More than Mud - Norm Koch

More than Mud is an article and interview series dedicated to documenting the incredible characters and stories that we come across in the world of OCR and outdoor adventure and endurance racing events. They range from everyday heroes to extreme athletes but all have unique and engaging stories to tell. 

Inside the world of OCR, you are feared and revered.  How do you describe your job to people outside the OCR world? 
I describe my job to outsiders with a description of Spartan and OCR world.  I get to help influence Spartan internationally and domestically.  My job is to help and design courses that are challenging and keep Spartan true to its roots. A Military style obstacle challenge that is timed and should force people to test their limits.  If everyone is completing the course without doing burpees, it’s not hard enough.  Then I have to explain what a burpee is and explain we penalize for failing an obstacle.  Many peoples' first reaction is "I’m not ready for one of those" or "I couldn't do one".  I tell everyone they need to do one, bring a friend and do it.  It’s a life changing experience. 

Where do you look for inspiration on new course elements?
Finding inspiration isn’t too hard.  I make a point to be active on FB and most importantly getting off my ass and visiting other OCR events.  Visiting fixed obstacle courses, and smaller regional races are helpful.  They help me see what Spartan Race does well or may help us become better.  Obstacles for Spartan is so difficult because of the Spartan hordes.  With the popularity and demand, the size of Obstacles or through put is a major concern.  So, at home I mock stuff up, build and tweak cool stuff I come across.

What are you most and least favorite terrains for course building? 
Flat and flat sucks, boring. My favorite is Ski Resorts and Mountains. Give me rocky, forests, and water.

Which hazards are the most critical for a race director to manage for health and safety? Are there certain elements that are the most dangerous to get wrong (water, obstacle height, hydration on the course)? 
Questions like this can get me in trouble because we are a sue happy culture.  Most people need to realize danger is everywhere, if we don’t feel some type of inherent fear we would just play shuffleboard.  Safety is a major concern.

You are known as a huge supporter of the Spartan adaptive athletes.  How did you get involved and what does that mean to you?
I love supporting my adaptive athlete friends.  Overcoming personal hardships/obstacles is really what OCR is about.  Far too many people are lazy or let hardship get them down.  These athletes are amazing; they push past hardship and roll with the punches.  We can never know what tomorrow holds for us, but a true athlete, Spartan will rise above any hurdle.  I enjoy spending time with the people who understand we are all equals.  Elites, open Class racers, adaptive Athletes I don’t care what time your heat is do you have grit, honor, integrity? Those are the people I like to spend my free time with and support in anyway I can.

Tell us a bit about yourself - who are you outside of OCR? and what are you passionate about?
Well I enjoy building obstacles and working out, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking and camping. I’m a huge advocate for the 2nd amendment and avid Hunter and Trapper. I am a mountain man, with a BS in Recreation and Ski Resort Management and Resource Management.  I have two-step sons, a boy and a girl.  So Four kids is enough to drive anyone crazy.  I met the love of my life at a race.  Debbie Moreau now Debbie Koch. We went to France together and I proposed to her on top of the Eiffel Tower, then she won the first Super in France.  We train together and raise our family in Maine. We are both in to being healthy and don’t drink, I’m super boring, no caffeine or sugar.

What's one thing most of the OCR community wouldn't know about you? 
Well I grew up in Alaska, Vermont, Short stay in Park City Utah, now Maine. I drive a Spartan Branded F150.  I am one of 70 people who got there trifecta in 2011.  I am one of the founding members of the StormChasers, many who work for Spartan Race. I have finished two death races.  2012 winter I took second, the summer I finished in 65 hours, many didn’t think I would do it I had a broken toe going into the event, but I’m stubborn.  I have so many stories from past jobs, I worked in so many industries.  Entertainment, Recreation, Promotions and Marketing, some names are Playstation2, Lego, Johnson & Johnson, Nascar, Sundance Film festival, Ski Resorts and Rec Centers.  It goes on and on, I have been a drive individual and have choose cool exciting jobs.

Any personal goals for 2015?
I want to do more races so I can keep my feet on the ground and not loose site of what OCR is.  I want to be able to do some more EFFNORM hard courses,  the proclaimed Devils trifecta, if I can just get Spartan to make a special medal?  I think we may get a patch and Shirt this year.  The most important part is making sure everyone is smoked at the end of the races.  My goal is to design a course that lets a big guy and a smaller faster runner have a similar time.  That requires obstacles and using the terrain.  There are a handful of people who have volunteered and assisted me in marking a course.  They get to hear my laugh and see the process.  I always start with a plan and that’s just the starting point, then I have to tweak it and improvise the course, I do a lot of handwork.  Most of all I have passion for what I do and never want to loose that.

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