The 2018 OCR European Championships is hard to describe in just a few sentences. It was a very unique and highly rig-demanding race which allowed for me to take the Short Course win with more than a 4 minute lead on a 3,4 km route. Those of you who were there know how hard it was to complete, those of you who weren’t probably heard.

This year I would battle it out on a 6,2 km route with 39 obstacles. Many rigs were shortened to increase completion rate, hills were included and also a very tough carry section. This had me divided – I was very, very excited about the course being more evenly distributed but I also knew the crazier ninja-stuff was to my advantage. Long story short and plenty of thoughts later I showed up to the race extremely excited to test my fitness on a track that wouldn’t have anyone saying “he just won because he’s a beast on the obstacles”. This was my chance to step up to last years title and throw it all on the table with some big players. Check out the course map here:

Photo from OCR Polska

With Jon Albon heading to the Dolomites alongside Sergei Perelygin and Albert Soley, I had my eyes on some different big names at the startline this year. Pavel Krejchi (CZE), Sergei Silin (RUS, 2nd at OCRWC standard course), Anton Suzdalev (RUS), Tomasz Oślizło (POL), Axel Mendes (SWE), Mattias Graute (GER) and many more. Especially Silin had my attention and to be 110% honest (this being a blog post and all) then Silin had me shitting my pants from the moment he was on the startlist. I know the big Russian bear is faster than most and he’s not shy to crush some rigs here and there.

Photo by FOSR x Natali

Let’s get into the race! 3-2-1 GO and 40 hungry men are shot out on the National Rugby Stadium in Gdynia! It’s a slaughterhouse as everyone wants to get to the hurdles first and have some space on the A-frame cargo climb out of the stadium. My little legs had me somewhere in the middle fighting for room and getting pushed around, rolled over and I was mildly confused until I crossed the 3rd obstacle (some scaffolding set up to cross over a road) and we ran into the forest. I was wearing my Garmin HR monitor and looked at my watch, my pulse was spiking and we hadn’t even begun!

We cruise over a bunch of tires and crush some monkey bars after which I find myself in 4th or 5th. The climbing begins and some hungry guys overtake me only to see me fly by on the next downhill. I can spot top-3 up in front and keep contact for the next while.

It all changes at the first obstacle gauntlet. I wasn’t being too fast on the Barbarian Race rig and I dip walked myself directly into trouble. Trouble being a 600m carry in the woods! I went from 4th to 8th and back to 5th on the downhill. Some rings later I’m in 4th as we ascend some parallel yellow bars and fly down the firemans pole. I get passed by Anton and another guy just before the high pull, but through the Biegun North Pole obstacle I cruise into 3rd. Well, if you count racing with your heart on its way out your chest as cruising – then yeah.

Heading back to the main event area for another 3 obstacles it’s apparent Silin has a lead followed by 2 guys I don’t know, then me and then everyone else. I make some small “mistake” on the low-rig-to-high-rig and clear the pegboard-pyramid and close the gap to around 15-20 seconds to Silin. The other guys are right in front of me and there’s no chance of overtaking on the big stairs leading out the stadium.

Photo by Cyro Studios

Maybe it’s not that bad, as I’m still struggling with the pace as we run back to the forest. As soon as we’re back on the hills I have a few guys passing me on the uphill and the next 1,5 km and 4 obstacles are a true struggle! Don’t believe me? This is my HR stats for the race:

Auch auch..

The 4th last obstacle in the forest was a high rope climb and I’m in 4th place at the time. I have a ton of thoughts flying through my brain at this point. Top 3? Top 2? Where the hell did Silin go? And then it started to rain, which made me smile and run harder! Why? Well, rain makes obstacles harder to complete – and that’s not a bad thing when the obstacle nerd is in 4th and he’s trying to gain some ground!

I raced down the hill to find my cheering crew (Nikolaj Dam, Andreas Olsen, Helen, Jonas and many more) ready to help me through the last part. Over walls and balance went well and I was super close to 3rd place on the weaver were we went head to head. I got off 2 seconds before him and he closed the gap before the obstacle 27, a traverse wall with a short swing to the ring at the end. Before heading back to the stadium we would face 11 obstacles more, most placed outside the stadium and with hundreds of people watching every move!

Through a tube and up a wall with a rope I’ve closed the gap again and through the Bison Race skulls I overtake another guy – I’m now in 2nd place! From the side I’m hearing frantic yelling; Silin is stuck on a balance beam!

Photo by FOSR x Natali

I rush over the cargo not and across the scaffolding, crawl up the 4-5m tall wall and over to the wet and steep balance beams. Silin is here looking tired and none of us can make it past the tipping point. After my 4th try Silin makes it and that gives me the energy to make it too! We hit a letter-rig with A, G, I and I shaped grips. They’re wet and slippy, but my technique is OK and I get 1st place as Silin falls down the obstacle. Only 4 more to go and then the race is over!

Photo by FOSR x Natali

Obstacle 36 is crazy though. A hamster wheel straight into a double flying monkey with slippery bars, big risk of falling down! Silin has caught up and we get right to it, as I use the bent-arm technique and make easy way on the wheel. The first flying monkey is good too but my hands are slipping, so I do a pull-up and rest in my armpits with my legs dangling. 5-10 seconds was all I needed and forcing my body back I fall straight into the movement and wrap up the obstacle. I have a lead now and sprint onto the tall green ramp to catch a rope! I get it, but I can’t hold it and fall down the ramp… I see Silin, the big Russian man, approaching the ramp too. We do a friendly low-five and I attack the well just 2 seconds before him, clearing it!

We jump down the huge steps and into 4 floating boards on which I maintain a slight 2-4 second lead. We not “only” have the inverted Barbarian Race Fatality rig in front of us and once I localize the pegs I start traversing the obstacle. Cling and I make the bell ring and rush to the rings, the final stretch! They’re wet and slippery, my hands are failing me and I make some dumb mistakes and almost lose the grip. Sheer determination and will kept me hanging on and with both rings at the end I can ring the bell and sprint towards the finish line!

Photo by Cyro Studios

It’s surreal, nothing short of surreal. At this fucking course and I still made it! 2x European Short Course Champion. Wow. Just wow. Talking to my mom and girlfriend on the phone afterwards was nuts. I was excited, relieved and full of joy and their love and tears almost got me emotional too. The following hugs, congratulations and love from close friends, OCR buddies and pals, fans and everyone – THANK YOU!

FOSR x Natali