Spartan Beast - Technical Debrief

A few notes for equipment and preparation if you plan to do a Spartan Beast, particularly at a place like Sun Peaks.

New Balance Minimus Trail Shoes - I have raved about these shoes in the past, and didn't think I could be more impressed with them, but holy cow!  Super lightweight, comfortable, and the TRACTION on the trails.  Where other people slipped and slid, if there was traction to be had, these shoes found it.  The steepness of some of the descents I was able to simply walk straight down in these shoes was mind-blowing.  Unless it was just slick mud with no available grip, these shoes were like spider feet.  Still my favourite shoe for training, and now having used them for what they were meant for, I cannot recommend these highly enough.

Coleman 8L Hydration Pack - Picked this up at Wal-Mart for under $40, and it was well worth it.  A compact, 8L backpack with a 2L water bladder and drinking hose, it was invaluable on the course, where I only remember passing 3, maybe 4 water stations the entire time.  If anyone tells you that you don't need to bring water with you, ignore them.  You don't know how long you might be out there, and where you'll struggle, so be prepared!  I think, including the water I drank from the pack and the water stations, I probably took in 1.5L of fluid on course.  With the cooler weather, I wasn't sweating as much as I normally would, so hydration didn't seem to be too much of a problem.  Just a few sips every now and then to wet my whistle. :)

Clothing - I went with the lightest-weight shorts I own (Century kickboxing shorts I picked up at ATT in Florida a couple of years back), with Denver Hayes "cycle short" dri-wear shorts underneath.  Worked well through all the conditions we experienced on the course.  Up top, I wore a New Balance long-sleeve technical shirt, which also worked out beautifully.  Loose enough to be comfortable, but fitted, and the sleeves easily slid up and down without cutting off circulation when slid up for a little more cooling.  Finally, my "Tuff Grip" mechanics' gloves from Home Depot were perfect for the few obstacles where grip was important, and were just enough protection from the elements to keep my hands comfortable, but still breathed well.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take them off for the last mud crawl, and I think they are so saturated with mud now that they can't be salvaged.

Food - While I could have done the race without carrying any food, I don't think it would have been very wise.  I brought three Elev8 Me all-fruit original bars, which are made of dried fruits and whey protein by ProSnack in North Vancouver, and clock in around 240 calories each, and was glad to have them as we stretched well beyond our planned time on course.  Julia brought and used some gels (not sure which brand), but I think I'd probably just stick with the Elev8 Me bars for some slightly slower acting fuel.  I didn't feel like fuel was ever an issue on the course.

Preparation

While I did take care to make sure I drank a lot of water in the day or two leading up to the event and the morning of to ensure that I was as hydrated as I could be at the start, it was really the weeks or even months leading up to the event where my nutrition and supplementation could and should have been better to put me in a position where I wouldn't suffer the debilitating seizures in my legs that I did.

My diet and training were all over the place most of this year, and I'm carrying 30-40 pounds more weight than would probably be optimal for me for this type of adventure.  Not having to haul that weight up and down the mountain would have gone a long way to making it a more bearable experience, so I'm committed to getting back on track and making that happen.  I'm aiming to be in the low 180's to high 170's by late-March/early-April next year.

Magnesium - again, with my diet not being too great over the last while, I haven't been getting in many magnesium-rich foods (E.G. spinach, etc.) and also haven't been taking my ZMA supplements at night regularly to help offset that.  The lack of magnesium in my system, I feel, was a big contributing factor to my muscles not being able to relax sufficiently to overcome the seizures from exertion I encountered on the race.

I don't believe there was any other electrolyte issue because I wasn't sweating a lot, and my minimal amount of fluid intake wouldn't have caused any imbalance either.  On that note, I don't believe that dehydration was at all a factor in the muscle seizures either - it was just an incredible amount of exertion and loading going through the muscles that I was not adequately prepared for.

Training

Jumping straight into the hardest (or close-second) Spartan Beast course around without any training, or even covering that amount of distance on foot, ever, in my life was honestly foolish.  I didn't say anything to my team at the time, but after my legs started seizing, I was seriously worried that I was going to fail on course and go out on a stretcher, and was maybe risking permanent damage.  If I didn't have such a great team with me, I feel like I would have quit not long after starting the second ascent.

Running would not at all prepare you for this kind of course.  Julia, who is a strong runner, was also suffering issues with her leg muscles, and none of us, who aside from Julia are not runners, were really suffering too badly, if at all, cardio/conditioning-wise.  I am more a power/sprinter kind of athlete, but as long as you're reasonably fit, you can do the cardio demand.

This was all about the hills, and being able to keep the legs firing and limber through all that punishment.  Aside from being at a more optimal bodyweight and eating properly on a regular basis, the only preparation I can see being adequate for that would be hiking over mountainous terrain on a regular basis, gradually building up the time on the move to the six hour or so range.

Sacrificing strength, power or agility in the pursuit of endurance would not be great either, as you would then struggle on some of the obstacles for the sake of making covering ground easier.  Keeping a very high power to weight ratio would help all-around.

So, for next year, lots of hiking on the weekends in addition to regular training in the gym.  Getting back on track with my nutrition, and doing Spartan Sprint and Super events in the months leading up to the Beast.  I will return stronger, fitter, and more determined!