Evan Perperis - Lessons Learned From 48 Hours of OCR
Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is a sport that thrives on extremes. Athletes are always looking for the next big challenge - running up bigger mountains, tackling more difficult obstacles over longer distances. From this, the niche market of Ultra-OCR has risen - focussing on multi-lapping events that typically are available in two formats, the 8-hour events and the 24-hour events. One man that knows a thing or two about Ultra OCR is Evan Perperis - in 2017 he finished in the top 20 of every 24 hour OCR in the world, including a second place finish in the team division of World's Toughest Mudder. We caught up with him recently to here about his latest epic challenge: Endure The Gauntlet.
The weekend of August 24-26, I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma to test myself on a self-created charity event called Endure The Gauntlet. The plan was simple, I start running the course of Conquer The Gauntlet Tulsa on Friday at 11:30 AM and stop on Sunday at 11:30 AM. 48 hours of what most consider the hardest Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) series in the United States. The event would raise money for the charity Folds of Honor, a non-profit that provides scholarships to children whose parents were wounded or killed in US Military service.
On event weekend, I ran/walked for 26.5 hours straight before taking my first break longer than a couple of minutes (which is about two hours longer than any other OCR that I’ve heard about). After a break in the air conditioning to cool the core and letting the sun set, I went back out to complete almost another full marathon of OCR. After 91 miles, 49 hours and more obstacles than I can count, here are some of the lessons I learned:
1. Fuel constantly and consistently: This one is not groundbreaking news for anyone that has done endurance events before. Constantly grazing provides a more stable blood sugar, makes you feel better and provides the fuel you need to keep moving forward. I use a fat/carb/protein drink mix primarily (fat/carb for energy, protein to prevent muscle atrophy). I have honed this strategy over 20 Ultra-OCRs with 10 podium finishes and only a couple outside of top 10. It is the same plan I describe in my book Mud Run Guide’s Ultra-OCR Bible.
2. The use of gloves isn’t a simple solution: If you run OCR, you know that gloves don’t provide the best grip on obstacles. However, if you run Ultra-OCR you know your hands will get abused if you never wear gloves on obstacles like walls, drags, cargo nets, carries and inverted walls. What you may not know is when you wear gloves, which inevitably get wet, you are now softening your hands. Then when you take off your gloves, the skin is soft and more prone to ripping. I went with the strategy of no gloves for the first 2 miles of each lap (which was grip intensive) and gloves for the last 2.4 miles (which was less grip intensive). Despite a technique that has proven effective at so many other races, multi-lapping the hardest OCR in the US tore my hands to shreds. At 24 hours of World’s Toughest Mudder I might lose a callus. In just 12 hours of Endure The Gauntlet I had 13 open wounds on my hands.
3. Everything is a tradeoff: As I walked uphill on the CTG course one of my pacers said “You should have chosen a course with less elevation and less technical terrain.” As I walked uphill, I agreed because that is what was tiring me in that moment. However, the more I thought about it, the less that seemed true. Easier terrain means I would be able to run further and faster, which means I’m encountering obstacles more often. This adds another level of difficulty to my upper body, which hit muscle failure well before the 48 hours concluded. My legs still worked at the end of the weekend, my hands were so abused and swollen I couldn’t make a fist nor did I have the strength to pull my body over a wall safely. Finally, the harder terrain meant lower mileage, which would have been bad if my only goal was mileage, but my goal was suffering and endurance for a charity cause.
4. The heat was the hardest part: My hands were destroyed, my legs were tired and my back muscles were at failure but what ultimately caused me to take a break was the heat. When it is cold you can always put on another layer, change into dry clothes, put on your dryrobe between laps, move faster to generate heat or put on neoprene. When it is hot, you just need to try and stay wet to cool yourself off and deal with it. The heat is ultimately what caused me to take a break mid-day, as I almost passed out after one of the obstacles.
5. Regardless of the temperature always pack a dryrobe: My last lesson learned was about how awfully hot it was, so surely I wouldn’t need a dryrobe. WRONG. I already knew this though so packed it anyway. Despite overheating during the day, when the temperature dropped at night and I was in wet clothing taking a break, I would get cold almost immediately. With ultra-endurance my body has trouble regulating body temperature sometimes. Having a dryrobe handy is always a good idea regardless of the conditions.
6. Don’t just pack one dryrobe, bring one for your pit crew: While I was awake most of the 48 hours, that meant my pit crew had to be somewhat coherent during a large portion of the event. Sometimes, I think they have the harder job with little do but sit around waiting for me to finish each lap. Since they are taking care of you during the event, take care of them before hand by picking up a dryrobe for them. I planned ahead and I had my Conquer The Gauntlet Pro Team customised dryrobe for myself (which my dad used mid-race) as well as a Mud Run Guide customised dryrobe for my wife.
The event was ultimately a success with over $5,000 raised for Folds of Honor and that number is still climbing. If you would like to donate, please do so here.
It seems like dryrobe comes in handy at every event regardless of the conditions. Just two weeks early I used one at North American OCR Championships. During the team relay, as it rained, I stayed warm and dry allowing me to take off the dryrobe just before the start and crush my leg of the event. My CTG Pro teammates and I, supported by dryrobe, ultimately finished 2nd in the Pro Coed Team Race.
So, if you are headed to OCR World Championships in London this year, Spartan World Championships in Tahoe or World’s Toughest Mudder in Atlanta, I would order your custom dryrobe now, so you can #staywarm in style.