It’s been over a week since I finished running the Spartan Race Vermont Beast with my teammates, completing my 2014 quest for the trifecta medal. I would have blogged sooner, but it’s taken me a week to objectively process what just happened. If you’re an experienced obstacle course runner looking for a review of the Vermont Beast course and obstacles, you won’t find that here. You can check out what Heather Gannoe and Alec Blenis (on Ekaterina Solovieva’s blog site) had to say about it. Both of their posts will give you a better idea of the course terrain, distance, and obstacles, along with some cool photos. Instead what I’ll be sharing are some of the tips for people who are thinking about running the Beast for the first time.
Forget about the time
First let me answer the question that everyone asks me, how long did it take? It took the group of us 12 hours to complete the race. That’s a long time. But before that deters you from wanting to run a Spartan Race let me tell you that we were a group of 7 that decided to start and finish together, leaving no one behind. And for all of us, it was our first time running the Spartan Race Beast, so while we had heard about what to expect none of us had experienced it before.
Our goal was to complete the race, time was not an issue. Unless you’re an elite or experienced obstacle course racer, finishing the Beast is an accomplishment in itself, especially if you’re a first timer. It is a long race that will push your body and mind to the limit, so worrying about how fast we were going to finish wasn’t worth it.
Running with a team was huge for me. At different points in the race we each took turns helping each other out through it. If you’re planning on running the Beast for the first time, find a good team to run with. One of the things that I liked about the Spartan Races this year was that they put more emphasis on team work. People were encouraged to help others out during obstacles.
Train early and consistently
I was going to say to train hard, but I think training consistently is much better. The reason is that you be ready to endure a long day of physical activity. While strength training is important, cardio training is just as important (if not more). When I say train early, I mean that you need to have been training for at least a couple of months prior to the race.
While the right gear won’t necessarily make or break your race, getting the right gear will help you out a lot. One of the best investments that I made for the race was buying trail shoes. I wore Inov-8 X-Talon 212’s and they were great. Having good traction was huge. It made the muddy hills easier to navigate going up and down. You can run the race in sneakers if you want, but be prepared to struggle with your footing. Also wearing dri-fit clothing is a must, or at least nothing that cotton. You will get wet and muddy so wearing clothes that will not retain water is very beneficial.
A requirement to run the Beast was that you had to have a hydration pack. It’s a good requirement. While there are water stations on the course you don’t know where they are and you don’t know the distance between them. Having a hydration pack allows you to have access to water when you need it. And you’ll need something to carry the nutrition that you’ll be bringing anyway.
The one piece of equipment that I thought wouldn’t be used, but ended up being very valuable is a headlamp. If you are on the course after a specific time and do not have a headlamp they will pull you off the race, and it’s for your own safety. Navigating the woods in complete darkness is not fun and very dangerous. If you have a start time that is not in the morning, there is a good chance you will need a headlamp.
You will need to pack food for this race. I recommend bringing some Cliff Bars as you will need to eat something at some point during the race. You might also need to bring something in case you start to get leg cramps too. I totally cramped up at various points during the race, but I had packed some Gu Chomps to help me overcome the cramping. One of the cool new things that I found out at the race from other racers is that mustard helps to battle cramps too.
Have fun and make friends
The Spartan Beast is no joke. You will be on the course for hours, so try to have fun with it. During the toughest parts of the race I found it really encouraging to be able to crack jokes with my friends. And the other racers on the course were fun to joke around with as well. Everyone at the race helped each other out, so making friends is pretty easy. If you end up running more Spartan Races, you’ll probably see the people you’ve met again.
The Spartan Race Vermont Beast was definitely the toughest thing that I’ve ever had to physically go through, but I’m really glad that the group of us completed it. And I’m happy that I was able to accomplish my goal of completing the trifecta in 2014. The Spartan Races have given me new motivation to hit the gym consistently, stay active in sports, and I hope it becomes something that my sons will also like to do. Derek is old enough to run the Spartan Kids race and so hopefully he will be up for it at Citi Field in 2015. As for me, there will be another attempt at a trifecta in 2015, and the training for that has already begun.