Clydesdales and Athenas – The Next BIG Thing!

The Clydesdale and Athena divisions should be added to OCR and running events. There – I said it.  Burn me at the stake, throw tomatoes or emphatically disagree if you’d like. But before you do, at least finish the article. Deal?

What are the Clydesdale and Athena divisions?  Both divisions are classifications based on weight, rather than the standard age group.  The Clydesdale division is typically males over 220 pounds while the Athena division is women over 165.  Who cares, right?  It doesn’t affect the majority of people today, right?  Before you brush off the logistics already, let’s look at other sporting events for a moment.

Clydesdale-Runner-Floating-Walls

Would the world’s greatest boxers still be the greatest if no weight classes existed? Would Floyd Mayweather be able to beat Evander Holyfield in his prime?  Could Manny Pacquiao have withstood punches from Mike Tyson?  We will never know because it would be “unfair” to place them together in a ring.

Would Olympic weightlifting results differ if they didn’t have Bantamweight, Lightweight, Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight divisions? Chances are – the super heavyweights would take gold, silver and bronze every single time.

Would the MMA be the same if Conor McGregor fought heavyweights like Fedor Emelianenko, Junior dos Santos, or Andrei Arlovski?  We will never know – they will never fight.

The majority of individual sports can be broken down into two major categories – skill vs speed/strength.  Size or weight is less of an issue in skate boarding, tennis, golf, or surfing because you either have the skill at these sports or you don’t. Not every person has the balance to surf or hand-eye coordination for tennis.  However, Boxing, MMA, Weightlifting, Power lifting, and all forms of martial arts are restricted by weight class. Not to say that skill or talent isn’t involved, but a 130 pound wrestler is far less likely to win against a 250 pound heavyweight.

Clydesdale-Runner-Wrestling

What makes running different? What makes OCR different? What makes Triathlons different? That, my friend, is the question. Why are they different? The answer is- They aren’t. It’s just that nobody has challenged the norm. Running isn’t split by weight because runners are almost exclusively less than 200 pounds. Competitive runners are ALL under 200. Why change now?  I’d ask the opposite, why not? How many people started their journey as a runner in the Clydesdale or Athena division?  Many people who were overweight to start likely fell in that category.  However – some people are just larger athletes, regardless of effort or training.  Wouldn’t it be great to have the option to compete against other larger athletes who are of similar build?

If you want to be a nurse, do you pursue it? If you love painting, do you paint? If your passion is music, do you practice singing, playing an instrument or composing music?  Fitness has become a passion of mine and I have been sharing the knowledge I’ve learned from personal experience ever since. I’m pursuing that passion with every run; every weight lifted; every training session.  Why should that passion be thwarted because I’m 6’5” – 260 pounds running against 160-pound individuals?  Regardless of your opinion, the truth is a larger framed individual will never be competitive in running against the “typical runner”.  The body supplies oxygen and energy to working muscles, so the lighter the load, the better.  If you took two runners, identical in all physical abilities, different only in their weight, odds are that the lighter runner would finish with a faster time than the heavier runner.  Some might say “then lose the weight and quit bitching”. While I agree to an extent, and I will never stop training to be better, most Clydesdales and Athenas will ALWAYS be larger regardless of effort toward losing weight.  Should we be punished because our genetics have pushed us out of the “fit” category in running?

Clydesdale-Runner-Monkey-Bars-Zoom-out

I’ll leave this with a final thought…

At 6’5” – 260lbs, I have more mass to hold up on monkey bars, more mass to swing across rigs, and a more difficult time trudging up hills than Ryan Atkins.  Yes– he trains his arse off – but put the same training into someone 230 pounds and in the same shape as Atkins.  Who wins? Atkins still wins all day and twice on Sunday.  Why are bigger males still chasing Jonathon Albon or Ryan Atkins and females chasing Lindsey Webster or Alexandra Walker for a medal when we wouldn’t be placed in the same boxing ring for the title match?

The opportunity to challenge and compete against other athletes of similar build is long overdue. These divisions aren’t about me, my family, friends or acquaintances to acquire more medals or achievements for “mediocrity”, as most would consider it.  This isn’t about one man’s journey to “win events” and be famous. It is to change society’s view regarding the larger athlete while being the motivation for acceptance and change.  Regardless if my fitness journey takes me below 220 pounds or not – I’m a f&%king Clydesdale and proud of it. It’s time to remove the stigma that has been placed on these weight classes over the years and be proud to be a larger athlete. It’s time for the Clydesdale and Athena divisions to be represented in the OCR and running world.

Clydesdale-Runner-Fist-Raised

Photo Credit: Starr Mulvihill, Jason Akers and Billy Howard – Single Stone Studios Photography

Just Call Me “Pee Pants”.

The only way to convey the true mortification I experienced at the gym is to give you too much information. TMI, as they call it on the internet, or #tmi. However you want to frame it, I prefer to avoid situations that put me in this “TMI” category. I’ve learned that some things are out of my control.

Maybe I’m willing to expose my embarrassment because I want another person to know that they are not alone. Or perhaps, honestly, I don’t want to feel alone. I hope I’m not alone in my need to be “cool” at the gym. I especially like to appear like I know what I’m doing and I have my shit together. That I’m not the only one who puts on a facade like I’m doing just fine, when I’m really not. I lift weights and exercise because I feel fucking crazy if I don’t.

It was a Monday morning. I was tired and starting to feel a cold coming on. My head ached and my throat felt scratchy, which made me pretty grumpy. I didn’t want anything to infringe on my gym time, especially a measly cold. I chose to move on, mostly because I couldn’t stay home and” rest “with my three year old, so I proceeded with my routine. It was a chaotic morning with kids fighting, cereal milk spilling and plenty of crying. I didn’t feel well and I knew a good lift was the only hope I had left to raise my spirits.

I dropped River, my 3 year old, off at the daycare and did my usual. I locked my locker, grabbed my  weight belt and started with squats. I’m currently training for a power lifting competition, so my routine is very specific. I follow a plan with heavy weight and low reps. Mind you, I’ve birthed three children so I never leave home without a panty liner, and I must be armed because you never know. But, because I was feeling worn out that day, I assumed I wouldn’t lift heavy,  so I was unarmed. That was my first mistake .

I always feel better after I lift weights, its like my mental medicine. Consequently, I started to feel better, so I moved up in weight. The cold was no longer creeping up on me.

My friend Zach came in, and we said hello to each other. He saw that I was squatting, ” Hey Stacie, ” He said, ” Are you going to go heavy today?” “Yep,” I said. “Im going to go heavy.” He usually spots me, so he nodded and said “Ok, I’ll be over in a minute.” I started to prep my 155 pound squat, which is the heaviest I’ve ever gone, and with respect to reps, it was a challenge.

I was ready. Zach stood behind me and gave me that secure feeling, knowing if I fell on my ass with weight on my back,  I wouldn’t die. There is something about a heavy squat that is exciting and scary, accomplishment mixed with slight danger . ” You got this, ” he said. “I got this” I said in my mind as I dropped down and came up. I did one rep. I was focused and determined as I dropped down again. It was heavy but I had it. I felt strong for a third, that fire burning in my stomach pushed me deep into a 3rd squat. I hit down low and it felt heavy but I was getting back up no  matter what. So I started to push up , I felt my glutes click and suddenly a stream of pee splattered to the gym floor. Not just a drop, A STREAM OF PEE, like I was peeing with pants on and it looked like it. Zach was still behind me, I’m pretty sure I splattered pee on him too. I was fucking mortified. I wanted to run but I had a 155 pound bar on my back. He helped me rack the bar. I was out of breath from the squat and the possible near panic attack from embarrassment. In that small lapse of a second I had an impulse to cover it up, so I started rubbing my Converse over the pee to cover it. Nope that wasn’t going to work, I couldn’t exactly grind wet pee into the floor.

He commended me, ” You did it!” I was so distracted by my pee I wanted to DIE. Another lapse of a thought said ,”Fuck it Stacie, just own it, there is nothing you can do to cover this up, you moron.” I laughed a little,and Im pretty sure my eyes were popping out of my head and  I said,”ummm, yeah I did it but I peed my pants.”  “It happens,” He said. He made nothing out of it, it was as if nothing happened. I was waiting for him to start pointing and laughing at me, announcing to the entire gym. “Stacie peed all over the floor!!!!!!!!!!” ” LOOK everyone, introducing Stacie The Pee Pants Davis!” But no, he did none of the above. He just sort of chuckled with an accepting look in his eyes.

I wanted to roll myself like a ball of yarn, and jump into the garbage of used paper towels by the StairMaster. But no, life went on. And the pee didn’t clean itself up. That may have been the worst fucking part. I grabbed a few paper towels while feeling horrified about being human. Much less putting my bodily functions on display at the ONE place where I had an possibility of looking cool. Seeing as I’m married to a man who sounds like he shits his pants in public, I saw the irony.

It wasn’t over. Zach helped me clean up the pee continuing a conversation about squatting and handed me the simple green spray.  Gone went the pee, and seconds later it was as it nothing happened. The humility I felt could have ripped my skin off as I stood there with wet pants. Thank God the pants were dark. I thought to myself, FUCK, the ONE day I didn’t wear a panty liner. THE ONE DAY!!!! But isn’t that life’s way of keeping us alive? Just when you think you’re cool, you pee your pants mid-squat.

I’m still waiting to walk in the gym tomorrow and hear, “Here comes Pee Pants Stacie !” And everyone is throwing pads at me like Carrie, ” You need a pad, Pee Pants?!!???” As laughter erupts, “Look, it’s Pee Pants I Can Squat 155 And Piss Myself Davis!!!”

It hasn’t happened yet, but I can assure you I will never leave home without my Poise Pad again.

OCR Transformation- Wes Blake

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.
 

As a kid growing up Wes was always overweight. It had a tremendous impact on his life and made things hard for him. Making friends was difficult and the friends that he did have would still pick on him because he was the “fat” kid. For many years after high school Wes tried all the different diets out there. Atkins, weight watchers, nutrisystem, you name it he tried it in an effort to lose weight. He never really had a friend that would take him under their wing and show him the way to be healthy.

Wes was bullied alot because of his weight and the fact that he would not fight back. He would just shut down and take the bullying. Wes was always told that he wasn’t good enough, he was too fat, or too slow to do anything. This caused him to not want to tryout for anything, even if he was really good at it. Shopping for clothes was even worse because he always had to shop in the big mens store and he couldn’t wear the trendy fashions that his friends were all wearing because of his size.

Wes says that, “people would laugh at me and it was extremely hard to approach any girls because I wasn’t part of the cool crowd.” In turn he kept to himself and found other ways to spend his time. Wes can’t really limit this to one specific event. There were multiple events leading back to childhood that forced him to make the change and to start his journey to a new and improved, and healthier Wes.

One day about 4 years ago he woke up in the middle of the night by what he thought was gas. Turned out that Wes had Gallstones and his blood pressure was through the roof. They removed his gall bladder and he made a promise to himself that he was going to get healthier. Not only for himself, but for his family as well.

Back in 2014 after having multiple health issues and just not leading an overall healthy lifestyle, he decided to make a change. He had constant high blood pressure even with medications, which were being increased every appointment because he couldn’t get it under control. He was smoking at least a pack of cigarettes a day, drinking and eating completely unhealthy. It was at this time that he looked at his 4 grandchildren and decided to make a change to be around for them and his family.

He started hanging out with friends that had a like mindset and were working towards their own weight loss goals. They taught him how and what to eat and how to exercise properly. He used to laugh because he was never known as a runner and he turned to them to help him with any advice they may have since they had worked hard and were attaining their goals.

In 2014, he had just started running and began getting serious about his health. His friends in turn challenged him to do a Rugged Maniac that August. He had heard about the OCR community from them and had already met alot of great people who welcomed him with open arms. They showed Wes that getting in shape didn’t have to be work and that it could be alot of fun. They accepted him for who he was and they liked him as Wes. Not one time did they pass judgement because he was overweight, or because he couldn’t do what they could do.

In August of 2014, Wes ran his first race a Rugged Maniac. His friends David Yates and Richard Estep challenged him to sign up and race with them. He knew he would never be able to keep up with them, but he decided to do it anyway. He signed up and they helped him train. David and Richard helped him prepare for the toughest challenge of his life.

Wes worked for 7 months to get ready for the race. When the race started his friends got well ahead of him. He did a majority of the race by himself. As he approached about a mile to the finish, he look up and there was David and Richard. They were coming back out to the course to finish the race with him. After that race Wes had a fire lit under him that he never had before. He was already looking forward to doing his next race, which was the “Down and Dirty” that October. He wasn’t as prepared as he wanted to be, but he went out and gave 100% and completed the race. That was the end of his first race season, but he was determined to make the 2015 season even better and he trained to do so. He started going to more events to learn different techiques and ways to make himself better. There were alot of people that were willing to help him attain his goals and they are still in his life today.

March of 2015, Wes ran his first ever Spartan race in Conyers, Ga. He didn’t know anyone there and ran with a stranger that later became a friend, Marcus Conyers. Marcus offered to go with him and help him along the course. They started the Sprint and along the way he severely sprained his ankle. It hurt him to walk, but Marcus would not let him quit. They stayed together the entire time with Marcus helping him through the obstacles. It was at this time he knew that he had to get serious about training, he didn’t want to have to rely on others to get through a course again. He wanted to be able to do it himself. When Wes crossed the finish line that day, he was met by lots of cheers and hugs from everyone. They told him how proud they were that he didn’t give up and kept fighting through the course with an injury.

Wes contributes his success to his friends David Yates and Richard Estep. They believed in him and cheered him on to complete his first OCR. They helped him to succeed by pushing him to his limits and beyond. He appreciates his GORMR (Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners) teammates for always giving encouragement and letting him know how strong he can be. He is also successful due to his family’s love and support. He says, they “have been ther since day one, with the traveling and putting up with a hectic race schedule.” Most of all his parents, they have always believed in him since he was a child. They always taught him to go out and prove to himself and not others that he can do accomplish what he sets his mind to. There is a host of people Wes would like to thank and the list could go on and on but he had to keep it short.

Currently, you can find Wes spending 3 to 4 days in the gym working on everything from cardio to strength. Two times a week he tries to get out to a local trail working on building distance and cardio in order to be prepared for the next event.

At the time Wes started his journey he weighed close to 440lbs. He smoked cigarettes and ate very unhealthy. He was on blood pressure medication and was also a chronic sufferer of gout.Currently, he is down to 275 lbs! He has not smoked since he began his journey in 2014. He has now adopted a cleaner and healthier eating lifestyle that he incorporates everyday. He admits the temptaions are there, but that is where his new found will power comes in.

OCR Transformations-Bill Pollackov

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.

When Bill was young, really for as long as he can remember, he was always a competitive athlete. From swimming to football and wrestling, Bill seemed to always be either practicing or competing. When he got to college, he joined the fire service and served as a firefighter/EMT for 9 years. Food was his escape. Anytime something was stressful, going wrong, or even good, eating helped him get through it. Sweets and ice cream were his go to. For many years this didn’t manifest as he was burning many of those calories.

Bill and his wife Tracy 2013

When Bill got married to his wife in 1995 they moved to Syracuse, NY. They moved so his wife could go through graduate school. It was there that his activity levels began to decrease, and his food intake didn’t change. By the time they moved to North Carolina in 1998, Bill had added about 50 lbs to his frame. “I was never a small guy, so even 50 lbs was manageable”. When he left the fire service is when the weight really began to hit him.

By 2013, Bill’s weight was over 450 lbs and it consumed his life. At that time he says fast food was about, 45-50 percent of his diet he was drinking between 2 and 2 ½ gallons of diet coke a day. One of the biggest shockers for Bill was when he went clothes shopping.  He was trying on shorts and surpassed the size 60 mark.

When Bills’ father passed away at age 59 in 2001 of a weight related disease, he was wearing a size 64 pants. “I remember cleaning out his closet and promising myself, I would never get to that size.” Bill describes that the feeling that came over him walking out of that store with a size 60 pair of shorts was overwhelming. He knew something had to change but was paralyzed with fear. He had tried with family to work out and exercise, but was constantly getting injured. He could not run or jog, and all movements caused him pain.

The motivation to change came from two really good friends that asked to meet with him one day. That morning was the day that reshaped his outlook on a lot of things. These men spoke to some of the areas that he was neglecting in his life including his; ministry, work, and family. It was not until then he realized that he was in a complete depression and was in the process of eating himself to death. He stepped on the scale that day and weighed right at 460 lbs. Something finally clicked for Bill. He had no idea what to do or how to do it, but something had to change.

Bill decided to meet with a surgeon to speak about bariatric surgery as an aid. This is what he now determines to be a turning point in his life. The doctor told Bill that this surgery, if he had it, was only a tool. Surgery would not solve his problems unless he dedicated himself to changing his diet and started exercising more. He was sold on this idea.

Bill’s surgery was on April 27, 2015. By surgery date he had already lost 55 lbs. He had completely abandoned fast food and his last diet coke was on January 3, 2015. There were some complications with his surgery as they had to remove his gallbladder as well, because it was basically one huge stone. In his follow up appointment is where the OCR seed was planted. Dr. Rao told him … “Here is your plan. In 2017 I want you to run the Gate River Run (15k) and in 2018 I want you to do a Tough Mudder or Spartan Race, deal?” He said he was definitely up for the challenge!

About 2 months after Bill’s surgery, he stepped back into the Gym. He walked in that morning very hesitant, not sure what to expect. In December 2015, he went to another gym to welcome a friend who was trying it out. He was very excited till he saw the workout….There in the middle of it was running….a full mile.

“I remember feeling my heart sink and I immediately accepted failure as my Goliath stood looming over me”. But he did his best, completed a full mile and was able to complete the rest of the workout as well. He shared that day with the group this was the first mile he had run since 1997.

The next morning, he went for a run on his own and completed a whole 5k. Over the next few weeks he pushed himself as far as 5 miles and felt good about it. He realized that something had really changed in himself. He was over 150 lbs down, and he felt great. Bill decided that he wanted to finish every distance of a running race that year. 5k, 10k, 15k and half marathon. Done, done, and done. On Thanksgiving day, with his friend Jim running by his side and his family cheering like crazy, he completed a half marathon. Bill ran the entire 13.1 miles with an 11 min pace….but his focus was 2 weeks away….SPARTAN.

When Bill decided to do the Spartan Race, he had about 5 months to train. Completing the Spartan however, has really kept him going! That was his first and only OCR. (That will drastically change this year) He says, “I can remember approaching the inverted wall and being terrified. I almost just went around and did the burpees. But my team was there, I jumped on, and zipped straight over. I was on top of the world…..I truly felt like a Spartan”.

Bill killing the obstacles at his first Spartan

Bill gives thanks first and foremost to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for guiding him through this gauntlet. Without his salvation, he says he would not have been able to endure this test.

Family 5k

His amazing wife, Tracey of 21 years and his kids Luke (16) and Chloe (13) are his greatest fans and partners.  They completed a 5k as a family this year, and he can see his influence in all of their training as Luke aspires to play college football one day and Chloe cheerleads and enjoys basketball and volleyball.

First Spartan finish with friends Anthony and Denea

Anthony and Denea Widener will always be credited with being the largest catalyst in showing Bill his true value and assisting him in achieving his goals and dreams. Jason Palmisano and his family for bravely following their dream of Trinity Fitness and spreading the gospel and wellness to all.

Bill trains 3 times a week in the morning at TF. Those workouts are all metabolic conditioning so they change up daily. No matter what the workout at the very end he adds in an extra ½ mile run. He also adds other runs usually once or twice a week. Sometimes it will be 3-5 miles running, other times it will be about 3 miles with breaks every ¼ mile for some type of bodyweight exercise (burpees, push ups, sit ups, ect…).

December 2014 – resting heart rate 97. BP 135/90. Weight 460 lbs
January 2017 – resting heart rate 61. BP 118/78. Weight 225 lbs.

OCR Transformations- Frannie Steele

ORM presents the series of stories on OCR Transformations. Runners and athletes whose mind body, and spirit have been altered through obstacle racing.
“I have grown so much not only physically and athletically, but mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.”

Frannie Steele grew up in Holland, Michigan up until her college years moving to the east side of the state in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor. She spent her childhood running around on a farm and taking care of horses up until her parents divorced. She believes that was the turning point for her unhealthy lifestyle. Between puberty, peer pressure, bullies, and depression she had gained enough weight to launch her over 200lbs by the age of 15. It wasn’t until she got a puppy that really started her long journey to health. That puppy needed to be walked, and walking turned into running, and she hasn’t stopped accomplishing the goals she set for herself.

Frannie’s first OCR was the 2013 Indianapolis Sprint. At that race she slipped on the Slip Wall (ironically, she admits) and upon impact her knee hit one of the knots in the rope. She limped across the finish and after letting medical do what they could. She rode 4.5 hours back home straight to the hospital. After medical staff found no cartilage to be in her knee with the IT Band under the patella, they told her she would “probably never be able to run again.” But giving up running wasn’t really a choice for Frannie. After about a year in physical therapy she had started to train and condition the IT Band. So re-injury to her knee would be less likely to happen again. It was a hard time for her and there was plenty of pain. But, she says that first mile back running “never felt so good.” Every day she has to deal with her knee injury and some pain but the stronger she has gotten the easier it’s gotten.

Then in late 2015, Frannie saw an ad for Spartan Race again and thought, “you know what, I’m going to do this again and finish the way I should have finished.” Only this time she ran a Spartan Super instead of the Spartan Sprint. It was very difficult for her, but Frannie ended up doing much better than she expected. A few weeks after completing the Spartan Super she thought, “you know what, I’m going to go for the trifecta.” And that’s exactly what she did, which fueled the start of her 2016 racing.

There’s one event that Frannie states has greatly impacted her OCR and running lifestyle, which  was the overnight 2016 Chicago HH12HR. She doesn’t believe her mindset really changed until after completing her first endurance event.  Frannie didn’t even know what it was that she signed up for, she was just participating because a friend talked her into it. There she was introduced to something she didn’t even know what to expect. What they say about the hurricane heats, and the endurance events that Spartan puts on is that you can’t train for them. You can never know what to expect and she admits that it is 100% true.

Frannie believes she was better off not knowing a single thing about it starting out for her first one. She was forced to pull things from nowhere, from deep inside herself, and use knowledge she didn’t know she had. She pushed herself past the physical limits she had previously known that she was capable of and found something within herself that sparked a fire. From that day on it she says “it has been a nonstop grind to see what I’m capable of and the dedication and passion to push myself to accomplish my goals. I have grown so much not only physically and athletically, but mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.”

These are the things that pushed her to participate in the China Agoge. Frannie was medically removed from this race resulting in DNF. Even though she didn’t finish the race…she still left the Great Wall with things no material possession can replace. The things she learned and experienced she says she will have for a lifetime. The people she was with are people she will forever share a bond with. She believes by testing her mental fortitude with endurance events, she is able to physically push herself to the limits.

Endurance events teach you most importantly that you must work together as well as individually in order to complete a task, or reach a goal. The same is true for all things in life.”

Those who contribute to success are her family. Her family shows a huge support for her and her active lifestyle, knowing how much she has struggled with her weight. She is also thankful to Team Warrior State of Mind and Mark Petersen who supported her and had faith in her. Without Team WSOM she wouldn’t have been able to attend the AGOGE 003 in China. But more importantly she wouldn’t have met Mark, whom she says is a role model to her in every possible way.

Currently, Frannie Steele is training for a few things. For 2017, she has decided to switch gears from mainly running OCR to mainly running Ultras and endurance events. She is also gearing up to accomplish the Spartan AGOGE 006 UK at the Isle of Skye. Not far behind that goal is a 100 mile race, a handful of HH12HR, Ironman 70.3, and the Killington Ultrabeast.

For training she currently bikes 3 times a week, runs 5-7 times a week, and swims 1-2 times a week. Weight training is 2-3 times a week following a run usually to build endurance in strength. She also recently started yoga and meditation to satisfy the mind as well in a different way studying doesn’t quite cover.

From 219lbs at her heaviest to 141lbs now, Frannie Steele has changed herself not only physically, but mentally and hopes to inspire others to challenge themselves and to change their lives by being active. You can follow her on Instagram www.instagram.com/fmsteele1

New Spartan Rules : Yancy Culp Speaks Out

Editor’s note : Yancy Culp is arguably the most prolific trainer in OCR these days. Through Yancy Camp, his training programs and stable of trainers (which includes Matt Novakovich, Ryan Kent, Rose Wetzel, and April Dee), have become one the leading resources for hundreds of athletes in our sport. The following are his views regarding the recent Spartan Rule announcement. This announcement includes changes which state Spartan Gear must be worn on the podium at all Spartan Races. We’ll include a link to his website at the bottom of his article.

Since the rules changes were shared around on Facebook I’ve been able to talk to a lot of people through phone calls, text messages, social messaging, and email. I have great appreciation for both sides of this discussion. I fully support a company’s right to outline rules and conduct as they see fit. I also understand the top level athletes showing concern when levels of control are put in place. It’s a great discussion to have early on in a sports infancy. Spartan has performed far beyond and accomplished more than most of us could have ever thought possible for our sport of OCR in a short period of time. I’m one of the biggest supporters of Spartan and the entire OCR racing community. The racing experiences they have provided for us over the past 5+ years has been nothing short of amazing. Many like to say, “the sport is so young”, “we’re not there yet”, “we’ll never be big like other sports”, etc. Try and find another sport that had as much success as OCR during the first few years of existence. I’m willing to bet you can’t find one. Basketball started out with a group shooting homemade balls in to a bushel basket. They weren’t as far along as OCR was five years in. I think it’s safe to say Basketball has made it to the big time. I could go on for days providing other examples.

We’ve moved very fast and Spartan has done an exceptional job keeping their foot on the gas. Because of great organizations/leagues, employees, sponsors, television networks, fans, and high performance athletes, there are sports that aren’t on the excitement scale of OCR who have had a crazy level of success while generating billions of dollars.

One problem that comes up when topics like this surface is the fact that some get extreme with their rhetoric vs trying to understand the topic from both sides. People will lash out with rhetoric that serves little to no purpose while a graciously direct conversation can go on in the middle and things can get accomplished.

Spartan has to operate under a budget watching P&L’s, EBITDA numbers, etc. and at the end of quarters and annually, they have to show success and profit. The television networks have to do the same thing. The high level athletes who have brought a lot to the sport and have been a big part of the success also have to operate under a budget. Most organizations in the sport of OCR have aligned their races in a way to create high level competition and OCR is a sport. Without the top level athletes you have a televised event. With the top level athletes you have an edge of your seat viewing experience that’s a full blown race! If you watched the NBC and CBS televised races on Christmas Day 2016 you saw how the networks spent a lot of time showing the audience top level athletes going toe to toe out on course. The viewers start following the top level athletes and all successful sports have top level athletes creating edge of your seat excitement. We love it and we always will!

The sport has top level athletes grooming their work schedules and teaming with sponsors in a way that allows them as much time at possible to train and race. There are also athletes who are earning enough money with the sport to train and race full time. Some of the athletes in both categories are accomplishing this because of support from the race organizations they align with and they receive additional sources of revenue from other sponsors. Because of the high level athletes who dedicate a huge amount of time annually training, the sport has worked its way in to a situation where the athletes are arguably being considered some of it not the best athletes on the planet. We are also a sport now where top level athletes from other sports can’t waltz in and knock off our top level athletes.

Podium Shot

Up to this point, Spartan and other OCR organizations have allowed athletes to use their bodies and garments to market their sponsors, which as Spartan recently said, has played a key role in the development of the sport. In my opinion, this has been a very smart move on their part and I hope rules and conduct continue to allow this to take place in a way where the athletes can continue using their body and garments to support their sponsors. A very large majority of the top level athletes are in agreement. There are great examples where this has been very successful and there are examples where athletes have been overly controlled. Golf is an example many don’t think about. When you watch golf on television you’ll see almost every golfer wearing different hats, visors, shirts, using different clubs, balls, golf bags, etc. There is definitely a level of control in place with golf but the athletes have the freedom to promote their sponsors. Golf is performance based. Prize winnings can be very high if you perform well and sponsorships can be huge. Like most other sports, when you watch golf on television, the top golfers get the majority of the air time. They get to show off their sponsors and a healthy amount of money is earned. There are other sports models that have had similar success where the athletes make a very nice living. In other successful sports there are strong league minimums where the lowest paid athletes are paid very well and the highest performing athletes earn huge annual salaries. In most if not all the cases listed above, all the people involved in making the sport great are making a good living off the sport. Both models can work very well. The Track and Field/Athletics comparison is brought up a lot in the world of OCR conversations. This is in large part because the majority of top level athletes in the sport make very little money and the athletes consider the model unfair. Their bodies and garments they wear are also heavily controlled which doesn’t create a situation where outside sponsors want to give them any attention and create partnerships. I personally know that a vast majority of top level athletes in the sport of OCR do not want a model that would ever look like track and field.

My next point may ruffle some feathers but I think it’s important to bring up. Imagine if you were a top level athlete in your sport and the organization/league/federation was involved in very large sponsorship deals and you were paid very little to no income. Imagine being controlled to the point to where outside sponsors weren’t interested in teaming with you because you had very little ability to market their brand during competitions, on podiums, etc. Imagine being that high level athlete and being the lowest paid individual in the ranks of all involved in making the sport what it is. In the world of Track & Field, this is the case.

We are knee deep in an awesome time in our sports history where Spartan Race along with NBC and a lot of top level athletes are creating amazing viewing experiences. We’re moving in to the 5th year of NBC televised Spartan events. It has been successful! Without a level of success, there’s no way NBC could continue putting together a budget to come back each year. Private business just doesn’t work that way. Now we have Tough Mudder partnering with CBS and they will have seven televised races in 2017 which follow up the successful World’s Toughest Mudder race that aired on Christmas Day. The top level athletes have been a huge part of the success. Many top level athletes rely on outside sponsors to help supplement their ability to train and race full time or as much as possible. When Spartan launched the latest rule changes, it was presented in a way that the majority of top level athletes didn’t know about the changes until after they were already posted. Most can probably understand why the top level athletes would be alarmed when they saw the new rules being posted around social media by individuals who found them on the website. The rules stated you are required to wear the Spartan issued headband for the entire race and purposely discarding headband during the course of the event will be subject to DQ & In order to be eligible for awards racers agree to wear a Spartan branded finisher shirt or other shirt of Spartan’s choosing for any award ceremony and promotional photos. It also discussed consent to WADA drug testing which is a rule I’m confident the majority of the top level athletes are excited about.

I think most, including myself, understand why Spartan and other organizations need to have some level of control in place to ensure corporate sponsors are happy and for other reasons. I also think it’s important for people to understand why most top level athletes don’t want their bodies and garments controlled at a level that would inhibit their ability to promote their sponsors. There is common ground here for sure.

Yancy and Morgan

I’ll close with something that I feel can be a game changer in a world where there seems to be a lack of civility often times when processes, issues, challenges, and decisions are being made. No matter if you’re knee deep in the middle of what’s happening, or on the outside looking in, avoiding snap extreme decisions with your actions and words can go a long way in helping promote graciously direct dialogue and actions which is where great things get accomplished. Avoiding the extremes on both side will almost always put you and everyone involved in a better situation.

Much love to everyone involved in making the past 5-6 years an amazing experience for us all. From Austin Texas, here’s to an awesome year of training and racing.

2.3.17 Update to this article – A conversation with Joe Di from Spartan Race.

 

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Yancy Camp