Dirt in your skirt blog

Help, I’m New!

Posted on May 9, 2012 by Margaret Schlachter

The sport of obstacle racing has exploded in the last few years. As I witnessed today with the Spartan Chicked group on Facebook (sorry guys ladies only) literally exploded after Spartan Race posted about it. My obstacle racing career began, well when Spartan Race began with the first ever Spartan Race in Burlington, Vermont in May 2010.


This is how it all started, can you spot me in the video? A few other familiar faces were there, ever hear of Grace Cuomo Durfee (2x Death Race Finisher and female winner 2011) and Lynn Lena, she had two podiums last year. Thanks to my friends at Mocean 365 makers of Mocean Mate for documenting the beginnings of something special.

It’s funny looking back and watching the beginnings, we didn’t know what it was going to be. Here we are today. Obstacle Racing is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Recently someone told me that more people will compete in an obstacle race this year than any other sport, I don’t have any evidence that this is true, but it’s a cool stat if true.


I am asked and hear frequently, I want to do this how do I get involved? Well, the first thing you need to do is pick a race and sign-up. I suggest starting with a shorter distance obstacle race like a 5k. Look for one in your area. They are literally popping up all over the country. If you have never trained and live a sedentary lifestyle but are looking for a change give yourself a month or two before attempting your first race. Anyone can complete an obstacle race but you will have a lot more fun if you put in some training before hand.


What and how you do it is a little personal and different for each person. However, there are a few basics that will help you get ready for a race. If you haven’t run before, try a couch to 5K training program or something similar. If you can get off the treadmill and paved roads and go find some trails. Live in a city, walk/jog in a park. You will want a strong cardio base going into any of these races.

Learn how to do a Burpee! I wrote a blog post recently about the different burpees and which ones are used in competition and The Great Burpee Debate. If you plan on doing a Spartan Race each obstacle you fail means 30 burpees. Learn to love the burpee.


When I started out on my workout program over a year ago I focused on two things, running and strength training, especially my upper body. I suggest looking through old posts for weight lifting ideas. As with any new workout plan, check with a doctor and make sure you are good to go. I mix-up my workouts some are done in the gym with traditional weights and machines others I get a little more creative. I incorporate rocks, sandbags, weighted packs, and weight vests into my routines. The biggest thing with obstacle racing is functional fitness, and being an all around athlete. During a race it’s all about constant adaptation. If you are looking for specific workouts I detailed what I did each day for the first 50 plus days getting back into training. Check back at old Dirt In Your Skirt Workouts from June and July 2011. It should give you some ideas. Spartan Race also puts out a workout of the day, which if you are beginning modify, but it will give you some ideas.


OK, you put signed up and committed, you trained and worked your butt off and it’s almost race day. All of a sudden you have a WTF moment and you wonder what did I sign myself up for. Maybe you are in one of the groups online. You see the pictures of muddy bruised people sometimes bleeding and you freak out! Stop here and breathe! It is all going to be ok, questions like “What do I wear?” “What do I bring?” “What should I expect?” all these things are flying through your brain as your friends who have done this before keep saying you will be fine!

I am here to help you out. After having done over a dozen obstacle races and made A LOT of mistakes here are a few posts to help you in the clothing, shoes, and race day department:


Cotton Stay Away – Overview of Race Day Needs – Extremely Popular Blog

Winter Race Gear – For those cold races

Winter Gear Update – Training in the winter months

Compression Wear – Overview of Compression Wear

A Shoe That Fits – An overview of a good obstacle racing shoe

A Girl and Her Shoes – Review of Several Inov-8 Shoes

Dorothy I’m Keeping These Shoes – My first pair of Inov-8’s

These posts should give you a good overview of what you need on race day. I have a few additions from myself and friends. Socks, many ask me about socks. I prefer a wool sock, my personal favorites are Darn Tough they make lightweight socks. But many good companies are out there. Wool will help pull moisture from your feet when they get wet. They will get wet.

Otherwise, prior to a race starting calm down and relax the week before. Get lots of sleep, 8 hours a night, and drink lots of water leading up to the race. My post on hydration details my plan pre-race.



Ok, the time is really here now! It’s day zero. You trained, you have the proper clothing, you are ready to go. Some tips to make the first race a little bit easier.

Arrive Early – give yourself at least two hours before your heat starts. I like to get there super early so I can A. relax, B. get my sense of the layout, c. Warm-up properly, D. not stress if there are lines at check-in. If you can check-in the night before, DO IT! This will make your morning way easier.


Often people ask me about if I need a team to race. I personally have never really raced as a team. One race I did with a friend for fun, but I personally am about running your own race. A team is great and you can do it together. It’s great to have the companionship on the course and can make your first experience less frightening, but it’s not needed.

If you can’t get over an obstacle, people will help you. Even though everyone is out to do their best obstacle racing is a community and we all help each other. Can’t get over that 8 or 10 foot wall someone will help you, have no fear. Competitors cheer each other on even in the competitive and elite heats. That being said each in those heats wants to win.

If you don’t have anyone to race with don’t let it deter you. You will make friends on course and afterwards when you are sharing war stories at the finish. I have gone to several races alone and met interesting people and made new friends at each race. For those singles, you might just meet your next significant other. I met mine at the Death Race in 2011. The obstacle racing world brings people together!


In the starting line before your first race, take a second and throw out all expectations of what the race should be. Instead, let the race be what it will be. Use to running a sub twenty minute 5k, guess what that first obstacle race of the same distance might take you an hour! Relax into the idea that this will be like nothing you have done before. Take a deep breath, smile and when the gun goes off just go with it. As my good friend Carrie told me, run your race!


You ran your race, you earned your medal. It’s a pretty awesome feeling and experience! Take the pictures, drink the beer (if you are into that), and enjoy the day. Get home and signup for another race. It’s addicting and you will catch the bug that is obstacle racing.

Get ready for the bruises to start to show a day or two later. Because they will come out. You may experience soreness you never knew existed, my answer Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) and Ice Baths! BCAA’s are like god in helping aid recovery, they are my secret weapon to getting back on the trails. Ice Baths are like torture at first but you will come to LOVE THEM!


Finally, if you are a female I highly suggest you join the Spartan Chicked Page on Facebook. I earned the role Team Manager for Life, but it is the brain child of Carrie Adams. Take the time, learn about how a group of us helped start a movement that over 3,000 women have joined. Learn how it all began because it’s pretty amazing…

Spartan Chicked, The Beginnings

Then male or female, go out and get one of your friends off the couch. Obstacle Racing got me from a former athlete still sort of fit but not in shape to the fittest I have been in my life. In spring of 2011, I thought a long run was anything over 2 miles on Saturday I will be running my second ultra marathon. Anyone can do what they put their mind to if you want it enough. Remember to keep it fun and have a good time, it’s only obstacle racing!


How I got to writing this post today. It’s been a journey and didn’t happen overnight. I took a lot of work and a lot of trial and error to get to sitting here today.

How Dirt In Your Skirt Got Started – My first blog post

How I Got Here – My Story





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