One Man’s Quest to See What You’re Made Of

One Man’s Quest to See What You’re Made Of

Monthly Archives: August 2013

One Man’s Quest to See What You’re Made Of

August 20, 2013

Few could argue that obstacle racing has taken the country by storm. New races are popping up seemingly overnight, each claiming to be better than the last. Within this movement lives a sub-set of events designed to do more than simply challenge you for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. This particular breed of obstacle races has been created to take you well beyond that point. While some brag that you may die, and others that you’ll be the world’s toughest, only one is the brain-child of two-time summer Death Race champion and Guinness World Records holder, Joe Decker.

Decker, owner and founder of the San Diego based boot camp company Gut Check Fitness, has brought us the SUCK; a grueling, overnight, ass-kicker that’s Pete Williams named one of the most extreme fitness tests in the world. Participants face every manner of challenge imaginable (and even a few unimaginable ones), from team-based to individual, for upwards of 14 continuous hours before being turned on each other in head-to-head competition. As an added bonus, each SUCK is capped off with an hour long Gut Check Fitness workout that Joe describes as “the grand finale of suffering and personal enlightenment”.

Once only a local phenomenon, Joe has taken the SUCK national; setting up Regional Qualifiers across the U.S. that culminate this Fall in a 36 hour main event ominously dubbed the Ultimate SUCK. I had a chance to interview Joe before experiencing the SUCK firsthand at the East Coast Regional Qualifier this April.

O-RACER Mag: What is the SUCK?

JD: It’s a term that started back in Nam (Vietnam). The suck describes any situation where conditions are undesirable and it’s a testament to the dedication of those men and women who endure it. With our overnight camps, we introduce people to the suck in a safe, structured environment so they can learn to embrace it. We want everyone to leave the event a stronger person.

O-RACER Mag: How did The SUCK start?

JD: I had already been training like this for years. I’d take my sports science background and experience and use that to get ready for events like the Barkley and the (Spartan) Death Race. When I went to compete in the Death Race for the second time, I took a team with me. Leading up to the event we would incorporate these overnight training sessions a couple of times a month to prepare. That’s how the SUCK came to be. So although the SUCK is a stand-alone challenge, it definitely has a training aspect to it as well.

O-RACER Mag: Who should do The SUCK?

JD: Anybody. Anyone that wants to get after it and see what they are made of. My goal is to get like minded people together who want to push their limits. Despite the competitiveness of the event, we all encourage each other. No one ever gets left behind. You should at least have a basic level of fitness or experience with obstacle racing before joining up though.

O-RACER Mag: What is the Ultimate Suck?

JD: I thought of all the races I’ve ever done and all of the different training methods I’ve encountered, took the best from each, and bunched them up in one big event. There’s military boot camp stuff like calisthenics tests and exposure to pepper spray. I also threw in some good old Mid-Western farm chores I did growing up like bailing hay and digging post holes. Competitors can expect to carry all sorts of heavy and awkward objects. Plus there’s plenty of trail running and strong man challenges to help even the playing field between runners and bigger guys.

O-RACER Mag: Are there any big names in obstacle racing attending the Ultimate SUCK this year?

JD: We have World’s Toughest Mudder winner Amelia Boone, Josue Stephens of the Nicaraguan Survival Run, Kieth Jolly of SERE Performance, and Sean Dickson of Combat Fitness training will all be showing up.

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As with the SUCK, Joe is working on expanding Gut Check Fitness across the United States, so keep your eyes peeled. We expect big things from this company in the years to come. The Ultimate SUCK is August 30 through September 1, 2013 in Cuba IL. Click here to register and be sure to check out Joe’s website,, for more info and dates.

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How to Train For an Obstacle Race

By Joe Decker

Obstacle races are the fastest growing trend in the fitness industry. Unless you live under a rock I’m pretty sure you’ve noticed that or most likely have done one yourself. Ok so they’re out there, everyone is doing it but how do you properly train for an obstacle race?

Good question. Having been in the fitness industry for many years and having done many myself, I get asked this question all the time. Like any other event, say a marathon, triathlon, you name it, to finish strong and do your best you must train specific to your event. This principle is called ‘specificity’ which basically means if you’re going to do a running event you should run more, the same with swimming, etc.

Obstacle course races generally involve a good amount of cardiovascular endurance, muscle endurance and some strength and a decent amount of flexibility. Basically you need to train all the components of fitness.

My first recommendation is you get on the trusty ole internet and do some research on your particular course. The most popular races are the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Spartan Races. All vary in distances, from a 5k up to 15 miles and in amount of obstacles from about 5 up to 25 or more. At least get a good idea of the distance you will need to cover and the amount of obstacles you will need to overcome. Once you’re done this now it’s time to train.

I generally like to give myself 12 – 16 weeks to train for an event. This is really up to you and how well you want to do or how much time you want to put into it. It’s your call. If you are out of shape and just signed up for a Super Spartan or Tough Mudder, you had better give yourself this amount of time. Trust me on that one.

So what are some things you should work on to get ready for your race?

  • Trail running – Almost all the OCR out there are on trails. If you’ve never run on trails before it is a different animal. You certainly want to get used to the uneven ground and many times rocky surface. With experience you gain confidence and will most likely have a better time.
  • Race distance – The Warrior Dash is generally a 5k with Tough Mudder and Super Spartan being around 10-15 miles. So with the WD you would probably want to get fairly comfortable with running a 5k distance. With TM and Spartan you’re going to want to put in more miles and I’d even suggest being able to do a half marathon on the road because the trail courses are certainly going to be more challenging.
  • Hill Repeats –You’re longer and tougher courses love to throw lots of hills in there to beat your legs up and make their events that more challenging. Trust me this will come in handy for the big boys. Don’t put any hill time in and it could make for a long day.
  • Strength training – Whether you do Crossfit, hit the gym a couple days a week or workout at home, being strong will help out. Spartan throws strength obstacles in like boulder dragging, tire carrying, rope climbing and more. TM just has so many challenging obstacles to tackle that you certainly will be glad you were strength training prior to the event to avoid muscle fatigue.
  • Flexibility training – All the up and down plus over and under can certainly take a toll on your body. Having a good degree of flexibility from incorporating yoga, pilates or your own daily stretching will not only help you overcome these obstacles but most likely help keep you injury free.
  • Obstacle Specific Workouts – With OCR becoming so popular you are seeing numerous OCR training programs pop up around the nation to help get individuals ready for the demands of the events. My own company Gut Check Fitness, here in San Diego has been doing just that for about 15 years. It recently got selected as one of the “Top 10 Most Creative Camps in the Nation” and is the only World Record Breaking, 2 x Death Race winning program in the world. We can help you get ready for any OCR there is. In addition you can find Beginner OCR programs on our very own – to help you get pointed in the right direction and on your way to having a great event.

Obstacle course racing is here to stay. If you haven’t tried one yet I certainly recommend it. There are so many different options to choose from. While proper training is important and will help you enjoy your event more, the most important thing is that you have fun while doing it. When we were third grade the best part of our day was recess. Even though your 23 or 43 now why shouldn’t this be true? Get out there, climb over things, get muddy and have a great time doing it with friends! Enjoy!