Men’s Health Urbanathlon (New York!): Tips from a High-Performing Urbanathlete

From the moment my timing chip crossed the finish line in 2011 I had my eyes squarely set on a stronger 2012. At the time I didn’t know what ‘stronger’ really meant or looked like, or how’d I get there, but in the ensuing months I fumbled my way through enough routines until I hit my proverbial and literal stride, and then tried to pass along any useful nuggets so that you could maximize your Urbanathlon experience.

So it was super rewarding to hear from an Urbanathlete who participated in New York, posting a strong finish in 2011, and being flat-out otherworldly in 2012 (there’s something to be said for setting goals). She clearly brings perspective to the table that I don’t have, and I asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing some of her own 2012 Urbanathlon experience or tips, which she was more than happy to accommodate.

So with timing chips well past the 2012 race, and our gaze now locked in on 2013, here are a few remaining Urbanathlon thoughts as well as forward-looking training suggestions from one high-performing Urbanathlete:

(Note: I broke these out in paragraphs for the sake of readability on the blog, but her words are left nearly verbatim)

An amazing turnout in New York (photo courtesy @menshealthmag Instagram)

An amazing turnout in New York (photo courtesy @menshealthmag Instagram)

Training in the Months Ahead

“Speed and endurance training is the number one element to a successful Urbanathlon. For women especially, speed can be a tradeoff for strength. It took me a long time to get through certain obstacles that require upper body strength (the marine hurdles in New York came very cruelly around the 8 mile mark). I spent the entire race outrunning men who would catch and pass me at certain obstacles and then I would have to catch up again.”

“That being said, I did increase my strength training this year and recommend that people take a few boot camp classes (find a boot camp that has an obstacle course) to get the feel for climbing a wall, monkey bars, etc. By getting access to obstacles you can find what works best for you: for example, I know that to get over the walls I need to come to a complete stop at a wall, get close, and then jump as high as I can, placing one forearm flat on the top of the wall, and using the other hand to push up, similar to pulling yourself out of a pool.”

Prepare for beasts like marine hurdles and Citi Field. (photo courtesy @menshealthmag Instagram)

Speed and endurance give you your best shot at a top finish, but there are things you can do now to prepare for beasts like marine hurdles and Citi Field. (photo courtesy @menshealthmag Instagram)

Hydration Habits

“Another lesson I learned last year; you must stop and refuel. In 2011, I did not stop (the New York course is about 9.5 miles) because I didn’t want to waste the time. Subsequently, I suffered a terrible leg cramp around mile 9. It was debilitating and cost me minutes because I could only limp along.”

“In 2012 I ate a GU and had a long drink at the 6 mile mark; probably only cost me 20 seconds. This is especially important in advance of our two climbs; first running all of the spiral ramps at Arthur Ashe stadium and then for the full on stair climb at Citi Field. I spoke with a number of participants who told me they suffered leg cramps during the stair climb; it is critical to be hydrated at that point.”

A New York-centric tip for 2013

“If there is a “crawling” obstacle near the pond (which there has been the past two years) wear gloves that you can then take off or throw away. The weather can be perfect and dry but the ground around the pond is always wet and muddy. I wore gloves for the crawl and I was happy I did, my hands were then clean and dry for the monkey bars.”

The Urbanathlon Spirit

“My final advice is to just have fun and not take it so seriously. Around mile 8 a person I had been chasing the entire time started to wane. I came up on him and told him he had been inspiring me to run faster and he could not slow down now and that we were all in it together. A few people running close by heard me say this and it unleashed a torrent of camaraderie and support. From then on we all started shouting encouragements to each other for the rest of the race, and there was genuine goodwill and congratulations amongst this group at the finish line.”


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