Spartan Ultrabeast: The Happiest Place on Earth

The winners have been declared, the legs have become mobil-ish again, and the bruises and scrapes have begun to heal.

And all I can think is “Woo, let’s do it again!”

That was fun. No, seriously: SO much fun. Let’s run up and down mountains every weekend.

Depending on who you ask or whose Garmin you go by, the Ultrabeast ranged from 28-32 miles, and somewhere between 15,000-20,000 feet of elevation change. My chip time read 8 hours, 35 minutes: 2nd place female for both the Beast and Ultrabeast.* A little under 4 hours for the first lap, and a bit slower on the second (ha–go figure. Negative splits here would be damn near impossible). Here are some interesting stats on the course, btw.

And for the entire 8.5 hours, I couldn’t have been happier–I’m fairly certain the smile never left my face. And it’s not because I did well in the race. Hell, I didn’t even know that I had come in 2nd in women until after I crossed the finish line in the first lap. When Carrie and Todd told me, I must have looked at them like they had 4 heads. This race was, from start to finish, just EVERYTHING I loved.

The awesome things

(1) The terrain: Alright, let’s talk about those hills. I live in Chicago. I hate how flat it is (see here). But I grew up in Oregon, and climbing mountains is my first love. So while it’s been 2+ years since I’ve had any type of hill to run up, I get no greater joy than hauling my ass up really steep inclines. Call it muscle memory. Or something (aka, “thank you giant stepmill of death at the gym”)

(2) Seeing old friends: Running, literally, into familiar faces on the course. The starting line area where hugs and laughs were exchanged. Trading jokes with Mr. Norm Koch at the tyrolean traverse. Hugging WTM winner Juliana. High-fiving Andy and giving Joe shit for not having his 100lb sandbag at the top of the mountain. These races are like demented family reunions, and there’s no other place where I feel more at home.

(3) Making new friends: Towards the end of lap one and throughout lap two, you start to realize that you are pacing with similar people around you. And especially during that third and final climb, you have a lot of time to bullshit with your fellow racers as you stare up that hill of death. Here, I met, among others Chris G. from Boston, who helped push me (though he kicked my ass on the second lap) to keep pace with the female leader, and many others whose names I never got or have lost in the haze.

(4) The Death Racers: awww, guys!!! With the inaugural Team Death Race taking place at the same time as the Ultrabeast, I had to choose. The Death Racers had the fun of completing our same course at one point, but with fully loaded packs, shovels, and, of course–axes. Seeing Johnny Waite on top of the mountain with a huge smile on top of the mountain, or shouting “Yeah Death Racers” as I flew by–it’s the family feeling that just never goes away. Congrats, guys. I’ll see you all this Winter.

(5) The obstacles: As I’ve said before, I’ve never run a Spartan Race, so I had NO idea what to expect in terms of the obstacles. This caused me quite a bit of consternation prior to the race, but once I got moving, I realized how fantastic these things were. Rope climbs? Atlas stones? Traverse walls? I’m like a kid in gym class! Sans spear throw. Apparently I need to work on that. My softball background proves to be no help there.

(6) The beauty: No, not me silly (ha). Did you racers stop to take a look around at the top of the mountain in Killington? The fall in Vermont is absolutely breathtaking. I may have fallen in love.

(7) The courtesy of other racers: As I sat in the pit area changing socks and Gold Bonding it up, the one big question in my mind was how the second lap was going to go given that all the other Beast runners were now up on the mountain. I was apprehensive about long lines, single-track trails, and the general condition of the course. What I couldn’t imagine was how awesome all the other racers were out there: graciously letting me past, and giving us Ultra runners huge cheers and kudos as we came by. You guys were the best out there.

(8) The volunteers: Now, I know there is some controversy about a group going off-course, getting lost, and saying a volunteer led them astray. That sucks, but I have nothing but fantastic things to say about the volunteers out there. They were cheerful, encouraging, and really just the coolest.

(8) My roomies: Alyssa and Carrie are two of my favorite people on the planet. I love you girls.

(9) Penguin duct tape: My bin was so easy to find in the pit area.

Wow. That’s certainly a cheeriness overload coming from me. I’m not a gusher, so I feel like I should be a bit negative just to temper that “rainbows and ponies and life is wonderful” bullshit.

So some obligatory not-so-awesome things:

(1) The effin downhills: I am not a mountain goat. If you’ve read at all about my other races, I fall. A lot. Sometimes down mountains to the point where I get lost and wandering around in the snow for hours. (see, e.g., Winter Death Race). So while I loved the ascents, that final descent nearly killed me. Multiple times. I’m slow down the hills so I don’t break myself, and that’s where people make up time against me. Next goal: channel the inner mountain goat.

(2) Scrubbing the wounds free of dirt the next day: So. much. pain. And I have a wedding tomorrow. Sorry guys for the knees.

(3) The tibialis anterior sheath inflammation I’ve developed post-race: According to the interwebs, caused by “running up lots of hills and on uneven terrain.” Got it. No running for a bit. So the Chicago marathon next weekend looks like a no-go. Eh, road races blow goats anyway.

(4) The fact that I can’t do the Ultrabeast and the Team Death Race at the same time: wah-wah-wah.

(5) Packing muddy and wet clothes in a suitcase on a plane: The stank never leaves. And I almost went over the weight limit on my suitcase due to the water and mud.

(5) Post-race blues: sigh. I want to do it again.

And finally, will someone PLEASE tell me next time to wash my face and fix my hair before I cross the finish line. This is just embarrassing. Yikes.

*NB: I seem to excel at getting second place. World’s Toughest Mudder, the Death Race, now the Beast and Ultrabeast. I’ve been told second place is the first loser. Meh, I’ll take it.

UltraBeast Eve Eve Non-Sequiturs

As I sit in an Epsom salt bath, the random musings of a brain on overdrive:

Grape Pedialyte is the bomb.
Ironic that this is my first “real” Spartan Race. (Death Race not included) Most people work up from a Sprint, I work down from the Death Race.
shorts, capris, or full length tights? Injinjis or smart wool?
Sesame Street band-aids make me so happy.
I should have taken tapering more seriously.
Tapering blows. I’m probably missing a great WOD tomorrow.
Why is my flight to Manchester so ungodly full tomorrow? Is all of Chicago going to the Beast?
How many times will I fall down the mountain?
Will Killington actually have any open restaurants by the time I finish?
Ford Focus or Chevy Impala tomorrow?
I should have done the Team Death Race.
It’ll be really weird to be in the Pittsfield area for something other than the Death Race.
I want beer. No, vodka.
My shower caddy is about to fall on me.
Do I have enough Gold Bond?
How do Epsom salt work, if they even do? This bath is making me hot.
I overpack like whoa
Where do you buy booze in New Hampshire? Can you buy it in grocery stores?
I should have tested my Camelbak before this. Whoops.
Where is my axe?
I’m back on the Sharkie wagon. Mmm Sharkies.
Large quantities of overhead squats yesterday were not a smart idea.
Burpees suck
Are these phantom pains, or is my right calf really not doing well?
must. pack. Benadryl.
Living in Chicago has trained me perfectly for 20,000+ ft of elevation change. (love you step mill?)
No kayaks, please.
If anyone is still reading this, I’m severely judging you.
Candy corn-check. Milk Duds-check.
It’s like a family reunion, bitches!!

See all you crazies tomorrow night.

How far we’ve come

I’m not big on anniversaries. They always seem to forced, so artificial, to me. Then again, I’m also a sentimental person. I enjoy milestones. I enjoy reflecting on progress that has been made in a defined period of time. So, by that reasoning, maybe I should like anniversaries.

I’m overthinking it again.

I suppose I have an imperfect anniversary coming up this weekend: the Wisconsin Tough Mudder–the obstacle race that started it all for me. Imperfect, because it took place in July last year. So call it my “one-year and two month” anniversary into obstacle racing.

[Aside: holy hell, has it only been that long?! Perhaps it’s because multiple 24+ hour races have taken years off my life, but I feel like I’ve been at it for much longer than a little over a year. Perhaps I should cool it on the 5-hr energy and N.O.-Xplode.]

Ran my first TM with co-workers. “Team-building”?
I feel like “racing” is a misnomer. I never got into this to “race.” In fact, I avoided Spartan Races at first because I hated the idea of being chip timed. I didn’t want a winner. I wanted a team. I wanted camaraderie. I wanted to go out there and roll around in the mud. But I’ve watched over the past year as this fledgling “sport”* has grown into a competition, with people deeming themselves “elite” or “professional” because they’ve run a lot of races. With people saying they are now “certified” to coach obstacle racers. Argue over that all you want, it makes no difference to me. I find it silly, unjustifiably arrogant, and a waste of precious resources.

Because I’m still out there for the same reasons. To push myself. To meet interesting people. To have a hell of a time. I’ve been sitting on the sidelines these past few months, away from the obstacle racing world, while I’ve focused on my job, my friends, and (obviously) bettering myself at the sport of fitness. I’ve largely disengaged from the Facebook groups and the obstacle racing world, but I can’t completely block the chatter. I’m not sure I’m too keen on the direction that everything seems to be heading, the elitism that is creeping in, but we all know [the overused cliche] that change is inevitable. However, I do realize that external forces do not always have to dictate internal change.

With a race coming up in a few weeks that I didn’t plan on running, that I didn’t expect to be able to run, I have no expectations aside from going out and having a blast with all of these people that I’ve come to know so well and respect so much in the past year. (And beer. Lots of beer post-race–looking at you, Alyssa and Carrie). So I’ll set my dial to “kick ass” and see what happens. It’s what I did the first time I raced, and it’s what I’ll continue to do each and every time I go out there.

Perhaps I should like anniversaries, if only to show me that nothing has changed.

*We can also have an argument over whether obstacle course racing can be called a “sport.” I suppose curling is a sport. And golf is a sport. So, alright, I suppose we can call it a sport.