More obstacle race tips from a veteran
In part one of our interview with 45 year old Scott Sweeney - a Down & Dirty race veteran - we discussed why he would recommend it to anyone. In part two, we tackle how to train for a mud run and more...
The Merrell Down & Dirty mud and obstacle run hits Hartford this weekend, and will be touring the country throughout the summer. With these mud run training tips, you’ll be ready when it comes to a city near you. Visit the official Down & Dirty website for dates and locations.
What are your mud run training tips?
1) Start by training for various types of terrain. In New England, it is very common to encounter a mix of surfaces during a race, including asphalt-coated pathways, crushed stone, soft mulch, ledge rock, boulders, tree roots, streams and rivers. During mud run training, I will often use different running shoes over various kinds of terrain. Having the right shoe for an event could make a huge difference.
2) Try to alter your training routine. Most people have a favorite time of day to run, like running at 6 a.m. so they have the rest of the day available. This is fine when you start your mud run training, however most races are not held at 6 a.m. Running at 6 a. m. instead of 1 p.m. will make a huge difference in your energy and state of mind on race day, especially during the summer months.
Along with running at different times, it is also very important to train in different types of weather. Most people tend to opt out of running when it rains, but if you’re planning to get down and dirty, an important mud run tip is to get out and get wet a couple of times. Most races are held rain or shine, so it is important to learn how to run in wet clothes and sneakers while a little bit cold. This is especially true for OCR races that involve water obstacles, like the Down and Dirty.
3) Prepare yourself for obstacles. It wouldn’t be adventure racing without a little adventure! Running a 5K road race is very different compared to a 5K OCR race. While running on the road, a runner will often settle into a stride and try to maintain cadence. In an OCR race, there is a mixture of running, short sprints, obstacles etc. So a major part of OCR and mud run training involves building physical strength, agility and prepping for obstacles. This can be difficult as not many people have access to mud pits, 10-foot-rope walls and rock climbing walls. To help prepare for obstacle training start trail running and look for local training facilities. In New England we are fortunate to have FIT Challenge OCR Training Facility in Cumberland, RI and Shale Hill Training Facility in Benson, VT. These are both state-of-the-art, year-round, OCR training facilities.
How does the Down and Dirty mud run compare with other obstacle course races?
Many obstacle course races are only 5K events – or they go the other extreme – 10-12 mile adventure races. I enjoy running the middle ground of a 6-mile-course (though there is a 5k option). If you’re planning to run the 6-mile course, you’ll need to amp up your mud run training to avoid burning out halfway through the race. As far as the obstacles are concerned, they are just as challenging as the more challenging OCR races. There is a great variety of running (hills, mixed surface and trails) as well as well-crafted obstacles to be prepared for.
C’mon. What’s your favourite part of the race?
One thing that I really enjoy about the Down and Dirty mud run is that there are unique obstacles in the race. A lot of OCR races have four, five, six and eight-foot walls but I have never seen the 5 foot marine wall before. I have also seen several different varieties of horizontal traverse walls but I had never seen a vertical rock climbing wall. But my favorite obstacle at Down and Dirty is the cargo net climb over. This obstacle was placed toward the end of the race and was a challenge to complete. And the scenery – unforgettable.
Do you have a personal connection with Operation Gratitude?
No I do not but I do appreciate all of the military partnerships with the OCR community
What did you find the hardest?
The hardest part was roughly a third of the way into the six-mile-race. The course took us to a section of hill climbs. It weaved up and down the side of a hill. The grass on the hill was roughly knee high and made for an awesome workout.
Was there anything that surprised you, making you wish you’d trained for?
No, there weren’t any surprises. The Down and Dirty website offered a very detailed course map, highlighting the obstacles . Going forward I really just need to do better running the hills. I have focused my mud run training on that this year and I’m looking forward to running the hills again, Sunday!
Do you use your elbows to get to the front? Or what’s your strategy?
It really depends on the race. When I am doing a simple trail run or road race, it is more of an individual race for me and I will try and compete for a top spot. For OCR events, I will often run with a group of the NE Spahtens or co-workers. For the Down and Dirty this year, I will be running the six-mile-race at 7:30 p.m. followed by the three-mile-race at 9:30 a.m. with my company. I will most likely take the six-mile-run at a competitive pace and the three-mile-run at a slower pace.
How has running changed your life? And how do you fit it all in?
I have found that one of the most important mud run training tips, for myself and anyone else, is to keep up a running routine. I try to incorporate a variety of different training regimens throughout the week and I try to stick with the same routine each week. I run with a group of co-workers every Wednesday after work. We typically run a fairly hilly course for six to eight miles, depending on the group we have. I then do an extended trail run of 10+ miles in the woods on the weekend. As the summer approaches, my weekend race schedule tends to fill up, so I will do more running during the week and leave the weekends open for races. For strength training, I hit the work gym in the morning three times a week.
We hope these tips give you an idea of how to train for a mud run or obstacle course, but ultimately it’s important to find what works for you. And it never hurts to get a few friends involved and get dirty together! You’ll keep each other encouraged and motivated, and they’re really helpful getting over those wall barriers. Sign up now and start training to out perform during your three or six mile adventure racing endeavour.