Asheville Spartan 2017 Part One


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2017 Asheville Spartan Race weekend was dare I say a hootenanny. We recorded at least two episodes worth of podcast content. Today’s show kicks off with conversations with:

  • Rea Kolbl
  • Faye Stenning
  • Steve Hammond
  • Brakken Kraker
  • Kevin “Bubbles The Clown” Gregory
  • Jaxson Davis

Listen using the player below or the iTunes/Stitcher links at the top of this page. 

Spartan Race Palmerton Sprint #1 – Going Up?

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Twister

Last year, I ran my first ever Spartan Race at the Blue Mountain Sprint in Palmerton, PA. Whenever I told someone that, their response was along the lines of, “Well, you picked a heck of a race to start with.” See, Palmerton has a reputation. The word infamous comes to mind. The climbs are long and steep. And, with an NBC Series Super only the day before, Sprint racers could expect a difficult course on Sunday.

THE FESTIVAL AND PARKING

Out of the handful of OCR races I’ve been to, Spartan has had the largest festival area. Although, it’s worth noting that I have not been to a Tough Mudder yet. And I’m not sure if Palmerton’s festival is larger because of the NBC race on Saturday, but there was plenty of space and plenty of vendors. I have heard that the line to park can grow long as the day goes, but early in the day it took no more than a few minutes to get in. Check in was simple as well and the lines moved quickly.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Elite-Men-Start

THE HILLS

Maybe “hill” is an understatement. Palmerton offers a straight up mountain course for anyone willing. The Sprint course only has one climb to the top of Blue Mountain, whereas the Super had two. This may lead you to think that the ascent on the course wouldn’t be too bad then. If you were there, then you know that’s wrong.

First off, my GPS watch thought the course was about half a mile longer than it was. I’m chalking that up to the climbs. Overall, it logged a total of 1,755 ft of ascent. On a course that was roughly 4.5-4.75 miles, that’s almost 400 ft per mile. Checking my splits, not a single mile averaged a descending number. In fact, each mile had over 125 ft of ascent. So, even when coming down the mountain, you were still going up. Mind blowing, right?

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Map

THE COURSE

The layout of the course was pretty similar to 2016. Some thought that was going to be a negative, but with some of the minor route differences and new obstacles, I thought they improved on last year’s design.

Racers start out with a short climb up a snow tubing hill, followed almost immediately by a longer climb up a couple skiing hills. Almost the entire first mile is making your way up the mountain. Total ascent on the first mile is over 750 ft. The extended climb, with minimal obstacles, allowed for a spread out field.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Atlas-Carry

THE OBSTACLES

Spartan included many of its new obstacles, such as Twister and Olympus, plus several classics. One I expected to see, but didn’t, was the monkey bars. They were included in the section of the Super course that veers from the Sprint course, along with Z-Walls and a few others. The layout of the obstacles was pretty spot on. The hurdles and walls were mainly early, with the tougher obstacles coming after the mile-long climb to the top. Once the top was reached, racers almost immediately were faced with the Atlas Carry.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Ape-Hanger

A couple permanent Palmerton obstacles reappeared, of course, as well. First was the swim through Blue Mountain’s pond. A life jacket was optional for the Sprint (the day before it was mandatory for Super racers). Shortly thereafter, competitors had to try their grip strength on Ape Hanger, just shy of 4 miles in.

There were two heavy carries on the course: single sandbag carry and bucket carry. The hill that the sandbag carry was steep enough that many racers were walking. The earlier waves were told that it was a bit slippery from the overnight dew and were advised to be extra cautious. The Multi-Rig was all rings, but no bell. Instead, after swinging to the final ring, racers had to transition onto, then over the ladder wall. It didn’t add much difficulty, but was a nice little curveball to keep Spartans on their toes. Twister was saved for the final 100 yards, so that the only obstacles left on the downhill finish were Dunk Wall and Fire Jump.

Palmerton-Sprint-#1-Elite-Women-Finishers

THE FINISH

A volunteer awards you with a medal and even a hug as soon as you finish. One thing Spartan is great at is post-race snacks. Even though I didn’t plan on having much more than water, I grabbed each of three Clif Bar flavors, a banana, some organic chocolate milk and, of course, a cup of water. Once you’re done stocking up and leave the finisher’s corral, the finisher’s shirt pick-up is right there.

Another worthy note is that many Elite/Pro racers from Saturday stuck around for Sunday’s Sprint. Ryan Atkins, Ian Hosek and Angel Quintero took top 3 for the men, with Lindsay Webster, Rea Kolbl and Faye Stenning finishing on top for the women.

Photo Credit: Spartan Race

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Train Like a Pro: David Magida

David-Magida-at-Elevate-Fitness

You may recognize David Magida as the 2016 host of the Spartan Race U.S. Championship series on NBC Sports or even as the current host of Spartan’s live-streaming coverage. However, before he picked up the microphone, he was lacing up his shoes as one of the top competitors in Obstacle Course Racing. Magida, a former member of the Spartan Pro Team, has over 20 podium finishes to his name.

David-Magida-Awards-Ceremony-Spartan-World-Championships

Despite his larger frame, Magida has been a distance runner for most of his life. In high school, he was a conference champion in cross country and, after being recruited, ran for a brief time in college. After taking some time off from running due to injury, he briefly played DI-AA football at Bucknell University as a wide receiver.

Magida took nearly 5 years off before returning to running during grad school, while training for marathons. After finding success in several Spartan races and completing the first ever Ultra Beast, Magida committed to OCR training. “It was amazing and I loved it. I just fell in love with the sport,” he recalled. “I love that you can be both strong and fast. My size was not a huge disadvantage the way it was with road running.”

David-Magida-on-Savage-Nut-Cracker

One of his fondest memories of racing goes back to a victory at Spartan’s New Jersey Super. Magida had trailed the majority of the race due to lower back issues. The rest of his body wasn’t giving up, though. “I was so frustrated that day because my legs and lungs felt fine, but my back was limiting my ability to climb. I was in agony. I could not get the legs to go, and I could not put it together,” Magida remembers.

After chasing the leader the majority of the race, Magida went all-in on the downhills, clocking around a 4:30/mile average pace on the rugged descents. “It’s this really brutal course with just these big, clunky rocks all over the ground,” he explained. “So, my feet after the race were just ruined. They were blistered and bruised and felt broken. I couldn’t train for a week.”  Magida’s grit paid off in the end, though, as he seized the lead in the final half-mile. Despite getting out-climbed every ascent before that, his mental focus kept him in the lead on the final climb, allowing him to run a downhill sprint to a first place finish. After trailing for essentially the entire race, Magida won by a mere 11 seconds. “I think the thing that made this particular race special was that nothing was going my way,” Magida said. “Physically I didn’t have it. But if you search inside yourself, you’ll be amazed to find what kind of strength you possess. I learned something about myself that day. It’s the beauty of pushing your body to your limits. You learn what you’re made of.”

David-Magida-Stadium-Sprint-CBP-Monkey-Bars

Eventually, he decided to step away from racing to open his own training studios, Elevate Interval Fitness. Currently, Magida operates a location in Washington, D.C. and a second in Fairfax, VA, with a third expected to open in D.C. in 2018. Magida employs many of the methods he learned and relied upon in his OCR training to push his clients to their limits and maximize their performance. Elevate focuses on both strength and endurance training, to help athletes develop mental toughness, stay well-rounded and, as Magida says, “to have zero weaknesses.”

At Elevate, you’ll use equipment like treadmills, water rowers, airbikes, kettlebells, sandbags, TRX and dumbbells during sessions that include circuits, intervals and partner workouts. Plus, the coaches will teach you the correct technique to ensure total effectiveness and avoid risk of injury. For more information and a free intro class, visit www.elevateintervalfitness.com.

David-Magida-Savage-Race-2015

THE WORKOUT

This workout is basically a race-simulation type of workout. Magida recommends doing it only once or twice per season and allowing around two weeks before racing. He suggests only doing some light running the day before and a pretty easy workout the day after.

Pro Tip: Don’t overdo it on the first two miles, or you’ll pay for it later.

Run to be completed at a 5k race pace on a treadmill. If you want to use this as a race simulation, complete as fast as possible. Warm up with a 10-15 minute jog

  • Run 1 mile with the treadmill at 2% incline. Once finished, complete either 30 pull ups or TRX Inverted rows.
  • Run another 1 mile with treadmill at 2% incline. Once finished, complete 30 burpees.
  • Increase the incline to 4% and run 0.50 miles. Once finished, complete 50 switch/jump lunges. That is 50 total, or 25 per leg.
  • Run another 0.50 miles with treadmill at 4% incline. Once done, complete a 100-meter bear crawl.
  • Increase the incline to 6% and run 0.25 miles. Once finished, complete another 25 pull ups or TRX inverted rows.
  • Run another 0.25 miles at 6%. Once done, complete 30 burpees.
  • Run another 0.25 miles at 6%. Once finished, complete another 50 switch/jump lunges.
  • Run one more 0.25 miles at 6%. Once done, complete another 100-meter bear crawl.
  • Finally, run 1 mile with the incline back at 2%. Once done, complete the workout with another 20 pull ups or TRX inverted rows.

Workout Totals:

  • 5 Miles of Intervals
  • 75 Pullups
  • 60 Burpees
  • 100 Switch Lunges
  • 200m Bear Crawl

Writer’s Note: Thank you to David for sharing this workout. You can follow him on Instagram.

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

Photo Credit: David Magida, Elevate Fitness, Spartan Race, Savage Race

Train Like a Pro: Rea Kolbl

Rea-Kolbl-Bucket-Carry-MontereyIf you haven’t heard the name Rea Kolbl before, there’s a good chance that will change soon. One of the newest members of the Spartan Pro team, Kolbl has excelled in the early stages of her career.

Because she mostly ran local Spartan races, Kolbl was a virtual unknown at last year’s Golden State Classic in Monterey, one of the five Spartan U.S. Championship races on NBC. So much so, that one of the race referees had asked her to spell her name while she was finishing burpees. Kolbl went on to finish 4th, under a minute from hitting top three in what was her first ever elite race.

Despite being caught off guard by the cold (like many were) at the 2016 Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe and having to complete 150 burpees, she still managed a 7th place finish at the site of the 1960 Olympic Games. That included an untimely fall on the descent, one of her typical strengths. “Usually I’m pretty fast on the downhill because trail running is what I do, but I was so cold that I was shivering and couldn’t see the ground at all,” Kolbl recalls.

Rea-Kolbl-Snowy-Mountain Climb

Originally from Slovenia, Kolbl came to the United States almost seven years ago to attend U.C. Berkeley before moving to Stanford, where she is currently a full-time grad student.

Like many other athletes on the team, she’s had to find a healthy balance of work, training and personal time: Working full-time, this means a morning run, a full day of work, then getting in a second training session with her husband, Bunsak. Kolbl attributes him for most of her ability to keep up with training. “He does all the cooking beforehand and all the cleaning and shopping,” she says. “I do dishes to do my part, but I’m definitely lucky from that perspective.”

Having a full schedule is nothing new to her, however. “Being on the gymnastics team when I was younger,” she recounts, “I had like seven hours of practice (every day)…and I still did school full time so there was always a balancing of the two.”

Rea-Kolbl-Fire-Jump-SoCal

This year, keep an eye out for this up and comer as she takes on more of the Spartan U.S. Championship Series races and looks to improve on her finish (and burpee count) at Tahoe. She’s already started 2017 with a bang, winning both the Sprint and Super races at the SoCal event in January.

Below is one of Kolbl’s favorite training sessions. She generally performs it the day after a rowing session, and follows it up with a low impact cardio day. As you’ll see below, the Stairmaster is one of Kolbl’s favorite forms of low-impact cardio. “It really pumps my heartbeat, but it doesn’t really work hard on my knees or ankles,” she explains. The rest of her week includes some training on a track, trail/mountain running and another HIIT session.

Rea-Kolbl-Spartan-SoCal-Sprint-2017

MORNING

RUN
This part should always be done in the morning. Go for a nine-mile run at an increasing pace. The second half of the run should be at maximum sustainable effort. For Kolbl, this consists of a sub-7 minute per mile average pace on a loop that has almost 800 feet of elevation gain.

Rea-Kolbl-Monterey-Sand-Bag

AFTERNOON

PART ONE
20-MINUTE STAIRMASTER CARDIO
Begin at 96 steps per minute. This is usually level eleven. Incrementally increase each level at the following times:

  • 2 Minutes – Increase to 103 steps per minute
  • 5 Minutes – Increase to 110 steps per minute
  • 8 Minutes – Increase to 117 steps per minute
  • 11 Minutes – Increase to 126 steps per minute
  • 14 Minutes – Increase to 133 steps per minute
  • 17 Minutes – Increase to 140 steps per minute

Pro Tip: If a Stairmaster is unavailable, substitute 20 minutes on a rowing machine or exercise bike. Any form of low impact cardio will work.

Rea-Kolbl-Beach-Swing

PART TWO

TABATA
Perform each set of two exercises in alternating fashion, executing 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest. Complete each one four total times so that each set ends up being four minutes long. Rest 30 seconds between each set. Kolbl usually does this part with an elevation mask set at 12,000 feet.

  • Set 1
    • Burpees: If you’re an avid OCR fan, chances are you know what a burpee is. Just in case: Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Touch your hands to the floor and kick your legs back so that you are in a push-up position. Perform a push-up, then bring your feet back up in between your hands and jump straight into the air.
    • Star Jumps: Stand with your feet slightly spread apart and arms at your sides. Bend at the knees and explode up, spreading your arms and legs out. Your body will create a star shape. As you land, bring your arms and legs back in. It’s similar to a jumping jack, except you aren’t landing on the jump out.
  • Set 2 
    • Squat Jumps: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and jump up in the air. Land softly.
    • Lunge Jumps/Split-Squat Jumps: Get into a lunge position. Jump up into the air while simultaneously switching legs. You should land so that your front leg is now your back, and back is now front.
      • Writer’s Tip: This one is not fun. If you run out of gas, rather than stopping, modify if you need to. Instead of jumping straight up in the air, bring your back foot up with your front, sending the previously front foot back almost instantly. If you can, still try to ensure each foot is off the ground at the same time (at least a little) during the switch.
  • Set 3 
    • High Knees: Run in place, but make sure you are bringing your knees to at least a 90-degree angle when it leaves the ground.
    • Mountain Climbers: Get into a push-up position. Bring one knee towards your chest and tap your toe on the ground. As that foot returns to its original position, bring the opposite foot up and tap that toe. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Set 4 
    • Back and Forth Frog Jumps: Squat down and bring your hands to the ground in front of you. Jump forward, briefly bringing your hands above your head. Then do the same, but backward.
    • Kettlebell Swings: With a 25-pound dumbbell or kettlebell, stand with your feet at least shoulder width apart. With a slight bend in the knees, hinge at your waist so that your back is parallel to the ground and the weight is between your legs. As you transition into the standing position, thrust your hips forward so your body forms a straight line. Simultaneously swing the weight in front of your chest, while keeping your arms straight.
  • Set 5 
    • Push-ups: Your hands should be at least a little wider than shoulder width and your back should remain straight through the each repetition.
      • Writer’s Tip: If doing a push-up normally hurts your wrists, grab a pair of dumbbells that won’t roll (hex-shaped or adjustable normally).
    • Elbow Plank with Knee to Elbow: Get in a plank position with your elbows touching the ground. Your first set, bring your left leg up to your elbow and back. Alternate to your right on the second set, so that you are doing two total sets per leg
  • Set 6 
    • Russian Twists: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. Lean your torso back, while keeping your back straight. It should be roughly 45-degrees off the ground. Straighten your arms and clasp your hands together. Rotate your arms to the right, pause, then back in front of you and to the left.
    • Sit-ups: Lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet touching the ground in front of you. With either your hands across your chest, or touching the side of your head, use your core to lift your torso up to your knees. Return to the starting position.

Rea-Kolbl-Monkey-Bars-Monterey

PART THREE

GRIP STRENGTH
Perform one minute of jump rope. Once finished, immediately dead hang from a bar for one minute. Repeat this five times with no rest, totaling ten minutes of work.

Writer’s Tip: As odd as it sounds, jumping rope may be a bit difficult if you aren’t used to it. If you can’t quite get the hang of it, just keep going. You’ll find that you’re rope jumping will improve each round!

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Rea for sharing her favorite workout. You can follow her on Instagram and catch her training at King’s Camps and Fitness.

Photo Credit: Rea Kolbl, Spartan Race

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles: