I'm LaShay Marks, and I approve this statement:
“All the so called elites need to stop whining and complaining about the Spartan Race ‘fairness' of obstacles. I'm pretty sure Joe De Sena would say STFU!”
Over the past month I've read rants on Facebook about athletes choosing the lightest logs or sandbags, and how their (perceived) advantage is unfair to other athletes, and sniveling about every possible obstacle that had any variable. After dozens of OCR's, I'm used to hearing these complaints from newbies and those training hard to get better in the sport like myself. That these recent social media rants have been written by OCR Elites totally blows my mind – reading what accounts to snivelling from the top athletes that I look up to in this sport is not only disheartening, it only serves to rip the capes off these superheroes. One of the most prolific rants was Charles “Jazz” Vassallo's (Editor's note: Jazz is a writer for Mud Runide, competitor on OCR Warrior, and a good friend of the Mud Run Guide staff) Spartan Race Super ar Wintergreen, VA that started vaguely enough:
“Funny how when NBC cameras are around, what Spartan Race turns a blind eye to. First place female did maybe 10 burpees on the money bars and no DQ. One podium male was allowed to carry the female log through the obstacle. May have changed the game today.” – Jazz Vassallo
It devolved into verbal sparring about which logs were heavier, who was cheating, and a whole lot of finger-pointing by some of the best of the best Spartan Race pros, officials, fans, and a whole bunch of individuals who were clearly uninvolved that just wanted to pile on. In short, a Facebook flame-war that didn't seem to accomplish anything aside from rubbing many nerves raw. Big props to Juliana Sproles, who jumped into the fray and acted as an official (because, she WAS a race official for Spartan at the event) to cool things down a bit.
Jazz's dissention didn't seem to initially be meant as finger-pointing, atlthough that's the way it was taken by many he vaguely called out. It clearly seemed that his intention was to shine a spotlight on the shortcomings of Spartan Race as a fair, uniform race with rules, penalties, a point structure, and conformity from obstacle to obstacle.
I take offense to the notion that an OCR should be homogenized, but more on that later.
All was OK in OCR-land (at least on Facebook) until Junyong Pak's 9/26 rant* about Spartan Race Championship and how he inspected the obstacles and certain ones weighed more than the others, or logs were different. (Editor's Note: Junyong Pak is a good friend of Mud Run Guide and OCR Warrior competitor)
“As I was reflecting and perusing photos from this weekend's Reebok Spartan Race World Championships, I couldn't help but visibly notice the lack of standardization in a race where so much was on the line. Spartan Race, I do sincerely love your events and believe you guys put on some of the most difficult and awesome physical sporting events in the entire world… this is a constructive piece of criticism that I've been distilling with my observations over the past few years with the growth of this company and sport. Every race, I am constantly observing like a hawk. Many times I go back on course to obstacles to see if there are glaring differences, and there are always way too many. Some differences (like tire flips or tire drag) are mostly excusable and don't determine gross differences in outcomes; perhaps on the order of seconds. Variations in other obstacles, such as log hop or spear throw can completely alter a race at the front due to the go-no-go nature of failure.”
Hobie Call chimed in (as did hundreds of others, as of writing there were 233 comments and 25 shares)
“THANK YOU JUNYONG PAK! I've been fussing over this issue for years. Except, I'm not laughing. When real money and our very livelihoods are on the line, it is a very serious issue. I am quite perplexed at how Spartan thinks they can be taken seriously as a “sport” without any standardization.” “Don't confuse variety and standardization [sic] …you can have plenty of variety in a race and from race to race and still standardize your obstacles. Standardization just means making all the sandbags have the same shape and weight, etc. You can still have a great variety of obstacles, course lengths, terrain differences, etc.”
I myself have complaints about obstacle racing and that how I feel they should have weight classes like other sports such as boxing, UFC, Wrestling, etc. But hey, I’m working my ass off training to get as good as you are, and it’s a real let-down to hear the best of the best “whining.”
*To be fair, Pak and dozens of other commenters on his post did make some very constructive points, I'm referring to the general attitude that there should be some level of “fairness”
I may be biased or have a really strong difference of opinion because I served my country for six years as a United States Marine Artillery Cannoneer. I’ve carried a 50 caliber machine gun (84lbs, M3 Tripod (Complete): 44 pounds Total: 128 pounds, hundreds of miles. I was there when the USS Cole was blown up in Aden, Yemen, on October 12, 2000. So please don’t talk to me about hard and unfair circumstances. Just like the title U.S. Marine is earned, so, in my opnion, is the title Elite OCR athlete. Let's talk a little more about carrying weights: Marine combat loads including protective gear: weapons, ammunition, water, food and communications gear range from 97 to 135 pounds. In Afghanistan, soldiers routinely carry loads of 130 to 150 pounds for three-day missions. (learn more here) An OCR Elite Athlete's gear may consist of camelback with water, a few gels, some arm sleeves… and are forced to carry up to 100 pounds (on the rarest of occasions) forup to a few hundred yards. This sport is suppose to be fun, challenging, get people off the couch, and bring out your inner warrior spirit that’s been dormant inside of us. All the so call elites that are complaining about how unfair the race was must not have ever served in the military or been to combat – it is a world where there is no such thing as “fair.” In combat, you can’t worry about your enemies’ hardships; you just focus on your own side of the battle. You put on your 60lbs or more ruck sack, food, clothes, water, ammo, and you fight, you march, you give it all you got. You don’t have time to complain to the enemy, “hey give me a second to rest because my gear weighs more than yours”, before each life and death battle!
Let's be clear, for some obstacle racing may be the closest thing most people will come to serving in the military.
Elite means best of the best! Right? You don’t see Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Snipers, or Marine Recon bitching about how bad they've got it – they signed up for the challenge and SO DID YOU. If the elite OCR athletes want to make the sport grow and be better for everyone, make constructive points* that will do just that, not points about why you did or didn't finish higher than you should have. Elites don't complain, they go out and make it happen by improvising, adapting and overcoming everything. Oh, and one other thing… I haven’t heard a PEEP from Cody (the Silent Assassin) Moat, and he carried nearly an entire redwood up & down Killington.
I’m sure some of you are glad Joe De Sena’s not on Facebook, because you know EXACTLY what he would say to this type of whining. Also, remember that Norm Koch is; and bitchin’ and moaning is like music to his ears, and it also fuels him to make an even more miserable courses. So the love of Norm – shut up!
LaShay Marks is a veteran of the US Marines, the owner of Evolution Phoenix OCR Training, and a competitive OCR athlete. For the record, he is still a huge fan of Junyong Pak, Jazz, and almost all the other OCR athletes that have contributed to those online rants.