4-0-300 Blog 011
This one should really be called ‘So you want to be an obstacle racer?’ but Spartan grabs more hits, so use this as your resource for all OCR’s not just Spartan.
This post is intended for the night or two before your first race, if you are reading it weeks ahead store as much information away but prepare to come back for a quick reminder later on. Now I’m going into just the basics, if you’re planning a longer distance race for your first one or need help with nutrition or hydration it’s not covered in this post.
You’ve signed up for your first race, you’ve done all your training and now it’s the night before the race and you’re thinking now what? From my experiences and stories, I’ve been told here’s what you should be thinking and preparing for.
Dress for success, not to impress
What should I be wearing? The easy short answer is clothing you don’t love and that dries quick. Ladies don’t show up in your favorite yoga pants that you bought just last week, wear the pair you keep thinking of throwing out. They are going to get dirty, and probably a hole or two either from the terrain or the common butt snag on the barbed wire. Guys don’t wear basketball shorts (a lesson I wish I knew my first race), board shorts or just compression is the best way to go. Once those basketball shorts hit water you’ll feel like you’re carrying 10 pounds extra the rest of the race. For the torso/upper body same rules apply, ditch your ratty old gym shirt in favor of something quick dry and lighter. Some guys go shirtless that’s a personal call as you will get lots of little cuts and scrapes, so I go with a compression shirt so by the end of the race those cuts aren’t my focus. For the women same idea would apply, I’m sure running in just a sports bra is empowering but the rock scrape across your abs tend to linger for a few days. Now after a few training sessions or races with your abs male or female you will build up that skin and your tolerance. For socks if you haven’t noticed a trend yet you want something quick dry. Your everyday tube socks will suck up water like a sponge and anything overly big will have more sand in it than a beach. So get something tight, quick drying and that you don’t care if it gets mud stained.
Take care of the meat on your feet
So no doubt after running since you signed up, you’ve put some wear on your shoes, maybe you are even thinking you should run the race in brand new running shoes that are still in the box. Stop right there and push the box deep into your closet. OCR races will punish you enough tomorrow that you don’t need to put your feet through the extra hell of breaking in new shoes at the same time. Run in what you’ve trained your feet to be in, plus save those shiny new shoes for when you start training for your next race because after your first race you will want to sign up again. Other things to keep in mind when it comes to your shoes, keep your laces tight, many a racer have mud steal their shoes right out from under them including my sister-in-law when we ran our first race. I know some people have used lace clips to help with this, personally I’ve never tried them mostly due to fear of lost shoe but I will probably give them a shot this summer at some point, so I may have to update this part. Right now I tie them as tight as I can and throw a couple wraps of athletic tape around as a security blanket.
Be ready to wear it
So my first race my sister-in-law and I had just signed our waivers, passed through check in and were beginning to make our way into the festival area which due to an all-night rain storm is covered in water and mud. We were carefully picking our steps trying to stay dry and clean when a recent finisher yells out in his best little girl imitation voice: “Oh no, not mud!” 2 other soon to be racers behind us mutter about how rude they thought he was, but for me it was a “duh” moment, what was I expecting today? OCR races are often called mud runs for a reason and the sooner you embrace that the better your day will go. There will be water obstacles, there will be just many mud obstacles not to mention the countless puddles. The founder of Spartan believes mud to be a life metaphor so every race will have it so you might as well mentally prepare for it. The day I volunteered at the Calgary race the MC was getting racers to jump in a mud puddle before they even started and it was shocking to see how many people were hesitant if not downright afraid of the idea. Being stationed at the first obstacle the triple moat I was further amazed by the amount of people who were scared to go in even though they had just run/slid down a muddy hill to get there. I even had to tell quite a few that they had to jump in and blown away that 1 racer was so intimated by the mud she chose to go around a take the failed obstacle penalty. Which is of course 30 burpees and where do you have to do them? The mud. So wear your mud like you will your finishers medal, proudly. Besides don’t they say mud is a natural exfoliator? Get yourself a glow.
4) Fitness Trackers
Keep it dry or fry
Logical segue from mud and water it to your Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin or what have you. If you’ve shelled out a bunch to have the top of the line waterproof, shock absorbing, GPS tracking, nuclear powered fitness tracker then awesome for you have a good race and skip to the next paragraph, and I’ll take it off your hands when you upgrade again in a couple of weeks. For those of you like me who have a tracker that you can’t afford to replace here’s my advice either stuff it in your bag of protect it. I’ve worn my Fitbit for all races and for full disclosure I killed my first one in my first race. Fitbit was awesome and sent me a replacement right away but if you wear yours like me than protect it. Keep your arms up and clear in the moats, scout the course for swimming obstacles, Spartan USA usually has maps of the course before the race, or ask a finisher for quick course review before you start. Don’t try to rinse out the sand by dunking it in water (really what was I thinking, apparently user guides are a helpful read before hand). Factor in the weather it’s pouring you are already behind the 8 ball. So as cool as the fire jump wearing your Fitbit looks in the commercial if you worry about killing it throw it in your bag.
5) Bag Check
Check 1,2 1,2
So did you throw you watch in your bag? Next most important thing to remember for your race is 5 bucks for bag check. I glossed over the race details email I got two days before my first race so I miss some details like bag check so I didn’t even know they did this and spent way too much time running back and forth to my car for last-minute things I had forgotten or wanted and the extra layers to stay warm before my heat. Bag Check will make your life so much easier so come prepared. In my bag I make sure to have:
- A towel
- Change of clothes including socks
- Different pair of shoes (remember a lot of time the festival area is muddy so flip-flops can suck)
- A plastic bag to put my wet clothes in
- A toque, “beanie” for my American friends, for cooler or wet weather days
- Optional drink, the festival area usually has plenty of options, sometimes freebies but if I want something specific I like to have one ready
Other things you’ll want to throw in just before you start are personal items like wedding bands, wallet and keys although I prefer to bring a friend and have them hold on to those for me (Thanks Matty)
Other things I pack just because of my paranoia from my coaching days and now always over prepare are:
- Extra laces
- Waterproof sunscreen
- Athletic and KT tape
- Mole Skin
- Blister Cream
So pack your bag for the race, throw it in the car, relax knowing that’s done, and first thing to do when you get through registration is to locate Bag Check in the Festival Area.
It’s a fiesta!
Can we just take a second to appreciate these segues, ok moving on. So one of the most unheralded but best parts of Spartan Race is the festival area. As I mentioned in the first section keep in mind this is a busy spot so it could be very muddy and mucky so prepare yourself for that and any spectators you have coming. It’s a great place to check out local gyms, personal trainers, enter some contests, hit up the Reebok booth, go looking for freebies like coffee or sports drinks, and best of all socialize with your fellow Spartans. I’ve run into old high school buddies, former coaching colleagues at these races. The best conversation I’ve had was with one of my sons’ former soccer coaches after her race but before mine. It’s a great place to get course information/conditions from finishers, as well as talk to racers who’ve travelled to other races you may want to add to your docket. I met a racer from Montana at the Red Deer race who made me want to that particular Beast this year. It’s a collection of like-minded individuals so it’s a community feel in the Festival Area, so it helps put you at ease for your first race.
7) Don’t Stress
Can’t change it now
From ease to stress, if you’re reading this more than the intended 24-48 hours prior to your race stop scrolling, step away from the screen and go train so you’ll be more than ready for the race then come back and finish reading. However, if you’re in the group who have a race in the next day of two here is the best advice for your prerace nerves, Don’t sweat it. Aside from getting your bag ready and eating right nothing you do between now and then is really going to change if you’re physically ready for your heat if anything it may hurt your run. So resist the urge to do another workout or long training run. Remember your race is going to be fun, and exhilarating while being an amazing memory for a long time. Yes, it will be challenging and you will probably have a “why am I doing this to myself” moment but the feeling of crossing the finish line is almost blissful, and will help heal some of the soreness the next day. The race is as mentally challenging as it physical one. Resting both your mind and body is really the best way to prepare now. The best way to do that is….
8) Go the F**k to sleep
For tomorrow you become a Spartan
Now I can’t take credit for this section’s title that’s ripped straight from a book my in-laws bought my wife and I when we first had kids. Great for those with kids just not for kids. Now this section may be the hardest to follow as your nerves may be keeping you up, but remember having had enough sleep will be what keeps you going the first time you do burpees in the mud or when you would want to give up when you’re 1 km from the finish line. So do some mediation or calming yoga, drink tea, count sheep or whatever works for you. Now you’re ready get to sleep, you’ve trained for this, you can do it, your bag is prepared you have nothing holding you back, sleep well than wake up and Spartan the f**k up!!
See you on the course.