The Reebok Spartan Race returns to New Jersey. Also known as the Tri-State Beast & Ultra weekend at Mountain Creek Resort in Vernon is one of the most anticipated races each year by ocr and endurance enthusiasts. The sister races, the Tri-State Sprints at Tuxedo Ridge in NY occuring back-to-back the first two weekends in June and the Tri-State Super returning to Mountain Creek the first weekend of November, are among the most popular in ocr. With three great weekends spread throughout the year, the Tri-State area provides an easy opportunity for racers to get their trifectas.
After committing to the Ultra Beast in November of last year, and convincing several other “crazy” people to join me, I began researching and finding literature on training and fueling for endurance races. I created a training plan and set it to start with the new year. On January 1st, Ultra Beast training officially began for my fiancé Fontaine, brother Josh, and myself. We pushed the training to a point well beyond anything we had done before, in order to prepare for something we had never done before. Finally, it was race weekend, and we drove to a house in NY where we stayed with a group of 11 people who were from all over the US and Canada but came together to run the Ultra Beast.
We spent Friday morning packing our bins, trading our favorite fuel sources as well as suggestions on what to pack and what might not be needed. An important thing was to have some “just in case” or “worst case scenario” items so that we were adequately prepared to tackle both laps on the course. In the afternoon we dropped off our bins at the transition zone, prepared a good meal for dinner, and got to bed early.
So that brings me to the course. The green line representing the Beast course, and showing the Ultra Beast transition zone coming after obstacle 31 and having racers head back into the woods landing back on the course just ahead of the starting line to begin their second lap. In total it came to 26.4 miles covered and 59 obstacles completed for the Ultra Beasters.
The race started about a half hour late due to a bus breaking down with some of the elite heat racers on it, but around 6:30 or so we were finally charging out the start gate and up the mountain. After a short ascent, we came to some round hay bale “walls” and up a little further was a 6-ft wall. Heading back down was the monkey bars, wet with morning dew, if you went into it overconfident and lacking focus, you were sure to fly off, right before racers returned to the festival area to go under the dunk wall and up the slip wall.
Classified obstacle #9 was the new Olympus obstacle and I saw very few people using the chains. The technique that seemed to work best was to push off the wall with your feet, or rest your hips on it with your knees tucked. Lead with your dominant hand reaching as far as you could and then bring your opposite hand to the hole or grip behind it and repeat until you could ring the bell. After some single lane trail hiking and climbing to the peak of the mountain, the morning air and light breeze felt great, and the water crossing was absolutely refreshing. After the Tyrolean Traverse on the other side, racers had their first break between obstacles and a chance to build some speed on a few downhill sections.
Mile 7, and obstacle 17…Spear Throw. I noticed a few spears that looked like they were bent, but for the most part, it looked like they were in good condition, and the hay bales were packed nice and tight in their stands. Shortly after was the Herc Hoist, attached to the cables of a chair lift, the extra bounce typically makes this obstacle more difficult, but the bags seemed lighter. Maybe Spartan was trying to counter the bounce of the cables, or there were less rainwater and mud soaked into the bags, I am not sure but I know most racers will not complain as those who weigh under 140 lbs usually struggle as the bag actually pulls them into the air!
After the Sandbag Carry, racers had their second chance to catch a break between obstacles. It was at this point that the male elite Beast leaders were beginning to pass us as they chased down that podium spot, and after the Atlas Carry and a quick ascent, we were back at the top of the mountain.
Mile 11, and obstacle 28, the new Bender obstacle, with the use of hands and legs it proved very similar to, and could just be considered, a metal version of the inverted wall. The third and final long running portion brought racers back to the bottom. While heading down you got to see others going back up, with what is being called a “soul crushing” bucket carry, and as you passed them you could simply feel their pain as they were hunched over or sitting on their buckets crying. The sheer angle of the ascent and distance of the carry was enough to leave your back screaming and your arms shaking. This was definitely not a carry you would ever want to do twice, or in the case of my friend Leo who had a rock shift at the last second and the volunteer could see a hole in his bucket, telling him to repeat the carry, and only on his first lap he would have to do this obstacle a total of three times.
If your arms were not destroyed enough, the Twister was next. The twisting bars really were not too hard, but the distance traversed and total time spent hanging proved too much for the grip strength of many. After the Rope Climb, it was time to replace the empty wrappers of my Camelbak with fresh bars, eat some protein pancakes, drink some fluids, and get back to it. I wanted to spend as little time in the transition zone as possible to prevent cramping in the muscles, and the desire to just cross the finish began to set in. Before getting out of the transition zone the first place female elite Beast came through to the finish.
As in any good Spartan Ra, e there were plenty of creek crossings and muddy ankle-to-knee deep trudges that only got better the second lap due to the number of people who had trampled their way through! Despite being unseasonably warm there was good cloud cover on the first lap, and a breeze throughout the whole race that keep you cool. I wore a long sleeve shirt, and compression pants that got soaked at the dunk wall and retained water until 10 miles into each lap. The long layers also helped to prevensunburnrn which can increase your chances of heat stroke. Due to the heat Spartan up’d the number of water stations from 5 to 8, with number 4 being a hydration pack refill station, and there was still plenty of water for me to refill mine on the second lap.
A huge shoutout to open heat Beasters who were positive, motivating, and a great crowd of people. There were times when Fontaine and I would say “ultra on your left” and someone who was pacing with us would say “regular on you left” and everyone would get a good kick out of it. As we were more than 20 miles into the race and our backs, knees, ankles, and toes hurt, but we kept running, and there would be words of how impressed perople were, which motivated us not to slow down. If they saw a green wristband on our arms they insisted that we complete an obstacle before them because we were an Ultra Beaster.
All in all, we finished the 26.4 miles and 59 obstacles in 11 hours putting us back at the venue around 5:30. All 11 of us, beaten, bruised, and tired, but not broken, conquered the mountain and claimed our buckles. Feeling accomplished and proud of everything we achieved, we returned home to devour a meal and get some much-needed sleep. Some stories were shared over dinner, but most could wait till morning, and many more will continue to come, as the memories we made will be shared for the rest of our lives.
Middle Row: @adambelieve @leo_vitelli @spartan_champagne17 @captainkaufmann
Front Row: @worlds_toughest_morgan @ocr_jen14 @ocr_fm @plant_powered_anna @spar_taine