Ready for Your Spartan Race? Tough Mudder?
Listen to the podcast here.
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.
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.
Here are some great examples of getting some electrolytes in your system.
Tip #2 Length of the course
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.
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.