Lose Weight Or Die In Vermont, An AI Story

In recent years an AI program wrote a novel that made it past the first round of a Japanese literary competition, and a new Harry Potter novel, created with the Botnik learning machine made waves in literary circles. While predictive text generators struggle with plot, dialogue, and overall sensibility, they do possess a remarkable ability to understand the underlying themes or ‘feel’ of the text they are fed.

Following is a short story about Spartan Race, courtesy of botnik and Hay Kranen text generators, and using available text from Joe De Sena’s “Spartan Up” along with Outside Magazine’s fantastic look at Joe and the farm.


He had always hated the muddy field with its smiling, slippery suffering, cold, pain. It was a place where he felt shocked.

He was a dirt drinker with soft arms and sculpted knees. His friends saw him a large leader. Once, he had even made a cup of tea for a fatigued blob. That’s the sort of man he was. I’ll elaborate on the short-circles; the great grease which perfectly proportioned the way life uses principles and builds a suffering!

Joe Desena, Spartan CEO

Joe slid over to the window for 30 days and reflected on his cold surroundings. “Why burpees?” Andy yelled from the survivors. The rain hammered the young children. “Exhaustion has them in the pond.” He laughed.

He saw wet goals in the distance. It was the figure of Spartan Race.  He was not prepared. Too easy.

Spartan stepped and came closer, firmly Joe could see the organic pools in his eye. “There’s a cabin in Vermont, but everything is stone at 4am.”

Spartan stared with the passion of 5686 tight-fisted quitters. He said, in hushed tones, “I love you and I want pain.”

Burpee Joe looked back, even more suffering and still fingering the heavy boulder. “Spartan, lose weight or die in Vermont,” he replied.

They looked at each other with tired feelings, like two concerned, comfortable losing at a very determined Wall Street Party, with Chinese music playing in the background and two smart teachers changing to the core.

Joe studied Spartan. He took an underwater breath. “Too bad,” began Joe, “Are you eating apples for 8 days long? I don’t feel the same way, and I never will.”

Spartan looked pained, his overtired emotions crawling like a substantial, sparkling spear.

Joe could hear Spartan’s emotions shatter into 705 pieces. Then the strong brute hurried away into the distance.

Not even a drink of dirt would calm his nerves tonight.

——

Racing, Burpees, and Misogi: a Three Year Update (Part One)

This past fall I traveled to the United Arab Emirates for the Inaugural Middle-Eastern Obstacle Course Championships.

I wasn’t particularly excited to be racing. Granted, there had been a time when I was really passionate about racing, back when I first stumbled upon the sport and subsequently caught the racing bug. Back then my goal was to be the best in the world at what I did, and a good deal of every day was spent either training, recovering from training, or thinking about training.

I thought about the sport constantly in those early days, but the sport did not think about me. I loved speed and trained that way, but the sport of obstacle racing was evolving toward sluggish, multi-hour mountain races. This left me with the occasional short course races and not much else. I had a brief stint with Spartan’s Pro Team and moved on. I would end up working far too much, meeting a Hungarian girl, and eventually following her to Europe.

My racing days were three years ago, ages in a sport spit-balling forward into the public’s eye as quickly as OCR. But I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a certain tickle, an itch in the back of my head. I tried to bury it and move on to new things. Still, it reemerged on an almost weekly basis.

Twice in the last three years I’ve attempted to scratch it.


The Championship took place well outside of Dubai, in the northeastern, mountainous section of the United Arab Emirates that bordered Oman. As we left Dubai behind there was no gradual transition from urban to rural. Instead, one moment we were in the awe-inspiring, meticulous city, and the next we were alone on a sand-strewn two-lane highway. To either side stretched seemingly unending dunes dotted with the occasional camel.

The novelist Wilfred Thesiger spent years wandering through this “Empty Quarter” of the desert in the 1940s. For months at a time the landless Bedouins he traveled with subsisted on nothing more than dried dates and camel milk. Dates, to me at least, seem to be about on par with sandpaper in terms of nourishment while in the throes of dehydration. And why would Thesiger, an affluent aristocrat, willfully spend extended amounts of time trying not to die out in these ever-changing sands?

Eventually British interests began to show interest in meeting with tribes, oil was found, rights were negotiated, and just like that, the massive silver city currently shrinking in our mirrors had sprung upward from the sand.


I drank strong, bitter coffee to stave off the jet lag while Halvord Borsheim, a Swedish racer based out of Dubai, slalomed his BMW SUV though sedentary early-morning traffic. His girlfriend Martha, also a racer, was co-piloting, but she was rehabbing and would be cheering instead of racing today. My brother, Brakken, had flown in from Milwaukee, and currently sat next to me, dozing.

This would be my second time racing here. I had flown out to Dubai in 2015 for the first Middle Eastern Spartan Race. It was a sprint to the finish, and I crossed the line thinking I had won. But my celebration was cut short when I saw Hallvard, medal around neck and banana in hand, waiting for me past the finish line.

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Given the brutal terrain and conditions, I was ecstatic with the 2nd-place finish. The rest of my week was spent wandering around the city in a sleep-deprived spell, jaw hanging at the sheer wonder of the place. I was new to racing, to traveling, to having giant checks handed to me, and everything felt like a dream.

Something clicked for me that during that trip. This was a thought that, simple as it was, would grow into a philosophy over the coming years. You see, I have good speed endurance (I once took a year and a half off from running, and for my very first day back, walked to a track and ran a half mile in 1:58) but my talent is not linear, and I’m actually quite average when it comes to pure aerobic, or endurance events. Had the Americans shown in 2015 I’d have taken 10th and gone home empty-handed. If the Europeans showed up I would have been lucky to take 20th. But only I had made the choice to show up, to sit on a plane for 16 hours, to race. This was the secret: talent is important in this world, but like it or not, it is finite and can only be improved so much. Circumstance, however, is entirely up to you.

This attitude began to bleed into other parts life. Identify a low-probability event, give yourself the skills to succeed in that situation were it to happen, and then finally, attempt to influence the odds of the said event occurring.

I wasn’t able to make it in 2016, but Brakken did fly out.  He took 2nd as well, but to a Russian this time, Sergei Perelygin.


It was morning, but in name only- the sun had already cleared the jagged mountains skirting the race grounds, and it was 93 degrees, well on its way to triple digits come race-time. I was thirsty by the time my warm-up was over.

Like most championships, this race would be the Beast distance, rumored to be in the 13-mile range. The first hour would consist of open desert running before moving into the mountains for the second hour. I’ve discovered that these races are typically less-obstacle intensive than US races, meaning shorter, lighter carries and crawls, but it was rumored that there were some intense carries and lengthy swimming sections in the 2nd half of the race.

I stood there at the start line, a good 15 pounds heavier than my racing days, minutes slower in the 5k, running a race 5 times longer than my ideal racing distance, wondering if I still had “it.”

But we’ll come back to “it” later. Because this story isn’t about that.

It’s really about the first time I attempted to scratch the itch, and more importantly, how I failed.


In 2016 I was invited to LA for the taping of a new TV show. The History Channel and Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor) were teaming up to expose everyday people to Special Forces training; somehow I had been chosen. Probably, if I’m going to be honest, because I’m the cheaper Kraker. I think Brakken might have been out in Atlanta filming a show with NBC at the time.

Nonetheless, work had become quite stressful and I needed a break, so I put in for vacation and flew out to sunny Valencia, California. I saw a fun week in the sun, some long rucks, probably some pushups and planks, and an easy paycheck ahead of me. As you’re probably aware of by now, the History Channel did not share these sentiments; they had very, very different ideas of what the weeks would be like.


Side-note: There’s a strange moment where everything changes. Where in a split instant a person, a normal, everyday person, goes from “Average Joe” to “PUBLIC FIGURE.” What this means essentially is that people now are allowed to say awful, unfiltered things to you on social media. We’ve seen people end up in this position, so I wasn’t unaware of what was coming.

Fast forward to the Thursday night the show, called “The Selection”, aired, and sure enough, the comments and messages began to stream in. People, especially veterans, seemed peeved – no, legitimately upset by what we had volunteered to do.

We were disrespecting the Special Forces and what they stood for by ‘playing pretend.’ We were embarrassingly weak. We were actually actors – heck, we probably hung out in heated trailers between takes. We were soft.

Soft. Now that’s a critique that stuck with me, and for good reason.


A few days before the show began the 40 or so of us participants were shuttled via 12-passenger vans to a small park outside of the city. It was a beautiful, sun-drenched California day and spirits were high. We’d been cooped up in a hotel room undergoing physical and psychological panels for the past 3 days and were ready to blow off some steam.

There in the parking lot we were split into groups of 20 and sent through the basic army PT tests. The first sign that I may have bitten off more than I could chew? I couldn’t hit the sit-up standard of 60 in 2 minutes. Here I was, surrounded by some massive, impressive human specimens, starting to regret my (non-existent) fitness.

We’d been given maps and orienteering to study, knots to tie, etc, to prep us for what was to come, but I put off going over the materials. There was no point preparing – things would most likely be fine, and if not, I would figure it out as challenges arose.

The show began and I was anything but fine. I struggled with the lack of sleep, the never-ending upper-body exercises; the planks, push-ups, log-carries, and of course the constant, wet, bone-chilling cold. An hour in I made up my mind to leave the set. Luckily, my ego wouldn’t allow that, but I’d already accepted my departure as inevitable.  But it wasn’t the physical pain, the tear gas, or the running that did me in.

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I began to feel myself losing my mental edge. We were given a very specific set of instructions summing up, among other things, communication with the instructors running the exercise. Before long I’d forgotten even the most basic one: the word “Instructor.” All I could think of, for hours on end, was the word “Inspector.” I kept my head down and tried to avoid any communication with the cadres, whose names were lost to me. I began to feel vulnerable. I didn’t trust myself, were I to be blindfolded, thrown in a box, tortured, or any other number of things. Would I have a rational reaction on camera, on national TV?

I’m externally motivated. This is great for showing up and overachieving come race day, but not so good for putting in work when the competition is gone and its time for a solo training session.

So what do you do when your external motivation decides to do the opposite, and blasts your face with a hose while telling you, rather explicitly, to quit? 
In my case, I listened.

Physically I was fine, but as I tried to find motivation it became clear I was lacking a “why” for being there.

One of the participants had cancer. He’d put off undergoing brain surgery to be here. Another had only ever wanted to serve his country, and he couldn’t imagine doing anything else in life. This was his moment to shine. But why was I here?

I never figured it out, so I stuck it out for 30 hours and then was gone, just like that, whisked off the set and to the airport for a return flight to Denver.

‘You’re Soft’ I had written, matter-of-factly, in a notebook while the plane took me east toward Denver. “Oh, it’s just an aftermath of being tear-gassed,” I fibbed to the flight attendant, who had seen my red eyes and inquired if everything was alright.

I touched down late that Sunday night, Ubered home from Denver, and slept for 12 hours. That next morning I opened Reddit to catch up on the last two weeks of news.  While browsing, I stumbled across an article from Outside magazine about Kyle Korver, one of the greatest NBA’s shooters ever, and his “Misogi”- inspired training.

Misogi is a Japanese term that refers to the Shinto ritual of full body washing, or cleansing. Korver’s training group referred to it in the physical sense: A difficult, borderline impossible task that served to strip one to the core, both physically and mentally. For their first Misogi, Korver and his training buddies paddle-boarded 27-miles across open water. The next year they upped the stakes, with an underwater, boulder-weighted, 5k relay.

Grantland explains:

“Each participant would dive down, find the rock, run with it as long as he could, and drop it for the next guy to find. Those waiting their turn wore weight belts and tread in water between five and 10 feet deep.

“It took five hours. ‘We were honestly worried about blacking out,’ Korver says. They were also worried about sharks.”

What about the aforementioned wanderer, Thiseger? A quote of his comes to mind, upon leaving a desert journey behind, one in which he’d been imprisoned by the Sultan of Saudi Arabia:

“No man can live this life and emerge unchanged. He will carry, however faint, the imprint of the desert, the brand which marks the nomad; and he will have within him the yearning to return, weak or insistent according to his nature. For this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can match.”

It hit me. Like Korver and Thesiger, l had been gifted an incredible opportunity: a chance to participate in my own Misogi. But I had walked away, no – I had quit, before allowing things to get bad. In doing so, I failed to capitalize on the experience.

This wasn’t my first time walking away from something. I dropped out of college with one semester remaining. I walked away from racing as I was just beginning to win the short distance races. Maybe there was a theme here.

Sports (and this type of experience) possess a fantastic ability to simulate the highs and lows of life while in a protected environment. How do you react when things go poorly? Who are you when you forget to wear your mask? Its why we stress athletics in children – this is not just playing, but high-stress character-building in a controlled environment.

This Misogi put me to a simulated rock bottom. It was time to fix myself.


Fix Yourself: A Two-Step Process to Physical Enlightenment

Step 1: Remember, explicitly, your thought process during and immediately after the event.

I know you’ve had lows; you’re a human, after all.  What did you think at that rock-bottom point?  “I hate myself when I overeat.” “I gossip too much.”

I used to watch the open heats at Spartan Races. You’re bound to spot someone having a really, really bad time out there. You’ve seen them. Wallowing in the mud, baggy t-shirt and basketball shorts being sucked off, or sitting off to the side on their own, taking deep, ragged breaths, eyes averted from passerby. What would happen when their race was over, once they had taken a hot shower and changed into fresh clothes, I wondered.  Did they take an Instagram photo, accompanied by a big smile and flexed biceps, throw a caption on the photo like “Crushed it” or #Beastmode, and move on with their life? Or did they, from time to time, remember what had really happened out there, the vulnerability they had felt? In my case, I pretended like it didn’t exist for far too long.

Write it down, write it all down and set it in stone explicitly while you’re still in the trenches of despair.

“Pain + Reflection = Progress,” says Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio.

Time is an optimist’s best friend, and we need to get these thoughts down before we begin to rationalize our choices, the passing months softening the rough edges of memories.

So I wrote it down. “You’re Soft.”

Step 2: Get Hard

Yes, I was weak mentally. But if I had the physical tools to succeed, would I still have struggled?

And how does someone become stronger? I decided to start with the basics. Take it back to square 1 and acquaint myself with heavy, painful movements that as a life-long distance runner, I had avoided like the plague for a variety of parroted misconceptions, including:

  1. “You’ll become too muscle-bound”
      1. and
  2. “You’ll injure yourself”

Enter the Burpee.

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.