Libbie Joyce's OCR World Championship Journey!

A passionate, honest report by Libbie Joyce on competing at the OCR World Champs & winning gold in the Women's Pro Team event.

Libbie Joyce
By Libbie Joyce

23/10/23

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Since I started OCR I've always wanted to compete at the OCRWC and have trained so hard because I knew it wouldn't be easy with it being on a ski resort. Last year I just loved it at Stratton mountain in America but I came away knowing I needed to learn and it gave me motivation to train hard. My races went ok, I kept my band on the 3k and finished 6th in age. On the 15k I didn’t keep my band because of one obstacle called drop zone.  This was my own fault because I didn’t take any fuel out with me, and I underestimated how much running up a mountain would drain me. 

 

 Photo credit: Katie Joyce

 

I have spent the last year training hard and learning from the mistakes from 2022 ready for this year's OCRWC which was held at Mammoth Mountain, California and had another challenge which Stratton didn’t have... This time we had to think about altitude because the race started at 9,000ft! Unfortunately this was something I really couldn’t train for bin the UK. 

 

I couldn’t go out early to try and acclimatize because I had school and the cost was way too much, so I arrived on the Wednesday before my 3k race on Friday. This time I had my VOOM as my fuel which I have used all year and been learning how to fuel correctly.

 

When I arrived it was hard, the only way I could explain is the air felt thin and my body felt a little heavy when running.  OCRWC has been my main race goal all season and I was hoping to podium in the 3k and the to keep my band in the 15km. The main challenge to do that would be 'drop zone'. 

 

The 3k race went even better than I thought it would, I had a good breakfast and before my race I took one cube of my Beta Blast Pocket Rocket to top up. I didn’t push myself too hard because I wanted to do well on the 15k race. I completed all obstacles first time including the dreaded drop zone first time and came away with 2nd in my age category (13 to 19). I was so happy to get Sliver and my mountain running felt good; I felt good going into the next day, and that I had improved from last year, but most of all I was very excited!

 

 Photo credit: OCRWC 

The day of the 15k... The race I have been working so hard for, I was excited to run up the mountain, the sun was out with clear blue skies (prefect weather). This weekend has made me realise my real passion is mountain running with obstacles.  You can’t beat the views while doing it and it never feels boring and when I’m on a mountain I feel lucky to be running. The race was going brilliant, all obstacles I was completing first time, I felt strong on the running and just was so happy.  There was even a drunk wall in a lake and OMG it was freezing but so refreshing, I just wanted to go for a swim. Then I was running through snow at the top - I just kept thinking 'WOW'!  

 

This year they reintroduced the 50-pound wreck bag carry, going up the mountain. Last year I was gutted it wasn’t included at Stratton as I've spent the last 3 years slowly learning how to do this and making sure I was safe with it. Perhaps I shouldn’t be lifting something that heavy for my age but with the correct training this can be done.

 

 

The 50lb carry was hard but the feeling after I had done it was a buzz. I knew I was in first place for my age category with a good lead. Next up after the wreck bag carry was the drop zone and I felt good and confident I could do it. The end of race was so close, I felt I'd done all the hard work.  I had taken my 3 VOOM bars out with me, 1 Caffeine Kick, 1 Electro Energy and one POWR bar and kept nibbling them throughout my race.  

 

 

 Photo credit: OCRWC

 

I came to drop zone and was getting across, I got to the end so close to the bell and I slipped, first thing I thought was of last year of me spending an hour at it and couldn’t do it.  I just started to panic and kept trying the obstacle and just couldn’t get to the end, my hand ripped from all the tries.  After about 40 minutes I just had to get my band cut off, I felt so drained and I hurt so much, I carried on and finished the race.  I have never hurt so much and was so cross at myself, but I knew I gave it my all.

 

 Photo credit: OCRWC

 

The next day I was doing the team race, where three athletes get together and do a 5k race, one on a speed section, one on technical and one on strength. I have been dying to do a pro team race but this year we didn’t have many UK athletes going out to the champs so I reached out to an American Elite called Annie Dube and asked if she'd be up for it, and she said yes! I was so shocked but mega happy.  We needed one more athlete, and she asked Nicole Mericle. For those who don't know Nicole is one of the best OCR female elites out there, and she said yes, so we were a team!

 

Annie sadly had to pull out of the team race, so I needed to call Nicole after my race. I was expecting not to race because why would she race with me? She’s a champion! I had messed up not keeping my band and she'd won the 3k race on Friday and finished 2nd place in the 15km behind Lindsey Webster, who is another all time champion and the Queen of OCRWC, always winning the 15k.

 

 Photo credit: OCRWC

 

How wrong was I! We talked about my race, she gave me the best advice and made me feel like a true athlete and most of all believed in me and said we can do this together. I felt no pressure and the main thing she said is we will just enjoy it, and THEN she said Lindsey wants to do the team race with us! WHAT!!!?? I was feeling so numb still after the 15k I went to bed in shock - it didn’t really sink in what Nicole had said. 

 

I got up the next morning and still hurt but I was even more cross at myself today, but then I thought this is not a dream, I’m getting the chance to race with 2 world champions and athletes who I want to be like in years to come. This is a dream come true which I never thought would happen!

 

 Photo credit: OCRWC

 

We agreed I'd do the speed section because of my hand and the one thing I did feel good and strong from these championships is my running up the mountain.  Nicole would do technical with Lindsey on strength.  The speed section started the race off and the excitement took away my nerves and all I wanted to do was run as hard as I've ever ran, I wanted to be like Nicole and Lindsey and not to let them down.  It’s the first time I think I have learned to really push myself; I find this hard knowing when to do this and being scared of messing up a race.

 

I came through in a strong 3rd place, not last, and only about a 50 second gap for Nicole to catch up 1st place. Nicole smashed her section and even with a slip on the last obstacle gave Lindsey a good gap ahead of 2nd place and then Lindsey increased the gap even more.  We finished the race together going over some obstacles and winning the OCRWC Women’s Pro Team!

 

 Photo credit: Katie Joyce

Nicole and Lindsey are the most amazing, kind, and caring athletes you can meet and the way they love this sport and care about us juniors is just incredible. Nothing will ever beat this day for me, thank you. They have given me the motivation to keep working hard, never give up, believe in myself, and helped me learn how to cope when races don’t go ok - the best thing to do is try to pick yourself up. 

 

Another 'thank you' to VOOM for helping me learn about my fuel and understanding why it’s so important.

 

I would love more juniors to try OCR because it’s so fun, you are outdoors and you get to race in some incredible places (whether that’s at home in the UK or aboard), you meet so many new friends and as with any sport, dreams can come true!

 

Next for me is the Spartan Trifecta World Championships in 2 weeks. I am super excited to be competing elite, I know this will be really hard and I won't come close to Lindsey or the top elites, but I can see where I rank and spend the next few years learning and working my way up there to be with the best! 

 

Photo credit: OCRWC

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