The Future of Atlas Race?

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Last September, Atlas Race rolled out their inaugural event in Medford, Oregon. The OCR startup demanded attention from the community by drawing in big names like Brakken Kraker, Hobie Call and TyAnn Clark. Atlas boasted large payouts for individual racers as well as for the rarely seen team format. That first event had 569 registered racers. Lance Landers, a partner for Atlas Race, said in a pre race interview with Focus Today that he’d expected between 1200-1500 people to attend. Despite the low numbers, the elite heat held serious competition, something unusual for a start-up, let alone an inaugural event.

Tiffanie Novakavich was impressed with their debut race. In a review for ORM, she wrote, “The women’s and men’s fields were both stacked with Olympic Trials qualifiers and hopefuls, National and World Champions, and professional obstacle racers… If they can do this well their first time, I can only imagine that they have SO much more in store for us!”

Atlas Race set themselves apart sending elite winners away with checks and prizes in hand after the Medford race. Novakovich said they went out of their way to make sure she left with the cash she’d won. “They paid me the day of the race, Lance actually met TyAnn and I at the mall and delivered our checks to us personally.”

Atlas Race’s pay out scheme was aggressive and coveted. For men’s and women’s elite racers, $2,500 was offered to first place, $1500 for second place and on down to $500 for the fifth place runner. Likewise for teams, the large sum of $4,000 was offered to first place, $2,000 for second place and down to $800 to the fifth place team. Their payouts reached an impressive total of $31,100 per race.

From their inaugural event, Atlas Race captured the attention of the OCR world and elites and showed great promise. While Hobie Call didn’t race in Medford, he was on-site assisting racers and adding to the atmosphere. “I really enjoyed their first event, and I appreciate their determination and desire to go big with team racing,” he said.

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Founder Scott Gephart, like many OCR fanatics, was hooked after just one race. He began to race regularly and soon became passionate about starting his own event and trying his hand at creating new, harder obstacles. Gephart and other Atlas Race staff are liked throughout the community and people respect their dedication to the sport. Their personal stories and connections to OCR have made them relatable and have drawn athletes to experience Atlas Race.

In his Focus Today interview before their first race Landers talked about their goals. “People come out the other side of these races and they come out a little different mentally and physically. Maybe they didn’t think they could do the obstacle and they did it and they triumphed and it empowers them to maybe push themselves a little bit more.”

In February, Atlas held their highly anticipated follow-up event in Temecula, CA. The race was a who’s who of elite athletes. Hunter McIntyre, April Luu, Hobie Call, Max King, Maggi Thorne,Matt Murphy of Australia,  and Amelia Boone were just a few of the faces seen.

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Despite the stacked field, the overall turnout still did not meet their expectations. There were 930 registered participants over the two day event in California. Since the prize payout cost over $30,000, it’s fair to assume they lost quite a bit of money on the race.

It became clear that the funds were not flowing when winners of the Temecula race didn’t receive their prize money. Call’s team placed first awarding him $1,000. “We were definitely under the impression we would get paid the day of,” Call said. “But, I don’t think they actually made any such guarantee.” So far, they haven’t responded to Call’s attempts to contact them. He hasn’t received payment as of the release of this article.

Hunter McIntyre took first place in the men’s elite as well as in the team event, being on the same team as Call. In total, McIntyre won $3,500. As for the same day pay out? He’s never seen it. “They cut a few checks to athletes, and pretended to run out of checks.” McIntyre said they’ve avoided his attempts to contact them and assumes he won’t ever receive payment.

Atlas Race had their third race schedule for April 19 in Fort Worth, TX. The week of the event, their website still read that the event location was “To Be Decided.” Just over a week before the race, Atlas very quietly postponed their race. Without an announcement on their Facebook page or even their website, they simply sent an email out to registered racers.

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They stated, “We at Atlas Race have been in negotiations and working diligently to finalize the partnerships that will allow us to provide the very best Obstacle Race event for our participants moving forward.” They briefly explained the race would be postponed indefinitely with details coming soon.

Atlas Race was immediate and responsive about refunds, with participants touting how impressed they were with the efficiency. But, they’ve maintained radio silence about the negotiations and new partners they spoke of in their email. OCR is one of the fastest growing sports and while racers regularly recite the mantra of there being a “place for everyone,” it hasn’t proven true for start up races. We reached out to Lance and Scott to see what they had to say regarding their race. While they were open to chat about the race, we were unable to get an official statement from them.

Atlas Race is one of the many who have dreams of joining the “Big Three” in OCR. Spartan Race, Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash continue to dominate the field.  Call, who was involved with another up and coming race, Extreme Nation, explained the elements it takes to be successful as a race. “Well, big prize money means you need big sponsors.  Big sponsors means you need big publicity.  Big publicity means you either need millions of Facebook fans and many thousands of participants at each event, or you need to cater to spectators.  The days of replicating the success of the “big 3” are over.  Facebook pages and big participant numbers aren’t automatically going to explode like they did in the past. “

McIntyre echoed Call’s reasoning, “If you don’t have the structure of the big three- I mean what Spartan has done is unparalleled; created the sport, created an athletic point base system and made it international. Tough Mudder has created an overall name for our kind of culture and outdoor fitness and obstacle events. And Warrior Dash keeps it fun, young, and alive. They are three components about what our outdoor OCR lifestyle is like… [Atlas Race] put on a great race and everyone was excited. We knew it was a hot air balloon; once it runs out of gas that big pretty thing we are all looking at is just going to crash down.”

McIntyre closed explaining that he has nothing against those starting new races, but that the pattern of the rising and falling races is tough on racers and the sport. “I wish all these people the best. My intention is never to be mean to these people. These people are trying hard and trying to do something good and make a dollar off of it and I don’t mind that. But, I don’t like being suckered.”

The OCR community generally rallies around expansion of the sport. Despite ups and downs, the reviews of the race continued to be positive, especially surrounding Lance and Scott personally. Call, an outspoken supporter of the team racing format, said, “I really hope they find a way to bounce back from this, the industry needs more companies that are willing to be team players. “

Atlas Race’s website shows their next race is currently scheduled in San Diego, California on May 10th, 2014.

Brian Walker: The Road to the Death Race

For anyone, the road to the Death Race is an arduous and ambitious one. Brian Walker’s story spans a lifetime. When he asked Andy Weinberg to let him into the 2014 summer race, his answer was a request. Walker remembers the phone call from Andy requesting his presence at the Snowshoe Race in Pittsfield.

With just two days notice, Walker had to decide if he could make it to the race to volunteer and run. He knew it was a test, so with his desire to do the Death Race burning, he threw his gear, family and wife in a car and drove over a thousand miles to Pittsfield, Vermont for the race. He was in.

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Walker explained that the Death Race is the pinnacle of transformation in his life. In a letter to Weinberg, he said that as a child, he was spoiled. He received all and lacked nothing. Out of college, he joined the Marines and felt that this was his life’s commitment and destiny. He quit during boot camp.

The shame of failure followed him as he searched for what his life meant without the direction the Marines had provided. He quit several jobs and became a drug addict. He hit rock bottom when his wife and family left him. It was time to grow up.

In 2012 when he found the Spartan Race, he rediscovered his soul. Previously, failure had defined him, but he found in himself a fighter. He remarried his ex-wife and became a father again to his children. He attributes many of the lessons he learned and growth he experienced to Joe DeSena and other friends he made through OCR.

The story remains incomplete. When Walker left behind his dream of fighting for his country, he walked away from the biggest challenge of his life. His respect and admiration for those who serve in the Armed Forces persist. But, the Death Race is his chance at redemption, his chance to prove to himself he can fight, conquer and persevere. In the last line of his letter to Weinberg, Walker wrote, “You can help me make the transformation from Spoiled Brat to Real Man complete.”

This summer, Walker will be one of the few who embark upon the great challenge that is the Death Race. There he will find the battle he’s been waiting to face for a lifetime.

Brian Walker and son

Carolinas Spartan Sprint 2014

They were not kidding when they said mud. I grabbed the rope for the Herc Hoist and pulled hard, leaning back to use my body weight. I did this a few more times and looked at the sandbag on the other end thinking it had to be at least 6 feet off the ground. It was barely hovering. The rope was so coated in mud I couldn’t lift it further than a few inches. This has got to be the sign of a good race.

A few days before we got there, the sprint course at Porter Farms outside Charlotte, NC was entirely covered in water. After the race, we ran into Spartan employee, Todd Sedlak, who explained to Matt Davis and I that the race was set up smack in the middle of the flood plain. This made for a very interesting set up and a festival area as muddy as the racecourse.

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The muddy conditions certainly didn’t stop anyone from coming out though. The weekend was a massive success with over 10,000 finishers between Saturday and Sunday. So, by the time we rolled up at 7am to set up the tent, there were already swarms of people in the Festival area waiting to see off the elites. Despite the forecast for beautiful weather, it was quite cold until later in the afternoon. The Festival was situated right in the middle of the larger obstacles that curved around the perimeter. Even in the later heats, this kept the energy level up with crowds cheering at all the largest obstacles.

I have to admit, I’m a total baby about being cold. So, the luxury of not being thrown into muddy water the minute we crossed the start line sealed the deal on how much I loved this race. (Don’t tell Spartan or next time they’ll have an ice bath waiting at the corral). It was also the first race I’ve done where many of the  most challenging obstacles were encountered early in the race instead of near the end. You either got the worst over first, or you faced hundreds of burpees in the first couple miles of the approximately 4.7 mile course.

I ran through a group of gawkers to jump on the rope climb. I hit the top knot and reached up to climb just a bit higher when I found myself involuntarily descending . I caught myself on the knot and tried several times to get my grip in the thick mud at the top of the rope. When I finally realized I physically couldn’t grip the rope, I switched ropes to the one directly next to me. The name of the game at this race was being strategic in which rope, traverse wall, or Herc Hoist to choose. Thankfully, rope number 2 was dry enough for me to scramble to the top.

Rope Climb Carolina

Staying close to the festival, we then hit the very muddy inverse wall and over the cargo net, which this time had boards instead of the net- a recent change, and slightly more nerve wracking for anyone afraid of being any distance off the ground. I was sure I’d slip off the traverse wall given that Amelia Boone did, but we picked a nice dry wall and made it across. I was not a huge proponent of doing burpees in mud up to my elbows, so I was fairly relieved.

The course itself wound around the farm and smelled suspiciously of cow patties. When the Festival music faded out after running behind a barn, we were kindly serenaded by a heard of cattle. I heard a rumor they booed the elite heat. No manners at all.

We ran in and out of the woods up some pretty fantastic hills and back onto the fields. We hit the relatively short barbwire crawl. We ran around noon, so we figured the mud would be horrendous by the time we hit the obstacles, making them impossible to complete. But, it worked to our advantage on a few. The barbwire crawl was so slick, we essentially slid our way through the entire thing.

NC Barb Wire 2

We busted through the tire pull and tractor pull and into the woods for another split in the trail. We could go the long way around, or face a steep wall of mud up to the fields and out of the woods. Matt had to brag about his Reebok All Terrains the whole way up, and I once again found my Inov-8 Bare Grips to be more than reliable for the climb.

We got to see some of Spartan’s experiments with changing up obstacles. This was the first time I had gotten to do the new Atlas Carry with the concrete balls. It’s significantly more difficult than the bucket shaped Atlas Carry. It was like carrying a bowling ball that was set on using gravity to break my arms.

I didn’t have a single complaint about this race. It was well organized, extremely well laid out, and had an unbelievably good turnout. It was a great testament to the growth of the sport and the enthusiasm in the South for OCR. Spirits were high at the race and a lot of fantastic elites showed up for a lively competition. The only objection I had was fully submerging myself into what I am convinced was mostly cow poop with a little bit of water to pass under the barrier directly before the slippery wall. But, I’m quite a princess, so I’m sure I’m just being picky.

CarolinaPodium

 


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Additional photos of the race can be found here.

Cornfed Chronicles

Covered in mud, a woman faces the 8-foot wall in front of her. Towering two feet, seven inches above her head, it seems more like a skyscraper. She backs up in preparation for a sprint, shaking her arms to rid them from the numbness of burpees. She’s never made it over the 8-foot wall. She runs, jumps, and doesn’t even reach the top of the wall with outstretched hands. Before she realizes what’s happening two men in black and red jerseys appear at her sides, they boost her up and over the wall where a woman in the same jersey helps her to the other side and hands her a bracelet: “CORN FED SPARTANS, if you want to know run with us.”

The Corn Fed Spartans exploded onto the OCR scene in 2012 at the Indiana Spartan Sprint.  Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena remembers them bothering him endlessly until he brought his race to their home turf. “The Corn Fed are a bunch of lunatics that demanded the Spartan Race come to Indiana. I was like, I said no! But they were relentless. They drove everybody in the organization crazy until we said yes.”

A RICH HISTORY

The Corn Fed Spartans started out as the brainchild of Jonathan Nolan and Nathan Devears to bring the Spartan Race to Indiana. Devears left the team in the first year, leaving Nolan as the captain of CFS. The team’s legacy began at the very first Indiana Sprint in 2012. A team member, Steven Skidmore, who had been training for the race, died of a heart attack just a few weeks prior to accomplishing his goal. Spartan made a marble plaque with Skidmore’s name on it. A cornerstone commitment of CFS is that they never leave a man behind. Even if that man has passed away. So, Nolan put Skidmore’s plaque in a box and carried it through the course, making sure the team’s brother was able to finish the race.

Attracted by stories of hope, the team quickly reached over 2000 members by 2013. Echoes of “CORNFED!” could  be heard at virtually any OCR as red and black clad runners boosted struggling runners and strangers over walls. Teammates referred to each other as family members, and it showed. Nicole Winget, former team and board member explained, “Who you run with is far more then a jersey – it is a family…”

Cornfed was a "family" born out of helping each other

“Not only did we do races together, but we lived our lives together.  There was a support system there that no matter what you were going through, no matter how bad things seemed, someone was always there to pick you up and help you out,” said member Missy Morris.

Candie Bobick, former team and sales committee member recalls the affect the family had on her when she joined. “They really pulled me out of a dark place.”

Corn Fed was a haven for people who didn’t feel they belonged in the running world. Rick Bosley, former team member, remembered, “I was accepted almost immediately after being sedentary for what felt like years. I didn’t have to podium, there were no expectations other than to show up and try.”

Chad Weberg, who was on the planning board for Crucible (a CFS team race) and an original team member, joined the team to change his life. He loved that Corn Fed was a “great bunch of people bring a Spartan Race to Indiana and turned into motivation to live a healthier lifestyle after that race and beyond.”

But in the last week of February, 112 members left the Corn Fed Spartans. Original members left and members of the sales committee and board stepped down. The mass exodus was confusing for new team members who had seen the team’s spirit on the course and numerous newer members left after seeing the reactions on the Corn Fed Spartans Facebook page.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE

Trouble started in August of 2013 after the Corn Fed team held a charity based virtual 5k to benefit All for Hope, an organization that raises money to battle child cancer. The matter grew personal quickly as AFH is close to the hearts of many team members whose own children suffer from cancer. When the donation total was announced, there was an immediate reaction from members of the team claiming massive discrepancies in the registrations and donation.

A Facebook page was set up to allow team members and board members to perform an audit. Documents found on the page are mostly spreadsheets created by Nolan and receipts that were submitted. People felt the answers that were provided were not satisfactory and lacking transparency and that AFH was cheated out of the donation they were promised. Andè Wegner, CFS board member, claimed the discrepancies in registration and finances were due only to disorganization. But, still many on the team felt differently.

Money was brought into the spotlight and from there, more issues quickly came to the team’s attention. People started to question where their money was going when they bought gear, jerseys or registration through the team. A Corn Fed racer asked Nolan if they bought a jersey, where the money would go. He answered, “Whatever we make in the store goes to paying for banners, flags, the website, etc.” That is the blanket answer that was given to most team members.

In July, 2013 a bank account for the team was opened. The CFS bank account is allegedly used only to pay invoices and team expenses on top of the extra branding for the team.  Bobick has serious doubts to the truth of this statement. “He [Nolan], is trying to portray it as a family… he keeps saying ‘We’re buying flags, banners, bracelets and whatever else.’ And that’s not necessarily the case. I think we did buy one round of flags, which, yes was a lot of money, I think we bought 4 or 5.”

Winget, former team and board member expressed her concerns about finances, “At one point Nolan told us that we would have to take money from the jersey fund to pay the gear order. Why? If money was being spent legitimately, we should have thousands upon thousands of dollars in excess funds. “

The team made a profit several ways. They made a small profit on the team’s jerseys and also sold t-shirts, beanies, sleeves and other merchandise from their online store. They accepted sponsorship from outside businesses such as Mini Cooper and Zico. Spartan paid the team through the Spartan Race Affliate program which allows the CFS website, to register racers. Each racer that signs up this way prompts a certain amount to be given back to Corn Fed.

Despite this solid income, invoices remained unpaid for weeks or months. When Terry McCormack, another former team and sales committee member left the team, there was a past due invoice over 60 days old for over $4,000. A copy of the invoice was provided by Bobick. As of this writing, the invoice was still unpaid.

An unpaid invoice has some team members asking questions.

 

McCormack said the role of the sales committee wasn’t to pay the invoices, just to organize the gear on the CFS store. “Invoices just came to us. All we did was see them and we had to tell the powers that be.” So, where is all the money going? For McCormack, the answer is in the lack of communication from Nolan. “I don’t think the money is there. I can’t speculate as to where it is.”

TEAM COLORS

Explosive discussions erupted when jersey orders began to take over 6 months to be delivered. Adam Witmer-Bosley finally contacted Akuma. “When the whole thing happened initially and we were promised the order had been placed along with two others, Akuma verified that only one order had been placed for 28 jerseys and the other 127 jerseys were never sent to them.”

According to Akuma and other teams who use Akuma, orders should only take approximately 3 weeks to ship and arrive. Former members of the sales committee explained that Nolan was the only one in charge of the jerseys. McCormack said when they approached Nolan and the board, “It was, ‘Oh akuma won’t get back to us!’ Well, we started contacting them and they got back to us right away. So, we realized the problem wasn’t with the vendor.”

McCormack, Winget and Bobick all left their positions on the team after a supposed vote took place, that according to Winget and McCormack, did not. The sales committee had proposed that they take over the ordering of jerseys. In line with their proposed plan of quarterly jersey orders, they worked on a jersey order for 2 months, moving forward with executing this facet of sales. The day before the order was due, the responsibility was taken from them in a “vote” by the board.

Winget explained, “The final straw was when a post was made saying the board voted for something when no vote ever occurred.  To say that a decision was made with my vote when that was a flat out lie infuriated me.”

According to McCormack, the board is now made up of John Shue, Ande Wegner and Rick Lagacy. Last he knew, all other members had left.

Tensions grew and more members brought issues to light. Nolan remained unsatisfyingly behind the scenes. For many people, simply answering questions clearly, and effectively communicating with the team would make them happy. “We’ve asked for something to quiet the masses. As far as, if there’s nothing going on, shut these people up, pay the bills and let’s go back to racing,” McCormack explained.

TEAM, BUSINESS, OR BOTH?

Nolan owns Corn Fed Spartans, LLC. But, no statement has been made by Nolan about where the team’s money is, what it’s being used for, and if Nolan himself is making a profit.

Other teams have established a successful system for handling money in a variety of ways. Paul Jones, leader of the NE Spahtens, runs his team with a group of nine well-established administrators.  “Our admin group is in daily communication- and questions around purchasing, financing, gear and such are handled together. We’ve had no need for a named treasurer or formal committee,” said Jones.

But, it’s not run like a business. Jones and the admin team make no profit off of their gear. There is a PayPal account in Jones’ name that every admin has access to and out of which invoices and purchasing are done.

On the other hand, MudRunFun was started as a business with a team bearing the same name. Damion “At Mudrunfun” Trombley and business partner Matthew O’Leary run MUDRUNFUN, LLC. Unlike NE Spahtens, they are the only two who handle funds. Trombley responded to my questions by first clarifying that all the questions I sent him were “great for a Team that has become a business, not a business that [has] a team built around it.”

The money that is generated through internet based marketing sales is deposited in the business and Material for the team’s products are bought with the money invested in MUDRUNFUN, LLC.  “We are able to keep our material cost low for the customer because branding is more important to us than profiting off apparel,” Trombley said.

Running a team and a company of this size is more than a hobby. It can be a job. “Do we pay ourselves?… Yes, we pay ourselves a salary based off company profit as any partnership would. We also pay employees, project managers and our sub-contractors as needed,” said Trombley.

The Corn Fed Spartans started out as a team made of friends and family. Issues began when the team began to transition from a team into a business. As one Corn Fed put it, Nolan “made everyone on the page a customer instead of a member.” Nolan is the only one with access to the Corn Fed Spartans team fund bank account.

For some time, there has been growing speculation that not only are the funds being mishandled and that the money is missing, but that Nolan benefits personally from the money without disclosure. Bobick explained, “I do believe that Jonathan Nolan is using the money. I know a lot of people say it’s an LLC and it’s in his name and he can basically use the money however he wants. But, when you tell you team that whatever money is coming back is being used for the team, and that’s not 100% accurate I do believe the team has a right to know that. He could just step forward and say hey, ‘I’m running this as a business, I do make money off of it, I am buying gear and races and gas and alcohol and whatever else and get over it. If you don’t like it then get off my team, cause it’s my business.’”

OCR teams can operate with or without profit. Transparency is the key.

OCR teams can operate with or without profit. Transparency is the key.

FUNNY MONEY

What Bobick and others feared was that, “[The team is] paying for Jon to party on the weekends.” They are. Jonathan Nolan is using the money for his own gain.

 An anonymous Corn Fed member came forward under the email address CFSwhistleblower. This person has access to the team’s bank accounts and forwarded the statements on to ORM. According to the statements, from July 2013 to January 2014, Nolan has been using the team’s card to fund his own lifestyle.

The card was used for the expected CFS purchases and payments. But, the bank statements show that Nolan has used the card for significantly beyond the expenses of shipping and handling for gear, invoices, and jersey orders. The card was used to support Nolan’s everyday expenses. It was used to pay for multiple nights in hotels, not coinciding with race weekends, a $96 trip to Babies-R-Us, and even items from Etsy.com- where Bobick, former fiancé of Nolan, confirms their wedding rings were purchased.

The statements also show Nolan paid his personal bills from here: monthly withdrawals from Comcast, Best Buy, the Indiana Michigan Power Company and transfers to external accounts. There are frequent purchases from Meijer (a department store), Kroger, and various gas stations. The card was used almost daily for lunches at Chipotle, Subway, McDonalds and Buffalo Wild Wings. There were several expensive restaurant bills footed by the Corn Fed Spartan team, a few large liquor purchases and a $136 outing to Bass Pros Shop. Back in August, there was a $149 purchase from 1-800-Flowers.

Bobick had a Corn Fed team card as well, and it is easy to follow which purchases were hers by the different card numbers. Her purchases were exclusively on team supplies at such places as USPS and Office Depot for wrapping and shipping off gear orders.

The statements go on in more detail for many pages. But, in total, from July to January, the bank account had an income of $45,502.68 and withdrawals or payments totaling $45,364.95, a difference of $137.73 left to the Corn Fed name. 

Actual CFS bankcard statement

Actual CFS bankcard statement

Another blow to the morale of Corn Fed was the recent announcement that their upcoming event the Crucible, would be canceled. John Wikman, upon whose property the event was to take place, announced the cancelation on the Corn Fed Facebook page. But, upon questioning, Nolan stated the event was not being canceled, simply relocated pending agreement another location. According to members of the planning committee for the Crucible, this information was never shared with them. Currently, information about refunds to registered racers has not been released.

We reached out to Nolan with a list of questions similar to those we presented to others for clarification on the team’s finances. Unfortunately, we never received a response.

LEFTOVER LEGACY

The group has changed significantly in the last months with many of the core and original members now gone. People often post on the wall that the group is a family and families argue sometimes. But for those who have left, their reasons are bigger than the family bond professed by the team.

Bosley left for a number of reasons, but primarily, “The team lost its heart. The one thing that made us infallible was our ability to work as a group. Money, as a whole wasn’t as transparent as it needed to be, and when it became ‘transparent’ it was after the fact which just made it seem that much worse.  I guess it all boils down to the fact that, while in no way a leader, the captain has values (or a lack thereof) that I wouldn’t associate myself with on my worst day.”

“Ultimately, I left for two reasons. 1) The board was in name only. We did not operate as a board. 2) Nolan cannot communicate,” said Nicole Winget.

Tim White was with the team from its early stages. He stayed with Corn Fed, but said, “I will never wear the Jersey again.”

Chad Weberg, who was an original member of Corn Fed has stepped back as well. “While I [have] lots of great, close friends in CFS I can no longer wear the colors at a race or in public because of the lies and misdirection from leadership.”

Missy Morris, also an original member, is no longer an active part of the team. “In the middle of November, myself, and a few others were unknowingly removed from our positions without a heads up or a reason…  Throughout it all, I still tried to see the best in everyone involved, even though it was getting harder and hard to do that.  Finally I just got sick of all the drama and decided to keep my distance.”

To McCormack, it’s time for CFS to have a change in leadership.  “If leadership ever changes hands, and Corn Fed goes back to the way it was,” says McCormack, “then I’ll be more than happy to come back to Corn Fed. I know that at its center, Corn Fed is still Corn Fed. All this drama that’s going on is one group of people and these people are like cancer eating it from the inside. The core of Corn Fed is still there, you know. The hell with my time, I’ll help anybody over a wall.”

Maribel

Virginia is for (OCR) Lovers

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First obstacle race of the season: check! Here in Virginia, we enjoy what I lovingly call the obstacle race vortex. Every neighboring state hosts a plethora of choices in OCRs. Maryland is inundated with all kinds of OCRs and mud runs, Georgia has a race every weekend, Florida is lucky enough to muck through the mud year round. But here in Virginia, if you’re not quick enough to get in one of the races May through September, you’re done for the year. Unless, you know about the Mad Anthony Mud Run.

Waynesboro, Virginia is just a half hour outside Charlottesville in the Blue Ridge Valley. February 22, 2014, the Mad Anthony Mud Run was put on for the third year. It has grown to double its size in the last two years. I was hesitant to show up after we were dumped on with 17 inches of snow the week before, but I woke up February 22nd to a 50-degree day with several inches of mud from the melting snow ready to race.

I wasn’t sure what I’d find in a smaller, local race like this hosted by a small town in Virginia. But, I showed up to a raucous festival with a beer truck, Buffalo Wild Wings and plenty of crazy costumed runners. The registration line was quick and efficient and anyone whose t-shirt size was no longer available could sign up to have one sent to them. The bag drop was free (HOORAY!) and surprisingly organized despite being a self-drop off.

There were 3 corrals of runners: those there to compete, those there to have fun, and those there for the beer truck! I’m not kidding, those were the categories. Do these people know us OCRers or what?! The atmosphere was fun and light and emulated that of a race much bigger than this. All 500 runners were to leave just a few minutes apart. We lined up and ropes were strung between us to separate all three corrals. Race Directors DeWayne Jones and Ben Lancastar made announcements from a megaphone at the start line, but from about 20 feet back I couldn’t hear anything he said. I could tell everyone was excited to start (particularly myself in shorts and a tank freezing my butt off!).

The elites were off and we fun runners lined up at the front. At the air horn we started up straight up a hill. I was thankful to the moon and back that I was wearing my Inov8BareGrips as I watched the people next to me slide back down the hill.

The obstacles were enjoyable and well marshaled. We hit the first one: muddy balance beams over a muddy pit. Again, thankful for the bare-claws. I was still with a thick group of runners and thought we’d hit a terrible bottleneck, but the race was too smart for that. They had multiple balance beams for the obstacle clearing the lines quickly and moving them on.

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Next, we made it to a line of the largest hay bales I’ve ever seen. Granted, I don’t spend much time rolling in the hay… on the farm at least. From largest to smallest, we had to jump over each. Again, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hit a bottleneck here. This was also a perfect place for spectators to watch and be up close to the obstacles and they took advantage of it. It was great to have so many areas on the course spectators could be up close.

We headed off toward the backside of the course toward what would be my absolute favorite section. After wading through some calf-deep mud, I watched the line of runners in front of me disappear into darkness. I realized we were going underneath the street above into a water drain. I plunged down and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness my legs started to burn in the freezing water. We sounded like horses running in the tunnel. When we came out the other side, we hit the only part of the race I found poorly marked. No one seemed to know which way to go and we were pointed down into a stream by another runner coming back toward the tunnel the other direction.

A group of about 10 of us sloshed through the stream searching for signs, but we couldn’t find any. We finally clawed out of the stream and realized we’d been on the wrong path, but still heading the right direction. But, being certifiably insane, I wished the course actually had taken us down the river.

Throughout the course, there were trivia questions about Mad Anthony Wayne, the Revolutionary War hero after whom the race is named. They warned us to remember the answers, but being my distracted self, I was too busy making sure I was covered in mud. We hit some race marshals who tested our trivia knowledge and before I knew it I was on a penalty path carrying a cinder block over my shoulder! I would say that I’ll be careful to remember next year, but I probably won’t. Again, being certifiable, I liked the block carry. The penalty path was yet again very well organized with no bottle neck or wait time.

The obstacles on the course weren’t particularly difficult, but were all fun. We had a couple of walls to scale, 6’ and 7’ and one of my favorites: a tunnel crawl. It was like McDonalds play place for grownups…who like mud. We crawled through the tunnel throwing mud into the face of the person behind us, out, up and over other tunnels and back through another.

Just like the mental torture at the end of a Spartan race, hearing the festival but being miles away, the Mad Anthony Mud Run played their festival music just loud enough to let us know we had some pain to go. The finish line ended after several large hills- Central Virginia’s natural obstacle, for those of you who didn’t have the privilege of running the Virginia Super Spartan at Wintergreen.

The last mile was wide open and accessible to spectators so we could hear cheering for some distance back. We could also smell the chicken wings. More mental torture (note to self: good reason to be a vegetarian…?). For the last 20 yards we got to run downhill which was an awesome way to get a kick at the end before the finish line.

I crossed, got my awesome medal (for you bling whores out there, the medals were the quality kind, not the cheap ones! SHOW OFF!) and we were immediately funneled toward the festival where more food had arrived and muddy costumed teams were starting to gather. I passed two large ambulances and was impressed that the race was so prepared for safety.

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I got to talk with race director/Parks and Rec director Wayne Jones after the race who told me they loved taking advantage of the fact that the winter months are obstacle race free in Virginia. They naturally get to monopolize stir-crazy runners who just can’t wait for the spring thaw. Before a few of the big boys make their way to Virginia for summer, Mad Anthony initiates runners who may be on the fence about an OCR. They’ve built a great race and the few things that I had any constructive criticism about are an easy fix: better course markings and more heats to preemptively avoid bottlenecks in the quickly growing race! They’ve stuck to what they’re good at, grown the race exponentially, never put the safety of runners at risk, and giving a great after race festival. Growing races could take a page from their book. Congrats to Waynesboro on battling the VA OCR vortex!

UPDATE – The 2015 Mad Anthony Mud Run Review Can Be Found Here.

All In – An Update on Superhero Scramble

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Superhero Scramble (SHS) enjoyed over year and a half in the big leagues of OCR. Their name was mentioned with those global pioneers of obstacle racing such as Spartan and Tough Mudder. But, like many entrepreneurs of a new business, the past months have been a struggle for SHS in both their finances and their reputation.

Last August, ORM released an article unveiling some of the problems SHS and their race director Sean “Ace” O’Connor were dealing with internally. Since then Superhero Scramble put on their Miami race in January which did have close to 2500 participants. However, events in Ohio, Texas, Arizona and California were postponed until 2015 or cancelled all together.  We’ve decided it’s time to check in on the OCR community and with SHS for more information.

In case you haven’t read the article, it explained that SHS ceased to pay some of their elite athletes and employees in a timely manner or within a promised timeframe. It was one of the first articles to expose the behind-the-scenes questionable happenings of any major obstacle race.  In the ever forgiving and positive culture of OCR, the article created divides about the good that it did the OCR community. That article received over 100 comments and is by far the most talked about article in OCR to date.

We reached out to O’Connor for collaboration on this follow-up article and he obliged. First, he shared his thoughts on the news that ORM was writing about Superhero Scramble again. “While everyone is entitled to the facts, the previous ‘story’ was just that… It was riddled with false and misleading information, and was more of a personal attack than fair reporting. While it benefitted ORM, it did absolutely nothing good for the sport, community, industry, or our company.”

FEELING THE HEAT AFTER MIAMI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

On January 11, SHS held their 2013 World Championships in Miami. Their Intimidator distance, coming in at 9.2 miles, and Villain at 18 miles, were both hosted at the competition. Following the race, Facebook exploded with a range of reviews, a large portion of them negative.

On the top of the list of complaints was the lack of water stations at the race and inability to obtain water at the finish line or festival. Next, was the discontent that the t-shirts and medals handed out read “2013 World Championships” instead of 2014. Others were concerned with safety on the course, and some were surprised at obstacles they described as poor.

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O’Connor had a strong response concerning the feedback on safety standards and marshaling at recent events we presented. “If you’re looking for negativity you will find it. We do our best to give everyone an amazing experience, but we all know that it’s not possible to please everyone all the time. We haven’t heard of any safety concerns aside from the long swim at the past race. We take all feedback seriously and will address concerns accordingly. We always have staff and more than sufficient medical personnel.”

SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS

Not all posts were negative though. Many people raved about the long water obstacles, how much fun they had, and that SHS is their favorite race. They hushed the posts from “haters” and offered support to SHS. Unfortunately, for many, these were overshadowed by the frequency of negative posts.

Social media tends to be a breeding ground for rants as people find it easy to voice their frustrations. So, ORM wanted to get the perspective and reaction from some of OCR’s biggest names and longtime fans and elites of SHS to understand better the community’s opinion of SHS.

We posed identical questions to promoters, elite racers, weekend warriors, and seasoned athletes. ORM’s goal was to capture a variety of experiences, reviews, and thoughts. But, we found similar patterns in the answers we received.

A few racers we interviewed wished to remain anonymous either because of relationships they value with the staff at SHS or because they were concerned speaking out would compromise their chance at receiving payment for cash prizes. We asked O’Connor about his response to the worry that if racers who are owed money are honest about it, they will not be paid.

“Honesty and open communication is fine, but starting rumors and poisoning the well which is OUR OCR community isn’t ok with us. We are late on paying some people, but they will get paid and that has been communicated to them. If people want to get paid ASAP they can help by promoting our races instead of bashing us because of a personal issue. We have every intention of paying people as soon as fiscally feasible and responsible. The last ORM article was an “opinion piece” that was littered with false and misleading information. The article didn’t help us as a company, and only delayed people from getting paid as it damaged our reputation.”

The following are the stories and reactions from a variety of racers in the OCR world.

SPREADING THE WORD

A passionate promoter’s first SHS race was in 2012 at Waldo, FL. The promoter was impressed by “the atmosphere, the obstacles (the slide especially), the band, the swag the superhero theme. Almost everything about it.” As a mudrun fanatic, this promoter referred anyone they could to SHS.

However, over a year later and owed over $500, there are no more rave reviews. “I think if SHS just listened to the serious ‘fans’ and took a step back instead of getting so greedy, they would not have had the issues that they had at the Villain. The people that work there are awesome people! I think it just go too big too fast. None of us wanted to see SHS go down the way it did.”

Elite racer and OCR icon Hobie Call gave us his input as well. Call is a huge fan of SHS and their great atmosphere and people. He’s referred a few thousand people to their events through Facebook. “I do think I helped serious athletes to get involved over time, though,” he said.

Call didn’t have a bad thing to say about SHS. “I liked everything, but once again admittedly, I was the first one through the course which can make a big difference. The weather was warm and sunny, it was a beautiful park to run through, I was healthy enough to enjoy it, and I go to visit with friends that I’ve made over they years and meet a lot of new great people also.”

Call still recommends the race, but shared some thoughts for SHS. “I’d like to add this advice to Superhero Scramble. Stick to the shorter races, a lot of the problems they had with their Championship race would have been automatically solved if the course were only4 miles long. Also, most people don’t want to run bunch of miles. Maybe the most vocal people in the sport may make it sound otherwise, but the reality is, it’s far easier to get people to sign up for a 3 mile race than it is a 9 mile race. Also, logistically, it’s far easier to put together a 3-mile course than it is a longer one. GO back to focusing on a lot of quality obstacles, and less running. Just my thoughts.”

On the difficulty of his race, O’Connor had a lot to say. “There are always those that find our obstacles too difficult and some that find them too easy, but we try to balance the difficulty by pleasing the varied skills of our participants. This particular event was our Intimidator and Villain distances which are longer races and therefore require much more running than our shorter distance races. In other words…they aren’t meant to be as fun as our shorter distance Charger. The Intimidator came in at at 9.2 miles and the Villain at over 18 miles. The number of obstacles were at the normal levels, but since it’s a longer race it may not seem as many or as frequent. Some obstacles vary from location to location due to the types of terrain and or restrictions of the venue or county.”

CASE OF MORE MISSING MONEY

Alec Blenis, a 19-year-old elite racer hailing from Roswell, GA also attended his first SHS race in Waldo. He was excited about the prospect of a cash prize- a rare thing at the time. “While it wasn’t the best race course I’ve ever seen, I was really happy to see a race company in the OCR world focus on team racing and cash prizes. At the time, not even the larger companies were offering big payouts (with few exceptions), so winning money at that race was a huge bonus for me.”

Blenis found the race a little disorganized with some obstacles still not assembled the morning of the race. “Once the race got going though, everything went smoothly besides the lack of regulation. Regulation is an easy fix though, so I was excited to sign up for another race and hope for improvement.”

He referred friends and family to SHS and continued to race. But, now he is owed $1,166 by SHS. $916 of this is past due. “According to their website, they pay athletes within 180 days, which, even if true, is still unreasonable in my opinion. Other race series are now paying athletes on race-day, and Superhero Scramble should follow suit.”

After his experience in the Miami World Championships, Blenis will not be going out of his way to participate in any more SHS events. “Many of the obstacles were laughable, like hoping over a box, and others weren’t managed properly. For instance, there were lots of walls to climb, but there weren’t any volunteers there to make sure racers did them… Until Superhero Scramble pays athletes the thousands of dollars that they now owe them, no. I may run the Georgia race since it is close to home, but I would not travel for one.”

But, Blenis hasn’t given up on SHS, a clear trend in the athletes we spoke with. He would still recommend it to his family and friends. “If you are local to the event, do it. The race is a really fun way to spend a weekend. However, I don’t think they are worth travelling to as a competitive racer.”

This area of the business is a priority for O’Connor and his future plans with SHS. “The reality is that a lot of unexpected things happened this past year which really set us back financially. We are working with all our creditors and unlike a lot of the players in the industry, we continue to put on top notch races and ARE STILL IN BUSINESS. Some of the complaining is coming from creditors who we are questioning their charges, others are legitimate bills which will be paid as we work through our next round of financing. As a business we must make sure that we can continue to operate and put on profitable races so that we can pay back people that are owed money.”

Superhero once relied on word of mouth and grassroots marketing to fill their races. But, some racers now refuse to refer anyone to the race until financial matters have been cleared up. Kevin “Mudman” LaPlatney from Long Island, NY was disappointed by the lack of prize money offered to his team after their win. While the SHS website did announce there would be not be cash prizes, there was poor discrepancy between what was promised and what was ultimately given to podium place finishers.

“My team won the top male category for the ‘Scramble Gamble’ division, but we were never given our trophy or prize money. Instead, race organizers awarded us with ‘Superswag Bucks,’ essentially a coupon/credit toward their picked-over merchandise at the end of the day.  They claim that the company made a decision to change the event to only a ‘competitive’ race, relieving them of their obligation to provide said prizes.”

Mudmanphoto Photo: Mudman used thisd phoyo for his review of the race which takes a bit of a shot at SHS.

LaPlatney communicated with race director Sean O’Connor several times after the race and told us he did not receive a satisfactory explanation that would prompt him to attend another Superhero Scramble.

Leigh Rush, hailing from Adairsville, GA was featured in ORM’s first article. Her first SHS was in Dalton, GA, April 2013. She liked the tough, legitimate obstacles Superhero offered, but was unimpressed by the delays in start times. She is currently owed $1000 for individual race winnings and $750 from team winnings.  There was no hesitation or sugarcoating from Rush: she will not do another Superhero race.

HERO’S CREDIBILITY INJURED

Other racers were concerned about the safety of SHS races and integrity of the brand. One female team member and seasoned racer told us she would never refer friends and family because of safety issues. “It’s too unpredictable and dangerous for the level of fitness most of my family members are at… Family members might either lose their money if they registered and the race got cancelled, which has happened numerous times, or they could get injured on an obstacle that is not safe.”

She went on to describe her disappointment in promises unfulfilled by Superhero. “This is a very unfortunate downfall of Superhero races for many people- Superhero lost credibility… And Superhero should not have continued to carry on with the façade of scramble gamble heats when they realized they couldn’t pay out the winnings. It’s poor business practice and it’s dishonest.”

“I would like to add that it’s my belief that being transparent goes a long way and I feel Superhero missed the mark on this. I think that Superhero is now paying the ultimate price at this point. They are in their own “scramble”, excuse the pun. I think they should have some integrity and post on their own website and Facebook page the list of persons (or) number of persons whom they own money to and the amount that is owed and have full disclosure so that future participants are aware of what Superhero has promised and not delivered on.”

Other participants echoed this sentiment. “After my first Superhero, I left elated and having had a good time, but still felt the race had many places to improve. I thought that in a few months they would learn and grow and improve on what people had very vocally complained about after their event in Georgia. When I went to compete in Florida for their first intimidator I was astonished to see no real improvement.”

O’Connor expressed that they are making efforts at SHS to reach out to athletes who are feeling disappointed. “We can understand people losing faith because some payments are being paid late. We do our best to communicate with people if we owe them money, and are in touch via phone and email. We have responded to emails regarding payments with honest answers. We have also made installment payments to all athletes that are owed money, and will pay in full as soon as we possibly can.”

But, Superhero will not be posting any information about who or what is owed. “That info is private just as others financial info is private,” O’Connor said. “People must understand this is a business, and all businesses have accounts payable and most businesses have debt.”

SUPERHERO’S HOUSE OF CARDS

Janice Marie Ferguson is an all around badass. She is a married mother of two, one of the Spartan 300 Elites, top 50 2013 female Spartans (in points), a wild hog catcher, and CrossFit trainer out of Biloxi, MS, had some strong words about SHS. She noted that her perspective comes from that of a competitive racer with different expectations than that of a recreational racer or weekend warrior. Understandably, she has higher expectations. Her review of the Miami World Championships was critical and detailed, adding flesh and bones out many of the complaints seen on the Superhero Scramble Facebook page.

Ferguson concerns ranged from safety to regulation of obstacles, specifically in elite races; unplanned race delays causing disruption to warm ups; cheating during the swimming obstacles, and lack of follow through on payouts.

While Ferguson did not specify the amount she is owed, she explained that she was paid over six months after her team win in Florida (May 2013) and still has not received total payment for her team win in South Carolina, June 28, 2013. “I was told 180 days in regards to the Florida race. For South Carolina, who knows? The website now says cash will be paid in 12 months. I shouldn’t have to hope for it. I should know it is coming.”

Ferguson concluded, “Cancelled, low-attended, or poorly organized races are just a few of the problems that Superhero has been battling with. I wish that were not the case. I care about this industry, and I hate to see OCR companies fail. Who knows, maybe Superhero will rise up from their troubles and become a top racing organization? I hope so.”

BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY

Ashley Martin from Temple, GA is a dedicated and decorated racer. Her first SHS was in Georgia, April 2013 and her most recent at the South Carolina race in June. She is not currently owed money, but she has grown exasperated with SHS. Martin loved her last race with SHS. “This race was brutal. The course was difficult. I measured with my GPS somewhere around 2,000 ft. elevation change over the 10.5 miles. There were some difficult obstacles from what I’d seen at the 2 previous races from them.”

She gave us the other side of what she experienced as well. “Again, the race started late… the rope climb was placed at the beginning of the race, if I remember correctly it was the first obstacle. And there were only 4 or 5 ropes. This created a really bad bottleneck during the elite wave. If I remember correctly there were only 4 water stations. The race was advertised at 8+ but clocked in at 10.5. It was June, in the south. It was miserable. I cramped up in the last mile and was in tears by the finish line.”

Martin, definitively, is done with SHS and with any referrals. “I think the Superhero theme is appealing to some people, but there’s other races that can offer the same challenge without all the issues that SHS seems to be having right now.”

After dealing with complications in claiming her prize money from the Central Florida race, Martin finally gave up. She was sitting in 4th place in their point series at the time, after running three races. She sought clarification about points winnings and how she could expect payment, but was told she would have to compete at the Miami World Championship race in order to be eligible for any points winnings. Martin was concerned that with the delay in payments that occurred, she would end up paying for races for which she rightfully should have won a season pass. She ended up sitting out the season and giving up any money she would have won.

“The final straw for me was when I noticed that SHS had changed the small print under their points payout chart, to say that prizes would be given out at GA, but monetary payments could take up to a year and monetary amounts may vary depending on the number of races held during the year.”

“SHS may not be in business in a year so I may never see my winnings to begin with, and who knows how much I actually would win since they are not being forthright. I chose to stay at home and not waste my time in Miami at their so-called World Championship race.”

O’Connor commented on the critique of the safety of his race. “Safety is always our primary concern and we believe we did a great job delivering a fun and safe race for our World Championship event. The injuries were minimal and less than our other races. Those that understand obstacle racing know that injuries are inevitable.”

“We have heard people remark about the long swim, and although it can be dangerous for non-swimmers it was definitely NOT unsafe. There were ropes with buoys to pull yourself across, paddle boarders and boats in the water to help swimmers, SIX PROFESSIONAL LIFEGUARDS in addition to BSO FIRE/RESCUE, and those who can’t swim well were advised to walk around the obstacle. “

A CALL FOR ACTION

The OCR community is patient and understanding to say the least. But, for some who have dealt with SHS, enough is enough. Mr. David W. Summers has begun the pursuit of legal action against Sean O’Connor and Superhero Scramble. In a letter to O’Connor, Ryan Summers, and Robyn Goldman, David Summers outlined his complaint against SHS.

“It’s going on better than 8 months since my son Adam was retained by Super Hero Scramble, LLC to provide services, tools and supplies for a Georgia athletic event. To which he has yet to be compensated… My son poured out his knowledge, expertise and efforts on Super Hero’s behalf. And I might add never charged it full price for that. Not only that, he was a fan. Past tense.”

According to David Summers, SHS owes his son Adam $12,710.47. He has hired attorneys to pursue the payment of this amount. Previously, these attorneys attempted to create a settlement agreement with SHS, which was ignored and has since expired. Summers makes no secret of his feelings toward Superhero.

“How do you people justify this? How do you sleep t night, knowing this? How does one completely put his out of their mind and pretend they have no obligation to pay this or contact or negotiate a program to pay this ‘debt?’ How can you call yourselves Super Heroes? Shouldn’t a more appropriate name be Super Zeroes? OSHA is just a phone call away. The corners you cut, the safety compromises. Hey I know people that were there… Shame on you and you Super nothings.”

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A portion of David Summers’ letter to SHS

When asked about this letter, O’Connor responded, “First, we all know you can’t believe everything you read, but we are in communication with anyone that is owed money, and everyone that is owed money will be paid as soon as possible.”

SUPERHERO SPEAKS OUT

ORM has not received any response from an SHS representative on this particular matter, but Robyn Goldman, an original partner of Superhero Scramble sent us her correspondence to David Summers. Goldman has not worked for over a year with the race and explained that neither has Ryan Summers. She left citing many disagreements with O’Connor.

“Sean and I made a buyout agreement last February of $32,500 that he was supposed to pay me in increments and till this day he has not paid me a penny! Unfortunately he owes many people and I doubt any of us will be getting paid. Hopefully he will realize that he will be getting many lawsuits his way and the company will fall apart with his poor decisions.”

O’Connor’s response to Goldman was short. “You are responsible for your words and can and will be held accountable,” he wrote. “You have never had a buyout agreement.”

Goldman shot back an email asking if he would like to finally sign the contract. O’Connor’s response concerning a buyout changed. “Again, we are in no position to buy you out. We will let you know w as soon as we can manage something. Thanks.”

ORM asked O’Connor about those who left because services rendered were never paid for. “This is false. Everyone was paid as agreed. The company started with 4 people, and over time the reality set in that people either couldn’t fulfill their duties, or weren’t able to make the sacrifices necessary to grow a start-up. In most businesses you will find this isn’t uncommon…. All employees have always been paid as agreed.”

THE FUTURE OF SHS IN THE OCR COMMUNITY

OCR athletes are surprisingly understanding. They are forgiving and gracious, optimistic and hopeful. Even in the face of disappointment and broken promises, they are staunch believers in a second, third, or hundredth chance. Fans and athletes have gathered to support Superhero Scramble during its struggles. The common thread we discovered among the racers we interviewed was their willingness to accept transparency and commitment to improve, and then move on. There are few grudges held against SHS and there remains a deep-seated hope that they will turn things around. But, momentum is building to speak out when commitments are not fulfilled. Athletes take OCR seriously and want their races to as well.

Similarly, despite everything, O’Connor believes that SHS is still a success and not going anywhere. Perhaps, they are just weathering the growing pains of a new sport.

“The industry is new and ever evolving. It’s a fast paced environment and we are ever adapting to the changes. While we love having elite athletes compete at our races, they are a small percentage of racers. Our surveys indicate a 90% satisfaction level and over 70% of racers tell their friends about us. We are in the process of restructuring many aspects of the company which will allow us to move forward and put on top notch events this year and beyond.”

Recent months have seen the Superhero’s reputation take a hit. Ever optimistic, O’Connor explained that it’s important to remember that this is still a sport in its pioneering stages with surprises and unexpected changes.

“We think the biggest misconception and issue is that people think we are making tons of money, when in fact this is a tough business with a lot of risk. If you look around at all the races that have started in the last year, and research how many have survived, you won’t find many. We are putting on top notch events and have a 90% satisfaction rate, but we are still a start-up in an industry that’s constantly throwing curveballs at us. We have been mostly self-funded until recently, and are a small organization with a vision and a goal to make Superhero Scramble the premiere OCR company. That being understood, we do have a list of payables and are paying them down in an orderly manner as all businesses do.”

LATE BREAKING NEWS

As this story was going to press the first week of February, 2014 two things transpired:

Superhero mailed 25% of winnings owed to racers from their June 2013 races. (Many interviewed for this story mentioned being owed for these particular races).

Superhero Scramble announced the cancellation of two more of their 2014 races. The South Carolina race scheduled for June 28th, and the Ohio race scheduled for August 2nd 2014 have been removed from the SHS race schedule. Originally, the Ohio race was delayed but due to what SHS cites as “a surge of competing races” making the market difficult, they have chosen to cancel the two entirely. An email was sent to participants offering a transfer of funds from one race to another or a full refund.

 

SHS Cancel

*Cover photo by David Moore