Rachel Lotz is a Rockagator guest contributor who just completed the June 2018 Spartan AGOGE in Pittsfield Vermont. In this post, she debunks some of the preconceived notions about AGOGE and some excuses that potential finishers use that keep them from even reaching the starting line.
Chances are by now you have come across the hushed word, "Agoge", either by word of mouth in the OCR community or scrolling through the Spartan Race Endurance page. However, very few have taken on this seemingly formidable event. Can you finish the AGOGE like I did? Yes you can! But here are some of the excuses that you might be using right now that are preventing you from even getting started.
Excuse #1: I'm not ready.
If everyone in life waited until they were ready to participate in an event, the time would never come! I can tell you, you will never be ready, but you can try your best to be as close to "ready" as possible. In the six months leading up to my first Agoge, I suffered from IT Band Syndrome in both my legs. I was not able to run, hike, or partake in just about any physical activity. Instead of looking at the negative, I looked at the parts of the event that I had control over. I learned how to orient a compass, read UTM coordinates, start a fire, and tie knots. Yes, an Agoge is a physical event, but it is also a mental and emotional test.
Excuse #2: It looks cold.
Yes, the cold sucks. Cold weather is particularly uncomfortable. Agoges are uncomfortable! No one experienced personal growth in their comfort zone. I thought that signing up for a Summer Agoge would remove any possible chance of being cold; wrong. At some point, even during the summer you will have to strip down to your skivvies, or even remain in full clothes and get into freezing water, regardless of the time of day. Make the cold a learning experience. For example, I chose pants to wear during this event that may not have been as warm as other options, but dried faster to minimize the time that I was wet. Most importantly, use the weather conditions to learn about cold weather gear!
Excuse #3: I don't know how to ___.
Taking a quick scan over the gear list, you will be asked to tie four specific knots and orient a compass and map. There is no if ands or buts to these points during the event, you will not pass if you do not know how to do these things. When first opening the mandatory gear list, I had absolutely no idea how to tie the four necessary knots, and didn't know what a topographical map was, or even where to obtain one. In the months leading up to my first Agoge I made YouTube my best friend, by searching for the how-to tutorials for each knot. A once seemingly impossible task was made manageable by using the resources around me. I started with the first knot for two weeks, then once I mastered that one, I added a second knot for another two weeks and so on until I felt confident in all four knots. Once you feel that you understand each of the knots, add some variety to your practice. Tie the knots with your eyes closed, behind your back, with gloves on, or even with thicker rope.
These tasks can be transferred to other aspects of your life. If you head into something full force, the probability of your success will be very small. Break the larger goal into smaller and more comprehensive tasks.
Excuse #4: It's expensive.
Yes, it is. Often, you'll need to buy a flight or put some gas in your tank to get to Pittsfield Vermont. You also probably won't have all the mandatory gear listed and need to buy it. However, I can promise you that there are ways out there to cut down on the cost of Agoge. I split a hotel room for 4 nights with 3 other people, that cost me $85 in total. I became a member at REI and unlocked access to their "Garage" that discounted name brand items, where I was able to get some rad Marmot pants that were originally $100, for only $40. Make sure to look through social media groups for lightly used items that people are looking to get rid of. I purchased an Osprey pack for the event from a previous Agoge participant for $100. If you give yourself a bit of time to look for the items, instead of heading straight to Amazon, you may be surprised with what you can find!
Excuse #5: I'm not a great runner, I am not strong enough, I am not ___.
Agoge is not a race, contrary to popular belief. Let me repeat that, Agoge is NOT a race. However, do not take this statement as an excuse to slack off with your training, as an Agoge finisher is often, a well-rounded individual. You do not have to be the fastest runner out there, or the strongest individual to sign up for an Agoge. This event is all about team work and relying on one another to get through the 60 hours together. At some point throughout the event, someone will have to rely on you, and you will need to rely on them. Whether that be in the form of a funny joke to stay awake at hour 50 or receiving water from a teammates' water bottle when yours is empty. Every aspect of you will be tested. Make sure you are emotionally as strong as you are mentally and physically.
Now that I have covered a few reasons to why I believe people have not signed up for an Agoge, I also have a few words of advice to those who are straddling the fence to sign up.
1. Bring ONLY what is on the gear list.
Yes, it is that simple. Don't overthink every item, trust the Krypteia's choice to have put the item on the list. They are there to help you, not work against you. They have beta tested (probably more than once) every item that you will be using, and activity that you will be doing.
2. Do your homework.
Learn the necessary skills, ask Agoge veterans about their experience, buy the mandatory gear. Be prepared by learning what will work for you, as it may not work for others.
3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable!
We often put preconceived limitations on ourselves, by saying “I can't” or “I won't”. It is always easier to turn to comfort, rather than continue in pain or not ideal conditions. You won't know what or who is on the other side of uncomfortable until that is your only option. What I can tell you is that what is on the other side of uncomfortable is always experience and improvement.
Hopefully I have tipped the scales in favor of you participating at an upcoming AGOGE. Click here to get yourself started toward your goal of being a Spartan AGOGE finisher!