Side Quest: Ultra Beast

After months of anticipating this race, it was finally here, The Spartan Race Ultra Beast.  My father tagged along with me for this trip so we woke up at 4am on Friday morning, Sept 21st. We arrived in Boston around 10am and wasted an hour trying to get our rental car situation sorted out, and then it was a nice 3 hour drive up to the wonderful land of Sparta, I mean Vermont. We took a detour and stopped off in Pittsfield, VT before heading to our final destination, Killington, VT.  I felt it was necessary to give my pops a tour of where it all went down this summer when I participated in the Spartan Death Race.  Both of us were starving so our first stop was of course the Original General Store.  After filling up we headed out, I pointed out a few key spots and we continued down Route 100 until we reached Killington.

Olof was the first to arrive at the house and we met him at a grocery store we stocked up on supplies at before we went to the house. When we arrived it was only us, so we toured the house, scouted out the rooms and settled down in the basement.  Soon after Junyong Pak, Shelly, and countless others began to arrive. Right away Pak got out the spears and started teaching us the proper technique for spear throwing.  Within a few tries we were all throwing far better than before Pak’s quick lesson.  He also set up a tyrolean traverse between the trees and a post on the house and taught all the methods to getting across this obstacle.  I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it was to receive lessons from the World’s Toughest Mudder.

Homemade Tyrolean Traverse practice area

Pak and I set up this awesome practice traverse at the house.

Then I heard another car pull up while I was in the kitchen and I went outside to see who it was. Finally, the one person I was waiting for more than anyone else, Morgan.  My Death Race savior, had finally, arrived.  As usual, she was in extremely high spirits, and had more energy than a five year old all jacked up on Mountain Dew. We exchanged bear hugging each other off the ground and I was introduced to her client she trains, Pat.  We all went inside and they got settled in.  We were going to be having a pasta party in a few hours so between setting up for that, playing with the spear throws and saying our hellos to everyone that arrived we all had a lot of catching up to do.  It’s amazing how a year ago most of these people were strangers, and even until that moment I still had only known many of the people via the social internetz (mainly Facebook), and yet somehow it felt like a family reunion. One big, Spartan Family reunion.  Later we went over to the race site to pick up our registration packets and even there you couldn’t avoid running into a bunch of people you were unexplainably happy to see.

spartan race ultra beast car flip

Not a good way to start the race. Thankfully everyone was okay and still able to race.

It was difficult to sleep that night, but eventually we all made our way off to bed, it felt as though I only slept a few minutes. We had to wake up around 6am to get ready so we could be at the race site by 7:05am. The race was scheduled to begin at 8am…it didn’t actually start until almost 8:15am however.  When we arrived at the race site you could feel the energy in the air. The mountain was covered in a dense fog, we would be running through the clouds if it stayed around long enough.  As we pulled up I spotted some friends from Chicago Spartans, Candie, Stefanie, Paul, and Maureen.  I also spotted another familiar face, Brakken, he won the Indiana Spartan Sprint and I was rooting for him to place high at the Beast. Walking up to the race site put a stunned face on all of us, just moments before we arrived a SUV flipped turning into the site.  We later found out they couldn’t see the ditch when they turned causing the vehicle to roll, thankfully everyone within was okay, they still went and did their race.

Obstacle Race Starting Line

Spartans! Are you ready for battle?! Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

At the starting line you could just feel all the excitement building, we all were ready to tackle the Ultra Beast. We staked our place at the front of the heat, Morgan, Pat, and myself were there, along with Matt B. Davis, host of my favorite podcast, and Margaret from Dirt in Your Skirt.  There was Junyong Pak, Hobie Call and Olof.  I remember spotting Andi Hardy, Ella Anne Kociuba, and I even had a chance to introduce Andy Weinberg, one of the founders of Spartan Race, to my father just before the race. With so many top athletes here for this race you knew it was going to be an incredibly competitive race.  Not only was this the first ever marathon distance obstacle race, but it was also the Spartan Race World Championships.  Just under a year ago I competed at the 2011 Spartan Race World Championships in Texas, since then they have relocated the end-all be-all event to the homeland, where Spartan first began, in Vermont.  It was after that race last year that I decided to compete at the Spartan Death Race a year earlier than originally planned.  So many excited feelings were brewing.  Before the rules were sounded off by race director, Michael Morris, I gave Morgan one last HUGE hug for good luck. Then it was time to listen to all the rules: stay on trail, watch for markings, if you miss an obstacle you must do 30 burpees with push-ups, and so-on.  Ultra Beast racers were provided green armbands, these would signal other racers doing the beast to move to the side for us on obstacles; free season passes were on the line after all. To get the pass you had to finish by the 7pm cut-off time.  For me that was my primary goal, my secondary goal was to see how well I would rank in my first BIG distance race.

Cameras were in our faces, the sound of the shutters going off, my heart was beating, and then they dropped the sport-safe smoke grenades. I blew past the ancient pillars, keeping my standard start pace, not balls to the wall but enough to get out in front a bit. Within seconds we were at the first set of mud pits.  They were the perfect size to clear with a leap, and then it was time to begin multiple ascents up the mountain. I looked back and didn’t see anyone I started with in sight.  Part of me wanted to hang back, the other said push forward.  After turning into the woods I met up with Margaret for a bit, we shared some words about the race, strategy, what our expectations were, and how some people were turning the juice on too soon.  Every few minutes I looked back.  As we moved up the mountain, zigging and zagging, and climbing, and running, it was so serene and fitting to see all the fog rolling off the mountain tops. This was the Ultra Beast, everything about it felt perfect. Almost too perfect.

ultra beast barb wired

There was a high barb wire section before exiting a wooded section of one of the early ascents. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Just before one of the downhills came up I reconnected with Morgan and Pat.  Once that downward descent began I took off like a rocket. When it comes to the downhills, that’s where I have a natural advantage. For whatever reason, I’ve always found that my legs can handle the downhill, more than most.  The way I have described it is that I basically let my body go numb, essentially letting gravity take over control; I only turn my control on to keep myself from tumbling over or losing it and biting the ground, hard. I did roll my ankle a few times out there but this specific time I just glided down that mountain side.  As much as I was wanting to go fast I didn’t want to leave them behind. I kept moving forward.  At some point we came out of a wooded section of the course and the fog was extremely dense. It seemed like we should just keep going straight but I remember seeing an arrow to my left in the distance pointing downhill.  It seemed like the trail going straight made sense, but I couldn’t shake the notion that it didn’t make sense for them to have the course intersect itself.  Just a few strides away though I remember seeing more Spartan Race markings, I figured, along with a few others, that we must be on the right path. It has to be, it’s marked, I thought.

sand bag pull skis ultra beast

I want to know how much these sandbags weighed. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Morgan, Pat and I kept breaking off from each other, but I slowed down a few times and we’d catch back up for a bit. I remember I had taken off for a while and that’s when some of the strongman obstacles came into play, dragging the stone block with a chain is the first I remember. We were probably about 3 or so miles into the course and we still didn’t seem to be anywhere near the festival section of the race. Wasn’t there supposed to be a 3 or 4 mile drop out point, I questioned myself.  I shook off the doubt and trudged on.  That tractor pull was one of the easiest I had ever done I remember proclaiming to another racer, he agreed.  When I got to the bottom of this twisting and turning descent we were told to turn and I could see the tyrolean traverse in the distance, but before that we had to drag a sandbag that was in a small pallet-like box attached to a set of wooden skis.

rope traverse over water at spartan obstacle race

Ring the bell…then drop in the water. Yay. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

We had to drag those wonderful things across gravel, it was fairly heavy and I was in awe at the women around me who were keeping pace with the same weight in theirs as I had in mine.  Once I dropped the sled it was off to the traverse. Luckily, I had practiced a few times the night before thanks to Pak’s nifty little rig that I assisted him with setting up.  It paid off, even though I could feel my sternum was already bruising up from this and the practice.  Just before ringing the bell I swung underneath after losing my balance from performing the on-top technique. I only had two arm lengths to travel before it let out the wonderful, ding.  The sick and twisted part of this all, there was no reward for successfully finishing the traverse, you still had to swim across the 38 degree water for a long enough distance that my body began to cramp almost instantaneously. When I emerged I had to crawl under a semi truck trailer and took off toward another set off rolling hills and mud pits, and then it was back into the forest for one of the most gnarly ascents I’ve ever faced.

rope climb at top of ski mountain

The ropes are attached to the ski lift carousel. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

About halfway up this section of the mountain, which was a full out hike at this point and if you didn’t know how to hike efficiently this couse was going to destroy you, I was passed by none other than Alec Blenis, a top contender at every Spartan Race.  This took me by surprise, I knew I was hauling ass, but I had no idea I was doing that well.  We had to be at least five miles into the course at this point. When we emerged from the dense, bushwhacking, mountain climbing, hiking section of the course we were greeted by a pleasant surprise, a rope climb.  The rope hung there from the  top of a Ski-lift carousel with a bunch of hay bails circling the bottom.  A quick climb to the top and a ring of the bell and I was back on the course.  I took off quickly but was stopped almost immediately just a few hundred feet away from the rope climbing obstacle. What the hell is going on, I thought? There were 4 or 5 other guys stopped, including Alec and a Spartan Race employee.  We were informed that we went way off course. We would have to hold here and wait until the race director, Michael Morris, arrived to tell us our options for how to proceed from here.  This was terrible news, there was so much on the line for some of the racers. For Alec, his points rankings was just shattered, for others the race would be over entirely, for myself my shot at placing top 10 or even 20 was completely out the door.  I still had a larger goal that I held onto, and that was simply finishing what I started.  After the Death Race this year, it’s become increasingly important to me to finish anything and everything I sign up for. This race included. While we waited for Michael, more and more people who clearly took the same wrong path as us joined the party.  Even Morgan and Pat joined us not to long after we initially stopped.  What a disaster, you had easily 20-30 people here by time Michael showed up in the pickup truck.

There was only one question that we mattered to us more than anything, now what?

Almost 26 minutes passed before our Race Director arrived on the scene, developed a solution and we were presented our options for how to proceed with the obstacle race of the year.  The Ultra Beast left us with tough decisions to make and little time to evaluate. Our options were as follows: continue the race and loop back to reconnect on the course at the section we missed, take off our timing chips and continue from where we were currently at on the course, surrender now and racers that were going after points could run the one lap Beast for double points on Sunday, or simply quit.  There was a fair amount of people who threw in the towel, some unexpected, among those that threw in the towel most planned to race the following day.  Another group would continue, the majority, from where we were allowed back on track.  From I gathered none of the racers were willing to just take their chip off and continue.  It was a lot of ALL or NOTHING.  Most racers had goals that they wanted to complete, for a lot of us it was finishing the race, and others it was earning points to win the big money prize at the end of the season.

Ultra Beast

Pat, Myself, and Morgan before the race.

I was on a mission. For me it was never about the points, living in the Midwest means you are required to travel often (primarily the east coast) to participate in enough Spartan Races to do the point series. Let’s all request a race, aye? Since that was not my priority my only decision was to continue on. The underlying goal of every race is simply, to finish.  It didn’t please me that the race was in many ways over for me.  Yes, over 20 miles laid ahead, and now even more because we’d be re-running parts of the course, that part wasn’t over.  The parts that were over, chance to see how well I would perform at this first ever Ultra Beast, very little data to compare to, would I have been able to maintain top 10 the rest of the race became a nagging what-if I tried hard to shake. Many opportunities and goals went up in flames as soon as I saw the Spartan Race employee and Alec Blenis stopped. Now, I would continue on with additional miles in order to finish the race.  While it was part awesome that I’d have an even more challenging journey now due to a fault by all parties: the other racers, Spartan Race and myself, by failing to navigate and mark the course well enough for the fog, however it really clouded my mind with a barrage of what-ifs.  The next 20 miles would not only be a battle of epic proportions physically, but more so mentally than ever before. The mental battle that would take place throughout the rest of the race on some levels was more challenging than what the Death Race did to me this past June.

Ultra Beast Tarzan Swing

The Super Cool Tarzan Swing. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Morgan, Pat and I rejoined each other and would continue a large portion of the race from here on out. We restarted the course at the monkey bars obstacle, just before restarting our bib numbers were taken down and to track all the racers who went off course but wanted to continue the race.  We had no troubles at the monkey bars and on to the downhill we went.  When we finally got back toward the festival area it became very evident how much we skipped, first up was the traverse wall, followed by a rope climb, and then one of the coolest new obstacles to hit the series, a Tarzan rope swing.  To get to the Tarzan rope swing you had to enter the water and swim out in that delightfully cold water (seriously who am I kidding), to a ladder that hung from a bridge. There were two types of ladders, one of rope and wood and another that was some sort of cargo ladder.  At the time I did not notice the rope and wood ladder, which I imagine was easier to climb, so I made my way up that cargo ladder and grabbed hold of the first rope. Took a deep breath. Exhaled. One more deep breath, and I began to swing, one rope, then the next, and the next.  As I approached the last rope I felt myself slipping.  I launched my back arm as hard as possible and though I missed the next rope I felt my fingertip just reach the edge of the bell. Ding. Yes! No, burpees.  I was on a role with the obstacles so far.  Zero burpees.  I got out of the water and spent some time talking with the father of his 15-year-old son who was racing in the Beast.  It was so awesome to see such a young individual challenging himself to tackle such a difficult course.  What got me chocked up a bit was how proud you could tell his father was.  I wished him and his son good luck and Morgan and I grabbed hands as she exited the water.  I told her lets go do this race regardless of what happens.  Externally I was doing all right coping with the race, I was constantly trying to distract my mind from how pissed off I was internally. We took off at a light pace and Pat caught up with us.

ultra beast memorization test

Here is the sheet the Volunteers used to test our Memorization. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

When we got to the Memorization Obstacle we were greeted with a large, Spartan Race branded board that had a list of the last digits of our bib numbers.  I was 47.  We were to memorize our combo, mine was Bravo 056-2484, and yes I still remember it perfectly.  We busted out a marker and took down all our numbers on a piece of paper and stored it in Morgan’s pack.  We continued to go about the course together climbing hill, after hill, after hill. It was endless from mile 4 onward. When we were first found off trail we had already completed around 6 or so miles and we were stopped at what should have been mile 11.  We restarted from mile 3 when re-entering the course, if you’re good at your math that means this really sucked.  We had to go back and do miles 3-7 for the first time, then re-run mile 8-11, then we could go on to finish the last 3.5 miles (based on what I’ve gathered one lap distance was in the 14.xx mile range). After all that, we got to start over for another round, hold the extra miles.

ultra beast wall of logs obstacle

Yay for climbing! No, seriously, these were fun. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

We overcame all the obstacles that came ahead, the stacked log walls – thanks for the rope, and then there were more hills.  There was another strong man obstacle, lifting a heavy cement block taking it to a post and then you grabbed the other cement block that was there and carried it back. Once you dropped it you turned around and headed toward an uphill barbed wire crawl.  The order of some of the events escapes me especially with all the overlap that came following the conclusion of the miles we missed.  On one of the upward ascents I cramped hard because I was rationing my supplies too much because I would be out longer than I prepared for.  They call this a bonk in the ultra marathon world, and let me tell you it felt that way.  I dropped to the ground and just completely seized up.  My legs felt like concrete blocks that were being compressed by a compactor.  I refused to let the pain get to me. I began chugging water out of my pack while I began to bust out one of my GU packs. I slurped those gooey calories up and sucked down another gulp of water.  I wasn’t properly fueling myself.  There was no way I was letting a cramp stop me.  Wrapping both arms around my legs I pulled each leg one by one off the ground and moved them forward until they unlocked themselves and loosened up.

As this happened I told Morgan and Pat to go ahead and not worry about me, I shouted out as they ran off that I’d catch them on the downhill.  For a long time they stayed insight and I was running with Pat for a while even. We tackled some of the downhill areas but I started to cramp and told him to just go.  Morgan was constantly within eyesight, but eventually faded into the woods. I wouldn’t see her again until later that night.  I tried constantly to catch up.  By time I had reached the sandbag carry and the sled pull area again I realized she was long gone. Pat was too.  It was lonely for a while after that.  When I approached the wicked hike once again I was just not feeling it anymore. Each step made me upset. I was running low on fuel. I had some sport beans and a Stinger Waffle.  On the way up I spotted a guy and a girl who were stopped.  The girl was cramping up and starting to shake, I’m pretty sure her body temp was getting low.  Even though the sun was out now, the water before the hike was freezing cold. I gave her a few of my shot blocks and continued on my way. I was out of food. Only 4 miles left for the first lap.

When I was starting to feel my lowest, as if it were timed perfectly – almost movie like, Matt B. Davis, who I met at the Death Race and now consider a close friend, came up behind and instantly I felt better.  We caught up on each other’s race progress and I explained to him what had happened to all of us.  To even further lift my mood he hooked me up with a stellar PB sandwich that really hit the spot after having run out of food. For the remainder of the first lap I decided I was going to run entirely with Matt, I needed a friendly positive face around to keep me from eating myself alive in my thoughts of what-ifs.  It was just endless climb after endless climb from there on out.  At one point the anger inside me just built up so much I think I might have taken Matt by surprise when it overcame me. ARRRRGGHHHHHH!!!!!! I roared to express my pain and frustration.  My quads kept cramping up on and off and the repeating of this section of the course was just destroying my mental composure. Once again at a race, I was becoming my own worst enemy.

ultra beast hop obstacle

Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

When we finally climbed that cargo net and solidly hopped our way across the log hop it was time to begin our descent.  I told Matt I’d stick with him so what I would do is fly down the side of the mountain and stretch out while I waited for him to make his way down. Then it was back into the woods for some slippery slopes and some crazy terrain.  Lots of slippage happened and I definitely recall helping a few people back to their feet.  When we finished the descent the next thing we had to conquer was the Hobie Hop, your feet are strapped together with a thick band and you have to hop over a couple logs then duck under a rope on the ground, hop a few more logs and back under.  We repeated that series a few times and then the obstacle was over.  It came completely natural to me even though this was the first time I’d ever encountered this one.  Matt finished the hop and together we took off to finally make it to the dreaded spear throw.  I took a deep breath and remembered everything Pak had taught me the night before. As my fingers released the spear I knew I screwed up.  Dammit!  I yelled out, I grabbed another spear and threw it again.  Another miss.  Regardless of how the second throw went I was going to do my burpees, but I just had to try again.  After that it was a quick barbwire crawl and a climb over the slippery wall to end lap one.

My dad saw me and as expected gave me shit for taking so long. He had already seen Morgan come through and Pat, they were already on their second lap.  At least 45 minutes ahead of me, I guessed.  The two of them relayed the information that I had been cramping to my father and Todd.  The two of them quickly found me some salt tabs, which I’ve always feared ever since Morgan’s vomiting incident early on at the Death Race.  I took them, chugged a bunch of water, changed clothes, gulped a Gatorade down and ate a banana.  I was so worried about cramping I may have gone a little overboard on the potassium.  Todd hooked me up with a headlamp and I couldn’t find Matt or see him by time I was ready to go.  I was in such a hurry to try, just try, to catch up to the others that I almost went off onto the course without a glow stick.  Apparently that was a big no-no and it was an absolute necessity. I just want to say a huge thanks to the ladies who provided me with one since mine fell off my pack during the first lap.  As I headed out I spotted Morgan coming in toward the 3-mile mark. Damn, I had thought, I’m now three miles behind her.  We shared a huge hug and Andi was right along side Morgan.  It was a great way to start my lap seeing two of my favorite ladies and just being able to share the love of the suck together one last moment.  That was the last time I’d see Morgan until the end of the race. Pat was somewhere far behind Morgan but still in front of me.  I took off into the woods and began everything all over again.

Setting out for that second lap was extremely difficult.  Within minutes I found myself alone, which generally I am quite used to.  During this long of a race, being alone can turn into the beginning of the end.  As I ascended that mountainside once again I could just barely hear the sound of voices not too far ahead.  What ever happened to Matt B. Davis, I wondered?  I pushed to catch up.  I caught up to the two voices I heard.  I am unable to tell you the names of the man and woman I met, they were also on their second lap, what I can tell you is they were very kind and made great company.  We hung out for a while, shared stories about our lives, what we did outside of this insanity, and discussed how challenging ourselves to go above and beyond enthralled us.  Somewhere out there exists a picture of the three of us near the top of the first climb.

second lap at spartan ultra beast obstacle race

UPDATE: And here they are. The previously unknown Man and Woman are Andrew and Tanya. Bonus! This is the photo we took out there.

Jonathan Nolan Chad Weberg Jason Reed Ultra Beast

Team Corn Fed Spartans. Photo Credit: Jessy Ogden

We continued the race together finding out more about each other while we worked our way through the course.  Much of the second lap has completely escaped me.  I broke off from them when I met up with my friends from the Corn Fed Spartans: Jon, Chad, and Jason.  I ran with them for a little while, climbed some, crawled under a barbwire section, and crossed the monkey bars.  As we began to descend toward the festival area I said farewell and took off like I always do on the downhill.

When I arrived at the festival area I breezed through all the obstacles with ease.  At the rope climb I even got a little cocky and climbed without my feet.  Then I took a tip I had received from Andi Hardy, and I attempted the bell kick as I approached the top.  Normally I wouldn’t try something new like that at a race, but sometimes when you feel it you just have to go with it.  Thankfully I succeeded, no burpees, my only burpees so far resulted from that blasted spear throw.  To my surprise, the next obstacle was shut down, no Tarzan swinging or freezing water this lap.  Apparently there was a wedding and that section of course had to be closed off.  Part of me was delighted, no more swimming in cold water, and the other saddened, the best obstacle couldn’t be attempted again.  Instead we were directed to do 30 burpees and carry on.  When I finished the burpees, I met Melissa and Colleen and to my extreme surprise this was their first Spartan Race!  How about that for an epic way to start out in the Spartan Race series…participating in the first ever marathon distance obstacle course.  The Ultra Beast as your first Spartan, now that’s something!  We ran together for a bit and shared some stories about racing and such.  I caught up and lost them every now and then I was having difficulty keeping my nourishment under control.

At the time I was feeling a bit nauseous, I grabbed a Cliff bar and tried to take it down.  The mint chocolate chip flavor was not doing it for me.  After finishing half of it, I spit some out I gave in and tossed the other half.  I was not feeling it. Though the ladies and I had separated, soon enough I ran into fellow Death Racer, Pete Coleman.  To my surprise he was sporting a GoRuck pack.  Initially, I was concerned he’d gone insane and decided to carry bricks for the Ultra, but it was one of the smaller rucks and he only had his gear. “No bricks this time,” he told me.

Ultra Beast Barbed wire obstacle race

Making my way through one of the barb wire crawls. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

When we made it to the concrete lift challenge, followed by the uphill barbwire crawl we reconnected with Melissa and Colleen.   I took a very short stop at the water station and set off.  When I finished the crawl I met two other Death Racers, of course their names escape me now.  As Pete caught up we all began reminiscing.  The group of us stuck together for a bit but as always we eventually dispersed. I remember lying down for a short while and just looking up at the sky.  I closed my eyes for a short two minutes and immediately snapped back to my feet.  Time to finish this race already, I remember saying.  When the rain finally came, I finally got back to running, you know opposed to the fast walking I had been doing up all the hills.  The rain, as unwelcome as it was, it was exactly what I needed to get me moving.

My dreams of finishing were nearly shattered with less than 4 miles to go, and already having completed more than the full distance I was not ready to let that happen. Honestly, I never expected to be pulled from the course, there was just no way I’d get pulled.  When I spoke to Joe earlier on the course he assured me I could continue on regardless of how long these extra miles would take to finish.  Approaching Norm’s Spartan Race truck I knew this couldn’t be good news.  He wouldn’t let me continue, not on this part of the trail, based on what he told me this part of the course had to be shut down.  It was too dangerous with the rain to let racers continue from this point.

My heart sank.  I came this far.  I ran more than was expected of me.  How could I go home without finishing a race I ran extra miles in? Could this really be happening? My head hung low as I approached the yellow school bus.  I remember hearing the sound of the wipers as I boarded the bus, feeling absolutely defeated.  When I looked up fellow Team SISU mates, Daren de Heras and Matt Trinca, welcomed me, I can’t tell you how happy I was to see them.  We were all a little bitter about being pulled from the course.  Shortly after, fellow Death Racer, Pete, boarded the bus and it was a mini reunion.  When no one else showed for a few minutes the bus closed its doors and drove through the pouring rain back to the lodge entrance.

During the ride I told my friends I couldn’t be done, this was not over with.  I had a plan.  Upon our return I would run a mile or two back to where the Hobie Hop was, then I’d turn around and run back on the course.  I’m not sure they believed I would go to that extent to get my finish, but in my eyes I’d already gone above and beyond the expectation.  When we got back to the lodge, I jumped off the bus and instantly it hit me, the last salt pill. It was tearing my stomach apart.  Blarrrghhh.  Yup, that’s right.  A bunch of water came up, nothing else.  I took my sleeve, wiped my mouth and took off up the road.

After about a mile of running, I found my way back onto the course. I turned around.  The rain was still coming down, slowing to more of a drizzle.  Swiftly dipping, ducking and dodging through the dark trails all I could think to myself was how mad I was that it had to come to this, just to finish.  I had ran more miles, was pulled from the course with just a short distance to go, and now I’m running back to earn my finish.  Not exactly how I envisioned this race ending.  Again, sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, and a modified finish is where that got me.

As I came into the spear throwing pit I could hear my papa shouting out, “is that my Spartan?!” He was so ecstatic to see me and cheered me on.  I missed my throw, again.  I knocked out some pitiful looking burpees, rolled under the barbed wire, climbed the slippery wall, and blew through the Gladiators.  They were clearly becoming too tired to do battle.  A quick jump over the fire, and yes I totally contemplated the possibility of doing a front flip over it, I decided against it.  As I made my way to the shirt and medal area I saw Pat trying to get my attention.  My heart stopped beating.  Pat exclaimed that they were about to bring Morgan to an ambulance.  Barely finished with the race I took off toward the lodge.  Unaware of what the situation was, I was terrified.  The thought of anything bad happening to Morgan…I didn’t want to even think about it.  She’s too strong, too powerful, and too awesome, for anything to happen.  This is the same Morgan who saved me at the Death Race, the woman who helped me to finish.  She had to be okay.  She just had to be.

Ultra Beast Obstacle Race Finish Line

Crossing the Finish. Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

Morgan was sitting there shivering and shaking on the bottom stair as I entered.  I wrapped my body around her immediately and within a few minutes the EMT’s came in with the stretcher.  As I helped Morgan to her feet she came to and that’s when she realized I was there. “Tony?! You’re here,” she said hugging me.  I told her I had been there for a few minutes and I wasn’t going anywhere.  I helped them to lay her down.  I followed the EMT’s into the ambulance.  We went straight to work getting Morgan out of the wet clothes; they covered her in a blanket and we helped her to change into something warm.  They allowed me to stay with her until she got warm.  I was very thankful for that.  Morgan wasn’t the first person to go through this; the last woman they had to warm took around 45 minutes to get her body temperature up.  The entire time we were in there, Morgan remained full of smiles.  Nothing seems to faze her.

It didn’t take too long to get her back to normal; her temp dropped to about 95 degrees, so nothing horrible to recover from.  Pat and my dad kept coming by the side door to check on how things were coming.  I assured them everything was okay and soon enough we were able to leave.  Morgan no longer had any shoes to wear and there was no way I was letting her walk to the car getting her feet cold and wet again.  I had Pat and my Dad take our storage bin and everything else back to the car while I grabbed Morgan and carried her out of the ambulance.  When we made it back to the car I set her down and made sure she was doing all right.

Spartan Race Ultra Beast Medal

Ultra Beast Glow-in-the-Dark Medal

Once I knew they were all set I ran back into the lodge to change out of my clothes.  When we got back to the house Morgan went straight to sleep, I was really concerned that she needed to get food in her and told her she could rest for now but once we got back I insisted that I would force her to eat if I had to.  Pat, my dad, and I went over to this pizza place, the wait for a pizza was over an hour and a half so we opted to order every appetizer on the menu instead.  My old man and I shared a nice dark local stout and finally it felt like I had finished the race.  Sometimes there are more important things than finishing, I was still concerned about Morgan but as soon as we got back, she was already showered and ready to chow.  What a relief. I felt a lot less stressed once we sat down and started munching out.

The weekend of the Ultra Beast was above and beyond my expectations.  With the exception of going off course and feeling more scared than I ever have when Pat told me Morgan was being taken to an ambulance, I’d say this historic event was just that.  Historic.  This race will forever go down in history as the first ever Marathon Obstacle Race and we were all blessed with the opportunity to be part of it.  I didn’t want to see all my friends go come Sunday morning.  A weekend that felt like it lasted forever also felt like it ended far too quickly.

Ultra Beast Finish Sunday

One last photo at the Ultra Beast on Sunday before heading home.

Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image

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