Mac’s Muddy Mailbag

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

bazu-4671787

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Didn’t we ban that word?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was a Pokemon reference. 

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

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

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

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

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

Even regular posters are affected.

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

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

And finally, our last question of the week:

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

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

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

Here’s how it would go down:

1. Hire actor

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

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

3. Recite script:

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

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

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

4. Watch people panic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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McCauley

Runner / Writer at Blue Highways
McCauley is a former runner based out of Hungary.
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Comments

  1. RANDY BRACE says:

    Good stuff as usual. The selfie-nation goes hand in hand with the clowns that dress in silly garb, paint faces, have “mudsticles” Or some similar nonsense in their Facebook name, paint their faces… There is an inordinate amount of attention-whoring and self-assigned nicknames in OCR for some reason (goes hand in hand with all the drama in some of these OCR Facebook groups… FFS, I have 2 small kids at home, I know childish drama when I see it) Seem to be a lot of the same people who attention-whore at the front of the competitive heat starting lines just to get in the photo shoot, before damn near collapsing before the one mile mark. Ask Brakken about the start line in Milwaukee this weekend. It was 2 heats packed full of people who would be nothing but obstacles in the chairs before Robert used some common sense and made room for competitive racers in the first heat. I hate the idea of making people qualify for the elite heat, but I like the idea better than just having anyone pay a few bucks and jump into the front of the starting line and create a problem for legit competitors.

  2. RANDY BRACE says:

    One other thing… It seems to me the mandatory obstacle completion results in harder obstacles. Burpees are about a 2-3 minute penalty… Failing an upper body obstacle several times can cost you half an hour if not having your timing chip cut. Harsh? Maybe. It’s hard to say. I think the right answer is somewhere in the middle. In short distance races, burpees are a big penalty, but not THAT significant in a 3 hour race., for example.

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