On the road to the Spartan Founders Beast in Montana, the first thing that struck me was the natural beauty of snowcapped mountains, blue sky, and a glassy lake. The side of Mother Nature that we all dream about. However, as the day progressed it did not take long to realize that Mother Nature’s snowcapped mountains are vertical quad killers, the blue sky is filled with ultra violet rays baking any exposed flesh, and the glassy lakes are fed by muddy streams filled with shoes of poor lost soles. In the end, everyone who participated would realize that they just completed what is arguably one of the most difficult Spartan Beast’s in the country.
When I arrived at the Beast, I found lines moved very quickly and without any complication when registering and picking up race packets. There was nothing special about what they did other than they executed very well. What was special was the jaw dropping welcome sign become obstacle called the “Bridge”. It was like walking through an entrance to a coliseum. A mammoth metal structure with logs laying across that were draped in cargo netting. Racers were climbing up one side and as you walked through and looked 20 feet up you saw their frightened faces staring back as they crawled over the cargo net bridge. I couldn’t wait to get up there!
As I continued through and into the festival area I immediately saw “Hercules Hoist”, “Bucket Brigade”, and the new “Multi-Bar” which we named Bicep Breaker. There was music playing to get the adrenaline flowing, your standard vendors, and practice rope climb and tire flip. The participant guide said there would be technical demonstrations of the rope climb, which would have been great help to many participants; however, I never saw anyone there to help.
It wasn’t long until I heard my heat called, felt the pre-race rush, and was standing at the starting line shouting “I am Spartan”! Then I was off through a cloud of smoke and dust for a 16 mile adventure of a lifetime that would challenge me in ways I could never have imagined. The first ½ mile was deceptively easy with standard OCR terrain but the remainder of the course was designed by sadistic terrain monsters from hell. The terrain got steep quickly and included roughly 1.3 million trip hazards. In fact, it is safe to say that the most challenging obstacle was the terrain. It was relentless, unforgiving, and steep (climbing to nearly 6,000’… I’d be more specific, but my GPS died from lack of oxygen).
In general the obstacles were not innovative but that is not to say they were easy. They were also sturdy and structurally sound which made racers feel safe. A great example of this is the new Multi-Bar a.k.a. Bicep Breaker. It had rings that then transitioned to a 10” pole then to a short knotted rope swing. All of which were suspended from an incredibly sturdy metal frame. I did not see a lot of Spartans complete this obstacle without hitting the burpee station. Another great obstacle was the A-Frame Cargo Net which sat at one of the highest places on the course with the most beautiful view of the lake.
As I maneuvered through the course I couldn’t help but notice how well marked it was. Considering how rugged much of the course was it could have been easy to get lost, but there were flags tied to trees and markers in the ground that made it clearly identified.
There are a couple things were Spartan missed the mark. While there were hydration stations in the first half of the race, they seemed to be lacking in the last half. I was also surprised that there was only one electrolyte station for such a long event. However, the biggest disappointment came at the end of the race when I went to collect my finisher’s t-shirt and learned they never received them. While I understand mistakes happen; a race should never lack the merchandise it promises to the racers. Medals and shirts are expected and are what we wear to show our pride in accomplishing such a challenging event.
Because I was wet and without a finisher’s shirt I had to rush my exit. But as I got into my car for the drive back and saw the sky darkening around Mother Nature’s obstacles I couldn’t help but feel relief that it was done. I also felt an amazing sense of accomplishment in knowing I had just completed one of the most challenging events on the planet. *Spartan did say they are mailing out finisher shirts to all participants.[spartanracerate]
*Photos By: Spartan Race