On September 21st, 2014, I woke up at 4am in Killington to prepare for my first Ultra Beast. I battled fourteen hours up and down the mountain, crossing the finish line with tears of joy. This was the crown for my evolution into running longer and longer races that year. For 2015, the challenge of completing a Spartan Race Ultra Beast trifecta was possible and I was up to it.
Hawaii was offering ultra beasts for the weekend trifecta, so I decided to return and attempt to complete both on consecutive days. Since I ran it last year, I was familiar with the course and what to expect with the obstacles. I finished day 1 in 9:44:30; only failing the spear throw and the second rope climb on lap two. I took my foot off of the gas after the first lap only to save a little for the next day’s ultra.
Hawaii day two started slow due to some soreness, but my girlfriend Maggie, who was running her 1st ultra, helped me along the way during the first lap. Physically the only issue I had was developing hot spots on my feet from wearing compression socks and not wool. A change after lap one cured that and we were off for the second lap. Maggie and I finished together in 11:57:47. She suffered heat exhaustion about two miles, but she did not quit. She battled through the last 10+ miles and it was very rewarding to share the experience of finishing together after all she had been through.
I initially had not planned to attend Vermont this year. Vacation time from work was accounted for and I focused my efforts on the World Championships in Lake Tahoe. I had visited Tahoe before and knew the elevation was twice that of Killington, so I trained accordingly. At Athletico, two hour sessions on the stair master with the elevation mask and weight vest became standard. Countless lunges along with hill work comprised most of my training. I wanted to be ready to handle whatever #effnorm had in store.
In early August, a simple text message received from a friend made me reconsider racing Vermont. Maggie had been trying to persuade me to go and run the Ultra with her for some time, but this text reopened my mind to the possibility of doing all 3 races again. I rechecked my vacation time and discovered that I did have enough days to go. I booked airfare and signed up for the Ultra Beast. The Ultra Trifecta was on!
I eagerly anticipated another round of the infamous double sandbag carry at Killington this year. Although the terrain seemed more difficult, I felt that the obstacles didn’t cause me as much of a disruption as last year. I failed only the spear throw on the lap one and finished the race before dark in 13:13:01.
With two-thirds of the Ultra Trifecta complete and less than 2 weeks before Tahoe, I took it easy leading up to the World Championship. A short 8 miles on the trail the week before and a few easy gym sessions completed my training.
After arrival in Tahoe and seeing the course layout of the first half basically going up with the 2nd half coming down, I felt really good about the race. As always, the wildcard was the weather. Sunny skies and 70 degree weather for Saturday was ideal for Sunday’s Ultra. Overcast and temps barely reaching 60 on Sunday was not what I hoped for, but you roll with it.
The first few miles had many single-track climbs, so it was bottleneck and slow-pace until the monkey bars thinned the herd. Miles 4-7 was considered ‘the climb’ and although gradual and not as steep as Vermont, it was very windy and cold. I made my way through the course to the swim obstacle and was given a choice of doing a short swim or sixty burpees. It takes me less than 5 minutes to crank out burpees (9-8-7-6, then repeat) and I would stay dry doing them. I finished my burpees and proceeded. This “loophole” as some have called it has been debated in Facebook groups is considered an ‘easy way’ out by many. I don’t disagree, but it was an option for the race and I performed the required penalties before continuing.
After the litany of obstacles after the swim and dunk wall, the rest was literally downhill. I finished lap one in 5:25 failing the spear throw and the rig. After about ten minutes in the pit changing socks, grabbing some nutrition, and Maggie giving me a crucial garbage bag, I started out on the second lap. The garbage bag she gave me enabled me to finish the race. After 3 miles of the 2nd lap, I put it on over my long-sleeve compression top and under my jersey. As the day went on, the wind seemed to pick up and the sun was still stuck behind the clouds. It was frigid the first part of the second lap and the insulation from the wind provided by the garbage bag was invaluable.
I maintained a steady pace during second lap knowing I was in great shape. Finishing in less than twelve hours didn’t enter my mind until around mile 22. I took a bad fall on a downhill and took a minute to regroup. I checked the Garmin and I had to cover 8 miles in a little less than 4hrs. I pushed on and reached the bucket carry 11hrs into the race. I had an hour to cover the last mile and I knew I was going to finish in less than 12 hours barring injury.
The only obstacle failed on lap two was the rig. I did my penalty burpees and crossed the finish line to Maggie waiting for me with a hug and a PBR. Official time 11:30:57. The Ultra Trifecta was complete!
Some final numbers:
107.99 = total Garmin mileage for races
39,685 = total elevation gain
18 = failed obstacles (4 spear throws)
600 = penalty burpees. 180 of these were as collateral for the water obstacles in Tahoe. For comparison, I did 450 during last year’s Vermont Ultra Beast.
1 = the number of garbage bags that enabled me to complete the last race. Without it, I doubt I would’ve been able to.