As a sports performance coach, usually the first question I get from a potential client is something like, “how can I get faster”, or “what can I do to get better?” My simplest answer to this question is “chase or be chased!” Let’s face it, all the training in the world is nothing without passion! The easiest way I know to bring out an athlete’s passion is competition. However, in a sport like obstacle course racing (OCR) or running, for that matter, there isn’t really a “mano a mano.” There is usually a sea of racers at the event and you may not have a rival… but you need to find one!
Think of the greatest rivalries in the history of sports. Ali v Frazier, Magic v Bird, Evert v Navratilova, Nicholas v Palmer. The competition between these athletes drove them to train and practice harder. It forced them to give everything they had in every meeting. The enemy had a face and that opponent brought out their best. In a close-knit sport such as OCR we see the same faces at nearly every race. Heck, a lot of time we travel in packs! I am sure that you can find a person who is of similar level to you. Hopefully they are a little bit better than you. The stiffer the competition the better you will have to prepare to compete.
This being said, the average guy can’t select Ryan Atkins as a rival because, in most cases, he will have you lying there sucking your thumb in a fetal position two miles into the race. The same for the semi-competitive female runner trying to challenge Rose Wetzel-Sinnett or Amelia Boone; both will dust you at the start so there is no point in putting yourself through that. Instead, select a person you can hold your own against. This person could be a friend, a person you always see at races or maybe even a teammate. You don’t have to train with this foe, but that is a great motivator as well. When race day comes it’s not just you versus the course anymore. Now you have someone to chase! If you are an experienced racer then you may enjoy the chess match of tactics. If you are new then you may just need someone to help you get through it. In our sport, outside the elite wave, you may be opponents with this person for most of the race but then have to help each other traverse obstacles only to, once again, race for the finish.
Understand, what I’m proposing is not as much about the overall outcome of whether you win or lose against your rival, but more about the challenge. A lot of your average Joe’s are out there on the course trying to finish the course, that is an achievement on it's own but for others they need more. It may now be about having someone who can bring out your best. Tough Mudder’s Sean Corvelle made a speech prior to the 2014 World’s Toughest Mudder that no one present will probably ever forget. He told us, “no one is better than your best, but your best will make you better!”
In the end, if you and your new rival push each other to a new level of greatness then both of you win no matter what place you finish on the results board. Hopefully, you two can have a beer afterwards, share stories, and relive what transpired. In my opinion, that’s what OCR is all about anyway… The experience!
If you do lose, then train harder, and look forward to the rematch! In the words of Rocky Balboa, “I didn’t hear no bell. One more round!”
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