5 Essential Tips Before Your Next Spartan Race

Ready for Your Spartan Race? Tough Mudder?

 


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Congratulations, you are embarking on a truly epic adventure. Whether it is a Spartan race, Tough Mudder or any of the other OCR events, you will finish a changed person. But that doesn’t mean you have to make rookie mistakes. Let me help you out with a couple tips that will make your first Spartan race more enjoyable.

Enjoyable? Yes, enjoyable. Just because you are going to be uncomfortable for an extended length of time doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.

Confused? You won’t be after you cross the finish line.

Tip #1: Hydration

I ran the Fort Carson Super and Sprint races last week. Let me set this up for you. The weather was in the low 70’s, sunny with a little wind. The Super is the longer of the two and is for more experienced runners. I didn’t see near the amount of cramping, puking and dizziness on the course Saturday as I did for the easier, shorter Sprint on Sunday.

Why?

Because the Super is long enough for people to pay attention to hydration and carry supplies. The Sprint is very deceptive in that it is billed as a 3-5 mile course. Most people wouldn’t carry water for a 3 mile run, so why bother with it race day?

Big Mistake for a couple of reasons.

Reason 1. If all you drink is purified water, you will never fully hydrate.

Water without electrolytes cannot hydrate. It tends to pass through the body. When your urine is clear, it doesn’t mean you are hydrated. It means the water is passing through the body and not getting absorbed into the cells. To achieve hydration you need electrolytes. Electrolytes are Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium Phosphate and Chloride. Without them, you will cramp up and feel like you are dying.

So the amount of water you drink isn’t as important as what you drink.

If you drink filtered water on the way to the race, drink the filtered water at the water stations, you are rolling the dice, especially if it is a hot day.

There just isn’t any reason to take a chance on this. If you are a bigger guy, like me, or if you sweat a lot take a camelback. You can always run around any water obstacles, drop it, come back and do the obstacle. It won’t do anything but help you.

Electrolyte heaven for Spartan race

Here are some great examples of getting some electrolytes in your system.

Tip #2 Length of the course

Fort Carson Spartan race 2017

Can I break some bad news to you? A Spartan Sprint is 3-5 miles long. This is very different than putting on your running shoes and going for a 3-5 mile run. Vastly different. The course is designed to break you and make you uncomfortable. It takes most people around 2 hours to finish a Sprint, sometimes 3 hours. That is not a casual jog for a couple hours, that is grueling effort. So please don’t take the course lightly.

A Sprint can take you around 4 hours and a Beast can be 6 plus hours.

In my opinion, unless you are a fast, elite runner, consider taking the following with you.

  • Hydration that includes electrolytes. See tip #1.
  • Food such as energy bars, protein bars, nuts etc…
  • Caffeine such as energy gels, energy shots etc…

Additional but still very important tip

If you are carrying food in your pockets, they will have a tendency to be pulled out of your pockets as you jump in the water. I know, it happened to me. Try and get pants with a button or zipper. If you are using a camelback, just shove everything in there and throw it in the grass while you get muddy. Also, it is never a bad idea to put everything in a watertight baggy. Just in case…

Tip #3 Food

When you get hungry you get miserable. It is amazing how a little food can lift your spirits. Under the last tip I mentioned energy bars, protein bars and nuts. You can also bring a sandwich, burrito, donuts and even candy bars. No I am not kidding. Don’t go hungry. It will erode your willpower and zap your energy. Even something as simple as a stick of gum or a peppermint can lift your spirits.

Now given you aren’t going to see Hunter McIntyre eating a pizza during the World Championships, I am assuming you are at a slightly lower level and just want to finish the race. So take time and eat.

Tip #4 Energy Cost

If you are in great shape and know how to get through all the obstacles, managing your energy is relatively simple. For the rest of us, there is the hidden danger of doing countless burpees. Burpees will zap your energy and your will to live within minutes. So please try and plan for them best you can.

Keep the following in mind.

  • The course is designed to break you. Any easy stretches are a prelude to something nasty.
  • You will have hills and descents all day.
  • You will be carrying heavy stuff and climbing all day.
  • You will be doing burpees. You may even be as unfortunate as me, as I did 4 penalty burpees stations in a row.

I am not trying to scare you, just leave a little energy in your back pocket for the final push. After a few races you will start to get a feel of the rhythm of the course but, in my humble opinion, it is never a bad idea to hold back a little at the start.

Tip#5 Don’t Wear Cotton!

Don’t wear cotton on the course. Cotton sucks!

  • It gets wet and heavy.
  • It gets muddy and clunky.
  • It will chafe you and make your life miserable.

This also goes for wearing cotton underwear, a mistake I made last year. Ouch!

Compression shorts make for great underwear. Get some running shorts and a tech shirt and you are good to go. Also, pay attention to your socks. No cotton here either. Get some good trail socks that will dry out. While you are thinking about that, a good pair of trail shoes are also invaluable.

This may sound a little weird to you but I love 5 toe socks. I have a couple pairs of Injinji’s and I love them like I have never loved a sock before. They keep the toes from getting blisters and tend to keep rocks and other unwanted junk out.

Best socks for Spartan Race

So there you have it. 5 Tips You need to know Before your Next Spartan Race.

Remember, this is not really a race but an adventure. You won’t know what is going to happen but if you follow the above steps, you will have a better chance of being less miserable.

How to Stay Positive When the Running Gets Rough

Today we have a guest blogger, Caroline, who submitted a great article on how to stay positive when the running gets rough. Please understand, it will get rough, so you  might as well adopt a mindset to deal with this stuff.

If I could add three things to this excellent article.

Your goal should be the thing that drives you everyday to put in your work.

If it doesn’t, you may need to alter the goal so it does. I wish I could tell you what that is but it is different for everyone.

When the going gets tough, break things down into small increments.

I have broken down in races to the point where I am trying to run to the next telephone pole. Once you get there, pick another target. If a mile is 5280 feet, all you have to do is run 10 feet at a time. I like the idea of a mile at a time but don’t be afraid to break it down even further. It works.

Injuries, Injuries, Injuries

We all get them and I think it is important to mention that injuries are almost always a result of poor body mechanics over time. So if you have to take it easy for a few days, what better time than to try and figure out what happened. You can also start working on foam rolling, compression and other forms of rehab. Don’t feel sorry for yourself, use the time to get better.

Thank you again Caroline for your article. If anyone else wants to contribute, get in touch with me and we will figure it out.

 

when runing gets tough

 

 

How to Stay Positive When the Running Gets Rough

Running isn’t all sunshine and smooth pavement. While almost any long-term runner will tell you about their triumphs and successes, not so many will tell you about the bumps in the road. Some goals might frighten you. That’s ok. Challenges are part of growth, and getting through times where your motivation wavers will only make you stronger in the long run.

Yet to get through, you might need help or a strategy. This is why we’re here. Consider the following if you find your dedication waning:

See Your Goal and Never Waver

How many times have you told yourself “just one more mile” as you were nearing the end of your run? After that, how many times did you go that extra mile? I imagine quite a few.

The goals you set for yourself are meaningful and important. Visualizing yourself triumphant over whatever you were going up against is one of the best motivators for an athlete, and that determination can clear your mind of any negative thoughts that might make you stop running for the day (or completely).

This is especially important for those who are new to running or who are trying to get back into it after a long break. Once you stick to a goal for a few weeks, it will get easier, and you will be able to think of running as a great part of your morning routine (maybe you can replace coffee with it).

Make the Most of Distractions

Running in a sound void early in the morning can be calming to some or creepy and boring to others. For those in the latter category (myself included), some steady earbuds and a smartphone might make all the difference. You’ll want to find something that works for you, but you might want to try the following:

* Music is an obvious and common choice, and with the advent of internet radio and services such as Spotify and Google Music, you can get whatever tunes you want. You can also, of course, create your own running playlist to keep you going. Also, studies show some music improves your performance.

* Podcasts or audio-only versions of your favorite video series might also work, especially if they are workout-related or you don’t have to focus on it too much (I wouldn’t recommend audiobooks for running).

* If you don’t like the idea of using headphones, pay extra attention to your surroundings. Instead of thinking about the pain, think about the community around you and how it’s changing. Look at the gardens and front lawns of your neighbors—whatever attracts your attention.

If you’re going to be using your phone for your distraction, I would recommend a belt or armband to keep your device in place as well as some earbuds designed for running. You also might want to adjust your settings so that you can change what you’re listening to with a few touches. It might also be a good idea to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect your connection, which helps keeps any personal information safe.

Use Your Community

If you surround yourself with positive people, their positivity will influence you. Unless you try extremely hard (and I don’t know why you would), your mood will be buffered by those of your fellow runners. Accountability is a huge part of staying focused and on track, and being part of a running group or community, even if it’s just online, can make the difference between staying positive and giving up.

Only you will know the best community for your needs, but try to consider running groups in your town first. Alternatively, see if there are other fitness-minded individuals among your friends and look for ways to sync up your schedules.

Always Stay Moving

Of all the things that can happen to you as a runner, an injury is probably the most demoralizing. No matter how careful you are, you will still likely suffer an injury at some point. You will need to stay cooped up in the house (or at least relatively sedentary) for several weeks, which can be particularly frustrating on warm, sunny days.

To this I say two things:

* You might not be able to run or move around, but your doctors (probably) said nothing about going outside. Spend some time in the sunlight to keep serotonin levels up. Read a book on the porch, or take a calm walk in the park. Whatever keeps you outside, get to it!

* If it’s just a leg-related injury, there are other ways to keep yourself active. Tell your doctor you’re an active person and ask about what exercises and activities you can still do. If you see a trainer or also go to a gym, the professionals there also will be able to help you. In fact, they’ll be delighted to!

This also counts for those terrible days where you just can’t get outside. While you might not get the exact runner’s high you’re looking for, you will be able to get your blood moving and keep your body used to exercise, which is half the battle.

Whatever has got you down, don’t let it get you out. Your mindset is half the fight when your feet hit the ground, and a positive and confident attitude is your best defense. Do what you need to so that your fitness doesn’t suffer. You can do it!

About the Author:

Caroline is a lifelong runner who writes about both health and technology topics on a regular basis. She’s seen her share of ups and downs and hopes that these ideas let you keep your mindset above your struggles.