My thoughts and experience of the 2015 Spartan Ultra Beast in Killington Vermont; First off, a quick backstory. I’ve been trying to accomplish this race since 2013 and until 2015 I wasn’t even able to make it to the starting line, due to injuries and illness that forced me to defer to doing the regular Killington Beast. 2013-pnuemonia 2014-torn ligaments in my left foot.
Leading up to September 20th, I had a solid 6 months of training for this race. When I say solid 6 months I am talking training 5-6 days a week 45-180 minutes at a time plus long hikes on top of that; 16+ miles. I was at Fitness Appeal in Lawrence MA 2x a week doing the OCR classes with Victor LNg or running hills at the Lawrence Canal. I was at New England Top Team training with Raymond Bond working on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, No Gi Grappling, heavy amounts of striking and tons of footwork. (Will get into how this benefited me later on in the race) I was carrying around an 80lb bucket of rocks for weeks up and down hills, around my house, in my work parking lot. I was also actively participating in OCR races in my area and as far as NJ. Ontop of oall this, I am a Beachbody coach and was running multiple challenge groups I was participating in as well where I was able to meet a good 50+ people who were also active in the Spartan community which helped me stay on top of my training. The last hike I went on was 21+ miles at Blue Hills in Milton MA and the next day I woke up, my shins were on fire. I had Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. I was on a 2 week rest, doctors orders. Unfortunately I had gone from 110% ready to race to about 50% overnight. Up until the day of the race I was thinking about deferring again to 2016.
Race weekend arrives, I am very close to the venue, staying at the Mountain Inn where I could look out the window and see the venue. My buddy Marc and I walked to the venue Saturday as I was to drop off my bin between 2-6pm EST We get there around 330PM EST. Just walking to the venue has my shins from the bottom to the top right below my knee on fire…not looking good. I drop my bin off and we meet some people from my SpartanFit! Challenge groups. We also talk to other races and get everyone’s opinion of the race. None of these opinions matched up to one another other than “There were lots of steep climbs”. We grab some food, and go back to the hotel and I can’t sleep. I must’ve stayed up worrying and contemplating a deferment until 11pm.
3:15AM EST Sept 20th arrives and my alarm clock sounds off. I start getting ready for the race realizing there’s no backing out of it now. Injured, not injured; it’s happening. I stretch a good 15 or 20 minutes, then proceed to tape my legs and suit up. I am wearing a knee pad, IT band strap, Coldgear compression pants by UA as well as 2 UA Coldgear compression shirts, one is an under-base layer the other is a base layer. I also have on some Zensah compression socks and made sure I was covered neck down with bodyglide, and Trail Toes for my feet. I threw on my Salomon Fellraisers, my Mechanix gloves, and my Champion ColdWeather compression hat and underneath that was my Spartan headband. I do a quick equipment check, making sure my headlamp worked and I was armed with two glowsticks, and also checked to make sure I had my clif bars, and stingers and salt pills. By the time I am done with all of this as well as making about 3 or 4 trips to the bathroom, Dave H is messaging me to get my ass to the venue or I’ll be late. I looked at the clock and it was already 5:30AM. I make a quick Facebook update and off I go. Stepping out of the Mountain Inn, I can see the cars driving by and up the hill to the venue. I decide that running to the venue is a better idea than walking. Already running hurts.
I make it to the venue and my phone buzzes. It’s Derek D, a good friend of mine on FB. He’s volunteering at Zone 6 today wherever that is and wanted to say hi to me before I raced. I met him at registration, we checked my bag, and he waited with me while I waited for 6:15AM to arrive. He had run the Beast the day before and gave me probably the most realistic visualization of what I was to face. It’s about 6:05AM and we’re still talking and then I bump into another FB friend Mike C. It was great to meet him as well, and he asks me how I’m feeling. My response..”Well… I guess good enough to be here… :: sigh ::”. Derek goes to his volunteer station and I hop over the wall into the starting pit. It’s almost go time and the race officials are making some speech and talking about cutoff times. I zone out and turn my MP3 player on. I want to hear none of it. Nothing at all.
6:15AM Arrives and we’re off. I cross the start line to the other side. I’ve made it further than I had in the last two years. As we run straight we hurdle over a log and hay bales then bang a left, coming to an inverted wall. I haul ass as usual over that wall and upon landing I feel the stringing pain in my shins. That wasn’t even the tallest wall I’d have to face. We run or in my case a jog / fast paced walk, a little more, and within minutes we’re making our first steep climb. Fortunately with all the hiking I’ve done in the past and leading up to this event, I was quite used to this. We ran into a pancake sandbag carry, after the climb, it was there I noticed I was going to have quite an issue with the downhills. I got on my butt and slid myself and the bag downhill. Going forward I was zoned out in my own world, I had my music blaring and didn’t want to interact with anyone. Every step uphill and downhill and every wall I descended from would rattle my shins. So far for the first lap my upper body was holding up great. We got to the heavy bag carry and I was able to haul that up the mountain no problem. Taking a few steps with it downhill was excruciating. Again I got down on my butt held the sandbag near my hip and rolled, with each roll id use my momentum to move the bag. Funny thing is, people watching me do this with little effort followed along and there were a good 5 or 6 people rolling with the bag down that hill. I get to about mile 5 and I run into Derek D, at the water station where he helps me fill up my water bladder. By now my IT Band is killing me and my shins are in a ton of pain. I start to take my first salt tab. I must’ve popped 10 of these throughout the race. Being on lap 1 and 5 miles into it, I was making pretty good time. By the end of lap 1, I was feeling strong with the obstacles. I nailed the Hercules hoist, got through the rigs, made it through the carries, and got through the water. The water was cold and I hated it but it made my legs feel great to the point where I jogged through the last 1.5 miles of lap 1.
Lap 1 complete, in a bit over 6 hours. I have 14 hours and 45 minutes to complete this race and a 4pm cutoff to get lap 1 done. It isn’t even near 4PM yet so my time was great. I was in pain and my legs were screaming at me but I was ahead of the game. I had to be 2 miles before the finish by 8PM EST. That was my next goal. I go to my drop bin, move it over from outside of the bin tent and as rehearsed, get everything I need In order. Fill up my Camelbak, replenish my nutrition double stack two PB Sandwiches together, and change my socks and go on my way. Under 10 minutes at my bin, and I’m onto lap 2.
Lap 2 starting off I was walking and eating. I came to the log hurdle, I rested my sandwich on the log, hurdled over it, grabbed the sandwich and kept going. As much pain as my shins were in, I was not going to stop my motion. I was in pain but I was light on my feet. Finished my sandwich and right before the first steep climb all over again, I turned on my mp3 player. It looked as it was low on battery. Music was keeping me going and I didn’t want it to die halfway through lap 2. Climbing up the mountain to the peak I was confronted by Bruce S. We struck up a good conversation and proceeded to put one foot in front of the next and get up and over that mountain. At some point I lost Bruce and continued on. At the cutoff between the Sprint course and the Ultra Beast I bumped into Amaury B, who was also a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Purple Belt from Boston MA. We stuck together for a bit and helped each other on the second round of the Hercules hoist. Then came the bucket carry. The carries were extended for the UB runners for their second lap. This is where I almost broke. The bucket was 80+ lbs. I must’ve stopped and put that bucket down a good 20 times. I was exhausted and in pain. Problem was, going downhill with the bucket was even worse and seemed like it would never end. I stopped again with the bucket and just about collapsed to the ground to the point where a volunteer came over and asked if I was ok. I sat there and contemplated on what to do next and really only had one option; Get the bucket to the bottom of the hill and dump the rocks in the pit. I decided I’m dumping half the bucket on the hill, banking on the idea that other people dropped rocks at the base of the hill. Fortunately I got to the base and there were rocks everywhere. Filled the bucket back up and proceeded to the rock pit to dump them out again and moved on. A few miles in Amaury and I met up again at the double log farmers carry. This obstacle I must’ve chosen the heaviest two logs and once again it drained me to the point where I needed to slow down and recuperate. Throughout the next few miles I was going back and forth between bumping into Bruce and Amaury. By 6:45PM I needed to turn on my headlamp. It was only me now with 4 miles left to go. There was one big steep climb and about a dozen obstacles left then a technical trail running section, another heavy carry, a spear throw and I’d be home free. Magically out of nowhere I regained a 3rd or 4th or 5th wind of energy. All of a sudden I was numb and out of pain. This was my time to bang this thing out and collect my damn medal. Picking up the pace I bumped into another guy running, Michael W. Going at the same pace as I was, we were able to race alongside each other, strike up a good conversation, and support each other on some obstacles. A couple hours later we were rolling through barbed wire on our way to the finish line where we failed the final spear throw, as I had also in lap 1. We were at 8:49PM and had 11 minutes left to finish. We’d already made it this far and had surpassed all cutoffs. We banged out a very quick set of burpees, and jumped over that fire and crossed the finish line.
After waiting in line for 20 minutes we received our official results, made sure we crossed all the checkpoints and officially earned our medals. This had been A goal of mine since running the 2012 VT Beast, that had been delayed for 2 years, had now been accomplished. It feels like 1000lbs has been lifted off my chest….I made some new friends, and had a painfully good time. Can’t wait to do it again next year….
Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who had supported me and if you are thinking of running a Spartan Ultra Beast, make sure you have a good 6 months of training under your belt and you can go most of the required distance, before stepping into the race. Also make sure you focus on your upper body, your grip strength, and your footwork. The trails are always tough so be careful or you will get injured. Keep in mind the weather going into the race and also remember to properly hydrate throughout the race. I went through 31+ miles with lots of elevation change. I drank over 4L or 400oz of water/electrolytes the 14 hours I was out there. Stay safe help others out, and have fun! AROO!