Updated: Nov 19, 2019
So you have decided to do a Spartan Race! Congrats as this is exciting and daunting all at the same time. Now to set the story straight, I never competed in a race... however, I got the perfect inside scoop because I was a spectator, supporter, trainer, medical professional, and the list carries on with all the hats I put on for this race... TRUST ME!
My partner, Martin, asked me if I wanted to compete in a race. I thought he was talking about a triathlon so of course I was like... ah ya! Count me in!! He then informed me it was a Spartan Race and a BEAST course at that.
I thought for a minute and assessed the circumstances. In case you don't know what a BEAST course is let me inform you:
13.1 mile HIKE with 30+ obstacles!
I thought, okay well that is a half marathon and I could technically train for this in about 3 months worth of time. So I asked when the race was... 3 weeks! My response was...
HECK NO!!!! I AM OUT!!!!
Martin on the other hand was deteremined to take on the challenge and I was not about to burst his bubble of excitement. Because he was so eager to do this race, I got to learn the best tips without even having to compete.
Here are my top 10 things you'll need when competing in a Spartan Race:
1. Baby Powder - This is the smartest thing I have used in races. In triathlons I sprinkle a good amount of this magic powder into my socks. Blisters be gone! The powder helps absorb the moisture after my swim into the bike leg of the course. Therefore, I totally recommended it to Martin for his Spartan Race and it worked like a champ.
You can also put it in locations you have a tendancy to chafe. My thighs love each other but it's no time for them to get into a fight during a race.
2. Gloves - Martin is an engineer and he prides himself in working in the field not just behind the desk. So when he was recommended to wear gloves he confidently ignored the suggestion. That was a BAD idea! There are many obstacles that will put your fingers, skin, and grip to the test...it is better off to be safe and grab a pair of gloves. Or else you will end up with bleeding blisters the entire way like he did.
3. Backpack - Perhaps if you are doing a sprint course you may not need it. However, for a BEAST or Ultra course it is highly recommended. A camel backpack is great for a hot day or a fanny pack was used for many racers. You'll see why with the rest of the suggestions I have for you.
4. Sunscreen - First off, it is miserable to function with a sunburn beyond the health reasons it holds. Secondly, you will burn! Martin is hispanic and swears that he doesn't burn.. well I could had sung the verse... "burn baby burn" because he felt his skin crispy. Think about it, you'll be in the sun for at least 3 hours (general population). Now you are exerting energy, sweating, getting mud all over, dunking in lakes, troffs, and who knows what else. You'll want to have sunscreen to put on mid race at least.
5. Hydration & Snacks - Now this may just be the location but there were only water stations among the stations of the course. Your body needs electrolytes to be able to continue to have muscular contractions and to avoid what we call "hitting the wall." Hitting the wall is when full depletion of glycogen from your muscles has been used. Your muscles have nothing left to use and then you start performing the involuntary wobble. Look up "marathon hitting the wall" and you will see what I mean. What they do provide at one station is pickle juice. So one station of the 13 miles has pickle juice and if you are not a fan of it well cramp on up then!
For the BEAST and especially the Ultra having electrolyte and carbohydrate fluid such as Gatorade would be a good alternative to have to pickle juice.
6. Mustard packets - This may sound nasty to those who hate mustard (raising my hand aggressively!!!). Here's the theory behind it. Mustard has potassium and electrolytes that help ease cramps. In fact in a soccer game of mine, a teammate had the worst cramp ever. Was shoved a spoonful of mustard, which she hated, and the cramp went away. When you are in the race and your cramps are so bad you can't walk, you'll be wishing you had these.
7. First Aid - To be honest, I am blown away with the fact that this is a high risk event and there was only one first aid station which ended up being not that helpful. It is smart of you to carry your own first aid for this race and any time you go on a hike. Bandaids, hydrogen peroxide (you'll want to clean any cut with the water you're jumping into), clippers or small scissors, bandage wrap, soap, tape, and any other basic first aid tools. These are not only for during your race but after your race too.
Martin's blisters had blisters in them and dirt is still trapped in them after countless washes of soap and hydrogen peroxide. The first aid station didnt have any bandaids or wraps, he had to use someones pocket knife to cut the skin, and all he was given was hydrogen peroxide. Now I am a little more of a stickler with cleaning wounds... 1. we had a long drive home and 2. well because Microbiology (your life will be forever changed). So I was extremely disappointed in the medical first aid available on site.
8. Bandana - Imagine you are in the middle of a herd of water buffalo's who are running towards dinner. Now think of all of the dirt that is kicked up in the mean time. That dirt is what you are breathing. At first I thought this was a silly and "in crowd" kind of look but quickly realized it is to help not eat dirt the whole 13 miles. Martin didn't like his but something to cover your nose and mouth would be helpful.
9. Change of Clothes - You will NEED two baths after this race. You will find dirt in cracks you can't even see. There was a hose down station that allowed you to get the initial dirt off your body. I was surprised to see that no one brought soap. One individual did bring a waterproof shower skirt that wrapped around his waist. Thought it was quite nifty and could allow for a good, squeaky clean rinse. Regardless, you'll want to get out of the nasty, muddy clothes you just dragged your body across the ground in and did a million burpees with.
10. A Driver - If you want to be safe then bring a designated driver. Yes, after a long race like that you are going to be tired! It is best to bring a small pillow, a blanket, and your nap gear for the ride home. This is honestly for any race. The worst decisions I made were doing a race and not having someone drive me home because you are BEAT! This race being 4+ hours long, you'll want to grub and snug up to a pillow.
I am sure there could be a million other things that other well seasoned racers could tell you to bring but this is a great start for a beginner or a newbie to the Spartan World. This will get you from the start to finish line in better condition then not carrying anything. Had Martin carried some of these things he probably would be able to have used his hands immediately after the race. It's been 4 days and he still has to use his hands with caution so he doesn't rip open the blisters.
Good luck with your race and be sure to comment below on how you did or if there is something that should be added to the list!
In Health & Wellness,