From Casual to Competitor 1

The first of my series. For those who’ve read my Prospective 2017 Calendar, then you know that I’ve recently signed up for the competitive wave at Warrior Dash. This is their first event of the year, and running in the first wave of the day lets me join the elite group of individuals who will be a part of their season’s kickoff. That in itself is pretty great. However, going from casual racer to competitive racer already has its effects on me as a person and an athlete. The focus of this series is to chronicle those changes.

Training like a Competitor

Immediately, the biggest change I’ve seen is how to train for this wave. Normally, my workout is pretty basic. I do weights at the gym, go running a couple miles a few times a week, and try to eat healthy. Now, it’s a whole new game.

I officially started my training this week with a focus on my 5K speed. According to Warrior Dash, they recommend that those running the competitive wave should be able to complete a 5K with no obstacles in 20 minutes or less. The fastest time I personally ever ran a 5K was as a part of high school JV cross country team. 22:26. Good time for a first-time cross country runner in high school. Not so great for competition at Warrior Dash. So, I’ve started doing my research to find programs that I can do on a regular basic to help improve my time.

I tried a program that involves using a 400-meter track loop. Lucky for me, I’m a high school teacher with easy access to a track. If you don’t work at a high school, call the local school and see if they’ll allow you to come by after school to use the track assuming there are no events going on. Or see if a local gym near you has one. The program involves running 4×400’s with a half-lap walk in between 400-meter runs. The idea is to run each lap approximately eight seconds faster than the previous. I was able to accomplish that with the first three laps. However, on the fourth, I found that fatigue was setting in and I was unable to keep the pace up. This is my first sign that I have more work to do.

For those interested in trying this program yourself, the starting point is listed above, and you’re meant to add two 400-meter laps every week, maxing out at 14. This is also meant to work in conjunction with other running programs, with one day a week being the “speed day.” Further updates on these programs to come.

New Obstacles

Warrior Dash keeps its race well balances with 12 obstacles over their 5K distance. It’s a nice steady number, and a perfect way to get into the competitive wave. However, the new obstacles are definitely going to be interesting.

They include Magic Carpet Ride, a run across mats floating on water; Pallet Jacked, a run across water on raised, swinging platforms; and Bridge the Gap, a crossing involving climbing a pyramid of planks. These obstacles mean that I’ll have to think about both my previous race experiences and my upcoming training. For Magic Carpet Ride and Bridge the Gap, I’ve beat obstacles in previous races with similar setups, so it’s a matter of drawing on those experiences and use them in Warrior Dash. Pallet Jacked is the wild card; on paper, it doesn’t sound that tricky, but then again, some of the more challenging obstacles I’ve done seem simple until you actually get to them. (I remember my experience on my first attempt with On the Fence at Savage Race; sounds like something I did when I was a kid, but I didn’t make it across the first time I tried.)

As I get closer to taking on my first competitive wave, I’m looking for new ideas to up my training game. Got any tips you use? What else do you want to hear about my journal from Casual to Competitor? Find me on Twitter: @RyanRunsInMud.

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