“Reluctantly crouched at the starting line
Engines pumping and thumping in time
The green light flashes, the flags go up
Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup…”
The Distance by Cake has been stuck in my head since race day. Shamelessly, we even sang it on the starting line waiting for our heat to begin. “Team Untitled,” our mighty three-man group out of Richmond, Virginia successfully completed the 13+ mile Spartan Beast obstacle course race in Glen Jean, West Virginia.
Leading into the weekend, my mind was filled with many questions: Have I trained appropriately for this event? Will I be able to run the whole race without taking breaks? Does drinking a GU energy gel officially induct you into some kind of ‘runners society’? If so, do previously inducted members of the society just appear, chanting some creepy mantra as you partake in drinking the sacred GU?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no.
You can view the running program I followed to prepare for this event here.
If you are not already into running I DO NOT recommend starting with this program (do as I say, not as I do). Besides the expectation of being able to run 4 continuous miles during week one, this particular program is rather aggressive and calls for you to be able to run 4-5 times a week…every week…week after week after wee…you get it.
Honestly, it took me a few weeks to start getting the hang of it; finding helpful apps, changing my diet, trying to accomplish weight training and running on the same days, adjusting my weekend routine to accommodate long Saturday runs (especially the last few weeks when runs crossed into the double digits; goodbye Friday night 12 ounce curls). I was relatively sore towards the beginning of the program, more so from the volume of training days than the actual distance; however, it was to be expected going from barely running any days for several months to running five times per week. The biggest things I learned early on were that carbs, sodium and hydration make all the difference, especially if you are prepping in the dog days of summer. Heat cramps are a VERY real thing. The cramps subsided and recovery increased greatly as I started consuming more carbs and calories and became mindful of incorporating higher sodium options as a pre-run meal (hello Ramen noodle diet).
As I discussed in my previous article, I was simultaneously training to increase my bench press. Happily I can report that I experienced scheduled success in both programs. I will highly suggest not attempting deadlifting at 90%+ on any scheduled longer run days - found that out the hard way.
I am sure you are wondering by now, “With all of this talk on how successful the training was going why did you say your training wasn’t appropriate for this event?”
Being able to run a certain amount of miles is one thing, traveling up a mountain for several hours is completely different!
This event ended up being primarily uphill, far more climbing than flat ground to run on. In hindsight, for this particular race, hiking would have been far more beneficial than working up to running 12-14 continuous miles. If you are interested in running a Spartan Beast, or any Spartan event, go hiking! Several miles into the event, with no food or electrolytes for a few hours, I encountered my knight in shining armor- a nameless hero (only because I did not catch his name) who selflessly sacrificed a salt pill, saved my day. He was the true MVP.
“Do you enjoy running now? Are you going to keep up the mileage, maybe try a true half-marathon or even a full marathon?”
In short, running sucks! I never discovered that “runners high” I heard so much about. It never really seemed to get easier in the moment. The shorter, 2-3 mile runs became somewhat enjoyable; mostly because they were over in about 20 minutes. The longer runs of 5+ miles were challenging almost every single time. However, I had to constantly remind myself of what I was accomplishing in the time period it was happening. In under 4 months I went from doing every run purely for completion, having to dig deep to reach the finish line to being able to set expected times to accomplish weekday runs in; I was able to go from averaging 0 miles of cardio per week to completing over 30 miles in a week; I survived to tell the story of the day I ran 14 miles; every run went from reaching the end at a snail’s pace to finishing at a dead sprint; and I was able to confidently accept my finisher medal at the end of my very first Spartan event.
We should set lofty expectations and goals for ourselves when it comes to fitness. We are supposed to! It’s what helps drive us to become better.
Never overlook your accomplishments along the journey.
If you want to get into running I suggest finding some good podcasts for entertainment, a fridge full of Gatorade ready to go, the best arch supporting inserts money can buy, and maybe some motivational videos for a rainy day.
As far as if I will continue to run…? Probably one day but not in the immediate future. However, I am happy to announce that I am moving on to my next fitness endeavor (and dramatically switching gears) as I have signed up for my first powerlifting meet in December. Training has already begun and you can expect an update on the transition. Screw the run-ing, back to bro-ing!
*As of this writing, Vincent has in fact continued running despite his grueling powerlifting training schedule*