Last year I did the Spartan Super event in New Jersey which ended up being 11 miles of fun, laughing, and doing obstacles with friends. It took us about 5 hours to complete because we were staying together as a team. It was a ton of fun, and I raved about the event. So much that my husband got for my birthday an entry for me to Spartan Beast in Vermont for 2013!
SPARTAN BEAST: The ultimate Spartan’s Race Distance
13+ MILES / 25+ OBSTACLES – An obstacle Race from Hell. If you have done any race anywhere in the world: whether a mud run, fun run, Olympic run, bike race, death march or any kind of event claiming to be the “toughest race on the planet” you will be happy to know that this is where it ends..THIS IS THE SPARTAN BEAST… Step up and get out of your comfort zone on our +16k beast of an obstacle course race; many will arrive, but few will leave!
My friend and her husband signed up for the race too, also about a year in advance. We all thought, yeah, whatever, we finished the Super which was 11 miles in 5 hours, so we should be done in 6-7 hours, or at least 6-8 as the website claims.
I was training for a marathon leading into this event, so my main focus was on road-running though I was still going to the gym (functional fitness type workouts) and weightlifting on my own. And my main dilemma was that the Beast was the same weekend as my last 20-mile run was supposed to be. So I ran 18 the week before and hoped the Beast would suffice for my last big endurance event.
My husband and I headed up to Vermont, and our hotel was right by the start/finish area so we were able to see some of the course the day before the race. I was a bit freaked out by a couple of the water obstacles — swim across the pond, climb a rope or ladder up to the bridge, grab some ropes and swing across to ring a bell…yeah, right! Then there was the Tyrolean Traverse which is a rope across the pond — you shimmy across the rope and ring a bell and drop into the water. Yeah, right, failed that one last year!
We had a nice dinner, and the restaurant at our hotel had a special drink — the Spartini! It was green and melon-flavored.
For some reason I fell asleep before 8 pm and got up at 6:30 am to get ready for the Beast! I wore old capris, an old sports bra and tank, old socks, old shoes, an old long-sleeve shirt, and an old knit hat because it was chilly outside. I ate like a champ — 3 scrambled eggs, 2 slices of bacon, and a large baked sweet potato. We headed out to the registration area to meet my friends and pick up race bib and timing chip. In the race packet we received a Spartan headband with our race number on it — cool!
We had awhile before our heat started at 10:30, and we were fortunate enough to see the elite racers come through. WOW. Talk about fine specimens of masculine fitness! These guys did the rope climb like it was nothing, flipped their feet up to tap the bell at the top, shimmied down into the dirty water, and headed to the next obstacle. Yay, eye candy for the ladies!
To get into the start corral you had to climb over a 5 foot wall. The DJ played music and got us all pumped up, and we were off! And up. The first obstacles were over-unders — over a wall or hay bales, under a wall, etc. We kept going up. And up. The mountain was pretty steep and as we passed the 1 mile marker we were still going up. And just when you thought you were at the top there was a left turn and more up! People were calling for a medic, and we called down as well. The girl who needed it had an asthma attack and may have hurt her leg, not sure, but it was hard to watch as she was sobbing hysterically. Her friends and a couple of other people were trying to calm her down until the medic arrived.
I’m not sure of the order of the obstacles, but we did some wall climbs, monkey bars (which I fell off and had to do the 30 burpees penalty), a tire drag, pulling a concrete block on a rope and letting it down without slamming on the ground. We went back down the hill through woods — lots of mud, rocks, roots, and at some points you had to go on your butt to keep from wiping out) and at mile 4 we were each given a big sandbag that was supposed to be 50-70 lbs, though I saw some that were much lighter. Unfortunately, the volunteer threw me a bag inside another bag. It had to be 70 lbs, was very unwieldy, and I ended up dragging it up the hill like a body bag. One really nice guy helped me carry it — he said mine was heavier than his was! We got to the top, then I tried to carry it down but couldn’t manage it. 70 lbs is much more than half my body weight. I ended up sitting, putting the bag across my legs, and crab-crawling down. My husband was there (it was a spectator point) and he said, “That’s a unique way to bring it down.” Hey, whatever works!
We went back up through the woods to the mental challenge point. Find the last 2 digits on your bib and memorize a word and series of 7 numbers. If you wrote it down the penalty was 30 burpees. No idea when we would be required to recite the word and digits. We did some more climbing, did a loooooong mud crawl under barbed wire where a volunteer was more than happy to hose us down with cold water, through some dirty water trenches, and more downhill, finally coming to the 7 mile area where the rope climb and obstacles where we saw the elites was located. There were lots of spectators. First we had to climb over hay bales, then go under a wall in dirty water (ugh, nasty), then to the rope climb. Rope climbs scare me as I’m afraid of heights, but I tried it. No luck, the muddy water made it too slippery. Then through a tunnel and into a surprise muddy barbed-wire crawl again.
Then we went over a showcase ladder structure with the Spartan logos displayed everywhere. Up the ladder, onto a platform, across the cargo net where you were not allowed to touch the beams, to the platform, and down the other side. Scary because you were so high off the ground and could see it thru the netting below.
Now it was time for the big water obstacles. Swim halfway across the pond to the bridge, climb the rope, drop down into the water, and swim across to the other side. We opted to do burpees instead. As we were doing burpees, my friend’s husband announced that he was done, and my friend announced that she was done too.
We were 7 miles and 6 hours into the race. She said that this was supposed to be their weekend away from the kids and they wanted to have a nice evening together. I said OK. My husband was coming around taking photos, and they told him they were done. I said I was going to try to keep going. My friends were surprised, but I started to tear up and said I wasn’t ready to be done yet.
I went over to the traverse wall and couldn’t make it across. I started my 30 burpees and was trying not to cry. My husband and friends were cheering me on. When I finished the burpees my husband came over and said that I was an inspiration, he was proud of me, and he supported whatever I chose to do. I told him, “I am not ready to quit. I did not come here to quit. Either they pull me from the course because I didn’t bring a headlamp or I will cross the finish line.” He hugged me and said, “Find someone with a headlamp and stay with them. Do what you have to do to finish.”
I went into the water for the second swimming obstacle. I swam to the ladder hanging from the bridge and tried to climb it. I couldn’t get up very high as I felt weak at that point and dropped back into the water. I swam for the shore and started doing my burpees. My husband was talking to a couple of ladies who were looking for salt pills, and he asked if I had some to spare. I gave them several, then went over to the memory challenge. I approached a guy with a clipboard and recited “Juliet 800-8307” and proceeded around the lake and into the woods.