Abbotsford’s JP Siou is packing an axe, a turtle dove feather and a pound of donkey chow for a trip to the mountains of Vermont later this month for three days that will test his will to survive.
Siou has been chosen as one of a select few to participate in the Spartan Death Race event, which runs from June 30 to July 3.
It’s an event designed to break down competitors physically, mentally and emotionally. Racers are not aware of what the event consists of, but in the past it has included everything from chopping wood, magic tricks, riddles, thousands of physical challenges like burpees, all-night treks and many other tasks.
Siou, who owns a home-based fitness studio in Abbotsford and is a Spartan Race certified coach, was initially heading to Vermont for a workshop related to Spartan Race and was going to participate in the Death Race for six hours. However, all those attending the workshop were given an opportunity to be added as a possible last-minute entry into the full Death Race itself and Siou agreed to sign up.
He was then chosen as a replacement just a few weeks ago and agreed to take on the challenge. Only 10 per cent of all racers finish the Death Race and Siou is entering the event with very little prep. Despite that he said he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“At 5-6 and nearly 200 pounds, I’m far from the prototypical trail runner/endurance athlete,” he told The News. “I honestly suspect that I’ll probably be one of the least qualified entrants in terms of past racing accomplishments to toe that start line, but if there’s one thing I can do it’s suffer and keep moving forward.”
Siou said he’s doing the typical training he does when leading his classes to prepare himself and has also added rucking – carrying heavy packs for long distances – to his routines. But he also doesn’t want to injure or deplete himself too much before the event.
“Three weeks isn’t enough for me to significantly train for it,” he said, laughing. “And I don’t want to mess myself up in the short term.”
His fitness journey began initially when he was discouraged at how out of shape he was when climbing stairs prior to the birth of his first child. Siou said he wanted to be able to play with his kids and slowly stepped away from his IT job.
He worked with a local trainer to get himself in shape and then became a trainer himself. He eventually built up a loyal clientele and launched The Body Transformation Group Inc. and operated classes out of his garage. He eventually opened a physical gym, but then returned to his home after that experiment didn’t prove to be profitable enough.
Siou said a big turning point for him was competing in the 2015 Spartan Race at Sun Peaks. He said the event truly challenged him and made him a better athlete physically and mentally.
“It was so mind blowing to me,” he said. “Realizing that I could push through so much discomfort and struggle but keep moving forward. It really changed my idea around what I thought was the biggest thing people can get out of training. The mental, emotional and physical resilience you need for the Spartan Race encapsulated all that work.”
Following that race Siou took the Spartan coach training and is now one of three level-two certified Spartan coaches in western Canada. He said he’s also helped his clients complete Spartan Races and the feeling is amazing.
“Helping other people succeed and seeing what they can do is the best,” he said. “Them having that same experience that I had on my first race is rewarding.”
He said his family, who he has resided with in Abbotsford since 2004, is very supportive of his wacky adventures. He also wants to motivate others to push themselves and achieve something they thought was not possible.
“People should really explore their boundaries and get comfortable being uncomfortable,” he said. “That’s how you grow. That’s always what I try to convey to my clients. We live such a life of comfort and it feels like we’re just spinning our wheels sometimes. But if you get out there and put yourself through some hard stuff and adversity then it can really open your eyes.”
Siou said his goal is to complete the event, but that ultimately he wants to finish in the top half of the field.
“I have a pretty high tolerance for suffering,” he said. “I feel like 24 hours is doable. 48 hours is a good possibility. But beyond that I don’t know.”
Siou stated he will follow-up with The News after his experience at the Death Race.
For more information on Siou, visit btgfitness.com.