When it takes feet of faith to get to OCR World Champs

Sabrina Daolio, OCR, obtsacles, The Warrior Race 2016, interview

Sabrina Daolio at #Warrior7 2016. Photo: ZC Marketing Consulting

Meeting Sabrina Daolio

Training with one of South Africa’s leading Warrior women can be pretty intimidating. The first time I met 25-year old Sabrina Daolio was at BattleRush, the Johannesburg based obstacle course she calls home.

She challenged me to attempt a few obstacles, and although I had some Warrior Race experience, I was nowhere near her caliber of grip strength!

We started off swinging across a few rings, nice and easy. But before I knew it, she handed me a sand bag and had me running up steep (and dusty) inclines. There I was, a perfect stranger in pro territory (not to mention a total rookie in this sport), with an OCR superstar shouting “Go friend!” from the top the hill as if she’d known me her whole life.

In that moment I had the privilege of witnessing something very rare in the competitive sporting world – a pure and untainted passion for obstacle course racing.

Sabrina Daolio, OCR, obstacles, OCR World Championship 2017, prize giving, interview

A dream come true. Third place for Sabrina Daolio at OCR World Championships 2016. Photo: OCRWS

Blazing trails

Sabrina is one of South Africa’s OCR front runners (literally). If you caught a glimpse of her blitzing her way through the obstacle course, in all her muddy glory, you’d never guess she comes from a show jumping background.

She discovered this sport in 2015 with no upper body strength, and really started from scratch by mastering the art of push-ups. Fast forward two years, and she not only eats obstacles for breakfast, but has also discovered a trail running talent .

In March 2017 she won the Drakensberg Northern Trail with a 10 minute lead, and placed sixth overall.  She hadn’t expected to do so well and said, “I started training with Dino Schnyder last year, a running coach from Switzerland. But this race was my first proper introduction to mountain trails! I’m hooked.”

The moment she’d worked so hard for! Sabrina Daolio taking the keys to a Toyota RAV4 after her 2017#Warrior3 victory. Photo: ZC Marketing Consulting

The roller coaster season of 2017

There’s an immense pressure that comes with trying to make it to the top as a professional athlete. But staying at the top once you’ve made it, now that’s a completely different ball game.

Not long after her DNT victory, Sabrina reached the greatest height of her athletic career. In April 2017, an emotional Sabrina arrived at the finish line to claim her maiden Warrior Race title at #Warrior3.

You might be surprised by her description of this moment as the “bittersweet start of emotional roller coaster.” Her tears on the podium were partly because of the joy in realising her Warrior dream (and receiving the keys to a brand new Toyota RAV4).  But also partly because she’d suffered an injury in the first few kilometers of the race, and completed the entire course in anguishing pain!

What had seemed like a sprain at the time, turned out to be far more serious. She later discovered that she’d fractured the base in the second and third metatarsal of her foot!

Sabrina Daolio at 2017 #Warrior2. Photo: ZC Marketing Consulting

The winning lessons of injury

For most athletes this situation would seem pretty dismal. The OCR World Championship takes place in October 2017, and there’s just a few months left to prepare for the daunting mountain trails that Canada have to offer.

Sabrina remains positive in this time, though, and is more determined to make a comeback than ever.  This is her outlook on injury:

“This season has taught me so much, mostly to not to be so hard on myself, and to realise that there’s there more to life than racing.

Many athletes hide that they’re injured, because it almost makes us look at bad. But injuries are part this sport, and how we deal with them makes us the athletes that we are.

I’ve had to learn to not compare myself to others. It’s better to be happy for people that are able to run, than to sit around being envious and depressed. I can honour God in health and injury, so just because I’m not racing doesn’t mean I can’t get out there and support others.

Injury makes us wiser, but also seriously hungry to come back stronger. I’ve experienced that before, and I know it’s going to happen again.”

More: Advice for overcoming injury (the toughest race to win)

Sabrina Daolio, OCR, obtsacles, The Warrior Race 2016, interview

Sabrina takes the lead at #Warrior2 2017. Photo: ZC Marketing Consulting

Tips for moon boot training

You’ll still find Sabrina at BattleRush these days, swinging from ring to ring, but now with the added weight of a moon boot.

Her training has to be completely non-weight bearing at this stage. Thanks to the continual support of her obstacle coach, Marco Caromba, he’s discovered creative workouts that keep her motivated. Think one-legged push ups, dips, pull ups, core and barbell work, grip strength and lots of stabilising exercises for running.

She admits that staying motivated can get really tough, “I do have my fears, obviously, and that influences my motivation to train. Sometimes I feel the anxiety of not being ready for World Champs, but I just kick that fear out with faith.

Yes, some days are harder than others.  But I like to think of this as my stretching season.  There’s a quote I once saw that said: God places great purpose in our time of pausing.

There wouldn’t be victory without a battle, and there wouldn’t be a testimony without a test.”

Sabrina Daolio, OCR, obstacles, OCR World Championship 2017, rope climb, interview

No goal too high for Sabrina Daolio. She conquers a rope climb during the 2016 OCR World Championship. Photo: Louis Hugo

Goal posts remain steadfast

Have any of Sabrina’s goals for the year ahead been put on hold? Absolutely not!

She continues to prepare for World Champs in the best way she possibly can, and holds fast to her hope of representing South Africa in October. There’s also The Warrior Race National Championship that she has her eye on later this year.

She doesn’t seem to be set on taking any specific titles at this stage, but more focused on getting “the chance to be able to race again, and the opportunity to look back on the journey it took to get there.”

She mentions really looking forward to the day that she can start using the anti-gravity treadmill to get her fitness back up. And once she gets the green light, is determined to pack her bags and blaze along the first mountain trail she can find.

The final verdict about her injury will be given towards the middle of July.

Until then, she continues her journey to the OCR World Championship with the same approach she’s always taken – with feet of faith.

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