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Top Tips for Surviving an Adventure Race + Spartan Race Recap

by Marissa on June 18, 2013

Adventure Racing Tips Where I Need to Be

At the beginning of 2013, I had a handful of fitness goals. None of which included an adventure or obstacle race. As a Fitfluential Ambassador, I was invited to participate in the Reebok Spartan Race in Tuxedo New York last weekend. At the time, I thought it seemed like a fun challenge. What I didn’t realize is that it would be one of the most mentally and physically challenging races I’ve ever done.

In lieu of my regular Tuesday Tip, I’m attempting a race recap and sharing my tips for adventure racing. If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you’ve seen some of my photos, but I’ve been holding off trying to figure out just how to put the experience into words. As the race tagline says, “you’ll know at the finish” and that couldn’t be more true. In some ways, ignorance is bliss and that was certainly the approach David took. Being the obsessive planner I am, I was worrying myself sick reading blogs and recaps right up until the night before.

Grab a sneak peak at a few of my tips for adventure racing by watching the video below:

My road to the Spartan finish was peppered with some really strong training days followed by a knee injury and topped off with a terrible cold/flu. Hardly ideal for training but I did what I could, worked with my physical therapist to rehab my knee in time for race day and felt strong up until the week of the race when I got sick. Reebok was kind enough to allow me to postpone my race for a week but my strength still wasn’t where it had been.

IMG_1327When we got to the race start, I was nervous. Terrified, really. Not knowing what to expect is a difficult place for me to be. David was excited and taking part in the cheering and clapping as the 9 a.m. starters corralled. It had rained for 24 hours before the race so the course was extra slick and muddy. My head was racing, wondering what I had signed up for — and why. The rope climb, the spear throw and the barbed wire mud crawl I had read about suddenly all became very real as we could see them from the race start.

Every course is different. Because this one was on a ski mountain, ours was extremely hilly. I made the mistake of thinking I would run the entire course, but learned early on that wouldn’t be possible because of the steep inclines. It was more like a hike. Spread throughout were obstacles of varying difficulty.

Not even 100 feet into the start was a giant pool of muddy water, waist deep. Similar to the start of a triathlon for me, here is where my adrenaline sent me into panic mode as I was sprayed in the face with water while trying to navigate my way through the giant mud puddle. I decided to take things slow from there. We continued on to climb over walls which got higher and higher (up to 8 feet) as the course progressed, crawl under barbed wire rolling through mud and over rocks, climb a rope, carry sandbags, pull a boulder up a muddy hill by a chain and more all while moving up and down steep hills and scrambling over rocks. The course was no joke.

Want to see a clip of us in action? Click to watch what a Spartan Race is like. 

We look like we’re walking, but we’re just exhausted. Swear.

Have I convinced you to try one yet?  Seriously, crossing the finish line was the best feeling ever. David and I finished in just under 2 hours. I’m certain he would have finished faster if he wasn’t waiting for me. He really impressed me.

I totally think this race is within reach to anyone willing to put in the time, dedication and muscle to train for it.

To get the most out of your race, here are some of the tips and lessons I learned as a first-timer.

Would I do it again? Despite being sore for days later, yep. We’ll be back next year to bring home a faster time!

Spartan Race Before and After

Tips for Surviving an Adventure Race

1. Opt for an early start: Race heats are released at 15 minute intervals throughout the day. Choose an early start time if it’s available to bypass the anticipation of waiting all day to race

2. Fuel your race: Give yourself time to eat (and digest) a healthy, hearty breakfast. You need fuel for this race. Also, hydrate really well the days before and morning of the race

3. Race with a buddy: This is one race I recommend doing with a buddy or a team. It’s definitely a bonding experience and it’s a good feeling knowing somebody else is looking out for you.

4. Train smart: Like the race materials say, this race is “no joke.” The smarter you train and more prepared you feel, the more fun you’ll have.

5. Don’t rush it: There were a few obstacles I didn’t perform well at, simply because I was rushing. If it’s your first time, take things slow. This race is as much mental as it is physical.

6. Wear something comfortable: Wear comfortable clothes and supportive shoes. I’m happy to report all the mud washed out of everything but no guarantees so choose something you’d be ok parting with.

7. Be kind: This is true of any race, but the Spartan prides itself on the supportive and helpful racemanship of the participants. You won’t find people pushing past other racers or plowing over someone just for a better time. People really look out for each other, lend a hand and cheer one another on. Get in the spirit and do the same!

The chocolate coconut water and beer at the finish made the cuts, bumps and bruises well-earned!


Have you done an adventure or obstacle race or do you want to try one? 


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I am 12 days late in reading this (yikes!) but just wanted to say thanks for the recap ... it was fun to learn about this form of racing that I've never tried, and you made it seem much more approachable than I expected!


Thanks for the tips! I have a Spartan Race coming up this weekend, my first one too, so it's great to see how you felt about it from a beginner's perspective - congrats on finishing it!! :)


  1. […] very interested. But now a movie like that takes on new meaning to me. Like I said in my Spartan Race Recap, the course was hard core. It’s no surprise because Spartan race obstacles are heavily […]

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