On June 13, 2015, Approximately 6000 Spartan Race invaded the quaint ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado to tackle Spartan Race’s highest ever race venue. Starting at roughly 9500′ above sea level and ascending to a high point of 11,238′, both the 5.3 mile Sprint and the longer 12.2 mile Beast posed unique challenges to racers, and registration was split pretty evenly between these two options.
Before the race, it was obvious that many runners had used this locale as an excuse to travel and visit Colorado. Although Colorado Obstacle Racers (COR) easily secured the biggest team tent for the race (and were very friendly and welcoming), there were multiple representatives of all major OCR groups present; from the Weeple Army to Lone Star and Cornfed Spartans to members of GORMR, most dressed in their best team colors/jerseys.
Designed by the infamous Norm Koch (#effnorm), the course featured an uphill start and an early water crossing that went from knee to chest deep, along with two barbed wire crawls over snow (the first steeply uphill, the second in the final gauntlet before the finish line). The Beast course in particular featured a large number of strength obstacles – two bucket brigades, two log carries, the herc hoist, and a sandbag carry close to the maximum altitude of the course. Burpee makers included the ever-present spear throw and the new multi-rig obstacle, although at this venue, non-elite racers were encouraged to use teamwork on the latter to make it through.
The end of the race had runners exiting a beautiful trail through the woods to confront a final obstacle gauntlet consisting of the slippery wall, rope climb, the second barbed wire crawl over snow, the dunk wall, and the fire jump, which were all downhill to the finish line.
The Breckenridge Sprint was being recorded and will be televised on NBC Sports, and because of this, the elite field was stacked in a who’s who of obstacle course racing. Hobie Call took the win on the men’s side a scant week after announcing his retirement as a professional obstacle racer. Cody Moat and Ryan Atkins took second and third. K.K. Stewart won the women’s elite division, with Amelia Boone taking second and Lindsay Webster securing the third place finish.
With the extreme altitude, the Breckenridge Beast had the potential to be the hardest Beast ever, but Spartan Race staff clearly took this into account, and compensated with a course that was on the short end for a Beast and had less climbing than many with ~3000′ of gain on the course. Spartan course designers reportedly had to follow strict restrictions from the ski resort, which meant that most of the course utilized existing gravel-paved trails or service roads, with only a couple of sections of single track trails or areas where racers were able to bomb down the still-snow covered slopes. That said, this was easily one of the most spectacular Spartan venues, and while running the Beast, many stopped frequently to take pictures, while others just gasped or said “wow” as they took in the views.
Having traveled there a week early to acclimate to the altitude and enjoy the incredibly scenic area, my wife and I quickly figured out that weather forecasts in the region were to be taken with a grain of salt, and that conditions during the day could change very rapidly. With reports of rain and intermittent thunderstorms (and at one point, hail) all week long, we were relieved to find race day dawn clear and sunny (if quite chilly), and this lasted until shortly after we finished. Unfortunately, many runners from later heats were still on the mountain when a thunderstorm appeared, and Spartan staff paused the race with racers and volunteers sheltering in place due to lightning near the venue. Once the storm threat had passed, the racers were able to continue and finish.
The mountains of Colorado are breathtaking, wild, and not to be taken lightly. The Breckenridge Spartan Beast reflected these qualities, and was a spectacularly brutal race in one of the most beautiful and extreme landscapes I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. I sincerely hope that in spite of the challenges and restrictions for the course designers this race becomes an annual event so we can return next year.[spartanracerate]
*Photos By: Chris Cow and Spartan Race.
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