Brian Beal caught our attention during the Spartan Super in Atlanta this year with an insanely-quick and efficient completion of The Beater, and an impressive Age Group win. If you’re competing in Age Group heats with moves like that, you should have Elites in your sights, and Brian does.
Since coming onto the scene in 2017, he’s been performing strongly each year, climbing the ranks. Meanwhile, he maintains a full-time job as a truck driver, spends time with his wife, and helps raise his son. But even with all of that responsibility, he’s out there crushing the competition on the course.
We rode shotgun with the rising Age Grouper for more intel on how he trains around a truck driving schedule, why he’s so good at obstacles, and what it takes to make the jump from Age Group to Elite.
From Big Rig Runs to Spartan Podiums
SPARTAN: What got you into OCR?
BRIAN BEAL: My girlfriend was a runner, kickboxer, and was just active all of the time. One day she was like, "You want to go on a run?" I didn't realize that the run was going to be 2 or 3 miles, and I just about died. I was in shape, but I wasn't in "Let's go run for an hour" shape. From there, we signed up for a race in Asheville, jumped in the car, and went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to get me a pair of running underwear and some trail shoes. I did that Sprint competitively and probably had to do about 120 burpees, but since then I never looked back.
SPARTAN: That's so funny. How did you start training from there?
BB: Shit, I didn't even know what a Murph workout was, but she ended up getting me going on Murphs because I was a big lifter and was in the gym six days a week. But, eventually, I did more and more running. I was running 8-10 miles a week. Then, as soon as I stepped foot on a trail, I don't think I ever looked back honestly. It flourished into, "Oh, I can just run 20 or 30 miles."
SPARTAN: How do you follow a training schedule with a truck driving schedule?
BB: I won't lie, I train pretty freely. I don't train strictly, I set my numbers for the week and then I have seven days to get those numbers. Some days that means piling four runs in a row that will damn near kill you on the fifth day. Due to my job, I just have to get it in when I can. Normally, I drive five to six days a week and then run on four or five days if I can. I shoot for about 40 miles and about 5,000 feet of climbing in a week — it just depends on how many times I can get to the mountain.
SPARTAN: What are the most important parts of being obstacle proficient or prepared for the obstacles?
BB: I tell everybody that if you can do 10 strict pull-ups, then you can get through about any obstacle. I used to do gymnastics a long time ago when I was probably like 10, I've always been kind of good at playing around — swinging from bar to bar — and I really don't have a fear of heights, thanks to my BMX background. I don't have a fear of falling, that's for sure. As long as you've got the grip strength to hold yourself on obstacles (plus a little bit of technique), you can make it through about any of them.
SPARTAN: What do you work on to keep that grip strength strong?
BB: Normally it's 75 pull-ups and 100 push-ups a day, but there are days in the truck where I've definitely had to stop and do my runs on the side of the road and then grab a tree and do some pull-ups.
SPARTAN: You crushed the Beater in Atlanta. How do you do it so quickly?
BB: Honestly, I look at anything and just try to find the fastest way across it no matter what, but it's kind of like second nature. You could sling through slowly or sling through as fast as you can. I think I was doing the Monkey Bars the same way: Run, jump, and try to grab the fourth bar. Then, just go through one hand at a time.
SPARTAN: You’re trying to go up to Elites, right? What’s your plan?
BB: Yeah, I'm actually working my way backward. I like to run Ultras and above, like most of my trail races. Any Ultra I'll enter, that'll be Elite. Then, hopefully, I can get the leg speed and move down to the shorter races. I want to sit there and grind for hours and hours. In those 30-, 40-minute races, the Elites beat my ass. Some of them have leg speed that just makes me sick.
SPARTAN: What would be your advice to other Age Groupers that want to make it to the Elites? Do you think there's some kind of formula at all?
BB: You have to race clean all of the time — almost 99.9% of the time. There can't be, "Oh, I'm good at Olympus but if it's wet ..." No, you need to be able to climb on muddy, wet rope, climb a muddy Olympus — it has to be across the board. You can't go in thinking that you can fail at anything. I don't train burpees, because I refuse to say I'm going to fail anything ahead of time — ever.
SPARTAN: What should their training be like then?
BB: Playing on obstacles helps a lot. Then, I think right around 40 miles a week — four to five days of running a week — seems to be about the perfect amount if you're dedicated. For me, that's what it takes. Then, I climb about 5,000-6,000 feet in elevation. That’s when I feel like my races are coming together and everything is flowing well.
SPARTAN: How does nutrition fit in?
BB: Honestly, my wife makes me take so many vitamins because I am the worst eater. I actually have a gag reflex to certain foods. I can't eat fruits and I can't eat vegetables (or anything that I'm not already familiar with). I will instantly throw it back up, so I'll literally just supplement with a crap ton of vitamins. My diet is basically a lot of grilled chicken, bread, and pizza — that's about it. It's not the most healthy way to do it, but it’s what I’ve got to do.
SPARTAN: How do you recover or take care of your body?
BB: I used to be one of those runners who would be like, "Oh, I'm just going to start hot out of the gate," and just go. I quickly learned that I didn't know that when you sit for 10 hours in a truck and then you automatically get out and run, your legs are actually going to take more of a beating than if you were just up, walking around, and then went running. But, I’m also sort of forced to relax and recover while I'm sitting there for the next 10 hours some days. It almost keeps me from overtraining.
SPARTAN: What's your plan here in terms of your competitive aspirations? What's your next race and what's the next Elite race that you're going to do?
BB: Well, I am chasing the U.S. National Series title for my Age Group. But I’ve got a busy next two months with a lot of challenging races, so we’ll see how it all goes.
An Ideal Week of Training From Truck-Driving Age Group Winner Brian Beal
- Log 40 miles a week with climbs of about 5,000-6,000 feet in elevation gain.
- Perform 75 pull-ups and 100 push-ups a day
- Get on the monkey bars and/or other obstacles at a park a couple of times per week, if possible.
- Carry a bucket or sandbag for 1 mile, once per week.