On the weekend of 10–11 June, 2017 I and my SpartainFit team took part in the OCR event called VenloStormt, in the town of Venlo situated in the south-east of the Netherlands close to the German border.
It was a 2-race weekend: one was a 1,3k sprint race with about 11 obstacles on Saturday, and on Sunday there were 3 distances – 7,1k, 11,3k and 22k. Our team was well-represented on Saturday, with 6 male and 3 female competitors in the sprint races, and on Sunday a total of 11 SpartainFit members would go racing on the various distances.
Saturday, Race Day #1 – The Sprint!
On Saturday we had the first race which started around 14:43 with the first wave. The distance was around 1,3k with 14 obstacles. Somewhere deep in my mind I already knew this would be a challenge, due to lack of power-strength training in the last 10 months because of my assignment in the UK. My running was good which was proved by my PR in the half marathon in Moscow 2 weeks earlier. But it turned out to be an explosive power race with an obstacle every 100m, as you constantly needed to use your strength and sprint away to the next obstacle. During the track exploration and safety briefing some of us found a few obstacles somewhat unsafe. But everyone was eager to race and we all were experienced OCR athletes.
Competitors were divided in 6 heats with 9 male athletes starting in each heat. The first 5 finishers would advance to the semi-finals. I was placed in heat 4, with my teammate Thijs Vlam and coach Henk-Jan Schipper and 2 other quick OCR runners. This was what we called the heat of gladiators and would prove tough to advance. In the first 3 heats I saw some of my teammates going over the track and obstacles and advancing into the semi-finals finishing in 4th or 5th places.
And the time for my heat came, and it was tough! Right from the start it was explosive, everyone started quick to the first obstacle called Taludroetsj, a small slide down into a water pond. I came out in 6th place on to the second obstacle, Modderstorm (Mudstorm). I jumped in the mud a bit carefully and went through it going underneath 2 wooden beams, coming out of it still in 6th place and sprinting to the next obstacle, a small ladder climb followed by steps, running on to the rafts. I got over these pretty fast, but still in 6th place although I was not far behind the lead group. Running the next few meters to the foam passage followed by a underpass, climbing over nets, I gained a little on the 5th place in front of me. After the climbing nets it was a little longer run, over the bridge to the other side reaching the Super Slide I almost reached the 5th place. Going first over the stair steps followed by nets going off the slide, I lost some time on the 5th place in front of me again. Going down on the slide I had totally no control and came into the water totally sideways, which was a bit scary. I came out of the water as quickly as I could and we had a length of running with a tunnel crawl in it, ending a 1k lap at the starting place. We climbed a wall here and went round to the boulevard where we had to take the FireStorm obstacle, but due to technical reasons this obstacle was cancelled so we had to go around. We came up a second time through the mud pond going underneath the beams again. It was the finishing area now ,as we started with this very mud pond. But I lost contact with 5th place, he was somewhere 40 to 50 seconds in front of me. Coming out of the mud we climbed the wall again, followed by a water wall before we had to make a jump into water. Coming out of the water we had a small tunnel crawl again before one final wall climb and then sprinting to the finish line over the final 100m’s.
Unfortunately I finished in 6th place just a minute behind 5th place, which meant I was eliminated.
After my finish I went for a quick shower after which I returned to the event area. Our team was still in good contention with 3 women in the final and Thijs Vlam still in the final for the men. We watched the start of the women’s final in the big start/finish area and saw our team members doing a good job going around in 3rd, 5th and 6th place. However after 7 minutes when the group went on to the rafts and the super slide, the commentator announced the final was halted and all athletes should stay at their places where they were at that moment. The sad news came to us few minutes later that one of the women athletes landed hard in the water from the super slide as well that another athlete came on top of her when they went down. The athlete was found only several minutes after, being under water and sometime after was carried away by ambulance.
After this accident the whole event was cancelled for the rest of Saturday, and everyone was shocked and heartbroken over what had happened. Our team together with the other athletes decided to head back to the hotels and keep in touch over our Sunday race plan. Later that night the news came that the athlete passed away in the hospital. Memories went through everyone’s mind, and it gave us a strange feeling, knowing you talked with this person in the afternoon during the event and now this tragic accident took her away.
Sunday, No Race – Running In The Memory Of Gitte Leurs
On Sunday we all gathered at the event area. We already knew that the race element of this OCR event was cancelled due to the happenings the day before, and some of us didn’t feel good about some of the obstacles anymore. In the end we decided to do the 11,1k track running in memory of our fellow athlete. We started as the first group of 22 athletes and did the run in our own pace, altogether. Everyone wore a black band on their arms. The run went over the obstacles with exception of the Super Slide which was taken out of the run on Sunday. After 2,5h we passed the finish line as one team embraced altogether. After the finish we all went to the Super Slide to pay our respects in memory of our fellow athlete and left our medals at the riverside.
The weekend had a big impact on our moods and thoughts, but on Sunday we all united in respect for the memory of our fellow athlete.
Rest in Peace, #seeyouinvalhalla
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