I recently completed the land navigation portion of the Infantry training. We had 3 days where we went out to find points on a course. The final day we did our events solo, and I passed with every point found for both day and night. In the middle of it all, I realized that we haven't talked much about using the OCR course maps, or more importantly, how and why to use the course maps.
The first reason you should study the map, is for race pacing strategy. If you see long stretches of course between obstacles, you can better plan how to pace your running. The running portion of OCR, assuming you are at least moderately proficient on obstacles, is where you will make up the most time. The better/faster runner always wins. For me, those long stretches are what I use to close distances and pass other athletes. If there are a lot of obstacles in a short span, I typically slow my pace between them so I can keep my hear rate lower, recover from the fatigue of the obstacle faster, and stay focused on completing each obstacles smoothly on the first try. Using the map to find those spacings between obstacles will make a huge difference.
Some race maps include course elevation. An elevation chart simply gives you an easy visual of what the course terrain is like going up and down hill. Knowing when, and how long, those up and down hill portions are will again help you to plan your pacing. I races the Spartan Beast in Vernon, NJ a few years back, and the elevation chart played a big role in my pacing. From the chart, I knew that the first chunk of the race was uphill, and also how many feet of elevation would be gained during that section of the course. I was able to base my pacing for the race off of paces I held during training runs on trails that had similar elevation gain. You can apply the same example through the entire length of the course. For someone who is a very fast downhill runner, they may want to take not of where they have the opportunity to close space or pass their competition on the downhills.
The final reason you should use the course map, is to know which obstacles you'll be encountering and when. If you have a section during the race with multiple grip-intensive obstacles in a row, you may want to vary your technique in completing those obstacles. For instance, if you have monkey bars followed by a rope climb, and then a multirig, you may want to rely heavily on using your feet to assist you up the rope. Normally, when I encounter a rope climb, it's fastest for me to use my arms only, but if I know I have a lot of tough grip work coming up soon, I may accept the slightly slower rope climb (using my feet) to ensure the successful completion of the multirig that follows.
Also, knowing what obstacles are coming up will affect your pacing throughout the race. Obstacles that cause greater fatigue should be planned around so that you can run the smoothest race possible. If I know that there are three obstacles within the last mile of a race, you are going to see me push myself to exhaustion in that last mile with my running and while navigating the obstacles. If there are 4 or 5 obstacles, however, you'll probably see me be slightly more cautious on the obstacles to avoid mistakes and keep my heart rate lower so that I can sprint the gaps between the obstacles.
Preparation is key for performing at your best in any event. If there is a course map, take the time to study it and plan a strategy before you race. We want you to be as prepared as possible going into each race.
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Author: Coach Joel
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