By: Morgan Urtso
If you don’t already know, Alpha Warrior is one of the most technically challenging and intense obstacle races out there. The course itself is a maze of athletic tests, a true measure of strength and fitness. The athletes who run this course are in the upper echelon of obstacle racers.
It’s not a 5k, not a 10k, not a half marathon with some obstacles spread out over the length of the course. Alpha Warrior is under a half-mile in length and boasts a whopping 30 extremely challenging obstacles with a few yards thrown in between them.
ATLX sat down with the most recent winner (and actually, one of the designers of the course) of the Alpha Warrior showdown in San Diego, Brent Steffensen. Along with his girlfriend and co-competitor/winner, Kacy Catanzaro, he addressed the question on everyone’s mind… what does it take to be an Alpha Warrior?
I’ve heard it’s the most technically challenging race out there… is that true?
BRENT: Alpha Warrior is by far the most technically challenging live obstacle course race out there today. We spent over 21 months designing, engineering, and testing our obstacles before we made them available to the public. We wanted to make sure that they were not only as fun and challenging as possible, but also sturdy and safe. We’ve built our structures with heavy-duty steel and have custom built and patented the obstacles themselves. You won’t find these obstacles anywhere else.
What was the most difficult obstacle in the race? How did you approach it?
KACY: The battering rams. They’re towards the end of the course, so I’m a lot more tired when I reach them. Even the easiest obstacle turns into a bigger project when you’ve already done twenty obstacles before it. And they’re not a stationary obstacle because they’re hanging from chains, so they move when you come into contact with them, so this becomes a bit of a balance obstacle. Even if you’re in “go mode” and want to finish the course as fast as possible, you have to take a second and slow down. If you rush or try to race through this one, it will come back to bite you. I always slow down, take a breath, and re-focus before I attack this obstacle. Then, I just go for it!
BRENT: I’d say that this was the trickiest one for me. This one lets me know that I can’t just rely on strength to get through the course, but that technique is just as important, especially if you’re trying to get the fastest time. You can’t afford to let a failed obstacle slow you down. I really have to put in extra focus and attention when i’m on the Battering Rams, cause you will go down if you get sloppy and try to rush this one.
How did it feel to win it?
BRENT: It’s super rewarding to know that all the long hours of training and visualizing have gotten us the results that we were striving for. It’s the sense of self-accomplishment that really gets us feeling that high. I think that the need to conquer and achieve is in everyone, and with Alpha Warrior, you get that feeling over and over… or not (laughs). You either conquer that obstacle or you don’t, and you know one way or another immediately. You can use that to defeat you or you can use that as a reason to step up your game and come back stronger! It’s up to you.
Any helpful hints to stay motivated during an obstacle race?
KACY: Take one obstacle at a time. It can be very overwhelming to think about all of the obstacles at once. You have to be able to let it go and move on if something doesn’t go your way. Staying positive is a major part of being motivated throughout an obstacle course. Don’t be too hard on yourself or let anything hurt your confidence.
No matter what, be proud of what you are doing, and keep moving forward! Give yourself little compliments when you do something awesome, and use those good feelings to keep your positivity high for the next obstacle ahead.
BRENT: In order to do your best, you have to be in the present. Not only shouldn’t you be worrying about the mistake you made on your last obstacle, but this is also a great reason to set the rest of the worries in life aside and
focus on what’s right in front of you. I consider it a form of meditation (laughs).
One thing that I love about Alpha Warrior is that everyone is motivated by something different. You may be there to
challenge yourself against the course or you may be there to challenge others on the course. I’m there to do both, so if have someone in front of me my goal is to pass them and if I have someone behind me my goal is to leave them in the dust. I personally use those things as a little extra motivation to crank up my pace a notch.
When it comes to the point where your body is telling you it’s almost done but you still have more obstacles ahead, just take it one step at a time. You can usually always do one more but, if like Kacy said, you are thinking about how much more you have left, you can become easily overwhelmed.
How did you train for Alpha Warrior?
BRENT: Kacy and I train as a team. Our workouts consist mostly of functional body weight exercises broken down into circuits. As obstacle course racers, we want to be as strong and lean as possible. Our workouts aren’t designed to bulk us up. Any extra weight that isn’t useful and functional is just holding us back on the course.
We also need to have crazy endurance and to be able to recover lightning fast, so putting our exercises into circuits really pays off. We’ll push each set to the max and rest as little as possible in between. This conditions your body to increase strength and endurance over time as well as decrease the time that it takes for your body to recover. That’s exactly what you want on the course. You’ll be giving your all on each obstacle and you’ll need to recover as quickly as possible between each.
**Stay tuned if you’d like to know exactly what their workout program is. They’ll be launching it as the Alpha Warrior Workout very soon!**
Did you make any dietary or nutritional changes while training for Alpha Warrior?
BRENT: Your body’s performance is only as good as the quality of fuel that you consume, so Kacy and I have developed the habit of always eating a clean, natural diet. Aside from our very occasional cheat days of course! Our diet is similar to the Paleo. It consists of foods found in nature, unprocessed.
We’re huge on greens. We eat lots of salads with a variety of leafy greens and fresh vegetables, different types of meat and occasionally cheese. You won’t catch us using salad dressing. Instead we use lemon juice or even hot sauce. We eat nuts from time to time and lots of avocado. You’ve gotta get those healthy fats in. For the most part we avoid grains, especially those containing gluten. They’re harder to digest even though they do have good nutritional value.
We stay hydrated with alkaline water and love coconut water before and after a workout.
What’s your advice for people who want to be Alpha Warriors?
KACY: If you want to be an Alpha Warrior, come prove it! When people yell the slogan “PROVE IT!” it may sound a little intimidating, but anybody can be an Alpha Warrior if they truly put the time in. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not easy by any means, but I know there’s a spot for anyone who will give their all to be a part of the Alpha Warrior family.
You have to be determined. There will be a lot of things that will try to get in your way, but you can’t let that stop you. Obstacles besides the ones at the course, like time, work, junk food, laziness, doubt, negativity, injury, excuses, this list goes on and on. These things try to pull you down, but don’t let them. Ask yourself why it is that you want to be an Alpha Warrior, hold onto that reason, and make it happen.
Lifestyle is a big thing that can either make or break you when it comes to training for anything. Yes, you need to work out and be in shape, but you also need to think about what you put into your body. Being “in shape” is not just working out at the gym, it includes eating right and giving your body the rest it needs at night. Be good to your body and it will be good to you!
Most importantly, believe in yourself! You can make anything happen when you believe in yourself. Kick that doubt and negativity to the curb! When you think you are ready to be an Alpha Warrior, we’ll be waiting for you to come “prove it!”
BRENT: … I’d also add that if you come up short on an obstacle, don’t let that defeat you. Let that fuel a greater flame to train harder and come back and conquer it the next time. Sometimes things are more rewarding when you don’t achieve them at your first attempt.
What other obstacle races have you competed in?
BRENT: I’ve competed in American Ninja Warrior for the past few seasons and as of now I am the first and only American to conquer the Ultimate Cliff Hanger, making me the furthest American competitor to date.
I’ve also competed in a Spartan Sprint. It was a 5k, which was the longest I’d ever run at one time in my life till that day. I thought that I had come in second overall, but soon realized that I had entered into the “Open” division and not the “Elite!” (laughs). I still placed in the top 30 out of about 5,000.
I’ve also done a Rock Race in San Diego for fun.
Plans for future races?
KACY: I learn something new about myself every time I run through the course, so I want to keep learning and keep improving. The Alpha Warrior course challenges me to the extreme. I need to be training 5-6 days a week, eating healthy, and giving my body all the rest and rehab it may need. I also need to be mentally ready. This means visualizing myself doing the course and turning everyday things into obstacles that could help me train. Alpha Warrior always surprises me with the challenge and difficulty it puts my body through.
BRENT: My goal for future races is to keep shaving seconds and eventually minutes off of my time. Every time I run the course I learn how to move through the course faster and more efficiently. There will always be new obstacles on our course to conquer and learn from. I look forward to finding new ways to challenge myself and grow stronger as an Alpha Warrior!