VanCity OCR is the brainchild of the husband and wife team, John and Allison Tai. The VanCity OCR group is local to Vancouver, B.C. Canada but its members are from all areas of the lower mainland, so it is not super restricted or inclusive, all are welcome. Not only do John and Allison race themselves, but they coach, train, motivate and inspire through their Spartan SGX workouts and other training. They are never too busy to answer a quick question or calm a fear you might have about a race or other challenge you want to tackle.
They are both very busy people, but I was fortunate enough to have them answer a few questions for me about who they are, why they OCR and about what VanCity OCR is all about. I asked John and Allison a series of questions and true to whom they are, got some pretty honest answers.
Allison, can you please tell me a little bit more about yourself?
Allison Tai was a competitive runner and Ironman triathlete before getting hit by a truck in 2006 and breaking her back, pelvis, and arm. She also suffered nerve damage and soft tissue injury. After a half a year in a full body cast, not able to roll herself over in bed, Allison fought her way back onto the podium in running and obstacle course racing events. She placed 2nd in the World’s Toughest Mudder 2014, was first place overall in the Canadian Spartan Race Series in 2015 and won the Spartan UltraBeast World Championships in 2016. Allison holds many certifications including canfitpro PRO TRAINER and Spartan SGX Coach. Now a mom of two, Allison feels blessed to be able to share her passion for life and fitness with others.
Allison and John what got you into OCR (Obstacle Course Racing)?
I started participating to help Alli with coaching and to understand the sport. I love the outdoors and since most our weekends was spent out chasing Alli’s races, joining in was a way for me to be outside. Races have introduced us to many beautiful places we would have otherwise never visited. The events then became a symbol of accountability. It is important for me to be fit and healthy to look after my family. If my performance in an event is bad, it is a reminder for me to take better care of myself.
The owner of the local run shop I coach at roped me into doing the gateway OCR: a Warrior Dash. Being your typical clumsy linear runner, I wasn't sure how it would go – but I walked away itching to do another.
What do you both enjoy about OCR in general?
Being outside, and being challenged to do things I would not otherwise do. Like overcoming my fear of water (I will have to jump off a cliff and swim to shore in WTM, I can now jump off the 10m platform comfortably). Also, the people.
There is always something to work on. You have to be a truly well-rounded athlete. I always leave a race inspired to be better at something. Plus, the people are hands down the most amazing people you'll ever meet or have in your life.
Thinking back, what made you want to start VanCity OCR and how did you come up with the name?
Helping people learn to develop their health and fitness has always been a passion of mine. A gym where we can help people find the joy in fitness is a stepping stone towards helping them learn the important details behind being healthy and fit.
I've done a lot of fitness coaching in the past, but the OCR sport and community are truly unique. I wanted to keep that momentum going between races. It's been so much fun training together, and we have quite a group these days.
The Wolf Logo and the Inspirational words: For the Strength of the Pack is the Wolf and the Strength of the Wolf is the Pack – what does that mean to each of you individually?
Everyone’s success in life is very much dependent on their inner drive but also on the community of support. We are responsible for ourselves and each other; the wolf pack is symbolic of that. Our family and friends through fitness have been pivotal to who we are.
Regarding my success in the sport, I feel like it was my whole pack was behind it. Training together, motivating each other and then… celebrating our successes. In the same right, you have a duty to your best because you know it will push your pack members. We have this one girl who could barely hold onto monkey bars at the beginning of the year… and now she's doing the big gap ones. That has an enormous impact on everyone and totally redefines what they feel they're capable of. Myself included.
Of all the people in the OCR Community you have met locally or at events or gatherings, is there any one person that you have met that has inspired you? If so Who?
At the Seattle Spartan Super, I met a guy on the course who had no legs. He lost them from above the knee. I ran by, and we saluted each other but did not exchange any words. He had to plant his hands in front of his body and swing himself forward to move along. Such people who overcome life challenges inspire me.
There have been tons. Amelia Boone, Claude Godbout, Lindsey Webster and the other top notch elites have made an impression on me, though. These ladies are literally at the top of the sport, and yet they are the most humble, down-to-earth and kind people you will ever meet. It just blows my mind.
Who inspires you both on a daily basis to be healthy and to help others be their happiest and healthiest selves?
Alli has been an inspiration to many and myself as well.
I think we have it a little too good really. As an athlete, you only get to celebrate your successes, as a coach you get to share in hundreds of them!! I feel like it's a circle at Vancity OCR, everyone just pushes everyone to the next level.
You are super down to earth people – is it hard to get tough when training people and leading the workouts?
I love yelling at people: I don’t have to work at pushing to people to work hard. It comes very naturally. The challenge is reading people and knowing just how much to push and when to pull them back. I find myself pulling people back more than pushing them. I have discovered most people are more driven than we think. It is defeating to break people; the intent is to make them better by supporting and nurturing what they are good at, as well as what they are not.
I've been in the coaching field for years. Before that, I worked with high-risk youth as a social worker. You could say I have very thick skin. I always feel like the more people complain in a workout, the less they complain after. People want to work hard… and I feel like we've figured out how to strike a balance between hard work and fun (hint: it's cake).
Any thoughts about your two adorable daughters doing OCR races in the future?
I would like them to be healthy, fit and self-reliant. What they pursue is up to them, and I will do everything I can to support them.
My eldest daughter hates mud, but she might be into Ninja Warrior if she could wear a tutu. I think my youngest might just roll around in the mud pit all day and skip the whole running thing. But seriously, whether they are into it or not, it doesn't matter. They've seen their parents overcome incredible things, scary things, things that were just too much work. That'll stick with them in whatever they do.
If people want to learn more about VanCity OCR, where can they go?
https://www.facebook.com/vancityocr/ (business page)
https://www.facebook.com/groups/162216600615998/ (Facebook group)
From hosting OCR training and “fun” in their backyard to driving around in the VanCity OCR mobile obstacle course van, Allison and John have embraced their role in bringing together the OCR community with open arms and open hearts. I have not met to this date a set of people that are more inspired to lead and as passionate about the sport and helping others as John and Allison are.
The VanCity OCR family is an eclectic group of beginner to advanced athletes that bring their various talents and goals to the table. Being a new member of this pack, I feel no judgment but a sense of community and love for the sport whenever I share my latest racing endeavor or challenge. I feel a great sense of pride to be a part of such a broad community movement, and it’s amazing to be a part of a local community that embraces the mud, barbed wire and fire as much as myself and my husband Ryan do. I can’t wait to experience many more races with our new “OCR” tribe, and maybe one day Allison will be on course as part of my cheer squad with one of her “inappropriate” cheer signs. She is my friend, my sister in mud and I am honored to say, my coach.
Thank you to John and Allison for everything you do for me, my family and the community.