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Training for the Ohio Spartan Beast (2020)

Updated: May 21

The Ohio Beast is pretty different from other Spartan venues. While Spartan does a lot of races on very mountainous/hilly terrain, the Ohio event is pretty darn flat. However, it is still very challenging due to the amount of water on course.

The data I'll be providing for this event for training recommendations is from my race at the Ohio Beast in 2019. Always keep in mind that Spartan Race will change up the course at events each year. It will not be the same in 2020 as it was in 2019. However, it is the same venue, so there is a lot of information from the 2019 race that is pertinent.


TRAINING DISTANCE:

I wore my Suunto 9 during the race. It logged 13.23 miles. As I've mentioned in other articles like this one, different GPS devices will provide different distances on the same course...it's not a PERFECT technology. However, between 13.1 and 13.5 miles is about where you can expect the distance to be in 2020 for the Beast.

I highly recommend that anyone tackling the Beast put in 200-240 miles worth of running and hiking training. Ideally, to get used to running on varying terrain, do your running on trails. Your training should be spread out over the course of 10-12 weeks (don't try to cram it - that's an injury waiting to happen). You should gradually build up to longer runs to 9, 11, and 13 miles (spread out over several weeks as well). Your 13+ mile run should be done 2-3 weeks out from race day.

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SPECIAL CONSIDERATION 1 - WATER:


This has nothing to do with drinking water, and everything to do with water on-course. Like I mentioned, many Spartan Races have a lot of elevation gain and that's something that must be trained for in order to have a real chance of completing the course. While the Ohio course has very little elevation gain, what it does have, at least historically, is a LOT of water.


What's a lot of water, you ask? I'd say 60%+ of the course was very very wet - soggy, muddy ground. Sometimes there were boards to run on, sometimes not. Sometimes your foot would only sink into the ground a tiny bit, sometimes your foot would be 6+ inches in mud. There was also a portion of the course in 2019 with waist-deep water that had to be waded through for around 3/10 of a mile. Water on a course like that will wreck your hip flexors.

How do you prepare for this? Ironically, for a course with very little elevation gain (255ft in 2019), training for hills will help to build up lower body and hip flexor strength. Addition exercises that you can do to build up your hip flexors are Mountain Climbers and High Knees. Some of you may be thinking, "I'll do like 3 sets of 30 seconds of High Knees, and I'll be fine." No. Nope. That's not how this works. While you're on course, you'll be taking thousands of steps, so you need to be prepared for that. You should spend a LOT of time on those exercises to prepare your body. Time is easier to gauge on fast-paced exercises like those in comparison to the number of reps. Shoot for sets of at least 30 seconds, but increase the set total to at least 10 sets. Build the time or set totals up as you improve. There is no such thing as being over-prepared, so hammer away.


OBSTACLE TRAINING


Since you already know about the water on course, you need to be prepared to tackle obstacles while your hands are wet. One very good way to train for wet obstacles is to find some monkey bars at a playground, soak your hands in water, soak the bars, and practice. You should practice going forwards and backwards. Do dead hangs and grip switches and hanging shoulder taps; all with wet hands and on wet bars. You might even take it a step further and get some mud for your hands...just Make Sure you clean off the bars when you're done.

If you don't have access to a bar that you can soak (please don't do this at a gym unless you have explicit permission), you simply need to work on your grip strength as a whole. Using hand towels is a great way to build your grip strength. Hang a towel over a bar, and hold both ends while hanging. Try doing pullups and dead hangs and slides and switches. If you aren't sure how these things are done, go check out Luke's Instagram account (lukejshayes). He has tons of videos using a GripSling (towels can be used similarly) that demonstrate great grip exercises.


SPECIAL CONSIDERATION 2 - SHOES:


What you wear on your feet will have a significant role in your race at this venue. While grip is very important, after a certain 'level' of mud is achieved, you'll slide no matter what. Still, you'll want as much grip as you can get. The most important consideration for me, on this particular course, is how well my shoes drain water. Waterproof shoes are a terrible idea at this venue, so don't do it. Your feet will be submerged in water, and once it's in, if you're wearing waterproof shoes, it won't be able to come back out. You need shoes that drain water very well. You also want a light shoe. The heavier the shoes, the more you'll have to work, especially when the shoe inevitably gets heavier from getting soaked.

For me, I really love the Salming OT Comps. I do all my racing, and much of my training, with them. They have great grip, are very light, and drain water extremely well. Of course, if you have a shoe that does all those things well, go with it! That's just a recommendation from my own personal experience. If you need advice on good shoes for OCR, we did an article based on a poll in 2019 that might have helpful information for you: OCR Shoes - What 100 OCR Athletes Think


I plan to either hit the Beast or Ultra in Ohio this year, so I hope to see you all out there! Make sure you train so that you're able to have a truly awesome time on race day!

At Trio Fitness OCR, we don't want to see anyone fail because their training was an obstacle. We provide completely custom OCR training to each and every client we work with to help them reach their specific goals. If you need help with your training and programming, we'd love to be of service. Check out our Training Programs Page.


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Joel Hayes (Coach & Article Author)

Luke Hayes (Coach)

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