In just under six weeks I will be facing down my greatest nemesis — the Spartan Sprint at Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center. My first attempt at tackling this Sprint happened back in June 2015. Having been accustomed to Spartan’s Stadium Series, I found myself utterly under-prepared for the 5-mile long trek up and down and up and down the mountain. My sprint of shame left me, at one point, crying while clutching a bucket of rocks. Not my finest moment.
This is the face of someone losing almost ten minutes of race time digging through muddy water for their GoPro.
The entire trek took me over three hours to complete, nearly tripling my usual Stadium Sprint time. But I finished, ate the single best banana of my life, took the single best shower of my life, and spent the rest of the day floating in a pool because my body no longer wanted to exist.
It later turned out that I had an ovarian cyst burst while I was on the course. So, some of my pain could be attributed to that. But hey, I got to finish this race while bleeding internally. If that isn’t a superpower, I don’t know what is.
And I jumped over fire.
Three years later, the first race of my Trifecta is taking me back to Tuxedo. This time, I will be much better prepared. I’m going to share with you the things I will not be caught dead without on a Spartan course ever again.
Here are the things you’re going to need with you to survive your Spartan Race. If you like my suggestions, I may earn a commission for purchases made at the links below. See the sidebar for more information on my affiliate policy.
1. Moisture-Wicking Clothing
Please. Please do not go out on the Spartan course with cotton shirts or socks. You are going to sweat, and if you’re not in a stadium, you’re going to get wet. Cotton soaks up sweat, but does not dry very quickly. This makes it a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. On top of that, wet fabric will add extra weight and slow you down.
Invest in a good set of moisture-wicking, quick-drying athletic clothes. Believe me, when you’re two hours in with an hour to go, you will not want to be wearing muddy cotton clothes.
2. Hydration Packs
Spartan races typically have a few water stations along the course, but if you’re going to be out there for more than an Stadium Sprint, you’re going to want your own supply. Once you start sweating, a loss of even 2% of your body water can start to affect performance.
I bought my CamelBak for hiking in Hawaii but this baby is going to be my new best friend out on the Spartan course. The backpack is light weight so it doesn’t slow you down,
3. Energy Gels
It was either the third or fourth trek up the mountain when I felt like I was completely tapped out. Whatever glycogen stores I had in my body were spent. Doubled over, trying to catch my breath, the ground was absolutely littered in wrappers of Clif Shots and GU Gels.
These handy single-serve packs have been helping runners since they 80s. They’re designed to be easily digestible and give your body a quick shot of carbs to keep you going so you don’t hit the wall. Assume your body is going to need at least 100 calories per mile of the course. Take the miles in the course and divide that by two and try to have at least that many gels on hand.
While I survived the stadium races without any energy gels, I will not be going back to Tuxedo without them.
4. Sun Screen
Let the redness in your face come from exertion, not sunburn. While the Spartan website suggests the fastest time on a Sprint will usually be 40 minutes, most people will likely be out on the course for at least two hours. That time only increases as you move up in levels.
Get yourself coated in a good SPF 30-50 before the race begins, and keep a mini travel bottle or stick with you for touch ups. SPF 30 blocks 97% of harmful rays from the sun. SPF 50 will get you 98% protection. Higher SPF sunscreens are only marginally better at protecting your skin, but they are phenomenal at emptying your wallet.
5. Grip gloves
Certain obstacles like the Z-Wall or Monkey Bars are going to seriously test your grip strength. Even if you have the upper body strength to pull yourself up, it may not be enough. The ability to hang on tight as you move is a skill in and of itself. If your hands are not already callused, you could develop blisters or open sores on the race course.
Spartan partners with FitFour which makes a wide variety of fitness gloves. I’m personally grabbing the Spartan Race callus guard. While my hands are getting callused from training, the race course is the last place I want to be developing them. FitFour also makes gloves with added wrist support, gymnastics grips, and a whole host of other phenomenal hand protection.
6. Waterproof Phone Case
My iPhone may be water resistant, but I do not want to drag it unprotected through the mud puddles that are waiting for you on the course. What you choose to do with your phone on the course is a very personal choice.
Spartan does provide a bag drop, but I’m not particularly fond of leaving my phone in a pile of bags. I’ve sometimes left my phone with a friend or family member who has come with me to the course. This year I plan to take it out on the trail with me.
There are some good affordable pouches on Amazon that will keep it protected but not exactly usable. These are good for making sure your phone is safe and secure but not much else. You could also invest in an underwater case for your iphone.
Look for a case with an IP68 rating, which means it can be protected against complete, continuous submersion in water. Make sure you test the case with a paper towel inside before taking it out onto the course.
7. Old sneakers or Trail Sneakers
Footgear is going to be important on the course. The last thing you want is to bring your brand new Nike Metcons or Reebok Nanos out in the mud. Which leaves you with two options:
- Your last pair of sneakers. If they still have good support and traction, you should do okay. You’re going to want a good tread, but without the emotional investment in the shoe. I do not care how many times you put the sneakers through the washer, they’re never going to be exactly the same again.
- Dedicated trail shoes. These shoes live in the mud and live for the mud. Plus the added bonus of not dragging mud into the gym afterwards.
Some people swear by Vibrams but I’m not a fan. I’ll be wearing my old nikes, at least for the Sprint in Tuxedo. I want to check out what Spartan has on their site for the future.
Whichever route you take, make sure to watch where you step! These trails can be tricky.
8. Black Sharpie
Hear me out.
Spartan has professional photographers stationed around the course, ready to capture your struggle to victory. (Or just your struggle.) And the easiest way to look them up is by your bib number. You will get your bib number on a head band when you arrive at the course. I have found, though, that sometimes they get bunched up over the course of the race and the photographer cannot read your number.
Here’s where the sharpie comes in.
Write your number on your arm! It makes you easier to identify. Trust me, you’re going to want these pictures!
9. Headlamp (some longer races require)
A few factors play into whether or not you will need a headlamp on the race course. Location of the race, time of year, length of race, and start time.
If Spartan officials expect you to be on the course as the sun sets, you may not be allowed out onto the race course without one. These races are meant to be fun, but they can be intense. Check the page for your race, it will often tell you whether or not you will need one.
10. Clean Change of Clothes & A Plastic Bag
At the end of the Spartan Race you will have the single best banana of your life. You will also be sweaty, muddy, and glowing with accomplishment. While that last one you’re going to want to hang on to, the others are not exactly fun during the ride home.
Make sure you have some lightweight clothes to change into, a pair of sandals, and a bag for your muddy clothes and sneakers. Then, wear your medal with pride and grab some awesome swag! You earned it!
What do you take with you out on the Spartan Course? What are your next races? Let me know in the comments!
Make sure to check out my Trail to Trifecta 2018 and sign up for the mailing list for more updates!
My Upcoming Spartan Races
Sprint – Tuxedo Ridge, June 2nd
Super – Palmerton, July 14th
Beast- Dallas, October 27th