Athlete Journal: Andrew Read – Spartan Race Training, Entry 1

My inner crash test dummy is calling again, so I’ve decided to enter a marathon. Actually, make that TWO back-to-back Spartan Races. Here’s how I’m planning to get ready and avoid injury.

Click here to read other journal entries and articles by Andrew Read, and look for his new journals as he trains for not one but TWO back-to-back Spartan Races – the Spartan Beast and the Spartan Ultra Beast.

Athlete Journal: Andrew Read – Spartan Race Training, Entry 1

Ironman was a great experience. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of the day and never once felt like I wasn’t going to make it. What that really means is that I need to get a lot fitter so I can put myself under more pressure the next time.

Part of the plan entails becoming a better runner. Much better. With only four months of uninterrupted running leading up to the race I never was going to have enough miles in my legs to deal with a marathon after riding 180km.

To help fix this I’ve gone all crash test dummy again and decided that the best way to address this is to run more. So I entered a marathon. The only thing is that it’s not exactly a normal marathon. It’s a Spartan Ultra Beast – a 42km obstacle course race. To really make sure I get stuck into running I’m warming up the day before with the Beast race – a 21km race. That’ll be 63km of running and obstacles over a two-day period. That should take care of that.

The problem is that these obstacle races are really quite new still and finding solid information on training for them is quite difficult. Finding information on this kamikaze approach to them is even harder.

After Ironman the first thing I did was take some time off. I went for a swim the next day, but not really to swim. I put my fins on and cruised a very easy 500m. Cold water has a great anti-inflammatory effect and that combined with my trusty 2XU compression gear and a massage on the Wednesday meant I was pain free when I woke up Thursday. That’s not bad for an old fella.

The only thing that was still nagging was my Achilles pain. Taking time off running has helped enormously and the pain has largely subsided. However with just a few very short runs it has returned a little. I’m determined to nip this in the bud and am actually off to see a foot/lower leg specialist later today to see if we can actually find a treatment strategy beyond avoiding running.

The rest of my training has been going well. I’ve been focusing on bodyweight work, in particular that old favorite fitness buzzword, my core. The core is clearly important for running – being able to maintain a neutral spine for a long period of time is essential as without it you are putting yourself at risk every single step. Incidentally, I think this is a huge area of neglect for ultra endurance athletes as going from the hunched position of riding after the swim, where extra strain is placed on the back from sighting, to running makes me realize why so many endurance athletes have bad backs.

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With most of my training sessions focusing on various gymnastics skills nearly my entire training ends up being either a variation of a plank or hollow position. My training weeks therefore consist of about eight hours of core work along with all the rest of the work I am doing. I have three base exercises that get done daily, in a grease the groove fashion – single leg deadlifts, ring dips and pull-ups. On top of these are handstands, various kettlebell exercises, sled work and other leg assistance work.

Each session begins with fifteen to twenty minutes of Primal Move drills, focusing on crawling and rolling. I then do about thirty minutes of stretching before doing all my strength work. My second session of the day is some form of cardio training. This is often something like sets of ten of double kettlebell ballistics like the snatch or clean along with sled sprints. For the first time in years I’ve been doing burpees too. I alternate these sessions with form-based runs.

The basic plan is to be strong and fit, but not actually stick to any super set plan when it comes to the conditioning element. Like with Ironman my plan is to be as light as I can be. The main difference is that I need more strength for the Spartan Beast as there weren’t too many rope climbs in the middle of Ironman.

At this point I can see my athletic best swiftly disappearing in the mirror as I speed into the second half of my life. Having done Ironman I know I can complete all these events barring injury and I want to make sure when I hang my boots up for good that I feel like I’ve satisfied my inner crash test dummy. There’s lots of training sessions lined up with Gym Jones, the Spartan coaching team, and even some surprises back home, so stick around.

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