Spartan / OCR Race Guide

 IT'S RACE WEEK! OMG OMG OMG OMG. Unfortunately for me I'm not racing, but I am THRILLED to be coaching almost a dozen of our GS Nation athletes this weekend at the Spartan Sprint and Super in Arrington, VA! This is a long guide, so if you have zero interest in OCR, thanks for clicking through but you can just call it quits right now. However, if you're racing, would like to race one day, are scared of OCR, are stoked about OCR, WHATEVER, please read on!


As always, we start with MINDSET. Number one. Relax. The hard work has been put in. You’ve trained as hard as you’ve trained… it’s as simple as that. If you know you could have done better in training, put that aside until after the race and deal with it then. If you know you’ve done everything you could to prepare yourself, congratulations… there is no better feeling. Now just relax and go run YOUR race.

That previous point is very important… running YOUR race. Some people like to start fast. Others are good at carries. Others take a while to get into things and finish strong. Some are steady throughout. Some rock the grip stuff but struggle with technical terrain and need to slow down on the trails. It. Doesn’t. Matter. What. Anyone. Else. Does. YOU run YOUR race.

At the start line, CALM DOWN. Deep breaths. Don’t jack yourself up or get hyped… there’s enough energy in the air already. It’s important to control your heart rate from the start. NASAL BREATHING ONLY for the first 1 mile or so… find your rhythm and then get into YOUR flow. When you feel good, drop the hammer.


I wrote an article on Tapering for a Race on the blog. You may find it here. The general rule of thumb is to reduce volume by 40-50% the week before the race, while keeping some quality intensity. This allows your body to recover and adapt from the previous training cycle.

Another important part of tapering is getting your RECOVERY in… bodywork (massage, foam rolling), floating, cryotherapy, sauna, etc… they all matter! Make sure to take advantage of our Recovery Week partners (Invigorate Cryotherapy Vitality Float Spa).

What to Eat

Week Of Race - begin to increase your carbohydrate consumption. Starting 3 days prior to your race, eat an extra 100 grams per day, increasing until race day. If you race Saturday, add in an extra 100 grams on Wednesday, an extra 200 on Thursday, an extra 300 on Friday. If you race on Sunday, wait til Thursday to begin loading. Continue eating how you’ve been eating - if that’s clean, add in more quinoa, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, rice, etc… If it’s not, well, get with the program.

Day Of Race - eat your normal breakfast, try not to change too much of your routine. You don’t want to get crazy and do something your body isn’t used to! However, I’ve found it useful to reduce my fat and increase my carbohydrates the morning of the race… if I typically eat eggs, bacon, and an avocado for breakfast, I may switch to a smoothie of coconut water, a banana, PB Fit, some oatmeal, some hemp seeds, and a bit of protein. You want what you’re consuming the morning of to begin digesting and enter the bloodstream to give you energy.

Pre-Intra Race - 20-30 minutes prior to the race, ingest about 200 calories (50g carbs) of some fast-digesting carbohydrates with some caffeine. I take a preworkout as well as a pack of Clif Blocks. It also helps to take in some electrolytes during this time as well, specifically sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Every 30-45 minutes of your race, take in another 25-30g of carbs. Every hour of your race, take in some more electrolytes. If your race is about an hour, don’t worry about the second dose. Make sure to grab water at the hydration stations every chance you get! You don’t need a camelbak unless you’re planning on being on the course for more than 3 hours or so.

Post Race - grab yourself a banana, FitAid, and some water. Down immediately. Maybe bring along a scoop of protein to add to the mix. Then go get yourself some beer and have some fun with your friends… it’s what racing is all about, after all!

What to Wear

Let’s actually start with what NOT to wear… DO NOT WEAR ANYTHING COTTON. This is a MUD run, and you WILL get wet. Cotton doesn’t dry well. Simple enough. Wear what you wear to train in. For me, I like compression gear in the form of pants / tights and socks. Check out our friends over at Kinis for some sick racing and training footwear! If you haven’t trained in it yet, don’t break it out for race day. Personally, I also really appreciate a good, thick headband underneath the headband Spartan hands out with the race number on it. 

For shoes, you can’t beat Inov-8… especially the 200’s or 225’s. Let me just say this. If you are going to run a race wearing “normal” tennis shoes or even basic trail running shoes, you’re cheating yourself of a good time. A GOOD pair of OCR shoes makes ALL the difference in the world… you can run up and sprint DOWN mountains in these shoes or shoes like it. Don’t skimp here… it truly makes all the difference.

Race Day Tips

  • Plan on arriving about 1.5 hours before your start time - it’ll cost you $10 to park and typically takes 20 or so minutes to get through the line, park your car, grab your stuff, and make it to registration.

  • Count on another 10 minutes at registration. REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR I.D. You will not be able to race without it.

  • Bag check is $5, unless you bought a season pass. You’ll want to check your bag.

  • Once you’re inside the venue, check out the race day course mapand look specifically at where the big carries are, where there are upper body / grip oriented obstacles, where the spear throw is, and how the final “gauntlet” near the finish line is set up.

  • Go use the restroom. You’ll be back here before the race as well.

  • About 30 minutes before your start time, begin warming up. Get your heart rate up high… my suggestion is to bust out that first lung so you “catch your second wind” at the start line and not 2 miles into your race.

  • Get into the starting corral early, take a couple of deep breaths, and take it in. You made it. This is your game, your match, the reason you’ve trained. You showed up. Now show out.

  • For after the race, bring a change of clothes, some sandals / flip flops, 1 or 2 towels, and 1 big trash bag for your wet and muddy race gear.

  • HOSE OFF YOUR SHOES AND GEAR IN THE SHOWER AREA AFTER YOUR RACE. Trust me on this. You’ll thank me when you get home and simply have to dry your stuff out as opposed to scrape caked mud out of crevices.

Go get a beer and have some fun!

There are zero expectations coming from Coach Dave or anyone at GS Nation. I don’t care how you do, I just want you to enjoy the process, push yourself to the best of your abilities on that particular day, and HAVE FUN! When you disassociate the experience from the results, great things happen. I’ve run great races and I’ve run really shitty races. I’ve done really well when I thought I races poorly and I’ve placed poorly when I’ve ran my best races. That doesn’t matter.

No matter what, stay positive and KEEP GOING. Stay in the moment. Find a mantra that works for you and repeat it over and over and over and over again. In the US Championships in August, mine was “My legs are strong. My lungs are strong. My heart is strong. I am enduring”. I repeated that for almost 3 hours. Over and over and over again. If you like it, use it. If you don’t, find yours and make it your own. GO HAVE A BLAST!