Well, I figure it’s best to start off with the negative, whether it be rumor or factual, before ending on a high note with the positives about the race.
Cheating.Spartan Race released a statement of Facebook stating the following a few days after the race:
“Dear Spartan Racers,
We take allegations of cheating very seriously here at Spartan Race. We ask all our racers to face the course with integrity and honor; however, contentions have surfaced which could compromise the results of the Ottawa 2015 Ultra Beast at Mont Ste Marie. We are investigating these claims and are exploring solutions for future races.
Thank you. AROO. ”
I think it’s safe to say out loud that there were cheaters at the race. Rumors of elites sharing burpees, refusing to do them entirely or denying that the obstacle had been failed were just some of the examples of chatter amongst racers. When volunteers repeatedly tell you that you have great burpees one quickly realizes that not many use proper form. Spartan makes it pretty clear what good burpees entail yet so many cut the movement short as well as the number of reps to complete. For open racers it is really a personal choice whether or not to do burpee penalties but, in my opinion, elites should be held accountable. Regardless, it is still up to the integrity of each individual racer to give a solid attempt at obstacles and accept the full penalty upon failure. Burpees are such a clever penalty because they are not only time consuming but also gassing and incredibly frustrating. If one doesn’t care for burpees there is always the option of nailing every obstacle. I’m not going to lie, there were many times during the race (more than I’d actually like to confess) where I was about 12 burpees in and that dang devil on my shoulder told me that I was an idiot to be doing said dreaded burpees when no one was paying attention. But nothing feels better than knowing, at the end of my race, that I earned that metal by completing the entire course and all those magnificent burpees.
Many racers posted comments to the Spartan Facebook post suggesting how they saw racers cheat. The UB seems prone to people cutting the course and/or taking off wristbands to avoid heavy carries or the dreaded extra lap. I cannot even imagine how great of an advantage it would be to have skipped the 2km course of 4 steep carries in a row. Not only would it save one a lot of time but a ton of energy as well. That part of the course was the hardest I have ever encountered in a race. Let’s just hope that the top 3 men and women elites from the event completed the course in it’s entirety earning their spot on the podium. At this moment Spartan has only released preliminary results.
I think this is important to express that there are instances where honest athletes end up being disqualified from the race by unintentionally missing some of the course. I believe this happened to a potential podium racer in Ottawa. She has stated that she was misdirected on her second lap and missed 6km of the race. I’m sure this kind of thing happens frequently and, unfortunately, it often goes unrecognized resulting in leaderboard inaccuracy. I’ve been a part of a mix up myself. At World’s Toughest Mudder 2014 I finished with 50 miles, my glorious brown bib and was 10th on the female leaderboard. I was so pumped. My second race ever and I somehow made top 10! But, about 5 days after the race, I looked at the leaderboard closer and notice that it said I did 51 miles. I realized that when I had my picture taken at the finish line after my final lap that the timing mat picked up my chip and gave me another mile. I can relate to anyone’s struggle to confess the truth but I can promise you that writing in to have my score corrected felt amazing. Now I can confidently boast my 13th place finish and feel proud of dragging my over 40 year old tail around the desert for 22.5 hours. I earned that title fair and square – bragging rights now legit.
Unfortunately I can’t give a rave review of race day organization. Racers were emailed out race information about 2 weeks prior to the race but updated information was never put on the website. We were asked to arrive 1.5hr prior to our start time to register and drop our bins. By 7:30am there was a long line up and the crowd was growing restless. We had 30mins to gun time and the line hadn’t even started moving. Finally, by 7:45am we started filing in and it was suggested by volunteers that the start time would be delayed. I made my way outside at 7:50am and started to look for my friends that were also racing. At 7:59am it was announced that the race would be starting in one minute – what?! A mad dash to the start line began as athletes started stumbling out of porta potties half dressed and wrestling with their hydration packs. Off went the gun and a random selection of racers. From what I understand, some of the top elites were still in the line up when the race started.
Another big complaint would be the lack of timing mats – there were only two – one at the start and one at the finish. There was no way to track racers and, apparently, the timing mat at the start line wasn’t always working when UBers commenced their second lap.
I like the new glow in the dark metal but I thought it was kind of sad that belt buckles weren’t given out. You could buy one if you wanted but I think we should have been given to maintain the same standard as other UB races. In addition, we were only given Beast finisher t-shirts when we completed the UB. I, personally, didn’t get a Beast metal but many did. I’m on the fence on this one but lean towards the masses in feeling that if you sign up for the UB and DNF you DNF – no metal, no shirt. Having the option to opt out of the second lap doesn’t feel right to me.
Phew, done, now we can move onto the positive.
Ultra Beast race director Dan Luzzi promised a difficult course similar to Killington, VT for this years Ottawa Ultra Beast. He suggested the course would be roughly 50km, have around 70 obstacles and see only 25% of the field finishing. From what I understand, the course was just over 50km with more than 70 obstacles, roughly 3,214m (10,545 ft) of elevation gain. The obstacles were equally, if not harder than Killington but Vermont wins the elevation gain contest by a long shot. Roughly 700 registered for the Ottawa UB but, at this moment, it is still unclear how many started and how many finished.
The start line was in the Festival area and racers gathered after clambering over a short wall. After an initial steep climb with a log to jump over called the “Hurdles”. Further up the climb was the “Cam Net” found in the glades and was essentially more annoying than anything as you had to duck while walking under it. At the top of the climb was an “Under Wall”. Upon completing the descent to the Festival area there were a few obstacles in a row.
The first was the “Cargo Net” followed by two “Platinum Rigs” which resulted in 60 burpees for the majority (racers got to choose from both on their second lap to complete only one rig). It was a tough recovery while walking back up a steep climb only to face a long, low and uphill “Barbed Wire Crawl”. UB athletes were not allowed to take off their hydration packs for any obstacle/penalty, which made this obstacle even more difficult. After another trek uphill athletes faced a fairly treacherous “Sandbag Carry” in which UBers had to carry two sandbags (only one on the second lap). Upon completion racers went on a long run uphill and then back down to “Over and Thru” walls. More running through the woods lead athletes to the “Dip Walk” closely followed by the “8 Foot Wall”. The course led back down to the Festival area to a “Rope Climb” with knots on the edge of a Platinum Rig, the “Hercules Hoist” and a very tall “Rope Climb” with no knots. Upon completion racers headed all the way up the mountain, which was mostly on a mountain bike trail with switchbacks. At the top of the mountain racers faced the “Slack Line” followed closely by the “Ammo Tin Carry”. A short descent leads to an “Inverted Wall”. The “Sled Drag” and then the over under bar obstacle followed wooded trail running. The course then made it’s way back down the mountain towards the lake to the tough and treacherous “Jerry Can Carry” – men had to carry two, women only one (one was still brutal). This obstacle was shortened for the second lap as racers were struggling with the difficult route. Shortly after was a “Tractor Pull”.
A nice run through lake side trails led to the “Tire Flip” where men and women had separate tires to flip 8 times. A fairly flat trail run allowed for a fast paced run to the creek where racers ran through very cold water, under a “Cam Net”, walking on all fours at the “Over Water Barbed Wire Crawl” and finally crawling through a “Tube Crawl”. A short walk was up next to the “Atlas Stone Carry” where men and women had different stones yet they were all fairly light followed by a short, waist deep “Water Walk” in the much warmer lake leading to the difficult “Mass Monkey”. This is a new obstacle made up of three infinity bars interspersed by monkey bars that were spaced quite far apart. An easy jog leads to the base of a steep climb that had two signs “Ultra Beast” and “Beast”. The UB lap featured steep climbs and four, essentially back to back, carries; “Atlas Carry”, “Sled Drag”, the brutal, heavy “Log Carry” where men and women had to carry the same log, and the long, technical “Tire Carry”. Upon completion of the extra lap athletes faced five obstacles at the base of the mountain on the way back to the Festival area; “Z Traverse Wall”, “Monkey Bars”, “Spear Throw”, “Slip Ramp” and, finally, the “Fire Jump”. Off to Bin Drop we went for some refueling before commencing the second lap. Athletes had to start the second lap by 3pm, cross the 32km cut off by 8:30pm, the 33.7km cut off by 9:30pm and the course closed at 10:30pm.
The course had very little in the way of water obstacles. By the time I reached the cold creek I was pretty desperate for some water. The weather was beautiful and sunny for the race but long stretches in full sun made for a hot, sweaty course. My feet were very happy to be in cold water and I nearly took a moment to lie down in the water and cool off. During the second lap I did dunk my whole body in the lake on the way to the “Mass Monkey” as I realized how unpleasant I might smell at the finish line. It was a long, hot and extremely sweaty day.
The course may not have had the elevation gain that Killington boasts but I think the Ottawa Ultra Beast race director, Dan Luzzi, did a great job using the terrain to increase difficulty and host a tough race. The extra UB lap was a killer addition. Mt Ste Marie was a beautiful and tranquil setting for this tough course.
The volunteers at each obstacle were among the best I have encountered at a race. Many of them tried to enforce burpee penalties by counting for athletes or demanding we count them out aloud. It always floors me when, 10 hours into a race, the volunteers are still positive and encouraging. Huge props to the volunteers who made the course a great one
Overall it was a great race on a beautiful mountain with plenty of time to take in and enjoy the view.
*Photos courtesy of Randy Gordon[spartanracerate]