The ascent up the mountain was long. The footing going back down the mountain was treacherous. The 100+ degree temps was, well, hot! The bucket brigade was difficult. The barbed wire
crawl roll was dizzying (is that a word?). Combine all of these and you have an incredible Utah Spartan Beast race! Yes, it was hot, dry, dusty, and the climb up the mountain felt like you were ultimately going to step on the sun, but those are the types of things that make Spartan Races great. Who wants to compete in a race when at the end the only thing there is to talk about is the t-shirt design and your finishing time? This was the 2nd year of the Utah Beast at Soldier Hollow, which has very convenient and plentiful parking within close walking distance to the site. Multiple obstacles are in view for spectators and one can simply gaze across the course to watch people go up, down, and across the mountains.
This year the race started with straight incline running for almost a mile before turning into a single track up the mountain. The race director announced this beforehand and advised everyone to get out in front if they wanted good position. Crap! I lined up in the middle of the crowded corral to start at a good, but even pace to warm my hamstrings before turning up the speed. After this announcement was made, I was unable to gain enough ground on the pack to avoid getting caught in a bottleneck. This was the only part of the course that I (and most everyone else) didn’t like. It was too close to the beginning of the race causing a lot of faster runners to get ‘stuck’ just because they didn’t line up in front. No matter how hard you try, not everyone can be in front. I’m not sure who was holding up the pack, but I do know that there were several moments of me standing completely still waiting for the line to move — all the while listening to others curse and yell at people to go on. There were moments later in the race that I would have relished a break, but one mile in wasn’t that point. There was a little jockeying by going off track, but the energy expenditure wasn’t worth moving up 2 feet. After that bottleneck finally broke, I was able to maneuver around a lot of runners and pick up positions. The obstacles were basically the same as other races, so I’m only going to mention a few aspects of the race that stood out to me. The first was the long, long, ascent up old horse trails to the top of one of the peaks in the Wasatch Mountain range. It was rocky and uneven, but the view from the top was fabulous. I didn’t stick around to enjoy it. The downhill ascents were the most fun as racers basically made their way down paths etched out from the natural elements. Keep your eyes to the ground, let your body go and hop over, on, and around rocks. Dust rose in the air and lodged in throats and lungs. The bucket brigade was as difficult as any I’ve encountered, primarily because the footing was so unstable. Volunteers were strictly enforcing the “fill gravel to the top” rule or do it all over again. I left the brigade listening to some guys arguing about it. It didn’t sound like they were keen on the idea of doing it again. There was one new obstacle that consisted of dragging a tractor tire for 3o or 40 feet and then using a rope to pull it back. It wasn’t an overly difficult obstacle except my calves locked up on me right before that. It took me what seemed like forever to stretch them enough and find a stance that allowed me to complete the tire pull. The other obstacle that stuck out to me was the downhill barbed wire crawl. You heard me correctly – “downhill”. In some ways this was easier, but it also made more of a barbed wire roll that left people incredibly dizzy at the end. I alternated between rolling, crawling, and scooting, just to keep from getting nauseous. I failed the horizontal traverse wall for like the 4th time in a row. Once again, I was 2 moves away from ringing the bell, became too confident and off slipped my foot. On the plus side, I finally got back on the right side of the spear throw.
For the most part, I didn’t push myself like I’ve done in other races. I wanted to come out of it with my hamstring intact and I think I accomplished that. That may have been helped by the fact that right after the 6 mile point in the race, my calves started cramping. I battled that at various times the rest of the race and had to stop a few times to stretch it out. I finished the 12ish miles in 2:35, which is not good at all, but I’m satisfied with it given that I haven’t been able to train at more than 5 miles in over a year. In fact, I’ve run that distance or more only 4 times since April 2012 and those have all been races at which I hobbled to the start line (2012 Utah Beast, Ultra Beast, 2012 SC Beast and Extreme Rampage). A few of my Mud and Adventure Teammates were there, including Paul Buijs who edged me out at the end of the race. I’m happy for him, but now I owe him 30 burpees. Suck! Team Mud and Adventure brought home the fastest team award thanks to some Speedy Gonzalezes. As always, I loved the reunion with old racing friends, meeting new ones, and am looking forward to the Midwest Super Spartan in a few weeks. Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ll be healthy enough for some longer training runs before then. Fingers are crossed, but if it doesn’t happen, then I’ll race anyways!