April 30, 2014

Book Review : "Obstacle Race Training" by Margaret Schlacter

I think there is an obstacle racer in each and every one of us. I discovered it for myself when I ran the Spartan Race, which I believe was the first obstacle event to be held in Quebec at that time. The incredible high and the feeling of achievement stayed with me for days, and I still love to take a look at my crazy race pictures every once in a while.

My friend Margaret Schlacter has captured and bottled that feeling, and is offering it for everyone to enjoy in her new book “Obstacle Race Training”, which is aptly subtitled “How to beat any course, compete like a champion and change your life”. For me, above everything else, that's what this book represents; an opportunity for many to discover something new, and change their life for the better.

It's not that the book holds any special recipe or long-lost secret; on the contrary. It does a great job of explaining what obstacle course racing (OCR) is, and of convincing you anyone can do it. And the best part is, it's true.

Whether you are specifically looking for advice on obstacle course racing or you're just looking for an inspiration to go out and have an adventure, this book is a great read. I found myself eating it from cover to cover in a single day, spending longer time in the adventure segments where Margaret describes her own experience as an obstacle racer and when she relates other people's journeys through the sport as well.

“Obstacle Race Training” is filled with excellent, simple, no-gimmick advice on how to train your whole body, make good decisions about your nutrition and hydration and about how to set realistic goals that are going to get you going and then craving some more as you experience success, just like Margaret's personal adventure. And although it doesn't shy away from the elite perspective at times, the book is centered on the amateur racer, from absolute beginners to experienced athletes.

That's all really good, but that's not what I liked the most about the book. I think the best value of “Obstacle Race Training” lies in its inspiration to go out and do things we've been told we are incapable of. For having experienced a couple adventure races myself, and marveled at times at my capabilities (as well as despaired at my shortcomings), I know first hand that the true experience in a Spartan Race, a Hunter Gatherer or any other obstacle course is in the discovery that we are all built to challenge ourselves and we all thrive and find a simple happiness in living exhilarating physical adventures.

Margaret and I finishing
Fuego Y Agua adventure race
in Nicaragua
We have been told for so long that everything is risky or dangerous, and we have been so overprotected in padded environments with warning labels, safety equipment and guardrails that we have forgotten a key element of the human experience: the risk and reward. Like one of my heroes, George Carlin, always said, “Take a fucking chance, will ya!?”. Adventure racing gives you just that; the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, and realize real life is built of obstacles to be conquered.

Margaret Schlacter guides you in this discovery and helps you get acquainted with this seemingly crazy world by showing you around, giving you pointers and setting you on your own journey to train your body, improve your health and experience the exhilaration of coming out of a race course filthy, scratched up and grinning uncontrollably from ear to ear, already wanting to have another go at running in the mud pits again.

This is what “Obstacle Race Training” will do for you. It will convince you to try it for yourself. It will help you achieve the proper physical training. It will guide you and accompany you along your first race experiences. It will encourage you to take better health habits through nutrition, hydration and rest. 

But, best of all, it just might make you take a fucking chance.

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