The Road To Mammoth: Discovering the World of Professional Obstacle Course Racing in the Mountains of California
In the world of obstacle course racing, there are few athletes as dedicated, passionate, and accomplished as Ryan Atkins and Lindsay Webster. Holding numerous first place titles under their respective belts, its hard to not recognize their impact on the sport.
Flying in from Canada, Lindsay and Ryan met up with us at Outside Van Headquarters in late September as they embarked on a journey to compete in the OCR World Championships in Mammoth Lakes, California. Over the course of the past year, we used Lindsay and Ryan as our muse in concepting an adventure van that was built for the elite endurance athlete. This van, dubbed Pacer, is truly special. Just to get an idea of why this van is so unique, Pacer, built on a Sprinter 170 Chassis, has massive lounge seating that was purpose-built for a post-race rest, including room to elevate your legs to make use of the Normatec Compression Leggings and Massage Gun donated by Hyperice.
There is also a double-wide fully enclosed shower with teak flooring and a fold-up bench for a post-run soak, or, hidden in the wall, is a Red-Light therapy Clearlight Sauna donated by Heal with Heat, to help with the recovery process.
Both Lindsay and Ryan are no strangers to van life, they have their own self-built van conversion that they use to travel to compete in different athletic events, as well as tour around with their two dogs, and have embraced the lifestyle for almost a decade.
OCR World Championships is the Olympics of obstacle course racing, With over 70 countries represented, over 1700 of the world’s top obstacle course athletes travel to OCR to compete with their fellow elite athletes to literally jump through hoops and climb mountains to gain the titles of world champion. This year, with OCRWC being held at Mammoth Mountain, a new obstacle was introduced amongst the hill climbs, cargo nets, and wall jumps, and it was the obstacle that almost every athlete was intimidated by: altitude.
We had the opportunity to sit down with them and learn more about their experiences, motivations, and unique approach to van life.
Introduce yourself and your journey to OCR World Champs:
Ryan: Hey there, I’m Ryan, and I’m on my way to the OCR World Champs in California, where I’ll be competing in the 3km and 15km races, as well as the team race on Sunday. It’s always a blast, even when we’re tired.
Lindsay: I’m Lindsay, and I’ll be competing alongside Ryan in the 3km and 15km races at the OCR World Champs. The team race on Sunday is always a highlight; it’s such a fun event, even though we’re usually pretty exhausted by then!
How did you get started in obstacle course racing?
Ryan: My journey into OCR began in 2013 when a friend who organized events suggested I give it a shot. I signed up for one race, ended up winning it, and even scored an ATV as a prize! From there, I started participating in more events, and it just took off.
Lindsay: My introduction to OCR was a bit unconventional. Ryan talked me into doing a race that turned out to be a world championship event. I somehow survived it and even finished fourth. That piqued my curiosity, and I started training seriously. Ryan promised to fund my next race with some of his prize money if I trained properly, and I ended up winning it. That’s when I decided to quit my job and become a full-time athlete, a journey that’s lasted about eight years now.
What is your experience with van life?
Lindsay: We have plenty of experience with van life. We own a camper van that we’ve used for previous world championships, especially in Lake Tahoe. We’ve driven the van to Colorado every year for acclimation, and much of our van life experience has been in Colorado. We often use the van for pre-race accommodations, and it’s quite common for OCR athletes to embrace van life. At some events, there are so many camper vans that finding parking can be a challenge! There’s a wide variety of rigs, from DIY to custom, but vans are definitely the go-to choice.
Ryan: I’ve actually built two vans now, one for us and one for my mom. Most of our van life experiences have revolved around racing, but we’ve also embarked on some vacation-style trips along the east coast of Canada for mountain biking, enjoying seafood and hanging out. We’ve had van adventures all over the place.
How are you feeling about the road trip to Mammoth Lakes?
Ryan: I’m super excited about the road trip. I’m eager to see how the van works and what makes it different from our previous van experiences. It’s going to be an exciting journey. The beauty of van camping is that it allows us to explore places we might otherwise miss if we were flying. Being in a van lets us stop and appreciate the finer details of the landscape. I’m looking forward to experiencing new mountains.
Lindsay: I’m excited to see Oregon and drive through the Sierras. Experiencing the van itself is something I’m looking forward to. Training for the world championships can be stressful, so van life offers a relaxing escape. When I’m in the van, I can focus on the journey and scenery, which helps ease any nervousness about the race. Vans also make me feel safe when traveling solo; it’s one of the safest ways to stay on the road.
What’s your top tip for living in tight quarters in a van?
Ryan: Two tips come to mind. First, bring less stuff than you think you need. You end up using only a fraction of what you pack, and having less clutter means more space for organization. Second, have your designated cupboards and space to avoid tripping over each other.
Lindsay: If I’m cooking, I usually ask Ryan to relax on the bed or give him a task outside the galley area. We’ve learned to navigate the van pretty efficiently, even with our two Malamutes along for the ride.
How do you stay healthy on the road?
Lindsay: We try to cook our meals and avoid eating out too often, maybe just once a day. Our trips are centered around physical activity, which helps. On longer drives, we make frequent stops at rest areas to run around, do pull-ups on gazebos, and get our bodies moving. Sitting for extended periods can make you feel crummy, so it’s important to stay active. Occasionally, we’ll also take a day to relax and recover from all the driving, which is quite refreshing.
In the world of OCR, Ryan and Lindsay embody the spirit of adventure, determination, and a love for van life. As they headed off to the OCR World Champs in California, their energy was infectious and we knew we had partnered with the right people to take Pacer out on its maiden voyage.
They documented their #RoadToMammoth, showing off all the beautiful places they took Pacer on the way, with the mission to maintain altitude while they finished off their training for the OCRWC.
First, they started at our beloved Mt. Hood, kicking off the challenge of acclimating to high elevation which they would need to be successful in Mammoth. From there, they spent a couple nights acclimating and hitting up local Bend breweries before driving down to Mt. Shasta where they saw the most beautiful sunset. One of the greatest perks of van life!
On Wednesday, they arrived at Mammoth and started to prepare for their big weekend. Lindsay and Ryan are pro athletes, and each day they pushed their bodies to the limits at 10,000 feet of elevation and overcame some massive physical and mental challenges. Although their first race didn’t go as planned, Lindsay and Ryan wrapped up the rest of the weekend by winning their 15k and team races and continue to hold their title as the reigning champions of OCR!
Pacer was nothing short of perfect for this adventure, providing Lindsay and Ryan with some awesome recovery gear, and a quiet place to take a break from the crowds. A full breakdown of Pacer is coming up and will be released shortly.
We are so grateful for Lindsay and Ryan for testing out the brand-new features that are unique to this van and documenting their experiences along the way. In Lindsay’s words, getting to drive and live out of an Outside Van is an experience of a lifetime.