I've been talking about this weekend for quite some time as Run to Remember has evolved - Complete not only the Spartan Beast in Vermont on Saturday, but then the Ultra Beast on Sunday. That was my plan, but ultimately that's not what happened. The Spartan Beast on Saturday proved so physically and mentally taxing for me, that even at Mile 7, I already knew that the Ultra Beast would not be an option. I pulled a groin muscle and gluteus maximus muscle just before Mile 3, so I knew I would not physically make it through what the Ultra Beast would require. My only focus after Mile 7 quickly became getting through the final 6 or 7 miles of the Beast and crossing that finish line...and it would take everything I knew to be inside me, and more, to do so.
- Aside from the traditional sandbag carry (which we still did as the second to last obstacle - 40lbs for men, 20lbs for women), about mile 3 or 4 we were met with a sandbag carry that could break your spirit, and possibly some backs, as we carried a 60-70lb sandbag (depending on who you talk to) reportedly a half-mile up a steep slope and then a half-mile back down. After most of the elites had passed this point, the staff member started to tell the open racers they could cross at the halfway mark and go back down. I got to this point just as we were given that instruction, disregarded it and continued to make my way all the way to the top, as did many other racers out there. We signed up to do the Beast, not cut parts out because we weren't the Elite racers...even if it hurt. This is also where I stepped into a hole on the way down, slicing my leg and hitting my head on the ground as I fell forward.
- Swimming out into the cold waters of the lake not once, but twice, for a rope climb, and the second time for a rope or ladder climb to a series ropes called the Tarzan swing to ring the a bell...an obstacle that few would successfully complete. This was about Mile 7 where the shoreline was scattered with racers with looks of pure exhaustion, some wrapped in heating blankets, and doing a plethora of burpee penalties.
- A bucket carry full of gravel, once again up part of the mountain and down. I've seen this before at other races, but at that point in the race (I'd say somewhere around mile 10...I really don't know because by that point I had lost all sense of distance and time) it was particularly soul crushing and seemed like the most taxing single obstacle I had ever done.
Yet as painful, exhausting, and taxing as the race proved to be, and even though it took me 7 hours and 30 minutes to finally cross the finish line, I look back at the race with nothing but exhilaration and a huge sense of accomplishment. No, I didn't meet my goal to complete both the Beast and Ultra Beast, but the Beast had pushed me to limits I've never pushed myself to before. When it pushed me to those limits, I was able to dig deeper inside for strength I didn't know was there. I made the comments earlier that this weekend would be "the time for me to see what I'm made of" and it truly did. There were points where my mind and body told me to quit, just as I'm sure many racers out there experienced and few would have blamed us if we did, but I know I would have looked back with regret. My drop bin for the Ultra Beast still sits unpacked in my living room as a reminder of what I wasn't able to start the following day. While I know it was the right decision not to attempt it on Sunday, as my greater goal of completing the 100 races is far more important than that one race, I will be back next year to take on the Ultra (though this time I'll probably skip the Beast beforehand).
There's something else that can't be seen from the pictures and videos from the course...the camaraderie among each of the racers. While ultimately this is a race, the vast majority of us out there are not the Elite racers with a chance at winning $15,000 (congrats to Amelia Boone and Hobie Call for claiming the championship titles on Saturday). For most of us out there, the mere act of finishing is a true victory. Though I was out on the course on my own, I never felt alone. Throughout the race, racers offered each other encouragement, commiserated together and cursed the diabolical minds that designed the course, and pushed each other to keep going.
Inspiration and triumph of the human spirit was all around. I watched as member of Operation Enduring Warrior (www.enduringwarrior.org) with a prosthetic leg and a chain wrapped around his torso bear-crawled up a mountain. Just a few yards ahead, another member of Operation Enduring Warrior made her way up the mountain on crutches and prosthetics. Participants in the Biggest Loser Challenge fought to change their lives and battled some of the same mountains we did. Men and women of all ages, each with their own story and their own reason for being out there took on the mountain and obstacles together, whether physically as a team or not. It's one of the things that I love most about the sport of obstacle racing - in the end, we share the experience and support one another each and every moment.
So at the end of the weekend, while I came away with a few minor injuries, a few more scars, and some disappointment that I never made it to the start line of the Ultra Beast as I had planned, I still made it one step closer to reaching 100 races after finishing the Beast. Hopefully, I helped others get through their race, just as they helped me. Hopefully, I spread more awareness of Alzheimer's Disease. Finally, I pushed myself physically and mentally beyond any point I had done in my 29 years of life and feel stronger for the experience.
The World Championship Spartan Beast left me exhausted, bruised, bleeding, and I'm sure scarred, but in the end it did not break me...and I couldn't be happier.
33 races down, 67 to go!