Training for the Vancouver Spartan Race

Training for the Vancouver Spartan Race

Today marks one month till the Vancouver Spartan Race on Mount Seymour. I have spent the better part of my off-season (November until, well, this morning) working to build both my strength and my speed. I joined CrossFit 604 shortly before the Spartan World Championships in Vermont last year,  because I needed somewhere to work on more specific techniques like the rope climb. Instructional YouTube videos did a pretty good job getting me up the rope in two races. However, considering it terrified my husband to watch me slip and slide up and down the rope, I figured I could use a little more practice.

This morning’s workout of the day at CF 604 just happened to be a 25-minute chipper which would be a perfect warm-up for the sandbag hill repeats I was planning on doing afterwards. I spent some time warming up with different gripper pull-ups.

My lack of grip strength really brought me down (literally) at the Spartan World Championships. In the last 2 miles of that race, I managed to fall off every single obstacle the required strength. Seeing as I already did about 200 burpees,  I wasn’t particularly keen on adding another 100 more. Simply because I couldn’t hang on to the bar or rope. THUS! I have been greatly trying to improve this weakness by doing said [see image above] grip strength exercises.

After finishing the workout of the day (1k run / 80x 50lbs kettlebell swings / 60x situps / 40x 14lbs wall ball tosses / 20x ring dips / 100x double unders. It’s tiring trying to type that all out.) I scooted up to Mount Seymour to check out the trail conditions and carry an awkward & heavy sandbag around in 800m circles.

Len-dawg and I warmed up with a 20-minute jog around the ski hill. Two years ago the snowpack lasted well into the summer, making it a very difficult, cold and snowy race. Last year there was still some snow at the peak but manageable. This year, however, we have had no snow. The trails were covered with these awful, hard spiky branches. Roots jabbed us as we headed back up the hill to grab the sandbag.

A little tip to those who are looking for a sandbag to train with; they can be very expensive at fitness speciality stores but I picked up my 65lbs bag up at a soil and gravel shop for $5! Generally, the Canadian Spartan races don’t have heavy carries. They usually stick with the lighter 20-30lbs sand discs. If, however, you ever decide to race down the U.S. you should be prepared to care about 50lbs for women and sometimes double bags for men. (yep that two sandbags at the same time)

Since today was my first day back doing the heavy bag carry I stuck with just 3x800m intervals with 5 minutes rest: 800m down, 800m up, 800m flat and fast(ish). There are a couple of techniques to carrying the sandbag. I prefer the ole’ sling’ over the shoulder. I find it the easiest on the neck and back, however going uphill, over both shoulders would be preferable as you are most likely to be bent over power hiking. The 3rd way, which I usually only resort to as I fatigue, is the bear hug carry. (You will see this used for the bucket carry as well.)


Things felt pretty good today. The sandbag was pretty tolerable for all three intervals and I’m feeling pretty confident about the upcoming Vancouver Spartan which will be a warm-up race for the rest of the season.  I managed to plan a trip back to Montreal to visit my family the same week as the Quebec City Spartan. I’m pretty excited about racing with the East Coast Elite ladies who are all so strong and fast.

If you haven’t had the chance try an obstacle course race (OCR) yet, Vancouver Spartan is a great race for all levels and ages. Just be sure to practice your burpees beforehand. 🙂

Michelle Ford
Kintec Race Team

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