van Lieshout - OCR World Championships

The OCR world championships was a goal that I have been working towards for a long time, but only started taking seriously during 2016. Back in February, I decided to focus on the sport of obstacle racing full time. At my first run in Belgium, I came 4th at the Strong Viking mud edition that was held in Gent and qualified for the world championships. I also decided to get a couple of extra warm races in and finished 4th at Strong Viking mud edition and later again 4th in Germany Mud Masters. I was starting to feel like I belong and more ready than ever for the big race in Canada.

Before I could realise it, the moment had come to fly over to Canada and I couldn't be more excited. The first day I stayed in a hotel in Toronto near the Airport to recover from my jetlag because of the 6-hour time difference between Canada and the Netherlands. The next day, I went straight to the Blue mountain Village to check in and get my race number and wristband for the 15k pro elite race on Saturday. I had still another day off to prepare for my race and went to the short course race on Friday to support some friends and watch how they got on. It was already an amazing experience just to watch this short race and meet all the legends I’ve been following during the year. It's a strange feeling looking up to these people and knowing in my mind that if I were going to win this race, I would have to beat the people I still idolise.

Flash forward to the morning of Saturday 27th October. It's 4am and I wake up realising that this is the day I have been preparing for the entire year, all the training and pain all comes down to this. So I started my day with a good breakfast together with my parents, we went to the blue mountain village that was a 45 minutes’ drive from my room in Wasaga and relaxed a little. 

After I did my warming up, I made my way to the starting line of the biggest race in my life so far. I was in perfect condition and ready to race against the best athletes in the world of obstacle running, this was the moment I could test myself to see where I stood amongst the elite.

Then, the moment finally arrived. Coach Pain (rightly dubbed) had started his motivational speech to get everyone going. I remember I was feeling great but also overwhelmed with emotion at the start, standing here on the other side of the world between all these legendary runners. I had a little tear in my eye of happiness, feeling so proud that I made it this far to stand here in such a short time after discovering this discipline. I waited for the countdown, felt hyped and ready to smash this race till the end. I hear the start gun… and I'm off. From that moment I start running, it was such an amazing feeling, looking next to me all the people who standing there to support you, screaming and wishing you good luck. In just a few seconds, I was at the front and came out of the smoke that came from the smoke machines at the starting line. I didn’t think I was running that fast, but I must of been so hyped that my speed was high enough to distance myself from all the other athletes already. This was a captivating moment that I’ll never forget.

I was running a few hundred meters in front of the rest of the group and was thinking to myself I don’t have to be in top position. So I decided to get my tempo back and go to 20th position and follow this group, which was a good speed for me to maintain throughout the whole race. Running up the first hill, the tempo was feeling all right. But then there was the second obstacle: the half pipe…

I lost my speed in front of the half pipe because I lost my grip on the muddy floor in front of it. I reached up to put my hand on the top of the half pipe, but unfortunately couldn’t hold on to it because I lost my grip. This was the moment where everything changed for me…

Devastatingly, I got injured because I fell on my knee and foot awkwardly during my fall from the half pipe. After, I was trying to climb on the half pipe again, but there was already chaos building at this obstacle. I think more than 50 people were pushing and grabbing to fight for their space to attempt to climb the half pipe. With only a few meters in front of the wall, you couldn’t get any speed and it was hard to reach the top. After a few attempts, I finally grabbed the top of the half pipe and with a big scream I pulled myself on top it. I was so happy I made it, I couldn’t even think about giving up on the second obstacle of the race but the injury still lingered.

Being pumped full of adrenaline, I continued the track, but when I jumped off the net from the next obstacle I felt my injury on my foot was something that I couldn't run off or ignore. I had already lost my position as it took a lot of time to get over the half pipe. From this point I know that I couldn’t race competitively anymore...This was particularly tough as I was looking forward to this whole year. I couldn’t believe that I got injured at the world championships. “Why at this moment?” I asked myself. But from that point it was not my goal to race the fastest race anymore, but rather to reach the finish line with this injury without losing my wristband.

I always try to stay positive no matter what happens. When you’re trying to overcome a challenge, you always have a chance that a small mistake completely changes your outcome. Yet, I think that staying positive in these kind of moments makes you stronger as an athlete. This was simply not meant to be on this day, but other big moments will come if you keep going and believing in yourself.

So I keep on walking and try to run a few times, but it was not really possible due to the extreme pain in my right foot. Every step I took hurt and this made it a really tough as time wore on. But the thing that gave me energy during the race was my performance on all the other obstacles. I passed them all in one attempt without any issues, so that was really contributing to my morale. When I finally made it to the finish line, I had such an amazing feeling that I’ll never forget.

This challenge was a great lesson for me personally and with the experience gained, I know what I can expect next year at the world championships 2017. I'll be back!


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