by Carrie Adams
Shaun Bain: A Legacy of Living Out Loud
“Working harder, living fuller, and loving stronger.” – Shaun Bain
Spartan Founding Few member Shaun Bain is living life out loud, learning from the past, and leaving a legacy in his wake. When Bain’s friend and racing partner David Boyd, M.D., died on Blanca Massif near Alamosa, Colorado, on September 3, 2008, Bain was devastated. The two men were racing partners and had run countless races together. Bain aided in the search and recovery operation for his dear friend, and then delivered the eulogy at Boyd’s funeral.
“What we did as a race team was not all about play and fun….we grew as people. Our races packed a lot of life experiences and emotion in a short amount of time. He enjoyed the challenge and dynamics involved in making HIS team and teammates the best that they can be and the challenges we faced as a team gave him a huge boost in self-confidence that helped him handle whatever life had to throw at us. Our experiences made us better people and we became stronger. Working harder, living fuller, and loving stronger.”
Contractor Shaun Bain, 39, of The Woodlands, Texas, is no stranger to adventure. Growing up in Texas, he played soccer – which kept him active and kept him busy. He caught the adventure racing bug from his older brother and competed in the Texas Water Safari, billed as the “World’s Toughest Canoe Race,” every year for over ten years, starting in his early 20’s. Bain says there are no hallucinations like the ones you see on a 260 mile stretch of river that routinely includes encounters with alligators. He regularly traveled, competing in adventure races around the world, and won the USARA Adventure Racing National Championship in 2005 and 2007. Part of his success he attributes to his mental toughness, something earned at a young age engaging in these sports and honed while studying for a psychology degree.
Shaun met Joe DeSena in 2000, when he was putting on a BVI race, and a friendship was quickly established. The two traveled in the adventure racing circuit, and even participated in Survivor creator Mark Burnett’s Eco Challenge in Fiji the year before Burnett launched the popular series. Bain recalls rappelling up a waterfall on the highest point of a mountain in Fiji thinking, “I’ve never been this cold in my life!” That weeklong race, staged in teams of four, included village stops. Bain came face to face with primitive natives, many of whom had never seen a white person before. It had been only a few years since the native tribes were head-hunting—that is, capturing people and cutting off their heads to mount them on stakes as a trophy. That’s a frightening prospect. “So I was exhausted and it was scary because you don’t know what you’re going to get,” said Bain. “There is no road going in and no road going out. They were pleasant, but you just didn’t always know that would be the case.”
Those experiences led Joe and Shaun to think of new ways to challenge racers in ways they can’t expect or plan for, making a physical competition that is equally challenging mentally. Bain credits mental strength as a necessary attribute of a successful Spartan Runner. “That’s the biggest thing…. Most people think they can’t do it because it looks scary from the outside, but it empowers you when you’re done. When you finish you appreciate what’s happened.”
These days Bain hosts events for small corporate groups. “We do the same kind of adventure race, just with a little more R&R during the night…typically. We pitted two teams of ten against each other in remote jungles of Belize and on Catalina Island with them challenging each other for bragging rights.” Events even include a scavenger hunt/mock secret mission across terrorist-lined borders on camels.
Bain is now a proud father: his daughter Isabelle McKenzie is one year old. He has tempered some of the racing to spend time with her. He says he’ll encourage her to try all kinds of sports and to be active. “I’d love to be able to do some of these things with her. I’ve got the right boat for it!” He laughs.
Some of the lessons he’s passing onto his Isabelle are lessons he learned from the friend he lost. Bain’s eulogy for David Boyd was inspired by a quote from Boyd: “I really enjoy the challenge and dynamics involved in helping make my team and teammates the best that they can be. I like to physically challenge myself and successfully completing these races has given me a huge boost in self-confidence over the years. This applies to a wide variety of the challenges that life throws at us.”
Isabelle is well on her way to following in her parents’ footsteps. When Bain’s wife Bonnie was about a month pregnant and not knowing of the pregnancy, she and Shaun climbed the highest peak in New Mexico. It may be indicative of his daughter’s future, a future that Bain can easily appreciate. “She’s going to be climber.”