How I prepared an Elite Super Spartan Race

There’s nothing mediocre about this middle distance race. The Spartan Super offers the ideal blend between distance and speed. Offering racers a true athletic test. If you consider yourself a more seasoned athlete determined to push beyond excuses, you just might have the mettle for a Spartan Super. Serving up 25+ Spartan Obstacles and 10+km of rugged terrain, the Spartan Super spares no one. Developed as the second race in the Spartan Trifecta, the Super is where you prove to yourself you’ve got everything it takes to face the Beast.

Super Spartan Race

In this post, I’m going to reveal how I prepared a Super Spartan Race of the category Elite and my impressions about it. My previous experience in 2020 was a Beast Spartan Race in Chongli and a Super and Sprint Spartan Race in Beijing. Let’s remind that Spartan Races are subdivided into 3 categories:

  • Open Group: not competitive and you can receive assistance to do obstacles, or decided not to do them without incurring in any penalty.
  • Age Group: competitive but ranking is divided by age and sex. First 3 of each group will get an exclusive champion medal
  • Elite Group: competitive with ranking divided only by sex. First 3 will get an exclusive champion medal and gadget and the top-5 will also earn money prize.

Note: Obstacles are compulsory in the Age and Elite group and failing one comports a penalty of 30 burpees.

  • 31 October: Jingxi Gudao trail race (18k)

    A Spartan Race is basically a cross-country race with obstacles. Hence, I participated with my Spartani team in the Beijing Jingxi Gudao trail race. It was an 18km race on the mountains located west of Beijing with a cumulative elevation gain of about 1000 meters. I finished it ranked first in 2:02:04. However, I knew this race was nothing compared to what expected me in two weeks.

  • 1 November: REST.

    My legs needed to recover after the race of the previous day.

  • 2 November: 5km (4’10/km)

    I went running in the evening, at around 9pm, the outside temperature was close to 0°. I only wanted to test my legs and stamina on a quick 5km run. I hoped to run under the 4’00/km threshold but the cold weather and maybe the accumulated tiredness prevented my legs to run as I had planned.

  • 3 November: 1 hour workout

    Having a past as a middle-distance runner, I lacked strength more than stamina. For this reason, my training schedule was more focused on strengthening my arms rather than improving my running pace. After all, 3 of the obstacles I failed in the previous Spartan Race were the 3 monkey-bars-like obstacles (monkey-bars, multi-rig, twister). Thus, my workout consisted mainly of repetitions of pull-ups, push-ups, and weightlifting. However, to be more complete, it also included various kinds of crunches and squats.

    What is the infamous twister? Watch here!

  • 4 November: 1 hour general training

    On some Wednesdays, I served as general training coach for the mountaineers association of Tsinghua University. We did plenty of crunches, planks, squats, and push-ups. The last challenge consisted of doing burpees for 3 minutes straight. Let’s keep in mind that 30 burpees in the penalty for not failing an obstacle and they take at least 2 minutes to finish.

  • 5 November: 1 hour workout

    Today’s training was almost identical on the 3 November‘s workout.

  • 6 November: 5km (4’20/km) + 1 hour strength

    I began today’s schedule with a 5km progressive run without feeling too much effort. Then, always aiming to conquer the monkey-bars, I heavily trained pull-ups and push-ups. I also added a session of legs training aimed to improve calves’ strength.

  • 7 November: 16km (4’40/km)

    After the focused workout of the previous week, on Saturday I did a long 16km progressive run around the campus to improve my aerobics skill and enjoy the last relatively warm days of Beijing.

  • 8 November: 1 hour workout + 7km (4’15/km)

    The next 3 days are going to be very hard. I did my usual workout routine immediately followed by a 7km run getting progressively closer to the 4’/km threshold. In fact, keeping a 4’/km pace is a must to get into the Elite top-10.

  • 9 November: 10km steeplechase (4’20/km) + monkey bars

    Track and field steeplechase races are at most 3000m long. Instead, I did a 10km steeplechase (only 2 obstacles per lap). In fact, the most frequent kind of obstacles present in a Spartan Race are the walls. Some of them can be jumped like steeplechase runners do (usually the first ones), but most of them are so high that it’s almost impossible to pass them without using hands to climb. Even if the obstacles were too low to simulate a real race, I think this training has been useful to adapt my legs to get interrupted while running and then quickly stabilize to the constant previous pace. Finally, I trained monkey-bars to test the training of the previous workouts.

    What are 3000m steeplechase? Watch here!

  • 10 November: 30 mins strength + 1200m (warm-up pace) + 2000m (3’40/km) + 40 push-ups + 2000m (3’40/km) + 40 push-ups + 1200m (3’20/km) + 40 push-ups + 10 burpees + 1200m (3’20/km)

    As you can guess from the description above, this training has been the hardest one. It basically simulates the conditions of the Spartan Race. In fact, obstacles usually come in blocks separated by a few hundred to a little less than 2km of clean path for running. Hence, running repetitions of shorter distances faster than race pace has benefits to increase the aerobic threshold and the speed-up the recovery time. To make it more challenging, I added some push-ups and burpees during the intervals so to better simulate the obstacle/running sessions. Before that, I also did some reinforcing exercises to improve my general strength.

    Xiamen Spartan Race Map
  • 11 November: rope climbing + 1 hour general training

    On the morning I spent 5 minutes to learn how to climb a rope. In fact, rope-climbing was among the obstacles I failed in Beijing. On the afternoon, I lead again the general training session always focusing on push-ups, squats, plank and burpees. Once again, we finished with a 3 minutes burpees training. This has also been my last day of training.

    What are to climb a rope? Watch here!

  • 12 November: flight to Xiamen

    I arrived at Xiamen at 9:30pm.

  • 13 November: REST

  • 14 November: Xiamen Elite Super Spartan Race.

    That morning was cloudy but it wasn’t raining. It was also warm and not windy and the race was mostly on sand terrain. The race started at 9am but I arrived at 7:30am. However, I wasn’t able to collect my number and my chip before 8:30am so I only did a slow 10 mins warm-up run and some sprints. As expected, the race was fast from the beginning and I could only manage to follow the leading group for about 1500m when the monkey-bars and the multi-rig obstacles slowed me down significantly compared to my rivals. At about 5km I failed the twister (slippery monkey-bars) so I got the 30 burpees penalty, thus losing at least 2 minutes. Afterward, by mistake, I also failed the z-wall after having completed 90% of it, so I did other 30 burpees. Then, less than 1km to the finish line, as almost everyone did, I failed the spear-throw doing other 30 burpees for a total of 90. At that very moment, it also started raining. Finally, I finished my race in 1h:06′:37 arriving 14th among 70 participants. In total, this has been my third competitive Spartan Race and the first one among the Elites.

    Now, based on my personal experience, I will leave 10 useful tips to prepare an Elite Super Spartan Race.

    HOW TO PREPRARE AN ELITE SUPER SPARTAN RACE.

    • Train to do burpees fast, very fast
    • All obstacles are feasible except: twister and spear-throw
    • Be sure you can climb a rope
    • Your opponents will run fast, to run at 4’/km in a Super Spartan Race you should run at 3’30/km in a 10km
    • If you can run 10km at 2’50/km but you lack strength, it’s very likely that you won’t even finish it
    • Train repetitions, better if on tough terrain, and do other exercises while you are recovering
    • Do a good warmup before the race
    • Print a Spartan Trifecta tattoo on you face
    • Don’t forget to wear your gloves
    • Be ready to suffer:)
  • 15 November: Rent a bike and cycle 30km along Huandao Lu

    Finally, stop and watch the sea, the sun will wipe out some clouds only for you.

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