How I got top 5 in an Elite Beast Spartan Race

In this post, I’m going to talk about how I trained for my first Elite Beast Spartan Race and share my views and observations of it.

It was my second Spartan Beast race ever and the first one in the Elite category. The race was held in Beijing in late October of 2021 when temperatures start to get chilly signaling a strong transition from autumn to winter.

To begin, let’s try to have an idea of what is a 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

Besides the Beast type, Spartan Race features other three race types each with a different course length and obstacles. If you are new to the Spartan Race and would like to understand more about it, I suggest you read my first post about how I prepared my first Spartan Race.

A few. months before, during the spring of the same year, I managed to collect a top 10 finish in an Elite Super Spartan Race on very muddy terrain. Since then, I continued to train consistently in order to pursue my new goal: finishing top 5 in an Elite Spartan Race.

Getting inside the top 5 in an Elite race brings additional value to the race experience since the ceremony awards include the top 5 finishers, thus earning a unique chance to step onto the podium among the best Spartans in the world.

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

The diary of my first top 5 in a Spartan Race

  • 11 October: 12km aerobic.

    I ran a 12km easy run, trying to control my effort, to build my aerobic base.

  • 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. This workout served to adapt my body to bear fatigue while keeping a high heart rate due to the very short recovery time.

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

    Long fartlek workout to get more accustomed to running 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 shakeout run + 30 min stretching.

    How to run a shakeout run?

  • 15 October: REST

  • 16 October: Long training run at 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 pace 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 quite effortlessly.

    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 didn’t exert myself the most, but it was a great test for my body.

  • 17 October: 6km easy

    Easy recovery run from the race of the previous day.

  • 18 October: 12km

    Another easy run, suitable to increase the mileage and give my legs one more day to recover.

  • 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)

    Hardest session of the week, it wasn’t supposed to be easy, but I felt it was a little too hard. I began to feel a sensation of soreness in my left calf, which after the workout, 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.

    The course of Beijing Spartan Beast 2021 (green)
  • 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.

    What are the benefits of a contrast shower?

  • 22 October: Sports 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 (race day) to know whether it was effective or not.

    How to perform rehabilitation with a massage gun?

  • 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 bare-chested, like most Spartans do.

    One peculiar 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 myself to following the leading group which was formed of four athletes including me. All 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.

    However, due to my inexperience with obstacles, I ended up failing as many as four of them for a total of 120 burpees, and certainly, the cold didn’t help.

    Ulterior difficulties were due to the freezing water we had to swim near the end which caused cramps to most of the participants also including me.

    One positive fact is that I finally succeeded in the Spear Throw obstacle, which allowed me to pass two athletes that failed it just before I arrived and to finish the race in 4th position with a small 2 minutes gat after the 3rd and 2nd finishers.

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