When I was in my early twenties I worked with another coach whom was in his 60’s. He life story is one that still to this day is impressive, not for wins but for it’s richness in experience. He has been an Ironman, Professional Painter, Sailor (think big sailboats in warm places), Ski Coach, Ski Instructor, Father, Husband, Builder, and still chops his own wood to heat this house in Vermont and many many other things. He has opportunities presented to him and he has taken them. Early in my own career and coming off four years of business school I was consumed with building a career and resume. Worried about salaries, and things, one day among many of our conversations, this piece of wisdom was imbued to me; “When I have needed money in life I have found it. If you are willing to work you will always have what you need.”
At the time it seemed like a strange statement, had he found some magical money tree. When I probed him more on the subject he said, money is found if you are willing to take jobs in the temporary to get you to what you want to do. Meaning if an odd job was needed to float between a season he would take it, which has led to a lifetime of rich experiences and stories. At the time this didn’t make any sense. He constantly told me to stop worrying about money, worry about how much I made or compare myself to others. Knowingly or not Chris was giving me advice that almost a decade later would finally resinate with me.
Money, is an illusion and an allure. We work so hard to get it and get it whisks away as soon as it’s in the account. For most of us today it’s shifting numbers from bank accounts to credit cards or account to account. In sport, money is and has always been a draw. As one athlete has said over and over again, “you put the money up and the real athletes will show up” and “if the money is there so will be the racers”. Well this paradigm is starting to pick up speed in the Obstacle Course Racing world. More and more races are offering cash prices for their “elite” or “pro” divisions. Races like Reebok Spartan Race now give out prizes at all races, as well as Superhero Scramble, Alpha Warrior, World’s Toughest Mudder as well as newbies like Atlas Race, Thunder Challenge, and Man Games and others are entering the market as well offering these cash prizes.
Yes, cold hard cash does draw athletes to a race series but as someone who already is racing a lot it can also lead us astray. It’s hard to say no to a race even if you haven’t fully recovered when you see a moderate field and the paycheck just waiting for you to grab. It can pull those who are making this their career push harder to get to the next race.
This allure can be strong, very strong at times and blind us to the fact that recovery in our race seasons is just as important as the races. It can in the extreme lead to an athlete pushing too hard while still fatigued from a previous race and suffer a major injury putting them out for the rest of the season. Yes, money can do all these things, and more. I am not one to put down prize money, and it’s part of my income as an athlete, but I will say as a cautionary tail to those looking to “follow the money” put your health first, plan your season strategically, many races come and many will go. Put your health and family first, then go chasing after the money.
Be smart, money will come when it’s needed if you are willing to work for it!