4 days after coming back from Russia I found myself on a flight to Portugal. The days in between were slightly hectic as I was teaching my last classes of the spring semester at CBS, had tons of OCRvest.eu and OCR Training Denmark work + my left hamstring wasn’t feeling too happy. Boarding the plane, I had a lot of pressure on my mind and it was hard for me to be 100% into racing.
Why am I sharing this with you guys? I think it’s very, very important to share that it’s normal for athletes at all levels to have doubts, fear and confusion about training and racing. I believe the difference is not to be found in these thoughts, but in how we choose to handle them. So I handled my thoughts and made a strategy for the weekend, which calmed me down nice and easily. Slowly the smile crept back and I was incredibly excited to visit Portugal for the first time and race with my buddy, Thibault from Belgium.
With this introduction we’re now ready to talk about an incredible weekend in Viseu. The OCR Police Challenge is the biggest national OCR series in Portugal and the urban event in Viseu would be the first race of the year. Organized be real policemen and enthusiastic OCRacers I knew we had some good racing in the pipeline – and they didn’t disappoint!
My main competition on the men’s part would be Thibault Debusschere, the 2018 Standard Course Champion (shared with Jon Albon) and Portuguese Luis Martins. Thibault has somewhat the same obstacle proficiency as I do, with a Ninja Warrior background and unearthly grip strength – so this would probably come down to the running! “Tough luck” was my thought, as I still don’t believe I have what it takes to run with the faster guys.
3-2-1 and 48 hungry Portuguese athletes rush towards the first obstacle with Thibault and I cruising among them. We had agreed on a common strategy and this one highly depended on the spear throw, which was positioned 1k into the race. I arrive at the spear in 4th place after a rope climb and see everyone from the leading pack miss the spear and head out on a penalty loop. Fair enough, the targets were frustratingly small – but this was a great chance to take the lead! Taking my sweet time I throw the spear. A perfect flow in the air, a nice little arch and great direction – except for the fact my shot was a few centimeters too high and the spear bounced off my target… Great Leon, another damn missed spear throw! I was now in 7th and it was time to cover some ground.
Some running, a tire carry, more running, a tire drag and a “flip a cage with your hands to move forward”-obstacle I found myself back in 5th. Thibault was in 4th place and we arrived almost simultaneously at the next obstacle; bow and arrow shooting. That’s a new one for me, but everything went well and we closed the gap a bit more on the next running part. A want to say the course was pretty damn good at this point! A great mix of running and different obstacles, I was having a great time!
Another kilometer and 3 obstacles later, we’re now faced with the first of 3 rather demanding rigs of the race. It’s a combo that starts with traversing a bumpy wooden beam using only a rope followed by a pegboard-type with wooden pistol-grips. The athlete had only 2 pistols and about 3 meters of pegs to traverse – a rather demanding task! Thibault and I came out of this in 1st and 2nd position now and after a quick dip in the canal we’re cruising next to each other, building a lead on the Portuguese. We are both having an amazing time and the next 3km are lots of fun as we traverse a bunch of interesting obstacles like a water crossing, yoke-carry, crawling-under-the rope, the 2nd technical obstacle with ropes + monkey bars + flying monkey, some technical running on beautiful trails and finally a barbed wire. Thibault almost got his ass stuck in the barbed wire and he was unlucky with the following heavy hoist, as his rope wasn’t allowing him to lift the weight. This was slightly unfair so I slowed down and when he caught up asked if it was time to turn on the heat. He agreed and the final battle begun with about 2km to the finish!
I decided to push the pace right away but he stuck to me like glue and overtook me on the single trail. Arriving simultaneously at the bb gun we both made 2 shots hoping to hit the target – but to no avail. We headed to the penalty, a 100m track with small obstacles we had to speed through with a rope around our ankles. I jumped like a Duracel rabbit and gained a small lead which I held on the next 400m run and straight into the final technical obstacle; a bar attached to a wheel which you had to turn with the wheel (made of nun-chuks!) straight into a Spartan Race twister and finally a La Gaffe pole. I felt confident as I enter the obstacle and twisting the wheel was going very well – until I missed the final bar! Forced to restart the obstacle Thibault now has a 10-15 second lead on me and after completing the obstacle I rush after him. Also, 3rd place wasn’t too far behind as he didn’t miss the shots with the bb gun!
I jump into the water, cross it and clear the 5th last obstacle heading into the 4th. Once again we’re faced with wooden pistols, this time instead on rings. I clear it with a classic bicep hold and jump over 4 floating beams, climb a humongous inflatable castle and realize I will only catch Thibault if he missed the very last obstacle; the ramp. Coming down from the I find the ramp empty and a 2nd place waiting for me on the other side.
I want to take some time to thank the organizers for a very fun and challenging race. I had a great time and losing to the 2018 OCREC Standard Course champ didn’t feel bad at all, we had a lot of fun out there! I highly recommend giving this race a go if you’re looking into visiting Portugal for vacation or racing.
1st: Thibault Debusschere
2nd Leon Kofoed
3rd: Special Forces Soldier (unnamed)
1st: Lorena Gonzales
2nd: Maryna Taryba