It’s been just over a week now since I ran the Spartan Beast in Ohio, so I think I am finally ready to write the recap. I am not as bitter about it as I once was and instead of wishing I didn’t do it, I am glad I did. I did achieve my goal of earning the Spartan Trifecta after all!
The morning of the Beast started out normally enough. Our hotel was about an hour and a half drive from The Wilds where the Spartan Beast was being held. It was cold but I had hopes that it would warm up a smidge and that the sun would peek out. I was mostly wrong on that but we will get to that in a bit.
Our drive to the race was uneventful. Like the other Spartan Races we have done, this one was also in the middle of nowhere which appeals to the country side of me. When we were just about to the race site we were detoured by race volunteers and told to make a right instead of going straight. This was some crazy back way to get to the site that added unnecessary time to our drive. I believe they were trying to funnel the traffic in from multiple directions so not everyone was coming from the same area. I get the purpose, I just wish we weren’t one of the ones selected for the detour.
One difference between this location and the other locations we have done Spartan Races at is that at The Wilds there was no VIP parking because they seemed to think they had enough parking on site to handle everyone. While in theory this may be true, the parking area was very hilly and muddy from the rain the night before and it was just a nightmare trying to park there. There wasn’t much direction from the parking people and many people were getting stuck. It was frustrating to say the least.
Because of the detour and the amount of time it took us to park, we didn’t have much time left before our wave was sent out onto the course. We basically had just enough time to pick up our packet and go to the bathroom. That was it.
Once we got on the course we were feeling pretty good and excited. So good that I took off a layer of clothing from my top half. I would later regret that decision but you live and learn. Or sometimes not as these things are hard to judge.
The course was quite wide at the beginning which was good since we were running with a lot of people. As the course went on however, it became single track trails which made it very difficult to get around people and it caused a lot of back ups both on the trails and at obstacles.
We experienced some different obstacles at the Beast compared to what we had at the Sprint and the Super which always makes me happy as I appreciate the variety. We had an obstacle where we had to fill a bucket with small rocks. It was heavy for me but still manageable. What made that obstacle difficult was that you had to walk around in a circular single track trail and eventually you came to a dead stop because of the amount of people trying to do it at once. We also had a similar obstacle where instead of carrying a bucket of rocks we had to carry one large log and once small log. Again it was made more difficult by there being a back up on the trail.
There were also plenty of obstacles at the Beast that we had experienced before like the over / under walls, atlas ball, tire pull, walls walls and more walls, sand bag carry, sand bag hoist etc.
The biggest obstacle of all on this course, however, was Mother Nature. At the start of the race we could see our breath and it really didn’t get much warmer from there. The sun rarely made an appearance and it was super windy. Luckily being in the woods kept us sheltered from most of the wind but even the woods couldn’t shelter us from the rain and hail that alternated sporadically during the race.
The weather pretty much broke me to be honest. By the middle of the race (or what I thought was the middle) my whole body was freezing, my hands were so cold that I couldn’t move them to grip anything. The cold and the rain was causing my asthma to act up and I had to stop to use my inhaler. I didn’t want to keep going. I wanted to pull myself from the course or to be pulled from the course.
Probably the only thing that kept me going at that point is that there wasn’t any way for me to remove myself from the course. The race was not adequately staffed with volunteers and staff members. Some obstacles had no volunteers at them at all and there were miles in between aid stations. One aid station in particular didn’t even have someone at it. The racers were literally pulling the water jugs off the rack and onto the table so that they and others could get a drink. Most of the other aid stations only had one person at them. I don’t know if the under staffing was due to the weather or if they just didn’t have enough people sign up to volunteer. Either way, I thought that was very dangerous.
I was concerned for myself because if something were to happen to me, I knew that there was a large distance in between myself and someone who could help me. As much as I know that fellow racers will always stop to help someone in need, there was just too much distance in between (staffed) aid stations. I was also concerned for other people on the course for the same reason.
And as long as we are on the subject of safety there was something else I noted at this race. All of the aid stations only had water. No other fuel. Chris and I carry our own because we know that we should but there were plenty of people out there who were not carrying their own and you could tell that they were suffering. I saw other racers stop and offer their fuel to racers that needed it and while that is admirable I believe that Spartan is a big enough race to be able to offer Gatorade and GU or something similar to its runners.
As much as I like Spartan, I believe that Tough Mudder has them beat in terms of runner safety. Of the three Tough Mudders I have run, all of them had lots of volunteers, staff and medics. If a racer went down to the ground, even just to sit, a medic would be there to see if they needed help. The medics would also pull people from the course if they thought it was necessary. In addition to adequate staffing levels and medic availability, Tough Mudder also had fuel other than water at their aid stations. So although there are other parts of Tough Mudder I am not a fan of, I have to give them credit for keeping the safety of the runners as a top priority.
Another thing that broke me at this race was that I expected the race to be 12 miles. But when we eventually came to the 12 mile marker it appeared to be no where close to the finish line. I was crushed. The course ended up being 14 miles which is my longest run to date now.
As broken as I felt during this race, I saw much that inspired me and I feel it is important that I say that. There were at least 3 people out on the course who were in a wheelchair. All 3 people had a great team with them and all 3 teams had their own special way that they tackled the course and the obstacles. It was amazing to watch and it made me feel like my issues were not really issues at all. There was also a ton of camaraderie on this course. Runners looking after each other, offering a hand at obstacles, saying encouraging words as they passed by, offering their food and drink to those that needed it. Despite the race getting the best of me, I was proud to be a part of the race and proud to call myself a Spartan.
So at the end of the day I did finish the Beast. Yes there were some obstacles that I passed by either because I couldn’t grip anything with my hands or because of my asthma or just because I was too frickin cold. There were also lots of burpees that I didn’t complete. Some will say that I didn’t earn my medal. But those are people not worthy of being a Spartan in the first place, in my opinion. I ran the race to the best of my ability, I did what I could and pushed myself father than I have before. I got knocked down and I got back up. I kept going when I wanted to stop. And I crossed that finish line as someone better and stronger than when I crossed that start line. I earned that medal and my Trifecta. Aroo!
Here are a few pics Chris took after we finished of some of the obstacles while I was in the car trying to get the feeling back in my hands. (Btw, this was the first OCR I have run that I didn’t use the hoses to get clean at the end. I just put clothes on over the dirty ones because there was no way I was going to hose my self off with ice water when I was already frozen.)