Shane McKay, Ella Kociuba, Alec BlenisObstacle racing is still in its infancy and therefore,  is one of the few sports in which older competitors don’t have the luxury of experience over younger participants.  Because of that I wanted to get the perspectives of some of the best young and old “not so young” racers in the sport to delve into the differences of thought.   You can see the full transcript of the short interviews below, but here is my take on the full conversation.

  1. Alec is so well-rounded that he is almost a circle.
  2. Ella is a jokester and has to bum rides from “adults”
  3. Shane is the epitome of bada$$ery
  4. Alec may one day be touring with Justin Bieber
  5. Ella is like a little tiger kitten who naps when she is isn’t out being ferocious
  6. Shane does so well because he never has to do burpees
  7. All 3 clearly have “what it takes” to be successful at whatever they choose to do
  8. They give great advice

How old are you today?

Ella Kociuba:  19
Alec Blenis:  18
Shane McKay:  52 [Note that Shane is 15 years older than the two of them combined!]

What do you do when you’re not racing or training?

Ella:  napping.. Haha but no, if I got free time I might go saddle up my horse for a ride or hike with my dog.

Alec:  I am a sophomore studying mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, so that takes up some of my time. I am a life long musician, having played the piano and drums since age 4, and practice my instruments in my free time. I also love to cook, spend time with my family, and love everything outside.

Shane:  I own and manage a steel fabrication and machine shop.

If the sport of obstacle racing didn’t exist, what sport would you dedicate yourself to?

Ella:  that’s a difficult question to answer, i just happened to stumble upon obstacle racing while debating about running in college. I can see myself competing in crossfit. However, I like bodybuilding (did one show) but I’m a little runner at heart.

Alec:  I’m only 50% obstacle racer, actually. The other half of me is ultra runner. I am experimenting with some road marathons also (running Boston this April), but my heart lies on the trail.

Shane:  For 8 months prior to finding OCR I was getting into Crossfit, I probably would have continued and considered Crossfit games.

Given the wide range of competitors’ ages, how do you think your age hinders/hurts you?

Ella:  I’m the youngest of elite females. I don’t find it to be all that hindering besides the fact that I can’t rent a car yet.. Haha but on a serious note, I lack the experience that most of them have.

Alec:  As an 18 year old, I am obviously not at my “peak”. This is true, but I don’t like to think of age as an obstacle; I will always to the best I can with the body I have. I can only hope I improve as I get older. Right now, youth may be a disadvantage when competing against athletes in their 20’s and 30’s…but by the time I’m that age, I will have decades of experience in a sport that is brand new to them now.

Shane:  I’m not as aggressive as I once was, I have a tough time finding that next gear.

What do you envision yourself doing when you’re Shane’s age?

Ella:  I hope to see myself healthy and still kicking butt like Shane. I don’t really see my competitive streak dying anytime soon. Even if my back goes out, I’ll figure a way to compete in something.

Alec:  When I am Shane’s age, he will be in his 80’s. Probably, we will all still be trying to keep up with him! Realistically though, I hope and plan to still be competing with the same passion and youthful enthusiasm that I have for obstacle racing today.

What were you doing when you were Alec’s & Ella’s age?

Shane:  I was playing hockey. KIJHL.

What is your least favorite obstacle?

Ella:  Least favorite obstacle would most likely be the rope climb, took me awhile to get the technique down.

Alec:  I used to hate the sandbag carry and tractor pull, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned to love them all (or perhaps hate them all equally). To me, a great obstacle is unique and challenging. When an obstacle becomes just “more of the same”, it will not be a favorite.

Shane:  In 20 plus races I have only failed 4X during a race…#1 was in my 3rd race, Chandler AZ- balance beam……#2 was Tarzan in VT…..#3 Spear throw in Sacramento…..#4 Traverse wall in Malibu. Sooner are later I was bound to miss the spear throw. Haha! Won’t happen again.

What is your best piece of advice for younger competitors?

Ella:  I have two big pieces of advice I like to stress to everyone: 1) don’t ever compare yourself to anybody else, your only competition is yourself 2) treat your training like its your job. Yes that means some days you will hate it, you will be too tired, too cold, too hot, whatever your little excuse is don’t let it take in affect and get it done! Takes complete dedication to get to the top.

Alec:  Learn that being a great athlete takes much more than just training. You need to have an all around healthy lifestyle. I see a lot of young competitors training rigorously while leading otherwise unhealthy lives… This is simply unsustainable and won’t help you become the best that you can be. You may only be training for an hour per day, but taking care of your body 24/7 will help you significantly in the long term

Shane:  If you are a new runner ( many of us are) then take a clinic and read some books, do not start too fast, add mileage gradually and avoid injuries.  Practice obstacles!

You can follow Ella at:

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