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Texas, United States
Welcome to my blog. What is a triathlon? It's a swim, bike and run usually in that order. My goal is to give exposure and insight to triathlons along with encouraging living a healthy life style. My post will also contain my collective thoughts pertaining to my training experiences. Feel free to send an email to ej@trilifeblog.com with any feedback or questions you may have. facebook: www.facebook.com/TriLifeBlog

Friday, January 3, 2014

Spartan Beast 2013 Recap - Glen Rose Texas

Legit, was the word teammate Robert used to describe this race after it was all said and done. It was fitting in so many ways. I’m going to try and give you an insight to my Spartan Beast experience. I’ve raced in several other obstacle events, DFW Mud Run, Merrell Down and Dirty, Muddy Buddy and now Spartan Beast. Just like triathlons Spartan hosts a range of events, starting from a sprint ranging all the way up to an ultra.
The Spartan race was unique to the other mud run events in a few ways. There wasn't a course layout, the run distance was not defined, instead it was listed as 12 plus miles, and obstacles on the course were not disclosed. I was fortunate enough to know a local Spartan Pro to get a glimpse of what to expect with some of the obstacles. Oh, and one other thing, burpees! Yes, there were plenty to be had if you were unable to complete an obstacle. If you missed an obstacle you had to drop and do 30 burpees. A set of burpees would easily tack on 2 ½ to 3 1/3 minutes to your run time. One can see how complete the course burpee free would be an advantage.

Several of the obstacles required upper body and grip strength. In no particular order there were two rope climbs, two pebble and dirt 5 gallon bucket carrying stations, a 5 gallon cement bucket vertical pull, traverse line, a sideways wall crawl, tractor tire flip, cement bucket carry, and tire pull.  There were also several wall climbs, vertical log balance stations, cargo net, a 100 foot or so barbwire crawl, a shorter barbwire crawl, a memorization challenge, and a few water obstacles. At the finish there was one more small barbwire crawl, a inclined roped wall climb, and a fire jump with several Spartan staff members waiting to clock you with their oversized jousting clubs.

Pre race: Edward, Robert, EJ, Jordan, Nicole and Jennifer
Race morning was fidget in the 30’s as we knew it would be. I raced with a team from Texas Health Resources. Our fearless leader was spot on when he booked rooms at the host hotel. This put us only a half mile jog away to the race sight. On race morning we jogged over to packet pickup to hand in our wavers, and were asked to sign an additional wavier. It was too cold that morning to care what the additional waiver said. I took my gloves off signed it, and turned it in and proceeded to pick up my packet.

Inside the packet was a bib number, a Spartan headband with your race number, and a wrist timing chip. The writs timing chip was a first for me. I never had a chip on my wrist. I thought it was pretty cool. I felt like I didn't have to worry about it getting snagged on something while running or going through the obstacles
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My choice race attire was a pair of tri shorts, a Texas Health Resources fitted long sleeve top, a beanie, a throw away long sleeve cotton shirt, and a pair of throw away gloves.  I also wore a hydration race belt, and carried two 6 oz bottles with my nutrition in it. Since there was an unknown race distance I had prepped my nutrition bottles for 3 hours of running.  If the course was fairly consistent to last year’s course I figured I would finish around the 2 hr 30 minute mark. I had enough nutrition to carry me an additional 30 minutes if needed.

Our team signed up for the elite wave which placed us on the start line for an 8 a.m. start time. Standing at the start line I felt a bit unprepared. A couple months before the race I envisioned a training plan that consisted of trail running, upper body strength, and burpee workouts. During that training period I ended up nursing a knee injury so my burpee routine never happened. I simply did not want to risk reinjuring my knee. I tried hitting the pull up bar every now and then, but I knew I had not put in the upper body strength work I needed to. 

As I’m standing in the chilling 30 to 40 degree weather I peeled off my throw away top, and listened to the MC go into, what appeared to be a traditional Spartan start motivational speech to the athletes. I will admit it was pretty cool, and got me pumped up a bit. As soon as the speech was over we were off on to the course.


We quickly found ourselves following white ribbon course markers when lead us over a cactus covered field. The field would also contain brush, trees and thorn bushes. It was pretty obvious early on that we were not on a trail. The course director bush wacked out several sections over the terrain for this race. About a mile in there was a water obstacle. The last thing I wanted to do was get my feet wet and well that wishful thinking went out the window as I not only got my feet wet, but I ended up getting my hands wet too.

As I made my way out of the water obstacle I tossed my wet gloves, and quickly felt my feet were icy cold. There was not much I could do about this, so I pressed on with frozen feet , and throbbing cold hands. We pushed our way through several climbs where if you were not paying attention to the white ribbon trail you could easily go off course. As tough as the trail was I will admit it was fun. Some of the hills still had ice from the previous week’s freeze. We scaled up and down hill sides for the first 4 to 5 miles. I was able to successfully complete the obstacles along the way. 

Early on my hands were numb from the wrist down. I came upon an obstacle where I had to fill a five gallon bucket with pebbles and rocks then carry it up and down a hill side without spilling any of the pebbles. We had to carry the bucket up in front, with arms fully extended. We were not allowed to put it up on our shoulders. I actually did really well on this obstacle. I noticed I was walking up the hill, and was passing other athletes who were putting their bucket down to take a break. I suddenly realized that this could be a bad thing, because my hands from the wrist down were numb. My first thought was, maybe I was cutting off the circulation to my fingers, and didn’t know it. Maybe that’s why other athletes were putting their buckets down to take a break. I decided to just go for it and finish off the obstacle. Fortunately my fingers were fine after the race.
For the next three miles from 5 to mile 8 my feet were numb. I’ve had numb feet before in a duathlon, where I was coming off a bike on to a run. It’s a weird uncomfortable feeling when there is no feeling from your mid foot to your toes. In this case my whole foot was numb from my heel to my toes. At times I felt as if I had a clump of mud on the bottom of my shoe. When I checked, and found nothing there, it played with my mind. I was once again concerned about gaining feeling.

I arrived at the spear throw obstacle with cold hands and cold feet. I grabbed a spear closed my eyes, and flung it towards to the hay bail. I opened my eyes just in time to see the spear hit the target. Score! Okay, okay, well it quite did not work out that way. My spear flew wide left and I proceeded to put in my first set of 30 burpees for the day. I dropped down into the push up position,and it was around my 5th burpee when I noticed that my left hand was landing on top of a piece of cactus. No bueno! I knew that would hurt later. Completing the set of burpees wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact I think it helped bring circulation to my feet, and hands.
Around mile 8 I could hear the crowd at the start line. I thought to myself maybe we were going to be done well short of 12 miles. I knew they had pulled some of the water obstacles out of the course so maybe, just maybe the course distance was also cut short? I finally arrived back to the start/finish I crossed over a cargo net obstacle, and as I pressed on the course ended up flowing away from the start/finish area. After mile 8 my legs finally warmed up and I was able to get into a run rhythm. Over the next several miles the obstacles and trail seemed a bit easier, but honestly I was tired of being cold. I was on mile 13, and was so ready to be done with the race. The only thought running through my mind was the 12 plus mile description. 

I hit one last aid station, and they said I was one mile from the finish. I was pretty ecstatic to hear that news. I pushed and somewhere in mile 14 I could hear the finish line crowed again. The last quarter mile had four back to back obstacles.  The first obstacle was horizontal wall climb. There were little wood numbs to step and grab onto as you made your way across the wall similar to a rock climbing wall. I got onto the wall, and at first I took a good second to figure out how approach the wall. I finally got the hang of it, and as my luck would have it I had mud on the bottom of my shoe and as I placed my foot onto a wooden peg it slipped and I fell off. I got up, and ran over to get my 30 burpees in.

After finishing my set the very next obstacle was a wet rope climb which hovered over a body of water. I jumped into the water, and started to climb the rope. My arms were shot from the set of burpees I just completed. I decided it would be easier for me to give up on the rope climb, and do the 30 burpees. So I did. As I’m doing the burpees, I kept hearing the bell ring. The bell is what was on the top of the rope climb, so every time it rang I knew someone had just passed me. That was probably the most frustrating portion of the race for me. I lost anywhere between 5 to 8 positions over the last two obstacles. I picked myself up after my last burpee, made my way to the wall climb, jumped over the fire wall, and pushed my way through the Spartan jousting pounding. I crossed the finish line, and was now an official Spartan finisher. I was excited to get the event behind me. It was no cake walk.

After picking up my bag I made the half mile walk to the hotel,  and immediately turned on the hot water in the shower. I jumped into the hot water, and initially the water hitting my feet and toes was very painful. I stood in the shower for roughly twenty minutes before I thawed out. 

Putting the race into prospective I have to give major props to these Spartan warriors. I especially have to give kudos to the pro and non pro Spartan athletes who did the Saturday race and came back on Sunday to do the same course again. The Spartan training not only requires you to have endurance, but you also have to have a solid core and upper body strength to carry you through the obstacles. If you are looking for a way to challenge your body I recommend doing an Spartan event at least once. 

Race morning: Robert, Edward, Jordan, Nicole, Jennifer and EJ
The Spartan event had an open and elite division. In the end I was happy with where I finished. I was 17th overall in the elite field of around 200 athletes. Our team Texas Health Resources finished 3rd out of 166 teams.  I walked away with a good race experience, and great new friends.

I'd like to say thank you to Texas Health Resources for inviting me out to this event. I also like to thank Shawn Feiock and the Texas Tough Spartans for inviting me out to their Sunday training session. If you are interested in doing a Spartan event and live in the North DFW area look these guys up. They are a great group of folks.

Here are a couple misc photos from the event.

Traverse  rope obstacle.

Burpees..!

Thank you for reading my blog entry. As always feel free to email me any questions or comments you may have.

..ej
ej@trilifeblog.com

2 comments:

  1. Good post. Thanks for the write-up. As someone who did both days, I can tell you it was extremely hard to get out of bed on day 2 and do it all again. I appreciate that you mentioned what obstacles you failed. I only failed the second rope climb as I was completely wiped of energy, strength, and fighting cramps.

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