I usually need a few days to gather my thoughts of the Killington Beast, and I was hoping that my mind would have changed after giving it some time to settle after this weekend. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
Killington, VT not only was the birthplace of the Spartan Race Beast, but it’s also single-handedly responsible for it’s namesake – as Killington Ski Resort is dubbed the “Beast of the East”. With that in mind, 2015 was the first time we had seen that the “Beast” was tamed down, both in obstacle challenge, and in that it was stripped of it’s World Championship rights, back in December of 2014. This was the beginning of the end for what was considered the hardest race in obstacle course racing, at least from my point of view.
Killington was the race that elite’s, regulars, and newcomers to the sport spent days, weeks, and months both fretting and being excited about. “Beast Week” across the community pages of the Weeple Army, New England Spahtens, Cornfed Spahtens, and more, saw posts about what people should bring, what should one be eating or not eating, and when the proper time to taper is (what’s tapering, anyway?)
While the excitement was there, it was clear there were a few things that weren’t – namely: big time elite competitors and traditional Spartan obstacle builds.
Amelia Boone stated on her Instagram: “I respect that mountain too much to roll the dice with Tahoe two weeks away. I want to make it to the start line of the WC this year” – and a few others shared the same sentiment. The “Beast of the East” was simply too much of a hurdle on the way to the new home of the Spartan Race World Championships and it was clear that the draw of the mountain itself wasn’t enough, being so close to the big event out in California. Would this hurt the experience that is the Killington Beast? To me – Absolutely.
Weeks before the event, Spartan Race put out an email/Facebook blast stating that Killington was now a “Founders Race” – a race dubbed man versus nature. Back to basics, as it were. It didn’t take a seasoned OCR veteran to determine that this, perhaps, was simply an excuse made up to draw away from the fact that Spartan Race had 5 races across 4 countries and a much larger focus on the World Championships, thus stretching their obstacle inventory too thin to spare for the Beast of the East.
What the Founders Race turned out to be, was a trip back in time to Spartan circa 2010, lacking gimmicks an huge branded Spartan Rigs, and trestled obstacles. Turn out that lacking in gimmicks isn’t exactly a good thing.
The course itself was carved out of the many paths and trails that Killington has to offer, in a manner that was supposed to be the hardest Killington race to date, according to Norm K @ Spartan. While it did feature two notoriously grueling death marches, it clearly lacked a heck of a lot more. There was no iconic tarzan ropes hanging under the bridge over “Lake Killington”. There was no Tyrolean traverse. There was no large rope climb rigging over ice-cold water. And speaking of water, while they did have some – it was sure difficult to attain water while folks were on the course – a fact that made even Joe DeSena himself, hop aboard the Spartan-Force One, to address the concerns of racers that were flooding in via social media.
What there was, was a handful of raw and rustic obstacles, like several sternum checkers (or, glorified trees laid across hay bails), there was plenty of Over-Under-Through x5 walls. There was one new obstacle which I enjoyed, a wall climb into a tarzan swing that you finished by scaling a wall on the opposite side. And carries.. oh so many carries. Farmers carry. Log carry. Sandbag carry. Log carry. Atlas carry. Log carry. Log Atlas carry. Sandbag carry. See a trend? The TWO rope climbs were strung across lines that hung barely 15 feet off the ground. Not much of a challenge for anyone, let alone this gangly 6-foot-4 guy. They also doubled up on the spear throw, but the first one was atop the mountain and simply a few piles of hay on the ground, hastily bound together with string. “Spear Man” was also camping out at the finish line, but you only got there after the 2nd and 3rd mud crawls of the day. Doubling and tripling up on obstacles appeared to be the theme of the day. There’s a place for “Founders Races” but to me, Killington isn’t it.
It was a long day for all on the mountain in both good and bad ways. Me personally? I’ll still be back. Killington holds a special place in many racers hearts, but hopefully after the attention, albeit neutral or negative, Killinton received this year, I hope it gets the treatment it deserves from Spartan, come 2016.