By Erin Fairhurst Originally published in the November 4, 2015 edition of Shootin’ the Breeze
Ian Lowe-Wylde isn’t afraid of obstacles. In fact, he actively seeks them out. The local athlete and business owner recently competed in the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in Ohio, winning first place in his age category and coming in 28th overall out of 1,600 competitors from all over the world. Not too shabby, considering Ian is relatively new to the sport — he competed in his first obstacle course race in May. Ian, who co-owns two Blairmore-based businesses, Spry and Rock Gear Distribution, got his first taste of obstacle course racing on a work-related trip to Sweden. “I was attending a sales meeting for one of our products, Icebug, and they happened to be sponsoring an obstacle course race in the area while I was there,” he says. “Everyone kept telling me I had to try it. So I did.”
Icebug, a Swedish brand of footwear, is known for its superior traction. “A lot of the top athletes are wearing this type of footwear,” says Ian, “and they’re usually the ones on the podium.” Ian was no exception — he wound up tying for third in his age group. “I did pretty well and it was a bit of a surprise,” he admits. “I just really enjoyed it.” The rapidly growing sport involves racing through a series of obstacles — either natural or man-made — all on foot, and as quickly as possible. “It’s what we used to do as kids,” Ian says. “It’s jumping over things, hanging off of things, climbing, crawling …” The longtime athlete has spent his lifetime staying active by running, mountain biking and skiing, but says obstacle course racing struck a chord with him. “It’s physically demanding but so mentally engaging that you’re actually distracted from the pain. There’s just so much going on.” With one successful race under his belt, Ian returned home and set a goal for the world championships. “I said I was going to race and finish on the podium. I actually told a fair amount of people, but I don’t think they believed me.” Ian’s training involved a lot of trail running — but with a twist. “If I saw a rock, I would carry it. If I saw an overhanging tree branch, I’d do pull-ups off of it. If I saw a steep hill, I’d do laps on it,” he says. “My goal was to never take the easy route.” He also frequented the playground to work out on the monkey bars and climbing equipment. “By setting this goal for myself, I also made some mental changes,” he says.
Ian chose to abstain from beer and wine, and also limited himself to two cups of coffee a day to ensure he would sleep well leading up to the big event. He took part in three other obstacle course races over the summer to further prepare himself: a sprint race in Pincher Creek, the Spartan race in Calgary and the Spartan Beast near Kamloops. When the world championships finally arrived, Ian was pleased to discover that all of his training had paid off. “I felt ready to push myself,” he recalls. Ian completed the 10-mile course in just over two hours and faced obstacles such as creek crossings, rope elements, climbing challenges and even a waterslide that had participants reaching speeds of close to 50 kilometres per hour. “It was a bit scary,” he admits with a smile. In addition to the obstacles along the course, participants had to run on technically challenging terrain to meet their next challenge. “To me, this type of racing is another step in the evolution of trail running,” he says. The excitement of the event was further fuelled by the thousands of spectators who were on hand to cheer on the athletes, who ranged from former Olympians to weekend warriors. “It was just great to see so much excitement and positive energy,” Ian says.
Now that his big race is behind him, Ian is already planning for the future. “I’m not done yet,” he says. “Next year I’d like to race in the elite category.” Big ambitions aside, Ian says that ultimately the sport is just about having fun and that’s why he likes it so much. “I’ve always been a kid,” he says. “Even with my own kids, I was always that crazy dad at the playground, swinging higher than everyone else on the swing set.” Ian Lowe-Wylde proves he’s pretty “spry” after winning his age group at the World Obstacle Course Racing Championships this fall. The race hosted athletes from all over the world.