Something in the Air: Utah Spartan Beast 2014

When I signed up for Utah, I expected a tough course with nearly endless uphills. I had done mountain-series races before in Ottawa and Vermont, I expected more of the same. While I thought I had dealt with elevation before, this race would teach me that I truly had no idea.

My home is at roughly 800 feet above sea level. Killington Vermont, home of the Spartan World Championships, is a little over 4200. This race went from 5600 to 6800, which had much more effect on me than I had expected.

My battle buddy and I made it to the start line, enjoyed the rousing send off, and charged through the smoke grenades onto the course. The course started off reasonably flat, which of course meant mud trenches within the first quarter mile. We ran into friends at the over-under-through walls, one of whom mentioned her goal for the day was to get over all the walls unassisted. She failed at the 6′ wall, and I was able to give her a different technique so she could make it on the second attempt.

On to hot, steep, dusty trails that seemed to go on endlessly. Trails that flatlanders don’t quite understand. And the fact that the air didn’t have any air in it didn’t help. When we reached the downhills, footing became a problem. The ground was a dry fine silt, the consistency of talcum powder. We then went through a short barbed wire crawl that lead into a mud pit, down a long downhill trail to the tractor pull.

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My battle buddy was suffering from the elevation more than I was, so I started off pulling both of ours. I think I could have done it over solid ground, but dragging them through powdery soil made them feel twice as heavy. I had both for half the distance, maybe a little less, and we each had our own for the rest.

Up the hill to the Atlas carry. Those are getting heavier. I ran ahead to complete mine, then ran over to assist my battle buddy with hers.

We both failed the rope climb and the cargo net monkey bars and moved on to the hoist, which despite being mudded to the point of almost being greased, we were both able to complete.

The tire lift was a new obstacle for me, tires suspended from a bridge that you must pull up from above and then slowly let back down. Both of us completed without a problem.

About this time we came to the second ungodly uphill, a brutal climb back up to the top. My battle buddy was having difficulty breathing and was suffering greatly from the heat, and decided that it was foolish for her to continue, so from this point forward I was on my own.

The next three uphills were absolutely brutal. I have seen many races where people sit down and rest for a bit. This is the first where I saw dozens along the course just sitting and staring hopelessly out into space.

The normal obstacles, tire pull, tire flip, more walls to go over. What truly stands out in my memory is the last 500 yards.

The longest and sloppiest mud crawl I can ever remember.

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The slick wall was thickly coated in mud, as were my hands and feet. I have NEVER failed this obstacle before, and I failed three times here. When I did succeed, it was with a man pulling from above and two pushing from below. It reminded me of an old movie line of “T’was man over man that got us over that wall.”

Over the fire:

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Got my finishers medal, and joined the line to get our banana and water. I soon had to drop out of the line, walk to the side, sit down, and spend 5 minutes trying desperately not to throw up.

This race took all I had, pushed me right to the limit.

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