One of my highlights every Monday morning is to check how Salming North America Ambassadors has been doing at their races over the weekend. I always get impressed by OCR Ambassador Akash Garg. Akash race frequently 2-3 races every month all over US at elite level and is truly a OCR machine. I don't have much experience from OCR racing and training so I asked this Akash if he could share his best advice regarding training and of course lot of Salming #nononsense talk.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU START WITH OCR RUNNING?
My first OCR race was in 2007, it was more of a fun run but I truly enjoyed being challenged every few minutes with something different besides terrain and running.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OCR DISTANCE?
My favorite distance is something most do not consider, but I absolutely love endurance races. I enjoy pushing my limits to the extent of totality. So yes some consider that crazy but I am enthralled with that notion. To quote Vince Lombardi "I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious". One of my favorite quotes.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW A TRAINING SCHEDULE LOOKS LIKE? WHAT ARE THE KEY COMPONENTS? HOW MANY MILES DO YOU RUN A WEEK? WHERE DO YOU RUN?
In regards to training I firmly believe in having a great deal of balance. Many OCR training programs just focus on obstacle training and technique. All of which is important, however without a physical base it may be difficult to even reach the obstacles in question on a 13 mile course. I myself try to lift 5 times a week with intermittent jumping rope followed by an hour of moderate cardio. Focusing on one section a day, Chest, back,. Legs, shoulders, arms and abs I reserve my last two days a week for my extra long runs and technique training. I am hoping to make a small you tube video series with details of this soon. I find that many people have difficulty in the how to get ready for an OCR in terms of athletic ability.
I find that if anyone can increase the strength to their back legs and grip they tend to perform much better than the average runner. Often an obstacle can be just be so wet you may just simply slip off a grip or ring. I personally aim to put in over 70 miles a week in training runs. EXCEPT on race weeks. Than it may only be about 25 to 35 miles.
I like to vary my running between trails and road. Of course trails for hill repeats and elevation change. Now some wonder why I bother with road running but honestly its too get used to exposure. Road running tends to be a nasty environment with fumes from cars or just heat from the road. I have no idea if it is just mental or maybe it really does something but it makes me feel like I am toughening up!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WORKOUT?
There are workout that just beat you up mentally and sometimes you force yourself into a gym to do them, Leg day is that for me! That being said I have never been disturbed by a back day at all, it’s my favorite gym day. I tend to work through that muscle group with ease, and I get to vary my grips to mimic obstacles on the course. Those stressful weeks mentally from work and such the best thing for me is just a long run, it can be anywhere but it totally clears my head.
TELL US ABOUT THE SPARTAN SERIES? DO YOU COMPLETE THE WHOLE SERIES?
The Spartan race series has truly come into form this year. They have set a few races aside as to represent their national race series, with a world championship series as well. I am planning to complete both of them fully. It is a true experience to see many differnet venues and terrain. It does make it interesting to see how you may do in a soggy setting in seattle and then you are running in the mountains of West Virginia.
WHY IS SPARTAN RACE YOUR FAVORITE? HOW ABOUT TOUGH MUDDER AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS?
I actually enjoy all of the race companies out there. I believe each has a true purpose! I run a ton of Spartan races because their obstacles are more standardized. Every company has something to offer, I love tough mudder for their endurance races. Savage race for the sheer challenge of their obstacles on relatively short courses. Bonefrog also has some amazing obstacles and their endurance challenge was my first elite win, so they will always have a place in my heart. Even warrior dash, while some may pick on it as a race, it is a great way to introduce people to OCR racing and yes it is a party! I would like to mention there is one commonolatiy with all these companies, the staff for each is amazing! People are willing to communicate and help one another at all times. The courtesy that many of these companies have expressed to my family and friends is one reason I continue to participate in OCR.
HOW DO YOU RECOVER BETWEEN THE RACES, IT SEEMS YOU RACE EVERY WEEKEND?
I do race about twice a month and sometimes up to 3 races in a weekend. This tends to be demanding on my body and recovery is obviously vital. I am true believer in obtaining proper nutrition to help with recovery. I am a proponent of amino acids, particularly glutamine and citruilline. In terms of therapy a chiropractic visit, and an occasional massage are just what the doctor ordered. Of course taking a day off from the gym is sometimes necessary, especially after those races that are over 8 hrs at a time. I have a terrible recovery story from an endurance race. Last year after completing the ultra beast in Lake Tahoe which took me 9 plus hours, my father and I decided it was time I rewarded myself. So a large pizza with all the topping and a 2 liter of regular coke later I realized that maybe I need to stick to a more healthy regimine needless to say that meal did not help me or my body in any way whatsoever. It was good while it lasted though.
ARE YOU QUALIFIED FOR OCR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP?
I am qualified for the OCR world championships as an elite this year. I am trying to make sure I can participate in this very important race series. I am debating on whether or not to trace as an age group competitior or an elite.
WHAT’S YOUR GOAL FOR THE SEASON?
My goals for this season in an objective sense is to win the open series and U.S. national series for Spartan race. I am currently ranked 1 in both. However my largest goal for the year will be to obtain the benchmark of 75 miles at World’s Toughest Mudder. Not many achieve this goal and I have never run this race, I truly look forward to this challenge at the end of the year. Although it may be a long shot I wish to participate in the Ultra World championship for Spartan race, this also witll be a 24 hr endurance race, but in harsh conditions.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS AN THE ATHLETE?
Describe yourself as an athlete, I have never had anyone ask me that before. My brother would kid with me often saying you are like a silent assassin. Noone excpects anything from you and you still get it done. I have always liked that, no matter what athletisicim you posses I think that to really excel it takes a few special qualities. Have to have drive and discipline, no way you can give up on yourself and do something halfway! Being able to adapt is also important, not every situation is perfect but most importantly you have to have a sense of humor. When things are not perfect you have to be able to shake it off, realize what you are truly trying to do, and understand you still accomplished something!
WHEN DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT SALMING AND SALMING RUNNING? WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SALMING SHOE AND EQUIPMENT? WHAT ARE MOST IMPORTANT IN AN OCR SHOE?
I had first heard about Salming running a few years ago I had no idea they were trying to move into the OCR market. Their products are well known amongst marathon runners and triathletes for their quality and purpose. When they began to expand into OCR I naturally had a perked up ear. I was very excited they chose me to become an ambassador the same year they introduced their first true OCR shoe in the Salming OT COMP. By far this is my favorite piece of equipment I own for racing. It is so nice to believe in a company you represent. This shoe has such amazing grip and drainage I am able to truly run my race on my terms. No slips no stutters just some good old work! When people ask me about this shoe I tell them the same thing, this shoe is not meant for the road, it is a true OCR racing shoe, Heck it’s based on a dirt bike tire by Michelin!
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER SPONSORSHIP'S?
I have no other sponsorships at this time but would love to get on board with a few companies in the realms of nutrition, apparel, and beverages. Salming will always have a place in my heart, they took a chance on me when I was emerging in the sport and likewise I as able to take a chance on them with their new emerging shoe!
WHAT DOES #NONONSENSE MEAN TO YOU?
#nononsense means more than just a slogan to me. I jokingly mention it to the students I teach at the college. When I hear slight little complaints about life, school, or even family. I remind them treat it as no nonsense. It’s not that hard challenges come from the life we live, we have to get passed them. Take everything one step at a time and things tend to really work out. So I guess you can say I use that slogan in my daily routine. Don’t let the little things get ya and just keep moving forward with your real goal in mind.
HOW DOES SALMING RUNNING FIT IN TODAY’S OCR INDUSTRY
Salming running is truly making an impact in the OCR world. People are beginning to recognize just because it hasn’t specialized in OCR shoes for long that are making some very innovative strides. The tread on the shoes provides extreme grip, especially the double lugs. The fact that it is a self cleaning shoe also helps! Especially when the terrain tend to “gunk up” other shoes. The drainage of the shoes is absoloutely advantageous, no one likes to run with water sloshing in their shoes.
HOW DO YOU PROMOTE SALMING AS AN AMBASSADOR?
As a Salming ambassador I try to promote their products with actual use of their products. I have no problem sharing my results on the course and how well the shoes held up. I try to describe the exact obstacles that I am able to conquer more quickly than others around by simply having increased grip on my shoes. Also, the obligatory pictures from races and me sporting the shoes always help!
YOUR FAVORITE OCR MOMENT?
I do have a favorite OCR moment that I love to mention to others. This also inspires me to keep working every day. Last year I decided to do the Ultra-Beast in Lake Tahoe during World Championship weekend for Spartan. My dad accompanied me on this particular trip. Upon arrival we decided lets scope out the venue to get an idea of the terrain. This was one of the most beautiful venues I have ever seen. We were both in awe. I remember saying to my dad, “Look at how pretty the mountains are.” I noticed these dots and asked, “Dad, what are those dots?" We both realized.... those are people racing!! So after being intimidated, I went back to our hotel and tried to focus on the task at hand. It was cold and dark at the start, and all I could remember is that I have to finish— for myself, my family, and my friends at home. All these people really wanted to see me do well. Coming in after the first lap, I felt pretty good, and on my way in, I see my father. Now my father is not the most physically fit, but I will absolutely never forget this 30 seconds. As I am running to the last few obstacles before the transition area, I see my dad near the race path. Not only does he obviously cheer, but he runs, as best as he could. And I have never seen him do anything like that ever in my life. As he is running he asks if I need anything, how I feel. Right before he has to slow down and begins to run out of breath, he exclaims, “Son, I will see you at the transition and know I am so proud of you!” Now I know parents are always proud of their children, but that meant more to me than most will ever know. Indian culture is not one that expresses emotion heavily, and pride is usually not shared for any sort of athletic achievement. So to hear my father say this, well, let’s say that I had enough fuel in me mentally and physically to keep running another lap and finish 2nd place in the open.