As I headed into the woods, I knew that I was racing the sun. Wherever the terrain allowed running, I ran. When there were too many rocks and roots, or where it was too steep, I just kept going at whatever pace I could manage. As I went into a run again, one guy commented that I was running a good pace. I replied that I was racing the sun, and he said, “Good idea” and ran with me. It turns out that he had become separated from his team, and the girl in front of us had lost her team too (they had quit). So we decided to become a team for awhile.
We went through the woods, through streams, mud, over rocks and branches as usual. Then we had to go through another tube. Eventually we came across an obstacle where there were 2 cargo nets hung between trees, and of course there was a large group of people waiting to climb over the near one. The girl with us said to me, “Honey, I hate to tell you this, but your pants have split in the back.” So I took my long-sleeved shirt from my Camelbak and tied it around my waist hoping to cover my backside. Finally our turn came to climb the cargo net. Being scared of heights, it’s tough for me to go over the top, but I made it. The guy I was with somehow did a somersault over the top — not sure how, but he got points for style! When we got to the bottom it was our turn to hold the net until the next person came over to hold it. Then we went to the second cargo net and climbed over. I almost fell off at the top of that one, probably because I was freaked out again, but I caught myself in time. Then it was our turn to hold the net.
Somehow the guy and I lost the girl, so we started off again. I told him he didn’t have to stay with me, especially since I was old enough to be his mom. He laughed and said I was keeping a great pace and he was having a hard time keeping up with me. We made it to a hydration station and filled up our Camelbaks. Then there was another obstacle — pick up a concrete cylinder, carry it across to the flag, do 5 burpees, carry it back to the starting point, and put it down. Easy enough. We ran a little farther and found a looooong muddy barbed wire crawl. The mud was about a foot deep in places. It as hard to get in there, as people seemed to be moving slowly. The young guy found a good place to go in and made it to the top pretty quickly. I somehow found a way through and passed quite a few people. The secret is to keep low, keep moving, and forget about being covered in mud, even though it smelled like poo. It might be poo but I didn’t want to know.
The young guy spotted one of his friends in the mud pit, so I told him feel free to hang with his friend and I was going to go ahead. I ran about 400 m, around a turn, and there was another obstacle. Take a bucket, fill it yourself with gravel to the white line, carry it up the hill and back down without spilling it. Unfortunately, I was about done with lifting and had a hard time getting up the hill. One guy said to me, “You can do it. Small steps. Take a few, rest, take a few, rest. You can make it.” I made it to the top, but then I had to make it down. I’d already had problems on the downhill in grassy areas with slipping, so I decided to drag the bucket. Unfortunately, I spilled it. People around me groaned, and I scooped up the gravel back into the bucket. I spent far too long on that obstacle — should have dumped the bucket, done the burpees, and moved on. Finally I gave the bucket to the volunteer and ran around the “corner” and up a hill. I met a couple of people from Indiana who are in a group Midwest Vikings who travel around the country doing races. Cool!
Somewhere along the way was mile 10 and the pond again at an obstacle called Tyrolean Traverse. You had to shimmy along a rope, ring a bell, and drop into the water. A volunteer said that those who wanted to do burpees instead should cross the timer mat then do burpees. I opted for burpees.
We headed back into the woods, and now it’s apparent that we’re losing daylight. Some people pulled out glow sticks. I could still see pretty well, but it was getting darker and darker. We reached a clearing and I couldn’t see the sun anymore — it was pretty dim. I was running with a guy named Giuseppe from Massachusetts who also lost his team and didn’t have a headlamp. Some people had put on their headlamps and pulled out their glow sticks. Giuseppe and I kept leap-frogging from headlamp to headlamp as we went through the woods. Both of us said we just wanted to finish and not be pulled off the course for lack of illumination.
We came to a high wall obstacle where a volunteer told everyone who had headlamps and glow sticks to pull them out, or if you didn’t have those stay with someone who did to avoid being pulled from the course. Giuseppe and I continued to leapfrog from headlamp to headlamp just trying to keep going. Some people offered to “babysit” us but we thanked them and kept on the move. The goal was just to get to the finish.
There seemed to be a bottleneck heading down into the woods. No one knew why, but everyone seemed to be in a slow-moving single file down, down, down. There were a lot of rocks and roots, so those with headlamps tried to illuminate the ground for those without. There was a group of 4-5 guys in front of us who started talking about food. We all wondered if there would be anything left at the finish, or if there would be medals, or if there would still be spectators. Probably not. No one expected to be out this long! A couple of guys said that this year’s Beast was much harder than last year’s, and everyone joked that Beast made Tough Mudder look like a kiddie race.
Then one of the guys in front of me handed me his headlamp and told me to take it and help the guys behind me. So Giuseppe and I with 2 other guys became a team. I’m pretty sure I was old enough to be the mother of each of them, so as mom I held onto the headlamp. I thanked the guy profusely, and he said no problem as each of his buddies had a headlamp so he didn’t need his.
You cannot imagine how overwhelmed I was by this act of kindness.
The four of us headed down a hill, and we heard someone cry out. We went over to the guy, and he had stepped in a deep hole as he didn’t have a headlamp to see it. We helped him out (he was OK) and called out to the people behind us that there was a hole and stayed until the next person with a headlamp could show it to others. We kept going down the hill, and we could see the finish area below us. This opened up the discussion about hamburgers again. Yet we saw a long line of people heading back up the hill. Another sandbag carry. One of the guys offered to carry my sandbag since I had the headlamp, and I told him I appreciated it but I could take the sandbag. It was only 25 lbs for women anyway.
It seemed like we were going up that hill FOREVER. Someone told us later that the last sandbag carry was 3/4 mile. Finally we got to the bottom, and a volunteer told us there were only 3 more obstacles and we’d be DONE! Another great volunteer told everyone great job and high-fived everyone who came by.
The guys and I headed around a corner and saw a group of maybe 10 spectators. They cheered for us and we cheered for them. I went by and heard someone calling my name. My husband was in that group of spectators, and I said hi and waved and kept going. (Later he asked why I had kept going and I told him that our focus for so long was to finish so there was no thought of stopping).
We came to another short muddy barbed-wire crawl, and a volunteer told us there was less mud on the right side. I went to the right side and crawled through but got my Camelbak stuck on the last wire. One of the guys helped me get it untangled. Then we had to go over the slipper wall. The guy said, “We’re doing this together.” I heard my friends calling my name but didn’t respond — I was focused on the obstacle. We both grabbed a knotted rope and he said, “Pull, pull,” as we pulled hand over hand over the wall. We slid down the other side and there was the fire pit. Giuseppe ran and jumped over. The 2 other guys said, “Let’s do this together.” They headed forward, but I got scared and went back. I got up my courage and went for it. The 3 guys were on the other side waiting. We high-fived and headed for the finish line. My friends were calling my name, and I raised my arms in the air and started yelling, “YEAH YEAH YEAH!” as loudly as I could. Spectators started cheering back. The 3 guys and I crossed the finish mat. A really hot muscle-bound guy gave us our finisher medals.
My husband came over to give me a big hug, mud and disgustingness and all. He said, “You are the toughest person I know, I’m so proud of you.” And the 3 guys said, “Yeah, she was tough and great!” We all congratulated each other again, I got another hug from my husband, and my friends came over. I didn’t hug them because I didn’t want them to get all dirty. I grabbed a banana and we went to the T-shirt tent so I could get a T-shirt.
My husband and friends asked where I had gotten the headlamp, and I told them of the wonderfully selfless guy who had given it to us. I don’t know who that guy is, but I will be forever grateful to him for helping 4 other people be able to finish this amazing event.
My body must have known that the time to fight and be strong was over, as I started shaking with emotion and cold while my husband and friends told me that after I showered we could go to dinner. They had 9:30 reservations, and I said that sounded great as I needed something to eat. During the race, I had only had 2 pouches of baby food, 2 Larabars, and a bunch of Saltstick pills. Actually, I hadn’t had anything but water in several hours, and I had no idea how long.
It took 3 washcloths and a lot of scrubbing to get the worst of the dirt and mud off. I couldn’t get it out of my fingernails and toenails. All my clothes (including shoes) went straight into the garbage. We had a great dinner together, and then I couldn’t sleep because I kept replaying the events of the day in my mind and because I was so sore. Deep muscle soreness was coupled with surface soreness from scratches and bruises.
I ended up finishing this event in 10:08:44. It took 6 hours to get to the 7 mile mark, and just over 4 hours to finish the last 7.7 miles (my friend told me that apparently the course was 14.7 miles long — I don’t know if it was true, but regardless of whether it was 13.1 or 14.7, I still negative-split the course).
The next day (Sunday) my body was so sore I could barely move. Monday it was sore but considerably better. Tuesday I went for a 5 mile easy run, and it felt good. My body was so bruised and scratched up that I looked like someone beat me.
There were 4 of us from work who attempted the Spartan Beast, 2 with spouses on the course as well. My friend and her husband who were on my team dropped out. I finished. My other friend was pulled from the course at mile 10. He had a headlamp and was guiding 6 people without a lamp. They missed a cutoff point by 2 minutes and were not allowed to continue. Another coworker and her husband finished the event on Sunday in just over 9 hours. I’m at least 10 years older than any of my coworkers who attempted the Beast.
I’ll be back next year, better prepared and determined to dominate the course to the best of my ability.
I’m a blur jumping over fire!