Sitting in this cheap Day’s Inn hot tub, that doesn’t even deserve to be called a hot tub, in Albany, NY, I recap for you the craziness of my 42+ miles of racing the Spartan Race Vermont Beast/Ultra Beast. I ended a crazy work week of travel that included stops in Syracuse, Binghamton, Foxboro (Gillette Stadium), in New Windsor, NY. I had checked into the hotel after midnight early Friday morning and was up for a day of fieldwork as the Grote Sales Rep for Fleetpride (I sell lights, electric accessories/management accounts for heavy duty aftermarket trucking distributors/dealers). After work it is nearly 5 PM and I am surprised how long it will take to get to my friend and childhood neighbor Carly Bascom’s house in Newbury, NH.
My ETA is 9 PM, canceling dinner plans. I had destroyed 12 oz of amazing three meat chili for lunch so stopping for dinner was not necessary as I wasn’t hungry. Gas would be a needed stop and I wanted to get out of New York to save my company some money. But Route 7 in Vermont is not the best place to try to run on fumes. I hit zero miles until empty on my dashboard and went 5 or so miles more before I saw another gas station. Crisis averted! I get to my friend’s house around 9:10 PM and catch up with her for a while not even thinking about the race and not even knowing what time it starts. I find out it starts at 7:30 AM so we plan to leave at 5 AM getting us there at 6:30 AM. I go to bed but am only able to sleep about 2 hours maybe. Instead I get up early and book flights to Dallas, Nashville, and to my next drill in Raleigh. Smooth drive to the race, say hello to some friends, get packet, and back to the car to stay warm.
I head to warm up and notice the weather has too, I take off my long running tights and my arm sleeves. Off Saturday Beast Elite Heat goes we go up the mountain with a 2 mile opening climb to the summit. During the first OUT I burst open my water source (it turns out haven’t never used it before that I didn’t seal the pouch correctly only halfway in and dumping it twice do I finally catch the drift). Right there awaits us a spear throw that I had never seen in 116 Spartan Races. It is a bale of hay just laying on the ground. I have a good throw, but I am wide right. A choice four letter word starting with F and 30 burpees and I’m off. We get to the famous Superstar Trail sandbag carry and to my delight we are only carrying one this year instead of two (like in 2014). I pass some dudes and proceed on. Then I fail the damn multi-bar on the rings and loose numerous spots doing another 30 burpees. I fail the new Tarzan swing mid-way and it’s another 30. Norm Koch is even there to laugh at me and take a video of my failed attempt (apparently I’m the first elite man to fail as I was in the multi-bar). I finish the 30 and plug on. After the short swim me and a few other guys take a right hand railing the pond, we notice we’re lost after 2/10 of a mile and spend a minute or so before we get back to the trail which was above us. Fast forward to the very end at the spear throw that last obstacle before the fire jump and the finish line. I get a decent throw but miss yelling out a loud F Bomb, sorry kids ear muffs by the spear throw. I cross the line in what ends up being 15th overall even with 120 penalty burpees. I am pleased given how my level of fitness/training has dropped since leaving Active Duty Army. Carly greets me and we jet off back to her house. She is nice enough to drive back as my legs start to cramp, at least it came after the race. A PB&J sandwich, nap, and pizza for dinner and I’m into bed around 9 AM hopeful for sleep. The plan is to wake up at 3:30 AM to get to Killington by 5 AM to drop my bin, scrounge up two chemlights, and pick up my bib that Robert Coble picked up for me (yes I admit I didn’t read the athlete guide telling us about packet & required gear). I end up not being able to sleep at all and after scanning the internet, Facebook, and watching an episode of Californication.
I leave the house about 1:30 AM ish. Sleepiness starts to hit me but I arrive to the race parking lot safely around 3:30 AM and crawl in the back seat of my Ford Escape for a little shut eye. Thankfully I’m able to sleep to nearly 4:30 AM and I feel a little better but sore. Yes, I said the Beast course from Saturday was “Easy” but that was only comparing it to years past. In reality this was not the championship race and they did not have the budget to keep the obstacles like they were in 2012, ‘13, and ’14. I find my bib, go back to the car for some warmth and tunes. It started to rain on my drive to Killington and it is cooler than the day before. Off I head to the start line and talking to Ultra Beast extraordinaire Scott Weir I’m told we don’t need to wear our headlamps to start and the chemlights aren’t necessary. I ditch my headlamp and carry but not break one light just because it’s already on my water pack. I talk to my buddies Miguel Medina and Dennis Welch at the start and figure one of them will win.
Off we go, I go gingerly up the climb not caring about my placing with the only goal to finish healthy and respectable. We get to the summit and the spear throw is gone, I am ecstatic and proceed on. We get to the multi-bar and I fail, but after passing my buddy Scott Weir he tells me to just dead hang on the rings. I put this in my tool bag and trudge on. Same course as yesterday, but with the rain and the thousands of people that have been on the course the descents through the woods are treacherous. I fall on my ass several times but thankfully no injuries. Charles Vassallo who I battled during the Beast while talking obstacle racing & New York sports & family, and after the race encouraged to run the UB (he ended up beating me Saturday coming in 13th) become my George Foreman and it felt like a 15 round title fight. We kept passing each other. I would pass him on the climbs and carries he would pass me doing burpees or on the downhills. At this point my hip flexor muscles were screaming and I was yielding some caution in that I never want to risk injury in order to descent uncontrollably (I’ve found a happy median and knock on wood have never been hurt in over 120+ OCRs). At one point at the top of a climb Charles is laying on his back cramped up. I think oh I’ve got him now. He is a remarkable beast who is a single dad and 14 years older than me. I get to the Tarzan swing, nope 30 burpees. I hit the short swim and exit the water not feeling cold, but I remain damp. On the second barbwire crawl after the second log carry I lose Tyler McCredie who I have been running with and talking about life for the last several miles. It digs me a bit, but I know as Drake says “I’m Doing Me”.
I am zapped of energy and begin to start getting cold due to the strong wind, I hope for the sun to come out. I get to the z-wall and fall off. 30 effing burpees. During the third barbwire crawl of the first lap I begin to shake, I exit thank god I hit the spear and slog my way to the pit saying hi to Robert, DJ Seneca Reyes, and Shar Ormsbee on the way by. Right now I’m contemplating quitting, going to my warm car, and getting away from my misery. I tell myself I’m not a f^&king quitter and nothing other than hospitalization will stop me from earning my first Ultra Beast (in 2012 military training prevented me from doing the UB, 2013 I did the back-to-back Beasts winning Sunday’s by nearly 30 minutes, 2014 I had to drive back to Virginia for work on Monday) which friends nagged at me that I didn’t have. 50 Spartan Races podiums, but you’re not an Ultra Beast.
I take out the arm sleeves and neck gator that I started the race with, they’re damp but I didn’t pack my bin box smart. I have no change of shirts (wearing a short sleeve spandex top) or pants. I eat a Cliff Bar, drink half a bottle of store brand Pedialyte, and grab my two pieces of left over pizza from the night before. Jayla Labonte asks me if I’m okay, Charles Vassallo is shaking too, he got to the pit before me and I leave before I’m I wonder if he will quit and not start lap 2. I leave the pit with a member of Nor’Easter OCR who I recognize but have no idea what his name is, even after he tells me I forget and I even have to Facebook stalk him to recall it as I write this masterpiece.
Ryan Josti , it turns out is his name and we trudge up the 2 mile climb to the summit. He is a great dude and we have lots to talk about both living in New England, racing against each other numerous times, and having mutual friends. Before reaching the summit I am warm again so I take off the arm sleeves and the gator. He stick together, this time thank god I make the multi-bar thanks to Scott Weir’s advice. I stay with Ryan will the bucket carry and then I lose him for good. Ryan it was a pleasure finally chatting and you really helped me as I chomped pizza and tried to get my mind off being cold climbing that first climb. Speaking of the bucket carry on lap two they extended the carry. During the Beast Saturday and lap one of the UB I never set my bucket down once. This time I had to set it down at least 10 times. While at the bucket I saw my friend Desiree and her dog, it’s nice seeing friendly faces while you are going through agony. I fail the Tarzan Swing yet again, but so does Charles. Charles finishes his 30 burpees before me and is off, but I catch him on the climb, but on a long descent I lose him and figure that’s the last I’ll see of him. At the swim Charles’ friend Jayla cheers me on but caveats don’t beat Charles. That’s a little fuel in my fire, in addition to the fact although I like Charles I HATE losing to him.
I see him on the log carry, but he finishes just as I reach the top to descend. After the second barbwire crawl I eat my remaining Cliff Bar and a few Starbursts. I regain some strength and kick it into gear. I make it across the Z-wall this time and fly through the barbwire. I hope the two log hurdles and see Charles is about to throw his spear. I rush to the second target from the right, which is the same I used to hit the spear on lap one. It’s do or die if I want to beat Charles I must hit this SOB right now. I clear the rope of my feet follow through the hit the sucker. I sprint off passing Jazz and one other dude and I immediately realize I have beaten him. I’m going faster than any point all weekend, the joy of knowing I accomplished my goal, I am an ULTRA Beast, I beat the man I battled for nearly ten hours. I pump my fist and yell “F^&k Yeah” at least 3 times as I hop over the fire and cross the finish line. I ended up finishing 21st overall in the Male Elite Heat.
Immediately I go to the timing tent to get my UB medal and Triple/Quadruple Trifecta Medals. While there my friend Shar walks up to me carrying a pizza box and asks me which pizza I wanted. I could have given her an Oklahoma Hello, instead I gave her a bear hug thanking her profusely. Other than Kate Upton greeting me with a huge kiss or someone giving me a boat load of money I couldn’t ask for anything better at that point. Shar even brought it warm to me and it was my favorite kind MEAT LOVERS! After I got my medal, picked up my bin box, I congratulated some friends who finished, said hello to some staff, congratulated Charles on our Epic Battle (when I saw him he did not know I had beaten him to the line), and hopped in the car within 15 minutes of finishing to drive 1.5 hours to Burlington, VT where I was to stay and work the next day.
I won’t apologize for writing this book, I didn’t ask you to read it. If you did read it, I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you to my sponsors Spartan Race, VPX Sports, and MudGear for your continued support. Thank you for the Spartan Staff and Volunteers who allowed this great race to happened. Thank you to Carly Bascom for letting me stay with you, feeding me, putting up with my crack head like gibberish, cheering for me, taking pictures, driving me home (Cyndy and Phil Bascom for letting me stay at your lovely home), you guys are the best. Thank you to my friends on social media for holding me accountable and not allowing me to weasel out of the UB this year. Thank you to the nice guy who gave me the two chemlights I didn’t end up using. Thank you to Shar Ormsbee for cheering me on, taking pictures, and for the PIZZA! Last but not least – David Mick, Terry Koob I’m a motha f^*kin ULTRA BEAST 🙂 Oh and I guess Matt B. Davis for giving me a bigger platform to share my story.
Photo Credit: Spartan Race and New England Spahtens (Aaron Farb)