Thoughts About Competition

I've had a nice email exchange with one of my Canadian friends and fellow ENDracer recently that I thought bore comment.  She was responding to one of my FB posts (on the END-SPAR event page) that seemed intended at creating a rivalry between canada and the US by alluding to a mythical 'adventure racing crown' that was up for grabs at the event.  Although i will admit to being a big smack talker (see below) myself and someone who has alot of 'fun' with competition - after the discussion i realize i may have been over-emphasizing the competitive aspect of endracing events. 

ENDracing talks smack before 2012 Swamp Donkey


The beauty of the type of races that we aim to bring to the region is that they really appeal to folks who are 'self-competitive' - who strive to see what they are able to accomplish in relation to their own inner ideas of what their limits/capabilities are.  My experience has always been that traditionally competitive people often fare worse at brutal events that contain a high degree of uncertainty - and that pretty much sums of what we aim to include as an ingredient (at least in some measure) for every race we put on.  In particular our Adventure Races fit in to this category, where navigation and teamwork - both of which increase the level of uncertainty - are key elements. 

So yeah, it can be fun to race race (see if you can figure that one out!).  It's nice to look at results afterwords and see how fast you went and how the teams you were 'racing with' fared - or even to analyze your race and figure out where you 'would have placed' if you hadn't made that nav error or gotten those three flats (I love doing this last one!).  But what is the most fun is just to 'race', period (raise your hand if you understood that important distinction.  Ok, good!). Our goal is really to challnege everyone and to create a fantastic and tough experience that both veteran and rookie racers will come away from with a sense of significant accomplishment - whether or not they are able to finish and regardless of where they find themselves in the results. 

Happy 'racing' everyone (:

Post Iceman Waxing

This probably doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it does to the thong wearing super-hero from END-IT, but that’s probably a good thing (just teasing – awesome costume).  For me the end of every race brings moments of reflection that for reasons unknown, I sometimes feel like sharing, so here goes.

After the race I was talking with a close friend (and also a racer this year), Ryan Wagner.  I was pleased to find out that he is a ‘crier’ – someone who is quick to be moved/inspired to tears.  Made me feel brave enough to come clean about my own such status, which I’m acutely aware of after putting on every event – I find the whole thing – the volunteers and racers especially, tremendously inspiring, so much so that I quickly tear up when I start thinking about it.

Truth be told, the last three days leading up to the race were difficult and my schedule was challenging.  It was a hard course to set this year and I was out for three nights in a row - trudging through the snow with cans of snow paint that froze up so that they had to be put next to my skin to be warmed – until after midnight.  I was worried that it wasn’t going to come together in time and that I was neglecting my wife and kids (which I probably was – a special thanks to Ryan for at least making sure my kids didn’t feel neglected… and Tammy, well I couldn’t do it without you!).  I was exhausted, anxious, and second guessing my desire to keep doing this race organizer thing. 

But then the race happened.

Those of you who have been part of ENDracing for a while have probably heard my spiel before about what it is.  It’s not a business.  It’s a community.  Even though my efforts towards these ventures (ENDracing and Ground UP adventures) is now my ‘full time’ gig – it’s truly a labor of love.  I couldn’t keep going - given the sacrifices it takes – if it didn’t (if you all didn’t) continually stoke my passion for adventure and provide living examples of that indomitable spirit and openness to experience that I find so fascinating and inspiring. 

That’s why there are no easy ENDracing events.  That’s some of you cursed me  a dozen times over the course of three hours last Saturday.  It is the ineffable rewards that I experience when I get so far out of my comfort zone that I really have to dig deep to not just go fast - but to go at all - that I am (in this crazy way) trying to pass on.  And so for while some of the racers (anyone who could say they were really ‘racing’ probably) it was just an awesome and tough event (don’t worry, ENDracing has plenty of offerings to get these guys and gals to contemplate the meaning of life too), for many of the participants I suspect it was a more monumental triumph.  I get moved remembering those skiers I saw way at the back of the pack on Saturday – thinking to myself that the task ahead was so daunting that they simply couldn’t finish.  I knew they’d likely be pushing their bikes for miles, and that the run was the toughest we’d ever had in the iceman.  I thought – “damn, they’re screwed!”.  But in almost every case, I was proved wrong, and I love it. Many of these folks that have fully embraced what I love about all of this – they have decided to see what they are made of – that conventional notions of being ‘ready’ for an event sometimes lead to far less self discovery than taking on something for which you feel completely unprepared. 

I’m also buoyed by the show of support from the community – the kind words of the spectators and all the folks who answered the last minute call for volunteers.  There’s also a great core group of folks who consistently give time and effort – lots of it (some of them at every single race) – without asking for anything in return.  You know who you are.  ENDracing wouldn’t be what it is without you.  And then there are the sponsors.  In particular for this event, this year’s sponsors were awesome.  While I hesitate to discuss sponsors for fear of alienating someone – I think it’s important to recognize the local support (in particular) that we’ve received for the Iceman.  The major sponsors for the event gave both time and money and lets be honest – it’s not really a good business investment.  But it is a good community investment, and it allows us to put on a great event of incredible value at a fraction of the cost to participants that would normally be charged.  So we want to thank all our sponsors – especially the ones most intimately connected with the event – BeMobile, Due North, Dakota Harvest, Ski and Bike, David Nord, and last but not least the Grand Forks CVB who has really gotten behind ENDracing in general over the last few years.

Finally, I want to say a word about the kids in this race (I hope you’ve made it this far!  This is the best part).  I’m so excited to be starting to realize this part of my/our vision – to start challenging the sometimes assumed beliefs about what kids, and people in general, are capable of.  We are ALL capable of so much more than we probably believe – than our culture/condition/society/self-story lets us believe – and for many of us, adults in particular  this is a HUGE hurdle to overcome.  Seeing these kids out there – getting them out there – has real transformative power – not only for the kids themselves, but for everyone involved.  We had a 15 year old girl finish the whole course.  And we had an 11 and 12 year old skiers, 12 and 13 year old bikers, and a 13 year old runner (all girls – come on guys!) – scrapping their way up the dike, pushing (and riding) the snowmobile trails, and post-holing through the woods alongside all of you.  Sharing these tough experiences with these youth – serving as demonstrations of mental fortitude and serving as role models – will have profound consequences on their lives.  Hopefully, it will have an impact of equal measure on your lives too.

Alright – that’s the end of my spiel.  Now go out and thank the sponsors, congratulate each other, and share your stories and what inspires you.  See you next year, next race, or next week.  Big Love everyone – ENDracing out. 

END-WET secrets

We might have a secret about END-WET that we're going to let out of the bag soon.  Or we might not.  It has nothing to do with aligators in the river, so don't worry - but we do think it's pretty darn exciting.  We have reason to believe that if the secret comes to pass it might lead to some more big news about this little race of ours.  Stay tuned, you won't have to wait too long to find out one way or another.  Here's a hint - MM.  Yeah, we know...we can be a cryptic bunch. 

We double dog dare you to take the END-BOB challenge Saturday, June 15!!

The Extreme North Dakota Bike, Orienteering and Boat Race (END-BOB) is a new event this year.  It combines biking, orienteering and canoeing (or other boat), resulting in a challenging (but still fun) event. 

Note date change: Saturday, June 15th.

This event will be challenging for big-time competitors trying to set speed records, but doable and enjoyable for kids, adults, and adults who like to behave like kids.

We have a fantastic greeway in Grand Forks with great bike trails along the river and through the woods, and we have a great canoeing river (provided the wind is not blowing from the north) -- so this race will feature the best of the best. 

Come join us.

Truth in advertising (contemplating the Uff Da mud run)

I found myself getting pretty riled up the other day when I saw an ad on facebook for a mudman run in fargo.  it wasn't that there was another mud run in a city that might compete with our planned event, the Uff Da mud run (coming to Grand Forks in Sept. of 2013), or even that their winter obstacle run is called the Iceman (although that did irk me a little bit).  No, what got me is the following (unfortunatley all to typical) rhetoric right on the home page of their website -

Unleash your inner beast and meet us for a day you won't forget!
Only after you've conquered fire, beaten gladiators, survived hills, climbed tire mountain, braved the ice and endured the mud will you know that you have what it takes!!

I'm going to borrow a term from my friend John Stuart and call Bull Sh*t here - there may even be a mountain of the stuff (maybe thats not mud they're going to make you crawl through?)

Obstacle races may be awesome.  They may be a super fun way to get out of your comfort zone.  They definitely provide GREAT facebook profile pic material. They might (although then again they might not) even feel harder for most folks than traditional running races of the same distance.  But are they really that tough?  Will they really test your mettle?  Is the hype really true?  Well, considering nearly 2500 people ran in Mudman's 2012 race, what do you think?

Well, i found myself asking the same questions.  I wondered.  So i did what i do when i wonder.  I googled.

the requisite fire jump

I found heaps of point of view videos (here's ONE) taken by athletes actually running these races - not only the 5K obstacle runs but also the apparently much more difficult longer ones like the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder.  Hmmm.  Yeah, the obstacles look pretty fun.  you're gonna get wet, muddy, have to climb over things, crawl through things, get tripped by 'gladiators', and sometimes even endure shock induced epileptic seizures.  And, i almost forgot, you also might have to jump over some fire.  Scary.  Sarcasm aside - they do look like a fun day out - a really fun day.  But lets be honest - they can't really be that tough.

Why?  well for one, they wouldn't be the money making machines they were if they were that tough.  Watch the videos.  There are often massive lines at obstacles (long waits means lots of rest!).  The atmosphere is super cool - great camaraderie but with the trade off that there isn't really much running going on (to be sure if you're trying to go really fast it's going to be super hard -  but simply trying to run a 5K by itself at top speed might lead to a bout of dry heaving).  Add to that the fact that in most races obstacles are optional and the 'extreme' adjective starts to seem better applied to the licenses taken by the obstacle racing industries marketing departments than to the events themselves:

Can I skip an obstacle?

Yes, you can.  However, not every obstacle needs to be skipped.  Only the obstacles that are extremely physically challenging can be skipped.  If you just don't like mud or are squeemish , too bad!  You signed up for Mudman!  Those that can be skipped may have a military recruit making you do a little extra work to get by it.  Remember, there are no free rides in life, and there isn't any at Mudman either.  Come ready to be challenged! 

So where does this leave us - especially considering that ENDracing is going to be part of team building one of these events in Grand Forks this coming year?  Well, for starters, we'll aim for a little truth in advertising.  Yeah - you can expect a tough event - at least as tough (if not tougher) than other 'big name' mud runs of the same distance.  But we're not going to lie to you and tell you that you're a super bad ass for finishing our course - there are lots of much, much harder races out there to finish (just look at our calendar and pick one).  You will have fun though, even tons of fun - and most of you will likely get pushed well out of your comfort zone.  And as for skipping obstacles?  Yep - our obstacles will be optional too - but with a twist.... finisher awards will reflect how many obstacles you skipped.

Did you get a bronze medal instead of a gold because you couldn't get through two of those obstacles? Awesome job - you pushed hard and only skipped two.  But get off your butt and start training earlier next year and see if you can go for the gold.

And don't worry - you'll still get to update your FB profile with that sweet picture of you crawling through the mud under strings of barbed wire (note, actual picture may vary).  Now that's truth in advertising.