Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Spartan Beast - Texas 2013

Last week was the final Spartan Beast race for the 2013 season, and my first attempt at a Spartan race of any sort. Over the past 10 months I've participated in 5 Tough Mudders and a host of other trail runs and road races, but this was my first Spartan. While there are quite a few similarities between the Spartan Beast and a Tough Mudder, I feel the biggest difference between the two is that the Beast is a race and the Tough Mudder is an event.

The atmosphere at a Tough Mudder is energized but somewhat relaxed...not to say that people aren't nervous or excited, because they most definitely are, but there is more of an atmosphere of camaraderie and teamwork and less pressure. On the other hand, the Beast is a race, it is timed and there is a feeling of every-man-for-himself. Definite competition here.

The Beast is also harder than the average Tough Mudder. The 15.2 miles we covered bested my longest Tough Mudder by almost 3 miles and the obstacles, while there were fewer, required more strength and brawn as opposed to the Tough Mudder obstacles which often play with your mind more than your muscles. Some of the Spartan obstacles that really stood out were the Herculean Hoist, Spear Throw, Object Carry and the Barbed Wire Crawls.

The Herculean Hoist has you lifting a five gallon bucket filled with concrete, off the ground and up to around 30 feet, using a simple pulley system. The rope is muddy and slippery and depending on where this obstacle is along the route
your arms may already be spent from one of the other obstacles. The trick to the hoist is to get some momentum in the pulls and keep inching the weight up. Just getting it started might require you to throw your whole body into it. Once you get the weight moving the obstacle seems do-able, but at first pull it is a daunting task.

The Spear Throw is simple in concept but far more difficult in execution. All I can say here is that if you have never thrown a spear before your chances of success are slim...practice this one before the event or be prepared for 30 burpees (the penalty for not completing an obstacle).

There were two Object Carry obstacles for this event. The first early in the race and the second near the end. Both were difficult to say the least. The first involved carrying a
Sandbell (aka glorified sand bag) weighing in at around 50 pounds up and down a steep hill and covering roughly a quarter of a mile. The saving grace here is that the Sandbell is soft and conforming, making it easier to carry on your shoulders or back. Conversely, the second carry is a 5 gallon bucket fillet with pea gravel, again in the 40 to 50 lbs. range, that must be carried up and down another hill again covering roughly another quarter mile. The bucket is much less conforming and the hard plastic edges really dig into your body, making this the tougher of the two carries.

The last notable obstacles were the barbed wire crawls. There were two in this event. While most obstacle races have these, the ones in the Beast were far longer and had the wire strung much closer to the ground than in other races. Not necessarily making them a lot harder, but definitely making you slow down and focus a little more than others.

The 2013 Texas Beast took place in Glen Rose, Texas, a little ways south of Ft. Worth -
basically the middle of nowhere. And, as is often the case in Texas in the winter, the weather was far from predictable. We had been seeing rain on and off for few days, so sure enough the day and the night before the race it rained. The wet course in and of itself wasn't too bad until you consider that the temperature at race time was in the low 40's with a 25-35 mph wind that brought the wind chill into the high 20's-low 30's. This meant for a cold, muddy day. In fact some of the water obstacles were modified or eliminated by the race directors in order to maintain a safe race.

As I reflect upon the conditions, I've decided that I was very comfortable for 80% of the race. I was plenty warm and mostly dry. For 10% of the race I was less than comfortable, meaning I was wet or that the wind was really biting in. For the other 10% I was a sketch above miserable. Freezing cold, soaking wet, tired and hungry.

Really, when I look back on it, The Beast was a perfect race...well organized, extremely challenging and fun - in a demented sort of way. Not your typical fun run or mud run. I highly recommend the Spartan Beast for anyone looking to push themselves deeper into the realm of obstacle racing.