Last summer, I had planned to do the Savage Race in Massachusetts, but has to bail due to injury. I traded my deferral code for Savage to a guy for a Spartan code which became this race.
The Beast is the longest and most difficult of Spartan’s three standard race distances: Sprint, Super, and Beast. Once past Beast, you get into the Ultra or Ultra Beast which is generally speaking some variation of the Beast course, and several Hurricane Heats which are a variation of the race. Touted at 13+ miles, 30+ obstacles. My watch totaled 15 some odd miles and, honestly I didn’t count the obstacles. This was my third Beast – my second time here at Vernon – and (I think) my tenth Spartan race and I’ve found over time that it’s a fool’s errand to focus too much on distance traveled or on obstacles completed.
What started out as a raw, overcast day turned into a bright, sunny 70-degree slice of perfection. Not too hot, not too cold. The site is the Mountain Creek Resort, a New York City metro area ski resort. Unrelated to the race itself, while out on the course, there are definitely signs the resort has its troubles. In all honesty, I wasn’t entire sure the complex was actually still operational and the Wikipedia entry kind of explains its current state. Another proximate ski area, Tuxedo Ridge in Tuxedo, NY has also had its financial difficulties and has hosted its share of Spartan Races as well. Its hard to know if the financial difficulties are related to the willingness to host an obstacle course race or if its mere coincidence.
This years Beast seemed less difficult overall. The thing with Spartan is they’re not terribly innovative and they trot out generally the same obstacles year over year. This race seemed much more of a trail race through the hiking trails of the resort and less the mountain slog that I’ve seen at Killington (oh dear God, the quads!!) and to a lesser degree here last year. There was some mountain climbing but it wasn’t the gratuitous “we’re making you climb this because we can” sort of climb.
I was running with a first time Beast participant and it was a challenging race for her, so I don’t want to discount the level of difficulty involved, its just that it seemed like an easier course over last year. I’ll be taking another stab at it in a few hours so we’ll see how my experience Saturday affects my performance Sunday.
I had been really nervous about how my butt injury would hold up, but it held up pretty well – no major discomfort at all, perhaps a few twings here and there but overall nothing that would hold me up. I was able to hit several obstacles I didn’t think I would which was a bit of a minor victory – any time you can avoid burpees is a good time – and for the most part even the ones I failed limited the burpees with an additional course trail instead. (Innovation!!!)
Spartan did a little something new with the Ultra Beast course this year, by adding a 3 mile addition to the first loop of the course. This really seemed to mess up a lot of the folks we encountered along the way and it would appear a good number of them missed the course cut off to continue. More than a couple were complaining about the hellish trail in that 3-miles. I have no way of knowing, but perhaps that was some of the more difficult trail the Beast course was lacking.
The obstacles seemed to be more standard than they have been in the past: the buckets at the bucket carry were prefilled, the farmer’s log “logs” were concrete atlas stones with handles built into them instead of actual, you know, logs. The sandbag carry was far more difficult than I remember it being in the past – large wreck bags instead of the sand filled pancakes that had been the obstacle – and the Herc Hoist seemed far more heavy than I remember it being, although several days of rain previous to race day may have helped both of those items become more heavy than anticipated.
I clocked 15.1 miles and just over 5000′ of elevation gain.
Overall, not my best time ever – I ran the Men’s elite heat (well, kinda – since my friend isn’t a male, she couldn’t run in the men’s elite heat so I delayed my start) and finished last in my age group and something like 3 slots off last for the heat. Overall though, according to Athlinks, I finished solidly in the middle as I usually do. I finished about 7 minutes slower than last year – we’ll see how I do Day 2 after having experienced the course.