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I finished. It was the hardest physical thing I have done in my entire life but it was nothing short of amazing.
I did not train correctly. Seriously. Dumb. Don’t do what I did BUT DO enter a Spartan Race if you can. I guarantee you will be satisfied with yourself if you do.
I knew a few of my work friends had done one last year and when they brought it up in January I pondered for only a few hours before I said yes. Knowing I am more likely to stick to a plan if I have paid money, I logged in, dropped ninety bucks into the coffers of Reebok and I was set. I thought to myself “you’ve run in the past few years four half marathons. You go to the gym. You are agile after thirty plus years of soccer. You can do this.” I was correct, but my time was horrid. I will run again next year but I plan to shave a full twenty to thirty minutes off of my time. Find following my comments on various aspects followed by a summary of what I will do differently in future to help you along in becoming a Spartan, and not just a Spartan lite.
I did not run nearly enough. It was only a six kilometer race in total but ALMOST ALL OF IT WAS UP AND DOWN A SKI HILL. You need to train hills, and not just in the last few weeks like I did. Seriously, half marathons are just running in a straight line. I haven’t done one in two years but I guarantee I could, given a months training. You need to run. Start immediately when you register and get up to ten km straight, six to seven km hills as soon as possible. Wear a backpack with water in it. Get used to slow methodical trudging up hills.
You will not finish every obstacle. I skipped two (I could have done one of them, I was just tired) and missed one. That’s not bad really. But I had to do thirty burpees for each of those. That works out to ninety burpees plus a few that needed to be done for certain obstacles. I hate them and they hate me but had I practiced them more, not just the five or ten here or there every week, I would have had no issues. Do burpees. Be able to do ninety to one twenty separated in groups of thirty over space of an hour.
Box jumping. Running jumps. You will need these to be able to clear walls and jump over ditches full of mud.
Pullups. Get yourself into the zone where you can do one hundred in ten sets. I pushed myself to one fifty and anything requiring pulling or pushing with my arms was a breeze.
Go to the gym three days a week and run two to three. Seriously, you need to.
You need to drop a few pounds. The people struggling were the people who looked like they needed to have cut back on the cheeseburgers. You need protein, proper carbs, less booze, fruits, veggies and fiber. Start a few months before the race (or now, because you should) and treat your body as the temple people talk about. Drink lots of water. Not sugary electrolyte drinks, you shouldn’t drink those unless you are ACTIVELY IN THE MIDDLE OF SPORTS OR HAVE JUST FINISHED SPORTS. Keep a gym shaker bottle of water with you at all times. Sip it. And super hydrate the day before the race.
Half way up the second hill, I sat down. My buddy stood with me and asked what hurt. I told him that I was just exhausted. After verifying I was not having any chest pains or anything weird, he convinced me to plug away. Walk, trudge, run, rest, whatever I needed to do. I did just that, focusing my vision ten feet ahead of me at all times, making little goals in my head. “That bush then I take a break for thirty seconds” etc. It worked. When I reached an obstacle, I rested for a moment, caught my breath and got in line. When I wasn’t ready, I let people go ahead of me. The only reason I skipped two events, rope climb and some weird ring/rope combo was that I was afraid I would fall (it was right after the first hill climb) and end my race early and because It was at the end of the race and I opted for burpees as I just wanted to get to final obstacle and end it all. I still feel bad for not doing them two days later. Try them all. If you don’t do one, you have to do burpees. If you try and fail, you still have to do burpees BUT you at least tried.
Just run and jump and climb the damn walls. You can use side supports to step on. You can do walls, they aren’t hard, you just need to jump and pull and you can take a rest at the top!
DO NOT wear gloves on any event needing grip. I ignored the guy ahead of me who insisted we all ditch gloves for the monkey bars. He was right, I was wrong. Damn. I do suggest them though for some of the muddy crawling obstacles though.
Wall traverse: Lift with your hands, swing your feet. You probably cannot reach the next foothold unless you lift yourself up. Take your time.
Spear throw: pull the rope to bring the spear to you and ONLY put enough rope on your side of the fence to throw the spear. Too many people I saw piled the rope around their feet and either stepped on it when they threw or it caused a bit of whiplash stopping the spear mid toss. Aim high, its heavier than you think. Aim middle high of the straw bale. Throw hard.
Mud. Avoid the deep parts. Watch other people’s progress and follow / replicate the successful ones. Still areas hide DEEP MUD. I thought I was being mister smarty pants and went to the left when everyone went to the right. I ended up in mud up to MY WAIST. Took me all of ten minutes to get out without losing a shoe. Tie shoes tight with double knots. Lead with your toes running in mud and in deep mud lift whole foot up, toes pointed upwards so you do not leave shoe in the goo. Crawl sometimes rather than trying to walk. Nobody will care, you’ll be covered anyways.
Lay flat when crawling under the camo net and barbed wire. Look up military techniques online. You can really whip through these obstacles if you do it right. Keep your butt down as well unless you want a poke through your clothing. It is in fact barbed wire and hurts.
So I’m now home, three days later, still sore. I actually went to the gym yesterday because I felt obligated to do something and it was a good idea. I’m planning to keep up with my normal workout routine for now even though some I know are taking a week off. Why? Because as sore as I was, it is abating and there is no reason to sit around watching TV in my free time. Seeing my end time, I’m annoyed with myself. I’m happy I finished and didn’t drop out. I could have. I wanted to, but I didn’t. So I’m planning to race again next year, maybe even do the super as well. I think it’s a bit of a pipe dream to do the trifecta (though my wife thinks I can ha!) but I’m starting training immediately. How? Running. Running races until January and still going to the gym three days a week. My gym workouts will be modified to cut back on bulking and work on toning as well as lightening up a bit. My wife says I look like the Hulk. Nobody else at the race looked like the hulk. I want to be the thinner, faster fifty year old and I will be fifty next year. I want to do better.
My time this year (an embarrassing) 2:33 (lots of walking and light trudging)
My time next year: A sub 2:13 if not sub 2:00.
My best 10k in recent years: 53 minutes
My best by January 2017: Shooting for 45 min
I’ll keep you posted.
In the mean time. Sign up. Train. Do it.
I like to think I look decent for my age. Well, let’s be honest, I only say this because other people say I don’t look forty-nine whereas I think I look like a bag of wet garbage. Some may thank I am vain because I worry about this but again, not true, I merely try very hard to look decent and not like a hobo. Some days I fail. Some days I look okay. Some days I don’t want to leave the house, but I do because I have a job and responsibilities.
Like most people who are overly concerned with how they look on the outside, it’s not narcissism but inversely it is insecurity that makes them seem so. That said, I have great hair and am pleased that I wear a size 33 pants and have only a smattering of grey hair, just enough to prevent people from thinking I dye it.
So in recap before I proceed, I’m insecure, slightly neurotic and as we know not all that social but concerned that I need look good (and smell good) every single time I leave the house. I am also for the record exceedingly cheap. Well, frugal, it sounds better.
This Christmas past my wife blessed me with two small pots of very expensive hair product from American Crew ™. One was a paste, one a pomade (there is a difference you heathens). I was pleased as punch as I am always a fan of having backup toiletries especially free ones.
She laughs when I rob my hotel room of unused bottles of shampoo etc. before I leave each day as I know when they turn down they will refill them (I use them at the gym). She laughs when I snag extra peanut butter containers from the continental breakfast set up (protein for after the gym!).
She laughs that I am persnickety about my hair.
She knows however that as much as I am frugal I do fully respect quality, hence the posher than I usually buy product. Sadly, I left one in a hotel in TO and I used all of another. I then ran out of all backup leftover mostly empty pots of pomade. I woke up one morning looking otherwise decent (I guess) but with hair wet and unkempt. I had a mild panic. My insecurity level was eight and rising. I dropped into problem solver mode and found a solution that made her stylist sneer and cringe when I related it to he a week later.
(I’ll tell you about my revelation after the flashback)
Christmas 2013. I was staying in a hotel in Toronto. After work I rushed to check in, shower, change and meet my colleagues at a pre-chosen location for our unofficial Xmas gathering. Most of them would have just gone from the office to the restaurant/pub, but being me and the child of my fashionable, former disco queen and king parents, I refuse to go out for the evening when I am abroad in clothing I have worn all day. I lay out my jeans (ironed), shoes, shirt (ironed, of course) and underwear. I jumped in the shower, washed, temperature not too high as it will redden my face and make it obvious I showered, shampooed, dried and donned the terrycloth gown the hotel provided. Drank a lot of water (good for the skin and prevents you from guzzling too much beer too soon), brushed teeth and ran out to throw on clothes and shoes. Examined myself in the mirror, hid valuables so turn down squad wouldn’t rob me and realized “hair!”. Ran to bathroom and immediately realized I had no product.
Insecurity level 9.
I looked around me and saw the following:
- Body lotion (mildly scented, not too girly)
- Shoe wax
- Scent free antiseptic hand gel
Using my McGuyver abilities and knowledge of chemistry I used the alcohol to break down the wax somewhat and the body lotion to soften the resulting goo and make it less harsh. I produced Magical Emergency Hair Product and proceeded to try it on myself (all the best experimentation involves SELF experimentation). Success. Though note it required three shampooings to get out the next morning.
Flash back to this month. Panic. Insecurity level 8 and rising. I thought about my previous dilemma and looked around, seeing nothing useful except for one bottle. My savior. I grabbed it and carefully rubbed a fair amount between my hands then in my hair. I styled it as per normal and was shocked to find it made for a more than acceptable emergency hair product. In fact, strike the word emergency. I have been using it for two weeks now. I wouldn’t call it a fulsome replacement, it is not re-moldable should you choose to mess with your hair midday, but it is a fine solution to hair issues and cheap. I mean frugal.
Aveeno body lotion.
I kid you not. You will thank me, neurotic, insecure, fashionable, loyal teller of tales.
Now to find a cheap alternative to the expensive sock fetish I have developed of late…
Well. Since a number of people at the gym of late have been ignoring my borderline offensive t-shirt selection and scowl and asking me how I do certain exercises that I am using to train for the Spartan Run in July, I must look like I know what I am doing. I therefore thought “I should write this down so people who read my ranting can at the very least have a bit of useful knowledge and not just “grr this make me mad” being their only memory of me after I die”. I previously thought to myself “huh… I tag a post as having something remote to do with “fitness” and I quadruple my daily readers”. So yeah. Box Jumping.
I backed off of weights a while back due to a need to be better prepared for the Spartan Race thing and not just ready to punch people and lift heavy things repetitively. Yes, more rowing machine, more running, more stair work, more incline treadmills. Also, more bar work based on my son’s gymnastics conditioning workouts. Also also (yes that is grammatically correct dink) I added box jumping.
Watch the video below (WITH THE VOLUME OFF because the guy is a bit bro-droney) and ignore his bad choice of socks. Watch it for technique. Also ignore his girly man calves (he needs to do more box jumping).
- Pick a smaller box to start. 12″ most likely.
- Stand back 1-2 feet, band as shown in the video, swinging arms back behind you as you “load” your muscles.
- Don’t squat down too far.
- Land SOFTLY. If you are banging as you land you need to get a smaller box and practice before you move back up a size.
- Land on your toes not your heels. Jump or if you need step back down and do it again after a rest.
- Don’t do what I did and work your way up to a 24+ inch box as fast as possible and go for 5 sets of 10 jumps as if you are curling 35 lb weights to tone. I shredded my shins twice on the edge of the box and I still have the scars*.
- When you land, stay on your toes and raise yourself up to half squat, hold it for 5 seconds before you step back or jump back down. Oh and DO NOT fall and smack your face on the box. I have not done this but seen someone almost do it the other day.
- Sets: as many as you can safely do but STOP when you start to feel like you are actually getting something out of it. Yeah, helpful, I know. Lets say 3.
- Reps: not as many as you might think. Three (3) sets of 5-10 is pretty good but as you increase height decrease numbers otherwise your shins will look like shredded cheese, but red and gross.
*When a pretty gym girl walks by DO NOT WATCH HER if you are jumping. Do not watch her. Seriously. Do not. She’s too young for you anyways. That little laugh she made after you slipped and smashed your shins? That’s how it sounds when your manliness has evaporated. In fact, a pretty girl laughing at you is how your manliness IS destroyed. it’s one of their magical powers, these pretty young gym girls.