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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To be concluded…Part 3
Photo Credit: Nuvision Action Image