With every new article I write for this series, I get more and more excited. It makes me super happy to get to know the strong, powerful and passionate women in the sport of OCR. Sara Knight is no exception. I have been following her fitness and OCR journey for a while now (behind the scenes). To me, Sara has emanated the words “Badass Woman” for a long time. She trains hard, races hard and at the end of the day you can tell just how much her family means to her. I cried when she got her Toughest Mudder podium win in the UK, that’s how excited I was for her.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. Were you always athletic?
I have definitely done my share of sports throughout my life. In high school, I competed in soccer, swim, dive, volleyball, softball, and cross-country. In college, I was a walk-on to the crew team and also did snowboard and downhill mountain bike instructing. I would run regularly to stay fit for these sports but never considered competing in a running sport until recently.
What initially drew you into the world of OCR and adventure racing?
My first OCR was a Warrior Dash. I remember coming in fourth just behind Allison Tai in 3rd. After that race, I knew that I loved the challenge and the fact that it was outdoors and it made me feel alive. The fact that I was decent at it from the start was just the thing to seal the deal.
Like most who compete in the OCR world, you hold down a day job but still find time for your family and to train like a bad ass. How do you manage to fit it all in?
OCR doesn't pay all the bills, that's for sure, but it definitely changed my working life around. Before I had my kids I worked at a call center doing a technical repair, sitting behind a desk all day, getting yelled at by unhappy customers. After I had my son (he is 4 now) I was determined to start running o get back in shape and I quit my job to run an at-home daycare. Those kids sure had me running around. After a couple years of that, I realized running and going to the gym wasn't cutting it for obstacle training and so I ended the daycare, moved to a piece of land with my family and parents and started building obstacles. I was determined to create a permanent course in the NW.
Yeah…. I had gone off the deep end. I was hooked on OCR. County ordinances and other regulations shot that dream down, so I took up several part-time gigs. I worked at UPS to keep my muscles, worked as a home appraisal photographer so I could take my kids to work with me, and started working at an established gym as a personal trainer. I also took on personal training clients in the side to train on my obstacles in my back yard. Scheduling seemed to work out since most of my work was in early morning or evenings, but it didn't leave much time to train for myself. I now only have the photography job and personal training in the local trails and have picked up a job as a middle school track coach. All of this work can be done while my kids are at school, so schedules work out again. I also am now training after midnight since that is when my main races this year start, so most my training is done while my family sleeps. Whew…. that was a long answer to that question, haha
As a wife and mother, do you find it is important to be a strong role model for your family?
I absolutely love that my kids can see me training hard, struggling, failing, trying again, succeeding, celebrating success, and then training hard again. I can usually relate any tough situations my kids encounter with experience. I am happy when my kids want to try a new trick or exercise and some of my favorite times are when we go to the playground and I hear, “Can you do this?” Followed by seeing my brace kids try something new.
You recently podiumed at Toughest Mudder in the UK – tell us a bit about that?
Toughest Mudder UK was the toughest Toughest to date. The weather was cold and wet, the obstacles were challenging because of this and a bit harder, and the terrain was tough on the ankles- oh, and LOADS of thick mud. I was trying to maintain a manageable gap between myself and the leader (Suzanne) but after each lap she seemed to get further away. I had just about given up on the win on the second to last lap when I heard 3rd place was less than a minute behind me. I dug deep and ignored the pain a bit more and pushed hard. My lap times were significantly faster. I was only about a mile away from the finish on my last lap when I could hear the announcement that Suzanne had just crossed the finish. I couldn't believe I had made up that much time and almost caught her. I am confident that if the race was just a bit longer I would have taken the win. I am still stoked about my performance. It was an amazing journey.
I have noticed that more and more women are participating in the endurance events and doing quite well. Do you feel that due to strong women like yourself, that others are more willing to push their own limits?
Women (and men for that matter) tend to think they are incapable of doing endurance events. When I tell people outside of the OCR and endurance world what I did over the weekend I get shocked expressions and people telling me they can barely run a mile. Anyone can do what we do. Anyone. They don't have to be fast. Everyone that I finally convinced to try OCR are surprised they can do it at first but then it gives them the motivation to keep trying new things. The more people that start doing this sport, the more people will realize that they can do it too. So, I'm not convinced that the strongest women motivate the masses, I think the trickle down of everyday athletes to everyday self-proclaimed non-athletes help everyone conquer new things.
On course what has been your favorite obstacle and why?
My favorite recent obstacle is Tough Mudder's Hang Time which is a rendition of King of the Swingers. Mostly I love this because it is challenging, and if I am not on point I will fail. I also love this obstacle excuse it is fun. Jumping, swinging, pulling sliding- it has it all!
On course what has been your least favorite obstacle and why?
Quagmire. Mostly because it's not really an obstacle. It's an annoyance that is there to make feet and hands slippery for the upcoming real obstacle.
Are you someone that plans your race schedule in advance (to take advantage of things such as early bird pricing) or do you sign up for things on the fly?
I definitely have my whole year planned. I even have my workouts and mileage planned for the entire year. This is just me making sure work gets done. I still by my races and travel almost last minute, but that is not my planning, that is just living paycheck to paycheck. Some of these races I run would not be possible without winning money on the race prior.
If someone were to give you a plane ticket, and a paid race entry to any event in the world which one would you love to go and do?
Probably Spartan's new 24hr race in Iceland I saw small mentions of recently. I have Icelandic heritage and have always wanted to go. Racing is a good excuse.
I know each race series has its own strengths and devoted followers. from your race resume, which race series has been the most enjoyable for you so far and why?
My most enjoyable series is Tough Mudder just because the awesome obstacles, but I enjoy the mountainous terrain Spartan usually is situated on.
What is your main goal on course this year (can be time, placement overall, to overcome a personal fear). Please tell us about this.
I am the queen of second place. I would love to get the win at a big race.
With so many amazing women on course this year, do you find yourself becoming more competitive, inspired or both?
This year the competition has been cranked up like crazy. I find that I have to look away from social media most times because everyone is crushing it and I need to stay focused on my own plan.
When you are not working or training others, or working out, what is a hobby that you have that people many not know about?
I like riding motorcycles. Dirt bikes, street bikes, no matter.
If you have one, what is an on course nickname people have for you?
For someone that is newer to the OCR sport, what is one solid piece of advice that you wish to pass on?
OCR athletes beat themselves up with racing and training. Recovery is key. Sleep whenever possible.
Who inspires you?
My parents inspire me. I don't know anyone else with as big of a work ethic. My mom will spend an entire night finishing a job or craft or cleaning and then she will keep going through the morning, watching the kids or gardening. My dad will take on a project, such as building an obstacle, and won't stop working until it is done- I'm talking 20 hours, nap for 20 minutes, and work for another 20. Both of them are very persistent. I think that's where my endurance comes from.