Why do you race?
The main reason is how unique OCR is as a sport. I find it fascinating and extremely engaging because it’s so unexpected: trail running, jumping, cold water swims, random mud pits, carries and all the other obstacles which can appear just around the corner and either make you a champion or completely break you down. It takes me outside of my comfort zone and I simply love it.
What was your last race like?
My last race was the Spartan Sprint in Paris. It was a long 8.5km sprint with 25 obstacles – unusual for Spartan Races. All of it was on muddy terrain, which for me as a former road runner was the toughest bit.
The last kilometer of the race presented us with 9 obstacles! That was a big and crushing surprise to say the least. It was more of the sandbag carries, Atlas Stone, spear throw, Hercules Hoist and a memory test. I missed the spear and had to do burpees which dragged me down a bit.
My goal for this race was to finish in top 20. After all the burpees, I finished as the 23rd of elite men and 26th overall (5th in the age group). It was a great race with good athletes from the rather strong French OCR community.
We’ve noticed that the UK Spartan Races have also been getting longer and more ladden with obstacles this season. Not that we’re complaining…
Congratulations on your placing! Can you tell us a bit more about the French OCR community?
The French OCR community is a welcoming and sympathetic group. I guess they’re like any other regional group of OCR enthusiasts. The scene is still developing, but as time goes by more and more races are available to the general public. This then brings more elite teams dedicated to the OCR to emerge. What I like personally is to share the trips around Europe with those dedicated athletes. It’s probably the best part of this sport.
What was your best racing experience to date?
My best racing experience was the MUD DAY in Paris (13km with solid 30 obstacles). It was not a competitive race, nor did I do it for time. It was just really well organised, challenging as well as a friendly event. After finishing the 4 hardest obstacles people received the king of mud medals.
Let’s talk more technical things.
What does your training routine look like?
I run around 5-6 times a week. The runs are divided into: threshold, vma, endurance and specific to OCR runs and exercises. Also all of these are done in varied terrain: trails, track and on-road surfaces.
What works for me is to keep things simple. For example nothing can beat the fundamental major bodypart movements such as squats, pullups, thrusters coupled by cycling. It merges into a hybrid cross-training, which I believe is a perfect way to prepare for obstacle races.
Oh, and of course there’s the obstacles: spear throw, balance, rope climb, crawls are also part of it. You can’t really expect those bits to be covered without specifically addressing them first.
How do you push yourself and overcome mental challenges while racing? Do you have a personal mantra?
When it gets tough I think about my family and daughter. I think about all the sacrifices an athlete has to make to push through and perform as well as how I got there: hard work and sweating. This allows me to persevere.
What would you recommend to novices who are only just starting their OCR training?
My biggest recommendation would be to develop a proper running routine. It’s quite obvious how running and especially trail running is the key part of OCR.
Where should one start with their running routine for OCR?
I would recommend to build up pure endurance first. Running for at least 1 hour per run could be one of those goals. Once that is too easy a person could add speed work with interval training: 10 x 30 second sprints with 30 second slow paced runs in between.
Finally to put this into a nice OCR-ready wrapper, the athlete could add some bodyweight training with increased intensity. This would come really close to actual race conditions. For example: 15x (400m + 5 burpees and/or 10 jump squats). To mix it up and train other aspects, like grip training they could do 10 pullups followed by 10 seconds of static hold, 1-2 minutes of carrying heavy dumbbells etc.
Another crucial part is balance. This can be developed by testing your balance limits running on a wooden beam or narrow steps etc. Just be careful! Also adding sandbag carries and walking fast will strengthen legs too.
Awesome, I think our readers will find this extremely useful.
What about nutrition, what’s typically on your plate?
I eat a lot of carbohydrates (pasta and rice) in order to provide the necessary fuel to my body. Also, I like white meat dishes and am a big fan of cream cheese and yogurt too.
Do you have any specific pre-workout/pre-race meals?
Before every race I take my sponsor’s Nutrisens Petit déjeuner. This fuels me up with carbs, vitamins, electrolytes and other minerals my body needs to perform well.
What was your biggest discovery regarding OCR gear and clothes? What would you recommend to others in this sport?
I’d recommend using compression clothes, especially the ones made for the triathlons (shorts and tanktops). To protect my arms from scratches I also add compression sleeves. Besides that I use a bandana to prevent sweat drips, GPS watch to know the race distance and to motivate myself to improve as well as manage the overall running effort.
At the moment I’m giving a go to All Terrains by Reebok. However, I’m not too pleased with these, since they allow pebbles and gravel to enter the show causing pain and making myself and other athletes stop and shake them out. I plan to invest into Icebugs or Inov8 in the near future.
Looking back to 2015 season and upcoming 2016, did you learn anything new?
I learned to be more selective. I ran too much during the 2015 season: 16-18 races.. lost the count. So I plan to do maybe 8-10 next year competing and focus on recovery in between. By racing less in my experience you can recover and progress much further in your racing..
Sounds very familiar… I’m on idle myself. What are your goals for the 2016 then?
My main goal for now is to finish in top 10 in the Spartan Races and qualify for the world championships for both Spartan and World OCR events.
Good luck with it! We hope to see you in one of the races around Europe (maybe Orte?) and perhaps even in the championships.
You can find more about Mathieu on:
Facebook: Mathieu Claustre Obstacle Racer