Spartan Race – Ultra Beast of the East (VT)

A Race I Won’t Forget


People often ask me how I “train” for the events I’ve been through this year. I simply tell them that I don’t. I train for life. I don’t go to a gym, I utilize my local playground, park, and find trails to train at. I’ll occasionally do CrossFit or use my school’s gym, but am a big fan of nontraditional training recently. Luckily I was introduced to Mick Evangelista earlier this year when I accomplished my first ultra-trail race at Bear Mountain, NY and he always pushes me to train harder.


“What do you eat when you’re out doing an event for over ten hours?!?!?”

This question gets asked A LOT. I can tell you this, I’ve learned a ton this past year from failure and from people who are experienced in the endurance racing world. I’ve tried jerky, gels, GU’s, cliff bars, rice, epic bars, and a hikers mix called “dirty rice”. At the end of the day, there is no real answer as to what works the best – you have to find what works for YOU. Personally, I try and eat something every hour I’m out on course and take a salt tablet every other hour. It’s sometimes hard to keep track of time, but I found that it does help keep you alert and keeps you less likely to get cramps (still a mystery to me)!

For the Spartan Race Vermont UltraBeast (UB) I had cliff bars, cliff blocks, a big bag of jerky, trail mix, potato chips and ginger ale. I learned when I did a 6 day stage race out in Colorado (shameless plug for TransRockies) that there is nothing better than coming into an aid station and having plain Lay’s potato chips and a cup of soda to keep you going (yay, caffeine and sodium)!

When you’re climbing mountains with considerable elevation gain, you need a lot of fuel to keep you going. Even with the amount I ate, I still should have eaten more and I hear countless times that poor nutrition is why a lot of people struggle with long endurance events because their energy levels are all over the place, they start cramping, and feel exhausted. Training includes testing out your nutrition strategy and knowing what works for your body.


“What shoes and socks should I wear?”

I’ve learned my lesson BIG TIME on this one.

After two years of countless failed attempts, I finally (almost) perfected how to treat my feet. I was introduced to Trail Toes from a good friend of mine, Mark Webb and haven’t looked back since. Trail Toes is an anti-blister cream that is exactly what I needed for my feet. I did GORUCK Heavy back in April 2014 and wore the wrong shoes and wrong socks. At the end of the 26 hours, I ended up having blisters on top of blisters on top of blisters. Not to be graphic, but some of my toes looked like they were about to be circumcised. I never wanted to make that mistake again. My routine now includes slabbing on a generous amount of Trail Toes all over my feet, putting on Dry Max socks and wearing my men’s size 9.5 Salomon Fellraisers (I usually wear a women’s 10 – I know, sexy big feet). At the end of 14 hours of the UB I had only one tiny blister and I did not change my shoes or socks at my drop bin.

Actual Race Review

OK Lauren enough is enough, I want to sign up for the Ultra-Beast next year – what was it like?!

I signed up for this event 3 days before the start. I have done the Killington Beast in previous years, but never attempted the Ultra-Beast. The Friday before, I asked my dad if he’d like to volunteer on Sunday while I took on the course. Expecting him to say, “Yes” he said, “No. I’ll do it with you.” Shocked, but amazed – I quickly signed my 65-year-old dad up. We grabbed two bins for our drop bins, stocked up on some ultra-food and up to our ski house we went.

In 2013 I was a DNS (Did Not Start) because I thought I would be able to do a back to back beast and UB in one weekend with little to no endurance race experience. However, the beast in 2013 caused me to get Bronchitis so I decided not to attempt the UB that Sunday. Smart move? Probably.

Knowing Norm from Death Race this past year, I knew he was going to try his best to make this course as brutal as he could. I remember being 50 or so hours in to the Death Race when I saw Norm laughing at me, telling me to quit because I was stuck up to my waist in a quicksand like mud bog with a 100+ pound pack on. I love a good challenge, but I never quit. Hearing there wouldn’t be a swim this year was a relief for many, but knew he would make up for it somewhere.

He did.

I heard from several people the day before that the course featured “mostly natural” obstacles being that it’s a founder’s course. What that actually translates to is that the World Championships were being held the weekend after the Beast/UB weekend out in Tahoe, so all of the traditional obstacles were out west. Norm had to get creative with what he had at Killington, and frankly I think he did a great job!

More than anything, I was worried about getting my dad through the course. When my dad agreed to take on the UB with me, I didn’t care about placement or finishing, I just thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to say that I took on the Ultra Beast with my dad. My 65-year-old dad has an extensive background in marathon running and I knew he had endurance, but being the daughter I am, I still was worried and it was my mission to pace him and get him through the course.

The night before for many is like some spiritual ritual with laying out their gear, eating certain foods and praying to the ultra-racing gods. For me, I filled up my hydration pack, threw it in the fridge and went right to bed. Waking up at 4 a.m., I heard raindrops pattering on our roof. As it turns out, it had down poured from about 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. so I knew we were in store for more fun! Yay!

Quick breakfast consisted of two PB & J’s on English muffins and black coffee. What else do you need? The fridge was stocked with beer for later, my drop bin was packed and I was ready to go. In the car we went to make our drive to Killington.

Spartan Race Ultra Beast Start

(Photo Credit: Julia Julian)

There we were, 5:45 a.m. At our drop bin area right next to the start. It was a dark, windy and cold start to the day (maybe 50 degrees?) but not like previous years. This year the weather was in everyone’s favor (minus the little drizzle the first few hours of the course). Norm tried doing a hurricane type rain dance, but it didn’t work this time.

Sorry, Norm!Spartan Race Climb Up

6 a.m. and off we went. A relatively flat start was a relief – I was able to wake up a bit and warm up. We first approached a log over some hay to throw ourselves over, the O-U-T (over under through series), hay to throw ourselves over, and then an inverted wall. After the inverted wall, we would have to memorize a code (INDIA- 205-1791) for a later time (MUCH later). I looked to my right and knew exactly what was in store. My favorite slope to ski during the winter is what we would be climbing up – a black diamond trail under the Gondola called “Flume”.

Up, up and away we went. My dad set a nice pace with only two breaks up to the top (I was impressed)! Luckily, I had done the TransRockies 6-day stage race in Colorado in August which helped me BIG time with steep climbs. Trust me, im no elite racer, but I was way better prepared this year than prior years. My dad had been doing hill sprint training for the local 5k’s he competes in, so we both were ready for the long and steep climbs. Right before the summit, there were ropes laid out for us to grab to help us to the summit. As pictured, I thought bear crawling would be easier (it wasn’t).

Gasping for air at the summit, we ran past the shutdown spear throw (a moment of relief for me) and after some running/jogging we ended up at the pancake sandbag carry. I always look forward to this obstacle (meathead at heart). However, instead of this being a simple loop like it usually is, we descended first into a technical section that was very slippery and then had a decent climb uphill. Finished this obstacle and moved on.Spartan Race Rock Wall

Crossed over a “rock wall” as the robot Spartan camera called it (pictured – don’t look up my kilt!) and was able to run/jog for a bit. My dad was feeling strong until this point and I was happy he was doing great! We then approached a steep decent that had people sitting down. Out in Colorado, I quickly learned how to traverse down steep terrain so I was having fun and singing down to the next obstacle, the tire drag.

The tire drag this year seemed harder than previous years. It was manageable but it was on an incline and many of the tires were extremely difficult to pull uphill. I finished dragging my tire up and back and went to help my dad pull his tire. Another obstacle in the books, and we saw that there was some technical trail coming up in the woods.


My dad has had bad experiences with trail running and he was extremely nervous and took his time through these sections of trail. Between being very muddy from a short but intense rain storm the night prior to having big boulders, roots and rocks everywhere on the trail, it was almost impossible to try and “run” through all of the trail sections. After what seemed like forever, we came to a clearing that had me fall on my butt several times (thank goodness I am blessed with padding, haha) from thinking the ground was dry when it wasn’t. The next obstacle is what makes the Spartan Beast course famous, the sandbag carry up Superstar.

Spartan Race Sandbag    (Photo Credit: Neil Murphy)

I was a little bit in front of my dad and waited for him at the bottom of the sandbag carry. I screamed back, “Come on, dad” to make him smile. Luckily there was an awesome group of spectators watching and they all cheered on saying, “go, dad!” which was awesome to see. Recently found out it was the CornFed Spartans cheering him on, and I thanked them for that.

Up the hill we went with our lovely sandbag (they had one for men and one for women this year). What I do to get myself through these obstacles is I start singing random songs and grab anyone who is stopped with me up to the top. It helps a ton when you’re focused on singing a song or helping someone else. The worst thing to do during the sandbag carry is to drop it or sit down. I saw so many people splattered all over the place. Being the annoying daughter I am, I kept saying, “Come on, dad”, took a break to eat a cliff bar, hopped over a 6ft wall and then began a climb through the woods.

Slow but steady, we made our way through the steep and slippery woods that wasn’t too technical. As we reached the top, I could see our first rig coming up after we threw ourselves over a 5ft wall. This rig featured 3 hanging ropes, and a series of rings. One swing. Two swings. Fail. Ugh. One day I screamed out loud as I dragged myself over to do 30 burpees. My dad also failed and he joined the burpee pit.

I was happy to see the Hercules Hoist was next. My dad and I quickly finished and away we went. One quick little stretch of a path to run on, down a trail in to the woods and we were greeted by the dreaded cargo net. This cargo net liked to sway like no other. The motivation was that the volunteers had gummy bears on the other side (jackpot!) Luckily, we both got up and over with no issues.

After some more trail, and a 7ft wall we were greeted with a lovely barbed wire crawl.

Spartan Race Barbed Wire

My dad almost threw up from rolling so much but luckily we got through it with no real issues. We were still doing OK and were feeling strong. Filled our hydration pack at this point, went over the log balance with no issues and then saw the dreaded bucket brigade in the distance.

I heard from people doing the Beast on Saturday that the line for the bucket brigade was ridiculous. Luckily for us, we had no issues with lines. However, it still was brutal. In the first lap the loop was shorter, when we came back for a second lap, Norm made it longer by about 50M or so because, why not? More fun!

Time for more trail. More up, a lot more up. A lot of saturated boulders to climb through the woods and once we reached the clearing a group of us got lost. At this clearing, the trail on the mountain continued straight and then up a hill. A group of us assumed we had to go straight and follow the path. After we hiked up this trail, we noticed tape but the tape was Killington Park’s tape (for mountain bikers). Confused, we went back down to where we were before waiting to see someone doing the course. Not seeing anyone come up through the woods where we came out, we saw a runner come out through another trail on the opposite side of the trail. We screamed over and asked where he came from and he just pointed straight ahead. Confused, we followed the runner through more technical, slippery and steep woods to the atlas carry.

I must say, Norm was NOT short on steep, slippery, technical terrain at Killington – that is for sure!

Another Cargo Net greeted us with its beautiful presence (slight sarcasm), more trail running and a walk through a lake which was the Tyrolean traverse last year.

MORE STEEP TECHNICAL AND SLIPPERY CLIMBING finally lead us to a clearing over to a log carry at a not-so-steep area of Killington (Snowshed beginner ski area), and an uphill barbed wire crawl (hello, cramps). Luckily, at this point the race was all downhill.

One more tiny climb to the top of Snowshed and then a nice descent down to a rope climb over hay (which I pathetically failed… UGH!), a Z-Wall (which I also failed.. double UGH), atlas carry and then a lovely LONG barbed wire crawl. My poor father kept vomiting at this point from getting dizzy and I was getting worried he wasn’t going to make the whole course. Luckily, he shook it off and we knew we were almost to the transition area.

Before the last few obstacles, we were greeted by a volunteer asking for our code. Luckily, this is one thing my dad and I both remembered – INDIA 205 1791 (remarkably). Threw ourselves over the two logs and then saw the spear throw before the transition area. I am probably 3/25 for the spear throw but was feeling confident. I took my time and missed hitting the hay by a hair. 30 burpees to finish our first lap and same for my dad.

I was so happy to reach my drop bin with a fresh PB & J sandwich waiting for me, lays chips and ginger ale. I only wanted to spend about 5 minutes in my drop bin area so made sure to fill up my Spartan Race Drop Binshydration pack, re-stock on food and to eat that PB &J. At this point, it was a little before 12pm so knew we had time to slow down a little bit on the second loop.

At this point, a group of us that got lost on course spoke with staff and volunteers about where we got lost and found out we ended up accidentally missing a good 2-3 miles of the course over at Bear Mountain. The staff OK’d us to continue on, but we were all annoyed that we missed that section due to the marking from the course being behind the tree line causing it to be easy to miss.

Annoyed, I asked my dad if he was OK and wanted to continue on. He nodded and away we went to do the whole thing all over again even if we would be DQ later on or not.

Away we went. A long journey up once more. The one thing about the second loop that doesn’t make it so bad is that you know what’s coming. You know where the obstacles will be, you know how tired you’ll be, but you also know that you already did the course once – how bad could the second lap be?


Spartan Race Flume Climb

 (Photo Credit: Julia Julian)

Spartan Race Dad SandbagSteep climbs up nonstop after having tired legs is always fun. I could tell my dad was starting to fade but he had the determination of a soldier. It takes a lot to make him quit! I now know where Iget it from.

Once we reached the bucket brigade, my dad started to shut down. He filled up his bucket and started vomiting on the side of the mountain non stop. This time the climb was even higher. I tried getting some food in him and tried getting him to eat something but he kept throwing up. I wasn’t sure if he would be able to get through the whole course safely.

After about a few minutes, I looked at his bucket and looked at mine, gave him my bucket and grabbed his. My god, the mens bucket is way heavier than the ladies bucket. After a good while, we knew we were approaching the section that we got lost at. Luckily, the runner in front of us remembered where to go and the reason we got lost is because the marker was BEHIND the tree line going uphill, off of the dirt path.

We made the turn to go the right way this time and it was a LONG climb to the top of Bear Mountain. As we summited by the chairlift, there was a 10ft? wall and my dad was starting to get dizzy spells. I knew at the next aid station he had to get looked at because the next few miles would be brutal enough even when you’re feeling good.

A few minutes later after a log farmers carry, we got to the next aid station and had my dad checked out. The medic gave him a bag of cheez-its to eat but after a few minutes he was throwing it all up. My dad hadn’t peed up until that point, he hadn’t really eaten and his throw-up had no smell to it (sorry to be graphic) but that’s a sign that you essentially have no food in your system. Since he couldn’t keep any food down, the medic told me he was bringing my dad down on the cart. We were at approximately mile 24 (maybe mile 22 or so for us?) and he was dropped. I was getting ready to get on the cart with him when he then said “What are you doing? Get back out there!”

I was shocked, but yelled back “I am giving you my medal at the finish for being a bad-ass dad!”

I was, lack for a better word, PISSED. However, this is another reason why your nutrition has to be on point from the first minute you’re on course to the second you finish.

It was approximately 5:45 p.m. at this point and knew I had to HAUL to make cut-offs (9 p.m. finish area). Of course, I was motivated as ever and was moving pretty fast (for me, atleast)!

Bear Mountain is the steepest part of Killington and so I knew the terrain would be the hardest here to navigate. There was serveral technical bouldering sections I had to navigate through that were so slippery I just sat down and was able to slide down as if I were on a sled in the winter. After what seemed like forever of navigating, there was another rope climb (WHICH I FAILED, AGAIN). After 30 burpees, I navigated to the bottom of Bear Mountain and was greeted with back to back walls.

Two 4ft walls, two 6ft walls, two O-U-T, two log hurdles and then another log carry up the famous ski trail called, Outer Limits.

Tired, I filled up my hydration pack at the next aid station and there was another wall with a platform on the other side and a rig featuring only ropes to swing to, then a 6ft wall to climb down. FAIL. 30 burpees.

Spartan Race Rig  (Photo Credit: David D. Drebsky‎)

On I went.

This part was probably the hardest part of the whole course. STEEP climbing up technical and slippery terrain worse than before. It felt like the climb lasted forever and by this point the sun was setting and out came my headlamp. After what felt like forever of climbing, we finally reached the water we had to walk through earlier, and knew I was almost done.

Running through the woods at night is a feat in itself but is a lot of fun. Your senses become sensitive and you depend on your headlamp to navigate. It actually gave me more energy to be out in the woods when it got dark, not sure why – but I sure wasn’t questioning it! I was just glad I wasn’t seeing dancing skeletons like I was when I was hiking through the night during Death Race.

I reached the log carry at 7:30 p.m. and knew I had to keep giving the course all I had even though I knew I was almost done. I quickly went up and around, rolled through the barbed wire, ran down to the rope climb (30 burpees.. sigh one day I’ll get it), and ran down to the Z wall – FAIL. Reached the atlas stone, finished the obstacle and then knew I had one long stretch of barbed wire that separated me from the finish.

I had several guys behind me rolling at my pace and at one point I stopped from being so dizzy, looked up at the stars and it was absolutely beautiful. It was a rarity to have nice weather for the Spartan Beast weekend, but I sure wasn’t complaining. After more nauseating rolls, we finally reached the end of the barbed wire.

I still (somehow) remembered my memory test number (INDIA-205-1791) but there was no one to test us this time around. I checked my watch – 8:12 p.m. I threw myself over the last two log hurdles, saw the fire and the dreaded spear throw. The temperature dropped at this point, so I wasn’t complaining if I had to do 30 more burpees. I thought maybe this time I would make the spear throw. I took my sweet time, aimed, released and it was as if I made a heavy paper plane and it went straight up then dive bombed into the ground. UGH.

An epic 30 burpees to finish. I was so happy to see my friend, Ben cheer me on as I did my last 30 burpees. As I stared at the fire, I knew I was almost home. A quick jump over the fire as I screamed “HIYAH”, ran to the finish line and collapsed to the ground, surrounded by warm hugs and friends.

After getting lost, spending time with my dad at the medic and finishing the course on my own, it took over 14 hours. I finished around 8:20 p.m. with only 40 minutes until the cut off time. I gave those last few miles all I had, but it was all worth it in the end.

The best moment was being re-united with my dad who was shivering in his emergency blanket in the cafeteria. He wanted to finish so badly, but it was the right move for him to be pulled from the course. Luckily, he was OK and just wanted some real food and a hot shower (as did I!)

Spartan Race reunion

(Photo Credit: Minna Katariina)

Post Ultra-Beast

I received some hate mail following my “finish” calling me a cheater for missing part of the course. As I stated before, I am angry I missed part of the course. People get lost all the time on courses. When I did Bear Mountain 50k, I ended up doing an extra 5 miles because I went off course the last “mile” of the race. Did I miss the cut-off time? Yes. Did I make my way to the finish anyway? Yes. SO WHAT?

At the end of the day, everyone has their own “why”. Whether or not a medal, trophy, patch, or souvenir defines that “why” is up to the individual.

That Ultra-Beast medal I received this past weekend is now in a shadow box hanging in my dad’s room, because he deserved it. I’m sure I’ll receive more comments of other’s “two-cents” as to why I shouldn’t have accepted the medal, but why does it matter? Every individual has their own race. My race did not impact anyone else, so can we stop the moaning and complaining that Spartan has become?

This experience wasn’t about proving anything, showing how “bad-ass” we were or to brag about placement or completion. This experience was about my 65-year-old dad being as fearless as he was to take on a course that terrifies thousands each year.

After such a hard year from losing my mother and his wife, we both have overcome adversity and high-kicked it in the face. We’ve been through the lowest of lows and are now experts on finding our way out of the darkness.

My dad is my hero, my inspiration, a bad-ass and is the reason why I am the person I am today.

Want a challenge? Sign up for the Ultra Beast, don’t complain, and run your own race.

 All it takes is all you got.

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Lauren Cisneros

Lauren Cisneros is an avid endurance athlete, OCR enthusiast and a full time college student at Monmouth University.
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1 comment
  1. Well done! I linked this article on my blog to give others a different perspective on this awesome character-defining race 🙂

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