On the particularly cold October morning of Saturday, the 28th Spartan held both a Beast and Ultra Beast in Glen Rose, Texas. The former home of the Spartan World Championships was familiar territory to the company and was utilized well. In one of the coldest Texas OCR’s to date, competitors ran on tired legs, clawed with numb fingers, and struggled to catch their breath through miles of some of the most challenging terrain in Texas.
The Rough Creek Lodge was an absolutely gorgeous venue. It wasn’t named Rough Creek without reason. Competitors were forced to scale giant mounds several times as well as cross the dreaded creeks and ponds that littered the ranch. Cacti peppered the landscape. Rocky terrain proved rough for many. The wind cut competitors through to the bone, but still, they pressed on. In spite of all the harshness and uncharacteristic incline, Rough Creek offered so much beauty. One of my most memorable moments was finally reaching the top of a gnarly mound to hear a fellow racer yell “Beautiful!”
As I turned towards him, I saw one of the most beautiful Texas sunrises I’ve ever laid eyes on. Just for a moment, I forgot how cold I was. I forgot how much further I had to run. I remembered why I do what I do and was filled with a sense of warmth from the earth, and from those around me who shared that passion. Spartan utilized this venue very well and on that, I have no complaints.
Obstacles (Climb, Crawl, Carry)
While the obstacles at the Dallas Beast certainly offered a good amount of challenge and suffering, there wasn’t much variety to be had. For fourteen miles, aside from the rig and Twister, I spent a lot of my time wading through freezing water, climbing over or up something, or carrying something. These are Spartan staples and they are indeed what I have come to expect from the company. I just feel a bit more variety would have made the experience better. I appreciate Spartan’s go-to attitude for testing the grit of their competitors which the Beast certainly achieved exponentially.
There should be fewer A-frames and Cargo nets and more creativity. The race only began to feel like less of a trudging slog and more of a fun, varied experience during the last third of the Beast. The quality and challenge of the obstacles were very good. I just feel that with the price competitors pay for a Beast, they should get a bit more of a varied experience.
Suffering is the new Black
Just when competitors could begin to warm up, Spartan would throw them back into the water. This presented a great challenge, but after about the sixth time it just got old. I can appreciate Spartan using the water to their advantage, but they could have at least cleared debris from some of it and added more variety for the amount paid for such an experience.
I know Spartan seeks to push competitors to their limits. They certainly did. However, I can run through my pond and creeks over and over during freezing weather for free. By no means did I not enjoy the race, nor am I saying the quality of Spartans obstacles isn’t superb. I had a blast and I loved every second. I just feel that suffering and variety can be had in the same event. For this particular Spartan, the recap that sticks out in my mind is: cold, water, climbing lots of A-frames and hurdles, nets and hills, carries, some fun swinging stuff, and then it was over. Oh, and there was a spear throw.
Pre and Post Race
I can say that post-race this time around Spartan offered more contests and vendors for competitors and spectators as well as plenty of room. However, other than viewing the finish and the Herc Hoist it was hard for spectators to see much else without walking a good distance. I would expect this in such a long race. I just feel that with the money Spartan makes they could afford to offer more entertainment and activities for the competitors who paid a good amount of money to be there.
Everything felt more like Spartan trying to push merch on racers rather than bringing a sense of community. Spartan’s tough exterior shouldn’t mask what it began as and I hope the vision of the business doesn’t become clouded by cash. What Spartan does well is offer venues and experiences that are exclusive to their brand. They do this very well. However, they can’t continue to count on the venue and loyalist to carry the brand higher. By no means was the festival bad. I just feel it had much more potential.
The Big Picture
Spartan Dallas was a success. Spartan marked the course well. There were plenty of water stations. Volunteers did a great job even though registration took a bit longer than it should have. Given the freak cold snap, everything went smoothly for the event to my knowledge. I enjoyed the crap out of myself and I felt greatly challenged and I thank Spartan for pushing me to some of my limits. I can truthfully say I’ve never experienced anything like the Dallas Beast.
If it isn’t clear: I LIKED this race. I just didn’t LOVE it. I just feel that something wasn’t “whole” about the race. It was as if I was expecting an exquisite steak dinner, but I got a really tasty hamburger. The race wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t superb. Spartan succeeded in bringing in TONS of competitors from all over the country. Many Spartans smiled and swapped course stories. There were tons of ultra beast competitors walking and running that I have mad respect for. There were elites running and putting up insane times. I greatly enjoy and respect all of this. I just hope that perhaps my next Spartan experience has just a tad more…. substance.
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