Another year of Spartan Racing is well under way, and who knows how many hundreds of DNF's have already happened. I guess only Spartan knows for sure, but it is more than safe to assume that the numbers will cross into the thousands by year's end. Heck, I dropped by the medical tent at the NJ Spartan Beast/Ultra race a few weeks back to get some cuts cleaned out before leaving, and the staff there mentioned that they had over 70 people pulled off the course due to hypothermia. That's a good chunk of very avoidable DNF's right off the bat and just at that one location. They shut down Rolling Mud and the Dunk Wall shortly after. If you are here, I hope it's because you DNF'd at one time or another (for reasons other than injury). Not that I hope you DNF'd, but because I hope this article reaches the people who need it! Training for a Obstacle Course Race can seem like an overwhelming task, and EVERYONE on the internet has an opinion, but what I'm listing below is the BARE MINIMUM you need to make sure you don't DNF at a Spartan Race in the future.
1: KNOW YOUR CUT OFF TIMES
No matter what race you are doing (Sprint, Super, Beast, Ultra) you should find out what the cut off times are. The reason you must know those times is because, if you aren't at a certain point on the course by a certain time, that's a DNF. If you aren't sure when the cut off times are, ask Spartan via their Facebook Chat or email them. It doesn't take long to do. If you are doing an Ultra, Spartan pretty much always posts videos before the race detailing ALL cut off times.
2: 3 MPH MINIMUM AVERAGE PACE
If you can maintain an average pace of 3mph through a Spartan event, your odds of beating any and all cut off times are VERY HIGH. 3mph might sound slow, but if you factor in obstacles, hills, and burpees for failed obstacles, 3mph will mean you're working. Of course, strive for more. Give your best effort. Don't just stick to 3mph if you can do more...that's no fun! 3: CHECK THE WEATHER
Okay, here's the deal. Weather matters. Look up the forecast the day before your event. Is it supposed to rain? Is it going to be cold? Is your race location at a high elevation? Is there snow or sleet or will it be extremely hot or humid? Plan accordingly. If it's going to be cold, dress in layers. You can always take layers off if you're too warm, but you won't be able to add layers you don't have if it's too cold. If it's super hot or humid, wear light, breathable clothing. If you overheat, you're screwed. If you get too cold, you're screwed.
4: TRAIN IN ADVANCE
If you don't want to DNF (you don't), train in advance. You don't have to do anything crazy to prepare. Just get out, and get hiking or jogging or running or cycling or swimming or whatever. Use the stair master, the elliptical, the treadmill. Lift weights. Like I just said, it doesn't have to be anything crazy, just get exercising. This article isn't about finishing in the top 10, it's about not DNFing. The minimum time you should spend on training leading up to races are as follows:
Spartan Sprint: 1 month
Spartan Super: 2 months
Spartan Beast: 3 months
Spartan Ultra: 4 months
If you can't do that, don't be surprised if you DNF. Of course there will be those who spend little to no time training and still finish an Ultra...cool. Just set yourself up for success. Don't expect that you'll be able to do it without preparation just because you heard of someone who can.
5: DON'T LET THE COLD GET YOU
There will be some races, and some courses, where people will get crushed by the cold. The combination of wind and water especially will knock you down (semi-literally). Even some of the best athletes in the world have been knocked out of races due to the cold. However, at races where the water temperature is cold, but not COLD, and where the air temperature is cool, not COLD, and where there is wind but it's not hurricane, you have a real shot of avoiding hypothermia.
So, how do you do it? Firstly, Spartan releases a course map the Thursday before each race. On it, you may see water obstacles. The main ones you'll see is Rolling Mud and the Dunk Wall. The Dunk Wall is almost always at the end of Rolling Mud. If that's the only time your body has to be in water during a race, you just have to make it out and get warm. What you need to do is go in warm, and come out ready to work to get warm again. Don't waste the time between the previous obstacle and Rolling Mud. Get your body moving and warm. The harder you are working, the more heat your body will generate and the warmer you'll be coming out of the water obstacles.
If you had layers on, consider taking the top one off before going in. Once you've finish, circle back, grab that layer, but don't put it on JUST yet. Once you exit the Dunk Wall, get moving again. Don't wait. Move quickly, get your arms swinging and your legs moving. Get your body heat up again with exercise. After a minute or two, put that top layer back on, and keep moving. Keep your body heat up by exercising.
If you walk slowly, and let your body stay cold, you'll be in for a rough time. Move like your race depends on it (it does)!!! There you go. That's it. It may be a lot of text (conveying the ideas) but the concepts are very simple. Do them, and your odds of DNFing for any reason other than injury are VERY low.
Last year, Trio Fitness OCR offered 3 months of free training to every participant who DNF'd at Killington after they heard about the insane DNF percentage. This year, we're offering 30 Days of Free training to anyone who has DNF'd at a race this year. That offer stands between now, and the end of 2019. There is 0 (Zero, zilch, none, no) commitment to continue training after 30 days, though we'd love to keep helping you with your OCR goals after that. We simply want to help OCR participants cross the finish line and claim their medals!
If you'd like to take advantage of those 30 Free days of training, visit our website and sign up for any of our training programs using code: EFFDNF
Joel Hayes (Article Author)