Straight Outta San Diego: #RoadToTahoe

By: Steffen Cook

Spartan SGX Coach Mike Payne of San Diego, California is a man on a mission.

Using a range of different techniques, he is ripping his clients away from their desk chairs and sculpting them into Spartan racers. However, Mike is not content with mere participation; he wants his team to aim high.

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“Over the course of 2015 we have had more than 30 racers, with well over 100 total races under our belts,” Payne said. “By the time Temecula is done, we will have had 16 Trifectas completed, about seven double Trifectas, and about five triple Trifectas by the end of the year. My group now runs the open wave, but we aim to run in the Elite wave in 2016 as our placing continues to stay high. Three of us have come first in their age groups and another handful have consistently finished in the top 10 of their age group in every race.”

Mike Payne makes it clear that he strives to push his team just a little bit harder and that will be crystal clear when you glance toward the World Championship in Lake Tahoe and see his team fully prepared to tackle what will arguably be the toughest race of the year. However, Payne is looking beyond the finish line; he is reaching for more.

“This is a challenge to see where we stack up against the best in the Spartan Race community from all over the US and the world,” Payne explained. “No fears except the one of not being disciplined enough in our training. We all believe we can go out there and win this race and then some, even though the altitude is more than we’ve ever faced.”

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Mike Payne’s approach mixes up a variety of training styles and ensures that his racers stick to their training and are always working on a different aspect of their game. In fact, Payne will take his team to the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California over a couple of weekends to help get them acclimated to the high elevations.

“I took them somewhere scenic and equipped for a challenging 75 minute non-stop boot camp. One of our scenic favorites is Balboa Park, which is home to the zoo, museums, theater, restaurants and a beautiful organ pavilion,” Payne said. “Another favorite for training is Presidio Park in Central San Diego. South Mission Beach gets us working in the soft sand with the Pacific Ocean as a beautiful backdrop. As we prepare for race day, I take them to Tecolote Canyon.”

Payne’s varied training venues mirror his constantly changing training style, which he believes makes for a more well-rounded racer.

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“The Mixed Interval Training that I implement takes a bit from all worlds of fitness and exercise,” he explained. “Circuit training, HIIT, Tabata training, AMRAP, Crossfit, WODs, bootcamp, heavy ruck training, and traditional strength training set the foundation, and then I add my own ‘Payne Trains’ style.”

Mike Payne comes from an office setting himself and he understands the frustrations of those that feel like they are confined to a desk. Firmly believing that life should be for living, Mike encourages people in corporate San Diego to leave their offices and get primal again. Having made this move himself, he is keen to share what he has learned with others.

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“About 75% of my team works in corporate San Diego in the tech and mechanical engineering world,” he said. “My initial connection with many of them came from training and teaching group fitness classes at their businesses. Two years ago, I took a leap of faith to leave that world of training to pursue a mixed interval training style at a private studio that was effective for obstacle race training.”

Nike Payne also has established a faithful following to keep him and his training methods sharp. “I feel very blessed that many my regulars have followed me to the studio and caught the obstacle racing bug. I think they have something to train for now, and they always enjoy the challenging workout; but now, the workout aims toward a bigger reward: doing a Spartan Race.”

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Mike Payne has never advertised his business and training, and it is a testament to the strength of his community that the team continues to grow by word of mouth. His team is set to tackle Tahoe with focused determination.

“My group considers the people in my studio their ‘fit-family.’ So as time has gone on, my group has grown because of that family atmosphere,” Payne said. “People from all different areas of San Diego have come together as we have a supportive, social media-driven group that keeps us all training together and beyond.”

Payne also touched on the impact of Spartan-specific training preparation and coaching methods have on his life. “What Spartan SGX training has brought is that intrigue of the unknown,” he said. “Having to run fast, but be strong. To be mentally strong and confident is a big part of it. The successes that they have had at their respective careers and life makes this intriguing for them.”

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This drive to reach further is reflected in the mindset of his team members. Rae Ann LoCicero makes it very clear about where she wants to be heading. “Ultimately, I would like to win the World Championship for my age division and place in a Masters Elite Spartan Race,” she said. “Mike excels at shaping his workouts to meet our fitness goals, keep us challenged and stay motivated.”

The whole team is focused in its objective. They have their fears and concerns, but Tahoe will be conquered.

“Each and every one of us has a nagging this or a weak that,” Payne admits. “For some, it may be more attention to stretching and rest. For others, it has been to strengthen the glutes and core. Others focus on grip strength. We are all getting pretty dialed in now with what time we have left until race day, with a little practice in Temecula the week before.”

With such fervent determination running through Mike’s group, it is easy to see how they might win.

See you in Tahoe.