Until Saturday, the half marathon was the hardest thing I’ve ever accomplished – both physically and mentally. The O Course has now taken that title.
The O Course is a military style obstacle course in Toronto designed by former U.S marine drill instructor Tony A. While their website claims it is for all levels of fitness, you may want to proceed with caution. I consider myself a fit person and it kicked my ass. I was literally on the verge of tears three times and have been so sore since Saturday, I actually contemplated calling in sick to work. Every time I sneeze, I almost pass out from the pain in my abdominal muscles. Every muscle in my body hurts. Even my hands and toes hurt.
Let me give you a little taste of what this was like. The weather was abysmal and we completed the whole course in the pouring rain. You are given a piece of wood weighing about 6 or 7 pounds. This is your “rifle.” You’re not allowed to leave it behind. It stays with you at all times. You start off with a warm-up which is essentially the equivalent of an intense hour long workout. We did jump squats, lunges, chest presses and held a plank position longer than I’ve ever held it before. I was exhausted before the real work even began!
Next up, you run approximately 6kms where you stop every couple of kilometres to do various drills like 50 sit-ups, 25 inverted pushups, or 50 jump squats, all while holding onto your “rifle.”
Finally, you get rid of your piece of wood, which by that time is drenched and covered in mud. Then you’re put through a series of strength tests: pulling tires out of the water by chains, jumping over walls, climbing a rope, monkey bars, crawling through a freezing cold mud pit, all while intense army-types yell “encouraging” things at you.
This course was so hard, I couldn’t even finish it. Yup. I bailed about 85% of the way through. I just couldn’t do it. My hands were wet, ice cold, covered in sand and I could barely grasp or hold anything. I was soaked to the bone and I was shivering from the cold. Physically, I just couldn’t keep going and I was angry at myself for giving up.
After a long, challenging run, I usually feel great. After the O Course, I felt defeated. I always push through. I always finish my workout. I never give up. And this time, I gave up. Until Saturday, I really didn’t know my limits physically. I’ve now found them.
Without hesitation I can say this was the hardest thing I have ever done. It makes the half marathon seem leisurely. You know that last 800 metres of the half marathon where you’ve emptied the tank and you ‘re not sure you can keep going? That’s how all three hours of the O Course felt.
When I finally got home and warmed up, I was convinced I would never, ever do something like the O Course again. But now, I’m not so sure. I’d like to go back in the Spring when the weather is nicer and try it again. The O Course and I have some unfinished business and I’d like to prove to myself that I’m better than my performance on Saturday.
Last week I officially signed up for the Around the Bay 30km run in Hamilton in March and I was intimidated by the length of this winter run. After Saturday, the idea of this run doesn’t seem as challenging. There’s no obstacles, no heavy mud-soaked peice of wood to carry, no crazy army guys yelling at me. Just me and the open road. If nothing else, the O Course gave me confidence that I can dominate these longer road races.
If you want to see some additional pictures from Saturday’s event, check out this album on The O Course Facebook page.