Since Tyler Hughes from Max Ordinate Academy (my partner for SAC) brought it up on our podcast I figured I would go into some detail about preparing for the 2021 Sniper Adventure Challenge. Hopefully I can explain how I prepare each year for the Sniper Adventure Challenge, and that will help you get ready for next year.
Related Links about the Sniper Adventure Challenge
- 2020 Sniper Adventure Challenge (after action report)
- 2019 Sniper Adventure Challenge Gear Review
- 2019 Sniper Adventure Challenge (after action report)
- Competition-Dynamics puts on the Sniper Adventure Challenge (this year was the 10th anniversary of the race)
- Max Ordinate (Tyler Hughes) did a podcast about this years race you can listen here
I have been competing in the Sniper Adventure Challenge since 2016 and even in years I take off, I maintain a base level of fitness which I think is very important. I don’t think this has to be anything specific, but you should have a good solid physical condition before you start any of the other training.
My physical training base consists primarily of MRT training with some mixed weight lifting and cross training thrown into the mix.
MRT stands for Metabolic Resistance Training which I have been doing for around 8 years. I have been working this entire time with one trainer in Boulder, CO named Jessica Reiss from Stingray Studios. Jessica is a multiple Ironman competitor, and does other triathlons as well as plays competitive volleyball. She also teaches on Zoom as well as the in-person classes – so if you join up on M-W-F, I might run into you on Zoom :-). You can reach her via Instagram at StingrayStudios94 [ Stingraystudios94 (@stingraystudios94) • Instagram photos and videos ]. During the summertime we often train outside, but recently have moved back inside to B-Fit Studio to access all the extras indoor facilities can offer. Music plays a role in keeping people motivated during a workout and Jessica has interesting an eclectic tastes – so I am often working out to Goth, Techo or International music which somehow always seems to work out though my person choice would typically be Classic Rock :-).
MRT’s core concept is interval training with very short duration of rest between full body based exercises. Sometimes they are body weight only, others with weights. High cardio output is also a feature of MRT like .3 mile full output biking sprints on a stationary bike, or wood chopper exercises with weights.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), Tabata (a specific type of HIIT), TRX, Cycling and ladder based exercises (additive) are often worked into our weekly workouts as a part of our MRT training.
Before 2020 I was working through a 5 by 5 works popularized by early Arnold Schwarzenegger which focuses on building strength (not just mass) by doing 5 basic full body exercises with weight. Deadlift, Squats, Overhead Press, Benchpress and Barbell rows are the 5 exercises incorporated. You do 5 reps of 5 sets of each (except deadlift) weight, and when you can, you increase the weight by 5lbs until you can’t complete 5 reps of 5 sets. This increases the weight dramatically over a relatively short time and builds core as well as overall body strength. In 2021 I wanted to drop weight so I stopped including this strength training routine, and also because of Covid-19 I had less access to a weight room.
10th Anniversary 48 hours race specific prep
I didn’t do anything special for the additional 12 hours that we had racing in 2021. Tyler tried to adjust his sleep pattern to be more night awake shortly before the match (week leading up to the match). I was worried about the additional distance we might have (60 miles vs 40 miles), but not too focused on the additional awake time.
I felt really well prepared for the event, so I think I would train the same way if we continue to have a 48 hour race in the future.
I like to do a lot of different physical activities and I think it is very important to cross train so that your body can handle the unexpected well. For cross training, I mountain bike [ Betasso Preserve – Boulder County ], play drop-in volleyball, play drop-in basketball, and do a variety of random events (like 10k runs or Marathons).
I add Yoga and stretching as another factor of Cross Training. It is vitally important to keep muscle flexibility to do well at the Sniper Adventure Challenge.
Sniper Adventure Challenge specific prep
One type of physical activity that has been included in the last few years at the Sniper Adventure challenge is Rock Climbing. I have been adding this to my routine to try to improve my skills in climbing, which also serves as another form of cross training. I usually climb indoor at Movement climbing center in Boulder, or outdoors at Eldorado Canyon.
This year as I mentioned I decreased my weight lifting, but added substantial running. I joined up with the Boulder Trail Runners Google Group, and have been doing a night trail run every Tuesday night. I have been consistently doing these weekly runs and feel like they helped a great deal. We typically run around 8 miles and for around 90 minutes. The pace is considered slow, or at least I am not interested in trying to run fast. I found running at a slower pace for a longer time make running much more enjoyable for me. The Tuesday night run is “nobody left behind” and “at a conversational pace” meaning you can talk while you run. I think this helps a lot with low intensity Cardio training (which is more similar to the SAC), and also helps with foot strength and toughness conditioning.
Another training item specific to preparing for the 2021 Sniper Adventure Challenge is I increased the frequency of training hikes I do. Typically in a normal SAC prep year I would try to get (1) training hike in per week with around 8-15 mile distance. I always do these hike with as much of the actual gear I am going to compete with as possible. If I am hiking outside Boulder (National Forest or National Parks) I carry all my firearms and other gear. If I am hiking inside Boulder where firearms are prohibited on the trails, I leave them at home and try to carry something else for ballast. This year, instead of (1) hike per week, I started once the snow was gone with (1) hike a week, and increased to (2) hikes a week. Once summertime hit, I tried to do back to back hikes on the weekend – so Saturday 15mile hike, followed by a 10-12 mile hike on Sunday.
Foot prep is a pretty big aspect of preparing for the 2021 Sniper Adventure Challenge. I break them down in my mind into 2 categories, Strength and Toughness. I include ankle and lower leg in the category of feet – so Achilles tendon is in my mind a part of your foot.
Foot Strength is like muscle strength – but specific to your feet. Unlike biceps or chest, it is pretty hard to specifically work your feet muscles. Walking and running barefoot or with minimalist shoes is a good way to strengthen your feet and the supporting areas around your joints (small muscles, tendons and ligaments). Working on unbalanced exercises like single leg deadlifts on a bosu ball is another way to help strengthen muscles that will help avoid sprained ankles if you step on a loose rock at night time descending a slope during the Sniper Adventure Challenge.
I have been wearing zero drop shoes for at least 5 years now, and I typically workout during MRT in minimalist zero drop but tighter shoes because of all the lateral movement involved. Zero drop shoes will focus a lot more energy on your Achilles tendon, so until you get used to them, your archilles may be uncomfortable. Get used to zero drop gradually to avoid inflammation which will cause training downtime.
In my training hikes even though I have been wearing zero drop shoes for years in daily life I find at around 12 miles I start having discomfort in my archilles tendon so I switched to using shoes with a 5mm lift knowing I am hiking so far. This type of information is one of the major benefits of doing longer training hikes.
MRT, Cross Fit, HIIT, Tabata – any cardio style exercise that places an emphasis on agility and quick movement should also help build foot strength.
Here I am referring to your feet’s ability to withstand pain, resist blistering and endure the long time hiking with a load (your pack). Some of the prep I did in preparing for the 2021 Sniper Adventure Challenge was to use Compound Tincture of Benzoin (Friar’s Balsam) to help toughen the skin of of the soles of my feet. I clean my feet with alcohol first, then apply the Benzoin, let it dry, then add foot powder (since its sticky otherwise) then go to bed. I did this for 5-6 months before the match, but after several days of this, I would work in a couple of days of Aquaphor after a shower before bed. The goal with my feet is like a nice leather jacket – tough but supple skin, not cracked and dry.
Pedicures are also a good idea. You want to manage your foot callus to retain some callus, but not have them be so thick that if you get a blister under them, you can’t penetrate the callus to drain the blister.
Both Tyler and I tape our feet for the match using Leukotape which is very durable, but thin and forms to the foot well. Taping your feet is sort of an art form, so practice before the match if you plan to tape yours.
I added walking and short runs barefoot for the 2021 season, I mostly did my barefoot work on the high school outdoor track which provided a rough but springy surface, and with the added benefit it didn’t have lots of stones or other debris to avoid.
One of the best references I can make that both Tyler and I use is the “Fixing your Feet” book by Jon Vonhof. It is focused mostly on Ultrarunners but the information is very useful for endurance hikers (which is what you are if you compete in the SAC).
The other book I recommend is “The Lazy Man’s Guide to [ultra]Marathon Running” which I read this year, by Prof Sky Pelletier Waterpeace.
Both of these books are chock full of information that helped me tremendously in preparing for the 2021 Sniper Adventure Challenge.
Feature Photo by Alex Klein @ Attack Pak (Thanks Alex!)