By Brian PJ Cronin
On April 29, Cali Schweikhart of Cold Spring won the New Jersey Spartan Beast Race, a 13.5-mile course with 4,500 feet of elevation and more than 30 obstacles. On Saturday (May 19), the 2014 Haldane grad will compete in Big Bear Lake, California.
How did you get started running Spartan races?
I was recruited to play soccer at Boston University, but after a year I realized it wasn’t the right fit so I came home to figure out what I wanted to do next. A friend suggested I try a Spartan race, because I had always been interested in fitness.
This was your fourth time running the course. Did that give you an advantage?
I think so. It’s on a ski resort in Mount Vernon, so you have to be prepared for the elevations. It also helps that the trails here have loose rocks and uneven terrain. I live near Breakneck Ridge, which is the perfect place to train.
How do you train?
Originally I had just been trying to do minimal running and more weights and some circuit training. But to be competitive, you need to be a strong runner. You also need grip strength because of obstacles like the monkey bars and rigs. For the long mountain runs and power hiking, it’s about endurance.
How much of the course is power hiking?
Since I’ve been working on my running, I can probably run about 75 percent of the course. Of course, there was one climb that was 15 minutes straight up. No one was running that. Sometimes power hiking is more efficient, because you save energy. On the downhills, if you’re good with your feet, you can make up time.
What advice do you offer beginners?
Once you do a Spartan race, you’re going to know quickly whether you want to do another one. You’ll learn what your weaknesses are. See if you can find someone to do it with you. It’s one of the most supportive communities I’ve ever been in. Whatever your level, you’ll have a million friends.