Months of hard training and preparation have now passed, and in two days I will be taking part in another Spartan Sprint. It feels like a long time since last year’s race, but it’s been a great year for training and experience. I trained for the Mud and Sweat Race, using P90X, Insanity, outdoor trail running etc. That went really well, and I finished the race in first place for my heat. Following that, I did a few more weeks of P90X2 combined with trail running – for 5 days a week.
In June, Derek (my brother-in-law) and I began training together fully for the first time. Derek initially started by doing insanity, and running consistently outdoors over the winter months, before moving to weight training, bodyweight training, and outdoor running over the spring and summer. For the past few weeks we have been training together on a hybridized program consisting of free-weights, weighted endurance training and running. I’m writing it all down because it seems like it worked. It actually got us both more ripped than either of us have ever been. I lost a few pounds, and Derek has gained muscle strength and endurance.
Trail of Tears – Trail run
We have run a course called, ‘The Trail of Tears’ 3 times together. The trail starts outside my office at lunchtimes, running through downtown Lethbridge to 5th Avenue and Galt Museum. The trail turns steeply into the valley between two coulees. When the trail reaches the halfway point down the valley, we turn sharply to climb off-trail over the top of the butte to our right. This is a ‘scramble’ or crawling climb, requiring both hands and feet to maintain traction on the loose soil, avoiding the cacti that grow on the south facing slopes. Once we are at the top, we descend the northern slope of the butte and cross 3rd avenue to climb the stairs that take the trail to the top of the next coulees. We follow the switchbacks down to a small wooden bridge, and go straight up the next slope, crossing the switchbacks entirely. The trail then forks into a route that leads under the pillars of the high level bridge, and down some wooden stairs before joining a trail that gradually slopes to the river bottom.
Once at the river bottom, we head south towards the steel staircase that connects the river bottom at Indian Battle Park to the top of the coulee – only that isn’t the top of the coulee; the stair climb actually covers less than 2/3 of the elevation gain.
Two more wooden staircases lay ahead. It sucks. Once we have tackled that, the savagely undulating coulee-top trail of red gravel (this is the hardest part of the whole thing after that triple staircase) eventually connects us with 1st avenue. Back on the asphalt, the ground finally levels out for us to pick up a more even pace back to the office, crossing Galt Gardens to get back to 3rd Avenue. We stop at the street crossings to wait, but do push-ups until the lights turn in our favor.
The final 100m is an all-out sprint.
Distance is 6.4km
Elevation gain/loss is 112M – done roughly 3 times
Calorie Burn: 600+
Time is usually 36:00 or so at sub race pace.
Then we run down Whoop-Up Drive, across the footbridge, and then we turn right into Bull Trail Park, and take the steepest hill trail, on the second coulee to the right of the road. This takes us up onto the west side plateau, and along a trail that runs the edge of the top of each coulee.
It then connects us with whoop-up drive west, which is a straightforward descent to the river, over the bridge and back up the long gradual slope to 6th Avenue, to 12th Street and back to my office.
Distance is 9.4 km
Elevation Gain/Loss is 189m
747 Calories clocked
This one destroyed our will to live, and made me quite unsteady for the rest of the day.
Dehydration on the day was massive – Runtastic estimates 1.2 litres in perspiration loss.
Sugarbowl Shuffle – Hill intervals with burpees
The ‘Sugar-Bowl’ is actually called ‘Ravine Park’ and sits on the South side of Lethbridge, just next to Scenic Drive. Once you cross the subway under Scenic drive, the path leads down to a set of stairs, which rise up onto the top of the coulee.
We ran up the stairs – which takes about one minute, stopped for about 5 seconds and then did 10 burpee push-ups at the top of the hill. We ran back down, and jumped some of the smaller sets of stairs to make it interesting.
We repeated this 8 times – and walked back to the truck on very unsteady legs.
Indian Battle Park Championships
One training session involved climbing the stairs at Indian Battle Park with 50lbs of weight. We did this four times. Then we did 100m racing sprints four times, walking back to the finish line each time. Finally, we used the climbing wall for about 15 minutes to build upper body strength, and climbing coordination. Legs were completely trashed.
The Mad Dog Run
Derek did the dog run basically every day.
I did it with him once, and it was pretty intense. It’s basically a 2 km circuit which forms a dog walking path, with a brutal hill climb in the middle – spanning an elevation of about 100m – typical of the coulee trails. He would do this for 2-3 circuits before heading home, but he did manage 4 circuits one day, which is just mental. 3 circuits of the dog run is approximately 6km or so with the jog home added. The intensity of the Dog Run is off the charts. Derek often felt that the trail of tears was harder, but two circuits of the dog run had me calling time on the one occasion I did it.
We did a few sessions of working out indoors at my office basement with free weights using video workouts.
Insanity Upper Body Weight Training</strong>
Fitness Blender’s ‘1000 Calorie workout’,
Both of these are on YouTube. These two workouts combined cardiovascular intervals with heavy weight supersets for the upper body. They were both super difficult.
P90X2 Shoulders and Arms was used, which ended up getting a little bit ridiculous (e.g. final sets turned into 20 reps at 25lbs) and followed by X2 Ab Ripper.
Self guided workouts
I also devised a number of indoor and outdoor cross training sessions for us:
Negatives and Deceleration
This self devised routine was performed with minimal rest for two rounds, maintaining a high level of intensity and speed on the cardiovascular moves, with an emphasis on prolonged (5 seconds per extension) eccentric movements, or deliberate deceleration and control following a fast movement. Rest was taken for 2 minutes between each of the two rounds.
One arm negative push ups x 10 per side
Negative preacher curls x 10 per arm
Jump off truck to squat and jump x20
Med Ball throw to each other sit ups. X 20
Vertical wall push ups X 10
Chin up – Slow on extension x 10
Negative single leg squats (L) – Heavy weight x 10
Wide grip overhand Pull ups x 10
Negative Single leg squats (R) – Heavy weight x 10
Negative close grip overhand pull ups x 10
Calf Raise L X 15
Deadlift Grip Pull Ups X 10
Calf Raise R x 15
This consisted of 3 sets of each movement. Each set contained 5 mini-sets of 4 reps each; with 10 seconds of rest between each mini-set of 4 reps. By doing this, we effectively doubled the number of reps for each cluster exercise at the normal 10 rep max weight for the move. This was only performed on two of the moves.
Cluster Chest Press on Stability Ball (3 cluster sets at 40lb dumbbells)
Cluster Pull Ups (3 Cluster sets)
High Pull (3 Sets at 25lbs – I injured my back on this one!)
Split Squats (3 sets at 25lbs)
Stability Ball Sit ups (3 sets)
Bicep Curls (3 sets of 10 at 35lbs)
Plyometric Upper Body
The goal was to increase speed and explosive power in the upper body. This was completed for two or three circuits with minimal rest.
Ballistic Chest Press
Ballistic shoulder Press
Clapping Push Ups
Med Ball Throw up
Med Ball Throw Down
Med Ball Shot Putt
Push-Up to Burpee to Pull Up
Medicine Ball Passing Sit Up
The Straight Shot
For this upper body and cardio workout, I ran directly to the Indian Battle Park workout station as fast as I could. This took about 15 minutes. Then I did Max Reps of:
Standard width Push-ups
Wide Grip Pull Ups
Millitary Push Ups
Wide Push Ups
Close grip Pull Ups
Decline Push Ups
Deadlift Pull Ups
Diamond Push Ups
Wide Grip Pull Ups
Side arm balance push ups
Core Crunch Pull ups
Chaturanga dive push ups
L-Sit Pull up
Then I had to run back to work.
The Super Superset, AKA The Beautiful Death
This was the hardest workout we did with weights. Or at least it felt like it on the day. It was performed at the Fort Whoop-Up outdoor workout station.
Superset 1 – Repeat X 3 without rest
10 Wide grip overhand pull ups
10 full triceps dips without leg assistance on a dip station
Run 200m to hill – sprint up the hill and back down – on round 3 carry a 35lb dumbbell to the hill and back.
Superset 2– Repeat X 3 without rest
10 dumbbell Shoulder Press
20 alternating Bent over Row
25m Fast Spiderman Crawls (keep low and elbows come to knees)
Super set 3 – Repeat x 3 without rest
Med Ball shot putt Throws
Hanging leg extensions
20 Burpees with or without push-ups.
COOL DOWN: Climbing wall traverse for 10-15 minutes.
On the Thursday before the race I did X2 Yoga from P90X2. Yoga is a painful reminder of how much flexibility I lack. So that is it. The most detailed explanation of what it take to train for the weeks leading up to a Spartan Sprint. I wouldn’t recommend this training schedule to anyone for any reason. It’s savage, relentless, and painful. Find your own way to train. Get enough rest. Hopefully come saturday, this will all pay off. Wish me luck.