So What’s It Like To Compete In A Spartan Race?

So What’s It Like To Compete In A Spartan Race?

Spartan and other Obstacle Course Races (otherwise known as OCR) continue to grow in popularity and participation.

Spartan in particular has great appeal, encouraging participants not only to take part in an event but to adopt the ‘Spartan’ culture which has many similarities with the TrueSapien philosophy, so not surprisingly many TrueSapiens have gravitated toward them.

There are various race offerings to suit different fitness levels and experience.

TrueSapien Ben Comery provides a first hand account of his experience of a recent Spartan Race….

 

I was calm. I stood shoulder to shoulder with the best and I was calm. At the start line I was hurting, the Super the day before had left me bruised, sore and stinging. A few words from Karl the race director and then the count down…

3” Calm concentration trying to keep my breathing even. “Hold back” I tell myself. “2” Hand on my watch, I breath out all the self doubt. “1” I AM A SPARTAN. The line surges forward and a few Athletes fly off the start line quickly hitting the first corner before I’m even settled. Lungs burning I calm myself, i settle in behind the more experienced racers as the pace starts to build. We hit the first obstacles (four foot hurdles and Over under throughs) and the pack starts to split. Some of the faster guys start to pull away but I’m not concerned, I up my pace to keep them in check. The pack comes back together as we progress through a long running section and then bunches at the top of a descent. I take my opportunity, dive through the nettles and drop down the hill like a stone. I hit the cargo net in 3rd but lose my footing as the net flails around me. Damn!

Back down the pack as we enter the barbed wire crawl but I attack again and regain several places. Another long running section gives me the chance to stretch my legs again and I quickly eat through the terrain. As I come out of the woods the farmer carries is next. I grit my teeth and power walk up the slopes and drop down the descents claiming another place in the process. I’m close to the front of the pack now, the leader enters the atlas stone ahead of me but both of us smash through it quickly and head straight in to the sand bag carry.

I pick the 2 sandbags up and push through the pain building in my legs. I climb the steepest hill and try to push but my breathing is laboured and my heart is beating out of my chest. Third place uses this and launches his attack, sailing past me while I struggle. We descend once again and I get rid of my sandbags and sprint to the hoist. I jump high and rip the weight into the air as fast as I can but 1st and 2nd have a slight lead already. Another punishing hill waits and all 3 of us have to dig deep. I push myself a long the next running section but the leaders are still increasing the lead. The z wall offers no problems but the plate drag feels heavy after yesterday’s beating.

I fly through the multirig and head for the tyre carry. AROO it screams in huge letters on the hill side, 1st and 2nd are over halfway through by the time I start but I dig deep and there lead doesn’t grow. Pain burning in my legs and sweat dripping in to my eyes I dig deep and find some more strength to finish the tyre carry strong. My friend is volunteering at the tyre carry and his shouts of encouragement pick me up and make the next hill feel easier. I hit a trail section and immediately start accelerating, I can no longer see 1st but 2nd is still in sight.

Dread starts to fill me, up ahead is the bucket carry that broke so many people the day before but I don’t let that slow me. I rush towards my doom, round the corner and the bucket carry has been removed. Yes!I look over my shoulder and 4th is no where to be seen. My head tells me to slow down and stupidly I listen, taking my time to ready myself before the rope climb. I ring the bell and drop quickly as 4th comes in to view. I smash through the monkey bars, mud bath and the slippery wall as quick as I can and charge in to the spear throw. 2nd place Jack is stuck in the burpee zone, he turns to watch my attempt. No pressure.

Aim. Breath. Release.

The spear sails beautifully through the air and gets lodged in to the hay bale. Jack finishes his burpees as I turn to leave. 15 yards separate us. I approach the Rope rig and Jack stops short and walks a few yards to the rig. I attack and we both enter the obstacle at the same time. I grab the rope keeping my feet high and my hips low, making my way around the inside bend my foot slips and I’m left hanging.

I grip as tight as I can and regain control, inching my way around I slip again but get a better grip and launch myself for the bell. I hit the ground running, 8 foot walls separate me from the finish line. My heart pounding in my head I race towards the wall and out of the corner of my eye I see Jack. We hit the wall in unison, I throw myself over and sprint for the next wall, my wife is screaming urging me on.

The wall looms over me and I jump. Willing myself over with ever increasing speed. I dig deep, ignoring the storm raging in my head. Lungs shrieking, legs bursting we leap, almost as one, across the fire and collapse on the floor. Much later in the day it is confirmed that I came 3rd and Jack second but we both know that doesn’t matter. The position is irrelevant,

I gave it my all.

Every last drop.

 

How To Prepare For A Spartan Race

How can you prepare better for a Spartan Race or other OCR event? These challenges require specific preparation if you’re going to get the most from it and perform at your best! TrueSapien’s very own Spartan Race Guru and recent Spartan Elite Sprint podium finisher Ben Comery gives some secrets to his success.

General Preparation – Hills, Carries and Burpees!

For me preparation starts weeks before the Race. Spartan is know for a few things. Hills, Carries and Burpees.
Let’s start with hills. Make these your friends, go out and find as many hills as you can. I try and make all my Easy Pace runs have over 100m of elevation gain and my long runs are always hilly.
Carries will try and kill you. They are diverse and plentiful in a Spartan race. Tyres, logs, sandbags, stones and buckets. You can’t just lift weights in a gym and expect to succeed. Lifting a weight is very different to moving through rough terrain with a weight. As with everything, practice makes perfect so grab something heavy and go for a walk, you’ll thank me on race day.
Burpees are an Integral part of Spartan. If you fail an obstacle you will be rewarded with 30 burpees. The good news is you can train these at home and they will help with a lot of obstacles on the day. They train your whole body and help with getting over the walls that are littered around the course. A great work out to try is Death By Burpees, Start a timer and complete 1 burpee per minute until you cannot complete the number of burpees within the minute i.e 1st minute 1 burpee, 2nd minute 2 burpees, 10th minute 10 burpees etc.

 

Two Weeks Out

I usually perform a race or time trial of a similar distance just to get a feel for fitness. Spartan Sprint use a 5km race, for a Super use a 10km. For the Beast I would move it out to 4 weeks out at Half Marathon distance. From this point I start dropping weekly mileage by 20%, keep the intensity high but just shorter.

 

Final Week

Drop mileage to 50%. Now is the time to rest, any training from this point will have little affect come race day. Use the time to practice your race pace and to really get a feel for how fast you want to go. I up my carbohydrates from this point aswell. 10g per lean kg of body mass is recommended but after a few days my hunger starts to disappear so I just make sure every meal has large amounts of carbohydrates in it. Hydrate. 1g of Carbohydrates can hold 4g of water! If you increase carbs but not water you will become dehydrated quickly and a 2% loss in hydration causes a 40% loss in performance.

Race day

Wake up early and eat. I usually eat a bowl of porridge and drink 500ml of water 3 hours before the Race. After this I usually sip electrolytes just to keep myself topped up. 10minutes before the Race I take caffeine (180MG of encapsulated caffeine) if you get anxiety before a race you should avoid this as caffeine increases nerves but if you can tolerate it caffeine is a great supplement.

 

Lastly have fun! I mean that’s why we do it, isn’t it?