*Hello, naughty monkeys. This is actually two posts, focusing on WHY a person -competitive or not- might focus on Obstacle Course Races like Spartan, WHY CrossFit, WHY - in a sedentary, obese culture particularly - millions of people are making that CHOICE, and WHY that is AWESOME NEWS for the world today.
PART II: Obstacle Racing. "n=1"
Strangely enough, I got my start in obstacle racing in 1996 during my ill-fated attempt at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, BUD/S Class 207. (**Please note that I did not graduate from SEAL training but I DID get to change my life COMPLETELY in a few months of the daily physical training, including the first few days of Hell Week, before continuing my navy career as a 'regular' sailor and college student out in the pineapple fields of O'ahu, Hawai'i). At the Naval Special Warfare Center on the sandy beach of Coronado, California you will find the "O Course". Some dreaded it. Personally, I immensely enjoyed the challenge of beating my PR on the O Course, and usually had one of the fastest times out of our 100+ person class. For a 1st-person helmet cam video of the entire O-course that we raced weekly, check out the video below:
It was not until twelve years later, after years spent focusing on Adventure Racing, Ironman and bike racing that I was able to enjoy "racing" an obstacle course again at the 2008 Sea Otter Classic's "Adventure" Mountain Bike Duathlon in Monterey (also ill-fated, when I went off the front on the opening run, only to lead the race off-course and out of contention!)
After focusing on adventure racing, Ironman and bike racing from 2008-10, in 2011 I did two enormously fun but un-timed Tough Mudder events in Vail, Colorado and Lake Tahoe, California, and qualified for the "World's Toughest Mudder", a 24 hour non-stop event where you complete as many 10 mile obstacle course laps as possible, in a wetsuit, in freezing temperatures, in New Jersey. YES! Right up my alley!
The timing was not right in 2011 to train properly for a shot at winning, due to some work/life changes and moving from Boulder to Santa Barbara, so I decided to skip the WTM in 11. I pressed "pause" on the obstacle racing journey as other areas of my life took precedence. I knew I would have to get to the WTM eventually, since I felt well-suited to compete given my love for obstacle racing, years of experience in 24 hour non-stop Adventure Racing and trail running. Plus, this is my idea of "fun"!
For my re-entry to Obstacle Racing, I picked a short race to get re-acquainted, and then a couple longer events that are more in my "wheelhouse". I will be racing in the Elite wave of the Spartan Beast (13 mile) Race in Monterey, Spartan ULTRA Beast (26+ miles) in Killington Ski Resort, Vermont in September, and the World's Toughest Mudder (24hrs of nonstop laps around a 10 mile Obstacle course) in Englishtown, New Jersey in November.
The shortest races, like the 13 mile Spartan BEAST in Monterey will be an even greater challenge for me than the ultra-distance races, paradoxically, due to the faster pace. This will be excellent opportunity to get out of my "comfort zone" (double entendre/pun intended). In Monterey I will be looking to get my feet wet and learn the Spartan Obstacles, and also get a baseline reality-check for my fitness before the Ultra Beast in Vermont.
My wife Alla is also racing the Monterey BEAST race in a later start wave. We are both pretty fired up about taking on the challenge. The opportunity to travel to a fun event like this with Alla is a game-changer. She was not about to train for an Ironman, Adventure Race, Time Trial, Ultramarathon or 100 mile mountain bike race that I used to do pretty often, so this is a unique experience we can share and relate to together.
In all of these races I will be competing against some FAST short-distance athletes, but I have a huge advantage in the areas of nutrition/fueling and pacing these types of events. Is that enough to bridge the gap? Will my shoulder be ready? My wrist? I plan on training as smart and hard as possible to make that happen. I will be competing with the best racers in the sport of Obstacle Racing, and they will all have 10x the specific OCR experience that I'll bring to the table. Those poor odds are what excites me the most.
Personally, the rebuilding process in 2013 is designed to prepare me for the 2014 Peak Death Race, which will be my "A" event for 2014. If you have never heard of The Death Race, all you need to know is the URL for the race is www.youmaydie.com ...not you "might" die, but you MAY die. More on the Death Race next time.
As much as I'm laser-focused on my own fitness and performance, I'm also working on bringing "newbies" to the sport, who might find it life-changing, and on the other end of the spectrum more talent from the similar sports of mountain ultra running and adventure racing into the sport of OCR. Currently there are a handful of very fast trail runners competing in the sport (as their main focus) at the shorter distances, but I believe that with the prize money offered and great FUN these race offer, in less than 1-2 years this talent pool will become much deeper. More and more of my ultra-friends are following a CrossFit or Gym Jones training program for General Physical Preparedness/GPP and are seeing good results and fewer injuries. I predict the longer events will start to draw "experienced, unafraid newbies" such as CrossFitting Adventure Racers, triathletes and ultra runners looking for a new challenge. It's happening already.
PART III: CULTURE SHIFT
"We Can Save This One!"
In August 2001, while racing the Discovery Channel Adventure Racing World Championships across Switzerland (St. Moritz to Zermatt, running, hiking, paddling, moutnaineering nonstop), Spartan Race co-founder Joe De Sena was racing on a friend's team, and our teams shared a couple pre-race meals and post-race beers together. Who would have thought that a little over a decade later he would have created a sport that now has more participants than marathons or triathlon in the USA?
Joe, the Spartan Race organization and I seem to be on the same page when it comes to the real "meaning" of a Spartan lifestyle and how it can change lives, and hence the world today. There are far too many sedentary people wasting their lives away. Sometimes, everyone in their inner circles is doing the same. I believe these people are worth saving. It's not unlike pushing a beached whale back into the ocean, pardon the expression. Sometimes it's a kick in the ass, words of encouragement, or a reality-check that they are not just wasting their genetic potential but slowly dying. It boils down to accountability and a big decision. Anyone can make the decision to get off the couch and lose 20, 50, 100 or even 500lbs (just ask Chris Davis...video below). Joe and Spartan Race have created an 'arena', community, "traveling road show" where people all over the country can thoroughly challenge both their will and physical fitness.
I'm fired up about the explosive growth in the sport of obstacle racing - and CrossFit - and what it means to our society.
People are walking into their CrossFit gym, or getting their race number marked on their FOREHEAD at a Spartan Race, because they have ACCEPTED A CHALLENGE. This contrasts greatly with the typical sedentary, comfortable way of life today where people avoid leaving their comfort zones and physical challenges of any kind. You can even find these people at the gym! They can be found on the elliptical machine, set at level 2, reading a magazine article about "fitness" or doing biceps curls in the squat rack for Pete's sake. Yes, you can also find these people walking through a marathon, consuming 4,000 calories of pure sugar. When the doctor tells them they have Type 2 Diabetes, they all wonder how this is possible if they exercise "so much"...
TOO MANY people are sleep-walking through life today.
Time for Change.
The fact that millions of people in America alone are excited about the benefits of eating a Paleo diet, FIRED UP ABOUT CHALLENGING THEMSELVES in CrossFit, Obstacle Races or other events is one of the best things happening in our country today. It's a culture shift, and a revolution. If more people can get off their butts and get excited about exercising while eating real (Paleo for example) food that does not come in a BOX or have an ingredient list, we all benefit. Healthier, stronger, happier humans.
People are fired up about obstacle racing because it's FUN, EXCITING, and A LITTLE BIT SCARY to most participants. Quite the opposite of a sedentary "WALL-E" type life. Many of these same people are also graduating from their Globo-Gym 24 Hour Fitness "bicep curls, bench and machines" memberships and actually TRAINING in a CrossFit or similar "box". People just like you, your sister, your GRANDMOTHER are now ATHLETES IN TRAINING. They're training for *life*. At the CrossFit Games last week, you saw a STADIUM filled with 20,000 spectators SCREAMING for WOMEN'S OLYMPIC LIFTING! Do you know what that is?
This is a revolution.
If you're reading this, I will call you "Dude Number One" I bet you are part of the Revolution, and you are already eating clean, Charging Life, training your ass off, balancing out your life and your bloodwork is awesome. You and your children are probably healthier, stronger and happier than any previous generation. You're making the most of your God-given genetic potential, and your positive, healthy energy probably impacts every are of your your life, and the lives of your peers, in a positive way. You make sacrifices and leave blood and sweat on the gym floor or trails to make this happen. It's not easy...and that's why it is so damn satisfying. You've been "over the hump" for some time and you're living the lifestyle, the dream.
If you are not like "Dude Number One", realize you Can Be. There is nothing special about Dude Number One. They just made a choice. They decide to eat a nutrient-dense rathter than energy-dense diet, and they exercise as part of their lifestyle. Right now it is not too late, but why waste another day? 90% of the battle is what you choose to put in your mouth. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The fitness part of the equation can come from intense workouts under 45 minutes total, several times per week. This is a decision you can make RIGHT NOW. This minute. Give yourself a chance to succeed. Start with a 30 day Challenge that focuses on your food choices. Mark it on your calendar.
Maybe you don't even realize you are part of the majority of TV-watching, processed-food eating, sleep-walkers destined (currently) for a life of Type 2 and Type 3 Diabetes (Alzheimer's Disease), cardiovascular disease, while the Fittest pay your bills and your children take care of you like an infant for the dreadful 10-20yrs at the end of your wasted life? You're probably just doing what the people on TV tell you to do or your doctor told you (food pyramid, S.A.D/Standard American Diet). Ask him how much training he or she had on nutrition, and when that happened.
How is that working out for you? This is a choice. It sure is comfortable on that couch, with excuses listed on the door, isn't it? Trust me, there is nothing comfortable about slowly dying from diabetes complications while your family struggles to pay your bills. Diabetes is NO JOKE. All too often it is the easy path of least resistance that leads you to the Hell that is diabetes, obesity and CV disease.
If you believe you cannot do it alone, you're probably right. That's OK You are making some radical changes for the better, and that isn't going to be easy. Join a CrossFit box, and you will have the accountability factor built-in where you cannot practice poor form, miss a single rep or second of any workout, and the intensity of your workout is going to be much greater than what you'll do at home with some "P90X" infomercial. It should not be too hard to get a group from your gym to enter a Spartan Race or something similar in your area. Don't be surprised when there are 10,000 people at your event. They're not all "elite athletes" racing for the win..they're all just people, who made a choice. They are racing against who they were yesterday.
Maybe simply losing 30lbs, climbing a local mountain, a power lifting or olympic weightlifting meet or swimming across the local bay is your challenge of choice. It doesn't matter. Pick something physically just out of reach currently, use the internet or your CrossFit box to find like-minded people, and make it happen.
If you decide now and take action, you can do it. Tell your friends and family your goal and timeline. That way you will have both positive and negative consequences for achievement of your goal, and support along the way. Write it down. Post it on the wall. Focus on taking it to completion. When you start to feel weak, like you just can't do it, like you're not capable, watch this video about Kyle Maynard and then get back to me.
Assess your current reality.
Pick your Dream Goal.
With your coach, Develop & Follow a Fitness & Nutrition Plan.
Check your bloodwork regularly (the proof is in the...blood!)
Believe & Visualize Success Constantly.
Every day, do the work.
Realize 90% of the battle is what you eat.
Constantly visualize success: Big enough "WHY" = a "HOW".
Surround Yourself with Winners & Teachers.
Don't give up.
Live the Dream.
Pass it on to as many people as possible.
CrossFit Level 1, Goal-Setting, Endurance, Mobility