Words will never do justice for the Spartan Beast held annually in Vermont’s Green Mountains. Pictures don’t come remotely close enough to capturing the sheer depth of those towering peaks in the distance. The scars accrued during the grueling event only tell a fraction of the story behind them.
Killington managed to leave its mark in more ways than one.
This was the first race in which I ventured to the race site a day early. Due to volunteer training as a Course Marshal for Sunday’s Elite Sprint wave I made my trek up early Friday morning and with time to kill spent a couple hours wandering around Vermont from the nearby town of Rutland to the resort hosting the race. It’s kind of magical how the mountains and trees and streams sort of just come together. Every winding road is hugged by a clear, crisp brook while every mountain is parted by small fields lined with pine. It’s a sense of awe only trumped from my time in Breckenridge, Colorado earlier this year.
That natural beauty was on full display for the first quarter or so of the race. There was a solid first incline that really fired up the calves and quads with runners in the Competitive heat already using alternative methods for climbing up the mountain. Despite a flurry of steep hills the race started off rather quickly. There were a few early obstacles that had racers getting penalized with burpees such as an unusually difficult Hercules Hoist and a set of Monkey Bars that, while dry and easy for most, had its bars much further apart. I think the degree of difficulty with the hoist had more to do with the pulleys getting completely stuck at certain points. Most people were having no issue until a certain point of varying degrees at which no level of effort could budge the sandbag.
The dry summer also allowed for quicker completion of obstacles such as the Z-wall that was also towards the early part of the race. Right after that Z-wall was when I believe the race changed for almost everyone. The lake swim and Tarzan Swing obstacle were right afterwards and while this was my first time in Killington, it was made aware to all racers at the start line that the swim was doubled from years past. The 200-yard swim was split up by a moment of treading water unless you were lucky enough to find an uninhabited ladder to climb up. For us skinny folk, the water was brutally cold which led to severe cramps come time for burpees since yes, I did fail the swing portion. Sadly, with over 10 ladders, there are no pictures from Spartan Race of myself.
Those cramps from the cold water attacked more than just myself. It seemed as though the jump from hot to cold to hot was killer enough on the muscles. From there, the number of people halted due to pains and cramps was like nothing I had seen before.
Problems arose from the cramps too as my normally fine knee started experience pain and limited my descent speed. This all hit a head right after mile 9 when the ultimate ascent began. Never in my life have I experienced something like that. Just under the ski lift, we climbed the entirety of the mountain. It was at least a full mile with no points of flat land for more than a few steps. No matter what method people used to get up the mountain those who kept moving reached its peak all the same. There were a serious number of racers (all in the Competitive or Elite class still) that came to a standstill or just collapsed on the incline. The #EFFnorm hashtag had never been more appropriate than during that point of the race.
Just near the finish line were a multitude of some of the tougher obstacles. In sequence were the spear throw, log carry, inverted wall, atlas carry, multi-rig, and A-wall cargo net topped off with the signature fire jump for the photo finish. During my Sunday volunteering stint I learned at least half of the ropes tied to the spears were too short. The spear I used was so warped it was no wonder it curved downward so rapidly.
I’d advise Spartan Race to seriously consider their own integrity as they attempt to hold their Elite and Competitive racers to the same standards.
While I don’t believe it was done on purpose, greater care should be taken in setup. There’s no excuse for an obstacle right next to the festival area. It’s embarrassing to the racers as well as Spartan Race to see so many people fail an obstacle.
That being said, I’m glad to report after 6 races under my belt I was able to complete my first multi-rig! If I wasn’t so beat down at that point I might have made a little more noise about it. Maybe next time.