When one chooses to compete in a Spartan Race, one never knows, 100%, what to expect. Having designers, directors, and build crews acting as evil scientists in a lab, concocting what they feel would not just be a physically challenging course, but one that is filled with mental tests in which the winner and the quitter battle and tuning out the noise is a necessity. The 2016 Spartan Race World Championships delivered just such a course – one that required both physical and mental preparation and stamina.
So how does one mentally prepare to reach the finish? Here are a few tips from elite and pro racers on how they overcame the common mental obstacles faced before crossing the finish line.
Mental Obstacle #1: Extreme Temperatures
The 2016 Spartan World Championships were held in Tahoe so athletes had somewhat of a preconceived notion of what to expect, or heard the horror stories of temperature from the previous year.
It’s northern California in October and the chance of cold weather is high. Not to mention swimming obstacles would be a guarantee. This didn’t stop athletes from across the world making the pilgrimage to compete. How you might ask? Well aside from preparing physically and knowing how to work temps to your advantage, Male Elite Competitor, Kevin Seaman reminds himself that “… you didn’t make it there by accident. You’ve proven you’re strong enough to handle it.”
Mental Obstacle #2: Seemingly Endless Elevation Gain
As the start line corral filled up, nerves and excitement set in. Athletes soared through the festival area, to the first set of walls and rolling mud before the first, of two, ascents up the mountain. Although, this first lap was obstacle light, the continuous uphill, paired with the mountain winds and dropping temperatures, make for a sure fire set up for becoming weary. Female Elite racer Alex Sawicki says the best route is to keep it positive. Don’t let any self-pity in. Especially when fighting injuries, she refuses to waste energy on negative thinking.
“Move with purpose, move forward.” -Alex Sawicki
Mental Obstacle #3: Facing New Obstacles
Upon reaching the bottom of the first climb, racers hit the first of quite a few new Spartan obstacles. First was The Thigh-Master. A fun addition, in my opinion, involving a solid amount of thigh strength rather than anything else. Other new creations unveiled were – Olympus (a slanted wall fitted with rock climbing holds, chains, and cut outs, testing your grip strength), the Spartan Ladder, and the new multi-rig style, filled with old favorite rings and adding in rope hangs to the finishing bell. Along with the Apehanger, making its first appearance at the Blue Mountain Championship, fitted with a rope climb to angled hanging monkey bars over 4-ft of water.
How does one racing to the finish not get held up by so many new twists? Well, Spartan Pro Kevin Donoghue doesn’t waste a second saying that speed is the best approach, “Quickly assess, dissect, and execute.”
Mental Obstacle #4: Added Sanded Bags and Extended Bucket Brigades
We all can agree that the carry obstacles can be some of the most mentally torturous. So when told that the Spartan World Championship Beast was going to have a double Sand Bag carry and half mile Bucket Brigade jaws dropped and eyes rolled. All the grip training and back strengthening efforts are great reminders to get you through. In addition, Pro racer and 2nd Place Elite Female Championship Finisher, Lindsay Webster’s advice might just make you dig a bit deeper than you thought you could and keep pushing.
The thing about obstacle racing that really and truly sets it apart from any other sport is the amount of mental grit it requires. You just have to set aside thoughts of your aching muscles and screaming lungs and focus on forward progress. I came to Tahoe to race a World Championship, and even though my body was cramping and exhausted, I did my darnedest not to let it stop me. – Lindsay Webster
Throughout all the courses and especially one as intense as the Spartan World Championship course, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you ARE capable. Get out and race, and as Spartan Race says “You’ll know at the Finish Line.”
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