* From: Janine Andrews
* Event Details
* Race Details
Spartan VT Beast (2013) Review
My 2013 Trifecta attempt did not go as planned, but then again, no one’s ever does. I spent the four months leading up to this race, nursing injuries; a broken toe ( yard work accident) and a badly strained calf muscle from hill training. Finally, two weeks prior to D-day, I broke my tail bone on the “death” slide at the NJ Tristate Super (see Super review). I received the bad news from my doctor that the tail bone was indeed broken, (I figured this myself from the excruciating pain that I had been suffering), only hours before I was to take the four plus hour drive to Mt Killington to take on the Beast with my awesome team of four..
Already apprehensive about the race and lack of training, the reality of the X-ray was the nail in the coffin. The excitement was bubbling the entire ride as we approached the mountain. We finally reached our condo, checked in, and went to find what would essentially be our “last supper”. We found a cool place named The Back Behind with the smoky smell of bbq wafting in the air and quickly ran inside, only to see smiling fellow Spahtens, carb loading for the adventure the following day. We ate, drank, and settled in for the night, all hoping for a few hours of sleep before the task at hand was going to smack us square in the face. Daylight broke and no alarm needed, off we go. We immediately see the giant team tent filled with Spahtens and buckets of Spahten swag, a welcoming sight considering that we were all in vomit mode. Some race prep, friendly conversations, ( pretty sure I sounded like a babbling idiot but whatever) and introductions. The team heat goes off with a bang and we come up on some walls and hay bails throwing us right into reality. About 8 minutes in, the mouthpiece of my camel bak gets snagged on a hail bail and buries itself in the mud, while water squirts at me like a dentist water pic. We take a few minutes to look for it and have to bail. While I jog , I twist it into knots to stop the flow. Throughout the day, this would plague me, becoming a constant nuisance that helped to seal my fate.
We muddled on up the first accent to the top of the mountain where 2 miles seemed like 5 and suddenly, more reality set in. We will have to do this several times over the course of the day… Ouch!! Along the way, I chatted with my Spahten family, feeding from them ,their positive energy and smiles, to propel myself to every plateau. These plateaus were like mountain mirages, you would see them, push and pull your way to them, only to see that the accent is not over, and their are lines of tiny ants still traveling above you. We eventually reach “the top” and wind into the woods for some walls, obstacles, and some ridiculous down hills, some that looked more like cliffs. I was amazed at how many times I heard the word “medic” shouted already and saw so many fallen soldiers. The Beast was taking it’s prey early on in the day. All the stories of this mountain were true and I was beginning to feel uneasy. On the second accent, I noticed my pace had decreased tremendously
and my tail bone was starting to affect my climb. I pushed on while my team waited for me in various spots as I trekked on, only able to take very small steps as to not open my stance enough to engage my tail bone. By this time, I had seen some of my favorite Spahtens time and time again, always smiling and taking care of each other, showing true team spirit. Sandy Rhee, Vince Rhee and crew, you know who you are! Sandy Rhee, is sort of that unsung hero who just seems to pop up right where you need her, either with a word of motivation or a little push of your tractor tire while it is stuck on a little bump. I gladly waited to see if I could return the favor but it was not needed. We tackled more obstacles including my favorite, the barbed wire crawl. It is the only obstacle I feel truly confident about and can maneuver through fairly quickly and pretty much unscathed. We continued on another decent, past mile 5 and 6 back to ” base camp”.
We now had the rope climb; failed (30 burpees ensued), and onto the low wall; otherwise known as the dunk your head under the mystery brown water wall. Next was a small tube crawl that dropped you right into a very short section of barbed wire, a pleasant surprise. It was here that I saw the Mile 7 marker and the time on the watch. It was then that I had to make the difficult decision knowing that I had not met my own personal cut off for about the half way mark of the race. Knowing the two water obstacles were next and would deplete me and change the game, I swallowed hard, hugged my husband and brother in law and told them to cut me loose so they could have a chance at getting off the mountain before dark. I still thought I could finish but at a much slower pace than was safe for everyone. I have hiked many a mountain but have never come down such steep, greasy, inclines in the dark with just a head lamp and a busted tail bone weighing on my mind, knowing one fall would not only end my race , but possibly keep the team from finishing because we vowed to stay together.
I stood and watched the guys go over the top of the cargo net with a sick feeling in my stomach that this was not the way this was supposed to go, not at all! I got myself together as best I could, cleaned up, changed and headed back to the finish line to pour salt in my wound. While I stood waiting for my team mates, I watched 3 Spartan proposals and many injured come through. One girl, literally collapsed into tears while Chris Davis tried for several minutes to comfort her with no avail. After about 10 minutes, she stumbled to her feet and walked off like she had no idea where she was walking to. It was a profound moment to watch and a moment I am almost felt guilty about desiring to have for myself. That is what I came for, to face the mountain, look it in the eye, bandage my wounds and receive my medal, even if it meant having a nervous breakdown. Hell I expected one! The glory of teetering on the edge of all your limits, all in one place with a bunch of other nut bags is what I signed up for, dammit! Soon after, my husband and brother in law hobbled to the finish and I almost burst into tears. Happy to see they survived the dark hike down the mountain without me. It was bitter sweet watching them get their medals from a personal hero of mine, Chris Davis, but ridiculously deserved.
I spend the next few days, grieving, discussing, remembering, and quietly sobbing over my failed attempt, trying to make sense of things. Trying to convince myself that it was not in the stars and there were several omens that day combined with the year of injuries that just multiplied the odds against me, odds I just could not overcome. Then I went into acceptance mode, accepting my failure and being extremely proud of being on the mountain for 6 hours with a broken tail bone and that I didn’t need to prove anything further to myself or ever go back. My trifecta attempt would be put to rest and hopefully forgotten.
Next, would come the overwhelming need for redemption that cannot be quieted easily. The mountain knows I need it as much as it needs me. I am Spahten!!!
* From: Stephanie Paolino
* Event Details
Killington VT: The parking was GREAT. No need to take a bus in a different state. Also they provided buses for the spectators who did not want to walk up the big hill to view the first sandbag carry. The ability to go back to your car if you forgot something was a huge bonus.
The food vendors were good (lodge stayed open late), but the outside vendors closed up shop by 5pm (well before most of the Beast runners were back).
The fact that there were INDOOR bathrooms was outstanding. They were gross by the end of the day, but an indoor bathroom is always preferable to a portapotty. The showers were much better than previous races I have been to and the changing tents were a step up from what we did at the last race (covering up with towels in order to get out of our nasty clothes).
It was also so nice to be able to find a plug for my laptop and phone (uploading pictures was taking way too long via FB and Verizon as we were on a mountain and there was not a great signal. There was a BEAST wifi that was available if you were in the lodge. Outside the lodge it did not work well at all. Without the ability to charge anything it would have been impossible to update anyone at home of their loved ones status.
As a NE Spahten it was AWESOME to have a huge tent right on the course. We got to watch people come through at the halfway mark and we could provide support, encouragement and band-aids to those who passed.
Medals and gear was great. HOWEVER, it seems Spartan underestimated how many people were getting their Trifecta medals. Some people went home without their medal and t-shirt. This is a shame because of how HARD the runners worked and to go home without it was frustrating to some. I know they will get them eventually, but lets face it, we want our schwag when we cross the finish line!
Spartan had a ton of stuff for sale which was great. BUT they ran out of Beast shirts that were smaller sized. Most of the competitors are not XL or XXL and if you waited until you finished the race (just in case you DNF) you did not get to purchase one.
* Race Details
It was nice as a spectator to be able to see some of the obstacles and be able to give teammates updates on other runners and the obstacles ahead. This was one of the most exciting and great races I have been to. I felt guilty for opting out of running (thanks to a broken bone in my foot).
From what I heard the pancake sandbag carry had a mean twist at the beginning and was awful, but it seemed like from mile 10-14 people picked up their pace and finished a lot faster than the first 4 miles.
I have to say my FAVORITE thing to watch was the faces of the runners when the girls at the lemonade stand told them there was hot chocolate! Their expressions were priceless and it gave them all a much needed laugh at the halfway point when they were cold, wet and exhausted.
There were some things I noticed as an observer that Spartan could do better. I can only comment on the obstacles that I got to see.
1. BOTTLENECKS: . A lot of competitors could have shaved off at least 20-30 min on their total time if the bottlenecks were handled better. For example,
The first sandbag carry. Most of the bags were breaking and the volunteers were trying to tape what they had, but that really didn’t work well. and this created a huge bottleneck.
The barbed wire crawl at mile 7. I posted some pics of this one. I was dying to be crawling through the mud with everyone! But the huge waves of people were just making it so hard for other people to move through easily. Which lead to more bottlenecks at the rope cross and the water obstacles.
More and larger life jackets were needed. I watched a lot of men wait for bigger ones as they did not fit in the yellow/red jackets.
The traverse obstacle – we all know the large bottleneck at this obstacle every time. Not sure if they could add some more ropes or not, but Spartan could do something to avoid the long wait time here
2. VOLUNTEERS: I got to hear a lot of volunteers giving out wrong information about burpees and what mile people were on. For example, at the water obstacles people were being told that they could not burpee out. Yet I overheard at least 2 volunteers allowing people to just do 60 burpees at the tarzan obstacle (30 for refusing to swim and 30 for failing the obstacle itself). This was NOT fair to any of the competitors that had already attempted (including the poor guy who got his foot stuck and hung upside down on the rope ladder – HE went and did his 30 burpees!!) By the way the divers and medics did a great job of cutting him out of the rope and getting him on his way safely and quickly. Being able to stand over the water obstacles was GREAT. I got to cheer on my teammates and take some good pics of those down below.
The volunteers were also not keeping the competitors honest about the burpees. I watched so many people skip the water obstacles and then walk right past all the other runners doing their burpees. I know a lot of runners have been complaining about the people who were not honest in their burpee counts.
Clearly Spartan wanted to make the World Championships as epic as possible. And they succeeded. The runners who were finishing were just physically and mentally exhausted, yet you knew they were having a blast and everyone who competed should be so incredibly proud of themselves for crossing the starting line and giving it all they could!
* From: Gary Miller
* Event Details
Vermont Spartan Pre-Beast Feast
The reviews of the Killington weekend races have been terrific. I thought Spahten Nation might also be interested in a write-up of the Pre-Beast Feast, to help decide whether to attend next year.
For me, the answer will be Yes.
* Race Details
On the Friday night before the Vermont Beast, the Pre-Beast Feast took place at Joe and Courtney De Sena’s Amee Farm. Attendees parked at the main Killington resort parking lot, and were taken by school bus to Pittsfield, maybe 15 minutes away. Before getting on the bus, each person got their name checked off the list and was given one raffle ticket.
It ended up being a perfect night weather-wise. The dinner was held outdoors, with clear blue skies and the sun setting beautifully over the mountains. Elites and Media had their own section; Chris Davis was working as the bouncer. We schlubs were in one separate long contiguous row of tables. The layout was actually a very smart choice, because it highly encouraged conversations between Spartans who didn’t already know each other.
This Feast was where I began to realize how big an event this weekend was. People really traveled from all over to be there. In my section were a couple New England Spahtens from Massachusetts, a family from Connecticut, a native Vermonter, and even representatives of the Weeble Army from northern California. New York, New Jersey, and the CornFed Spartans (Indiana) also seemed to be highly represented.
For the actual dinner, there was a choice of veggie or sausage lasagna, salad, rolls, and apple crust for dessert. It was all quite excellent. Bottled water appeared to be the only beverage – hydration seemed to be really important for some odd reason. Seconds were allowed and easily obtained.
The guest speaker was Elaine LeLanne, wife of fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne, whose autobiography is coming out next year. Joe gave a nice introduction, calling Jack the ‘original Spartan’. His feats include completing 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes (at age 42) and swimming from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco while towing a 1,000-lb boat at age 60. Take That, Death Racers! Other Spahtens may have already known all about Jack, but I had no clue, so I thought this was all fascinating.
Elaine spoke for maybe 10 minutes, and was highly energetic. They then showed a short movie of clips of Jack’s TV shows from the 50s. Technical issues with the sound prevented us from hearing the ‘blooper’ real that Elaine had been excited to show us. Perhaps the best part was the crowd calling for her to do a pushup. She gave the people what they wanted, dropping to the grass and doing about 10. Did I mention that she is 87?
The night ended with a free raffle. The biggest prize was a $1700 Spartan-themed tablet. I missed a gift basket from Joe’s General Store by one number. Dangit.
All in all, I thought it was a nice opening act, and there were enough attendees to make me expect they will bring it back. If you’re strictly looking at the cost of the food you get versus the amount of money you pay out, it is likely not actually worth the $35 per person ticket cost. To me, the real value of the Feast lies in the opportunity to meet other Spartans from all over and share the experience.