Mile 31: Event Day Experience – My First Spartan Beast

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7:35:53. That is how long it took us to complete our first Spartan Beast. Now I know why they call it a “beast.” I’ll get into more details about the race, but first let me explain my overall opinion and feelings towards this race. This was the hardest challenge I’ve completed in my life. There were points when I thought, “Why am I here? Why did I decide to do this race? Can I keep going?” Those questions constantly ran through my mind during all the uphills, downhills and obstacles. This race challenged me physically, mentally and emotionally. It broke me down, and I had to build myself back up again. I just kept going. One step at a time, one carry at a time, one mile at a time. I wanted to get to that finish line for me, the team and for you (because I really didn’t want to write about not finishing). After finally crossing the finish line I felt the power of accomplishment. Receiving that medal was the proudest moment of my life. I’ve accomplished some big things over the years, but I’ve never worked so hard to get through something like this. I hope one day you can feel the same level of accomplishment, whether it’s through running or anything else in life.

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The team at the top of one of the race’s highest points.  Photo courtesy of Keith.

The Course

The Spartan Beast was roughly 15 miles and 34 obstacles through a ski resort. I never keep count of exactly how many obstacles we went through, but the course map said 34, so we’ll go with that. For the most part we were in the woods and traveling through some very narrow and treacherous trails. We hiked single-file through most of these parts. Once we got to open areas, we were able to spread out and do some running. We decided to live dangerously and do some running on the decline part of the mountains. We had to be careful doing this because one small mistake could have landed any one of us in the hospital. There were rocks and trees everywhere, making it pretty easy for someone to trip, twist an ankle or break a bone. Since none of us wanted any of those thing to happen, we carefully made our way through the entire course while warning one another and fellow racers of loose rocks or trees. It helped, unless you were the person in front! The course had a lot, and I mean a lot, of steep inclines. Some were easier than others, but the majority of them took a lot of energy to overcome. In my opinion, the course itself was harder than any of the obstacles on the course. However, it made the obstacles feel more challenging than usual because we had no energy. Those steep inclines will cause sore calves, feet and knees for days (trust me, I know from experience).

I have to give a lot of credit to Ange, Mike and Keith for their hiking abilities. They each were impressive with their strength in this regard. We all stuck together, but they were always ahead of me; I really struggled with the steep inclines. At one point Keith was nervous I wasn’t going to finish. I told him I was pretty nervous for myself too. Obviously, I wasn’t ready for this type of course. I kept moving at a slower pace than they did, but eventually I met up with them at the top of an incline or a stopping point before an obstacle.

The highlight of the course, if that’s what you want to call it, was between miles eight and nine. This was referred to as the “death mile.” After coming down the mountain and completing the Bucket Brigade, we had to go back up the mountain again. This was the steepest part of the whole course. It was also the hardest for me. This is where I really learned a lot about myself and my abilities. Yes, it was tough and grueling, but this experience made it all worth it. I heard someone at one point say, “it’s amazing what you can put your body through and what it will endure.” He was definitely right, because I think a lot of us pushed ourselves too far. Nonetheless, each of our bodies held up, and we will now be paying for it for the next few days.

There was a lot of mud on this course. I almost “pulled a Sam” and lost my shoe a few times. I’m not really a fan of mud, but the highest the mud ever got was up to my ankles. I did fall once, which caused me to get muddy, but I was able to wash that off during one of the stream crossings. The mud was full of small rocks, and this was easily the worst part. Normally most mud is smooth, but this mud filled my shoes with stones and pebbles, making running pretty difficult at times. I constantly had to stop to clear my shoes out. After looking at the photos, it appears Sunday was even muddier than Saturday. So if you ran on Sunday, you were in for a real treat!

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Course map from www.spartan.com

The Obstacles

I completed 30/34 obstacles. I skipped three: Rope Climb, Sandbag Carry and The Dunk Wall; I failed one: the Spartan Rig. We all know I’m terrible at the Rope Climb, so that’s a given skip every time. The Sandbag Carry was at Mile 12, and I was in bad shape. I felt like I could have done the Sand Bag Carry, but then I might not have finished the race. I played it smart, and it paid off. Since The Dunk Wall was the last obstacle, and I was completely dry with very little mud on me, I bypassed this one. It made post-race cleaning efforts a lot easier too. Remember, it’s OK to skip an obstacle if it’s not something you feel comfortable with. Most of us aren’t being sponsored or winning any money for our efforts. I just go out there and do the best that I can do, and I’m my own judge.

There were some obstacles I’ve never encountered before at this race. It’s pretty much a given that the Beast will have all the obstacles that Spartan has to offer. They also had all the obstacles from the previous Spartan Sprints I’ve attended. Those obstacles included: Hurdles, Barbed Wire Crawl (twice!), Walls, Rope Climb, Tyrolean, Slip Wall, Traverse Wall, Over-Under-Through Inverted Wall, Sandbag Carry, Spear Throw, Monkey Bars, Hercules Hoist, A-Frame Cargo, Dunk Wall and Fire Jump. Each one presented some new challenges, but the obstacles were pretty much laid out the same. The Bucket Brigade was difficult as always, but I moved a lot faster compared to the Sprint. The Barbed Wire Crawl was uphill the first time, which proved to be a little tricky since rolling wasn’t really an option. Along this part of the race, the course attendants has scattered candy. That’s right, candy! I wasn’t able to pick any up, but Keith took full advantage of a Midnight Milky Way.

During this race, I finally completed the Traverse Wall! Hopefully I can do it again in the Super. I missed on my first attempt at the Spear Throw, but got it on my second attempt. We aren’t supposed to take more than one try, but no one was looking, so I did it again.

The obstacles that were new to me included Log Carry, Memorization, Multi-Rig, Farmer’s Carry, Spartan Sled (twice!) and Atlas Carry. For the Log Carry we had to carry a tree log up an incline and back down to the beginning. It wasn’t very far, but it proved to be challenging. I failed the Multi-Rig. My feet hit the ground as soon as I tried crossing it. Farmer’s Carry was a double log carry, but I thought both logs were lighter than the one I carried earlier. Keith begged to differ! I guess he picked the heavier ones. We all struggled on the Spartan Sled. It was a metal sled with two sandbags in it. I couldn’t move my sled even an inch. We all helped each other with this one! Then we had to do it again a couple miles later. Ugh!

One of the obstacles I was most looking forward to was the Atlas Carry. It was a cement ball that weighed roughly 100 lbs that we had to pick up and carry about 15-20 feet. Then we had to complete five burpees and bring it back to the start. All of us completed this!

I’d never heard of the Memorization obstacle before. Between mile two and three we had to memorize a code based off of our last two digit bib number. My bib number was 2017 so I had to memorize code #17. My code was Romeo 213 1089. Around mile 10 we were quizzed on it to see if we could remember it. I guess we all have pretty good memories, because we all passed this one too.

I enjoyed every obstacle at this race. Some were easier than others, but all of them were fun. Obstacles are what make or break the race for me, and Spartan has some of the best ones!

Biggest Surprise

A surprisingly large number of people took the risk and didn’t bring a headlamp or glow stick. The rules clearly stated that if you were on the course past 3:00pm you would need a headlamp and glow stick. There were people in our heat (1:15pm) that didn’t bring one. I guess they thought they would finish before they started checking. We had to help a few people out at certain checkpoints by saying they were “with our group.” Everyone was grateful, and they should be, because we kept them from getting a DNF. There were a number of people who weren’t so lucky with this and ended up being removed from the course. I couldn’t imagine being sent home just because I didn’t have headlamp or glow stick. Tough lesson to learn I suppose.  

Biggest Disappointment

I hardly ever feel any disappointment on race day, however there was one major disappointment on Saturday. People littered the entire course with their mustard packets, gels, protein bar wrappers, etc. It was absolutely disgusting! If you had a bag to carry it all in, then you had a bag to carry all your trash out. This seemed to upset a lot of people. Some people even called others out on it too. Good for them, because if we don’t treat the course with respect there is a chance we might not be allowed back the next time. So if you ever run with a bag full of goodies, please bring your trash with you when you leave!

Overall Assessment

This race was unbelievable! Honestly, I still cannot believe I finished it. As much pain as I was in (and am still), it was all worth it. I doubt I’ll ever attempt a Spartan Beast again, but at least I can say I completed one. Even before I attempted this race I said it would be one and done whether I finished or not. I would definitely recommend attempting one. If you enjoy hiking, this race is right up your alley. You may want to be in a little better shape than me though, because this race only gets harder. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll remember forever. I could also be in pain forever too!

SWAG

The Spartan SWAG was awesome! We got our finisher medals and t-shirt. I’ll proudly be displaying both for a long time. I also liked that they gave us a headband with our number on it. It helped keep the race litter down (no bibs), and it is a nice keepsake we can wear or put on display. I have a plan for my headbands for the Beast, Super and Sprint…stayed tuned.    

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Spartan Beast Swag (patch not included)

Side Notes

I decided to make a last minute change for the bag I planned to bring with me during the race. Instead of a drawstring bag I decided to buy a Quest 2L Hydration Pack. Keith convinced me to buy it, and I’m glad he did. This bag held everything I needed. I removed the 2L water bladder and instead brought a 1L water bottle and a Gatorade. Both helped immensely! We also each bought foil warming blankets. They were never used since it never got extremely cold, but after our experience at the Tough Mudder we wanted to over-prepare.

Registration was easy. I brought my waiver with me and handed them my paperwork and photo ID. Spartan always moves quickly with this.

We opted to park about 5 minutes from the ski resort and take the shuttle in. We didn’t have to wait long going either way. I know on the way back we appreciated a warm bus and a quick ride!

The bag check wasn’t great. They clearly did not have enough room for all the bags. Since we were running a later wave, our bags were piled on top of everyone else’s. When we went to get our bags after the race they were covered in mud from being thrown around and left on the ground. It was disappointing. They had better security though because we had to pick up our bag and have a Spartan volunteer check the number on the bag with our wristband.  Kudos to them for that!

The post race rinse off was cold but not crowded, and they had it on stone instead of grass or mud. It’s always hard to rinse yourself off while standing in mud. Since none of us were covered in a lot of mud we didn’t spend a lot of time here.

Throughout the day they had awesome music playing at the start/finish area. Also it looks like they had some good food cooking too. Too bad we didn’t have to time to get to enjoy any of that.

Oh yeah, I completely forgot to mention that there were people running with us that were completing the Ultra Beast. They had to complete two laps in order to achieve this. I can’t imagine what that felt like. I was so exhausted after the first lap! Congratulations to those that completed the Ultra Beast. That is one race I know I’d never be able to accomplish.

In the next mile I’ll cover my race day prep for the Savage Race!

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