Spartan Beast: Here I Come!

It started with a single push-up last summer as a bet with Luke. (Who could let a then-8-year-old outdo me?) Then it became a process of elimination. I wanted to challenge myself this summer physically, and I really believe in events as great motivation to do just that.

I’m running the New York City Marathon this fall and want to limit myself to one marathon this year. I thought briefly about a triathlon, then quickly remembered my affection towards water. I love playing tennis but don’t consider the sport to be physically challenging  at my level (except when I have 3 ½ hour matches or play in 100 degree heat). I want to mountain bike but not sure I’m up for any races (maybe next year?). So that left me with a very late commitment to the Spartan Beast, a race that incorporates 12+ miles and 25+ obstacles, deemed on their website as “an obstacle race from hell.” Obstacles include everything from climbing ropes to climbing walls, carrying heavy buckets to traversing across rocky walls, crawling beneath barbed wire to throwing spears. Not to worry – if you miss the target, so to speak, you “move on” by doing 30 burpees.

Ideally, I would have tried a shorter distance first, then waded my way into the deep end. But the event in Park City (yep! we get to torture ourselves at altitude!) is by far the closest Spartan race to Boise, Idaho (and I’ll be spending enough money when I hit New York City later this year). When I signed up, I had close to four months to train. Not ideal, but doable. Spartan sends you these incredible “Workouts of the Day” (WOD), which I often read but rarely do. Take yesterday’s, for instance:

Whether running or doing burpees, strength comes from having a strong core. Time to shape your abs up!

Spartan Ab 300

  • 15 crunches
  • 30 bicycles
  • 30 back-scratchers
  • 30 rotating crunches
  • 15 leg-lowers
30 scissor-kick
  • 30 side-crunches
  • 30 bicycles
  • 15 crunches
  • 30 back scratchers
  • 15 leg lowers
  • 30 side-crunches

Honestly, this is one of the easier workouts I’ve received, but I must confess that I don’t know what half of these exercises are. And though I can click through to their blog for a demonstration, this will involve even more time that I’d rather spend working out. (I’ve never been one to read instructions anyway). So instead of religiously following their WODs, I have created some new twists to my old routine, such as boot camps once or twice a week. I do lots of hill and speed repeats. I do weight workouts and throw in a long, hilly run every other week (up to 12.5 miles at this point). I even had a spear-throwing lesson from Spartan Pro Jenny Tobin. A few weekends ago, I ran about 7 miles, stopping every 800 yards to do pushups and sit-ups, carrying and throwing rocks for part of the distance (for those who saw me, I haven’t lost my mind). I did a total of 110 pushups that day, not bad after a single pushup less than a year ago.

I thought this race would be a great experiment to see if I could build some muscle, but I’ve learned a lot more through this training process. So much running has left my conditioning very one-dimensional (Read: NO upper body strength), and it feels good to push myself to different types of limits. I wish I had an extra month or two to train because I don’t feel as if I have progressed like I’d hoped. In fact, yesterday, I did 30 straight burpees for the first time (I usually opt for multiple sets of fewer reps), and I thought I might drop dead. This alone should make the race interesting. But on June 29, I’m going to give this beast a shot. Stay tuned for more details. See for yourself what Spartan racing is all about by clicking here.

Photos courtesy of Spartan Race 

Melinda Hinson