Now let me just say, I’m not an elite or professional athlete. In fact, I’m a rather average runner who gets overtaken by more serious runners and very often you will see me slow to a trod or walk if I run anything more than 8km. Really, I’m not lying, you can come see for yourself when you run pass me along MacRitchie or the ECP. Rather, you could call me an ‘enthusiast’, someone bitten by the bug to take part in these so called ‘OCRs’ and it doesn’t help that the friends you’ve made includes a Fitness Coach.
A walk in the freezing creek with Shrek (photo by Aurora Images)
So I imagine most of what I have to say in this post might be of interest to you. You’re someone who has never done an OCR (or maybe you have), and somehow or rather you’ve signed up for your first SpartanRace. Realising you’re only weeks away, you decide you need to prepare yourself for the race. I hope this post helps you.
1 – Trained Smarter
After completing the Sprint in Perth, we now knew what to expect for the subsequent races. Since the Super would be twice as long at 14km, you would think we would have trained more. But in fact, in the 4 months between the 2 races we had actually trained less. Ramadan was around the corner, Coach Shrek, Nic and Darren had succumbed to some viral flu and I started to feel symptoms of a ‘tennis elbow’. So, we laid off training to recover and in our own capacities trained on our own. This time round though, we trained smarter.
a) “Just go carry some heavy shit”
I knew running would be the least of my problems. I had suffered at strength, endurance and technique during the Perth Sprint and I felt weakest at obstacles that required heavy lifting. Skinny guys and hauling 40kg sandbags uphill or carrying a 55kg Dead Ball over a distance, aren’t lovers made in heaven.
So I started lifting heavy shit off the ground more often. I started doing more weighted squats, deadlifts and overhead presses. Sometimes I would follow a strength set with some conditioning using kettlebell swings, burpees, or an Airdyne bike. If I was feeling strong (actually that’s a half-truth. Sometimes I didn’t feel like training, but it had to be done), I would follow that with a HIIT session. But the focus for me was mostly about building strength through compound movements.
I’ve learnt to have mad respect for powerlifters.
Shrek coined a term ‘Hybrid Strength’ which is something he calls his structured programs that incorporates strength, power and metabolic conditioning in one training session. I’m not the right person to explain it, but basically it just means to me ‘train fucking hard’.
b) Endurance Training
I realised I had to build endurance for the longer “Super” especially since I gassed out so many times during the “Sprint” in the uphill portions of the race. So uphill sprints became the dread of my runs. I would pick 3-7km routes around the estate that would have varying slopes and would sprint up and down them.
Sometimes during runs I would stop at a fitness park and turn it into a mini obstacle course and work on a few movements like pull-ups, monkey bars, box jumps, lunges and burpees (!) and then continue running again. All this in an effort to emulate what would happen during a Spartan Race.
‘Hiking’ along the Southern Ridges.
Knowing that we’d be moving for 3 maybe 4 hours, it occurred to us that I needed longer runs on trail. So I headed to MacRitchie Reservoir, but I only managed to squeeze in 3 runs before we left. Something I wish I’d done more. Nic and I also did a 2.5hr hike around Mount Faber and the Southern Ridges with weighted packs, stopping at fitness corners that we came across along the route. There, we would do exercises like burpees, pull ups or whatever that came to mind that could translate to clearing an obstacle.
Instead of just blind ‘senseless’ training, workouts though less often, became more structured and focused on working on weaknesses. Hopefully, smarter this time.
2 – Went Gear Crazy
“I think you officially have more shoes than me now” said the wife, who had just witnessed me buying my 4th pair of running shoes since Perth (back in April). Which pretty much summed up my quest to better prepare the gear I would use for the upcoming “Super”.
Taking my own advice from the last post, I set out to get a pair of shoes that would grip mud better. Reebok had already designed their All-Terrain Super for this purpose, but at the time these shoes weren’t available here in Singapore. So a buddy in Australia shipped a pair of the Version 1 (the v2 weren’t launched yet) back for me (thanks Mark!).
I found these shoes worked pretty well in the Brisbane Super. For just a pair of shoes, they’re pretty feature rich, though the only thing they don’t do is connect to the Internet. The shoes features stuff like H2O drain (it’s pretty obvious what that does right? It drains water fast) and the synthetic material it’s made of doesn’t absorb water, though there’ll still be some sloshing about with your cotton socks on. There are also lugs along the arches to help with rope climbs. The Brisbane route took us into some freezing creeks and streams with rocky bedrocks, the lugs were pretty grippy and worked well to give me confidence stepping on wet stones. Despite all that (but without the Internet), these shoes are also very light.
However, I am very used to low heel-to-toe rise shoes with minimal cushioning and cushioned shoes make my achilles tendons feel rather sore. But this is a trade off because the All-Terrain’s sole is pretty solid and protects your feet from rocks and all. I’ve done the MacRitchie route in these shoes and also in a pair of New Balance Minimus Trail shoes. While I like the flatter NB shoes, you will feel the rocks probing your feet, but having a protective sole in the Reeboks does give you confidence in each step you take. Something to take note of, the toe box area of the All-Terrain is quite snug, so someone with wider feet might feel them to be a little tight.
b) Hydration Pack
While Hydration Packs were not mandatory for the Super, I wanted to run with one so that I could get used to the weight and ‘feel’ of one in preparation for the Beast in Melbourne. There’re tons of options out there and while some of the guys in LCS went with Geiggerrig packs, I went with a CamelBak Ambush. The CamelBak military line which uses Cordura Fabric just feels more durable then the regular synthetic material ones. The Ambush also has a couple of pockets I can store fuels, gels and salt capsules.
I managed to find a pair of 2XU shorts on sale while I was in Perth. Though I couldn’t tell if they made a difference with performance or recovery. But what the hell right? Whatever helps you psychologically.
Muddy (photo by Aurora Images)
d) Kinesiology Tape
Back in Perth, an old injury on my knee acted up, so I decided to give a go with KT or Rock Tape to give my knee some stability. Though I found them useful during training runs, when it came to the Spartan Race, these were pretty damn useless. As I was crawling and rolling under the barb wire obstacle, these tapes peeled off like a hot knife to butter. Seriously. Thankfully the injury didn’t act up this time.
3 – Ate a lot more
The one thing about us ectomorphs (basically that just means skinny guys), our metabolism burns faster and putting on weight or muscle mass is harder for us. To some, this is good news. I mean we’re all brainwashed to believe skinny is the new black, but skinny folk have to eat a lot more to get bigger. This matters because we have to consume more (of the right foods) for our bodies to recover and to get stronger.
There wasn’t any structured nutrition plan or anything, I just made an effort to eat more. Maybe it was 5 eggs in the morning, a burrito for lunch, some roast chicken for dinner and ‘Super Shakes’ between meals. I also consumed more fats like nuts, avocados, omega 3 oils, coconut oil and butter in an effort to use fat as my source of energy. I ate fairly ‘clean’, avoiding processed foods, lowering my alcohol intake or foods I knew would cause my stomach to bloat.
I felt a lot stronger this time, so the training definitely paid off. Clearing the strength based obstacles were definitely easier. But with the increase in distance, I also learnt that I could have conditioned my body better for longer distances if I wanted to finish faster. And I learnt to also look out for cramping, which is what slowed me down. I’m still trying to figure how this one out, so do let me know if you have a tip to prevent or recover from cramps.
Well, until the Melbourne Beast. See you at the finish line.
Where’s Wally? (photo by Aurora Images)