To say I was nervous going into this race was an understatement! I’m a runner, and upper body strength is ALWAYS my weakness. Coming off of my marathon in March, I felt especially weak. I hopped into lots of strength training using Beachbody on Demand, an at home workout program streaming system. I’ve done numerous programs on it before, so I was able to pick and choose particular strength ones from past workout programs and focus on upper body.
A friend who was also doing the race goes to a gym called Kinetic Heights that focuses on obstacle course racing and training, so I went with her twice to her gym to work out on more obstacles specific equipment. They offered a training program which included programs from Beachbody on Demand as live classes as part of the training, coincidentally! The gym was awesome and would be really fun to attend for training, but it’s a bit pricey for me – I’d rather pay the $99 for Beachbody on Demand for a year than that price + for a month of membership! If you want to try out Beachbody on Demand for a two week free trial, click here! Grip strength was definitely my biggest weakness – I wasn’t strong enough for the wider monkey bars or the swinging rings, or anything with a small grip. This was definitely something I could have worked on while marathon training, but I kept forgetting about it and was just generally fatigued from marathon training in general.
The race I ran was the Spartan Sprint in Concord, NC on 4/7/18. I ran with a team of 4 other people – one of my fellow soccer players from college, her husband, his runner friend and brother-in-law. If you’ve never ran one before – I HIGHLY suggest running it with a small team, especially with someone who has ran this type of race before. One of the guys on our team had done similar events before. There were a few wall obstacles that I could NOT have done without his help – he also knew the best ways to help us up without it being awkward or dangerous.
So here’s a list of the obstacles:
Some of these were absolutely manageable. The obstacles seemed to start off easy and then get harder towards the end (when you’re feeling fatigued, of course!). Everything was made a bit more challenging because there was a steady light drizzle most of the morning, and the ground was complete mud everywhere on the course. Our start time was 12:15pm, so there were hundreds if not thousands of feet who trampled through that mud before us. In some places my shoes almost got sucked off into the mud, it was that deep; and running was a challenge because of stability and falling.
I will say I enjoyed the sand bag obstacles – you hefted a big old sand bag on your shoulders and had to navigate through a muddle trail, down a small creek bank and back up, which was very slick and hard to do without falling. I felt like my 2 kids really prepared me for being able to heft a weight around without falling, haha! The gravel bucket challenge was harder – similar challenge but you had to carry a bucket through a muddy trail. My fingers were about to fall off towards the end of the loop! That grip strength coming into play. I also really enjoyed the Atlas Carry – huge concrete ball that you had to lift and carry a short distance, put down, do 5 burpees and carry back. I felt super strong doing that one!
So the ones I COULD do helped counter balanced me not being able to do the monkey bars and rings. I also missed the spear throw, I couldn’t do the rope climb (have to work on that S technique!). There was also an angled wall with various things to hold onto and climb across I couldn’t get the hang of. There may have been one more I wasn’t able to do. I dutifully did 30 burpees for each challenge I was unable to do. Definitely check out the correct way to do a spartan burpee – it’s not as bad as a regular burpee, in my opinion! I definitely got winded but I found them manageable. I was also incredibly annoyed at the amount of people I saw walk past an obstacle and not do burpees. But, I guess if you want to pay the spartan price to walk a muddy 5k, so be it! In the open category, there is no burpee enforcement, unlike the elite categories (so I’m told).
There were a few high rigs to climb – netting of some sort – which were fine, I was just nervous about slipping at the top while switching to the other side so took it slow. Definitely doable, as long as you are not scared of heights. One of them was quite high.
My team was awesome in helping each other out and we all ran the whole thing together. One of the runners of the group was our pace setter – he was always the first one to start us up running again and the rest of us were working to get our pace back up – but he always circled around to make sure were were all together. It definitely helped us to get going again rather than spending extra time walking! We got soaking wet and muddy from head to toe, but the whole experience was awesome and we already started planning on doing a beast together in the fall! Bring on a new challenge!!!!
In conclusion: before you do your first spartan: work on your grip strength, and there are tons of ways to do this at home, at the playground, etc! Google it and there are some good ideas. Work your whole body during workouts. You need your legs just as much for lifting as your arms. Do practice burpees. Run with a team or partner who has done obstacle races before. Expect to get completely muddy and soaked! Also, I somehow got poison ivy or oak or something on my arms from the race. Do wear long sleeves if weather permits!!