We are very proud to share this written piece by Paul Lachance:
As I grow older and the hair thins out, I spend more time pondering questions about my life and how my avocations are sculpted by my experiences. Several nights ago, I was looking at my 2019 Spartan schedule and a thought emerged from the depths of my mind…Spartan Racing is a metaphor for life! Let me explain.
In real life, two people come together and a new life is born (details are not necessary). In the world of Spartan, people are introduced to the sport in a wide variety of manners. These introductions are then interpreted as viable ideas that are worthy of maturing. This simple process does take some time to evolve. The person who gets bit by the idea has to evaluate the current circumstances in which he or she is surrounded, decide whether or not to go forward with the idea, and then begin the process of development…similar to a gestation period. With proper nutrition and health, an idea is transformed into a life. Several minor obstacles are encountered along the way, such as: actually committing to and registering for an event; getting to the event (that’s an obstacle all by itself for many of us who live in rural areas); walking long distances from the parking area to the registration booths (and back); then going through the registration line. The actual birth of a Spartan happens at the ‘first time’ going over the starting wall and landing in the starting gate with all other Spartans in that wave…there is no turning back at this point. Now, I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV, but I am willing to wager a sizeable sum that no one is born and immediately turns into an adult…not even an adolescent (with the exception of Sheldon Cooper). For the human being, it takes years to develop into a rational thinking and self-functioning person. Well, the same process is true for a Spartan OCR athlete…it takes time.
The first race is equivalent to a toddler just learning to walk and up to and including the first couple of years of elementary school. A first-time participant (a.k.a. “Newbie”) has all of the nervous jitters that a child does when about to take the first few steps or go into the classroom for the first time. Just getting into the starting gate is nerve wracking: What am I doing? Am I going to be able to finish? Look at all these elite (anyone not a newbie is an elite in their eyes) runners, am I ready? Do I have the right shoes? Do I need a hydration pack?…and so it goes. The announcer will get the crowd pumped up and ready with the chatter from “The 300” and might even ask if there are newbies in the group. Nervous hands go up and the seasoned runners welcome them in with a big round of applause…nerves then start to relax.
The first run is full of mystery. What’s around the corner? What is the sandbag carry? How high is the wall? How deep is the mud / water? Once out on the trail and the initial gang of runners spreads out then it becomes fun…chatter with friends starts to take on a new meaning as total strangers now become some of your best friends – even if it’s just for an hour or 2, or 3, or 4. Just like a child who figured out he could walk and immediately started looking for stairs, so does a Spartan newbie…anxiously jogging down the trail looking forward to the next obstacle with anticipation.
Speaking of obstacles, let’s review several Spartan standards. Shortly into the race there is what is known at the “O-U-T” obstacle. This is a set of three walls which the racer must ‘Go Over, Go Under, Go Through’. In the maturation process the same is true for all people. We encounter an issue and decisions must be made about how to solve the challenge. We can go over, under, around, or straight on to conquer the challenge at-hand. All courses of action require a decision to be made and subsequent consequences will follow if the decision is not appropriate (in the Spartan world the consequences are called, burpees).
A newbie and non-elite runner will see the 7’ wall and say, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do, I can’t even touch the top!?!” Many adolescents face the same challenge during their formative years…they are confronted with a life experience that they simply have yet to face. So, what do you do? Easy! Ask for help! In life, asking for help is turning to a parent, a mentor, or trusted adult. You ask for guidance and the issue is soon a non-issue. Spartan’s also ask for help. Speaking for me personally, I get to the wall, take a breath, look for several big guys, and ask for a knee. Once I am able to reach the top of the wall, and with a little assistance from the big guys, I can manage to muscle up and carefully drop over the backside. (NOTE: You also have to be willing to lend a hand or a knee…we all help each other.) I am not afraid to ask for some help as there are situations, both in life and the Spartan world, where I need assistance…and if you say you don’t ever need help then you are not being honest with yourself.
The sandbag carry is always a fun obstacle…grab a heavy sandbag, throw it over your shoulder(s), and travel a trail that is anything but flat or straight. The course designers love to use the natural terrain to add a little excitement to the sandbag carry. In Breckenridge, CO the sand-bag is at the top of the mountain…the highest point on the course. You are already exhausted, oxygen deprived, and ready to quit when you see the boxes of sandbags and the “hill”. What awaits you at the top is a visual reward like no other – a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains. Most participants stop and simply gaze for a few minutes, taking in the vast vista of mountain peaks (and regaining their breath and composure) and also saying to themselves: “I did it, it’s all downhill from here”. How many of us have made at least one poor choice in life? A choice than haunts us for years. How many politicians have the so-called skeletons in their closets they don’t want discovered? This is our sandbag obstacle. We all carry that one poor decision with us and travel through life wishing a different course of action had been taken. Reaching the top of the mountain is equivalent to finally admitting to yourself that a poor decision in the distant past does not have to be a weight to be carried forever…the end of the sandbag carry is just around the corner…just one more step.
The last obstacle of the event is magical. All the way through the course there is a bit of curiosity as to what is coming up. Now you can see the spectators, smell the fire, hear the music from the festival area, and see the finish line; and the fire jump. However, just prior to the fire jump there is generally an obstacle called the slip-wall. This particular obstacle could be a metaphor for adolescence all by itself. You’ve struggled through the developmental years only to face life straight on. The slip-wall is a tall wall set at about 45 degrees, is generally very muddy, and about 20 feet high at the apex. A runner has to climb that wall (hopefully there are ropes to help pull yourself up) then climb back down on a set of horizontal 2 x 6’s. You think to yourself, I just did my first Spartan Race and I am still walking upright with no broken bones…life is good. As you dismount the slip-wall your face instantly takes on a very large smile as the finish line is right there…on the other side of the fire jump. For most people than can be equated to finishing high school…you have arrived at the point in life that your role as a productive citizen is taking on a whole new meaning. So, it is with a newbie Spartan. Now they can be part of the Spartan community…full of brash bragging and self-congratulatory thoughts. Now it’s their turn to be productive…recruit new members to the Spartan community by spreading the word, showing off that medal, wearing the t-shirt, etc.
The second and subsequent races are your middle school and high school years…you learn new skills, gym time takes on a new meaning as you now know what to train for, and if the bug really bit you, you actually look forward to getting up and going for a 5am run…in the snow! You have become a go-to person for a new group of newbies seeking advice and wondering what this is all about. Isn’t that what we do as we mature?
At some point in time a normal person will set certain goals (think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs!) that he or she wants to achieve in order to be able to say “life was productive and useful”. It may be a college degree, a vocational/technical school certificate, or an apprenticeship with a utility company. No matter the path that is taken, it is the fulfillment of one’s personal level of achievement that is important. Spartans are no different. From running a Sprint, then a Super, and finally a Beast, the goals were set and achieved. Now, the word Trifecta starts to gain attention as a newbie hears about what it takes and also sees the larger X2 and X3 level medals. The inner human drive of competitiveness is stirred from within and now has a person asking, how can I achieve a Trifecta? That modest goal being completed, the next year’s question is, how can I achieve a double/triple Trifecta? Look at a normal factory full of workers. Most are quite satisfied being an employee, punching a clock, and taking home a paycheck every two weeks. And so it is with the vast majority of Spartans…they are happy and satisfied with getting a double or triple Trifecta year after year and just stopping all together when retirement age rolls around.
A true Spartan, possessing the mindset of a warrior, will want more and more…and as more is achieved yet even more is wanted and higher goals are set. The warrior Spartan will want to become a factory supervisor, general manager, and eventually own a part of or the entire company. For a true warrior Spartan, a double or triple Trifecta is merely a season warm-up exercise. They have their eyes set on the prize at the end of the season…one, two, three more Trifectas. Whatever it is, it is larger than last year. Look at the number of those completing more than 3 Trifectas.
For each subsequent Trifecta the numbers of participants who were able to earn that larger medal decreases rather substantially. The excuses heard for not going further are as numerous as for those not achieving greater success in life: I don’t have the skills, they have more time than me, they are naturally talented, I don’t live close to the venues, my spouse won’t let me, I have other responsibilities, I am too old, I am physically handicapped, I can’t afford it, etc. Do these excuses sound familiar? They should as you’ve heard them all your life from people who rationalize their life away.
Looking back at the factory, there is generally one main boss, multiple second and third tier supervisors, and a room full of employees…which one will you be? I know where I want to be at the end of my OCR career and it isn’t on the factory floor? Come join me on my journey through life and together we can, and will, complete a full circle of life. Our circles won’t be the same, but they are our circles.
Now do me just one favor…get off the couch, get outside of your comfort zone and I’ll see you on the trail.