Those of you who have been reading for the past couple of months have heard about the Spartan.  Cameron did his Super Spartan in Carolina in early summer and I did the 12-miler Beast with some friends in Vermont last weekend.

spartan beast results

The Vermont Spartan Beast (photo from nuvision)

This article will have 3 sections:

  1. Summary/Highlights
  2. Lessons Learned
  3. Details of the Experience, with Photos

Summary

This was a 12-mile race, but like nothing I’ve ever done.  It was almost entirely hills (and I don’t mean normal hills, I mean straight up Killington ski mountain not using a trail but using a narrow woods path).  And it had 26 obstacles, described below.

I did this with 3 friends, and about 1/4 of the way in we split into twos.  We later found out that the leading two stayed just barely ahead right up until the 3rd to final obstacle, so we all finished in a little over 5 hours.

That’s right.  Over five hours.

The elite men winners did it in about 3 hours.  I think, in retrospect, if we trained a little more appropriate for the terrain, and pushed ourselves, we could have done it in 4 hours.  But 3 hours seems insanely fast.

The 26 obstacles involved variations of the following:

  • fire jumps
  • barbed wire crawls
  • wall climbs
  • hills
  • mud pits
  • balance walks
  • horizontal rope lines
  • sandbag carries
  • sled pulls
  • swimming
  • oh, and did I mention hills, some of which were so steep that we were on all fours, grabbing roots and branches to keep from falling backwards?

If you failed any of the obstacles, you had to do 30 burpees.  I’m proud to say that I was successful on all obstacles except one:  the spear throw.  I was SO frustrated when I missed that (you only get one chance).

Some people were clearly not ready for this, as evidenced by a number of people vomiting on the side of the trail, and some people taking as long as 8 hours to finish.

Anyone who finished should be proud of this accomplishment.  It was really, really hard.

It was hands down, the most fun I’ve ever had at a physical contest.  I will absolutely be doing this again.  Maybe even several each year.

I had to leave shortly after finishing to get to a family event, but the after-race party was looking to be pretty fun.

This was a well-organized race, with great volunteer staff.  It lived up to its expectation.

Lessons Learned

Some of these lessons are specific to this particular Spartan, but others are more general for ANY competition you are in:

  1. Learn as much about the specific event ahead of time. I wish I had thought more about the fact that this was obviously going to involve a lot of hiking.  I was over conditioned for endurance, and had no problem with the strength side.  But by the end, my left quads were screaming at me and starting to spasm because of the intense vertical climbs.  Next time, more hiking and less longer runs.
  2. Bring food.  They had bananas at a couple of spots, but I wish I had packed a protein bar.  Five hours is a long time and I was starving.
  3. Bring water.  Yes, they had a few water spots.  But not enough.  I lucked out that it wasn’t too hot that day, but if it had been just 5 degrees warmer, I think dehydration would have been a challenge.
  4. Bring ibuprofin.  My buddy remembered this.  It was invaluable at the mid-point.
  5. Bring extra contact lenses.  We brought these, and didn’t need them, but the amount of mud pits, water sprays, and sweaty wiping of foreheads, we easily could have lost one.
  6. Travel light.  Yeah, I know I just said to bring food and water etc, but carrying stuff adds weight and bulk.  The weight is minor, but the bulk is a problem when you have to crawl through rocks under barbed wire.
  7. Use waterproof bags.  Enough said.
  8. Don’t expect your feet to stay dry.  I was initially thinking I didn’t want to get my feet wet for fear of blistering.  Well, my feet were soaked before mile 2, so that meant I did 12 miles in soaked shoes (and they kept getting resoaked).  At least my shoe didn’t split like Cameron’s did!
  9. Train intervals.  My FatBurnFurnace workout is probably the closest thing I’ve published on this, but for another Spartan I’d add in sprints, steep hikes or stairs, and 1-mile runs, blended with explosive weight training.

My next post will have some pictures and more description of the obstacles themselves.

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