OCR Buddy is the First Mobile App for Scheduling Obstacle Course Races
By: Mark Barroso
OCR Buddy is a mobile application that primarily serves as a calendar at your fingertips for obstacle course races around the world. The app has several other functions aside from calendar-based scheduling, too. Since OCR Buddy ties a lot of different data into your profile and has very specific filters for searching events, it provides an efficient way to hold onto OCR-related information on your phone, without having to actually open any documents.
WHAT IS OCR BUDDY?
OCR is a mobile app for iOS and Android that was produced by GingerBlatt, LLC and developed by Blindhack LLC. GingerBlatt is a company formed by New York-based OCR racer Russ Blatt, who says the name for the company came from the fact that he’s a redhead. Blindack LLC is a New Jersey based software company that designs games, websites and apps. So why did this OCR athlete decide to organize data from thousands of races into a calendar format and have the world able to take notes on each race, form teams, and add people to social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) from an app?
“In early 2015, I was getting frustrated bouncing between websites, always adjusting my spreadsheet, and I thought there had to be an easier way,” says Blatt. “I went looking and found nothing. I remember it was Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Rugged Maniac, Bone Frog Challenge and smaller races as well. Then, there were changes to the schedule and conflicts. I also kept asking my friends what events they were running and eventually I said to myself, ‘there has to be a better way.’ I believe OCR Buddy is a better way.”
Blatt says the first steps you should take once you download the app are:
Set your country and region filters. This would focus the user to the events in their general area.
Set up your profile and join teams to be able to find my buddies and teammates. Searching for events at that point would be focused on the user's home area and the user will also be able to find their buddies and buddies’ races.
HOW IT WORKS
Once you download the app, the main menu has seven different squares/buttons. I’m going to go through each menu option individually, since there’s a lot going on within each one. The following items are not in chronological order of what you should press first, they are just numbered to remind there are seven sections of the app.
1. FIND AN EVENT
Press this button and you see a calendar of the current month that toggles both backwards and forward in time. You can choose to view the calendar as the standard grid or as a list of events. If you’ve yet to set the filters, the white stars on the dates in the calendar mean there is an OCR event somewhere in the world on that day. Below the calendar is a row of white dots, which allow you to scroll through WHICH events are that day around the world.
At this point, you’ll want to press “Filters” and choose your preferences for race brand, country (US, Canada, UK, or Australia), region (this divides the US and other countries into regions), states (divides not only US into states, but also provides other countries’ territories), and race length. The filter also includes four yes/no questions: Will I get dirty during a race? Will there be swag? Will there be a kids’ race? Will all the proceeds support charity?
OCR Buddy has more than 300 race brands in the app, and you can pick to include all of the brands, which will likely introduce you to races you hadn’t heard about, or just to choose to focus on the race that you’re interested in. Oh, and guys and girls, they’ve included GORUCK events, so no more of that “Crap, I forget X race was the same day of this GORUCK event.”
So how many total events are available on the page?
“Currently there are over 1,200 events in the database for the next 12 months, with over 700 in the US however, if a race has multiple lengths on the same day, each length has its own event, which was done for filtering purposes,” says Blatt. “As an example, Bone Frog Challenge has a Challenge (9 miles), Sprint (3.1 miles) and a Tier-1 (12.1 miles). That would be three events.”
What I found interesting is that in addition to Blatt adding events as the producer of the app, users of the app can add events, which of course, led me to believe people would troll the app and insert events that didn’t exist. Or, people would simply input inaccurate information about events which could cause headaches for race organizers in the future. Luckily, both of these situations would require Blatt himself to have made a mistake.
“Any user can submit an event through our "add an event" screen and when an event gets added, it can not be seen until it is reviewed by a moderator (me) and checked,” Blatt says. “I typically open the event’s website and verify it works as well as the information is correct. If the moderator misses something, a user can submit an edit that is checked as well. So, there is a check and double check in the system.”
Once you click on a date, then choose an event, you select your status as going, interested, or not going, which can easily be unselected. Each race displays a “cheat sheet” of sorts about the race that includes an event description and any notes you have. Event pages also include links to their respective websites, which I think every OCR company can agree on, is a good thing.
2. Find a Team
As of writing, there are 86 teams in OCR Buddy, including some of the groups that regularly win “biggest team” awards at races and others you might have heard. That is, Spartan 4-0, Spartans of the Northeast, Nor’easter OCR, New England Spahtens, Corn Fed Spartans, Team RWB, and Team Me Against Me. You can join any team you’d like, but for someone that usually races alone or is new to OCR, the only utility I see in this feature is joining a team, adding members you don’t know, then going to their social media links to contact them about carpooling/meeting up at a race. This method can also work well for people traveling to a race and looking to link up with members from a regional team.
For people already part of a team, it could serve as a great way for team members to see where their fellow racers are going to be throughout the year, and a way to get everyone to follow each other on social media. You can also create your own team, which can serve as another platform for a growing OCR brand.
3. My Profile
Perhaps the most important part of OCR Buddy is your name because if you don’t insert your name, people will only see you as “BuddyID#1234.” My Profile is home to the name, region, state, birthday, experience (newbie to elite), Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and team information. Anything you input here will be seen by any user viewing your profile, but you can always delete information you’ve entered in the past. You’re not required to fill in any of the “My Profile” data. Giving yourself an “experience” rating, (I listed myself as “intermediate”), is actually very subjective. Personally, I think any race times outside of elite heats are inaccurate due to the skipping of obstacles and penalty burpees. If someone was seeking advice from an elite OCR athlete, wouldn’t they already know whether or not the person was elite, without using OCR Buddy? Does labeling myself as a “newbie” or “beginner” benefit me in any way?
The integration of outlinks to a user’s social media pages from within the app is a unique touch. I can see newly acquainted OCR-enthusiast Facebook friends adding each other on OCR Buddy, then clicking on their Instagram and Twitter pages via OCR Buddy. Or, two people connect on Facebook and go through OCR Buddy to add them on Instagram and Twitter.
4. MY EVENTS
The My Events page is the most streamlined way to mange the events you’ve signed up for via the calendar. You can view past events and upcoming events and once a race is complete, you can add your results. Choose an upcoming event and you can add your own personal notes, such as the travel (hotel/flight/rental car) cost math you’d reserve for your computer/scrap paper, what new supplements you want to try before the race, or what shoes you’re going to wear.
5. MY BUDDIES
This page is self-explanatory: you search for buddies by name, nickname or e-mail address, which means technically you don’t have to update your profile with your name for people to find you. The e-mail address to search is the one the person used to register for OCR Buddy.
OCR Buddy will present a notification within the app when you have a buddy request sent or accepted and when you submit an event and it is posted to the database. Blatt explains that there are updates for the notifications features.
“We will be adding notifications weekly for new events that are added to the database and push notifications are also something that is in an update soon,” Blatt says. “I want the use of OCR Buddy to be as easy as possible and push notifications will assist that.
Here you can read the useful FAQ.
WHY OCR BUDDY?
For OCR, Facebook and Instagram have proven to be the best sources of “insider knowledge,” funny memes, and overall training discussion. However, when it comes to scheduling events, Facebook tends to actually be unreliable since people say they’re attending an event on Facebook, then never actually show up. I know people get injured or run into sudden financial trouble but I’d guess there are reasons not related to those that people skip the races they say they’re going to on Facebook. Plus, even if you are the type to only say you’re “Going” on Facebook, you don’t have to wait for a race company to make a Facebook page for you to add it to OCR Buddy.
“OCR Buddy brings literally dozens to hundreds of event brands into one location where the user can see everything laid out in front of them,” says Blatt. “It also allows you to search events easily and see your buddies’ schedules and events as well. While we are evolving, our filtering system allows you to have a lot of information at your fingertips such as is there a Kid’s Race?”
OCR BUDDY IS A LIST
Last year, I was one of those “make an excel spreadsheet for all of my races next year” OCR racers. I was motivated to try something new in fitness and I saw that people did dozens of events a year so I signed up for about a dozen different OCRs. The utility of the spreadsheet wasn’t having it: it was CREATING IT so I had an idea of what races I was going to do. Once I had the spreadsheet, I input everything into my phone calendar. That “My Events” page on OCR Buddy is pretty sleek and simple, making it the ideal (and only) substitute for making a spreadsheet or list of future OCRs.
For those who enjoy making lists, even if an app will do it for you, I can see people starting with a long spreadsheet of possible OCRs then picking and choosing from the spreadsheet and adding those definite races to OCR Buddy. But, having the “interested” option for an event in OCR Buddy makes things, well, interesting, because you can just say you’re interested in a ton of events to keep them in the back of your head, and on your events page, for future sign up, thus eliminating the need for the spreadsheet.
The one glaring omission from the app is the ability to message other friends. Aside from becoming friends and being directed to social media links, there is no interaction. This will change with a future update.
“Messaging is being researched for use within OCR Buddy,” says Blatt. “It will greatly help me personally communicate with users that don't have profiles or who I just want to let them know something about a post or an edit.”
There are also no status updates or ways to post images/video aside from your profile picture. Another observation is that you can’t categorize or sort the events in the My Events page by distance or brand—they are automatically sorted chronologically. The calendar has every filter you’d need, but the “My Events” page is the that’s easier to look at. I mention this because I’ve seen race spreadsheets that include color coding for distances, but listing distance on the “My Events” page should make distances pop out enough for long lists. It’s also worth noting that there are more than just OCRs loaded into the app: I’ve seen 5ks and half marathons in there too, and you can always just add a road/trail race that you’re doing (and message Blatt if it doesn’t get approved), so no race of any type gets left behind.
For these reasons, in its current form, I see OCR Buddy as a great organizational app for OCR racers. OCR Buddy is perfect for OCR media organizations/blogs as it allows editors to get a fast look at all OCR events occurring on each day thus eliminating the need to constantly load race schedules and enabling coverage decisions to be made faster. Overall, it’s a startup within what was up until only a few years ago, a “startup sport” in its own right. Therefore, the users are likely to play a vital role in what features are added next.
For more information about OCR Buddy, which is available for $1.99 in the Apple Store and Google Play Store, visit ocrbuddy.com