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Spartan Stadion Sprint Review: Racing With The Elites


Spartan Stadion Sprint

DAMN. THAT. WAS. F-BOMB. ROUGH. I'll get into those details in a little bit.


Most of us are familiar with the race organization, Spartan. If you aren’t, Spartan is the leading company in hosting obstacle course races around the world. This past weekend, I participated in my third Spartan Stadion Sprint race at Oracle Park in San Francisco. I’ve raced this course back in 2018 and 2019 in the open race division but this time around in 2021, I went in over my head and decided to race in the elite field. Personally, 2021 has been a big year for me. I became a new dad, I started this branded blog Initial Mile so I thought, let's go out of 2021 with a bang and race with the super fast ladies and gentleman.


Overview

  • What is considered elite?

  • How can one race in this field?

  • Additional racing categories

  • Brief review of my experience

  • Did I have any business being in the elite field?

  • What I would change for next time

  • Top training tips for Stadion Sprints

  • Will I race it again in 2022?

  • Final thoughts


What is Considered Elite?


In endurance sporting events (marathons, triathlons, obstacle course racing etc.) the term elite can be used interchangeably with the term professional. These fields typically include the best of the best however some race organizations may have different criteria to determine who is considered elite. Compared to other endurance races such as Ironman Triathlons or the famous Boston Marathon, the word elite in obstacle course racing doesn't hold up to its prestige.


Don't even get me started on prize purses. Endurance sports in general already has no money in it; unless obstacle course racing becomes the next legendary sport that becomes known world-wide and receives unlimited media attention, obstacle course racing has a long way to go to offer worth while prize purses.


This specific race had no prize purse however according to Google, the top Spartan prize purse ever offered was $57,500 USD which is split among the top 10 finishers in the women's and men's field.....So, don't quit your day job.


How Can One Race in The Elite Field?


In regard to Spartan, it's most recent requirement for individuals who want to race in the elite field, must submit a race resume (which comes with a one-time fee) to prove they can handle racing in the elite field. Your resume will then be accepted or denied. Unfortunately, as of right now in 2021, Spartan does not show an exact outline of the requirements to race in the elite field on their website.


Additional Racing Categories


If you're not interested racing with the elite field, Spartan also offers the age group field where you compete against others in your age bracket and offers the open field where you truly race for fun and race against yourself because no matter how fast or slow you complete the course, you won’t be officially ranked; basically, if you race in the open field and are the fastest on course, even faster then the elites, you won’t win anything.


Brief Race Experience


Did I mention...That.Was.F-Bomb.Rough? Here's how it all went down.


To start, how fast did I complete it and how did I rank? Here it is:

  • Ranking: 11th out of 12 male elites

  • Finishing Time: 33 minutes and 15 seconds

  • Obstacle Penalty:

> 1 penalty at Spear Throw – 15 burpees (about 2 minute penalty)


This was a short race but most dreadful race I’ve ever competed in. This is in comparison to all the triathlons and running events I've participated in; my three most difficult races include Wildflower Triathlon long course, Triathlon at Alcatraz and Nike Women's Marathon. Racing with these elites was like racing with jaguars on steroids. These elites took off sprinting and didn't stop sprinting until they crossed the finish line.


Kelvin Brillante Sandbag carry at Spartan Stadion Sprint

From the get go, my heart was pounding and my lungs felt like they were going to burst out of my chest the first two minutes into the race. I didn't race with a watch, but if my heart rate was being tracked, I'm pretty sure my heart rate reading would read as WTF?!?! The only time I paused was when I prepared myself to complete an obstacle and this only included a quick deep breath. A few obstacles such as the pipe maze, monkey bars and pyramid climb did allow me to catch my breath but even at that, it was only for a few brief seconds. Everything else was muscling and sprinting through…or what I thought looked and felt like sprinting.


The main obstacle that slowed me down was the spear throw. I COMPLETELY missed the spear throw and consequently had to complete 15 burpees; When I say miss, I mean seriously missed. Think Stormtroopers in Star Wars and how they embarrassingly miss their target 99.9% of the time. I wasn't even close! Because this was only the third obstacle of the race, I saw my competition successfully strike their target and pass me as I dreaded the burpees. This was my own doing, thinking that I could stick a spear into a target with absolutely no spear throw training.


The second obstacle that slowed me down was the sandbag carry. This killed me! Not only did I need more training in the sandbag carry but I should have done more research on how to actually carry the bag to save energy. For those who want to learn from my mistake, carry the sandbag over one shoulder so you can use your other arm to gain momentum from your arm swing and if the opportunity is there, this will also allow you to pull your self up the stairs by grabbing the handrail!


The third obstacle that gassed me was the weighted burpees with RAMrollers. Doing a weighted burpee on its own is already a tough exercise but adding 55 pounds to a burpee after running around the stadium like cops are chasing me, doing box jumps and a rope climb right before, is brutal; but of course, this is why folks like us do these races right, for the challenge? Thankfully, the ref was kind enough to remind me that I only needed to bring the roller over my head and not complete a full press with arms extended. This probably saved me a few seconds and if it did, it sure didn’t feel like it.

Here is the list of obstacles somewhat in order:

Wall jump

Weighted jump rope

Spear throw

Bear crawl up stairs

Bleacher run (this was scattered throughout the race)

Heavy ball walk

Sandbag carry through bleachers

Push ups

Wall scaling

Bar maze

Olympic ring monkey bars

Plank walk

Box jumps

Rope climb

Weighted burpees

Monkey bars

Pyramid climb

Bear crawls

Ball slams

Punching bag run

Finish line


Do I belong with the elites?


In the end, do I truly believe I belong racing in the “elite” waive? Yea. Sure. (I also believe there are a ton of age groupers who should be racing with the elites, but that's their story to tell). However, I do need to be more realistic with my training in addition to learning how to “nail” the spear throw. Going into this race, I trained for 8 weeks with each workout only being about 45 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, 45 minutes of training is more than enough time to complete a really good, high-intense or strength training workout, however, throw in the factor of being a sleep deprived, new dad with a 6-month-old who needs majority of your attention, it can kind of effect the schedule and training quality.


What would I change for next time?


Here are three key training practices I would change:

  1. More high intense training with heavier weights; seriously...much more heavier weight.

  2. Complete more hilly trail runs ranging from 5k-10k

  3. Spear throw. Spear throw. Spear throw. Practice the spear throw and not go into these races “hoping” for the best outcome.

Key training tips for a Stadion Sprint


  1. Don't skimp on running hills and stairs for your training.

  2. In addition to training muscular strength, place focus on training muscular endurance. This means implementing high repetitions with light to moderate weight.

  3. Work on flexibility and mobility. OCR races will have you crawling, climbing and contorting your body through obstacles which require efficient movements.

  4. Train your pull ups and back muscles. This will help you clear obstacles such as rope climbing, monkey bars, wall climbs, sandbag pulls etc.

  5. Train your sandbag carry. If you don't have a sandbag, load a duffel bag, backpack or even a durable reusable bag and practice carrying it up and down a flight of stairs because remember, you're racing in a stadium full of bleachers!


Will I race it again in the future?

Not too sure yet. I would like to, but as mentioned earlier, as a new dad, my son will always be my first priority. If I can find the balance like I did this year, sure. Why the hell not.



Initial Mile Spartan Stadion Sprint

Final thoughts

I did come second to last out of the male elites but I don’t regret racing with them. I got my ass handed to me, was humbled by the course, motivated to get back into peak performance shape and made two new friends who also raced in the elite wave. 2021 has been filled with life changing experiences and this race made it to the list.


Cheers to future races, lung busting workouts…and spear throwing!

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