Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Joe De Sena Speaks Out On the 2015 Killington Race

Whether you like what he says or not....whether you agree with what he says or not...(see 'Spartan Up – Podcast Review (and why Joe De Sena is wrong about grit & resilience' - Solo), I have always found that Joe De Sena always tells it straight.  Even from the very beginning.  When I called him out after my first Spartan Race at Tuxedo in 2011 regarding their statement that 99% of racers finished.  The response (which at the time always came from the top echelon of Spartan) was roughly - hey, if we told people the truth - 67% finished - they wouldn't try it.  True enough, for me certainly, and I would have missed out on one of the greatest things that I have experienced in my life.

Since then, Joe has spoken out (publicly) only on his other projects and has rarely responded as he did here (What We Learned From Killington: A Message From Joe) on a particular race or issue.  So when he does, you know that it's a serious issue and that Spartan race is treating it as such.  

At this stage in their development (hard to believe it's only been five years!), Spartan Race has likely become a victim of it's own success.  There is a limit to how many things you can do at once...or at least how many things you can do well at once.  They are apparently geared, with their crews and obstacle inventory, to put on two races a week at different venues.  And while you can never please everyone, racers have to come to expect certain things at whatever venue they choose and in many minds, that was not delivered at Killington.

You also can not hold on to the past...however recent that past may be.  Killington is not the Spartan World Championship Race any longer.  But people certainly had expectations that they would be treated to a true championship level course and event.  Calling it a Founder's Race and omitting the obstacles that racers have come to expect (and feel they have paid for) just doesn't wash...nor should it!  It was a rare miscalculation on their part and most likely the reason for the quick and deliberate response from Joe.

Will these issues be resolved?  Absolutely.  The question really is, why did most of these happen to begin with.  Spartan Race puts on so many events now, that they have systematized most of the process (and become a bit more corporate as well I suppose...inevitable).  So when relatively basic problems arise, you have to wonder if they stretched themselves a bit too thin, trying to hang on to this once iconic Spartan venue at Killington, at the resulting expense of quality.  Only they know the answer to this at the moment.  But as a company grows, the direct involvement of it's leaders...those with the initial vision...becomes less and less.  A normal growing pain in any business and one that Spartan must address.

The sport of obstacle course racing (OCR) is still evolving....very quickly.  This will be another learning experience for Spartan Race and isn't likely to have a significant, long-term impact in itself.  However, the world of OCR is become more crowded with race competitors.  And racers, while not only having more choices, are becoming more knowledgeable and discriminating about where they spend their money.  Not to mention the growing divide between the racing preferences of elite, journeyman and first-time racers.  Niches that someone will fill!  The world never stays simple for long and OCR is no exception.  Expect 2016 to be another year of change...and for the most part, change is good!

How was your Killington Experience?

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