Renee Larson's journey into the world of OCR is an interesting one. A couple of years back she found her fitness groove in Zumba, then realized she wanted more (fitness and health are an addictive lifestyle). While working with a trainer, she found out about OCR (obstacle course races) and it seems signed up for as many as she could at the time. Since then Renee has completed quite a few obstacle races, including just recently World's Toughest Mudder. I hope you enjoy getting to know this muddy badass as much as I did.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in a suburb of Portland, Milwaukie, OR. Moved to Spokane for about 10 years and while living there finished my bachelor’s degree in business at Gonzaga University. After graduating from Gonzaga moved to the Seattle area and have lived in Enumclaw, WA for the last 10 year. I am currently the HR Manager for Hermanson an HVAC company in Kent, WA.
How did you find the world of obstacle course racing?
Obstacle Course Racing was not even on my radar. I started out just trying to be more active. On my birthday in January of 2014 I started Zumba, loved it from the first class, within 3 weeks 2 classes a week was not enough, and someone told me about another class in town that was three days a week. I immediately started showing up at the second class. At about the one-year mark, a bunch of my class mates all decided to do beach body 21-day fix, I joined in and lost 11 pounds the first round and 10 of those pounds were fat. I excitedly signed up for the next round and lost another 10 pounds. I continued down this path and started going to the Insanity class once every two weeks, then joined a local boot camp class so that I could have more stamina to dance.
After losing about 60 pounds, my weight loss stalled in November of 2015, so I started personal training with my boot camp instructor, Steve Bannerot in February of 2016 to recharge the quest to get those last 15 pounds off. I told him when we started that I would do anything, but run, I hated running, he said by our third session that he could teach me to run. By April I was close to my goal and my personal trainer called me an athlete. What a difference one little word makes, never had thought of myself as an athlete. Next thought was if I am an athlete, I should do something athletes do. My Trainer, Steve, had done multiple OCR events and TRI’s and had made them sound interesting, fun, and challenging. So, I signed up for the Survivor Dash, the Warrior Dash, and one Triathlon, the Black Diamond Tri, which was in my neighborhood and I had been fascinated by for years.
I started running in late April, to be ready for the Survivor dash in June. From the first obstacle on the course I was in love, I wanted more obstacles, more races, and more time on the course. I signed up for Toughest Mudder ½, then with encouragement from my trainer bumped that up to the full Mudder about 2 months before the event. Spartan was next, I signed up for the Sprint, but after doing the full Mudder thought I would be disappointed with just doing the Sprint, so changed that race to the Beast. After doing the Triathlon was hooked on Tri’s too, purchased race bike two weeks after the race.
How did you become a part of the Beasts OCR Team?
I was volunteering at Tough Mudder and talking with another volunteer about how hard it was to find someone to be on a team with. He told me about Beasts OCR’s and that I should check them out. I found them on Facebook and went to their next free training session in Kent. This was a fantastic experience, I met so many great people who have become friends and teammates since then. When I was doing the Spartan Beast in 2016, I ended up finishing the race with Christina Horton, a Beast OCR member, who is now one of my best friends.
What is your course spirit animal and why?
I never really thought about having a spirit animal. I guess if I was going to have one it would be a crow. They can fly, they are smart, they go out and explore the world, but always come back to their group each night to reconnect and talk with their friends. That is sort of how it is when you are on a Spartan course, you are out there you must do the work, but with all the Beast OCR teammates there is always someone to catch up to and talk about the race with either during or afterward.
What is the most challenging race /OCR that you have done to date? Why did you find it challenging?
I think that would have to be Toughest Mudder in Whistler. It was 8 hours overnight and it got down to 38 degrees. I did not have the correct wetsuit and there was lots of water to be submerged in. I got cold and once I made it back to the transition tent I did not want to go back out again. I made it round the course twice with the help of my fellow Beast, Lorenzo. It was the cold that made it so hard. I have made it a point to learn how to manage the cold for future races.
If money was no object what is the one bucket list OCR /race/Run that you would go do?
World OCR Championship. First, you must do enough races and train hard enough so that you can get in the top three of your age group to qualify for it, then it typically in another country.
Is there a challenge or race that you won’t do? If so why not?
I still have no desire to do a Spartan 24-hour Hurricane Heat, a Marathon (26.2), or an Ironman 140.6. Swimming 2.2 miles and/or running 26.2 miles. I just can’t get my head around. As for the 24-hour HH, it is not the 24-hour part, I just finished World’s Toughest Mudder 25 miles/5 laps and came in 6 place out of 16 women in my age group and I am going to the 24-hour Spartan race in Iceland, it is the putting my life in someone’s else’s control for 24 hours and having to do what they say or be disqualified. I think if I knew the person in charge of the HH, I would be OK with that, but without me trusting that person I am still in the no camp for this event.
What is one thing that helps keep you motivated during a tough training cycle?
I like training, it is my recreation and it is where my friends are. I sit in an office at a desk most of the day, so I look forward to training. Maybe if I did not like my instructors and classmates so much it would be harder, but I find myself at 3pm each day looking forward to my training sessions.
When someone comes up to you and tells you that you have inspired them, what crosses your mind?
I have had that a couple times, and I usually thank them, answer their questions and/or talk a bit about myself, but then try to turn it back to focus on them, asking them about what they are doing and where they want to be, and then give them any tips I may have to help them on their path.
What type of training to you do?
- Do a least one 3 to 5 mile run per week
- 2 bootcamp classes per week
- 5 Zumba classes per week – Cardio
- Walk/run Mt. Peak in Enumclaw with my trainer once a week
- Swim ½ to ¾ miles twice a week
- Lift weights 2 to 3 – 30-minute sessions per week
- May through September do 1 to 2 — 13-mile bike rides a week, this year I will be building to 25 miles for the Olympic TRI
- Beast OCR work out 1 to 2 times a month
- Yoga once a week
- Do every endurance event the BEAST OCR club puts on.
One little known fact about you:
I am a certified Zumba Instructor. I like to do my own choreography, I get to share the numbers with my classmates a few times a year, but I don’t have my own class to teach.
What is one of your OCR Race goals?
The 24 hours Spartan race in Iceland. My goal is to do 30 miles with my team. I am very excited about getting to do this race as part of a team.
If you have one, what is your next non-obstacle course racing goal?
In 2019 my goal is to do a ½ Marathon and an Olympic Triathlon.
What would you say to someone that is new to the sport?
If you love it keep at it the more you do it the easier it gets and the more fun it is, especially as you build friends. Remember it is a race, but you are supposed to have fun too, stop, help and encourage others along the way. Never take help from someone unless you are prepared to either help them or someone else along the way. Helping someone else on the course can be the most rewarding part of the event, especially when they complete an obstacle, they never thought was possible.
If someone wants to reach out to you on social media where can they find you?
You can find me on Facebook