Preparations for the Montana Spartan:

Kurt Salquist

The Montana Spartan Race in years past may have very well been the toughest race offered in the obstacle course series. With that in mind, for all of you reading this article who are signed up for this race in less than 2 weeks, I am hoping you are deep into your training plan and have logged countless miles on rugged trail systems mixed with rock, loose dirt, and mud. Those who have, kudos! You will still have your work cut out for you, but you are ready for it! This short article is for the other 99% (although you will still get some benefit here if you have missed this crucial step we are going to focus on).  I realize with the daily influx of questions I have been receiving on how someone can get ready for a race like Montana in a matter of weeks, there are numerous procrastinators and underprepared competitors going into this race. My answer to those inquires usually starts with, you can’t! But to increase your odds at survival and possibly save you, and even the trained athlete, from debilitating cramps during the race, I do have some important recommendations anyone can start doing as soon as today that can make a huge difference both in the race, and after. 

The most important thing to consider about the Montana race is the elevation gain. With over a 4000’ feet climb on the 13 mile course last year, and nearly 3000’ feet on the 5 mile version, anyone ill prepared will slowly breakdown and watch the wheels fall off after the first 2500 feet of gain. We certainly don’t have enough time to increase your aerobic system or facilitate much change in lactate threshold, so we will focus solely on preparing your mountain legs. Even the unconditioned athlete can make some difference here without having to force their body through long runs they may not be prepared for that could result in injuries before their race that won’t have adequate time to heal. Instead, we are going to go slow and steady, just like you should take this race. Start as soon as possible and get out to your local trail that will have some definite climbing. Go until your calves start to burn and go just a hare further, rest for a minute, hold plank, do a few burpees, and start up again and repeat a few sets. Try not to be overly ambitious here; we want to just expose your muscles at first. Be sure to stretch and walk on some level ground afterwards to properly cool down as we want to be ready to do it over again as soon as possible. Over the next several days keep trying to take it a little further, assuming you didn’t go too far the previous day and are overly sore or more tired than usual. If this is the case, you may need a rest day. Focus on stretching and releasing the tight tissue with some myofascial release techniques, i.e. foam rolling and go for a shorter hike or walk on more level ground. 

Continue to build up your total elevation gain (you can track this with a free running app on your smartphone) until about 3-4 days out from your race when you will start to taper, drastically reduce the volume of your workout and do more of what we previously mentioned for recovery. Pray to the Spartan gods, and get ready to go through an amazing experience! 

For more information on training for OCR, trail running and improving fitness, please send your questions to or check out our offer here.

Enjoy and Live Life! Aroo!  

Therese Martinez, MS, RD, CPT

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