Go Pound Gravel

Do the task or stay home

Foreword: It says alot about Matt B. Davis, and our entire ORM team, to support my inclusion in this media company. My writing can downright make OCR enthusiasts uncomfortable, and even angry at times; yet, Matt and team ORM support me because what I talk about is real. It’s real stuff, really happening, and that we all see, in a sport we all know and love. It doesn’t always create feelings of sunshine and kittens, but ORM understands the importance and value of artistic freedom, rather than buckling under the pressure of just wanting to be liked among our community peers.

Love it or hate it, our unique content is what separates us from the handfuls of promo-code pimps, and I’ll champion for artistic freedom over popularity, any day of the week.

Lack of Athletic Integrity

Awhile back, I wrote an article about cheating in obstacle races, and more specifically, the huge number of participants not performing their burpee penalties when failing an obstacle during a Spartan Race.

“Oh, I’m sorry, you’re under-trained and 20 lbs overweight? by all means, skip the penalty, here’s your participation token for a job almost well done.”

“And by the way, see that dude with one leg, a ruck sack, and full fatigues? Sucks for him, too, but he did it.”

Do the Task or Stay Home

Now, recently, we’ve all seen the image floating around Facebook of the dude I like to affectionately refer to as, “Gravel Guy” – the dude who empties his bucket in what appears to an effort to make the challenge easier.

Spartan Race Cheater "gravel guy"

And once again, this topic of participation integrity comes up in the social sphere, and also once again, I have some very strong opinions on this topic; HOWEVER, I most want to address some of our community’s response to the post.

“And Go…”

I am proud to call Margaret Schlachter, of the popular OCR blog community, Dirt in your Skirt, a friend; and, I believe it may have been her that posted the image first. She made no judgement at the time, just linked to the image, and simply said, “And go…”

And people did.

Facebook Spartan cheat post

However, what struck me the most was the OCR community’s response to such actions. First, one must assume, as did almost all the respondents, that the participant did this in an effort to make the task easier, and thus cheat. Making this same assumption, I would like to randomly address some of the comments that resulted from the image.

“I always say its your race worry about your actions.”

Or another, “Why does it even matter? It’s his race. You’re not running to beat him. You don’t know his story or struggles. “

It’s not your race. It’s not my race. The race has a race owner, director, and the format has very specific, written rules, regarding participant conduct. I believe this comment to be indicative of the “I paid my entry fee, I can do whatever I want” culture. It has no place in OCR, nor sport at all.

His story and struggles are again not relevant. The rules of sport and participation do not change based on your personal circumstances, interpretations or whims of the moment.

“unless in competitive wave, the experience is personal”

What??? So, if someone doesn’t pay the extra money for the first wave, they are not competitive? How exactly do we define who is competitive and who is not? See above. The experience might be personal to you, but its not your race to do whatever you want.

“No one here can judge him.”

From a sporting perspective, he absolutely can be judged. For an athlete to be disqualified in legitimate sport, there is first a case made for the infraction, both sides share their perspective, and a “judge” decides whether or not the athlete will be disqualified or penalized. If I see a photo of a participant cheating an obstacle, I feel perfectly justified to judge that action as such.

He might be as sweet as a pecan sandy, as a person, but he’s cheating an obstacle in athletic competition.

“You people need to find something better to do with your time! Be supportive, not rude!”

Seriously? Be supportive of what exactly? cheating? taking a shortcut? displaying poor athletic integrity?

I get it. There are some topics that fire people up, and some that just don’t have that same effect. But as someone who believes strongly in athletic integrity, I’m glad some of us are taking the time to share the perspective that cheating, and tolerance of such, puts a black eye in the game for everyone.

“This post could be very embarrassing for them and they might not come back into the game.”

So what? Then dude shouldn’t have emptied his bucket in front of official photographers. Hopefully, the lesson learned for dude was not to cheat. If he wants to continue to cheat, then I hope he, they, whoever, don’t come back.

In trail racing, if you are caught cutting the course, you will be DQ’d. Plain and simple.

If you purposely dump your bucket in a Spartan Race, thus “course cutting” your obstacle challenge by choice, you should be DQ’d.

A Simple Concept.

It makes me crazy that this is such a difficult concept for some in our community to grasp, and especially when you consider the roots of OCR, and the strong influence of police, fire and military conduct.

Do the task or stay home.

Can’t do the task? Do your burpees. Take your lumps. Go home, learn the task, and come back to fight another day.

It’s that simple.

That’s not just a lesson in OCR, that’s the basic premise of living a successful life.

Cheating is universally unacceptable in sport.

OCR should be no different.


Cranky Bastard

…And I race obstacles.

No, I’m not a mud runner. I am an obstacle racer.

Yes, it matters; and yes, there is a difference.

I love the sport, love racing and love being part of this fast-growing community we call obstacle course racing, but I can’t help but pick out everyday examples that I find odd, inconsistent or contrary to the true vibe of the sport of OCR, as I see it.

Cranky Bastard articles are full of arrogance, elitest, prima donna attitude, but hopefully, plenty of points to make those in our community think, and perhaps drive change where change is needed.

Latest posts by Cranky Bastard (see all)

  1. Thanks, Cranky! I’m glad I earned my Cranky Bastard Participation Token without cheating.

  2. People are just talking about the guy, but look at the others, they appear to be cheating too. Front woman has the bucket on her shoulders even though we are told, NO SHOULDERS.

    Second woman is just using her fingers. Appears the light is hitting it just right so that you can see into the bucket, and there is almost nothing in it.

    They should print this pic and post it at the obstacle so people see what “not” to do.

  3. Question is….. did he do his 30 burpees?? If he did alot of folks owe him an apology and if he didnt… then DQ him and anyone else not willing do pay the price when you dont complete the obstacles !!!!!

  4. When I was searching through the Miami Super pictures I saw at least 4 participants that did not even have a bucket.Now maybe they did the burpees before hand, don’t know. But to flat out empty out the bucket.. SMH!

  5. Thank you! Now is Spartan going to do something about it??? We all struggle, but do it or fail and if you fail do the Burpees…the right way and keep moving! Why should I get the same medal as you if you didn’t do all the work I did??? Thank you!

  6. Stick to running “fun” runs like the Warrior Dash if you are going to cheat.

  7. So….most of the folks doing these races are trying to create part of the feeling of accomplishment that members of the military get when they accomplish difficult tasks. Part of that feeling comes not only from personal accomplishment but in the camaraderie with others that have accomplished the same task. Cheaters disrupt the process, not just for themselves. They lay claim to a fraternity that they do not belong to. Be honest with yourself… The sport of obstacle racing came from a desire to create a microcosm of the military fraternity in a group of racers. If you can’t do it…well don’t do it. I run marathons and ultra marathons with a blind veteran. We don’t cut the course. If someone has special challenges, etc.. do the event at your own speed or don’t do it, but don’t cheat. If you don’t like it. Pound sand up your arse. Cheers, Doom

  8. In OR the course varies from race to race. The obstacles change. You can’t compare your performance in sprint a to sprint b. All you can do to judge your finishing position against a similar field from a previous of different race. If you CAN’T do this it may as well not be timed at all. I pay for a TIMED race. There are other, very well produced and popular ‘Experience’ events out there. Go to Mudder or DQ YOURSELF if you can’t complete the course. You are stealing MY experience, the one which I paid for, from me.

    I ran the Vermont Spartan Beast on Sunday this past year. I saw more cheaters than I can wrap my head around. I saw people walk away from a gravel carry that took 20 minutes. These people placed higher than me. They robbed me of my finishing place. That was a brutal day make no mistake. I was on the verge of quitting for a few hours. I had PTSD from it. Seriously. As many people finished as didn’t. Id warrant that 25% of the finishers cheated. I finished in 7:13:00. It was a legit time. 291st*. With an asterisk because I was beat by cheaters.

    Until Spartan and OR in general gets control of this issue this can never be a legitimate sport. period.

    1. PTSD? From a race? Not only are you possibly the most dramatic person I’ve ever heard of, but you are spitting in the face of all those who truly struggle or struggled with PTSD. This isn’t a forum to brag about how tough you are or to make up ridiculous claims in order to get some small feeling of accomplishment. And really, PTSD from a race??? Common now…

      1. You are correct. I apologize. Technically I may be correct but it is in bad taste.

        Lacking a better term it is what I wrote. Let me put it this way… I was in WAY over my head, I am not in good enough shape to complete that event without suffering for a while after it. It was grueling and left me a mess for weeks after. I will admit I cried… I didnt walk correctly much less run correctly for weeks. I came away with appetite control issues (which I have never had before) and my sleep was a disaster. All that said… I’m not tough and I’m not bragging. It was hard for me but I did it.

        They get the same medal, they get their time in the roles… it is a better time than mine and I feel like they took something from me. It pissed me off then and still aggravates me.

        In hindsight yes… overly dramatic. I don’t think I am the most dramatic person you have ever of heard. Calling me out as that might be a being a bit overly dramatic. Irony on purpose? Irony none the less.

    2. People cheated like crazy last year in the Virginia Super… cut the course.

  9. I absolutely agree that one should not cheat in any kind of physical event. That it not only lessens their experience, but in a way it cheapens it for every one around them. With that being said, did anyone stop to think that this migjt actually be the dump spot for the stone in this task? There appears to be a fair amount of gravel laid out in this area. The lady in front of him clearly has an empty bucket. And the guy is not dumping his bucket as to loose a few pounds. He is emptying it. Now I was not at this event so I can’t truly say that this is the case, but it very well may be. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one (until proven otherwise). But if he is cheating, as many people do at these events, then they are not pushing them selves and frankly are wasting the money they spent on these events.

  10. All points are valid, but all this crying and whining isn’t going to change anything. You have OCR 5k that call themselves hardcore and extreme this sport has a cloud of “not serious” over it. Spartan race wait i’m sorry Reebok Spartan Race is loosing their own integrity by trying to be more successfully, by being appealing to the masses and make it an olympic sport, and they should be able to, so they can stay in the game. How many small OCR races get canceled cause of funding. Look around the next time and ask yourself does this look like a legitimate racing wave I’m in except for the elite heat, NO. There will be a melting pot of participants, ones who want to compete to the highest level, some you want to see how they do, and others who thought it was a joke or their friend said lets do it, put no work into it and is kicking themselves in the arse the entire time. Lets not forget, that these events having a strong volunteer involvement. Keyword volunteer, and who knows why they are volunteer but I’m sure its to just get a free race for themselves or someone else, but you think some guy/girl who is beat and exhausted cause they bite off more then they can chew is going to care when some volunteer says you cheated do burpees.

    For example the ignorance of the sport with The walls, the 8feet and up, some say you can’t use the little step they will have, i was racing around one of the main guys (can’t remember his name but he design 2012 ultra beast course) and he told the volunteer that you could, whats the difference between using the step and having someone hoist you, i would think the step is harder. Technically anyone who can get up the wall themselves should do burpees, that would basically be at 75% of the entires. Every obstacle has its advantages and disadvantages for each participants. Each participant has its own advantages and disadvantages, its part of what makes the sport so great. The shorter athletes, the taller ones, the heavier ones. Should they break it down but age, height, and weight. Is it the same as a 5’5 guy getting to the wall as a 6’2 guy so that way everyone is being JUDGED fairly. Is it fair that the shorter guy flips the tire then the taller one, or climb the rope and has more reps to get to the top. Think its fair that one guy who is 40lbs heavier then the other. The whole things has advantages and disadvantages through out it.

    The obstacles are hardly ever the same for each, not only is it a physical challenge, but there is a mental aspect to it as well. Certain techniques that make completing them more efficient and you have to take a moment and figure out which of the obstacle you want to do, some tires are bigger then others and sand bags bigger then others. So right there you will always be cheating since not every one went the same path, there is a level of chance in this sport. Hobie had a great article on this matter in regards to the gladiators and it being an olympic sport.

    Speaking of chance, as far as Spartan, i did it again Reebok Spartan Race goes, they are known for throwing surprises at you, sabotages obstacles or changing things up last minute to keep you on your toes. So if they are willing to sabotage the obstacles doesn’t that in itself take away from the integrity of the actually obstacle. I know its the whole life isn’t fair aspect that they are trying to pull, so isn’t this guy who is dumping his bucket and carrying own and getting a better time then you part of the life isn’t fair. Don’t be mad at him, be made at all the other racers not saying something. A lot of cheating happens in life, but the bigger problem is no one every stopping someone from doing so.

    Lets not forget, that a lot of Reebok Spartan Races are difficult, not because of the obstacles and/or penalties but because of the terrain, you took these races of ski resorts then you basically have any other ocr racing event with penalties.

    I personally treat these things as a workout, i wear a 45lb vest, i’ll carry two sand bags instead of one, drag two or three cement blocks because i want a workout, i want to see how far i can push myself. I use the course as a platform and i add my own challenges to see how well i can do. When else do you have a chance to do something like this. Where do you have walls among walls, and such. Thats the beauty of these events, not everyone can practice flipping tires and climbing walls, but you do exercises that will help you complete those and you get to see your progress.

    My desire for OCR is starting to dwindle because of such a pompous attitude among these athletes who compete in it.

    Unless you are competing with the elites and going up against them in a whole wave, stop acting like you are elite.

    Get back to work, training, and your own life.

    1. One more thing in regards to the seriousness of these precious sport.

      Until Time Limits are placed, then it can never be fully considered to be competitive throughout the day except for the elite heat. If someone can have the entire day to complete the sprint then really ask yourself if what i participate is as hardcore and extreme as i really wish it was.

      1. sorry one more thing to all you non elite serious competitors. It could be considered an unfair advantage for you speedier people to race in a non elite wave. By this I mean,

        If you are among your own level, you are jockeying for space and battling throughout, which could effect your time. If you race in a wave that your level is far superior, you will have an unfair advantage because you would have a more open path on the course and less traffic on an obstacle.

        This sport has too many variables involved. Hence for it to ever be an olympic sport, you have to take the mud out, which is why spartan has their stadium series.

        A olympic OCR will look like a weaker strongman competition mixed in a cross fit competition with more running.

          1. @blydawg & SandiG

            Thank you for the comments, both of you. And Travis, while I simply do not see things the same way that you do, I do appreciate that you added your own perspective to the discussion. Makes for good reading for the community, and helps others weigh each consideration, and determine their position on this and other similar topics.

            Where I do want to clarify though is in regard to whether or not this dude is actually cheating. There is some chatter floating around that he wasn’t cheating and that this is a dump zone. There is also chatter ensuring that it is not a dump zone, and the dude is in fact, lightening the load.

            If he was, in fact, in the right, I will apologize for making him an example of cheating in OCR, but I won’t apologize for my frustration, and continuation of bringing this topic to light, with all the cheating that goes on in the sport. At some point and time, RDs will get serious about this, or the sport will go nowehere and continue to degradate into “anything goes” events of wallowing around in some mud.

            But whatever the actual situation happens to be, you’ll notice I was most interested in discussing the community’s response to the image, with of course, the implied assumption that he was in fact taking a challenge short-cut. That is my frustration. More than this particular dude, my frustration is centered around the fact that a large majority of those in our community do not either individually feel, and/or don’t expect other participants to feel, a “code of honor” as it pertains to sport.

            I don’t know if this is because OCR participation contains a large number of those without an athletic background (therefore no significant athletic conduct frame of reference), or if that we have become so lame (my words only) as a society, that this kind of implied conduct just doesn’t mean anything anymore except at what is considered “elite” levels.

            I sure hope it’s not the latter.

            For most people, this is becoming a “beating a dead horse thing.” I get that. Especially, if you are hung up on this particular example only; but I have seen soooo much cheating in the sport and I find it disgusting. I believe it is blatant disrespect to the race, the rules, the other participants, and the individual themselves.

            I simply believe sport should be played as the rules have been dictated by the event, and if someone makes the decision to participant in sport, they recognize a personal responsibility to give each and every element of that sport their very best attempt, follow the rules, and pay the penalties if they cannot do either.

  11. I did do this race in Miami…that was NOT the dump spot! Margaret posted the pic and simply said “And go! “….and she caught a shit storm for it! She later posted an apology for offending anyone… I say BS…Every comment that called it like it was…CHEATING. ..was warranted and deserved no apology. For all of you bleeding hearts who believe “everyone deserves a medal just for showing up”…take your opinions and mediocrity to fun run or challenge. ..not Spartan RACE!! No one said you had to compete at a Spartan Race or any other timed, competitive race. That’s exactly why Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder exists!

  12. Maybe the obstacle beat him & he did burpees at the end.
    Sure condem cheating, but the pic isn’t cheating it’s failure. If he returns his bucket empty he gets burpees. That’s not cheating, in fact it’s within the rules.

  13. I’ve seen this picture repeatedly on many different sites. I have not seen a single one that has indicated that they got *his* side of the story? We all assume he is cheating. Is it at all plausible he was also carrying the bucket on his shoulder (even though he wasn’t supposed to), and it fell, just as the picture was being taken? Making it appear as if he was dumping his bucket?

    Why do we assume the worst? I would like to hear his side.

  14. Everyone is so butthurt. This is unbelievable. You know what, your race, your “rankings”, mean less than that guy’s pile of rocks. The pile of rocks is real. Your little mud runs mean less than nothing in the scheme of things, and Rock Man’s pile will be there long after you are not.

  15. Like i said, you point is valid, your feelings are valid.

    The problem with OCR is, the underlying fog that weighs over it that its just fun and goofy. This all starts with it being involved with MUD and BEER and people dressed up in costumes. When you advertise those three elements as proudly and freely its going to attract a wide range of people. Not saying Reebok Spartan does that but unfortunately when multiple parties are taking part, then it leaves a stigma on the whole common field. You ask the majority of people who aren’t serious, they wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between a tough mudder or spartan race or what the difference between the two are.

    There are 5k mud runs that talk about being hardcore and extreme. Most of these companies last a year or even don’t get to even put their event on because it falls through. So with the hardcore and extreme being thrown around to attract racers looking for the bigger and badder race, those terms have lost their true meaning.

    I’ve done a fair share of obstacle races, ranging from small timers, to tough mudders to spartan races. I’ve done all 3 WTM and both Ultra Beast. I’ve seen the sport grow incredibly that it now has begun to feel like a fad cause its growing so fast and anyone thinks they can put up walls dig some holes and fill it up with water can have a mud run. This sport has broken me and built me and i love it for it, and it keeps bringing me back.

    Out of all the events I have done, i have yet to see a rulebook, sure they are your common rules, but never anything on exactly how a obstacle has to be done and completed. Yes a lot of obstacles should be common sense and have one way of completed it, but if this world was full of people with common sense we would all have a lot less to worry about. But in terms of the form needed to complete the obstacle is never been documented before. Who says you cant put the bucket on the shoulder. where is the line in the bucket to show where to fill it up. Climbing the slanted walls, some people use the side post, and some don’t. at 2013 WTM they said you could use the side post to help get up the wall, but in a way it felt like cheating.

    The beauty of an obstacle no matter in life, or during a race is getting past it, by any means at times. But because its a competition, there should be certain regulations and forms that must be honor if you are going to judge and be judged. This does not exist, and it should. I should not have to hear it from a volunteer, who as far as i know, has no idea what they are talking about. Because from my experience, same race, same obstacles at different locations have volunteers saying different things.

    There is another side to all this, take pride that guy dump the bucket, because its hard, and it takes a strong person mentally and physical to complete it. That maybe that was a gut check for him, that he needed to fail, to give up, to realize that he can be that much better if you works for it. You think he walk away from that feeling like a man and a beast. I doubt it, you think he was thinking about your ranking and your time. He was thinking, i feel like a big b!tch right now because i had to give up. His face looks miserable, enough said. I hope no one feels great when they can’t complete an obstacle. Some people know their limitations, and some at least try, but i doubt anybody walks away feeling proud.

    I myself have turned into a human stair case to allow men and women to step on me to ensure they get over that wall, or hurdle whatever it maybe. Not only is it good karma, but the gratuity goes a long way.

    “You know at the finish line”, doesn’t just mean that you finish and you are awesome and the bomb diggity. It also means that you NOW have an idea of what it takes to get to this finish line. That maybe you have been brought to your worst or beaten and now can truely bring yourself back up. I have failed more times then i have succeeded, but i continue to try to succeed and you have to try to get there, and if you fail, try again and continue till you can’t try any longer.

    But until we ditch the costumes, the beer, and stop making Mud look so glamorous, you will continue to get people who to some will question the integrity of the sport because of the perception the sport carries.

    So all we can do is, teach and motivate others who are not informed. Take responsibility on the course to push your fellow competitor to excel and not give up through encouragement and not insults. I bet if someone was with him, encouraging him, he wouldn’t have dumped, but not everyone can find their true strength on their own. Don’t forget that everyones success will only help yours. Most of all lets hope the race directors take care of the rest.

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