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This is Spartan! Final checks for first timers

Life’s too short to learn only from our own experiences. And sometimes when the adventure-bug bites, we find ourselves wanting to try something new. If The World’s Best Obstacle Race is your ‘something new’, here’s some quick-fire expert advice from someone who’s pushed his mind and body to the limit after surviving three Spartan Races, so far. 

Simon Dean, Founder of STANCE, has been three times lucky tackling the Spartan Race! But, luck had little to do with it. In true Spartan style he has trained and learnt from his mistakes. For first-time Spartans he’s put together a helpful consideration on How to take five minutes off your “Super” time.

This practical walk-through gives you the extra edge, from on-the-day must-haves (what to put in your Spartan day bag) to helpful long term suggestions (finding out your body’s recovery rate). This is your chance to overcome the obstacle race of ALL obstacle races. Here’s what to expect when you’re Spartan-ing:

How to tackle your first Spartan Race!

I’m three Spartans deep now, and after a semi-good performance at my last one, I’m starting to think about incremental gains as well as some more specific training.

That said, this isn’t a training blog, but I will say: Put in the miles, run hills, do a lot of burpees in sets of 30, climb things and practice your grip. Get used to the idea of doing something intense, then learning to recover on the fly. Consider doing a DNAfit test to understand how your body responds to exercise, and see how much recovery time you need.

What this is, is a time saving blog: How to take 5 mins off your “Super” time (the middle Spartan distance), simply by being prepared and having the right kit.

Sport-sturdy attire

I was feeling pretty smug about my Peak&Flow shorts with ‘tight’ inners going into the Orte Spartan Race — what more could I need? The race before, in Pennsylvania, some three years prior, was dry for the most part. Orte was the opposite. Wet from the outset, my shorts did me proud, preventing all thigh chafing. My shoes, however, epically failed.

I realised this, about 1 km in when we had to dive through three ponds of brown sludge and clamber up greasy mudded slopes. My comfy (aka sponge-like) Brooks did not serve me well as I squelched about for the rest of the morning. Aim for proper obstacle course shoes with better purchase and less water holding capabilities.

Simon's sneakers drying out after his Spartan Race
Brooks sneaks. Great in the dry. But not watertight.

Also, consider more lycra. You need to cover your shins, your forearms and maybe your knees. Why? Because you’re heaving yourself over walls and climbing out of rivers. Some kind of thin lycra wetsuit might be the answer ;)

Fancy tech?

Nah. I didn’t bother with a watch or HR monitor for fear of a) smashing it and b) getting the fear of the distance remaining. Perhaps if I were doing a Spartan Beast, I may consider consider monitoring Heart Rate, but for around 2–3 hrs of activity, you’ll be OK, so long as you don’t go too wild. Most courses have some kind of distance markers to help you out on pacing.

Definitely don’t think about running with your phone or with headphones — that would be a tragedy in the making.

Pack a day bag

You need water, snacks, a change of clothes and the shower essentials. We left the hotel around 6am to get to the race, and all the food was consumed on the way. Pack toilet tissue and hand sani also — the toilets were worse than Glasto.

I preempted blisters by adding Compeed to a problem area on my arches. I think, owing to the amount of water on the course, this saved me from trashing the hell out of my feet.

Protecting your feet is a must

Compeed soooooo good.

On the course

When you’re exercising for over an hour, electrolytes do make a difference. I had packed an effervescent SIS tab in a contraband-like baggie, tucked away in a zip pocket. Another fail! You need a waterproof sachet that you can tear open with muddy hands. Use this at the re-fuel station. Consider a gel also, for the last 45 mins.

Over the obstacles

I had to do 3 x 30 burpees over the course of the day. After 45, I was in trouble. Take this point as a training guide, but also as a prep tip. 30 of my burpees were needless as I did the obstacle wrong, putting my foot on a handhold. Another massive fail that had me hating myself for the next 10 mins.

Simon in action during his Spartan Race

That’s a BIG chain. No question.

Just in case

I never pay too much attention to the “emergency contact” on the entry form and typically throw in my Dad’s number. However, a girl in our group did fall off a net and break her arm! In this case, choose a next of kin who is with you, ideally on the sidelines.

That’s all for now. Spartan actually have a fantastic blog and podcast that I encourage you to look at.

This blog is a distant, smaller cousin to my good friend, Ian McCaig’s blog, “Marathon Des Sables 2019: tent life, Forrest Gump & earning my Ultra Running stripes.” If Spartan is a mere walk in the park, give that a crack.

In summary,

Now, you’re ready to get set, go, with all the essential prep must dos, priority gear must haves, and the best brands you must keep close on race day–thanks to our Spartan, Simon!

Spartans learn continuously, give generously and know their flaws as well as their strengths. In sharing his journey of being a Spartan, Simon Dean from DNAfit epitomises the Spartan Code giving first timers a heads-up for the big day.

Now it’s your turn. “A true Spartan proves themselves through actions, not words.” Your time for action is now. The finish line is yours. Go take it!

If you still have some first-time jitters about what to expect on your journey to becoming a true Spartan, then check out the Spartan Up Podcast on DNAfit.com.

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