Written by, Coach Noah Grime
“It’s been a while, old friend! We missed you...until that first hill!” – All Spartan Big Bear FinishersThis year was my 3rd attempt at Big Bear. Each year is a great reminder about what hard work and grit can do, and what the human body is capable of.Big Bear is generally a 13-mile mountain race, with a variety of obstacles in your path. This year held true to mileage, with 30+ obstacles and 5k feet of vertical gain. Once you take on the Big Bear challenge, you will never forget this race on Snow Summit mountain. This “Soul Crusher” of a race is one of the most popular for its unforgiving terrain, many long climbs, steep descents, and ruthless sandbag carries.How does someone prepare for a race like this? Here are my thoughts:A great athlete once said - “I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run towards it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your foot” – Nadia ComaneciHere are five concepts to help in prep and performance in a Spartan Race. These are more specific to the BEAST distance and longer endurance events.1. Get Tough. Spartan Races that are at mountain venues are far from easy. The “Sprint” distances can even catch you off guard. You should be getting out on the trails and doing some hiking and trail running 4x per month at minimum leading up to your race. Consider switching the goal during your sessions from distance to duration, think “time on feet”. If you aren’t used to the mountains, there should be more of an emphasis to get into elevation similar to mountain terrain, like the many local parks and hiking trails we have in Orange County. Get tough by doing hard things that push you daily, like mountain hikes and completing workouts when you don’t feel like it - like adding squats and burpees at the end of your workouts. Getting tough also gets easier when you practice this type of exercise regularly. Embrace the pain and discomfort with positive self-talk, mindset, and breathing practices.2. Get stronger. Hills, carries and hanging for grip strength. Strength requirements can’t be overlooked, so bulletproof your body. Certain obstacles and situations can seriously reevaluate your strength, like attempting to flip a 400lb tire in the last mile of a long race. Get good at lifting weights. We are talking squats, pull-ups, lunges, carries, and push-ups. Do these at least 2x per week.3. Get conditioned. The aerobic system and your overall efficiency are really an indicator of endurance. Without endurance, even strong athletes will suffer at the end of the race with heavier implements. Pick your favorite means of movement, and frequently target intensity zones 2 and zones 3 for sustained periods. This is in the 50-70% range of your MAX heart rate. Consistency is key here. If you are serious about getting faster, more efficient, and not feeling like a train hit you at mile 5, building your aerobic system will be the way. 3-5x per week of conditioning is how you will see continuous progress. Running, hiking, and cycling are the best. But don’t rule out walking hills, swimming, rowing, or even ski-erg.4. Focus on your “areas of opportunity”. Do your feet hurt all the time? Maybe look into yoga, barefoot training, or minimalist shoes. Do your runs and hikes peak at 5 miles? Maybe set a goal for a long-run PR and build up to it. A coach is a great person to have at your side; someone who will be honest with you and tell you what you might need when it's hard to see it for yourself. The training process shouldn’t be miserable, so make it repeatable. Work on tight or weak muscles, get better at running and scale-up appropriately at a skill you need. Injuries and doctor visits don’t need to be part of this journey. The training, workouts, sore muscles, and everything in between are what build character and this sticks with you through the process.5. Push yourself to what you know you’re capable of. Did Big Bear or another race crush you this year? Did it feel harder than it did back in 2019 or previous years? What was your training like and how did it differ from previous years? Are you expecting different results from the same type of training? Consider reevaluating your areas of opportunity. Join more group classes for motivation, or run clubs, and weekend training sessions. Step back and document your progress and push yourself to avoid plateaus and complacency. Often we don’t ever see our full potential in many areas of our life - fitness included - because we are scared to fail. Get out there and take some risks!Big Bear Spartan Racers share an experience that is unmatched. It’s scary, punishing, risky, and leaves your body sore for days. It is also an experience that puts your body into fight or fight, teaches you a new sense of determination, confidence, and the power of comradery. If you've thought about - but put off - a challenge like this, consider reevaluating what might be holding you back, and unpack that a bit. Don’t let another year pass you by without achieving the results you want. I have witnessed some amazing transformations by athletes. These happened by staying focused, following programs, and staying patient throughout their fitness journeys. You may be training hard enough, just not training in the right capacity to get you the success you are looking for. Keep tuning it up my friends! Big Bear will be coming around the corner in Spring 2022, so see you out there!