Obstacle course racing (OCR) continues to be one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Like any other sport, athletes of all levels, from recreational to elite seek to gain a performance advantage. In the world of OCR, with conditions and climate varying throughout the season, and race location, your choice of gear can make or break you.
Check out my list of 5 Essential Pieces of Gear for OCR
Trail running shoes with an aggressive tread pattern
Wearing your old beat up sneakers might be okay for your first OCR, however, those athletes who are flying past you on the hills and gaining traction in the mud when you are falling on your face are most likely wearing trail running shoes. These shoes typically have a very aggressive tread pattern on the soles that provide extra traction. Just like regular sneakers, trail shoes come with various degrees of support and cushioning. Check out INOV8, Salomon, Icebug and Reebok. These are the brands that you will see the majority OCR competitors wearing.
Once you have purchased a pair of trail shoes, don’t short change your feet by wearing any old pair of sports socks. Get a quality pair of socks that fit well, feel great and cover your ankles (prevents pebbles in your sock). Your socks should be capable of wicking moisture away from your skin, keep your feet cool in hot weather, and provide warmth in cold weather even when wet. They should stay put regardless of what you put them through, this will help prevent blisters. Zensah Grit socks tick all these boxes and as an added bonus have a lifetime guarantee.
Premium Athletic Compression pants/shorts
Compression clothing is the “go to” for OCR athletes. Due to the nature of many of the obstacles, having garments that fit loosely and could get caught can be a problem. Compression pants/shorts provide protection from abrasions caused by ground contact. Rather than just a base layer (that provides warmth) look for premium athletic compression for added support and boosted athletic performance. Compression Pants/shorts that are moisture wicking and provide support in all ranges of motion are a must. My favorite race pants are the Zensah XT Compression Pants. Alternately a pair of compression shorts coupled with compression calf sleeves (check out Zensah’s range of tall compression socks and calf sleeves) work well on hotter days. If you aren’t quite ready for the full compression look, you can layer with a pair of regular athletic shorts.
Moisture wicking top
Although many chose to race with no top or a sports bra only. A moisture wicking top is a great alternative. It is important to wick moisture off your body on hot days to keep you cool and prevent cold moisture from chilling your body on cold days. A top will also provide protection to your body when you have to get low down and dirty on the ground, jump over walls, and carry heavy, sometimes rough objects. Choose from long sleeve, short sleeve or no sleeve based on preference and climate. Pair with arm sleeves for an alternative performance boosting look. This also adds versatility for temperature change, push them down once you heat up, rather than taking time to remove a layer.
Hydration pack or fuel belt
For longer duration OCR competitions, invest in a method to carry your hydration and fuel with you. Most races will have hydration/aid stations along the course however, if you are planning to be out there for over 90 minutes, a hydration pack/belt is strongly advised. Having the ability to hydrate and refuel on your schedule is preferable, and drinking without taking time to stop will give you the leg up on your competitors. Experiment with different hydration and fuel types during your training. Staying on top of hydration and fueling during long endurance races will help prevent dehydration, cramping, and “hitting the wall” aka “bonking”. This in turn makes for a better race experience and finish time. Camelbak, Nathan and Geigerrig are some of the more popular brands you will see on race day, although cheaper hydration packs and belts can easily be found online.
When compiling this list I took a bottom to top approach, athletes should tailor their gear to their individual needs, however, this list serves as a great place to start.
About the author: Kiaran McCormack OCR athlete is an Elite level OCR competitor who is a Zensah Ambassador and Nor’Easter OCR Pro-Team member. Kiaran has hit the podium at Spartan Races on several occasions and finished the 2016 season 3rd ranked male in the US for the Spartan Stadium Race series.