How I got top-5 in an Elite Beast Spartan Race

The ultimate Spartan test; a soul crushing half marathon with 30 obstacles. You’ll rarely find a Beast on flat ground, so your legs will burn with brutal ascents and descents. The Beast is notorious around the world for its difficulty.

Beast Spartan Race

In this post, I’m going to write about how I prepared my first Elite BEAST Spartan Race and will share my impressions and thoughts about it. It was my second Beast race ever and the 4th Spartan Race in the Elite category. The race was held in Beijing in late October and consisted of a cross-country style halfmarathon with 36 obstacles to overcome. 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.

At the time of running this race, I had trained consistently for almost 1 year, and the training plan was completely designed by me. I tried to insert some upper body strength training between my running sessions, but my primary goal was still to increase my overall pace and stamina.

  • 11 October: 12km (4’45” pace).

    I ran 12km easily to recover from the Halfamarathon of the previous day.

  • 12 October: 15x400m in 1’15-1’18 with 30” rest

    Fast-paced workout of several repetitions of 400 meters with only 30 seconds of rest in between.

  • 13 October: 4km at 3’45 + 1km jogging + 3x1500m at 3’30 + 1km jogging + 4km at 3’45

    Long fartlek workout to adapt my body to run at target half-marathon (HM) pace: first 4km at HM pace followed by a set of 3×1500 15 seconds faster than HM pace, and another 4km at HM pace. 1km jogging to recover between the 3 main sets and 2 minutes rest between each 1500m.

  • 14 October: 3km jogging + 30′ stretching.

  • 15 October: REST

  • 16 October: Beijing Pinggu Halfmarathon: 1h19’28”

    It was a cold day with only 5° in the morning. I tried to run conservatively during the first 11km running with a steady peace of 3:55 to 3:45 per km. The first 11km were not windy and with a negative elevation gain, hence I felt my legs running relatively easy. Then, as the race approached the second half, I progressively started to get out of my pace comfort zone and close the last 5km in an average of less than 3:40 per km. Overall, I could say that I was not extremely tired but it was a great test for my body.

  • 17 October: 6km (4’30” pace)

    Easy recovery run from the race of the previous day.

  • 18 October: 12km (4’45” pace)

    Another easy run, suitable to increase the mileage.

  • 19 October: 3km (3’36” pace) + fartlek: 2×1’30” (1′ rest) + 4×1’00 (1′ rest) + 4×45″ (50″ rest) + 1×2’00” (1′ rest)

    Last hard session of the week, it wasn’t supposed to be easy, but I also didn’t expect to go so bad. I began to feel a sensation of soreness in my left calf, it also got rigid and painful even when walking.

  • 20 October: 4km with strides.

    The aim of this workout was to test the condition of my calf rather than for fitness. However, the pain was still there and I started to think my race could be over.

  • 21 October: Rehabilitation with foam-roller and massage-gun.

    I tried many possible means in order to save my race which I was preparing long: massage-gun, foam-roller, contrast-shower, and stretching. Unfortunately, the pain and rigidness feeling didn’t improve too much, sometimes I could feel pain even while having rest.

  • 22 October: Sport massage and massage-gun.

    As the last chance to save my race, I decided to try a rehabilitation message with the aim to relax my calf and hope to be able to run and walk again without too much pain. It lasted about 1 hour, but I had to wait until the next day to know whether it was effective or not.

    Course of Beijing Spartan Beast 2021 (green)
  • 23 October, 8:30am: Beijing Elite Beast Spartan Race.

    I woke up very early before 6am, and I arrived at the race venue at about 7am. In the morning it was chilly, but despite the cold, we still ran without t-shirt, like real spartans. One peculiarity fact of this race was that nearly 70% of the obstacles were concentrated during the last few km: a tough challenge for runners to pass through it. During the first quarter of the race, I ran cautiously limiting at following the leading group which was formed by four athletes with me included. All the three athletes in front of me had already won or at least arrived second in a previous edition of the race. After about 5km I took the lead and began to slowly gain some meters over my opponents, an advantage that I had been able to keep until the beginning of the final obstacles. I ended up failing as much as four of them for a total of 120 burpees, certainly the cold didn’t help. Ulterior difficulties were due to the freezing water we had to swim near the end which caused cramps in most of the participants including me. One positive fact is that I succeeded in the Spearthrow obstacle, which allowed me to finish the race in 4th position 2 minutes after the 3rd and 2nd finishers.

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