OCR: 2021 Edition 3 to 8 Miles Level 1 Review | 80/20 Endurance

OCR: 2021 Edition 3 to 8 Miles Level 1 Review

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    This is a fairly long post, I apologize but I’m unable to be concise 😊

    I completed the “80/20 OCR: 2021 Edition 3 to 8 Miles Level 1” training program last week. I wasn’t training for an OCR race per say, but instead a 24 hours long “bootcamp” (similar to GoRuck or Spartan’s Hurricane Heat). There might be training programs out there better suited for such events (like Military selection ones) but I really like (and trust) the 80/20 concept.

    A little bit of background about myself: I’m a 38-year-old man, I’ve been running for the better part of the last 15 years but for 9 of those years I was very amateurish in the sense that I didn’t really research the proper way to train. I was running 2 to 3 days a week at intensities that were way too high. I didn’t make progress and I couldn’t run much more than 5 kilometers.
    Four years ago, I discovered the 80/20 Running book and that changed my life. Within a year I managed to go from “barely can complete 5k” to run a half-marathon in 2h30 (this was a trail, not on roads). My peak was probably the Spartan Beast (25km, 900+ ascent) that I did in a little more than 4 hours.
    Then in November 2020 I had to undergo surgery (ulnar nerve decompression), and three months later a second one (inguinal hernia). So, I was coming back from 6 months off when I started this OCR program (which is why I went with the Level 1 instead of something a bit more advanced). My VO2Max had dropped by 5 or 6 points and that was very frustrating.

    I started the program and at first, I was frustrated because a lot of the runs were pretty short – I was, after all, used to 2H+ Long Runs or 45-50 min Tempo/Threshold Runs. But as I was progressing through the program, I noticed that some sessions were getting longer and longer. Still, I couldn’t fathom my long runs to be 50 minutes so for those I just kept running to a more pleasant (for me) 70 to 90 minutes duration, making sure I stayed in the appropriate zone.

    By the end of the 12 weeks, I got 4-5 points of VO2Max back (mostly by the end of the training, which I reckon makes sense?) and the runs felt easier and easier, and I got faster and faster. Except for the Intervals. Those are nasty. Especially the hills ones. Ugh. Embrace the suck, I guess.
    In short, for the running side of things, I progressed by leaps and bounds but it took almost the 9 to 10 weeks to really feel it. I know I progressed earlier than this by looking at the stats on Garmin and TrainingPeaks, but I felt it in my body really in the last two weeks.

    For the Strength Training part, which is the second aspect of the program, I had to adapt a few things. First, well, there was no way for me to go to the gym to train on barbells. Instead, I had to use Kettlebells, but even those were in short supplies (since a lot of people bought them to train at home during the pandemic). I had to stick to the ones I already had, which were 16kg max. When the program was calling for a 70% (of 1RM) Bench Press (which for me would be 45kg), all I could do was “convert” that to a One-Arm Kettlebell Floor Press (I don’t have room for even a bench) at 16kg – almost 7kg short.

    Same for a lot of other exercises like Deadlifts or Overhead Press. But hey, you make do.

    Even with these much lighter weights I made very good progress. I got quite a bit of my pre-surgery mass back, I think I actually went beyond. My core strength is amazing, my shoulders and pecs really well defined. I don’t do this for the visual/vanity aspect but, if we’re being honest, we all like this side benefit and it’s a good way to measure progress. My wife even commented on it several times, and that’s the sweetest way to measure progress 😊

    The Strength Conditioning and Strength Endurance (I’m not exactly sure what the difference is to be honest) sessions were very, very rough. They are basically 45 minutes long METCONs (to use a Crossfit term) and you will feel miserable. Which I personally like. I couldn’t do them exactly as prescribed (no barbell or plyo box etc) but I went for the closest match.

    I screwed up at some point during the training. I wanted to do an “easy” event 6 weeks before my main event. So I did a 12 hours bootcamp. That was definitely a mistake. It consisted of something like 2 hours of calisthenics as a warm up, 30 minutes of OCR, then a 3 hours long orienteering rucking march (we estimated that we walked/easy jogged for 15km, with the 10kg rucks on the back), then 2 hours of more obstacle course (we were tied together by groups of 4 for that last one). That doesn’t add up to 12 hours because we had other kinds of BS in-between these “main courses.”

    That event was much more physically demanding that I thought it would be and for the next two weeks I felt exhausted, and I even had to skip one Strength Max session and cut in half a Strength Conditioning session (2 rounds instead of 4). But I bounced back and I could go back to the regular training schedule and complete it.

    Now, how did all of this prepare me for the 24 hours Bootcamp? Well, I feel I was about 80% ready. We had a similar schedule as the 12 hours bootcamp, just longer.

    I wasn’t particularly good at the 2 hours of calisthenics. As in, I had to skip a few (e.g. : when the instructor was counting jumping jacks for instance, out of the 250 I probably did 180, I just couldn’t keep up). I couldn’t do all the push-ups (I would struggle at 10-15, when the instructor was counting to 30), or hold the plank for as long as the rest (we would go for 5 mins planks). I certainly wasn’t last, but out of the 40 people I was probably in the low top 25-30%. I put this on account of the lack of proper strength training equipment and also skipping a few conditioning sessions because of the 12 hours bootcamp mistake.

    For the orienteering hike/ruck march though, I completely crushed it. It was 12 hours long and we hiked 40km on very, very, oh-my-god-so-very-hilly terrain, with about 15kg in the backpack. And for this I was definitely the top #1 of my group (they broke us down to groups of 10). I think the rest of the group, of which a good third did so much better than me at the calisthenics, just wasn’t used to that level of Strength Endurance. I feel that the strength training program built my back just enough so that carrying the backpack was basically a no factor – don’t get me wrong, it hurt like hell the next day, but as I was walking, I was just fine. I actually felt good enough to take it upon myself to chat with the people who were struggling, to take their minds off it by talking about their families and job.

    Too Long; Didn’t Read: The program is fantastic. It looks simple and easy and not hard enough, but if you just wait long enough, you’ll notice the progress. I don’t know if it’s appropriate for longer OCR events (the title does say that it’s for 8 miles max), but it sure is enough for a 24 hours long bootcamp, even with a lack of proper strength training equipment.
    Since the longer distance OCR plans are not ready yet though, for my next training cycles I think I’ll go for a half-marathon training program and slap a premium strength training program on top (or just go to a Crossfit class twice a week). I’ll probably a Run Maintenance program first though, because of the summer break in Europe it’ll be more difficult to train for a specific event.

    For a bit objective measurement, here’s my Fitness level according to TrainingPeaks. The red square are the 12 weeks of the training program. The big spike at the end is the bootcamp 🙂

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by acastaner.
    Matt Fitzgerald

    Thanks for the report and feedback. It sounds like a long-course OCR plan and access to more strength-training equipment would have had you at least 90% prepared for your event. If I were to build plans specific to that event, though, they would a little different from the plan you completed. Who knows? If these 24-hour bootcamps become popular enough, I may indeed build plans for them!

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