A look back at the first USA OCR National Championships

Take a look at the start line pictures from your local mud run, or “obstacle race.”

Unlike a 5k or marathon line-up showcasing emaciated, linear body types, these photos are usually more of “type-A” line-up. Your OCR start-line is dominated by big arms, distended abs, tattoos, and spandex, lots and lots of spandex. You’d be forgiven in dismissing this strange collection, this burning man/cross-fit baby, as being nothing more than a fad that takes itself a bit too seriously.

But look closely and you might see, sandwiched between heavily tattooed Cross-fitters in checkered board shorts, juiced out powerlifters, and hobbyjoggers with dad-bods, a glimpse of one or two thin, serious-looking runners rocking short shorts and bright invov8 shoes. You’d be remiss if you thought they were nothing more than a marathoner trying something new.

No, these are the first of the professional athletes of this new sport, battling week in and out on the muddy for chicken-scratch prizes and sponsorship, much like the Steve Scotts or Prefontaine’s of track and field’s early post-amateur years.


Despite its lack of experience as opposed to other sports with Olympic dreams (the sport, in the US at least, has been around just under 10 years) obstacle racing has serious Olympic aspirations. This past weekend some of the top athletes in the OCR world met up in Miami to compete over a 3 mile course. At stake were spots on America’s newly-announced Pan-American team, which will spend the coming year racing exhibition races in North and South america before heading down to the Pan-am games.

While the aforementioned weekend-warrior crowd might pay OCR’s bills, it was the runners who were the focus on this special course. It is these same runners who are instigating an identity crisis in a sport attempting to be both commercial and Olympic in its aspirations, ideas that time and time again have proven to be mutually exclusive.

While participation numbers may be down as a whole since, say, 2010, the mainstream popularity of obstacle racing has exploded in recent years. Tough Mudder and Spartan Race have defied their fringe labels to become household names, benefiting from renewed interest in natural, gymnastic-like movements thanks to the explosion of Crossfit and shows like the ratings-dominating American Ninja Warrior.

NBC, NBC sports, ESPN, and CBS have all begun to devote substantial airtime to their own specific versions of the obstacle race. Even Netflix (Ultimate Beastmaster) and CMT (Broken Skull Ranch) are cashing in on the obstacle/mud-run movement. Sponsors the likes of Panasonic and Reebok have jumped into the fray, marketing action cameras and sport-specific shoes (with built in drainage and extra grip for obstacles like rope climbs) to the mostly middle-aged, upper-middle class participants who shell big bucks for a few miles of mud and object carries on a weekly basis (A typical Spartan race entry costs around $125). Jeep, Coors light, Subway, and others have highlighted the sport in their TV spots.


But why mess around with the massive headaches of properly planning and executing a race when the potential of TV money lies waiting? Battlefrog, previously one of the biggest competitors to Spartan Race, and one with a large, passionate fan base, had a similar thought. They disbanded their race series, fired their staff, and are attempting to jump to ESPN or other networks with a televised racing series.

In this streaming age ESPN is seeing its lowest ratings ever and even dropped 1.5 million subscribers in 2016, according to adage.com. Yet the show has been reviewed well and BattleFrog seems to have no intentions of returning to the original fanbase that made it a household name. 

They say once a rapper uses your name in a song you’ve made it, and in late 2015 Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller dropped the first known OCR-related line in his song “Brand Name” :

“American-ninja to these obstacles, no stopping me…” (Things go downhill quickly from there with euphemisms to ladies of the night and services but you get the point)

I think its safe to say OCR has officially become more than a fad; it has established itself as a concrete societal mainstay. So it’s here, but what’s its identity? Is it a cash cow, a grassroots movement, a professional runner’s sport, or some combination of the three?


Back to that Miami starting line. For an event with as much buzz surrounding it as this, the photos told a different story. The participant #’s were slim, the obstacles borrowed from other sports (Spartan has decided to use biathlon’s lazer pistol as its featured penalty-inducing obstacle), and the athletes fast, fit, runners competing on a fast, flat course where the more traditional cross-fit body-types didn’t stand a chance.


This was labeled a “short-course” by Spartan, and it was shorter than usual, at least by OCR standards, with a sub 30-minute completion time.

But that’s not a “short-course” by any other sport’s standards; after all, the longest track and field event, the 10km, takes around 27 minutes to complete. From an aerobic standpoint, the same athlete who wins an 11-minute running race will, with proper training, be the best in a 2 hr race, and this is often the case, with Ryan Atkins, Hunter McIntyre, Amelia Boone, and other endurance mainstays winning events no matter the course. Spartan attempts to change this by introducing heavy obstacles to even out the playing field, but it could be argued that when events attempt to even out a playing field, the opposite as actually being done.

Fast-forward 30 minutes and Mark Batres crossed the line in first for the males, followed by former Spartan World Champion Robert Killian and upcoming speedster Mike Ferguson. An upland, California native, Batres boasts prs of 13:44 in the 5k and sub-30 minutes in the 10km.

Obstacles can be learned; aerobic capacity can not. If the sport continues this way we may be seeing a field of Kenyans sweeping podiums 5 years from now. 

And Batre’s prize for being crowned the first USA OCR champ and Pan-American team member on the most-hyped weekend of the year? A meager $300.

Throw in a flight from Cali, rental car, hotel, and race entry, Mark likely left in the red (disregarding sponsors, and any unmentioned payouts of course).

So we’re seeing progress on the corporate side of the sport, but we’re not seeing much of a trickle down to the athletes themselves.

But that will change. 

Although optimists were saying the same about track and field some 40 years ago…

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2016’s Highest Earning OCR Athletes

How much are the top racers in the obstacle racing world making?

In making this list, we used only official race pay-out information from the 2016 season. We did include TV shows winnings, but only those that had a substantial OCR element.

We did not include any sponsorship, affiliate earnings, or undisclosed payouts. Keep in mind many of these athletes receive podium bonuses from sponsors, along with appearance fees, per diem, coaching fees, and shared sponsorship revenue from TV races. On occasion these combined totals can match or exceed race winnings for an athlete.

We also did not include final points standing payouts from Spartan as they have not yet been officially announced. These payouts normally start around  $4-5,000 for 1st and drop $100 or more for each spot going down.

These USD-converted figures are at best rough estimates and should be treated as such.

 


5. Laura Messner/Beni Gifford

SPARTAN: ULTIMATE TEAM CHALLENGE -- "Spartan Season One Championship" -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Campione, Beni Gifford, Lynnae Kettler, Ian Deyerle, Laura Messner of "The Comeback Kids" -- (Photo by: Mark Hill/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

SPARTAN: ULTIMATE TEAM CHALLENGE — “Spartan Season One Championship” — Pictured: (l-r) Matt Campione, Beni Gifford, Lynnae Kettler, Ian Deyerle, Laura Messner of “The Comeback Kids” — (Photo by: Mark Hill/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

2016 Race Winnings: $51,500+
Biggest Payday: Spartan Team Challenge, $50,000

Laura Messner and Beni Gifford, along with teammates Matt Campione, Lynnae Kettler, and Ian Deyerle, were the inaugural winners on The Spartan Team Challenge. With that title came $250,000, or $50,000 each, as well as a Spartan Pro Team position for Deyerle.

The two Yancy-Camp athletes are in a virtual dead-heat for the 5th spot in our rankings, both earning $1500-2000+ this past year on top of their TV winnings to edge out their Spartan Team Challenge Teammates.

Messner

  • 9th-BattleFrog Points Series
  • 1st-Spartan Sprint, Nashville
  • 1st-Spartan Beast, Lake Tahoe, Sunday

Gifford

  • 3x Terrain Mud Run Winner
  • 3rd-BattleFrog Dallas
  • 3rd-Savage Race Dallas
  • 1st-Conquer the Gauntlet

Both Gifford and Messner took substantial steps forward in their goals of racing with the best this year and their race placings, and subsequent winnings, reflect as much.


4. Lindsay Webster

Lindsay Webster

2016 Race Winnings:  $60,000+
Biggest Payday: NBC series, $19,900

The world’s top female racer has loads of range. Webster traveled to Sweden this winter, where she won the fast-paced Arena Run in a little over 22 minutes. Fast forward to fall and Webster came up just short in her quest to be the Spartan Race World Champion, coming in 2nd in just under 3 hrs. This would be the only North American Championship she would not win in 2016.

  • 1st-NBC series- $19,900
  • 1st- BattleFrog Points- $6,000
  • 2nd- Spartan World Championship- $10,000
  • 1st-OCRWC Short Course- $10,000
  • 1st-OCRWC Long Course-  $10,000
  • 1st- BattleFrog (4 races)- $3,000
  • 1st- Arena Run Stockholm- $1,000

3. Hunter Mcintyre

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2016 Race Winnings: $68,700+
Biggest Payday: Broken Skull Ranch, $60,000

Editor’s note: Hunter is up to 80,000 in winnings from Broken Skull as of December 13th

Hunter shifted his gaze away from Spartan and toward the television side of things the past couple years, but still managed to show up and take 2nd place in the 2016 NBC points series.

After spending a year filming Esquire’s Boundless, he was invited to CMT’s Broken Skull Ranch. As of now he holds the course record on the final challenge, an OCR-inspired course called the “Skullbuster.” Each episode his mark on the final course is not surpassed will earn him an additional $10,000.

Six episodes in and McIntyre’s mark is yet to be eclipsed, netting him a cool $60,000. For Hunter, Broken Skull is the gift that keeps giving.

  • Broken Skull Ranch- $60,000+
  • 2nd-Spartan NBC series- $7,700
  • 1st- SoCal Spartan Super- $500
  • 1st- Arizona Spartan Sprint-$500

2. Jonathon Albon

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2016 Race Winnings: $82,400+
Biggest Payday: World’s Toughest Mudder, 50,000

Jon Albon had a busy 2016, racing 24 times in less than 9 months.

Albon had a huge performance at OCRW in Canada, taking 2nd in the short course and winning the team race while repeating as World Champion in the Long Course, his second consecutive year successfully defending the overall title.

He’s a unique racer in that he’s had great success in athletics outside of the OCR racing world- In 2016 he won the Bergen Marathon in 2:26 and did well on the Alpine/Sky running scene, winning the 2016 Skyline Sky Running series.

  • 1st- World’s Toughest Mudder Team- $50,000
  • 1st- OCRWC Long course- $10,000
  • 4th- Spartan Race World Championship- $4,000
  • 1st- Spartan European Championships- $3,000
  • 2nd- OCRWC Short Course- $4,000
  • 1st- BattleFrog League Championship- $10,000/4
  • 1st- OCR Team Championship- $1,500/3
  • 1st- SkyRunner Extreme Series- $2,100
  • 1st-Toughest- Malmo, London, Stockholm, and Oslo- $2,100
  • 1st-Toughest Series- $3,200

1. Ryan Atkins

Ryan-Atkins-2

2016 Race Winnings: $99,500+
Biggest Payday: World’s Toughest Mudder, $50,000

The endurance legend showed his range in 2016, winning events ranging from the 3k short course at OCRW all the way up to the 24 hr World’s Toughest Mudder, where he completed 105 miles along with his teammate Jon Albon, and in doing so, earned his share of a $100,000 payout.

Ryan had a duel role with BattleFrog in the first half of 2016, serving as race designer/racer, winning 6 of their events and taking 2nd at a 7th before they shuttered their race series.*

  • 1st-World’s Toughest Mudder- $50,000
  • 1st- Spartan NBC Series- $16,600
  • 2nd- Spartan Race World Championship-$10,000
  • 2nd- OCRWC Long Course-$4,000
  • 1st- OCRWC Short Course- $10,000
  • 1st- North Face Endurance 50-miler- payment n/a
  • 2nd-BattleFrog Points Series- $5,000
  • 1st-2x BattleFrog Regional Races- $2,000
  • 1st- 4x BattleFrog Local Races- $2,000

*Ryan is a 21-time BattleFrog champion. In 2015 a win was worth $2,000.


Other notable individual performances from 2016:

Stefanie Bishop, Trevor Cichosz-

  • 1st- World’s Toughest Mudder Individual- $10,000

Hobie Call

  • 1st- Spartan World Championships- $15,000

Zuzana Kocumova-

  • 1st-Spartan World Championships- $15,000
  • 1st-European Championships- $3,000

Robert B. Killian- (also won 2016 Best Ranger Competition)

  • 2nd- Spartan Race Series- $9,200
  • 3rd- Spartan World Championship- $5,000
  • 2nd World’s Toughest Mudder Team- $4,000

Faye Stenning-

  • 3rd- Spartan World Championships- $5,000
  • 2nd- Spartan Race Series- $10,000

Austin Azar– On top of his Spartan and BattleFrog race winnings, had two very nice payouts:

  • 1st-BattleFrog Points Champion- $7,000
  • 2nd-World’s Toughest Mudder- $4,000

Kate Cramer

  • 1st-Stadium Series- $4,000

All payout info found on the following sites:

ocreurope.com

spartanrace.com

skyrunnerworldseries.com

toughest.se/en/

Thanks go out to Beni Gifford, Battlefrog indo, and Scott Seefeldt for helping us track down European payout info.

Mac’s Muddy Mailbag #4

Mac's Muddy Mailbag

We’ve found ourselves in that odd pre-NBC race lull where not much is occurring on the course. But that doesn’t mean that nothing meaningful happened in the OCR community these past two weeks.  Same-sex marriage was legalized, prompting supportive responses from Tough Mudder and Spartan.  Hobie Call also decided to use his substantial industry clout to share his views on the subject. There are more than a handful of critics that claim that the both the companies and the athletes should have stayed neutral on this subject. It’s no secret that OCR, with its colorful, alternative crowd, has as large a makeup of any sport, and they were very vocal with their support on the topics.

I’m not here to talk politics. That being said, the following should always be kept in mind when these situations occur and people go crazy:

1. Confronting hateful attitudes with hate has never accomplished anything.

2. Whatever your views may be, you’re essentially a salesman for your beliefs. Imagine if a street vendor belittled or mocked as you walked by. You’d never buy their product, right? In fact, you’d probably respond in an angry fashion. So why would anyone believe this confrontational style would work for converting others to their personal belief systems?

3. Since mankind’s inception, there has been one constant: progress is a train that cannot be stopped. Is it worth it to you to be on those tracks knowing what the end result will be?

4. This is less about the aforementioned topic and more about the internet in general.This is the digital age. Angry, ignorant, emotionally-compromised comments don’t just disappear.

We’re constantly evolving people, thoughts and all. The OCR community has a tendency to be emotional posters. What happens when time goes by and you’re no longer the same person? Your views will change, but those comments the old you you made will never be forgotten. Case in point 😉 and second case in point.

Alright, enough of the pulpit- my neck is sore from shaking my head disapprovingly at all of you. It’s mailbag time!

1. What products DO you like? -Steve S., Co

Here’s my current top 3 (none of which I’m sponsored by)

1. Despite his sometimes blundering attempted public persona and awkwardly titled book,
 (I imagine the conversation with his editor going, “All of these taglines are so clever! But I can’t pick one. So why don’t we just include them all?”) Nick Symmonds has become one of my favorite athletes. He’s also doing a great job of building his brand.

Right now I’m a big fan of his RUNGUM. It’s a simple, rather ingenious product: gum with caffeine in it. I could see this product taking off with the athlete that struggles with digestion before exercise but still needs a pick-me-up to get out the door. Throw in the adderall addicted all-nighter student crowd and soldiers going through hell-week, and you have a product poised to take off.

2. Compression gear is a necessity for OCR. Unfortunately, courses are set up to almost guarantee rips in your expensive new gear.

Eastbay compression gear is really good. It’s almost a carbon-copy of Nike’s Pro. The difference? It will only run you $15.  This should serve as a relief the next time you catch your spandex on barbed wire.

3. The Roll Recovery roller is one of the coolest massage related products we’ve seen in a long time. It’s unique clamp-shaped design allows you to hit multiple areas at a time, and best of all, it never loses its resistance/tension.

2. How do you balance strength and speed? Joey, Fl

I spent my winter getting strong. I swam, rowed or biked, and lifted everyday. That baseline of strength ensures that I won’t struggle with obstacles come fall. Now the focus shifts to becoming a fast, efficient runner, the idea being that the strength will stay with minimal maintenance work. We’re beginning to focus on quality interval sessions as well as placing an added emphasis on bi-weekly mountain efforts stressing maximal time on feet. My body has adapted accordingly, with my weight dropping from 175 to 162 over the past 6 weeks of running.

The best runners win in this sport.  If you’re serious about making significant gains on the course, it’s time to train like like one! (Insert shameless plug about becoming a part of our #apexprojecttraining coaching here)

So I guess, to answer your question- it’s all about blocks.

3. Own up to it already, Savage Race is the best race! -Randy, Ca

That’s not a question, Randy.

4. I’m looking at buying a new car, and it got me to thinking, what is the ultimate OCR vehicle? Carlos, Mexico City

The 1993 Toyota Previa wasn’t the prettiest car ever made. In fact, in was pretty dang ugly. With its sloped front end the van had a egg-like space-ship vibe to it. But look past the odd appearance and you’ll see a ground-breaking vehicle in almost every aspect. The van averaged 22 mpg, unheard of for a van at that time. It also had rear-wheel drive. Combine that with the optional supercharger and 80/20 weight ratio, and you have the recipe for possibly the most unassumingly fun driving experience of all time. I drove this car back in high school, and with any moisture at all on the ground donuts became a breeze. A light dusting of snow and I was able to pull out my favorite trick: While driving at 15 mph, pull a perfect 360 and continue driving down the road. Unfortunately, after only a year with the van, I lost driving privileges when during a routine tire rotation the mechanic showed my parents wear that signaled “extremely aggressive driving.”

So in conclusion- Weird, but ahead of its time. That’s OCR for ya.

Other honorable mentions: Pontiac Aztec, Chevrolet Avalanche, Toyota FJ Cruiser (the new one)


Only 4 questions this week? Come on OCR nation, get your act together!

 

 

What are you curious about in regards to OCR? Do you need gear or training advice? Maybe you just need to rant. Email your questions (or thoughts) to us at mac@obstacleracingmedia.com and McCauley will attempt to answer them

 

Mac’s Muddy Mailbag #3

Mac's Muddy Mailbag

1. Any advice for skin protection while at these races? Robyn, Toronto

Between warming up, racing, and hanging around in the festival area, I’d bet that the average racer spends around 5 hours outside on race day. That’s 5 hours that often occurs during the hottest part of the day, and with minimal clothing to protect the body from the sun’s damaging rays. I’d recommend a hat and sunblock, specifically one that works with wet skin.

2. What fitness fads should we be avoiding? -John H., Milwaukee

Good question. This could really be its own article. Hmm…I’d entitle it something along the lines of:

“How Dumb Do We Think We Are? Fitness Fads and What They Say About Us”

By nature humans are lazy. Well, “efficient” might be a kinder way to put it. If someone is willing to promise us something for less work than it would otherwise take us, we’ll jump at it. We’re so invested in the idea of perfection, whether it be money, or familial, or body, that we’re willing to suspend our disbelief in lieu of quick results.

My old boss at Kirby (go to hell, Scott) was fond of telling me that “…there’s a sucker born every minute.” This is the wrong lens with which to view desire. Our nature is to hope for the best. We want to succeed. And we hold others to our standards, even if that means putting blinders on.

Today’s Ubermensch is aware of this, and he capitalizes on it. They Photoshop unattainable body types into our fitness magazines, six-packed charlatans accompanied by oozing sexy words like “Fat-burning,” “Ripped Right now,” “Simple Six-Pack Abs,” and “Instant Results!”

We throw money their way, become dissatisfied with the product, and move on to the next product. The circle continues.


Since most of us are OCR people, let’s look specifically at post-race festival areas. While passing by a tent at OCRWC I was roped into listening to a sales pitch on the wonders of Ionized Water.  Not only would I not cramp, but I’d recover faster, and even run better. These results were guaranteed.

These companies are entrenched in fitness communities.

How are these frauds allowed on the race grounds? Almost any business misrepresenting their products seems to be taken down quite quickly. But not products in this industry. All it takes is 5 minutes of research on google to uncover the truth on these fads. And yet, magnets, super-powered water, etc flourish in our community. What does this say about our gullibility as consumers? The worst part for me is that the people pushing they products are often current or former athletes. They know athletes inside and out and are willing to take advantage of their insecurities for a quick buck.


 

To be fit, healthy and strong; to look good naked- these are powerful urges. So powerful in fact, that we’re willing to dish out substantial amounts of money for re-packaged 70’s fads with no scientific backing.

slide_38414_318337_large

Vibrating body buffers were all the rage 40 years ago. Then they were dismissed as a fad and went the route of multi-colored leg warmers.

But fear not- thanks to technological advances that I can only assume come courtesy of captured Transformers, the world’s foremost “scientists” have harnessed various technological breakthroughs to come out with the 20th century version of the fat burning body buffer.

It's actually kind of cute

It’s actually kind of cute

From the BelleCore website:

“The bodybuffers are effective, powerful muscle massagers for athletes such as runners, dancers, cyclists, Pilates and yoga enthusiasts, whose demands of daily routines and training invariably lead to intra-muscular build up of metabolic waste such as lactic acid, resulting in prolonged muscle soreness. When this waste is removed, recovery is accelerated and performance goes up.”

So THAT’s how you get rid of lactic acid (which apparently causes soreness!). We’re learning so much today.

The website goes on to hint at fat reduction in every which way without actually coming forward and saying so. Very sneaky, BelleCore. You must have good lawyers.

You might think that I’m being overly pessimistic. You’re wrong.  I believe Bellecore will have success. In fact, I think the bodybuffers will be a huge hit.

Just not in the fitness field. No, I see it being successful in a “Honey, go look at shoes in Finish Line for a few minutes while I duck into Brookstone to scope out their ‘personal massager’ section” kind of way.

bodybuffing_bigpicture

I mean, the implied imagery isn’t exactly subtle

So this is my main issue with the fitness industry. The buddy buffer is most likely not a bad product. It may help to exfoliate skin, and it probably does a good job of massaging muscles. But the marketing team wasn’t content with just that. Knowing how product launches work, they were probably pressured to make this product as attractive as possible. That meant throwing buzzwords out there that target the diet and pill, quick-change-seeking audience.

**As always, I’m willing to change my mind on this subject. Anyone representing Bellecore who believes this product is the real deal, send one my way. I’ll test the bad boy out and post a full, un-biased review.  

3. Will BattleFrog make it?– Ron L., La 

We’ve already talked a bit about this during the conversation about Atlas’ impending demise, but I really don’t know. The amount of 40% discount codes floating around right now scares me. They have big backers, but their current format doesn’t attract your casual hobby runner in the market for a fun new challenge. At the same time, many of the top racers for one reason or another avoid Battlefrog. So I’m not sure what exactly their target audience is. I wish them the best, but come next spring, we may find ourselves bemoaning the death of  yet another exciting race.

Just recently I was talking to a family friend who knows his way around the business world (think ceo) and during our conversation he mentioned that today’s biggest obstacle race companies (Warrior, TM, Spartan) wouldn’t be leading the industry three years from now. In fact, some of them might not even be around at all. He said, and I quote, “Trust me, this is just how industries develop.”

I’m curious as to the validity of this statement. It’s hard to imagine Tough Mudder or Spartan going under. In fact, I don’t see that happening at all. But Warrior Dash’s popularity, while still up there with the other big dogs, has dropped substantially from its peak popularity in 2009. They’re having trouble gaining repeat customers due to their course’s perceived lack of challenges and rewards. (My 2 cents- If a race isn’t challenging, you aren’t running hard enough).

Where will this industry be 2, 3 even 5 years from now?

4. What’s your go-to racing gear? – Alex, Dallas

-Stay away from cotton. You don’t want to be that person on the course in later heats drowning in their shirt and holding their pants up while they slide their way through mud.

-A thin layer of compression on top will save your back from barbed wire.

-In regards to shoes, don’t worry about drainage. It’s really a rather pointless feature (think of drainage holes as two-way streets). Rather, choose a shoe with the least amount of water retention. Cross country flats are going to be the cheapest. Inov-8s (particularly the 190s) will cost you more, but IMO are the best obstacle racing shoes on the planet.

-Don’t wear trail shoes in a stadium sprint. You’ll end up regretting the protruding lugs and lack of traction. Running shoes, specifically road racing flats, work well in these races. My brother and I both race in the Nike Lunaracers.

– Don’t fall victim to the zero-drop, toe-shoe, “Born to Run” mentality on race day. When your form falls apart midway through a race, these shoes will magnify any issues that you’re having. The traction in minimalist shoes often lacks as well.

Arm sleeves work to reduce cuts and scrapes. Do they actually have any performance effects? That’s debatable. I avoid them, seeing as they extenuate any arm or shoulder fatigue I’m feeling, but I know many who swear by them.

Geiger Rig makes some of the best hydration systems on the market. Being able to squirt water into your mouth on the fly rather than sucking allows you to conserve your breathe while racing.

5. What’s going on in this picture? -Brian, Ca

The picture in question

10450272_1435896900022046_8745183552206093088_o

 

Ahh yes, my first Beast. The elevation and climbing was brutal, and I cramped just about everywhere a person can.

More importantly, where did you find that, Brian? I thought I’d un-tagged and deleted all copies of it, ya big creep. But I guess the internet never forgets, as Queen B learned the hard way.

What are you curious about in regards to OCR? Do you need gear or training advice? Maybe you just need to rant. Email your questions (or thoughts) to us at mac@obstacleracingmedia.com and McCauley will attempt to answer them.

 

Mac’s Muddy Mailbag #2

Mac's Muddy Mailbag

What are you curious about in regards to OCR? Do you need gear or training advice? Maybe you just need to rant. Email your questions (or thoughts) to us at mac@obstacleracingmedia.com and McCauley will attempt to answer them.

1. Where’s the love for Tough Mudder? All you talk about is the less successful little brother, Spartan Race. Shady J, Ontario

Maybe because I can relate 😉 . That’s also the weirdest looking emoticon I’ve seen.

As much as I like to speculate on things, in this case I’d rather not. It ticks me off when people clearly unfamiliar with a topic do it disservice by attempting to write about it. And I haven’t raced, let alone attended a Tough Mudder.

That being said, I think World’s Toughest will feature some exciting new faces this year….

2. Who is the best racer for the men and women right now? -Richard, Iowa

I love talking theoretical rankings.

Ryan Atkins has won everything this year. And I don’t see him losing a BattleFrog as long as the jerry can carry is around. No one in the world can match him on that obstacle and therefore that course. But how has he done on other OCR courses? Let’s take a look.

Australia Spartan Stadium Sprint-3rd
Spartan Cruise- 3rd
New Jersey Tri-State Spartan Beast- 1st
Montreal Spartan(don’t know the distance)- 1st

Ryan was oh-so-close to a world championship last year. This might be the year that he ends up on top of the podium.

Ryan was two spear throws from the title in 2014. Can this be his year?

Ryan was two spear throws from the title in 2014. Can this be his year?

Then again, maybe Max King shows up a bit stronger than last year (where he did 180 burpees in the last mile) and shocks the field. Or perhaps Yatsko puts his Deadliest Catch dreams on hold in order to make up for his “disappointing finish” last year. (His words, not mine.) Don’t forget Cody Moat, who wouldn’t surprise anyone if he won another world title. What if another Brit shows up and shocks the field? After my 2014 championships preview, I had people telling me that Conor Hancock would win it all. Hopefully we see him come fall. Then there’s Glenn, Chad, Ryan, Brakken, Isaiah, Hunter, Appleton, Novakovich….

With that being said, I don’t mean to discount Jon Albon’s claim to being the best on the planet, which he clearly is.

The Best on Planet Earth

The best obstacle racer on this planet

And an apology is due to the OCR fans over the pond. You’re quite a ways ahead of us in advancing the sport, but your races and athletes receive little to no coverage stateside. We really need to get over there and experience your races.

Right now I think Rose is the hottest woman in OCR. Oops, my bad Mr. Sinnett, I meant the “top” woman in OCR. But I also like the new crop moving their way up. Kate Kramer, Corrina Coffin, Lindsay Webster, and Becca Clifford, among others, have bright futures.

As is usual but definitely not cool with most up-and-coming extreme sports, the women’s side has lagged behind the men’s in terms of competition and depth. This year that’s finally changing. But what won’t change is who will be on top of the podium come fall.

Amelia Boone has had a year to ponder what could have been in 2014. There’s no way she allows her podium spot to be occupied by someone else for a second year. It’s Boone or bust for me, with Claude and Corrina rounding out the top 3.  I’m more than happy to accept wagers from anyone who disagrees. Speaking of which, when will Vegas begin putting odds on this sport?

The reigning champ

The reigning champ

This is going to be an incredible championship season. Excuse me, I meant championships season. Spartan, OCRW, and Warrior Dash will each be crowning championships within a three-week span in October. Tahoe will be an experience the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Warrior Dash will continue to attract Olympic caliber runners and make a strong claim for the most exciting championship in OCR. (Yes, I heard the collective scoff from the community right there.)  Finally, “The People’s Champ” aka the OCRW Championships will look to improve upon a successful debut. Who will attempt to race all three? Will we see a triple crown, or even a quadruple if we count World’s Toughest?

I can’t wait.

 

3. Which athlete is making the most from the sport?  Jeff Wiley, Richardson

My money’s on Yancy Culp. He still races (podiuming twice in recent weeks) so he counts for this example, right? Yancy has become the go-to coach in the OCR community. BeetElite is also one of the more popular nutritional supplements around.

A few Beet Eliters

Some of the top “BeetEliters”

Throw in the newly launched “YancyCamp” training site and I’m guessing things are going quite well. There are a ridiculous amount of people out there willing to pay $360 a year to see the training their favorite racer is doing.

Speaking of which, I’ll let you look at it if you want. Not that, you sicko. My training. For free, courtesy of Obstacle Racing Media. Here you go- my personal training log. (password is ORM)

As far as top racers go, Ryan Atkins will end up winning 11 BattleFrog Races (and the points series), numerous Spartan Races, multiple TV races (bigger payouts for these), and placing high or winning at multiple championships. He’ll take home a minimum of 40 grand in race winnings this year before counting sponsors or podium bonuses.

To these numbers some might say, “Compared to other sports that amount of money is nothing!” Well, this isn’t other sports. And that’s some nice change for doing something you love.

4. What is your mentality while racing? For example, what thoughts are going through your head? Is it just technical strategies, like what your pace is, what place you’re in, etc? Or do you have mind games you play to keep yourself focused/motivated/distracted?  Beni G., Texas

Beni my man! As I’m sure you’re aware, OCR is different from many other sports in that overall place trumps all else. Therefore, time and pace are essentially meaningless. So I don’t worry about them all that much.

The truth is, I’m probably not the right person to be giving advice here. Like many middle-distance runners, I’ve been something of a mental midget in regards to distance running. Back in high school cross-country I’d run 16:30’s for 5k at the low-key races and then 18 minutes at the bigger meets. And I struggled badly with my transition back to competition this past year after years away from running. I actually found out that OCR brought out my nerves worse than track or XC ever did.

I couldn’t sleep before races. Then I’d be too nervous to warm up. Once the race began, I’d spend most of it thinking about how painful it was, how much I hated OCR, how maybe I just didn’t have the talent that my brother did, etc. These were stupid places to be in.

But as my fitness came along I came to realize that only one thing mattered, and that was finding that pace just below red-line and just maintaining it. The mental battles will always be there, but fitness breeds confidence, and confidence allows you to somewhat stifle those voices in the back of your head.

That being said, you can’t wait for your fitness to be perfect before attempting to race. This goes for everything in life- if you wait for conditions to be perfect, you’re probably going to miss out on a lot in the meantime. Be proactive, take a chance, and get yourself out there. I’m grateful that my brother pushed me to race last summer. If I had waited for my fitness and health to be 100% before jumping in a stadium sprint, someone else would be be running for Spartan right now.

5. Who is faster, you or your brother? -Elliot, Ill

We’ll find out at the Dallas AT&T Stadium Sprint in 3 weeks!

Mac’s Muddy Mailbag

mccauley-mail

 

What are you curious about in regards to OCR? Do you need gear or training advice? Maybe you just need to rant. Email your questions (or thoughts) to us at mac@obstacleracingmedia.com and McCauley will attempt to answer them.


1. What are your thoughts on mandatory obstacle completion? -Jeff, Alabama

I love it, but not for the reasons you might think. We’re currently witnessing a new trend of race series willing to think outside of the box. They’re doing their own thing, as opposed to the old way of mimicking the established races obstacle for obstacle, rule for rule, DJ yelling inspirational phrases about battle for DJ yelling inspirational phrases about battle… you get the point. These races seemed indistinguishable aside from the name on the banner.

Mandatory obstacles also make for more difficult races. We’ve seen top racer after top racer fail out of races this year. How do athletes who are used to the podium handle failure? It’s been fascinating to watch.

I can’t wait to try out some of these freshly structured races this year, especially the BattleFrog and Savage Series, even if it means failing out.

That being said, I think mandatory obstacle completion makes for boring races.

Spartan Race finishes have been incredible this year. Why? IMO, it’s the failable obstacles. They lend an other-wise lacking mental obstacle to the sport. In doing so they even out the playing field. Look at the last NBC race. Six racers in contention with minutes to go. And the cruise, when Isaiah pulled the upset of the year over studs like Albon, Atkins, Kent, Brakken, Mcintyre, and Yatsko when eight of the top ten failed their spear throws. There’s an exciting air of uncertainty to finishing order in these races.

bazu-4671787

Upsets are great for the sport. And I don’t see them happening all that often with the mandatory obstacle format.

Failable obstacles ensure the convergence of different types of athletes, game plans, and types of training. Which is more integral, speed or strength? Do you worry about strength over speed and try to be efficient and outlast the good runners? Or do you focus on the opposite and hope that you can outrun your competitors despite possibly doing more burpees?

I’m trying to remember why the whole mandatory obstacle movement started, and I honestly can’t recall. Oh yea, because Anti-Spartan yadda yadda.

But seriously, I do like the thought processes that resulted in this change. Keep thinking outside of the box, race organizers. All it takes is one unique idea to change the industry!

2. What are your thoughts on the new ranking system?  Dave, Milwauke

It’s a great idea. It’s also a great promotional tool for the sport. Want to be on the list? Race every weekend.

The system definitely has a way to go, but the rankings are a necessary step forward. Now we just need a weekly AP style poll. I don’t know why. But we need one.

3. Will Atlas Race make it? -Dwight F., Indianapolis

No. Many called this after seeing attendance #’s for their first race. Solid financial backing is meaningless if numbers aren’t there, “Dwight F. from Indianapolis.” It’s really too bad. The competition was great for the sport and helped spread sponsorships and prizes out for the top racers. I have yet to race one so I can’t comment on the obstacles or format, but my brother had nothing but good things to say after the Texas race. In fact, I’ve never heard anything negative in reference to Atlas Race.

*Editor’s Note – Since Mac wrote this, the Atlas NorCal race has been cancelled, and the future of the Medford, Oregon race is uncertain.

Also, what does this mean for one of the cooler, more unique races out there, Brett Stewart’s OCR Warrior? I really hope it survives. There have been a few other races similar to OCR Warrior, including the Extreme Nation and Ultimate Athlete Games, but OCR Warrior is the first to feature fast running and bang-bang obstacles. This is the key to making this experience viewer friendly.

The potential is there. It’s easy to visualize an exciting future for this format. I’m picturing short 1-2 minute 6 person heats, each beginning with a Tyrolean Traverse. The traverses would narrow directly into a single lane hole shot. This could be followed by tight lanes and sharp contact-inducing turns, with wipe-out producing obstacles in between. Go watch a snowboard-cross heat. No one outside of a small dedicated group really cares about the sport, right? But when it’s on TV you can’t help but be drawn in.

The course can be run indoors (as part of conventions) or outside, and would work really well in, let’s say, the BattleFrog or Spartan festival areas. Or better yet, as an exhibition in the X-Games.

Of course, this is part of the problem of being a young sport without a concrete destination for the future. Every casual fan evidently has a masters in business and knows whats really best for each race series.

BUT Atlas’ demise might lead to some really good matchups. If the Atlas racers want contracts they’ll have to start racing other series. For a couple of years now the fans have wanted to see what an in-shape Hobie can do against the top guys in a Spartan Race. We may now get to see that. (And yes, I know how outspoken he is against certain races, but $ talks) My uneducated guess? You’ll see Hobie competing in a singlet featuring a certain amphibious creature sometime soon.

4. You haven’t been shy about pointing out what’s wrong with the sport, whether that be race organizations or individual athletes that you disagree with. Have you received any flack from elites? What about from Spartan Race, since you run for them? -Joe, MA

Didn’t we ban that word?

Anyway, I was surprised at the overwhelming positivity with which the community responded. I mean, I know I’m awesome, but I wasn’t entirely sure that you guys knew I was. It also helps that satire is such a wonderful avenue for delivering critique.

The main critique I do receive is accusations of bias due to my Pro Team status. Evidently those people haven’t read my blogs. Come on people, I’m a consistent top 10 in People Magazine’s annual “Least Biased People on Planet Earth” poll!

At the end of the day, this isn’t a Perez Hilton-like grasp for publicity or views. If I call attention to cheating, poorly marked courses, or anything else, it’s for the good of the sport. There’s no vendetta. The hope is that the public shaming will induce change.

The intended result of this critique is probably impossible given the emotionally invested nature of our community, but in a perfect world people would approach these issues without allowing emotion or bias to skew the lens they view said problem through. So don’t get upset at critique. Or do, but realize that there’s truth to what was said, and work on changing said problem.

5. How much does vanity play a part in OCRs vs., say a marathon? I’m not sure how to phrase this, but would OCR have nearly the same presence if people couldn’t post pix of themselves rolling beneath barbed wire? That is to ask, is a lot of the price of admission the opportunity to post macho selfies? –Tod S, Santa Rosa

Excellent question. To which I’ll do the politically correct thing and respond with my own. Would OCR even be around today if social media was non-existent, or existed but on a smaller scale? This sport’s number one draw seems to be the selfie-obsessed individual, that of the “Look how wild and awesome my life appears to be on Facebook!” persona. The constant grumbling coming from those discontented with the photo system support this theory.

I’m unaffected by these problems, luckily. I was born with a terrible affliction called expressionless dumb face, and therefore don’t mind when photo systems crash. In fact, I spend weeks after each race dreading notifications of tagged race photos. Also, and you probably won’t believe this, but humans have this crazy section of their brain called the hippocampus. Essentially, it allows them to recall long-term memories episodically. We don’t need to look at a photo to say, “Oh that’s right, I did race last weekend. I had totallly forgotten how uncomfortable I was!” That’s what our brains are for.

Rant time– Skip to question 6 to avoid the following nonsense.

Then we have the online vanity. For those of you involved in OCR Facebook groups

(Which are a dangerous road to go down! You start with one group and then in time grow comfortable. Bored even. Curiosity gets the best of you and you join a few more that were recommended on your sidebar. After all, what’s the harm?  There’s no such thing as a “gate-way” group, that’s just more government propaganda, and duh, jet fuel doesn’t melt steel!
But Obstacle Racers Worldwide leads to Spartan Racers Worldwide, then Corn-Fed Spartans, then the World’s Toughest Mudder Community, Obstacle Racing Professionals, (550 professional racers? How?!?) Fitness Freaks, 1000 burpees for the Military… Umm, what the hell, you might as well join Aspiring Male Models while you’re at it, because you never know right? Soon you’re pushing double digits.

Before you know it you’ve become trapped in the online world; a real life Kevin Flynn. (The sequel is better, deal with it!) Notifications from your virtual community ding from your phone ceaselessly, keeping you and your family up at night. Your kids are always tired at school and their grades begin to drop. Forget your job. You spend all day in a dark room tracking conspiracies, pictures of  industry insiders like Joe De Sena and Ryan Atkins pinned up on walls and connected by tangled messes of red yarn. You’ll get down to the bottom of the latest controversy even if it costs you everything. If you’re the one to blow this “#Shirtstom” controversy wide open, why, that could be worth 45 likes and maybe even a meme with your picture on it! Online approval has become your rare candy. Sure, it makes you weaker, but you’re going to keep looking for it anyways.)

That was a Pokemon reference. 

(cntd) you’re witness everyday to attention seeking behavior.

And trolling? I believe trolling lies somewhere between lighthearted banter and legit personality disorders. Trolling is something like this…Your friends think it’s hilarious when you grow out your creeper mustache, but random passer-by on the street don’t get the joke and assume you aren’t allowed within 150 feet of local middle-schools.

Trolling and negativity online could be a rant on its own. Sure, it might not seem like a big deal to you, but hear me out.

Rumors spread like wildfire in this community, especially among those not as knowledgeable as you regular online posters. So while much of what is posted on those boards may appear quite black and white to the initiated, inside jokes and whatnot, there’s at minimum a 1000-strong impressionable audience of lurkers reading some of this stuff. When we see comments, we qualify the statements by comparing them against our prior understanding of who posted them. We learn who not to take seriously, who not to flat out ignore, etc.

But someone unfamiliar with the boards doesn’t understand this. They can pop in for a look and easily have their opinion swayed or be unsettled by this trolling.

Even regular posters are affected.

If you’re a regular on the boards, you’ve probably been insulted or had your integrity called into play one time or another. So the logical next step at this point is to spend the rest of the night stewing, angrily running over potential arguments in your head etc…

Some people actually seem to enjoy this constant negativity. What masochists! Do they not understand the damage they impart upon the average human with this type of online behavior? They’re literally making me die a little inside each time they post something antagonizing. *Let it be known that the word literal by definition no longer actually means literal, but instead reflects a more hyperbolic tone, so this use of “literal” was technically correct, both literally and figuratively.

And finally, our last question of the week:

6. Who is doping? You like to insinuate things, but what I really want is cold hard proof!  –Michael B., La Crosse

Remember how Skyler and Walt conned their way into owning the car wash in Breaking Bad?

Well, I have a similar doping-related scheme that I’ve admittedly spent far too much time daydreaming about.

Here’s how it would go down:

1. Hire actor

2. Give them lab coat, metal suitcase, and medical credentials.

2. Have them show up at racer’s houses.

3. Recite script:

“Hi there, (blank)! As I’m sure you’re now aware, last year Joe De Sena and Adrian Bijanada came together in concurrence with WADA to develop the first multi-series OCR drug testing policy. The implementation of said policy came into effect starting with the two World Championships in 2014.

As was highlighted in your signed race waiver, you as a competitor in these series are now responsible for mandatory participation in testing, both in and out of competition, at minimum 2x per year. This week we’ve finally begun to implement our testing.

So if you could go ahead and drop those drawers that would be wonderful.”

4. Watch people panic.

Or not. Perhaps I’m wrong and drugs aren’t a problem.

Is it a bad sign that I considered withholding this idea since it would mean people would know it was my idea, and therefore it couldn’t actually be done? I don’t know, nor do I know how strong my grasp on reality is anymore.

Naww, let’s be real here- drugs are a problem. Every sport we draw from has crippling drug problems. We’re not immune to human nature. And as money increases, so will usage rates.

Speaking of which, can we all agree that with his most recent performance, Justin Gatlin is once again the dirtiest sprinter in the game?

"Yikes, I should probably slow down a bit!"

If he isn’t implicated or busted within two years I’ll admit that I know nothing about anything, quit running and become a full-time Power Magnet Band spokesman.

After all, those magnets work hella good! But I can tell you’re a smart one, a real shrewd costumer, so I guess I should prove it to you, shouldn’t I. Would you mind if I showed you their potency with a quick balance test?