In the sport of OCR, more and more women are getting involved, training hard and proving their skill and talent time and time again on course. A lot of us women in the OCR community have a delicate balance to maintain when it comes to the sport of OCR/our careers/and our family life. OCR is almost like an alter-ego for us, being able to get on the course, play in the mud for a few hours, hose off and then head back to our normal routines.
Kristin was brought to my attention for this series by Margaret Schlachter, my editor for Mud Run Guide. I did some quick research on Kristin and decided that I wanted her for this article series for many reasons. She is a woman with passion, who is goal driven and has a sense of humor. Often times as moms we forget how to take care of our own needs to focus on family, but Kristin has proven that moms can train hard, race hard, is true to one’s self, and manage a full life outside of the OCR world. With that being said, I did want to include some of Kristin’s race highlights at the start of this article, as it is quite impressive and shows you how far she has come as an OCR Athlete.
Race highlights for Kristin include:
In 2014, 2015 top 100 women in NYC Marathon (> 50,000 finishers!)
In the 2016 Spartan Series: *6th in the US Championship Series
*10th place at Spartan World Championships
*1st Place Spartan Team Championships
2017 : *National Champion at the OCRA US Championships – Pan American Team qualifier.
*6th place US Championship Series
*1st Place Chicago Spartan
*3rd place 15k US OCR Championships
Please tell us a bit about yourself including your background.
I've been a runner for most of my life. After HS, I earned a DI scholarship to run for Miami University (OH). I spent much of my four years in college injured, but never fell out of love with running! After college, I moved back to Chicago and I found triathlons as a way to balance the amount of time I spent running. I realized biking and swimming allowed me to get my adrenaline and workout fix without the pounding of running and helped make me better-rounded as an overall endurance athlete. I raced triathlons, duathlons, time trials (biking), crits and road races for most of my early to mid-20s. In 2010, I met my husband; we were married in 2011 and one month later (surprise!!) I was pregnant with twins! We had 2 kids before we celebrated our first wedding anniversary!
After the surviving the first six months with twins, no race will ever seem too hard or come close to being as exhausting, but I would do it all again. Having twins definitely changed my body and I found my hips and pelvis needed a lot of strengthening afterward. I began working out with a trainer to rehab a nagging hamstring injury when my twins were a year and a half. It was the first time I had spent much time strength training. Around this time, my trainer introduced me to OCR. I think it is much more satisfying to train towards a goal or for something! Last year (2016) was my first season (my actual ever Spartan Race was the Chicago Spartan at the end of the 2015 season).
I've always had a knack for quick success in new sports. I qualified for Nationals in my first ever Olympic tri and finished 3rd in my first Spartan (earning my coin). Last year I decided to focus on the US Championship Series. I figured if I was going to do Spartan, I wanted to compete with the best athletes. I surprised my self with a 5th place finish at Montana, the first leg of the series. From there I seemed to enjoy getting a 6th place (one spot off the podium)…and finished the US Championship Series overall in 6th in both 2016 and again this year in 2017.
Please share with us a story about your proudest race/challenge/OCR achievement so far.
Palmerton this year is probably one of my most proud OCR races for a few reasons. It was my first time on the course, and I had heard lots of “horror” stories about the toughness of the race. The course is known to be relentless, with lots of climbing, technical footing, and extra heavy carries. Living in downtown Chicago, I have no access to hills, let alone mountains, so when courses have a lot of climbing, I tend to be at a disadvantage than the majority of the girls who live and train on their local mountains. I am also a self-admitted terrible technical and downhill runner.
This year I went into the race with a really positive attitude. I worked a lot of my strength training, especially lifts that would simulate the fatigue of climbing mountains. I also worked a lot on my heavy carries going into Palmerton. When we got to the double sandbag, I was in 7th place. I secured my two sandbags onto my shoulders and just started going. The next thing I knew we were headed up and I passed Faye, then Alyssa (who is known as the Queen of the Heavy Carries) and Leanne. I held onto 4th place until the final two obstacles, finishing 6th. But that race I proved to myself and to others that I can carry and despite living in flat Chicago and I can climb.
How do you find/make the time to train and still maintain a relatively normal life?
I would same that it’s the opposite for me – Because I am a mom to two small children, I don’t find it hard to maintain a normal life, but find it hard to find enough time to train! I have to choose quality over quantity for my training because there is so much on my plate. I find myself racing from school drop off to the gym for strength or off to squeeze in a run. I do not do a lot of mileage because of this. In fact, I do not run more than 3-4 times a week. This means every one of my workouts is extremely important. During the season, I do not run just for the sake of running. Each and every run has a purpose and almost all are done at a “workout” pace and mentality. I love to train hard. I like intensity. But, I also know my body by now, and recovery and rest are absolutely built in to my training schedule. Beyond training and racing, I volunteer for our children's hospital, I enjoy fashion, interior design and enjoying the restaurants and activities in the city with my husband and friends.
I can see you have run a bit, distances leading from the 5km to the marathon distance. Do you prefer running over OCR or OCR over running (and why)?
I still enjoy the running part of OCR the most. However, after doing an OCR, there is no running race that will ever be able to simulate the excitement, diversity, and intensity of an OCR race….So, for now, I would say OCR is way more exciting! It's also still new to me, so I am still figuring out the obstacles, training etc… There's not much to figure out when racing a road race. It’s just one foot in front of the other.
Is there a race/event/challenge you won't do?
Races that span 12 hours+ do not seem like something I want to try…I enjoy sleep too much! But, never say never 🙂
As an athlete, can you tell us about a time where you had to take a step back due to injury, and during this time how you kept yourself sane?
I wish I could say no….But, unfortunately, I am an injury prone person! I have chronic issues with my upper hamstrings, and over the past year, have taken lots of time off running because of them. I also sprained my ankle one week before Monterey this year….and then re-rolled it 2 days after! With 20 years of running under my belt, I have probably suffered ever runner's injury at some point. I have had foot surgery and knee surgery. I stay sane by staying busy with the other things I love doing…being with friends, family, volunteering, etc…
In the past, I was not as good at letting my body heal and trust I would be able to come back just as strong if not better! Now when I feel my hamstrings start to tell me to back off, I listen. I take my road bike out for a ride, go for a swim, grab a glass of wine with a friend, or just simply rest! I am fortunate that I have a well-rounded life that when I need to back off, I am busy enough to stay sane and not dwell too much!
What is your favorite race distance in the Spartan series?
What I like and what I am better at is probably two different answers! I do better as the course gets longer. I am someone who can just keep grinding and going at a steady pace! My favorite distance is a Super, but I am best suited for the Beast.
On course, what is your favorite obstacle and why?
My favorite obstacle is the monkey bars because it reminds me of being a kid again!
On-course what is your least favorite obstacle and why?
Bucket carry – to me, there's nothing redeeming about it. It is heavy, awkward, and it reminds me of Home Depot
When training, how do you deal with a bad day or a bad run?
The best part of coming home from a bad workout or day is seeing my happy, smiling kids…they are only 5 and there is such a sense of innocence! They have no idea what OCR is, and to them, I am just their mom. They say and do the funniest things that make me forget quickly that I had a bad workout, and keep things in perspective about what the bigger things in life are about.
In your own eyes, what makes you a “Badass woman of OCR?”
Badass is definitely an awesome title!! I love it…I hope that I can prove that being a Badass in OCR comes in all packages! I am a bit of an anomaly in OCR. I live in the city; I'm a mom, love fashion and a good set of lashes. So in some ways, OCR is almost like an alter-ego for me. It’s the time when I can just be in the moment! When I am training I am laser focused and determined. When the gun goes off and I am racing, I put it all out there. I leave the city mom behind me. I hope that I can prove to others that you can be a BadASS OCR racer on the course while still staying true to who you are and managing a full life outside of training and racing. And I hope that other moms out there know you don't have to lose your badass-ness.
How do you focus on race day on just your race, and not about the racers around you? Any tips on how to do this?
With social media, it’s hard sometimes to not get caught up in what everyone else is doing. When I raced in my 20s, prior to OCR, social media pretty much didn't exist! Now many racers practically video and share every second of their day! I find it to be a little self-absorbed personally. Because I do not post as much as other racers, it’s been easy for me to stay a bit under the radar and stick to what works for me. I stick to my own routine and just focus on all the things I can control. I love the morning of a race! All the hard work is about to be put to test!!
If you have one, what is your weird go to training food?
I have to have an avocado every day…I'll put it on anything. Sometimes I'll just eat a bite as I'm walking out the door for breakfast.
Do you have any nicknames or random facts you want to share?
Since I began OCR…I've been called “beast mom”
What is your next biggest goal race or event you have on the horizon?
Spartan World Championship in Tahoe
If someone wants to reach out to you on social media, where can they find you?
Facebook: Kristin Saad