d cleared it comfortably around 5 times, feeling confident and competent about that obstacle, and yet after two disappointing races I had none of that confidence left in me. My teammate gave it another go and this time she made it all the way through in perfect style! I immediately jumped down into her arms screaming out of joy and proudness of her performance!

We then went on to the last two obstacles, Pipeline and Killing Fields. I did the first part of the Killing Fields with some thin rope swings, wooden “Lego” parts you had to traverse followed by a section of different small hand grips. The very last part of the course was an incline monkeybar followed by a net climb and a rope swing to the finish line, which we all did together side by side!

We were so thrilled that we got through with our bands intact, that we jumped up and down in joy, forgetting to pass the finish line mats – luckily there wasn’t a team right on our heels. We got in as the 4th team, and sure it would’ve been great to podium, but it was just nice to finish the weekend off with one overall positive race.

 

Overall

I will say I’ve had quite a few sleepless nights after the European Championships. I completely fell through, my mental game was off, my confidence was non-existent, which made me fail stuff I shouldn’t be failing at. I made some terrible decisions which led to more mistakes and disappointment, but I hope that this bad experience will end up being one of the best things that has happened to me. It really shined a big light on my flaws and my weaknesses that I’m now able to work on moving forward. I’m taking some tough but valuable lessons from this weekend, and I get to decide whether I’ll let myself feel like that again.

I don’t blame OCREC for making the course too hard on Friday, I could’ve chosen to give up my band sooner or not race the Short Course if I wanted to be 100% for Saturday. My decisions, my responsibility, and my chance to make changes in order to get a different outcome.

This time the course, insecurities and fears won, and I am going to make sure that won’t happen again.

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