So the day had finally arrived! It was finally time to head off to Vermont to take on the Spartan Race Ultra Beast. I had been excited for this event for quite a while and was elated to finally take it on.
What was even more awesome was the fact that a bunch of my friends and I were taking the same flight there! It was legit, a plane packed with Spartans. We took a flight to Boston and rented a car and drove down to Killington. It was actually cheaper that way rather than flying straight there. So while on the drive down entering into Vermont I realized why it really is called the green state. It. Was. Gorgeous. Just mountains and trees and brush everywhere. I love visiting places like this because in Miami it’s not as rural as I’d like it to be… And it’s extremely flat, no terrain change whatsoever. Blah!
Anyways we ended up stopping at this little restaurant that the name completely escapes me, but had the most amazing food! We couldn’t get over how good everything was. Then we finally made it to the Killington Resort. We hopped out and headed down to the lake wh1ere the “Tarzan Swing” obstacle was and just looked out to where we would be racing in about two days time. Getting that anxious feeling overwhelming you of what’s to come, it was amazing, and it’s what drives me to do more and more of these longer/harder events.
We actually ended up bumping into a bunch of friends while we were down by the lake and had some great laughs and conversations before we all packed up and headed back to the apartment we were staying at. We decided to make our lives easier and pack all of our nutrition/gear into our bins and bags that night instead of waiting till the next day.
In my Geigerrig 1600 pack I had my diabetic supplies (insulin, syringes, blood glucose meter), (2) Urawk Bars, (2) Clif Bars, (2) Gu Gels, (2) Bags of Gu Chomps, (4) Honey Stinger Waffles, (1) Met-Rx Protein Bar, Ibuprofen, Roctane Salt Tablets, (2) baggies of beef jerky & trail mix & a wind breaker. In my bladder I had 1/3 of the 3L bladder filled with coconut water, the other 2/3 with Smart Water & 1/2 a baggy of Tailwind. On my persons I was wearing under armour compression pants & long sleeve shirt cold weather gear, CEP compression socks & my Inov8 X-Talon 212s, my piggy hat & a head lamp. I used the woodsman mustache wax for the hold, Alo cream to rub down my legs, Dri Goods for between my thighs & Trail Toes for my feet. In my bin I had some more of the same stuff. I had extras of the stuff I had in my bag, some more diabetic supplies, gloves, hand warmers, glow sticks and an extra pair of shoes and socks.
We ate, had some laughs and headed off to bed so we could catch the end of the World Championship Race in the morning.
We woke up the next morning, got dressed and ended up headed off to the famous “General Store” for some breakfast and it was definitely worth the hype. That was some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had. And it was also some great coffee that was much needed for the cold morning we encountered when we had awoke.
So after we were happy with some full bellies and warm coffee, we headed down to the race site to catch the last bit of the race and boy was it crazy. What really separated the playing field out was the second “Sandbag Carry” obstacle. The elites (and all Ultra Beast competitors the next day) had to carry two 50-70lb sandbags up and down a steep, tall hill. It took some of the elites 45 min – 1 hour to get up and over this obstacle. When we had arrived Ryan Atkins finished this obstacle first & Jon Albon was right behind him. Where Atkins was doing amazing with the obstacles, Jon had him on speed. And it all came down to the final climb and descent where Jon finished strong and Ryan Atkins came in on a close second. The crowd was cheering wildly as we watched this spectacle of these strong racers coming in with all they had on a course that was sure to be as brutal as everyone had speculated.
Anyways, after watching this spectacle, we decided we’d go adventure and check out the course. It was really cold, windy & cloudy that Saturday and we were anxious that would be the weather that we would have to endure running 30 miles of the same course the next day. We cheered on some friends, had some adventuring and we finally headed out. We got back to the apartment and it was just kind of quiet. Not the same care free attitude we had the day before. We were getting ready and we knew what was to come. We had some dinner, said our good nights and tried to catch some sleep before the monster of a race we were going to take on the next day.
My alarm went off and I got up quick. I was excited, I was ready. Had a quick little brea0kfast, hopped in the shower to get the blood flowing and got dressed and made any final preparations before we left to make it to the race site.
We finally made it to the venue, the time had come, RACE DAY! It was cool in the morning, so we decided to hang out in the visitors lodge before we headed to the start line. We bumped into a bunch of friends in the lodge and were just sharing some laughs to ease the tension. The time crept up and it was go time. We all headed to the start line and were hyping each other up before the rules & commencement speech had started. We were all kind of upset that Dustin Dorough wasn’t giving the start speech, but it was all good.
As soon as the sun started peaking out over the clouds, it was go time. We were off with a slew of others trying to attain the status of Ultra Beast Finisher.
It started with a slight downhill jog, a little turn around a corner and a legit 1 mile climb up. I am not exaggerating that distance. There was a slight descent and when we came out into the open the first obstacle that we were to take on was the “Over, Under, Through.” And almost immediately after that was the first, almost too easy, “Sand Bag Carry.” At this point I had friends both behind and in front of me. We would cheer each other on and give each other votes of confidence to keep morale up. Oh, and I might not have mentioned, but the weather was gorgeous. The best weather you could hope to expect for during an ultra.
After another mile or so of running we experienced a “Bucket Brigade” and another fun descent where I was sprinting down fast gaining a lot of speed and out of no where behind me I hear “ON YOUR LEFT!!!” Of course Deater was coming up behind me fast and we just started singing Tove Lo’s- Habits song as were going down this descent. It was awesome. Then after we got to the bottom of the hill we came to the “Traverse Wall” which was almost immediately followed up by the first swim which was a two part obstacle. You would have to swim about 100-150m to a hanging rope ladder. The water was freezing by the way, I almost instantly became a women entering that water. Anyways, as you’re ascending the rope ladder, you would have to ring a bell that was hanging about half way up. After getting to the top of the ladder was the “Tarzan Swing” obstacle. If you have no grip strength, there is no way you’ll complete this obstacle. It’s basically 5 hanging ropes with knots on the bottom that you have to actually swing from rope to rope and ring a bell on the opposite side of the bridge. And after either ringing the bell, or falling in the water (which I did because I completely lost all sense of grip after entering the water) you would have to swim another approximate 50m or so till you reached the shore and where you would have to do either 30-60 burpees for failing one or both of the obstacles.
I knocked out my 30 burpees and trudged onward. We had to walk through the banks of the river for about a quarter mile or so. And it wasn’t just any gingerly walk, no of course not, it was the Spartan Ultra Beast. We had to wade through the water on the bank of the river which was about knee deep up and over rocks. I was slipping and trying to feel out where the next best possible step would be. I busted out some jerky and trail mix at this point because it was about time to get some nutrition and I kept moving forward.
After this we were right back in the woods. Which was later met with the “Atlast Carry” obstacle after a fun little run through some trails. We proceeded forward a bit, turned a corner, went downhill and was met with the “Log Carry” obstacle. A nice little stroll uphill and downhill with a big ol hunk of wood on your back. Which was immediately followed by the “Log Hop” with a little twist. You would hop a couple logs, then there was actually a log beam you would have to balance across and then a couple more log hops at the end. I made it half way across the beam and fell off. Another 30 burpees for me.
After that was a nice little uphill climb where we were met with a “7′ High Wall” and a nice little”Tractor Pull” that honestly wasn’t too bad at all. Then a little while later was a nice little uphill climb to where we had been the day before when we were cheering our friends on. The next obstacle that came up was the “Memorization Obstacle.” I looked down at my bib, read my word and numbers up on the chart a couple of times and was on my way. Right after this was the new “Spear Throw.” I say new because they weren’t like your normal “Spear Throws” these had were tethered at the end so they wouldn’t fall off the side of the mountain; it messed a lot of people up because the cord would either get caught in the fence, or the participants threw the spear wrong and were either stepping on the cord or would get caught in their arms. I passed this obstacle though, woot!
And right after was a nice fun descent. It was fast and steep, just the way I like it. Had to be careful though, because it was slippery as well. There were a lot of rocks and roots or the way I see it, fun. I zig zagged down the hill so I didn’t pick up too much speed and had an ear to ear smile the whole way down.
After reaching the bottom of the hill, you were back in the spectator area. I heard some shouts of “Go Haidar! You got this!” And other people I had no idea who they were cheering on “Go UB!” It was a definite morale booster. The next obstacle that came up was the “Inverted Wall” which was followed right after by the second “Bucket Carry.” This was a lot longer and tougher than the first. And we had heard the dude checking the buckets was being extremely picky and would definitely send you back if you didn’t fill up or come back with the correct level of rocks in your bucket. I had only stopped twice, but powered through and finished that obstacle with ease.
After this came the best part of the whole race!!! It was THE most brutal climb we were going to experience that day. We had seen runners the day before taking on this climb and it looked terrible, but actually doing it was much worse. I took a deep breath and just started. I was making my way up little by little. The change of elevation started getting to me a little, and I was feeling extremely weak as well as dehydrated. Once I made it about half way up, I moved over the side, sat down and tested myself. My blood sugars were about 500, where the normal range is about 70-120. I pulled out my syringe, injected some insulin, drank some water and got back to the climb.
As soon as we finished that long brutal climb, I was breathing hard. That climb had taken a lot out of me. Adding to the fact that my blood sugars had taken a turn for the worse, this wasn’t helping my state of mind or my physical health as well.
It was a nice little trot after that which led to the “A-Frame Cargo Net” obstacle which I was able to do with ease. Then after that came along the “Tire Pull” obstacle. Another obstacle I was able to knock out, but I wasn’t feeling well at all. A couple friends caught up to me who had started later and said I wasn’t looking too good, but of course I would wave them off with a smile and tell them I would catch up to them in a bit. After some technical trails and loops we finally came out to the obstacle which everyone was not too happy to meet. The second “Sandbag Carry” where the male UB’ers had to carry two bags up and down this extremely steep, tall hill. I believe that this portion of the race was at Spartan Race’s Mile 11, which would really be about mile 13.7. And somewhere between the “Tire Pull” obstacle, trying to keep my head straight because of my diabetes and making it to the “Sandbag Carry” obstacle I stepped into a hole and twisted my ankle while going downhill on a muddy, technical descent. Oh, and what was even better was the fact that not 5 minutes later while compensating on my left foot because I had twisted my right ankle, I slipped on a hidden rock and busted my left hip on said hidden rock.
I felt all my aspirations of finishing this race had completely gone out the window. I had to keep going though. I’m too hardheaded to quit. I had already come so far, I just wasn’t going to walk off that course, I’m not a quitter.
So I pushed the pain out of my head and charged forward. And now we’re back to the “Sandbag Carry” obstacle. I tried everything. I tried tying the two bags together and slinging them over my shoulder. I tried holding both bags between my arms in several different positions, I tried sliding them up, I tried doing one by one I tried everything. I finally decided the best way to go about it would be to carry one bag up a little ways, drop it and go back for the second bag I had left behind. And once I reached the top I would throw the bags downhill and repeat the process till I reached the bottom and completed the obstacle. I was maybe on that obstacle for an 1.5 hours. It killed me. My ankle, my hip and now my blood sugars weren’t too high, no the exact opposite, they were too low. I checked my blood sugars again and I was now 45. So while having a mini freak out because I didn’t want to have a seizure on the course, I sat down, dug into my bag and just ate anything I could find. I ended up scarfing down (2) Honey Stinger Waffles, some Gu Gels, a whole bag of Gu Chomps and a Met-Rx protein bar.
After I felt a little better, I continued on. I HAD to finish this obstacle, I was not going to quit. I bumped into many friends during the time I was on that hill. And my friend Aliza even showed me her butt. Out of context this might sound weird, but she saw how terrible I was looking and tried to cheer me up by showing me how bad of a rip she had in her compression tights. It was hilarious, I couldn’t help but crack a smile.
Anyways, after all the time spent on that obstacle, I finally finished. I was tossing and lugging the sandbags down the hill as fast as I could. I knew my time was running short, and the thought crept up in my head that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race at this point with everything that had happened, but I kept charging forward, I was not going to stop. After getting some water at the aid station and turning the corner, what do ya know?! Another climb! And what was on top of that climb? The “Platinum Rig” obstacle they brought down from our good ol neighbors of the North, Canada! This obstacle was something out of American Ninja Warrior. You started off with a hanging ring traverse, then some extremely think monkey bars, then a swinging bar and a rope traverse. I failed this obstacle about half way through and had to do nother 30 burpees. And after getting those burpees done and limping downhill we were led to an obstacle I had never done before, the “Rope Traverse.” I never had any practice with it either, so the way I approached it was laying on top of the rope and having one foot hanging off the side and the other foot on the rope for balance. I MADE IT! I was worried since I had been hurt and was scared that I was either going to cramp or just fail this obstacle, but it didn’t.
Then after getting out of the water, there were some technical trails which I could do nothing but walk. I had to move out of a lot of the racers ways because of how slow I was moving. Everything hurt, I was filled with self-doubt, but I kept charging forward, again, I would not stop.
Then I came up limping on the “Rope Climb” obstacle which was directly followed by the “Spear Throw.” I thought, perfect! I know I have these two obstacles, but I really didn’t. I made it up half way the “Rope Climb”, but I started cramping up. The volunteers were cheering me to finish strong and ring the bell. Two more heaves up the rope and swiped at the bell, heard that sweet, sweet jingle and just lost my grip. I fell and hit the water hard. After I shook that off, I went to the “Spear Throw.” I focused, had my eye on my target and let that spear fly. I missed. I was distraught. I NEVER MISS THE SPEAR THROW. I was pissed, but wasn’t going to cry about it. I went to the burpee zone and knocked out my 30 burpees and moved on. There was a fun, finely placed “8′ Wall Jump” which was followed by a nice little (and by little I mean long) “Barbwire Crawl.” What made this obstacle even worse was the fact that my hips and ankles were throbbing at this point. I had gone further than I should have, but I just couldn’t stop, I was dead set on at least finishing one lap. After the “Barbwire Crawl” was a fun addition to the Spartan Race obstacle list, “Norms Pipe.” This was about a 2″ diameter pipe that you had to traverse using only grip strength.
I was exhausted at this point and knew I was going to fail, but thought I needed to do it, I need to get through.
I gripped the pipe, and as soon as my feet left the ground, I swung way too hard and slipped right off. 30 more burpees. Yay!
Moving on I was limping ahead and moving towards a line of volunteers, “This is weird” I thought. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two of my long time friends Matthew Iron Beast Dolitsky & Carey Degon. These two badasses had just finished the Team Death Race which also took place in Killington and were there to support and cheer our other friends on who were all taking on this challenge we had in front of us today. After giving some hugs and them finding out what happened to me, Matt screams to me, “Hey Haidar! Alpha 459-7685.” Trying to throw me off for when I made it to the line of volunteers. Those volunteers were there for the “Memorization Obstacle.” I quickly got it out of the way and limped as fast as I could to make it back to the festival area again and on to the next obstacle, the “Hercules Hoist.” This one I cleared with ease. Then came the “Tower Obstacle” and “Monkey Bars” right after. After I made it over the “Tower Obstacle” I heard, “Hey Haidar!!!” I looked to my right and saw my boy Deater! I knew it was weird because I hadn’t seen him since the “Log Balance” obstacle. He told me he hurt his knee all the way back at the “Tarzan Swing” and had to drop out because it was hurting too much. We exchanged some laughs and that gave me enough of a boost to finish strong.
After leaving Deater, the butthole was screaming that I was going to fail the “Monkey Bars” and that I should just do the 30 burpees. I proved him wrong and went on to the last climb and descent before the finish! That is of course if you were only doing the “Beast’ course.
After getting through that final climb, I limped down that descent as fast as I could. And when I reached the bottom the volunteer who saw my UB band said that we have to take a left turn instead of doing the “Fire Jump” so we could access our drop bins before we headed off to do the course again.
I was confused, I knew for sure that I didn’t make the time cut off to proceed for the second lap, and when I asked the guy he said “Well yeah, you missed the cut off, but you can advance as much as possible before we pull you.”
I really had to think about it. Should I go on? Should I continue?
No. There was no point. I already knew I missed the time cutoff, I was hurting bad, and there would really be no point in continuing.
I ripped off my time chip, did the “Fire Jump” and crossed the finish line. I could have taken a “Beast Medal” or even the “UB Medal,” but for what? I didn’t finish the race and I wasn’t signed up for the Beast.
And if you did continue the race, the first three miles of the course were cut off. So you would access your bin drop if needed and get back onto the course where the “Traverse Wall” was. Why did they cut off three miles you may ask? That’s because at the end of your second lap after going through everything again (minus the three miles in the beginning) you would do the short course they had set up that day which was about 1-2 miles long just packed with back to back obstacles from what I heard. And THEN you would finally cross the finish line and complete the UB.
I talked to a bunch of friends after the race, which kind of lifted my spirits, but it wasn’t enough.
Yeah, I was extremely upset, I DNF’ed (Did Not Finish) but in the back of my mind I knew what was going to come. I got injured after my 50 mile ultra back in August and never really got the training in I should have to prepare for this race.
This race was brutal. Most of my friends who had completed the race last year, didn’t this year. And then the slew of posts and comments came out of people skipping parts of the course, the obstacles or their burpees and still managed to get their medals.
You can say whatever you want, but honestly, it’s on them. If they feel like they just want the bling that comes with the race, but not having actually finished all of the race (obstacles and penalties included) and they’re okay with that? That’s fine. Let them take it. I’m not okay with it. I failed, I didn’t get my medal, but don’t think I’m about to bow out. I will definitely be back next year stronger, faster, better prepared and ready to take on that mountain and take that bling home.
-Make sure to EAT! You need to eat constantly and stay hydrated throughout this race so you only have to worry about the course/obstacles and not your physical well being. Salt tablets are a life saver.
-Make sure you have the proper gear for the event and that you’ve also done a couple training runs fully geared up.
-This enables you to see how you’ll feel race day and adjust accordingly. It also shows how your body will take certain types of foods while under that sort of stress.
Finally, TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN!!!
*Note: Some of these photos were snagged from fellow bloggers Neil Murphy & Ekaterina “Solo” Solovieva.