So you signed up for your first obstacle course race or mud run? Now what? How do you get ready for something that is completely different from any other race out there? One of the first things I did after I signed up for my first OCR (obstacle Course race) was google “how to prepare for a Spartan Race”. What came up was tons of blogs and youtube videos, many of which were helpful but it was a lot of information to sift through. I thought I would put together a post about how to prepare and what to bring on race day to make your experience even better!
Training for a race: This topic requires it’s own post but in general I would recommend starting your training at least 6 weeks out from race day for a shorter race (Mud Hero, Rugged Maniac, Spartan Sprint) and 12 weeks out for a longer race (Tough mudder, Spartan Super). You should be incorporating running into your training but keep in mind that these races are much different from your typical 5k road race in that you are not running the whole time but stopping to do obstacles along the way. I incorporate push-ups, squats, mountain climbers and of course burpees into my training runs for OCRs. You’ll be tired from running when you hit those obstacles so I find it works best for me to add the exercises in every 2-3 km.
1 week before the race: Start drinking lots of water, you don’t want to start a race dehydrated, especially if the weather is hot. I cut out alcohol a week before a longer race (10k+) and 4 days before a shorter race (less than 10k). I focus on eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy carbs (brown rice, oatmeal, etc) and I drink 8-10 glasses of water per day adding in 2-3 extra the day before race day.
Day before the race: Pack your race bag (see list below), print off parking info, print and sign your waivers, know your heat time and plan out when to leave so that you can arrive 1.5-2 hours early. Spend some time relaxing and resting your body. If it calms you look up videos on how to do obstacles that you’re feeling unsure of, if it makes you more nervous than don’t do it. Drink 2-3 extra glasses of water and eat a healthy meal with some lean protein and carbs.
What to pack for a 5-10k Mud Run or OCR (Spartan Sprint, Mud Hero, Rugged Maniac):
- 2 small towels (I also bring a large beach towel to keep in my truck for afterwards)
- A complete change of clothes that are easy to get on wet, sticky skin (underwear, sports bra, loose pants/crops, shirt)
- Clean, dry shoes (flip flops work best for me)
- Protein bar and snacks for post race
- Electrolyte pack for after race
- ID (this is required at most races)
- Cash for parking, bag check, etc
- Credit or debit card
- 2 large garbage bags (for wet clothes or shoes and for sitting on for the drive home if needed)
- Water bottle
Here’s a tip on how I pack my bag: I line my backpack with a large black garbage bag and place all my dry towels, clothes, etc inside. I learned this the hard way when I went to a rainy race and all my “dry” clothes got soaked before the race even started! It’s also easier to place dirty, wet clothes inside after the race and tie the bag up and then you only have to lug around one heavy bag with your wet shoes.
Morning of the race: Double check your bag (don’t forget your ID, signed waivers and cash for parking, bag check, etc). Leave yourself lots of time to get to the race venue so that you can arrive with lots of time to park, check your bag, use the washroom (there will be lines) and mentally prepare yourself.
What to wear: No cotton, when it gets wet, it gets heavy. Wear quick dry material and tight fitting clothing that won’t hang off you once it gets wet and fills with mud. Compression crops and a dry fit tank are my go to’s. Do not wear white or light colours if you ever want them to look the same. I wear black or dark colours. If your race has barbed wire there is always a chance you will rip something (I have ripped a hole in my crops right in the butt at mile 12), so don’t wear your brand new $100 lulu crops or anything with delicate mesh or detailing. Wear quick dry underwear and socks too, you will be much more comfortable. I always recommend wearing shoes with good grips, not cheap ones you will throw away after. They are much more supportive for your feet and they will make going through the mud a lot easier. I run in Salomon Speedcrosses which are an OCR/trail running shoe and well worth every $.
Upon arrival at the race venue: Park and take the shuttle (or walk if you can park at the start line). Leave all valuables in your bag and check it. Unless you have a tested waterproof case for your iphone that will be double ziplocked and in your camelbak, leave it in your bag. I wear sunglasses (even though they always say not to) because I wear contacts and they protect my eyes from mud, if you wear them make sure they’re cheap ones that you don’t care get broken or lost.
Go to registration and hand in your printed and signed waiver, if it’s a Spartan Race you’ll first have to check the board in front of registration for your bib number and proceed to the appropriate line. After getting your race pack find a dry spot and put the headband on your head. If there’s a tattoo with your bib # put that on your arm or some other visible spot so that the photographers can spot it (and you can later find your pics), if they have a marking station with sharpies write your bib # on your calf and other arm too. The timing chip for most races goes around your wrist, if you have trouble, ask a volunteer for help, you don’t want to lose it, most races charge $40 for lost chips. The package at Spartan is your bib # and souvenir (keep it, I didn’t and regret it). You might also have a free beer ticket depending on the venue, save that for after the race. Once you’re all checked in and have taken a few pics (and of course a pre-race selfie), check your bag with all your valuables in it. Yes, this is hard to do but you don’t want to lose anything out on the race course and the bag check peeps will keep your bag and contents safe and dry.
I usually do a bit of a warm up, just a few dynamic stretches, a few hip swings, arm circles, runners lunge, etc. I like to watch the finish line for a bit too and mentally prepare myself, you can usually see the last couple obstacles at most races. Spartan keeps a lot of their obstacles and the order of them hush hush but they do post a race map that you can check to get an idea of the course (although some obstacles will say classified).
After the heat before yours takes off you can start to line up. I recommend sticking near the back or middle if you know you’re not super fast. The crowd will disperse and spread out after a few minutes into the race once you hit a couple obstacles.
Tips while racing: Keep an eye out for photographers and smile when you see them, they make great keepsakes for after the race (and a bad ass profile pic). If you come to an obstacle that you’re unsure of take a few breaths and watch other racers go through it, often the volunteers will give you tips and if you’re not racing in an elite heat you can get help with obstacles. Some races let you try obstacles multiple times and have no penalties for not completing them, other races like Spartan only let you attempt most obstacles once and you have a 30 Burpee penalty for any not completed. Remember to lend a hand when you can and offer words of encouragement and high fives to those who need it, you’ll get lots of the same in return. Don’t go all out right at the start of the race, pace yourself and take walk breaks when you need them.
After the race: Yay! You finished your first OCR or Mud run! Enjoy that medal and take some muddy pics!
Here are a few tips for after the race: You will be muddy and wet, grab your bag from the bag check and hose off at the “showers”, yes the water is cold but get as much off as you can. I usually change in the change tent, trust me, no one is looking at your naked booty, they’re all tired and feeling pumped after finishing the race. Place as many wet clothes as you can in the bag inside your pack (wring them out first if really wet) and put the rest in the second garbage bag with your shoes. Some people throw their shoes in the donation bins provided but I have trail running shoes I race in that come clean after a hose down.
To rehydrate add the electrolytes pack to your bottle of water and drink it, enjoy a protein bar for recovery and then…Go enjoy your free beer and wear that medal with pride!!
When you get home make sure you hose down your clothes and shoes and then throw the clothes in the wash right away so they come clean. Stuff newspaper in your shoes to help them dry and keep their shape. Once dry I vacuum mine out with a hand held vacuum.
The next day: You will be sore and most likely bruised. Take time to recover. Drink lots of water and eat lots of fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Soak in an epsom salt bath. Go for a walk on day 2 for some active recovery. Stretch and foam roll sore muscles.
Pictures are usually posted a few days after the race, keep checking your email and Facebook for updates.
Have questions or comments? I’d love to hear them!