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.


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