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:

Spartan Race SoCal Super 2017 – New Venue, New Obstacles, New Medals!

The first Spartan Race of the year is in the book, in a “SUPER” big way.

The race was held at Lake Elsinore, about 20 miles north of last year’s venue in Temecula.  It rained extensively the week before and everything was green and fresh. The rain also made for some wet, muddy conditions, which is the way I like it, but the weather on race day was perfect, bringing sun and comfortable temperatures.

The festival area was electric. It was the first race of the year and you could feel the energy and excitement in the air. For many, it was the first race after the off season. It had been three months since my last race, and I know I had been waiting for this day like it was Christmas, and it was finally here!

I watched the Elites line up and take off. They are so fast and it just amazes me every time I see them.

Spartan Race - SoCal Women's Start

As 8:15 approached, I knew it was time to head to the starting corral. This was my first race running in the competitive heat. I was nervous, excited, and ready to take it on. Aroo, Aroo, Aroo…and we were off!

The course was flat and fast! We got the walls out of the way right off the start.

Spartan SoCal - Walls

We ran through the trails and dry shrubs. I did a terrific superman impression when my foot caught a root and propelled me into a flying crash. I’m sure there should have been points for style! All was good. I dusted myself off and rounded the corner and came to the first of many water crossings.

Spartan SoCal - Mud

The water was so cold! My feet would become numb during each crossing. There was usually a break between waterways with an obstacle or two. It was just long enough for my feet to thaw out and feel the dirt and rocks in my shoes. Then, back in the water and numb feet again.

Spartan SoCal - Water Crossing

We came up to the Z-Wall. One of my favorites. My buddy did great and I was able to get across too.

Spartan SoCal - Z Wall

Next, came one of the new obstacles. TWISTER!!! The bars have rungs that are offset. As you grab one, the entire bar twists, and so it goes, all the way to the end, until you hit the bell. I watched a couple of people to study their technique. Some went across sideways, but the ones who went hand over hand seemed to have the most success. I made it five or six rungs before falling. I can’t wait to try this again.

Spartan SoCal - NEW OBSTACLE - Twister

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one trying to get the hang of it. There were a lot of burpees going on! 30 burpees complete and I was off to the next obstacle. Oh yes….more water along the way.

Tyrolean Traverse is one of my other favorites. I’m glad they kept this one. I keep trying different ways of traversing but still find that the hand over hand and leg over leg works best for me.

Another new obstacle came along called Bender. It’s arched back, a little like an inverted wall, and the first bar is maybe 6 feet from the ground. This one looked so intimidating when I was standing under it, but once I got going it wasn’t bad at all. It was a little awkward on the transition at the top, but it was a fun new challenge and one I’m looking forward to again.

Spartan SoCal - NEW OBSTACLE - BenderThe gal on the right cruised right up and over. She rocked this obstacle!!

Spartan SoCal - Breezing over Bender

The standard Multi-Rig didn’t make an appearance, but this one did. Rings, rings, rings!! I really liked it. They are grippier than the standard metal rings. It definitely tested your grip strength, but I liked having a more secure hold while going across.

Spartan SoCal - Rig of Rings

The bucket brigade made a very flat loop, which is unusual for this obstacle. I made it around the loop without stopping and moved on to the monkey bars. Next was the spear throw. I’ve only made it one other time in a race. I threw it and was so happy that it stuck! No burpees! Then, came the rope climb. That’s usually one of my best obstacles, but the rope was very different. Instead of feeling fibrous, it was slick like blond hair and much thinner. I got half ways up and wasn’t confident about my grip. I didn’t want wounded palms, so I jumped down. Time for my second set of burpees.

One more semi-new obstacle was the tire flip. Spartan has had several races with tire flips, but these were special. The women’s tires weighed 200 lbs. and the men’s were 400 lbs. Much heavier and flat on the bottom so very hard to get a hold of. You flipped it one way and then back a second time.

Spartan SoCal - Tire Flip

We wound our way around the course and came to the Herc Hoist. I like this obstacle. The bags felt good and went up fairly easy. Next were the rolling mud hills and the dunk wall. I’m a cold wimp and must have had a certain look on my face. One fella came over and said he was going to go under with me at the same time. He counted to three and we submerged. The water wasn’t actually as cold as the earlier water crossings, which I was very grateful for.

Spartan SoCal - Dunkwall

The slip wall and fire jump were next! My buddy and I stopped and high-fived and then remembered we still needed to cross the finish line. We high tailed it the last few feet and completed our first race of the year, the SoCal Spartan Super!

I had to go to the chalk wall and scribble my name and that was it. First race of the year in the books!

I like the new shirts. The neck seemed a little tight last year but this one is comfortable and fits true to size. I thought I had it on backwards at first as the circle is in the back instead of the front. Once I saw others with it the same way I was reassured.

Spartan Race - 2017 Super Finisher T Front

Spartan Race - 2017 Super Finisher T Back
The medals are great. They remind me of an old Incan coin. They are heavy and rugged. Definitely a winner in my opinion.

Spartan Race - 2017 Super Medal FrontSpartan Race - 2017 Super Medal Back

Photo credit: Kim Collings

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Train Like A Pro: Ryan Atkins

Podium-At-Palmerton-2016

Few athletes dominate their sports the way Ryan Atkins has dominated OCR in recent years. He has emerged victorious at World’s Toughest Mudder four years running, most recently completing 105 miles with partner Jon Albon, and Atkins also finished on top in the first ever Spartan U.S. Championship Series.

At the Spartan World Championships, he has finished in second place three years in a row, missing first place by just 00:27 in 2016. The fourth main event in the sport, OCR World Championships, hasn’t slowed him down either. He won the 3k short course this year and finished second in the 15k Classic.

Ryan-Atkins-and-Suunto-in-the-snow

If you follow him on social media, you may not be surprised at all of the accolades. Atkins is an avid climber, runner, mountain biker and skier, not to mention proud Alaskan Malamute owner. A typical winter day for him includes a morning ski, fatbike ride and even a snowshoe hike or run for up to three hours. That’s usually followed by an afternoon climb or workout.

Below is one of those afternoon workouts, with climbing included. Atkins will generally warm up with four or five easy bouldering routes. 

Ryan-Atkins-in-Yosemite

Do part one followed by part two and repeat four times.

PART ONE

BOULDERING 

Boulder near your limit for approximately 20 minutes. If you are unable to find a place to climb, perform the following six exercises as a circuit, doing 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat four times:

Dead hang – Plank – Pinch-plate carries – Kettlebell swings – Pull-ups – Wall sit

Pro Tip: Try to avoid using chalk to make previously easy routes seem harder, or to simulate wet hands in a race. After you have warmed up, go hard for the bouldering session. You’ll want to rest about one minute between difficult routes.

Writer’s Note: I don’t normally have easy access to a rock wall or mountain, so I opted to do the 30/30 circuit. I also used my homemade hang board, at times, to feel a little more like I was actually climbing. To mimic bouldering, I placed a chair a bit behind the board so that my toes were the only part of my feet touching. I then worked back and forth on the board, sometimes moving my feet from the left side to right side of the chair. Because I added this in, I did the circuit three times as not to over-exhaust my muscles and increase injury risk. 

Ryan-Atkins-Palmerton-Crawl

PART TWO

WEIGHT ROOM CIRCUIT

  • Wall Balls (20 reps): Stand in front of a wall and assume a squat position. When you come up, throw a medicine ball up in the air towards a target above you on the wall. As you catch the ball, return to the squat position. Atkins uses a 35-lb medicine ball.
  • Mountain Climbers (40 reps): Get into a pushup 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. That is one rep. Be sure your butt does not stick up. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Side Planks (2 minutes per side): Lay on the ground facing sideways, with your hand, forearm and elbow on the ground. Your elbow should be under your shoulder. The only other part of your body touching the ground will be your bottom foot. Raise your body up so that you form a straight line and hold that position. Your free hand can either be on your hip or in the air. Focus on not allowing your hip to dip down toward the ground. 
    • Writer’s Tip: Use a yoga mat to make it more comfortable for your supporting arm.
  • Toes To Bar (8 reps): Grab a bar with an overhand grip, your hands shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and bring your toes to the bar. Be sure to perform each rep slow and controlled. Your body shouldn’t swing at all when you come into the lower position.
  • Weighted BOSU Ball Lunge Squat (20 reps per leg): With a BOSU ball under each leg, stand in a lunge position. Hold weights at each side or at your shoulders. Lower until your back knee almost touches the ground, making sure your front knee doesn’t pass over the toes. Return to the starting position. Atkins uses 20 lbs. 
    • Writer’s Tip: If you struggle too much to have a BOSU under each foot, start off with one and work your way up. 
  • Weighted Goblet Squat (20 reps): Hold a kettlebell or one end of a dumbbell at your chest, with your palms facing in. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Squat down, retaining a straight back, and return up to the start position. Atkins uses 30 lbs.
  • Calf Raises (30 reps per leg): Stand on one leg, either flat on the ground or on a step with only the toes and ball of the foot touching. Raise your heel up, then lower it back into the starting position. 

Pro Purpose: Part two is a great way to allow your arms to recover from climbing. It also gives you some good leg and core strength training.

Pro Tip: Pace yourself during the strength section. The main purpose is to rest your arms and build functional, injury-free fitness.

Ryan-Atkins-Log-Hop

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Ryan for sharing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. For more workouts from Ryan, check out his Obstacle Course Training (a joint venture with Jon Albon and Matt Murphy): they are offering 20% off for the holidays.

Photo Credit: Ryan Atkins, Spartan Race, the author

Check out past Train Like A Pro articles:

Jacksonville Spartan Weekend 2016

Jacksonville Super/Sprint weekend finished off the 2016 Spartan season this year in Bunnell, Florida outside of Jacksonville.  A vast and remarkably lively crowd of racers showed up, including loaded elite heats with several familiar faces.  

jacksonville-super-high-five

Saturday and Sunday races both kicked off with a flag ceremony followed by our national anthem performed by yours truly, and the energetic Robert Lyday with his infamous pre-race speech!   

jacksonville-super-robert-lyday 

Both the Super and Sprint started with the elite men, chased down by the elite women, then the competitive heat, followed by the open heats for the day.  Elite athletes battled for the top 3 podium places.

jacksonville-spartan-podium-finishers

This course was designed by Norm Koch and he was present at both races. This flat, fast course allowed for no mistakes if athletes wanted to finish on top.  Race designer, Norm Koch, made great use of this flat land and undoubtedly challenged athletes.  Signs of Norm Koch could be seen everywhere!  

jacksonville-spartan-race-trail-run

Elite masters athlete, Kevin Donoghue who placed 3rd in the Super masters and 1st in the Sprint masters, stated,

Well, it was the flattest/ fastest Spartan I’ve ever done.  I set a PR for a Super by 3 minutes due to the incredibly low 22 feet of elevation gain!  Having such a unique course gave it the feel of a stadium race. That in regards to importance of not having a penalty.  One mistake and you would fall hopelessly behind!  It was a step on the gas and go as fast as possible for the entirety of both the Super and Sprint.  But it was by no means easy terrain.  Constant changes from loose sand, to hard baked sand, to thick mud, broken up by dense vegetation kept you on your toes enough to keep it interesting.”

The Super course was definitely a course for the seasoned runner, lots of running through ATV trails, creeks, and woods, mixed up with obstacles for the most part a couple at a time.  The race started off with 2 hurdles in an attempt to slow down some of the runners.  Next, racers climbed over a 6’ wall and a 7’ wall, followed by a very early spear throw, leaving many racers completing burpees while the lucky ones continued on.  

The rugged terrain and lush vegetation made it difficult for footing and Spartan Race, mapped out a challenging course on the flat terrain.  

jacksonville-spartan-race-mud

Ryan Kent, first place elite finisher at both the Super and the Sprint said this about the course:

“When you think Florida, you think flat. But the Palm Coast venue was anything but easy. Flat running becomes quite challenging when you add sand, mud, and Florida jungle to it. I was really impressed with what Spartan was able to do with that place. The terrain was always changing, and they did a phenomenal job using natural obstacles. The last mile was super fun, too. They packed a ton of my favorite obstacles in the final 2 kilometers, such as the Bucket Brigade, Herc Hoist, and Multi Rig. That Barbed Wire Crawl on Sunday sucked, though. I came out of that thing covered from head to toe in dirt and mud. Thank the lord for that Dunk Wall just before the finish. I’ve raced all over the country, and this was definitely one of the more unique venues I’ve been to.”

After the spear throw racers tackled a sandbag carry, the 8 foot wall, Z wall, atlas carry, and finally the Tyrolean Traverse.  These obstacles were the ones removed from the Sprint on Sunday.  The course continued through the mangled brush and large tropical roots, where racer’s had to be very careful where they stepped.  As racer’s turned the corner, the much loved, Bucket Brigade was in sight!  By Bucket Brigade standards, this was a remarkably mild one.  Racers walked through sand and some thin mud and climbed a few small mounds at a short distance of maybe 200 meters.  

jacksonville-spartan-race-bucket-carry

Next on the list was the Hercules Hoist, followed by an extremely long and low barbed wire crawl, and an immediate Stairway to Sparta.  Runner’s once again, entered narrow trails with complicated footing.  As runner’s emerged from the woods,  the infamous Multi-Rig appeared.  This obstacle was in view of spectators, ninja skills were tested to the max,  and the burpee zone was full of racers!  

jacksonville-spartan-race-rig

Upper body muscles were getting taxed at this point and the next two obstacles, the rope climb and cargo net, pushed racers close to muscle exhaustion.

jacksonville-spartan-race-rope-climb

 Racer’s once again, entered back into the brush of the Florida woods on a trail run, before winding up in another spectator friendly series of final obstacles.  These included the monkey bars, muddy trenches, slip wall, and the final fire jump to the finish.   

jacksonville-spartan-race-trenches

Athletes were awarded with the 2016 Spartan medals by a very friendly volunteer crew.

jacksonville-spartan-race-finish

Aside the actual course, Spartan Race impressed me with a larger than normal festival area.  They also had local food trucks selling food, rather than having their own.  This was a great marketing move, focus on what you do best Spartan Race, and contract out the other stuff.  

jacksonville-spartan-race-food-truck

Spartan also included a kids race of various shorter distances and had a nice turnout of kid athletes in attendance, making this experience a nice family atmosphere for athletes of all ages.

jacksonville-spartan-race-kids-race

The parking was a bit of an organized frustration.  Racers that paid extra to park in the VIP lot, found themselves walking near a mile to the festival area, meanwhile being passed by shuttle buses from the economy lot.  The rest of the racers parked in an offsite lot where they were shuttled to the festival area.  Talking with Spartan staff, venues are all unique  in terms of size and capacity and fitting that many racers into a small area is a complicated art.  Spartan Race did the best they could with the venue they had.  

jacksonville-spartan-race-racers

All in all, Jacksonville Spartan weekend was a hit for racers.  Norm Koch made great use of the flat land to provide racers with an excellent, yet challenging obstacle race.  The Spartan season in Florida ended on a high note and racers were satisfied with their experience.  People from all over flew or drove to Florida to experience the last race of the year.  

Spartan Race – Singapore Beast Review 2016

spartan-singapore-start-line

It has been a busy twelve months in Asia for Spartan, with the debut of the Sprint distance being held only a year ago in Malaysia and expanding to see races organized in China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

This time around the Singapore Beast race saw it go offshore to Bintan, an Indonesian Island which is a ferry ride away from the mainland, with most of the 3,000 participants opting to stay over for a weekend getaway.

The marketing for the race promised a much harder course than previous Asian ones with tougher obstacles, water crossings, a lot of mud, beach runs and varied terrain.  And it certainly delivered that!  Even Joe De Sana, Spartan Race Founder, who completed the race, said it was one of the best courses he had seen.

As the horn sounded to mark the start of the elite race, we were met with an aggressive 2km soft sand run to really get the legs warmed up, with the only break in running being the A-Frame cargo net set up on the beach.  Next it was off the sand and onto giant boulders and into rock pools that seemed never ending with no shoes being able to hold steady against slippery rocks and waves crashing in.  And just as you thought there may be some relief, there was a steep hill climb into the jungle straight out of the water.

spartan-singapore-water-crossing-3

The rolling terrain was certainly varied as you went from beach, to jungle, to what seemed like a clay desert and then through mud and back into water.

Over a few hurdles and walls and before I knew it I was at the memory wall (it seems every race in Asia includes this as an obstacle).  This time I vowed not to forget it repeating it to myself for 21 kilometres… LIMA 383 2898!

The bucket brigade appeared next and after the brutal one in Tahoe uphill I figured this would be easy in comparison, which it was.  Onwards to a series of mud pools and then a short sandbag carry into the jungle and the inverted wall.  It was about this point when the cracks started appearing for everyone.  The first 6km felt like 16km due to the 90 degree 100% humidity weather and no one looked like they were having fun.

spartan-singapore-sand-bag

Heading back into the village, and almost at the half way mark, saw a tough series of obstacles one after the other.  A tractor pull, spear throw, multi-rig, z-wall, atlas ball carry and monkey bars resulted in everyone doing at least one set of burpees.  And if that wasn’t enough, there was a river swim to get to the next part of the course.  The water was a welcomed cool down, but the leg cramps that followed were not.  I passed more than ten guys laying on the ground in pain not being able to walk.

spartan-singapore-multirig

It was back to a long stretch of running on the varying terrain being interspersed with more walls, tyre flips, tyre drags, the Phoenician pass (with buses driving under it), and a lot of water crossings.  The tyrolean traverse was the longest one I have ever seen in a race, I took burpees as I cramped too much, which turns out was a much better option as the guy next to me fell flat on his back and hurt himself.

Thank heavens I was now two thirds down and was hoping the rest of the race would be kinder.  The log hop was next and a new addition which proved to be fun.  Followed by another long hot run and then the million-dollar question was asked… “what is your memory code?”  BOOM!  I answered correctly and off down the beach I ran.

A balance beam set up in the ocean was next and then the vertical cargo, a very long and rocky barbed wire crawl and the stairway to Sparta. I knew it was only about 2 kilometres and I would be done.

spartan-singapore-stairway

A run back towards the village with some rolling mud and a dunk wall thrown in for good measure before hitting the Hercules hoist and a sand barbed wire crawl on the beach.  A sprint down the beach and I knew what was next – the rope climb set up in the ocean.  Not so easily done with waves crashing into your face trying to get a decent grip, but I held on for dear life and rang the bell before letting go to fall into the water (thank heavens it was high tide!)

singapore-spartan-rope-climb

Over the slip wall and a jump across the fire and I was done!  A respectable third place in the elite women and first in the masters.  The coconut handed to us on finishing never tasted so good.

The race was by far the best organised one I have participated in in Asia.  The volunteers were amazing, plenty of water stations and they policed the burpee count toa degree (something that has been sadly lacking before).  But as with any obstacle race I saw a few people stretched off due to broken limbs and heat exhaustion, and sadly there was a death in the race due to a heart attack.  A reminder to always offer help to anyone on the course that may need it, which is the real essence of the obstacle race community.

Photo credits: Sadali Ami & Spartan Race Singapore

Train Like a Pro: Beni Gifford

Beni-Gifford-NBC-Spartan-Ultimate-Team-Challenge

If the name Beni Gifford sounds familiar, it should. Gifford led his team (The Comeback Kids) to victory on NBC’s premiere season of Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge. He was also the captain of Team Dallas on Battlefrog’s League Championship, which aired on ESPN. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll now be able to watch him on CMT as he competes on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge.

Beni-Gifford-Terrain-Racing-Finish-in-Flagstaff

Off the small screen, Gifford has won fourteen races, with twenty-one podium finishes overall in just two years. That includes an undefeated record when competing in the Terrain Racing series.

Below you’ll find a workout that Gifford uses to train his body and mind to continue to perform, even after fatigue sets in and his muscles become tired. It helps with situations where your heart rate is high or your legs become heavy.

Beni-Gifford-Running

PART ONE
2-MINUTE RUN / 1-MINUTE SLED DRAG INTERVALS

Run for two minutes at an aerobic base effort. You should be able to carry on a conversation at this pace. Once the two minutes is up, do a one-minute sled drag at the same effort level. Alternate between the two until you reach thirty minutes. Once complete, perform an aerobic pace run for up to thirty minutes. You can adjust the time based on your level of fitness, but aim to hit at least ten minutes.

Pro Note: Part one is about getting your legs pumped and strained (sled pull) and going right back into a run. This teaches you to run with heavy legs.

Writer’s Tip: If you don’t have a sled to drag, go to your local hardware store and buy several feet of rope that is at least ¾”-1” thick (usually about $1-2 per foot). Then punch holes in a flattened cardboard box and thread the rope through. Stack as much weight as you can handle onto the cardboard box for your own homemade sled. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty. It’s more about function over aesthetics, here.

Beni-Gifford-Savage-Rig-Dallas

PART TWO
BURPEES – 10/100 SUPERSET

Do a set of ten burpees at 90% effort, followed by 10/100 pull up/dead hang. Complete six total rounds. To perform the 10/100, start a timer and, with palms facing forward, immediately do one pull up. Then lower yourself into a dead hang. After ten seconds of dead hang, do another pull up. Repeat this until you hit 10 pull ups and 100 seconds or failure, whichever comes first. You must remain on the bar the entire time. The 10/100 is considered by OCR coach, Yancy Culp, as the Gold Standard for grip endurance and strength.

Pro Tip: Keep your transitions as short as possible from the burpees into the 10/100. This will help with your ability to tackle obstacles successfully without having to spend valuable seconds slowing your heart rate down before attacking.  If you can’t meet the Gold Standard at first, don’t worry. You now have an easy goal to track so you can match the best in OCR.

Writer’s Tip: For the 10/100, use an interval timer app so you don’t have to keep your eyes on a stopwatch. These apps allow you to customize so that an alarm sounds every ten seconds, giving you the signal to do apull-upp.

Writer’s Note: Thanks to Beni for providing this workout. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo Credit: NBC, Terrain Racing, Beni Gifford and Savage Race

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