A couple of weekends ago, I competed in my first obstacle course race (OCR) for the year with my friend Scotty. It’s a race we’ve competed in annually for a couple of years called Matakana X Race. Before Tough Mudder & Spartan made it to New Zealand, it was really one of the only quality OCR race’s in the North Island.

Event details:

  • Teams of two
  • 3km course loop: 2 or 3 laps depending on the distance you’re competing in (6km or 9km)
  • Usually run twice a year (depending on winter weather conditions
  • Based in Matakana, just outside Auckland

How to train for OCR

OCR is probably my favourite type of event to compete in. There’s a unique combination of strength and skill required which, for me, makes training interesting. You can’t just be a speedy runner or super strong – you need to be prepared for both.

Leading up to the race, my training consisted of both bodyweight resistance training and running. Like any event, it’s important to train for the event and often that means switching up your usual workout routine.

You might be surprised to find your body isn’t conditioned for simple functional movements like pushing and pulling, particularly if you work in an office job. Focus on adding workouts to your training programme consisting of push, pull & leg movements like press-ups, dips, lunges, squat jumps, as well as exercises that challenge your grip strength like pull-ups and rows.

The importance of good gear

Not investing in quality gear for race day is often one of the top reasons people end up injured or uncomfortable during an event.

If you’re going to compete in an OCR race, I highly recommend you invest in a decent pair of trail running shoes that drain of water quickly. Most OCR races involve mud and water as part of their structure. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people look like they’re sliding around on ice or cross the finish line with only one shoe!

If you’ve never invested in a pair of trail shoes before, get help from a professional to fit you properly. And don’t race in brand new shoes. In fact, you’re best to purchase shoes and train in them so your feet are comfortable on race day.

Investing in appropriate clothing may seem unnecessary but if you’ve done any kind of mud run before, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

For OCR races I always wear a good pair of merino-blend running socks to keep my feet warm and blister free once they’re wet, and either a short or long pair of compression tights (depending how hot it is) under a pair of comfy shorts.

With my top, either a micro-fibre singlet or compression shirt work best for me because they don’t hold onto as much mud and water. Lugging your bodyweight over a 2m wall is hard enough without adding a couple of kilos of mud to the mix. I also find these tops are best at providing a bit of protection when crawling through mud that usually has a few sticks and stones in it.

Race day breakdown

Each OCR race will differ in distance and difficulty so it’s super important you make attending your race briefing a priority. I’ve made the mistake of running the wrong way several times because I’ve not made the briefing a priority (I can see Jess shaking her head) and it’s always had a not-so-good impact on my race (or other people’s race if they follow me). You’ll also be given a run-down on any hazards.

The race briefing for the Matakana X Race was next to the start line and timing tent. Shortly after that was finished, the race started, and Scotty and I were off running down a gravel road. Scotty and I agreed he would take the lead. He’s a quick runner so for the entire race he set the pace for us (a good challenge for me to try and keep up!).

After approx. 100m, we veered off into a paddock through a couple of gates to our first lot of obstacles. As a team, we complete a jerry can carry (large container filled with water), a partner drag (where you’re required to drag your partner backwards - they have to be limp) and what’s known as “the death crawl” (this is where you crawl on your hands and toes in a bear crawl with your partner hanging around your waist underneath you). With each of these obstacles, you’re allowed to swap with your partner as necessary.

The good thing about racing with Scotty is knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Because of this, and because we’ve had to do “the death crawl” several times, we were able to open a 15-second lead on our nearest competitors. We set a good run pace down another gravel road that led to a bush section with several obstacles one after the other, all with mud and water to make it all that much harder:

  • Wall climb-overs
  • Balance beams
  • Cargo net crawls
  • Suspended tunnel

After another section of running including zig-zag shuttle-like runs, we get to another cluster of obstacles including:

  • An army crawl under electrified barbed wire in a trough of muddy water
  • A rope swing
  • Tramping through thick, deep mud pools
  • Balance beams, high wall climb-overs, a tyre stack, another cargo net, and finally monkey bars over a creek.

Matakana Xrace

Almost immediately after the creek crossing is a big frame draped in cargo netting that we climb over, followed by a short run looping back to the creek. We cross through the creek, loop around again, and take a rope swing back over it. Next up is a lake where we hop over 2 floating pontoons, dive into the lake and swim it’s width. After climbing out, running a few metres along its bank, we swim back across to the other side and haul over selves out using another cargo net frame.

After more running, another army crawl under barbed wire through mud, and a smoke-filled tunnel crawl, we finish the lap by wading through a creek for approx. 100m. This section of the creek has submerged rocks and logs to navigate.

Scotty and I competed in the 9km race, so we completed the course a total of 3x. We were able to gain slightly more distance on our opponents each lap until we had a good few minutes lead on second place.

On the last lap wading through the creek, we each knocked our shins a couple of times on the rocks but crossed the finish line in pretty good knick and taking first place. An awesome, adrenaline-packed race!

Puriri Tree Foundation Trust

The best thing about this race is it’s all for charity. The Puriri Tree Foundation Trust assists and gives students from low-decile schools the chance to attend leadership and team-based camps at Action Matakana where the race is held.

To date, the money raised from the Matakana X Race has assisted over 1800 students attend these courses.

Competing in this race is always a top priority for me because of the opportunities it provides for kids. There are too many NZ kids growing up without the proper knowledge on how to nourish and grow their bodies, minds and understand personal leadership. The reality is it’s resulting in the increase of severe health concerns including child obesity and mental health issues. And unfortunately, kids from low-income families and low-decile schools are the ones suffering the most because they have the least access to things like leadership camps & skill building courses.

Train with AscendFIT

Keen to give OCR racing a go? AscendFIT is a health and fitness programme dedicated to those passionate about living a life full of adventure.

For $28 a month, you get access to weekly bodyweight-based workouts you can do at home or at the gym, that focus on developing the strength, cardio and endurance required for obstacle course racing, multi-sport events and general adaptable fitness.

Find out more or sign-up.

If you’d be interested in attending a how to train for an OCR race workshop, flick me an email.

Talk soon,