Surviving 200 miles of Winter Obstacle Course Racing - Evan Perperis
There isn’t much that Evan Perperis hasn’t done in the world of Ultra Obstacle Course Racing. Taking on some of the toughest OCR challenges out there, he’s pushed himself to extremes of what is physically possible - all whilst raising money for some great charities.
After his latest challenge, OCR America 2: When Hell Freezes Over, Evan shares the lessons he learned from this epic eight-day endurance event and how you can apply them to your training regime...
In January of 2020, I set out to run a marathon-length Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) event for eight days in a row at eight different venues throughout the USA. I called the event “OCR America 2: When Hell Freezes Over” (since after doing a summer version in 2016, I claimed I would do this again “when hell freezes over”). The event was designed to raise money for the charity Folds of Honor (scholarship money for children whose parents were killed or wounded in action while serving in the US Military).
Over the course of the 8 days I covered 200 miles, 1000+ obstacles and we raised more than $7600 for charity. Here’s a quick recap and lessons learned that you can apply to your own endurance or winter training:
1. One step at a time
When running far, looking at the whole distance all at once may make your task seem hopeless. This doesn’t matter if you are running the Nuclear Race, an Ultra-Beast or an 8 day Ultra-OCR. If you consider it “far”, it is a big task for you.
I took OCR America 2 one day at a time and then broke those into one loop/mile at a time and one set of obstacles at a time. After each mile I didn’t think “Yes! Just completed another 0.5% of the event”. I just focused on moving forward and tackling challenges as they came. If I was still physically able to take one more step and complete one more obstacle that’s what I did and viewed challenges faced the following day as “future Evan’s problem”.
2. Keep moving to stay warm
The temperatures during OCR America reached lows of 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 Celsius) on Day 3: Newbsanity’s Extreme Ravine in Binghamton, New York. My feet were wet within the first hour after a failed stream crossing. While this could have spelled disaster, I just kept moving forward to stay warm. No sock changes, no chemical foot warmers or electrically heated socks, just continuous movement.
On Day 5: Erie’s OCR Battlegrounds the temperatures were below freezing again and within the first 100 meters I fell thigh deep into ice water. Again, I kept moving, didn’t change clothes and warmed up. Whether you are going for a training run in the winter or competing at an event like World’s Toughest Mudder, keep moving to generate the most heat and if you get cold…try moving faster.
3. Build your way towards your goals
If this is your first year participating in OCR or any other sport, stair step your way towards your goals. It will allow you to be better prepared both physically and mentally. Setting short, medium and long term goals allows you to continue to work your way towards higher and more impressive goals. If it’s your first year in OCR or working out, maybe save the 12 hour Toughest Mudder event for another year and focus on building your way to similar long endurance races.
I’ve been endurance racing since 2003 and have nudged my endurance limit a little farther forward every year. However, over the last couple of years I have really pushed harder working my way towards self-created charity events that would have been impossible for me to complete a year or two earlier, including: a summer OCR America in 2016; podium finishes at every 24 hour OCR in the USA in 2017; 48 hour multi-lap of the hardest OCR series in the USA in 2018; and 24 hour OCR-treadmill run in 2019. (You can read all about those events in my latest book “Ultra-OCR Man: From Special Forces Soldier to Record Setting Professional Obstacle Course Racing Athlete”, now on hard copy, digital and audiobook.)
4. Having the Right Kit Makes Things Easier
If you show up to a winter/snow race wearing all cotton you’ll quickly learn that it absorbs water, stretches and stays wet. It was important to show up to an event like OCR America with the right shoes, gloves, layers of options and recovery tools. Not just one of each item but multiple in order to plan for unforeseen contingencies. Even little things like having my dryrobe neck tube to keep my ears warm played an important role.
Wearing the right race kit won’t turn your from a bottom of the pack racer to a top athlete. However, it will make parts of the event slightly easier allowing you to focus on the task at hand. This brings me to point five…
5. Save Your Mental Energy
Your mind can only deal with so many different stresses and problems at once. Save that mental energy for your race or in my case for the obstacles on each day of the event. Before and after every event I wore my dryrobe to stay warm and save that mental grit for event day. I tried to make myself as comfortable as possible before/after each day of the event so I could push myself as hard as possible. Even on Day 1: Obstacle Athletics in Deer Park, NY, you can see me wearing my dryrobe to the gym to stay comfortable, saving that willpower for the event.
If you want to see the longer recap in daily three minute videos, check out Stoke Shed’s coverage of the event, some of which are in this article. Plus, don’t miss the full documentary (teaser trailer for Ultra-OCR Man now up) coming out in later 2020 being produced by Stoke Shed.
Keep training hard but more importantly, be sure to train consistently. You’ll find consistent training will take you to levels that once seemed impossible. #TrainHard, #GetChanged and #StayWarm, I know I will.