How I got top-10 in 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 write about how I prepared my second Elite Super Spartan Race and will share my impressions and thoughts about it. This was my 4th competitive Spartan Race after my previous experiences in Chongli, Beijing and Xiamen in 2020 where the last two were an Age Super Spartan Race and an Elite Super Spartan Race respectively. It also was my first Spartan Race of 2021 and came from a long break of 5 months without running any OCR (obstacle course race). 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.

However, the preparation of this race didn’t come without obstacles. Spring 2021 has been a very busy period for me, I had a part-time internship in the morning and I worked until late in the evening to write my thesis and, at the same time, try to publish my paper. Hence, it has not been easy to manage my time and find the right balance between working, studying and training.

  • 29 March: 5km (4’40” pace) + 10km (3’51” pace).

    I ran a first 10km at a sustained pace so to improve my stamina, following I did 5km jogging to relax my body.

  • 30 March: 6x1000m (3’30” with 45″ rest) + 50 pull ups + 150 push ups.

    My original plan was to run 10x1000m but I was feeling my legs still tired from training of the past days, so the acid in my legs made me stop at 6. However, I compensated it doing some workout for a total of 50 pull ups and 150 push ups.

  • 31 March: workout (1h) + 9km (4’15” pace).

    I led a simple workout consisting of various kinds push ups, crunches, and planks. I also added many series of burpees in between so to make it more fun, more Spartan. After dinner I went out again for a 9km evening run without pushing too much.

  • 1 April: 3000m (3’33” pace) + 1200m (3’14” pace) + 600m (1’56”) + gym (1h).

    I started the session with a 3000m, I pushed it a little so to test my condition, but I didn’t feel so good. I finished my training with a 1200m and a final 600m. On the evening I did some 60kg-70kg squats and plus some exercises to train my arms.

  • 2 April: 6x1000m (3’20” with 2’30” rest) + 2000 (3’33” pace).

    I finished my week running some repetitions of 1000m with a good rest in between so to try to push my running pace. I was feeling good, so at the end I added a 2000m so to further increase my stamina.

  • 3 April: REST.

    Due to medical reasons I had to rest on this day.

  • 4 April: hiking (7h – 18km – 1000m elevation gain).

    For the same reasons of 3 April I couldn’t do intense physical activity, so I went hiking with some classmates on the mountains of Jingxigudao at west of Beijing. We left early on the morning at 5:50am and had a 18km trip with almost 1000m of elevation gain for a total of 7 hours hiking. It has been the first sunny day of April.

  • 5 April: 12km (4’00” pace) + workout (30 mins).

    I did a long progressive run of 12km around my campus and a short workout session at the end. I mainly focuses on doing pull ups so to be ready to conquer the Monkey Bars, and the more tricky obstacle Twister. I always failed the Twister in my previous three Spartan Races but most because I lacked the right technique.

  • 6 April: 10x600m (2’00” with 2′ rest doing 30 push ups) + javelin (1h).

    Twister might be hard but the Spear Throw is by far the hardest. It consists of throwing a spear aiming to a target places about 10 meters far. To be considered completed, the spear not only has to hit the target but it has also to remain sticked on it. I practiced it for about one hour with the help of the professional Spartan Coach Leon. On the afternoon I came back to the track and completed a 10x600m interval training doing push ups during the recovery time so to simulate race conditions.

  • 7 April: workout (1h).

    I lead the usual total body workout very similar to the workout of the 31 March.

  • 8 April: flight to Ningbo.

    We arrived to Ningbo at 11:30pm by plane.

  • 9 April: visiting Ningbo.

    On the morning we went to visit the Ninbgo Tiantong Temple, on the afternoon we came back to the city and took a beautiful sightseeing tour by bike.

  • 10 April, 8am: Ningbo Elite Super Spartan Race.

    I arrived at the location of the race at around 7 am, it was a sunny and warm day. However, it rained a lot on the days before and the organizers warned us that we could happen into “some” mug along the path. It was only during the race that we realized that “some” mud was meaning literally run in a swamp. Sometimes the mud was so deep that it was almost impossible to run, it was even hard to walk and easy to lose shoes with the mud arriving over our knees. I led the race for a few km but I felt my legs too tired because of the mug and my shoes that were not very comfortable. The two obstacles that I failed were the Hercules Hoist and, as always, the Spear Throw. Actually, I failed the first one after having raised the weight but accidentally let it fall down too quickly, thus getting the penalty. Near the finish line of the race, I enjoyed the new obstacle, Fire Jump, and finished my race 7th among the Elite athletes with a time of 1h:16′:23″. It was really a pity since only the top-5 got the prize.

  • 10 April, 10am: Ningbo Open Sprint Spartan Race.

    After the Elite race, I had a good idea to run the same race again to support the team. It was also a good chance to train the obstacles that are easier to miss such as the Spear Throw and Twister. We also enjoyed a swim in the mud, a jump on the fire and took the traditional picture after the race showing our new Spartan Super medal which symbolizes that this challenge was also done.

  • 10 April 16pm: the last (biggest) obstacle

    In the morning we basically spent 3 hours running, rolling, and swimming in the mud. Can you guess what was the biggest challenge after that? Having a shower and wash our clothes. No matter we wore a white or black t-shirt, no matter the color of our pants and shoes. All our clothes turned into something indescribable. We could barely recognize that those things totally covered by the mud were our clothes. Only after a lot of pain, we managed to get a shower, resemble to be humans again and finally go to sleep ready to fly back to Beijing on the next day.

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