I have been training for months for what I said in 2012 during my very first Beast in VT, “why would anyone in their right mind want to do this twice?” as Ultra Beast runners passed us. Fast forward to April 30, 2016 and I have successfully become an Ultra Beast finisher. I am so proud of this accomplishment and it was definitely not easy. There were over 800 Ultra Beast racers (open and elite waves combined) that crossed the starting line, but only 544 of them actually finished and only 79 of them were female. I am told the total elevation gain was around 11,000 ft. and the mileage was just under 32 miles total for this race.
The training for this race was not easy, especially since I had to be careful not to burn out because as a full time trainer now, I am very active in many of my classes that I instruct. Rest is crucial so timing of my workouts was very important as was tailoring a plan around what classes I am active in and fine tuning my nutrition to fuel all of this working out. I also needed to run on tired legs and while I never focused on speed drills for running, I did incorporate specific strength training exercises to compliment my workouts to help keep my pace where I decided I needed it to be. Nutrition was a struggle for a little while as I had to really increase my calories (good ones of course) but with my busy schedule finding time to actually eat was the challenge even though I would meal plan and prep.
Three weeks before race day, I had to have oral surgery and have a wisdom tooth removed. I figured it was a tooth, no big deal a day or so and I’ll be back to normal. I was so wrong! It took 2 full weeks before I could stop taking all pain medication and really workout the way I needed to be. Then one week before the race, I needed to taper so I had to revise my plan and hope for the best. I then hurt my left foot and twisted my right ankle so I was starting to second guess if this was something that I would actually be able to accomplish, but there was no turning back. It was time to push myself way out of my comfort zone like never before.
The night before the race, we had to drop off our gear bins at the race site, but there was a bear den near it so we had to remove all nutrition and bring it back in the morning, which was frustrating but totally understandable. The day I had to pick up my bib and drop off my bin it was cold and damp and a bit rainy so of course I grew concerned that race day would be cold and wet. I brought my son with me and that was great because he got to see a little of the course and share this experience with me which meant a lot, especially since these are long events so my kids do not ever attend them with me (well except for meeting me at the finish line in Wintergreen). That evening nerves set it. I had not felt anxiety like that since my very first Beast in VT in 2012 when I had no idea what I got myself into. With my nerves acting up, I could hardly sleep and 4:30 am came very quickly.
When my alarm went off, I was already laying in my bed awake telling myself that I can do this. You tell everyone else that you have to believe in yourself and get that darn word “can’t” out of you head! So I got up, got dressed, fueled up and it was off to the race! They had issued Ultra Beast participants VIP parking passes since the shuttles would not be running that early so it was nice to not have to worry about that part of the process and since I picked up my packet the night before, I already was wearing my timing chip and required bands to race. All I needed to do was bag check and put my nutrition back in my drop bin, which was up a hill so that was a nice way to warm up.
Due to a delay in the race start, my 6:15 wave was not able to start until 6:50 and with that extra time my anxiety really started to kick in. Finally, first wave elites went off and next up I hopped over the wall and entered the starting corral with my nerves in full force. As they started describing the course, warned of the bears, and then made their famous speech to which you respond “I am a Spartan” my heart began to pound and I suddenly felt a calm take over me. For the first time in weeks I believed that I was going to finish this race. I wore my Garmin GPS watch and after seeing the final course distance knew that I would need to finish lap 1 in under 6 hours if I wanted to give myself enough time to meet all of the cutoffs since I knew that for lap 2 I would have to slow down as I would be running with many more people on the course during open heat.
The first 2.5 miles I felt like I was scaling a mountain forever with a short break here and there. By mile 2 I knew that this course was going to be harder than the 2015 NJ Beast, and I was correct. Even with the steep inclines, I paced exactly where I needed to in order to make my goal for lap 1. With each mile I just kept looking right in front of me, watched my footing, and just kept a very positive attitude. I ran when I could and I hiked/walked when I had to. I started off successfully with most of the obstacles and then came the dreaded rig where I couldn’t reach the ring after the bar so I fell and it was my first 30 burpees. Immediately following that was the rope climb with no knots, which I did successfully and continued on my way up the mountain.
I fueled timely and drank my water with electrolytes and was feeling great, but starting to get a few cramps around mile 5. I quickly had a mustard packet and took 2 Endurolyte tabs and shortly after I felt good again. When I arrived at the bucket carry (mile 8) the volunteer there said I was the 20th female to reach that obstacle for the day, which made me feel pretty good that I was keeping up my good pace. I loaded up my bucket with rocks and only took one break on the way up then I came right down, dumped the rocks and proceeded back up the hill. When I hit a water obstacle, I looked at it as a chance for my legs to have some cold water and make them feel better. When I was in mud, I laughed with other racers as we slid along the banks. When I got to water stations I thanked the volunteers and smiled and tried to keep a positive attitude the entire time.
Mile by mile I was able to keep close to my desired pace and was feeling pretty confident now in my ability to finish lap 1 where I needed to be. Now came the dreaded spear throw. At home my practice rounds were up to making 9 out of every 10 I did, however, I just missed it and it was off to burpees. Ugh! As I walked over to do my 30 burpee penalty, I heard them radio down that the 2nd place elite female just left the spear throw which for some reason really excited me.
After burpees, I breezed through the monkey bars and ran down the hill to the Hercules Hoist, which I usually always make, I suddenly I got my first cramp as I began pulling that much heavier than usual bag up the pulley. I got it to the top and then as it was on the way down, my cramp worsened and as I loosened my grip and then I felt burning on my hand and there went the bag crashing to the ground, giving me rope burn on both hands and then I hear “burpees”, ugh! After I finished my 30 burpees it was off to the A-Cargo frame then up the hill, where right before the dunk wall and fire jump I was instructed to go left, up a steep hill that was muddy and the last part so steep you needed to use a rope to get up there and my cramp worsened on the way up. As I approached the gear drop area, I stopped my watch at exactly 11:58 am, which meant it took me 5 hours and 8 minutes to complete lap 1. Goal achieved!
While in the gear drop area I debated if I should change, but decided to just take my shoes off and clean out all of the mud and rocks that gathered in my shoes. I really don’t think that I could have even gotten my compression socks back on after taking them off, so I decided to stick with the ones I was already wearing and continue since my legs felt good. I also decided not to change and leave my long sleeve shirt on, which one girl commented I was going to melt by not taking it off but knowing my body with my Reynauds it proved to be a smart decision as the cooler temperatures rolled in later on. As I ate my sandwich and drank my chocolate milk and aminos I thought about how I was worried I would not want to get back out there, but I actually was excited too. I thought about how I stressed about how I would feel while at that point and honestly, I felt fantastic! At 12:22 it was time off to start lap 2!
During the second lap my goal was now just to make cut off times. Since my watch died periodically I would ask other racers for the time so that I could keep an estimate on how my pace was going. During the race, I met some truly amazing people. I would keep seeing some of the same faces often throughout the course and at times we would stick together. Towards the middle of the second lap another female and I got to talking and ended up finishing the race together. We took our time, just keeping an eye on the time so we would make all cut off points. We encouraged each other and shared our racing experiences and the time seemed to go by pretty quickly. We even took breaks to eat and rest, much different than my first lap where I was running as I was eating.
It was kind of crazy how I ran through the course the first time so fast I didn’t even remember some of it the second time. What was great about this race was it was like the best of both worlds for me. Many people know I love both challenging myself and just taking time to enjoy the course so this was basically that, lap 1 for me and lap 2 enjoying the course. It is hard to even fathom that I could enjoy it after already doing 15 miles, but I truly did. I thought knowing what was to come would be stressful or I would dread it, but it was actually nice to know that if my legs hurt, a water obstacle was coming up so my legs could enjoy the cold water or to start putting on my gloves to carry that dreaded bucket of rocks up the mountain again without having to stop.
I talked to so many people that day and it was amazing how when we got to the tryolene traverse I heard the volunteer say “Ultra Beast racers, let them through” and was pleasantly surprised when they all cheered for us instead of complaining that we were allowed to head to the front of the line. Everyone seem so supportive out there on that brutal course. I was feeling amazing, until about mile 28, then the tiredness and tenderness of my knees began to set in so I walked more than I wanted and took more breaks than I anticipated, but the goal was to finish and barring injury I was going to with time to spare.
As we came out of the woods to the final descend, it was time for the monkey bars. The first round I flew through them, but this time I was a little tired so rather than swing and get the momentum, I would put both hands on each bar and that cost me not only valuable energy, but I ripped my hand open two bars before the end and as my bloody hand reached for the bar, down to the ground I went. I had to stop and put my gloves on before I did my burpees so my open wound would have some protection. After burpees, it was time to head down the hill and take on the last few obstacles before crossing that finish line.
As I came down the mountain I hear my name being called by my team that had raced the Beast earlier that day and were waiting for me. I swelled with emotion and suddenly got a burst of energy. After completing the last few obstacles there it was, the dunk wall and fire jump. At 8:20 I jumped over that fire and crossed the finish line and achieved my goal by completing my first Spartan Ultra Beast with a final time of 13 hours and 30 minutes. What an amazing feeling to have endured this long journey and to have been successful in reaching my goal.
I am proud of myself because I did this 100% on my own. I had no one to guide me on how to train or how to prepare, I just used my knowledge gained from previous races, my personal training knowledge, and I read a lot of material to come up with a solid plan that proved to be successful. It was hours of grueling training, months of preparation and it took nerve and guts to get out there but I did it! Thank you to everyone that supported me to achieve this, I couldn’t have done it without your encouragement and faith in me.