Deanna Brasz is truly a Badass Woman of OCR in my eyes. In 2017, she ran 10 Tougher Mudders, with 7 podium finishes and 4 first place finishes. If that wasn't bad ass enough, three times last year she ran Tougher Mudder on Saturday morning, and then Toughest Mudder 8 hour event the same night. Her strength, courage, sense of humor and tenacity truly makes her bad ass. I hope you enjoy learning more about this inspiring Badass Woman of OCR as much as I enjoyed working with her on this article.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Deanna Brasz, and I am 24 years old. I’m a middle child and have 5 sisters and 2 brothers. I know most people consider that crazy, but I couldn’t imagine growing up any other way. Fun fact: we’re named in alphabetical order!
Probably the most important thing you should know though is that I am one of the founding members of NAAP (North American Alliance of Princesses). We are a group of five like-minded females who believe in supporting each other on and off the course and I don’t know what I would do without these ladies! Their commitment and drive push me to achieve my goals and I know that if I need someone to talk to they’ll always be there for me.
Did you always consider yourself athletic?
Yes. At least when it comes to running. Any other sport, I’m absolutely terrible at! I ran a few small races in grade school, but I really started to get into running during the summer before I started high school. My dad was training for an adventure race, so my mom sent me out with him on his runs just in case he had a heart attack. It turned out I was actually pretty good at racing though, so I joined a track club (the Niagara Olympic Club) halfway through grade nine and everything took off from there! I ran the 1500m, 3000m, and cross-country all throughout high school and competed at the provincial and national level through my track club. I ended up getting a full athletic scholarship to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), where I competed in cross-country and indoor and outdoor track. However, that was a short-lived experience due to some emotional problems.
How did you get into the sport of OCR?
In the summer of 2016, I was volunteering as a counselor at a summer camp. I’d go for a run in the morning before most of the campers were up and then continue with the rest of the day. One of the other counselors had run a few Tough Mudders so we got to talking about that. I’d seen ads for them before and debated running one but had always been too scared. But I figured that if he could do it, then I could too! I got home and signed up for the Toronto Tough Mudder, which was only a few weeks away at the time.
What was your first race like? Which one was it?
My first OCR was the 2016 Toronto Tough Mudder and it was simply amazing. I went into it completely alone, not entirely sure what I was getting myself into, but I fell in love with the whole experience. The support and help from complete strangers was unbelievable and like nothing I had ever experienced before. I was unbelievably nervous going into the event, but I left feeling so happy and knowing that I had to run another one.
Tell us about the races you have done so far.
2017 was my first full year in OCR. I ran two Spartan Sprints, but my main focus was on the Tough Mudder events. I competed in ten Tougher Mudders, three Toughest, and of course World’s Toughest. WTM was by far my favorite event out of all of them! It’s an incredible feeling finding out how much your body and mind is capable of and pushing past what you thought was possible. But while I love competing, my favorite part of all of this is the friendships I’ve made. Even though we are all racing against each other, everyone is still always willing to lend a helping hand whenever it may be needed.
What initially drew you into the world of OCR and adventure racing?
This question is a big one for me. When I was in university, I became severely depressed and, at one point, was virtually catatonic. There were a number of factors, but I believe that a large contributor to the decline in my mental state was the fact that I was constantly becoming injured and was not able to run. I dropped out because I simply could not handle it anymore and end up taking a hiatus from running and just life in general. Obviously, when I slowly started to get back into running, I was nowhere the level of athlete I had been. Anytime I raced, regardless of my overall placement, I would compare myself to what I used to be able to achieve and I always fell short. But then I ran my first Tough Mudder. It wasn’t competitive, I had nothing to compare myself to, and I finished the event happier than I could remember being in a long time. I wanted to experience this high again, so I signed up for two more events that the first year.
Do you feel that due to strong women like yourself, that others are more willing to push their own limits?
I’ve met so many strong ladies through OCR. Every single one of them has overcome their own obstacles to get where they are. They run each race to the best of their ability and every single one of them inspires me to train harder and push myself farther. I sincerely hope that I can do the same for someone else.
What has been your favorite obstacle and why?
My favorite obstacle is definitely Tough Mudder’s Blockness Monster. Once you can get those blocks spinning, it’s just such a fun one to complete! And being able to help a first-timer complete it and watching them experience the fun as well is such an incredible feeling.
What has been your least favorite obstacle and why?
Arctic Enema has always been one that I dread. I’m a Canadian girl, but I can’t stand the cold and the idea of submerging myself in a pool of ice is not appealing to me in the slightest!
Is there an OCR or endurance race that you will never do?
I haven’t yet heard of a race that I wouldn’t consider running. It might take a while for me to work up the nerve to register, but I enjoy a challenge and pushing my limits.
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 plan out most of my season ahead of time. Knowing that I have a race coming up helps me to be more consistent with my training. However, there are always a few events that I decide to run last minute if I have a weekend free. Spontaneity can be fun!
With so many amazing women on course this year, do you find yourself becoming more competitive, inspired or both?
I am so inspired by everyone out there. I see the elite women racing right up with the top men and it makes me want to become faster and stronger, so I can finish a little closer to them. And I see the ladies who just keep moving forwards, who complete the course no matter how long or it takes or how much it hurts. And those ladies inspire me to keep pushing when I think I’m done, to find that last gear and push past my limits.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a competitive person though. If I have to choose between helping someone who may be struggling or just running my own race, I will almost always lend that helping hand. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the help and support of so many around me. If I have a chance to help someone else, I’m going to take it. I did the competitive stuff when I was younger, now I’m racing for the fun of it and for the joy it brings me.
What type of training do you complete for OCR training?
Trail running is my favorite! I try to get out for a run at least six days a week. I usually don’t go more than five miles though. And CrossFit has been such a help as well. My first few races, I could hardly complete any of the obstacles by myself. I knew I had to become stronger, so I decided to try CrossFit. I signed up at CrossFit St. Catharines, and it’s been one of the best decisions I ever made. My first class, I was terrified and so nervous, and it took every ounce of courage I had to walk through those doors. Now, I try to go at least five times a week and its one of my favorite parts of the day. The atmosphere, coaches, and fellow athletes are all so amazing! I’ve been going for about a year now, and it’s made such a difference in my upper body strength and obstacle proficiency.
Mark James has been calling me “cross-country” (XC) since before he even knew my name because apparently, I look like a cross-country runner when I’m out there. As far as I know, though, he’s the only one who has a nickname for me.
For someone that is newer to the OCR sport, what is one solid piece of advice that you wish to pass on?
Don’t let fear keep you from trying something new. Ask for help if you need to, but don’t avoid an obstacle just because you’re afraid of failure or don’t think you can complete it. You are stronger than you think and that feeling of accomplishment will be so worth it!
Who inspires you?
Everyone who steps out on the course and finishes it to the best of their ability. There are so many kinds of strength and you can find them all at an OCR if you just take the time to look.
What is your one A race/bucket list race you want to do?
World’s Toughest Mudder is at the top of my list, without a doubt. I ran it for the first time this past year in Vegas and it was such an unforgettable experience. I can’t wait to see what they put us through in Atlanta!
Whats the best way to reach you on social media if someone wants to reach out?