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? 

Are You TrueSapien? Are You Challenging Yourself?

Are You TrueSapien? Are You Challenging Yourself?

So are you TrueSapien? What makes people stand out in life versus those that are happy to merely exist?

There is no exact definition as characteristics will vary from one person to another, depending on their individual beliefs, passions and preferences. For example, what sport or fitness activities appeal to you may be entirely different to another TrueSapien. You may have certain physical traits that lend themselves to certain activities over others. How you choose to challenge yourself may be entirely different to the next person.

Whatever the differences, the following points are universal and common across all TrueSapiens……

  • Do you consistently challenge your existing perceived limits,attempting to be the very best you can be?
  • Do you refuse to accept mediocrity?
  • Do you know your overriding purpose in life and your ‘Why’?
  • Are you an ‘encourager’ rather than a critic and do you admire others’ achievements rather than be envious of them?
  • Do you appreciate, respect and admire the world around you?
  • Do you place a higher value on your own functionality for purpose over simply looking good?
  • Do you take any ‘failures’ as setbacks and use them as a positive learning experience?

Being TrueSapien isn’t like becoming a member of a club, body or an organisation. There’s no joining fee or annual renewal. You’ll know from the points described above whether you are or not, or indeed whether being TrueSapien is something in which you believe.

Being TrueSapien is about the attitude you demonstrate as you challenge yourself in whatever way you choose, from OCR or Triathlon Events, Calisthenics or Strongman disciplines, Marathon Running or Crossfit.

Read our Story page to find out more about TrueSapien.

A Runner’s Training Diary. Run Like A TrueSapien!

A Runner’s Training Diary. Run Like A TrueSapien!

Discover what makes runner and OCR Competitor Ben a TrueSapien. We’re following Ben’s training diary over the coming months to gain an insight into a TrueSapien’s daily training.

Read the first post in this series for a Background to Ben and the first week of his diary.

What follows is week 2 & 3 with Ben’s account of how he felt before, during and after and a description of the session.

 

15/1/17
Before: Ready
During: Cold and wet
After: Sore ankles
21km/13miles –  2 hours
Went exploring the NDW again. Lots of frozen mud to smash my ankles and ice to catch me out. GREAT fun !! Nice time on my feet with some new shoes

16/1/17
Before: Sore ankles
During: Fast!
After : ankles still sore
Easy miles to recover from sunday. New shoes feel fast even though they are heavier ! Ankles still sore fro the weekend

17/1/17 double
6am
Before: ankles better
During: good
After: ready for the day
6am run just to wake me up. 20minutes out and back. Freezing!!
7pm
Before: Still sore but getting better
During: Fast!!
After: sore ankles but feeling good
Same run as yesterday but 8s/km quicker! At the exact same HR!! Still easy km for the moment. Back to back quality sessions coming soon.

18/1/17
Rest day  + “cheat” meal

19/1/17
Before: Sore ankles
During: Heavy legs
After: Sore
Quick 20minutes in the A.M longer run planned for  P.M but work went side ways

20/1/17
Before: Sore ankles still
During: heavy legs for the first half, settled in after
After: Shocked!
8x 3minutes Hard (5km race pace) with 2minutes reco very jog. Pushing vo2 to the max and reintroduction to the pain cave a vitally important place if you want to be competitive! Felt tough but first Hard session usually is! Estimated vo2 is now 59! Even with sore ankles and heavy legs

21/1/17
Before: Sore ankles still
During: feeling good
After: Happy
1mile threshold with 1minutes rest x 5
Building that lactic threshold while fasted! Hitting 4min/km putting me on target for 80-85minute half marathon !

22/1/17
Before: Sore ankles
During: STRONG!
After: Sore ankles again
Long slow run, 21km exploring the NDW struggled to keep the HR low due to the changes in elevation but averaged 146bpm (74%)

23/1/17
Decided to rest due to the ankle. It’s important not to make injuries worse when your body is telling you something is wrong .

24/1/17
Before: ankle feeling better
During: started to get sore towards the end
After: Sore but not as bad as before

25/1/17
Another rest day to try and get in front of this before it gets worse and i can’t run at all.

26/1/17
Rest.

27/1/17
Before: Tired but ready
During: Strong ! Until i lost my footing on a pothole!
After: Swollen and sore ankle!
1000m Intervals at 3:30 pace, could quite manage to maintain pace as i was feeling tired from work and a nasty head wind on the up hills killed me but hitting around 3:40/km. Everything was great until i lost my foot in a pot hole! NSAID and rest and hope for the best now !

28/1/17
Rest. Swelling gone down but still uncomfortable

We’ll have more from Ben’s diary in the coming weeks to see how he responds to his injury on the build up to his first race of the season!

A Runner’s Training Diary. Run Like A TrueSapien!

Discover what makes runner and OCR competitor Ben a TrueSapien. We’ll be following his and others training and challenges this year and in the process gain an insight into what drives them and why being a TrueSapien and not just an average Sapien, is so rewarding.

What follows is a brief introduction to Ben and a week in his training….


Ben Comery, 27, has been running since July 2015. Having dabbled with weight lifting and cycling for a few years he discovered a love for running through obstacle course racing (or OCR), completing his first Spartan race in October 2015. He was quickly hooked!

“I race because I love pushing my limits and being outside my comfort zone. If somebody says i can’t do something I have to prove them wrong ! I love being outside and what better way to explore the country than on my own two feet.
My goals for 2017 are to compete at an Elite level at Spartan Race UK and to continue to push my limits in road and trail race”.

So here’s a brief summary of my running training for last week with how I felt before, during and after (always a great idea to note this I think for evaluation of sessions):

Day 1
Before: Tired
During: Sick from eating 40mins before run
After: Sore ankles
Recovery run- Easy 8km kept hr low to allow the body to recover from Sunday. Feeling very tired but got it done!

Day 2
Before: Sore ankles
During: Strong
After: Fast!
12 x 200m repeats with 200m jog recovery
Building speed and strength. Helps with the “kick” and helps your body deal with huge amounts of lactic acid build up.

Day 3
Rest day! The most important day of the week! Helps me recover and keeps me sane.

Day 4
Recovery miles again just to keep the legs loose

Day 5
Took another recovery day after 2 tough cold days at work . 7km in the bank.

Day 6
1 mile Threshold Repeats.  Aim for 86-88% HR with 1 minute rest after each repeat. Takes your body to it’s lactic limit and then holds it there for an uncomfortably long time. Builds mental strength and teaches your body to deal with huge amounts of lactic acid for long periods. The end goal is to take this threshold and use it as your Half marathon race pace so need to be able to maintain it for 90minutes.

 

We’ll regularly  publish exerts from Ben’s running and OCR training and events as and when they arise!

Are You Planning An OCR Adventure?

Are You Planning An OCR Adventure?

 

If you’re planning your first OCR adventure or looking to improve your skills, Clinton Slater, a Reebok Spartan Race SGX coach and co-owner of Outdoor Physical Training, reveals some of his top training tips and techniques to get you race ready.

 

The Wall

Training tip: Defeating the Spartan walls is all about explosive power through the legs to firstly get you up onto the wall, then gain balance before using your upper body strength to pull your body weight up and over.

Work on your explosive leg power with squat jumps and use dips and pull ups to get you used to lifting your own bodyweight.

My best advice would be to get out there, to your local park or your back garden, to find something that resembles the walls. Practice jumping up and holding onto the top of the wall: this will build the arm strength you need to hold up your own bodyweight.

Best technique: Don’t hesitate! Run up to the wall in one movement and use momentum to lift you up as you jump and grab the top of the wall. Beware of your knees hitting the wall, it’s about timing. 

Rotate your elbows forward as you’re jumping to the top, use the drive to lift your body up and over (taking a pause at the top to balance if you need).

 

The Monkey Bars

Training tip: The monkey bars are 70% back and shoulder strength, 20% biceps and 10% will power.

I always start training with some ‘hang time’ – just being able to hang and hold your own body weight. Once you have mastered this, move onto the back pull technique – using your back muscles (lats) to drive you from one bar to the next, rather than just relying on arms.

To do this don’t just hang with arms straight and locked, engage your back muscles to take most of the strain. 

Best technique: Use the back pull to move across the bars: pull up first to the bar you’re on and the momentum generated from this move will drive you forwards to the next bar.

Once you have your rhythm you can either use the Orangutan-swing movement, or some people prefer to use their whole body to leap from one bar to another with both hands at the same time.

Always ensure you have a good grip on the one hand before releasing the other. Try to get into a rhythm and again, try not to hesitate too much as this will affect your momentum.

 

The Barbed Wire Crawl

Training tip: A great crawl comes down to technique. To train, get in your garden or down the park and simply practice crawling. The more you do, the quicker and fitter you’ll get.

Coordination is also key, as your alternate leg and arm should be driving forwards at the same time. Core work will play a big part in training for this so get familiar with the plank.

Best technique: Don’t stop. The arms should remain bent throughout and bring your driving knees all the way up to your waist as you push forwards. As you move forwards your hips will come up off the ground but keep them low to save energy and escape getting caught on the wire.

Clinton will be back soon with advice on tackling three other common OCR obstacles!