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Playing in the Mud – Achieve Your Championship

This year, it was announced that there would be a United States OCR Championship to go along with a World Championship, two European Championships and countless other championships around the world. With these championships announced, people are starting to make plans. If you look around Facebook, particularly in the United States, people have started to post about plans. People are posting their OCRWC qualifying emails and all of their hotel and travel plans. What about the rest of us?

Most of us are not championship material.   Writers note: I know that a qualification for the US OCR Championships this year is a pulse and breathing, but you all understand what my point is overall. Most of us will never podium at a race or be in the first few that get the “Congratulations” email. So, what about the rest of us?

Goals. Let’s look at goals for a moment. Some people have the goal of winning, placing on the podium or qualifying for other races and championships. Others have the goal of time and beating past times. Then there are some like me and many others who have the goal of finishing. All are valid goals and from the people I know and talk to, more people have the goals that I have…finishing. So what are we to do?

We quit racing. No. That’s not serious. In fact, we push on and push forward and achieve our goals no matter what they are. As I have said repeatedly in the past, I am a sloth. I am not fast on any course, whether flat, mud, mountains, stadium. My goals are to finish any race I have started. I know what my limitations are and I know what I am capable of. Do you?

Goals are important to each and every one of us. We need something to look forward to and something to achieve. It is one of the reasons why we race. We go out there to test ourselves and see what we are capable of. We make ourselves uncomfortable to test our inner will. We want to overcome what we think cannot be done and we imagine the feeling we have when we have overcome the obstacles in front of us.

What is your goal? We all have them? Is it a 5k mud run? Is it a Tough Mudder? Savage Race? Endurance Run? Whatever it is, achieve it. My OCRWC is the Killington Beast in September. All along the way I have other races and even a tower climb mixed in. The Beast at Killington is my championship. That is my goal for the year. That is what I build to throughout the year. I start with a Beast in Jersey and race all along the way until I get to my championship. My goal is to get to that race, overcome it and collect a few medals and shirts along the way.

What are yours? Is your goal to finish a 5k, a 5-mile mud run, 10 mile race, a win, a podium or a championship. Go for them. Your goals start from within and they start with a statement. “I want to (fill in the blank)”. Once you announce your goal, it is out there for everyone to see and most importantly, for you to achieve.

After you announce it, live it. Spend your days and your time achieving your goal. Every time you set on a course, go into a gym, train on a trail, look toward your goal and achieve it. Believe in yourself and set a goal, overcome all obstacles and get to your championship. Whether your championship is finishing a race or the actual championship, achieve it.

Thanks for continuing to be the ones who want me to overcome, to achieve my goals and to wanting me to achieve my own championship. I hope I can help you push to achieve your goals and overcome any obstacles to achieve your championships. Until next time my friends, be epic and keep playing in the mud.

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Playing in the Mud – Monday Memory “Fear Before Killington”

Weekly, I have been posting on the New England Spahtens Facebook page. These posts have motivated people, reminded people of their worth, shown people that they are not alone in the world and also shown everyone that we are all one family. The obstacle course world is the same. People feel alone. People do not feel worthy when compared to others. People do want to continue because they just don’t have that motivation.   I hope that these posts help change you and show you that you are all amazing people.

Besides weekly new posts, on Mondays I will be posting a “Monday Memory” of a Facebook post of the past. These memories will posted here, with a current introduction.

Be epic and as always, keep playing in the mud.

September 15, 2016 – Two days before the Spartan Killington Beast

Two or three days before Killington, people start to freak out.

I wanted to remind people that we are all scared. We all have fears. We all have worries. However, that fear also brings us all together.  Fear drives us and pushes us. I wanted people to begin to channel that energy for something positive and based upon the people I met on that mountain, I believe it worked.

I bring you fear.


Fear can do one of two things, it can freeze you or it can drive you.

In two days, I will be on a mountain in Vermont. Standing at the base of the mountain that is scary. You look up and think, how the hell am I going to get all the way up there? You look and you see obstacles and carries and all these people around and you think…”30% of these people will not finish this race”.

You have a choice. You head into the race wondering if you will be a statistic, a number, a DNF and wondering if you gave it your all.

Or, you use your fear of the unknown and of that mountain and you use it to drive you. You motivate your friends, your battle buddies and your race family and you will tell them that they will make those climbs, they will carry those carries, they will complete the obstacles and the crawls and they will jump the fire. You use this Beast in front of you as motivation to make yourself a better person, a stronger person and someone who will not listen to the voice on your head saying ” I cannot”.

There is no alternative. There are no insecurities. There are no options in your day that includes failure. Stand in the starting corral, look to your left and look to your right. Let them see your eyes and your confidence and show them all that “We ALL got this”.

Let’s all congregate up in Killington tomorrow and conquer the Beast.

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Featured Review: Spartan Race VT Beast 2015

We’re so lucky.

We live in New England. We are able to drive a short distance – just a few hours – and be at the foot of a venue like Killington. We have companies like Spartan Race who will come out, and setup a challenge that is physically demanding and mentally draining. We are fit and able enough to line up, and challenge that mountain.

In recent years, I’ve had my fair share of constructive feedback for Spartan HQ (some may call it whining, or complaining – but thats never the intention), and lets be clear, there will be some of that after this race – but it’s important to remember the bigger picture.

We got to go to Killington and compete in the VT Beast – and barring a few injuries here and there causing some DNF’s – for the most part, we were successful.

We’re *SO* very lucky.


This was the fifth VT Beast – my fourth – and other than year one, this is the first time Spartan were not holding their World Championships at the event. This was also the first time the VT Beast was given the designation of being a founders race – indicating they would be going back to their roots, and steering clear of the big build outs and complicated (and expensive) constructions – and staying a little closer to what made them so successful in the first place – namely, physical challenges to test strength and endurance.

IMG_9760Both of these changes caused much chatter, much speculation and much guesswork into the reasoning, and what this means for the future. Will all future Spartans be this gritty, back to the roots, carved out of wood style – or is this an outlier, and the future will return to big digs, large constructions and flashy banners? Time will tell.
The New England Spahtens were everywhere – taking biggest teams for both Beast days, the Sprint and the Ultra Beast – with over 400 registered runners – we were the community to be with, and welcome to every single new member who joined us at our biggest team tent!

The Venue

Most of us know Killington. I was staying at a motel a short drive away with Erick, and all parking was at the base lodge – getting there early was key to getting a half decent space – 6am on Saturday, 7am on Sunday meant I was always able to park close, and each day was the now common $10 charge.

No ropes under the bridge at sunrise

Registration was going on right in the parking lot, and the biggest team tent was right there as you came in – nice and easy to find, but far away from anything happening at the race festival – pluses and minuses. Storms on Saturday night blew the whole thing away, so Sunday was a chilly affair – Spartan staff were apologetic, but you can’t change mother nature. The huge merchandise trailer was also in the parking lot, and after learning my lessons in previous years, I bought my venue specific shirt as soon as I checked in.

Once you walked through the venue, you saw why so much was moved out into the parking lot – since we were last here in 2013, the entire base lodge has had attractions installed – a rope maze, rollercoaster and more – it made the festival grounds cluttered and crowded – the finish line and complex tucked off to the right, with the start line and kids course across the street (accessed by a tunnel). Bag check was indoors, and for the biggest team, we enjoyed free VIP bag check – and the main lodge with it’s cafeteria was open both early in the AM and late at night, which was hugely appreciated.

IMG_9745Of course, we can’t talk about the venue without a discussion of the main pond and bridge – and the conspicuously absent rope ladders and Tarzan swing. This obstacle is a particular hatred of mine – not being strong in either upper body *or* swimming – and I was personally not sad to see it missing – but I do understand many people’s disappointment with what was a personal nemesis or challenge – looking at the festival layout, I wonder if it was simple logistics that kept them away – it was hard to route a race course there, with the roller coasters and such – or if it was simply a case of that obstacle not fitting the “founders race” feel they were shooting for. I didn’t miss it.

My Race

I ran on Saturday in the biggest team wave at 8am. We were 230+ strong for that wave alone, and all you could see in the starting coral was a sea of blue shirts – it was pretty amazing to see, and be involved in helping that happen! Being so early, we were right after the elite men and women, and the course was going to be pretty wide open for us.

As is usual, I won’t do an obstacle by obstacle break down. The course will never be the same, so whats the point? Highlights and lowlights.

In 2014, towards the end when we were beat and tired and down – they directed us straight up a slope lovingly called “the death march”. My GPS track tells me this was right up the K1 Express gondola, and you cover over 2,000’ of elevation gain in a very short distance. We did this almost immediately – and made it up considerably quicker, with considerably less swearing – but it was still a brutal, hard climb that let you know that Founders Race or not, you were in for a day of suffering.

In 2012, we did an ugly crawl / scramble up the side of the mountain where there were very few trails. We did that too. All in, I think we did five really tough, really technical climbs, with their associated decent – and Killington once again showed why it chews people up – if you entered this race with a pre-existing injury in your ankles or knees – you reduced your chance of completion considerably.

Battle buddies!
Battle buddies!

The whole concept of the Founders Race is that we go back to basics on the obstacles – and that was certainly the case on the heavy carries – already famous for it’s incredibly difficult terrain for carries, this year we had even more. Two heavy log carries up the side of the mountain, one sandbag carry, one Spartan pancake carry, one extremely devious bucket carry – throw into that the atlas stone carry, the new farmers log carry and a heavy log carry (same style as the atlas – point to point with five burpees in between) – we spent a lot of time carrying heavy shit.

We also saw a lot of walls. Some were early on – with an Over Under Through and a couple of short and taller walls – one noticeable wall early in the race was simply not build properly, and the center point was moving far more than I would be comfortable with. The volunteer was asking racers to stay to the sides near the supports – but I would be interested to see how this particular wall faired as the day and weekend progressed. Also interestingly, all the walls were of the old design, with wooden supports and thinner lips at the top – unlike the MA events that saw walls with thick lips (too thick to get a hold of easily), and cargo strap supports negating a foot hold.

20150921163049Somewhere around mile ten, we hit a parking lot area that had tons of walls – of all kinds – several tall, several small – something I hadn’t seen much before were invisible walls – simple suspended logs to get over, with nothing underneath to catch – plenty of them. By the end of this section, my legs were cramping, and I never wanted to see another wall again (but of course, we did!).

Throw in at least two vertical cargo nets (one of my least favorite climbs, based on how unstable they feel), we climbed a lot of stuff.

20150921163130It wasn’t all carrying and climbing – we had three really nicely done barbed wire crawls. The first was pretty flat – the second, late in the race was uphill – but the last was right before the finish line, and felt not only exceptionally long, but given how tired everyone was, I was done with crawling at this point – this one felt like hard work!

What Spartan would be complete without Spear Throws? Love it or hate it – it’s there and we had two. At the summit, in the cold mist, with winds gusting – the hay bales were low to the ground for a change, and given our banana shaped spear, I stuck it close enough for a “pass” from the staff member managing the obstacle. The second was right at the finish line. RIGHT FRIGGING AT THE FRIGGING FINISH LINE. You could smell the smoke, and still had to nail a traditional spear man obstacle – not only torturous for people who missed and had to do burpees, but a great spectator spot too. Oh, more invisible walls right there too – fortunately I got them, despite pressure from the spectators 🙂

We went up too – two “back to basics” rope climbs, that were over regular terrain, and really short – at 6’, it wasn’t a stretch to get one or two leg locks in, and tap on the bell – while these are a far cry from the 15 or 20’ cargo container constructions – they were in the woods, in trails where people didn’t expect them. Upper body strength was tested with two Spartan style rigs – both of these were my burpee makers for the day – the second one was only accessed over a tall wall – with a second wall as your exit – new touches to a nasty obstacle.

12031478_917671154987898_5510042796816669980_oWhile the bridge was closed for business, we did enter the water, but only for a short while – a nice wade across the area that used to house the tyrolean traverse was refreshing more than challenging – considering the weather, I would have LOVED to go in there more than once!

A frequent criticism I heard this weekend was how “weak” the obstacles were. Thats not one I agree with. OCR has recently entered something of an arms race with obstacles – Tough Mudder put out all the stops with massive constructions, and Battlefrog brings an extremely difficult Platinum Rig to races these days – and when you go head to head with that, you end up losing what makes your race great in the beginning. Spartan was never about having the hardest variation on monkey bars, nor was it founded on the tallest rope climbs – it has always been about getting out on the mountains and trails and testing your strength and endurance, for time. They achieved this in spades – and the biggest obstacle – Killington itself – was never easy, and was never dialed down.

There is criticism to be leveled though – and that is in the handling of the water stations on course. If there are corners to be cut, money to be saved, things to be dialed back – it is NOT in the on course stations at a venue like Killington.

A line for water at mile 10
A line for water at mile 10

I set off with a 3l pack. I sweat a considerable amount and knew I would easily need one refill – it not two – or risk problems. There were 6 listed water stops, and we were in the first non elite wave to go out. Water stop one told us to fill our bladders at the next one, which was fine – and for us, the second stop let us refill (thanks for volunteering here, Dennis!). Third stop said to refill at the fourth – and the fourth was around mile ten, with a heavy log carry, and this is where disaster struck. Noticing a line for the table, which didn’t have any jugs available for bladders, we spotted a group using a hose to refill. I’ve been around this block a few times, and we managed to get a couple of our bladders full again, before a staffer commandeered the hose – and started to inform people that we weren’t permitted to refill bladders – go back to the table, where there was now a reportedly hour long line for cups … we had a couple of team mates in visible distress here – empty bladders, and long lines for cups – and we were forced into a situation where we had to share what we had and get them to the next stop – hopefully where they could refill and move on at their own pace.

I’ve heard from the volunteers at the earlier tables that they were later informed that they should not allow bladder refills at all.

It was a very hot day. Killington’s very nature is that people are out there a considerably long time, and putting out a lot of exertion. Dehydration is a very simply, cheap thing to help alleviate. The arguments of Killington being a self supported race is fine, but the 2015 athlete guide (rather surprisingly to me) showed hydration bladders to be OPTIONAL (unlike headlamps). This was a simple planning fail – and a potential catastrophic one. Coupled with some hot tempers and verbal sparring, it was a way bigger problem than it needed to be.

Update – on Sunday, Joe and Spartan HQ put out a video owning the problems and asking for people to reach out, making a commitment to fix them, and not repeat their problems again. You can choose to believe this, or not, but in my five years of Spartan Racing, this is a first.

Joe Addresses Spartan Race IssuesHey Spartans – Joe De Sena here. This weekend saw 5 races in 4 countries. But when I heard about the issues we were having in Killington, I immediately left the Ft. Bragg race to come deal with it personally. The issues in water, medals and lines are unacceptable and I’m going to work with the Spartan team to make sure it never happens again. And don’t think we aren’t listening to the complaints – I love hearing them! And as anyone who knows me can attest, I want to hear them personally so I can respond. Email me at with your feedback. This was a massive weekend for Spartans but I won’t rest until we learn from our mistakes and come back stronger. – Joe

Posted by Spartan Race on Sunday, September 20, 2015

The 2015 Killington Beast – despite it’s lack of World Championship status, despite the water stop issues – ultimately ended up being one of my personal favorite events of the calendar – something 2014 could not say. I was out there for 9.5 hours, and will be walking funny for a day or two. I had amazing company with my battle buddy, Jessica, and we hit our one and only goal – finish in the daylight and don’t use our headlamps. The sweetest sight of the entire day was sitting at the base lodge, looking out over the mountains, and seeing headlamps wink on as dusk fell – while stuffing our faces full of pizza and fries.

IMG_9763Killington isn’t for everyone – don’t take it lightly. Spartan continue to struggle with some simply logistics (they also ran out of venue shirt mid Saturday *again*, and for those hunting multiple trifecta’s, they were out of medals too), but seemingly despite themselves, they continue to attract legions of fans.

If the longer format of the Killington Beast is more your preference over shorter sprints – check out Bonefrog in MA next May, and some of the longer format endurance races at Shale Hill in 2016.

For me? I’ll be back at Killington in about 12 months. Hope to see you all in the team tent again.

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2 weeks and counting …


This is not the most important VT Beast post you’ll ever read (but I have linked to it).

Here we go again.

For the past few years, I’ve lined up at the foot of Killington and started the VT Beast. Each year, I’ve finished it – progressively longer and longer times spent on the mountain as HQ has ramped up the distance travelled and the relative difficultly of the obstacles.

A couple of years back, I wrote a post that sums up the entire pre-Killington experience – it basically boils down to “don’t panic” Go read it. It’s an important post that resonated with many. Maybe the most important VT Beast post you’ll ever read.

So, I’ll re-iterate.

Don’t. Panic.

1273909_530769387011412_1641808963_oKillington is a big mountain, but in 2015, it won’t be the hardest event Spartan put on (for the mainstream, that is) – but it very well could be the hardest thing you do this year.

Don’t. Panic.

There are considerations you need to have for this race – things you don’t need to worry about for a shorter event, or even another Beast distance event, but still, most people over think these way too much.

  • Bring a headlamp, even if you don’t think you need it.
  • Bring hydration, even if you don’t think you need it.
  • Ensure you run in a team wave, and relax in the biggest team tent.
  • Hydrate all f*cking week.
  • Eat well.
  • Pack nutrition.
  • The New England Spahtens is an amazing community – meet people, make friends on and off the course.

Also – Don’t. Panic.

10680066_718396234915392_4657320450429562675_oWear the same things you would wear to a regular OCR. Technical fabrics, compression fit. There will be spots that you find yourself far too hot, and spots you’re shivering.

Wear the same shoes that got you this far. It’s too late to change them, anyway.

Pack some food – whatever gets you calories, and sits well in your stomach. Don’t over think it.

Fill your pack with water – boring, plain, free water. Don’t over think it.

The mountain is steep. The event is long. The obstacles are challenging. Isn’t that why we’re all here in the first place? Don’t forget that.

Don’t panic. You’ve got this.

Happy smiling beautiful people who didn't die during the VT Beast. You won't die either!
Happy smiling beautiful people who didn’t die during the VT Beast. You won’t either!
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The Best Of – 2014 New England OCR

A recent Facebook Poll of the New England Spahtens was run to determine the top five favorite OCR events in our region.

As we ALL know, polls are not science, and the wording used was “favorite”, which is subjective. Also, Facebook polls allow you to vote on multiple entries – but only one vote, per entry.

All that being said, I think the list is pretty representative of the New England Spahtens, and with good reasons – so, here’s your top five favorite OCR events in the New England region.

Note – the poll is still active and receiving votes, so the results you see *now* maybe different to the results I saw when I started this article. In fact, I’d bet on it.

bonefroglogo5) Bonefrog Challenge

A relative new comer to the scene, Bonefrog landed with a big splash – putting on a longer distance, obstacle heavy format for the true OCR enthusiast. Bonefrog puts on solid, challenging courses that have very quickly become fan favorites. Attracting Elites and average Joe’s, with a Navy Seal theme and inspiration, this series is also owned and operated entirely by retired Seals.

With a #racelocal Grand Prix event in western MA in May, Bonefrog wants to expand – so keep an eye on their calendar for races as they open up.

Next Race – May 2015 – REGISTER

EURO - Polar Bear4) Polar Bear Challenge at Shale Hill

This was my personal pick – 8 hours to run as many laps of the famed Shale Hill course in the snow, in February. I’ve done this event twice now – and countless other events at Shale Hill, and never managed more than a single lap in that 8 hour window – but with an amazing family welcoming you by name, another challenging course thats perfect for the enthusiast, or the weekend warrior looking to push themselves – Shale Hill is world class, and in our backyard. Every event is going to be on the #racelocal calendar!

Next Race – February 2015 – REGISTER

fitchallengelogo3) FIT Challenge

It’s easy to spot why FIT Challenge is a New England Spahtens favorite, and staple in the #racelocal Grand Prix. Race Director Robb is active in the community, from participating as a fellow athlete at events, to answering any and all questions people bring up prior to his races. A good choice of past venues, all in an active region of New England. On race day, people are treated well, with large amounts of community space, the best pricing and treatment rarely seen anywhere else. The FIT course is usually around 5k, and while a solid course in it’s own right, it’s the family and friends treatment that puts FIT above many other similar races.

Next Race – April 2015 – REGISTER

Fenway sandbag2) Spartan Race – Fenway Park

Despite the frigid cold and packed ball park, Spartan nailed it with Fenway. A fun, but challenging course, a space set aside for the biggest team, and a full street taken over by the festival outside. As a community we saw a huge turnout, which was handled as well as can be expected on race day, and you couldn’t turn anywhere without seeing a Spahten shirt, even if they were supporting other communities. Massive volunteer turnout, both in the days setting up, all day on race day and during tear down showed what this community was all about.

Next Race – November 2015? – Registration not open

beastmedal1) Spartan Race – VT Beast

The Grand Daddy of all Spartan Beast events. This particular rendition was overly long, criticized by many for having almost all of it’s obstacles in the last couple of miles, and having too many “carry heavy things” obstacles – and despite that, it topped the rankings for the most popular event of the calendar year – showing that no matter what the internet experts think, the general OCR population is still in love with the Spartan Race suffer-fests. The VT Beast takes your Average Joe and puts them out of their comfort zone, testing themselves somewhere they never thought they’d be, and Killington holds a dear place in many hearts as a result. Time will tell if removing the World Championship, and adding a Beast in New Jersey will help, or hinder the VT Beast.

Next Race – September 19th – REGISTER

Of course, this isn’t the most comprehensive, scientifically deduced list out there. You may not see yours on it, and you may not agree with it – but, it’s clear that in New England, in 2014, Spartan Race provided the highlights for the most – but with three solid choices right behind them, and many other solid choices in the Grand Prix -New England leads the country in quality and choice for OCR.

Which races do you think we missed? Which races are you already registered for?

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Beast 2014 – the recap

It’s customary after an OCR, to write about the event. Usually, it’s a review – but this is a bit different.


IMG_7644I finished the Beast, and had a grand old time, even when I hated it. I earned a medal in just under 10 hours, and finished in the dark – missing my personal goal of a daylight finish. I stuck both spears, which never happens, and was told by a volunteer to walk past the last wire/rolling mud/dunk wall combo because it was dark. I picked up three unprepared people with no headlamps, and told them to keep up or DNF – and they did, and were really nice people. I did some burpees, but probably lost count and didn’t do them all.


The venue had poor parking planning on Saturday morning with backlogs for shuttle buses, my mini had a BLAST at the kids race, and my wife lead an amazing group of Biggest Losers through the Sprint course – obstacles, burpees and all – earning them all Sprint medals too – for one of her most rewarding OCR experiences ever. Spectator access was great, merchandise ran out of venue shirts and trifecta plaques, and there were some good vendors.

Happy now?

IMG_7636We made this into a family weekend away in VT, we ALL did something active, challenging, hung out with the best people in the world – and I can’t tell you how much it means to me that Spartan enables us to do this stuff together as a family.

I will be back next year. My experience was awesome.

Complete obstacle run through, if thats your thing.

So – why, this week, has there been nothing but whining, moaning, groaning and complaining on the social media’s?

IMG_7602The course was too long? The obstacles not placed to your liking? Too high? Too many hills? There’s a Sprint in a flat field somewhere, waiting just for you.

Cheaters who cut the course, or didn’t do their burpees, or walked by an obstacle?

Unless you were in the top ten of the elite wave, really – who cares? It doesn’t diminish your race, or your achievement any.

It’s not all being flung back at my fellow athletes.

Spartan HQ? Fix the headlamp situation. There wasn’t anywhere near enough notification or noise made about it – and TOO MANY people were unprepared. Have every single headlamp checkpoint hand them out to those without them, or be prepared to pull people. If Smithfest can do it at Panic in the Dark, you can too. While I’m on that topic, there were FAR TOO MANY people simply unprepared. You knew – roughly – how long the average joe would be out there, why on earth were there heats of normal, regular people going out after noon?

IMG_7622You can’t fix stupid though. If you were sliding down the technical single track trails in your old sneakers, duck taped to your feet – what. on earth. were you thinking? The hard core, badass dude with no shirt on, shivering at an aid station at the summit? MORON. Didn’t bring a pack? Didn’t think you’d need nutrition? Thanks for making more work for the medics – they were clearly going to be sitting idle all day.

HQ can’t be blamed for these people – there will always be a lowest common denominator in any crowd, and we all saw the lowest common denominator during our own race.

There’s a bigger issue though – one that HQ needs to figure out, and quickly.

These unprepared people – the ones in sneakers, thinking they’ll finish *THE BEAST* in a few hours and head on out for a nice warm lunch and a few beers – they aren’t going away any time soon. They are the “ripped off the couch” folks, who ran a Sprint this year, saw the cool trifecta marketing and though – huh – I could get that weekend off and go to New Jersey, and having done that in my sneakers and cotton shorts, well, next stop VT. This is what the Spartan marketing machine is shooting for – fresh bodies, fresh wallets (and more power to them – they die if they don’t have fresh attendees)

Meanwhile. The fans. The super fans. The enthusiasts and regulars. The ones who show up with packs FULL of nutrition, because they know they’ll bump into a regular joe who doesn’t have any. The ones who keep Inov8, Solomon and Icebug in business. The ones who remember when Hobie had an obstacle named after him, and when they used to put dish soap on the slip wall, and CARE about litter on the course.

They’re leaving. They’re burning out. I’m likely to be one of them.

Read. Read. Read.

I ran my first Spartan in 2010. Since then, I’ve done a bunch of North East based Spartans every year. With the exception of this weekends Beast, I’ve not seen a new obstacle of note since the inverted wall was introduced. I’ve seen problems with merchandise fulfillment that haven’t been fixed. I’ve seen people who have thrown themselves into the Spartan lifestyle, and now, years later, it’s doing nothing for them. Spartan blazing a self serving trail – they don’t want OCR in the Olympics – they want SPARTAN in the Olympics. They don’t want to rip people off the couch – they want to rip them onto a SPARTAN course. Everyday joes are realizing that – no matter how much they push their training or how motivated they may be – they’ll never “progress” up the Spartan ladder anymore. This years Ultra Beast wasn’t even slightly close for most normal, “day job and kids” level athletes.

Where can you go from there?

IMG_7611There is competition. That competition is getting good. Some of that competition is getting GREAT. OCR is maturing, and it’s not in the direction Spartan is taking it. People who were huge Spartan advocates are now coming to races in Battlefrog sleeves, or skipping Spartan weekends to go run on trails in more intimate events like O2X. There are other options.

For me – while the VT Beast weekend still offers such good value for my whole family, and such positive atmospheres for people wanting to push out of their comfort zones – I’ll be there with my New England Spahtens and my family – but when it comes to taking a large chunk of cash for a Sprint distance event in 2015? I’ll save that money for a couple of high quality local OCRs instead.

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Ultra Beast and other Demon speak

Note from the editor: Horgan has been here since day dot. He has a reputation for being something of a Yoda, always around to say the right thing, to the right people, at the right time. I’ve been struggling to write my own recap of this race – and while my experience and sentiments were very different to Horgan’s, I thought this was well worth sharing, and showing a very different side of the weekends experience. Buckle up.

10702007_10152463378549811_1509408334021861424_nThe Spartan Ultra Beast.

Disclaimer: This blog was written under the duress of exhaustion and pain.
Disclaimer 2: If you have become accustomed to my blogs which attempt to find a positive aspect to my experiences you probably are not going to find one here.
Disclaimer 3: If you are looking for an inspirational story of willpower and grit with a triumphant ending or even a tongue in cheek best face forward resolution; stop now.

Warning: If you have not directly experienced my duress induced humor; which starts with philosophical Zen like koans and illogical quips on standard inspirational clichés. If you have not heard me speak in sharply sarcastic remarks, until I’m fully engrossed in darkly sardonic metaphors. If you have not been present when I have reached the frayed ends of sanity, where the voices in my head, spring forth spewing anger and filth through the open doors of my mouth. IF this will be your first experience with that side of me; then I might suggest that you stop reading now. I simply ask this because if this is will be new to you; there is nothing in this blog that you’ll want to read. The following article is not going to be pretty. It is going to be convoluted, rife with inconsistencies, contradictions, apathy, self-indulgent tangents, possible profanity and a heaping helping of self-loathing and pity.


Seriously if you’re looking for some motivating inspirational shit STOP right now. I don’t want to change any image you may have of me. I put on an excellent Jungian mask most times but this time you’re going to get the shadow and right now he’s not fucking pleased.

Still here? All right, strap in. This is going to be a bumpy fucking ride. Sit down, hold on, and shut up because I’m driving. These are my opinions and yours have not been solicited.


Before I begin let me get a little god in here first. Just in case at the end someone should strike me down they’ll know I looked higher at some point.

Proverbs 24:27-29
Prepare your work outside. Get everything ready for you in the field and after that build your house.
-Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.
-Do not say, ‘I will do to others as they have done to me. I will pay them back for what they have done.’

With that Norm Koch deserves all the credit in the world. He put together the most difficult Spartan Race ever created. He did his job and let no man be held under scrutiny for doing his job well and as asked. Now that I’ve said that I feel I have license to go on and say exactly how I feel, how I want to.

10178098_10152460126834811_6280330827670188269_nI didn’t come to the Ultra Beast to crush it or kill it or any other non-productive, completely ridiculous, pseudo-inspirational, two words on a gym wall motivationals. I came to face a Demon of my own. I came to look it in its eye. I came to break the bones of some skeletons that have been taking up space, collecting cobwebs. But I came to the Ultra Beast defeated. I was probably defeated the day I clicked the “check out” button on the registration page a year ago. I came to try and settle a score, but I didn’t bring any chips to the table. Maybe I thought I could gamble on an outstanding marker and expected that I could bluff far enough through the game to get some good cards later. That didn’t happen.

I don’t remember a lot of the race in any order. Lets just start with the swim. I actually thought I was doing pretty well until then. I remember looking at my watch and guessing I was on a pretty solid pace. A good friend reminded me that I could in fact swim. So with out PFD I swam out. It was cold but not miserable. I got up the ladder without difficulty, but it was at that point that I realized, no upper body strength. Bell tap, and then I was only able to get both hands on the first knot. I decided to drop.  So grabbing my hat I let go. Down, down, down deep. And I puked, underwater, through my nose. Talented I know, right? It made the swim to shore lovely. So I went and did my burpees…most of them. And no I don’t care what you think, so fuck off. Which led us back into the water. This became a swim for the full length of the pond because the FUCKS in front of me didn’t want to go in over shin deep and clung like turds on a bowl to the edges. In all honesty I was already cramping at this point so swimming was a relief to my legs. When I exited I met up with a most excellent friend and Spahten who looked at me with all honesty and said, “This isn’t fun.” No. No this was most certainly not fun. Even in the most sarcastic, sadistic sense of fun that I keep tucked away in the deeper recesses of my mind. None of this was fun, and it was only about 8am.

From here on it’s going to get a lot fuzzy. We went up the mountain. I had some mustard. You know what? Fuck this bullshit about mustard! I poured that shit down my throat all day and all it did was irritate my soft pallet and upper esophagus. If you want to argue with me about mustard I’ve got some left. You can slather it on a certain area of mine and suck it!

Moving on. Up the mountain! You know straight up just slogging up the mountain. Oh was there an obstacle? I didn’t see it. Wait I remember it was the phoned in, half forgotten, Fedex cargo net they inherited from Tom Hanks after he got off the island.

And then there was just more walking up. At some point I ran into some Cornfeds.  I managed to stay with them for a good bit. I stayed with them till just about to where we dragged a rock. It wasn’t particularly taxing until you get to end and your legs lock with 7 out of 10 pain. I know it was a 7 because I couldn’t breath to scream. I stood standing stiff as a board becoming, myself, an obstacle to other racers. And then I fell over. I managed to drag myself out of the way, by my hands. If you have ever tried to cry through the lump in your throat where a half strangled scream had been only recently stifled; you may begin to understand my agony. Then through tears:  one hand, one knee, one foot, one push and I was on my feet again.  In no longer than five minutes.

On to the memory: India 202-2871, and then a spear throw. Don Devaney gets all the credit. I learned the technique from his, via telephone, spear throwing lesson on Friday: “Hold it like a dart and push it at the target.” Perfect.  That would be the first, the last, and the only happy moment for me on the mountain that day.

If you haven’t stopped reading yet now would be a good time. It’s not going to get better and it’s going to get a lot darker and self-indulgent. Thankfully at this point, as I write, the anger is ebbing.

So we went down the mountain. I don’t know how long we were headed down but when we got down it was at the inverted wall. My Cornfriends (in fairness for background I’ve know both of them for a long time and they are friends) were ahead of me due to my leg cramps that just continued to shift from one leg to the other from one muscle to the other. But at the inverted wall they were sitting. Rick was hurting from an earlier injury and at this point we were not aware of another very serious injury he had. But this isn’t about him. I helped him over the wall. Then it was over to the bucket carry. I think it was number 2. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. For the purposes of  this it is the one where I saw another Spahten spectating. This Spahten is an animal and is always there with honest encouragement. During the carry I had to stop too many times and I sat down. That’s the race killer there. Once I finally completed the carry I asked if he could work some magic on one of the cramps that was locking. He did, but said the best thing is to walk it out even if its Frankenstien walking, His last piece of advice was “but if it is really that bad, stop your race.” Death knell. He certainly didn’t mean it to be a coffin nail.  He was only truly looking out for my safety.

I’m not entirely sure but I believe this next part was the direct climb up, under the gondola. Again for purposes of my story timeline and not giving a damn about facts, this is where I started to stare at my demon. He’s only man size and not much bigger than me. He has a pronounced dragon like head with a torso covered in tight shiny green scales like a snake. His wings project backwards and would look only like a decoration. His red tongue dances and darts from his mouth through crocodile arranged teeth. He speaks telepathically in a soothing condescending voice. He never told me to quit. He made me convince myself that the race was over. That I couldn’t finish.  That I was a fraud. That I should just walk down the mountain. I wanted to. But I was too high at that point. And now I was with another set of forlorn souls, Golan and Bill. Golan from Wisconsin and Bill from NH. But this is not their story. So I walked. And I sat. And I stood and walked and sat. I stared blankly down over the parking lot. I looked over the valley at a perfectly cut timberline and thought “Oh there’s a utility line over there.” And I began to break old skeleton bones. Feeling them crack in my hands.

The thing about dragging skeletons out of closets is, they don’t want to come willingly. You gotta start with small bones. “You never thought you would actually finish this year anyway: Snap!” Then the Demon speaks and he says, “but did they have to make this so fucking hard?” And you pull out a bigger bone and think, “well you were pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, you were just trying to act cool: Snap!” And then the Demon says, “If you do go to the top you can take the gondola down.”  You reach in and grab a hand full of ribs and say “I didn’t put a damn bit of effort into this race and I fucked myself right into this shitty mountain and I have no other fucking person to blame but myself! Snap! Cackle! Pop!” The Demon speaks again, he’s so cunning, He says “oh but you had so much on your plate. You don’t sleep. You have a crazy schedule. Your wife, your kids, the dog.” Now you dig in and you grab that skull. That grinning, gape mouthed fucker and you hold him up to the light for the last time and you say, “I’m a quitter that’s what I do. I quit. I quit. I quit. IFQ!” And you take that skull and you crush it under your heel and you stand up and you look at the absurdity of your situation which is: Go ahead fucking quit. But what the hell are you going to do? Go down the way you came, or go down by going forward? Forward. Up and forward.

And then down. Down, down and more down. There was no trail left. I felt like George of the jungle swinging from tree to tree. Legs cramped so fucking bad and then a horrifying collapse. My water bladder collapsed not me. It collapsed because I was out. Out of water. Great. At some point this was bound to happen but really, now? Now I went to pull a tire. Great obstacle. I’d have rather been pulling a noose around my neck at this point. Cop out obstacle. Up side, I was able to get Golan a walking stick to brace himself. Kid has the guts of a martyr but he was toast and I don’t blame him. His knee wasn’t getting any better. It was the last pitch down to safety. A stick was my parting gift to him. I left him with a crossfitter named Susan from ME. She’s pretty badass, completing a Goruck heavy. We knew some of the same people.

And the Demon managed to stick a new skeleton into my closet. A skeleton whose bones where rotting green with mold and mud. I left an injured person clearly in pain on a mountain. Fuck you Green Demon. Fuck you Ultra Beast.

When Dante descended into hell with the poet Virgil he passed through it’s many levels and the inhabitants there of. As I walked down this nasty half excuse of a goat trail I couldn’t help but think of Dante. I knew there were nine rings and that Satan was at the bottom frozen up to his waist eating those denizens of the ninth circle: Betrayers. Was that what I have become a betrayer? Turns out with a little research no I wasn’t destined for the ninth circle quite yet. I’m destined for the eighth. Circle eight that’s where I sit. The fraudulent: liars, deceivers, false prophets, panderers, seducers and thieves! These, these are my vices and those are my people. And sandbags apparently.  Two sandbags because: “Fuck it I’m going to quit anyway but I’m Ultra so I have to carry two.” I want to say it was about 2 pm. I think I had it in my head that I already hadn’t made a cut off but it didn’t matter though because when I was done. I was going to quit. 10 feet. Stop. 10 feet. Stop. 10 feet. Stop. Wow that took like 16 minutes and I’m…fuck im like one one hundredth of the way there! The Demon says, “You said you’re quitting, just put the bags down and walk.” No that just means somebody else has to clean up my mess. 10 feet. “Your going to leave just leave.” No because how could I write about this later if I have to tell 3300 Spahtens not only did I quit; I trashed the course for them to pick up? The Demons is not so subtle any more: “Fuck them he say’s.” NO Demon: FUCK YOU. 10 feet. A wonderful gentleman with a beautiful smile and an ancestry I guessed to be Mexican said to me “You can’t quit now man were headed down.” I said thank you but when I’m done I’m going right through that arch, I quit. Then he, in the most elegant, cheery, Spanish accented English said. “Well I hope you change you mind.” Fuck you feelings: 10 feet!

When I got to the bottom I couldn’t quit. I couldn’t quit because telling someone I quit would be harder than actually doing it. It would have been easier to lie down and die right there than make the effort to quit. And it was so easy. It would never be easier than right there to quit. Strangely enough, you see a lot of things you need to see, only when you need to see them. Yes I’m patriotic but I don’t go busting my zipper every time I see a flag go by. I know what it means to me. That’s what matters to me. But when you see a flag on a Spartan course, it is usually being carried by someone for a reason; and usually by someone I know. If you have ever seen a man who looks like he jumped off of the pages of Robinson Caruso, its Stephen Reid. Bones. That was his flag and that was he. It dawned on me that with his “more faith than fear and more heart than scars” I just needed to keep going, off into the woods. Fill the water first.

The next last bits you know. The anger is subsiding as I write. I can tell you that at the race. at this point, my venom was toxic and it was killing me quickly. I didn’t care any more. I got to try my hand at the new obstacle. Some rings and swing bars. NO problem I nailed it, until the rope. One hand two hands; and faster than you can say fireman on a pole I was in the dirt. Slicker than snot on a doorknob. I tried to burpee. My legs wouldn’t unlock. So in the now rigid, prone position where I lay. I gave three or four more attempts and I had to give up even trying, You can start breaking the bones on that skeleton your holding right now because we’re going to need the space.

Now off to the Tyrolean traverse. It said in the rules if any body part touches the water you failed. So I got on top of the rope and sank. And I went out further and it sank further. How the fuck can I keep my body out of the water when the fucking rope is under the water. So I floated my bloated, cramped, broken ass. Hand over hand down the line. Slapped the bell, rolled off and swam in.  I still did it right.

Rope climb, fail. Limped past the two volunteers who couldn’t even be bothered to look up from their iPhones. Spear throw: Perfect. Perfectly short. It did stick in the ground underneath. I limped to the burpee coral. 5 or 6 until my arms couldn’t move. More broken skeleton bones. Don’t get too angry just yet, I blow off plenty of more burpees.

Texans. Why is it always Texans! They are always big happy and helpful. Hobbling now I approached the wall. My defeated face must have given me away. He asked if I needed help. I could only say yes. And that was it. Knee, shoulders, wall. Crushed my testicles in spectacular fashion and then guided myself down…to barbed wire. At this point any prone position is a lightning storm of fiery pain and agony. I made it all the way through and then through the rolling mud. I could not physically bring myself through the last section. I had indeed; quit. And so I walked.  Past the American Ninja Turtle, this is only here for the elite heat to look epic on TV, 30 yards of pipe BS obstacle. No I didn’t attempt it, or burpees. Why? Fuck you that’s why.  Just staying on my feet at this point was torture.  Up and over and down and then to the Herculean hoist.  The rope was slick but I made it no issue. Monkey bars: I’ve lost count but I think I have done 15 Spartan races, 4 or 5 hurricane heats and sometimes multiple laps of the same course. I have never, ever, ever failed the money bars. I couldn’t hold on for 1 transition. NO I didn’t do burpees. Why? Why are you still reading?

At the long over grown blow down ascent which actually might have been kinda cool I caught up with Haidar Hachem. I’m not sure what intrigued me the most, the hat, the hairiness or the stash. Either way, this is Spartan Race. You come for the race and you stay for the people. Hadir is more than a competent athlete.  He began to tell me his story, a similar one to my own except he was actually on pace to finish his Ultra.  As we all were at one point.  But now to finish, to simply try and finish, we just had to walk up this hill and down. That’s all.

The very last bag of bones I can shove into my closet is this:  I pulled my sleeves over my coveted green armbands and hobbled toward… the finish. Fraud. Coward. Quitter. Liar. Cheater.

At the start line I had given up. At mile 3 I had quit. And I stayed quit until the end of my race, the whole Beast distance. My race. NOT yours. Not yours to measure against mine. Not yours to tell me what I did wrong. Not yours to tell me that you are disappointed in me. Not yours to tell me you have lost respect for me. My race. Yes I took a 2014 Beast Medal. I crossed the start line and the finish line and at no point in between did I cut the course, or not carry the weight. I went as long as I could, as far as I could, as well as I could until I could not. No I did not do all the burpees. NO I could not do all the obstacles. It was medically irresponsible for me to continue. It was also ethically irresponsible for me to destroy myself into irreparable harm for a race. Once I finished and took my medal I went to my truck to leave.  And that should have been the end.

253292_10100600883117453_6769654311866755350_nHowever providence struck again as it always does in Sandy Rhee. She made a bus driver stop and let her off as she went by. Sandy has always been there for me, as she has for so many others but Sandy just seems to be there right when she’s needed the most, for me. I was changing to leave. Angry. Demoralized, Crushed. Belittled. Betrayed. Broken physically and mentally. Friendless in a sea of brothers and sisters; and then a friend. So instead I decided to stay. To watch some of my heroes actually complete their Ultra Beast. I did get a chance to meet teammates I only know online.

So yes I am proof that I can finish a Beast, mostly, without any training. But not an ultra. I may never finish an Ultra race. I’m positive I will never finish an Ultra Beast. Now that it is all said and done. I’m done. I’m done with Beasts and trifectas and Spartan races. I will end my Spartan relationship the same place it started. When I started it was fun. It was hard and brutal but fun. Sunday was not fun. It was not fun and it got worse the further I went. That whole useless awful race catered to the Sprint distance at the end and NBC. That’s my opinion, which you are welcome to disagree with, or not. If I wanted to aimlessly hike straight up and down a mountain I would do it in Colorado for free. The distinct lack of obstacle spacing was bullshit and simply carrying something heavy up a hill is not an obstacle. Shit I would have rather the atlas stone carry 5 more times than just some endless up hill sand bag or bucket. No, Spartan has lost any allure for me. I will gladly encourage my teammates to set and accomplish goals. I would even volunteer at a Spartan Race to see and encourage others, but to give my money to that? Not anymore. Racelocal and have fun.

Like all good things this came to and end. I rattled some bones.  I had open and frank discussions with my demon. He wasn’t crushed, quelled, released or any manner of exorcised. He’s still there and he speaks, a lot. A great deal of what you have just suffered through was written on that mountain in between fits of rage and despair. In the end I thought mostly of my Spahten family. I thought about the people, you people. The people I would have to tell “I quit.” Not because I was physically injured requiring immediate medical attention. No I would have to tell you I quit and then suffer all the “good effort man, you really tried” comments. As well-meaning as those are they don’t break skeleton bones. Instead I chose to finish the only way that I could. And if that means I left burpees on Killington that’s fine with me. They are up there with my ego, my pride, some dignity, a couple of aspirations and a belt buckle.  But when it was really. sincerely, all done. I got in my truck put TOOL radio on Pandora and drove 3 hours straight home, by myself, and was still at work at 7am this morning.

Authors note:  This was originally published without reflection or edit.  It was published in raw form, The media added were not mine and the sole choice of the editor, which I am happy with.  After being able to review this I have not changed anything with the exception of deleting some occasional profanities which were unnecessary.  I write what I feel.  After closer inspection I would simply like to say that anyone choosing to do a Spartan Race should most certainly do one or many.  To have the aspiration to complete an obstacle course race on the caliber of Spartan Race is excellent.  My personal experience is varied, and should not influence anyone not to do a race.  I work with my Demon every day and everyday he wins some battles and I try to push through the losses the best that I can.  I don’t do many things for myself and OCR are my chance to beat on that voice inside my head.  On Sunday the Demon had a lot of time and distance to dance in my head and he did so without restraint.  When I write down what I was experiencing you only get the edited 1% of those thoughts.  So again, if you choose to judge me or my choices remember you are judging less than 1% of one race, on one day in the life that I live 24 hours a day, everyday.  Thank you for reading.

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Featured Review: Spartan Race – Vermont World Championship BEAST

Credit: Mary Donohue


This past weekend, Spartan Race held their World Championship event in Vermont.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There were several events going on over the same weekend – a Sprint, a two day Beast, an Ultra Beast and a Team Death Race, and while we all overlapped and merged paths are various points during the weekend, ultimately they were all their own events, and I’ll let the participants of each tell you more of their tails.

My story is of the Beast.

Specifically, I ran the Beast on Sunday. I had already had two tastes of the mountains. In 2012, I also completed the Beast, and thought it gave me a fair insight into what was to come. Then on the Saturday I ran the Sprint with my wife Beth, which was the most brutal elevation change in a “short” race that I’ve ever come across – she will have more to tell on that in due course.

This meant that I spent all day Saturday hearing how horrible the Beast was. How brutal the course was. How much the race sucked. Seeing people cross the finish line, pick up their medals and collapse in a heap. Hearing tales of people being pulled from the course from injury, hyperthermia, exhaustion, or simply not meeting the time cuts.

So was a little apprehensive on Sunday morning. Beth was helping out Obstacle Racing Media and covering the Ultra Beast wave that left at 6am, so I had our rented apartments to myself, I hadn’t slept well, I didn’t have an appetite, and all I could see was fog and rain on the mountain, reports of aches and injuries and DNFs were all over Facebook – I believe I may have had a small pity party in my head, with myself as the only attendant. As I ate a breakfast I didn’t really taste, drank a coffee I didn’t really want and threw down some Advil to stave off the headache that was brewing, I whined on Facebook and glanced longingly at the couch – as you do.

Of course, if that was where my Sunday ended, this would be a boring review indeed – needless to say, I put on my New England Spahten drill shirt, sleeves, tac hat and Icebugs and headed on over to the venue with a couple of hours to spare before the 10am wave left.

The weather was shitty. It was cold, and drizzly rain was sweeping in. Very reminiscent of 2012, when the fog banks rolled in off the mountains and froze us all – we hopped in the starting shoot to listen to the (thankfully) much better MC pump us up, and we were off.

Saturdays wave
Saturdays wave



Climbing ski slopes sucks. No two ways about it – almost immediately, they sent us up a ski slope that ended with our path heading right back down into the woods. The wooded descent’s and ascents were my favorite. The Icebugs gripped like crazy in places people with sneakers were falling and falling hard. Passing a guy who, I found out later, had broken his leg (“I’m ok! Keep going!”) I quickly found myself going back up again to the memorization chart, and back into the woods. Running into the Team Death Race duo of Nele and Noah, who were probably in one of the darkest moments of their personal races – spent some time with them – not able to do much of anything but feel like a spare part – but not able to leave them behind either … I felt terrible when I finally made the internal call to keep going on with my own race, but as soon as I hit the sandbag carry, I found a Spahten and had them reach out to the community to try and see if we could offer any kind of support.

By now, the Sandbag carry is infamous. Falling somewhere around mile 4 of the course, they had 70lb sandbags. Mens and Women’s sandbags were easy to figure out – both were white and both weighed 70lbs – and the course went up and up and up. This is probably the most controversial obstacle of the day – with Saturday elites going up 1/2 mile, then back – and later Open waves – and seemingly a random mix of other waves doing a 1/4 mile version with no penalties. I know I was told by a volunteer to turn at a point that looked to be half way up, despite their being people ahead of me on the hill. I double checked with him and he said there is no penalty, and ushered me over. My only guess for the discrepancy here is that they only had so many sandbags, and as the weekend wore on, that number got smaller and smaller – and they needed them back down at the base for the next racers. Is this fair? Only as fair as being caught on a single track trail behind a slow walker, or life itself.

Credit: Mary Donohue

We then joined back up with the Sprint course. Their mile 2 was now the Beast mile 4 or 5 – and having ran Sprint the next day, I knew we were in for a relentless climb to the summit – what turned out to be the longest climb of the weekend. It sucked. I tried something new, and packed an old iPod Nano and headphones in a drybag. I happily plugged myself into some tunes, ignored my fellow racers and got on with the job at hand. At the summit was a 7′ wall to jump, then back down.


During the decent down, we passed the mile 6 water station (Hi Aaron!), the heavy herculean hoist (nailed this both days – but was amazed at the number of people failing!), nailed the monkey bars both days (which makes it successful attempt number 4 and 5 of my OCR career!), and hit an 8′ wall, a tractor pull and an inverse wall – then onto the longest barbed wire crawl of the course, with the lowest wire. Saturday with no pack, this was relatively easy. Sunday with people around me and a pack – Pain In The Ass. Spear throw (missed both days – first burpees of the course) and the Beast course then headed right down to the festival for the roughly half way mark.

This half way mark consisted of a dunk under muddy water, traditional rope climb obstacle (ding! bell rung), and a tunnel into a wire crawl that was a lot of fun. Huge shout out to the Spahten who crewed for us all here – I was able to pick up some more nutrition, salt pills and get a couple of hugs – which were very welcome, as I was starting to feel a little miserable at that point in the game.

Credit: Mary Donohue

We climbed over a bridge, and headed to the water.

Water. I hate water obstacles. I drown well. I don’t swim confidently. Obstacle #1 was a swim to a rope climb, with a tyrolean traverse wall and a second swim to a ladder and Tarzan ropes that EVERYONE was failing. I nailed the wall, and for the two water stops – rather than risk my race, my pride, and my life – I burpeed out. I did 30 full form burpees, with a damned smile on my face, and I stayed out of the water. Controversial? Maybe – but I don’t run elite waves and this is my race.

We had to remember our code here – score! High five from the older dude who would have given me burpees with just as much glee, I’m sure, then back up the mountain.

All I know here is we ran a lot of trails and difficult terrain, and I loved that. I had TONs of grip. I was passing people who were falling down left right and center. The atlas stone carry felt REALLY heavy, and the third barbed wire crawl was my favorite. After more climbing we hit two vertical cargo nets – the first one was starting to sag badly, and looked really hairy, but the second one seemed ok still. We then hit lots and lots of switch backs, single track terrain, ski slope hills – one of which had a nasty bucket carry obstacle that my right IT band started to fail on (maybe mile 8?) – and from that point on, I was in limp mode. Someone asked me if my leg was ok, I told them it only hurt on the hills. We laughed together. I started to catch up to the Ultra Beast folks here – easily identifiable with their green armbands. I want to buy each and everyone of them a beer – after 25+ miles, they were still smiling, chatting, running. Unbelievable, amazing, inspirational.


More hills (spotting a theme?), a tyrolean traverse (30 burpees) and my headphones went back in. More climbing, descending, climbing, descending, then a 9′ wall, that I nailed first time (yay!) and finally, some down hills – before ultimately, the final sandbag carry. I’d heard so much about it – but ultimately it was fairly straight forward – throw the sandbell on my neck / pack and move. I got to the turn without issue – but the walk down again was amazingly, shockingly painful. Every step, my right knee felt like someone was stabbing a little knife in there … thankfully, I didn’t drop the damn thing, because I don’t know I could have bent my knee to pick it up.

This was right towards the end. We hit a slippy wall, we jumped fire, and we ran through Gladiators who hit us – and then in an amazing finish, I had my medal put over my neck by Spahtens, got hugs from more Spahtens, got hugs from my wife who was waiting and enjoyed my moment.

The Beast was 14 miles, and 8 hours on the course for me. It was also one of the first times I went out on my own, and spent most of my time solo – both in my own head and in my own race. While I talked to people, even pushed a few people over walls (but only the cute ones, you know how it goes), I wasn’t really aiming to spend time with someone, or buddying up. Call it an experiment in self discovery – but I’ve spent almost the entire 2013 season with someone by my side, and enjoying the rewards that can bring. For once, I wanted to spend it in my own head. Hence the headphones for much of the latter part of the course.

One thing I discovered – the team is always there. From Spahtens at volunteer stations who were not only there with a high five and a glass of water, but also sending messages ahead – “spahtens passing mile 5!” meaning when we hit the next obstacle of station, someone from the team was there to give you a word of encouragement, a quick snack to eat – and coming through the festival area, Spahtens were everywhere – Beth, Sandy, Mary, Vince and more.

While I may have been running my own race, I was running with the team – collectively. So many people – even people I don’t recognize (hi to the two chicks on the 9′ wall! You knew me, but race brain means I have no idea who you are!) – were there to cheer me on, pass messages down the line – thank you.

Full GPS / Google Earth map with obstacle overlay. Credit Paul Jones for map, Vince Rhee for obstacle overlay.
Full GPS / Google Earth map with obstacle overlay. Credit Paul Jones for map, Vince Rhee for obstacle overlay.

So – the Spartan Race Beast.

It had its problems. Running out of trifecta medals and t shirts was inexcusable considering it happened last year too – so many people are pushing themselves to their personal imits for that small, colorful medal – and to be told they can’t have one is more heart breaking to us normal people than I think any elite or OCR professional can understand. Shortening the sandbag carry (or, making it too long to begin with) will always leave a bitter taste for some people who feel they got stiffed because they went the long way – or were told to go the short way.


Time cut offs were clearly communicated prior to the event, and so many people under estimated either the course, or their abilities – and there is some griping about being pulled early, or because of changed time limits – my only thought there is simply – try harder next year. Consider your DNF a gift – one of motivation – one of inspiration. Someone finished that course in 3 hours and 40 minutes – it’s humanly possible. If you were pulled because it got dark, and if you are angry because you thought you could do it anyway – get training. Get faster. Get stronger. Come back next year, and make DAMN SURE you finish.

Others – the oddness of the TV crews who didn’t really know what they were supposed to be doing. The biggest team tent going to a charity wave no one knew much about, and didn’t even use it. The race venue specific shirts that, once again, sold out WAY too early in the weekend leaving fans without a shirt to show off.

Despite these problems, some of which are ridiculously easy to resolve (and haven’t been) – the VT Beast remains the crown jewel in the Spartan Race crown. Without this race, Spartan Race would be a much lesser series. Without VT to provide the challenging terrain and unpredictable weather that no where else can provide, we couldn’t be so proud of our achievements when we make them.

The VT Beast broke a lot more people this year than last. I hope it never gets easy. I hope it never gets boring. I discovered somethings about myself out there this year – and I believe everyone who does this race – win, finish or DNF – also learns something.

Thank you, everyone who made this event happen. I plan on being back in 2014 for another trip up the mountain – it remains a special place.

Credit: Mary Donohue

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Should you do the Beast: Yes. But the race is the easy part.


This was the first Beast. Previous to this I did the Warrior Dash, and nothing else. Literally nothing.

“Should I do the Beast?”  This is a common question I see lately.  The answer must always be a resounding and emphatic YES!!  However if the answer was really that easy than the question wouldn’t come up three hundred times a day in our message threads.

The “should I?” seems to be more connected to a “can I?” or “do you think I can?” Again the resounding “Yes!”  But still some people have a question of their own confidence in the matter.  So I’ll try to at least tell you a few little stories about that.  My aim is to not only convince you that you should do the Beast but in fact must to the Beast.

First lets dispense with some of the factors which really have no bearing on whether you can do the Beast, and really are better left in the “should I?” category.

Financial.  This race is no small potatoes.  Registration alone is staggering.  But then again look at an ironman, a large marathon or even a charity walk.  Those registrations can be in the thousands of dollars.  Then of course there is travel.  For some of the readers this involves flights to the other side of the country or an epic road trip.  Huge money to shell out.  Lodging:  Although plentiful your looking anywhere between $50 and $150 a night.  For possibly 2 or more night.  Food:  Everybody has to eat.  Family:  Do they come with you?  Can you find day care?  Then you have to lodge, feed, and have entertainment for them while your out slaying the Beast.

So needless to say the financial commitment is significant even if you wrangle a free entry. And of course it is not limited to those I have mentioned.  Race attire, mementos, equipment, post race celebration.  The list is staggering.  These matters must be fully resolved before you go out and ask “should I do the Beast?”  Because if you can cover all those responsibilities, then you can work on the “can I do the Beast?” Which of course is yes.

Story time.  In 2011 I was sitting on my couch getting rounder.  A friend Facebooked me and said lets sign up for the Warrior Dash and then do the Spartan Race in August.  Crunch, crunch on the potato chips and a few registrations later and there I was.  I said “Hon I signed up for some obstacle races.”  “You know there’s running involved?” she said.  I hadn’t really thought that far ahead.  That spring Spartan had planned an 8 mile course on Killington.  A “Super”.  But they decided that it was time that they had a “premiere” event and extended it to 10+ miles (13.9 or so it turns out) and were calling it the “Beast” in honor of the Beast of the East, Killington Mt.  Sorry folks if you run a “Beast” somewhere other than Killington, its just a long Spartan race, in my not so humble opinion on the matter.  Anyway.  The Beast would be my second race…Ever.  As it turns out it would be the turning point of much in my life.  So much so that had I not run the race, aside from the topic, you wouldn’t be reading this, the Masshole Spahtens may not have blown up, the NE Spahtens may not have been formed and so many other wonderful things that we all enjoy.  Not saying I made those things happen, I’m just saying the motivation from the Beast made me get over active in everything OCR and I found people who were just, if not more enthusiastic and then we went out and found people who are just out of their minds.  Viola, NE Spahtens.

I’ve told this whole story hundreds of times.  You can dig up the blog on it somewhere.  My story is irrelevant. The Beast needs to be your story.  You need to check your “Should” box, sign up and go do it.  You need to do it for so many reasons.  If for only to say that you went so far out of your comfort zone that you have to now go out and seek new limits.  You will never ever know what you can accomplish until you put yourself in a position to do so.

You can do the Beast.  I know you can do it  because I know what it takes.  It takes desire.  If you are reading this you already have the desire.  The Beast is a Crown Jewel event.  It use to be the pinnacle.  But even on its first go it wasn’t enough for some people.  Some went as far as to push a tire through the course which is now legend.  Then 13 miles wasn’t enough so they came up with the Ultra Beast.  26+ miles.  But that wasn’t enough.  NO!  There had to be a team event during it.  But that wasn’t enough they had to run the first ever Team Death Race during it.  This year the Ultra Beast will be run on Sunday after the course has been trashed by thousands of runners on Saturday.  My point is there is always more.  Always further.  You need this race.  You need to be part of it.  You need to get the Beast Blood in your veins.

My race career started that summer of 2011.  I did 3 levels of Spartan Races that summer having never run more than 2 miles in my life.  I got my trifecta that year.  Only 77 people hold that distinction.  In 2012 I attempted the Ultra Beast and it was as awesome as it was the year before.  I received my first DNF on that course.  I knew it was coming but I went back out anyway because thats what I came to do.  That devastated me.  I still trifecta’d again in 2012.  This year I signed up and finished the Death Race. But because of responsibilities and finances I will not Trifecta.

Picture 17
2012 Ultra Beast


So I can say I have gone from bottom to top as far as Spartan Race is concerned.  All because I accepted a challenge and ran the Beast in 2011.  Don’t let this opportunity slip by.  Don’t let the crushing weight of speculation follow you around.  Sign up and toe the line.  Run till you can’t, then walk.  Everyone walks.  Do the obstacles and if you have to do burpees.  I bet for most of you, at your worst, you won’t do more than 120 burpees.  Get going on those rope climbs.  Stop saying I can’t.  It’s your time.  Go be awesome.