Getting Ready For Your First Race? Here’s what you need to know.


When talking to friends who are gearing up for their first race, they usually have the same questions so I thought I would take a moment to list some of the advice I give a first time OCR participant.

What to Wear

Not taking into account for your particular climate, there are a few things you should keep in mind when dressing for your race.  

  • First, avoid cotton if you can.  Cotton will hold water against you skin and lead to rubbing or blistering.   Also it will add weight as you go through the mud and water.   For one of my first races, eight of us got shirts as part of team Ruck Ruck Goose.  The shirts were great, very stylish. However, they were heavy cotton and after getting wet and muddy, they got hot and heavy.  Never again.  
    Team Ruck Ruck Goose in heavy cotton t-shirts
    Team Ruck Ruck Goose in heavy cotton t-shirts
  • Second, wear water wicking socks.  I now wear alpaca, compression socks from Dahlgren.  They help wick the water away and keep my feet dry-ish.  Some people wear polyester dress socks under wool socks but I have not experimented with that yet.   The lengths of the socks are a personal preference.  I prefer high compression  socks to help with calf fatigue, keep poison ivy at bay, and help protect my skin when crawling.
  • Wear shorts that fit.  For my first few races I wore large polyester gym shorts.  They were the most comfortable to crawl around in.  However, they also held a lot of mud and water and usually I spent the last few miles hiking them up.  I have found that compression or running shorts work the best.
  • Should you wear a costume?  Again, personal preference, but keep in mind that any costume you wear will need to endure the obstacles.  Also, as this caveman found out at the Pennsylvania Warrior Dash, caveman pelts hold about 70 pounds of water and mud.  Luckily he was big enough to carry the extra weight. 
    Caveman costume, awesome but heavy
    Caveman costume, awesome but heavy
  • Last, make sure your shoes fit the type of race you are attempting.  Trail or cross country shoes are best of course but something to consider regardless of the type of shoe is whether your shoes will allow the water and mud to escape after the obstacle.  In my first race, a very muddy Warrior Dash, I wore normal running shoes that did not allow the water to escape.  After about a mile it felt like I was wearing ankle weights.  A pro tip I learned later was to poke a small hole near the front of my shoe so that each step pushed water or mud outwards.
  • Really last and not so much what to wear but remember your sunscreen and possibly bug spray.

Your Bag

If you are checking a bag for after the race here are some of the things I always pack.

  • Change of clothes.  These are what I call my intermediate clothes as I will have an additional change in the car.  These clothes should be comfy and something you don’t mind getting dirty.  The race will probably have a “shower” area which will consist of 50 people spraying hoses that are all fed by one water truck.  The water pressure will be spotty at best plus you will be getting other people’s mud sprayed on you.  I generally try to clean my hands and face and the thick body mud but don’t spend too much time trying to get perfectly clean.  Obstacle Course Racers are notorious for stripping to their undies here as they clean up so be warned.  I try to get mildly clean and then move to the side to put on some loose shorts and a t shirt.
  • Towel (or two).  After your shower you will need something to dry off with.
  • Garbage bag.  Your race clothes and shoes will be muddy and wet.  By bringing a garbage bag you can segregate your dirty from your clean and it will keep your gym bag from getting ruined.
  • Change of shoes/flip flops.  Your feet with be soaked and you will want to get them dry and keep them dry as soon as possible.  A lot of race series collect shoes for good causes.  If my shoes are towards the end of life, I donate them.


The charity shoe pile.
The charity shoe pile.

Your car

It is usually at my car that I do my real clean up. I am away from the muddiness of the race and possible bus ride and can clean up for the ride home.

  • Gallon jugs of water.   I bring several jugs of water as an impromptu shower.
  • Wipes.  I bring large soapy wipes to help in the clean up.
  • Washcloths are for really scrubbing the last of the dirt.
  • Another change of clothes.  I usually end up driving four or five hours to a race so these are my comfy driving clothes.  Hopefully I am clean enough for the ride home.
  • Nutrition and hydration.  Depending on your race you probably owe your body some nutrition and a sports drink.  I know it is fun to drink your free beer and eat a turkey leg but now is the time to repay your body with what it needs.

Those are the most common questions.  If you have a more specific question, shoot me an email.


  1. If I were planning to drive that far after a race, I would find a truck stop and pay a few bucks to get a real shower before the long drive.


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