I love Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). One of the few things I love more than OCR is my family, so naturally, I’ve been sharing my love of OCR with my family whenever I’ve had the chance. My daughter has done events like Warrior Dash kid’s course (which was fun when she was 2-3 years old), Tough Mudder’s Mini-Mudder (fun but too muddy for her), and Conquer Youth (still fun). However, she experienced her first “adult” OCR earlier this month at KC Timber Challenge.
For anyone looking to take their kids on a similar adventure, here’s a couple of tips that I learned. I would like to say I learned all of them from using my knowledge of training adults, but some of these I had to learn the hard way. Here are some tips so you can avoid making similar mistakes:
Scale Up: Warrior Dash kid’s race was like 20 meters. The Mini-Mudder we did was about 800 meters. Conquer Youth courses are usually 1 mile with 10 legit obstacles. This has allowed us to scale up distances in a somewhat organized fashion. So when we did the 2 mile Family Timber Challenge it was a new Personal Record (PR) distance for her, but it was still doable. Just as a trainer wouldn’t recommend someone to sign up for an Ultra-Beast or a Toughest Mudder as their first event, remember that kids should scale up appropriately also. Most adult OCR events start at 5k, but the Family Timber Challenge is a mile shorter, making it a great opportunity for that next generation of OCR athletes that are looking to reasonable step to a more challenging course. Many of the obstacles also had difficulty lanes making it a great course to scale the experience to your little athlete.
Keep it Fun: My daughter loves jumping in muddy puddles (Peppa Pig anyone?)…but add a couple more inches to a puddle and make it murky water and she loses interest. She’s only five so many obstacles are simply too big, too hard or too scary for her. As a competitive athlete, I have to remind myself that it’s okay if she doesn’t do every obstacle or even most obstacles. This is about fun, not having 100% obstacle completion.
The older and more experienced she gets the more obstacles I would expect her to do. Plus, if she ever wanted to get into competitive racing, I would expect more. However, for now, it’s just about getting active and spending some time together. I encouraged her to challenge herself but didn’t force her to do any of the obstacles she was adamant against doing. I convinced her about 50% of the time to change her mind and picked my battles carefully. I avoided encouraging her too much on obstacles that seemed too challenging for her so she would have a fun memory of the event.
Training: I don’t have my five-year-old on a training plan but she has gone for a couple of runs around the neighborhood with me. I would like to tell you they are frequent, but they aren’t. They are random and usually consist me getting ready for a run then her joining me for a couple of minutes while I’m trying to walk out the door delaying my workout by 10 minutes to up to a half-hour (we stop to look at flowers, bugs and the occasional animal).
However, she does go climbing with me at ROKC Olathe and I often take her to touristy areas like zoos or museums that require lots of walking. During quarantine, we also took daily family walks. While it may not feel or look like training, walking around the zoo all day is a form of training, allowing her to handle the distance of an event with greater ease. Again, reference the above paragraph, keep it fun.
Fuel Up: If you’ve ever hit the wall during a marathon or ultra you know how terrible the feeling is both physically and mentally. Children have smaller muscles and smaller livers thus less glycogen to power their smaller bodies. This is hard for me to remember especially since on an average day she appears to have exponential more energy than I do.
However, after about 1.5 mile she was starting to pout and ask for her mommy. Had I thought it through better I would have brought a sugary snack for her and stopped at more water stations before she was thirsty. I’m more heat acclimatized from training than she is and have a literal cumulative month of running around OCR venues, so some of things that are intuitive to me I forget about when running with someone new. Next time I’ll bring a snack and stop at water stations before she says she is thirsty.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t care less if my daughter runs OCR or has more fun doing ballet or gymnastics. As long as she is active and happy, I’m happy. It was a cool experience to run an event together though. I don’t have to be a mind reader to know that she enjoyed it because she wore her medal for the rest of the day when we went to grab lunch.
2020 hasn’t been the best year for competitive racing and it is a perfect time to ensure you aren’t neglecting other aspects of your life. Training and racing come at a cost to family time. I can try to minimize its impact but I can’t deny that it is still there. While my results for 2020 aren’t the usual list of accomplishments, I’ve already broken ground in OCR in areas that may not be impressive to the outside but are more important to me.
If you want to run KC Timber Challenge, their OCR World Championship qualifying event, the 4 mile-40 obstacle event is this weekend on September 6th.