If you haven’t read my previous summary of the Vermont Spartan Beast, it might make sense to do that now. You can also check out Cameron’s article on the Super Spartan. In this article, I’ve got photos plus some description of the obstacles for you!
a) many of the photos are NOT of me or my team because we didn’t stop to take our own pics; when it is me, I point that out for you, fyi; scroll to the bottom if you want to see me crossing the finish line!
b) the available photos are expensive, so I’ve just kept the NuVision watermark on them, sorry
c) there were 26 obstacles, and some were repeats of each other (like, there were several wall climbs); I might have the order mixed up a bit but don’t send me emails saying I didn’t list “26″!
The first obstacle is always a fire jump. Actually, pretty easy. For the first one, we tried to not get sprayed with the hose because we didn’t want to spend the whole race soaking wet.
Turns out it didn’t matter. Within maybe 1 mile, we had to run through water anyway so the entire race was spent in squishy sneakers…
The second obstacle was a series of walls – some to climb over, some to crawl under, and some to crawl through.
Next, though not really an obstacle, was the physically hardest thing: heading uphill for about 2 miles. This was super steep and was not on a real path. Part of it was in a stream, other parts required hands and knees crawling to get up. It was miserable.
The course looped back at that point to the bottom (so, down a steep hill) and we had a few obstacles there. A horizontal rock wall was one, plus more wall climbs. I was pleased to pass all the obstacles without a problem.
Then there were a few with ropes where we either had to climb a rope and ring a bell, or use a rope pulley to lift a big rock. All pretty easy.
Then more hills…
The barbed wire crawl was really painful – it was through a stream of mud but across rocks. We had to be so low that my chest was scraping the ground. One of my buddies got scraped on the barbed wire. And it seemed to last FOREVER! Anyway, it was finally over.
And more hills, walls, and other obstacles…
Near the end we had to do a long swim – maybe a 1/4 mile – and then climb rope ladders up to a bridge. While waiting for my turn my legs started cramping (I heard others had the same experience). Then, once we got to the top, we had to get ourselves across the rest of the lake via a rope line. A lot of people fell here, which meant they had to swim across (farther) and do burpees. I was determined not to fall, and succeeded, but got a major rope burn on one leg that later got infected and I’m still dealing with as I write this. But at least I passed another hurdle, right?!
As we neared the end, after 12 miles, we had another fire jump, and had to battle the Spartans to get to the finish line.
And then finally – across the finish line!
Wanna join us next year? Or want to do one in your part of the US?
Those of you who have been reading for the past couple of months have heard about the Spartan. Cameron did his Super Spartan in Carolina in early summer and I did the 12-miler Beast with some friends in Vermont last weekend.
This article will have 3 sections:
- Lessons Learned
- Details of the Experience, with Photos
This was a 12-mile race, but like nothing I’ve ever done. It was almost entirely hills (and I don’t mean normal hills, I mean straight up Killington ski mountain not using a trail but using a narrow woods path). And it had 26 obstacles, described below.
I did this with 3 friends, and about 1/4 of the way in we split into twos. We later found out that the leading two stayed just barely ahead right up until the 3rd to final obstacle, so we all finished in a little over 5 hours.
That’s right. Over five hours.
The elite men winners did it in about 3 hours. I think, in retrospect, if we trained a little more appropriate for the terrain, and pushed ourselves, we could have done it in 4 hours. But 3 hours seems insanely fast.
The 26 obstacles involved variations of the following:
- fire jumps
- barbed wire crawls
- wall climbs
- mud pits
- balance walks
- horizontal rope lines
- sandbag carries
- sled pulls
- oh, and did I mention hills, some of which were so steep that we were on all fours, grabbing roots and branches to keep from falling backwards?
If you failed any of the obstacles, you had to do 30 burpees. I’m proud to say that I was successful on all obstacles except one: the spear throw. I was SO frustrated when I missed that (you only get one chance).
Some people were clearly not ready for this, as evidenced by (more…)
Cameron’s Spartan Experience…
Cameron did the Spartan in The Carolina’s the weekend of June 25th. Here is his first-hand account…
The race was intended to be approx. 8 miles with 15 obstacles. The fastest times were intended to be around 80 minutes. It ended up being (after adding the turns) about 10 miles and 19 obstacles (+/- 1, depending on how you count); the fastest time was 106 minutes; only about 1 mile of it total was straight pathway, and about only about 2 miles was flat. It was so difficult that they added a an extra water station. This is my account and perspective on the race, and the events leading up to it…
Friday afternoon was a drive to our hotel. About 5 miles from Columbia, SC. It took us about 3 hours with a food stop to arrive at the hotel from Greensboro, NC. Honestly, I really didn’t want to do this race. If you haven’t been following the WFN forums then you don’t know, but the only reason I did this race was because a co-worker of mine (further known as “Rudy”) asked me to and wanted some support. At this point, my goal was just to finish. Previously, the furthest I had ever run in my life was a 5k, about 9 years ago. I was dreading going. However, in the hotel room I said, and I quote myself, “It’s amazing how little I care about running this dumb event, but, watch tomorrow when I get to the course and I get all competitive and try and kill myself to beat everyone else.”, which ended up being pretty much true.
Friday night was a relaxing evening for the 4 of us who came on the trip. One of the people who came along is a client of mine who had a birthday a few days ago. We ended up going to a San Jose Mexican restaurant and getting her a birthday treat. It was a good thing to break the tension for Rudy and myself.
Saturday morning came at about 6:00. I was trying to stay pretty serene about the whole event. Grabbed some eggs and toast from the Waffle House next to our hotel for a pre-race snack. I was warming up at this point to the idea of running the race. I decided on a new goal, to finish in less than 2 hours. Our heat time started at 10:30am and wanted to be done by 12:30pm to see the end of the awards ceremony that started at 12:00. I felt like it was a pretty do-able goal. By the time I saw the race grounds and took in the atmosphere, put on my music, and changed into my race attire I was totally stoked and ready to go.
From here on I am going to explain the race in more detail and break it down into segments to that it was easy to follow.
Our obstacles for this event are as follows:
- A fire pit jump after the initial hill
- A small lake with an underwater swim under some floating barrels
- Over, under, and through 6 different walls
- Stump run
- A rope wall
- Tire carry
- Barbed wire
- Monkey bars
- Cinder blocks
- Water rope climb
- 50m swim
- Over water rope climb
- Sandbag carry pt. 1
- Cliff jump
- Sandbag pt. 2
- 6 mud pits
- 2 more wall climbs
- Another fire pit
- Javelin throw
- Rope wall
Spartan Race line-up
By the time we lined-up to start our heat and received a speech I had already signed the “Wall of Valor” and was done warming up. Mentally, I was totally focused and ready to kill some distance. Rudy and myself got a good starting spot about 5 feet from the starting line, out of a group of about 100ish people.
The Race is Off
If you were following the WFN forums (if not I recommend going to check it out here) you know that Rudy and myself were doing interval training on a 100 meter hill. Obviously, looking at the earlier picture, there was a pretty steep hill at the start (at least 45 degrees, and that’s being conservative) followed by a fire jump. That being said I’m glad we did it. Even after taking my time going up the hill we were easily ahead of about 1/8th of the pack,somewhere near the top 20. I then proceeded to run through the fire hose as it was 95 degrees outside and headed for the next obstacle, a man-made pond with a line of barrels floating for us to swim under. I picked up some more spots here, but ended up waiting for Rudy to catch up so basically broke even. I will inform you that I decided Friday morning that I would definitely need my music (another thing mentioned on the forums) so I came up with what I thought was a genius idea. I put my MP3 player in a Ziploc bag in my pocket. In retrospect it didn’t go so well…
The bad times start
About ½ mile into the race my shoe actually split right down the middle. I really didn’t think much off it at the time. It made it a little harder, from a balance standpoint, but, nothing too major. Right afterward we came across 6 walls about 6 feet high. The first was just a simple pull-up essential. The second wall was raised with razor wire over the top. We crawled under a gap of about 12 inches from the ground. The third had some tires about 3 ½ feet off the the ground in the middle to crawl through. The last three walls were just repeats. Again, overall the obstacle wasn’t bad. At this point I actually started to get what I thought was a rock in my shoe. This was rough when I had to run across small fence posts cut off to about a foot off the ground. I had no balance and fell of and did 30 up-downs to move on.
After about a 1 ½ mile trek through the rolling trails we came to a rope wall. It was basically a giant triangle we had to climb over. Right afterward was the first water tent. I quickly asked while grabbing water if they had some athletic tape so that I could tape my shoe. The told me that they didn’t have any but would order some to show up at the next station for me. So I moved on.
But wait, we were just warming up
About ½ mile later I realized that I was getting a blister on my foot and that it wasn’t actually a rock. The blister had split and was hitting rocks on the ground. The walking started about here sporadically, but I could run on the outside of my foot so I kept going most of the way. It was about 1 mile until the next obstacle. The next obstacle was pretty long and took about 5 minutes. We carried good year race car tires on our shoulders down a twisty hill then back up. The distance totaled about a ½ mile and we ended up finishing right where we started and just plopping the tire back down.
We then came up to the barbed wire, after another mile or so run of course. I was limping pretty badly by this time. The barbed wire was about 100 yards and was about 10 inches off the ground, give or take about 4 inches because they were varying heights. The average time it took people to get through was probably about 5 minutes. It took me about a 1 ½ minutes, thank you years and years of football practice and barrel rolls. They looked at me when I finished like I was a freak of nature. Right at the exit of the barbed wire was the second water stop. This was about 4 miles into the race.
That’s TOTAL B.S.
I arrive and ask about the tape. Of course, they have no idea what I was talking about. I basically tied my shoe together and tied a torn cup to my foot. It took about 10 minutes for me to do it though, so Rudy went on ahead, since he could still run. Most of the trek was walking as this point. I managed to get a jog going during a few flat places, but only added up to MAYBE ¾ of a mile throughout the rest of the race. At this point a basically said, “Screw you Spartan Race, I’m going to finish.”
Distance at this point was pretty much a blur, but the next obstacle was a cinder block raise. Basically some pulleys were hooked up to some cinder blocks and we had to raise and lower them with a rope. It was a pretty big river run at this point to the next obstacle. A good mile, easily.
The next one was a ramp into a pool of water. At the end of the pool was a vertical, muddy, rocky wall. The wall had 6 ropes hanging over the edge tied to a bulldozer. We had to climb out of the water (about waist deep) to dry land. There was no grip and sucked. I fell once and had to redo it, but from what I heard, two tries was pretty good. The last water station was right at the exit of this obstacle. It was all downhill after here… my luck, not the course.
More water and hills
The next obstacle, after a good hike was a 50 meter swim, followed by climbing back over the water on a raised rope going across the water. The swimming part was what I had an issue with. Then, not ¼ mile afterward they handed me a 45 lb. Sandbag to throw over my shoulder. I took the sandbag, hiked down the mountain to a giant cliff. I set the bag down, walked up the cliff and jumped into the water. I didn’t have too much of an issue there at least, I’ve done some small cliff jumping into rivers before off of a 45 foot rock, so their 20 foot jump was a break. I carried myself out of the pond walked to my sandbag, and back up I went to once again, set it down right where I got the dumb thing.
The final stretch
I swear they saved the hard obstacles for the end. Here I am, limping almost vertical up a ½ mile hill and I get up top and there is 6 mud pits. Each mud pit had water in it and a hill at the end to climb up. They were VERY slick, I had one good foot, and each on got taller and steeper than the previous one. Apparently, even after all the troubles I was only 15 minutes behind Rudy.
At this point, I was pretty much toast, but was able to clear the last two walls with ease, in comparison to the last 6 obstacles.
Then I went back down the first hill we went up at the start of the race to the Javelin throw, which I failed miserably.
The last major obstacle was a rope wall. One attempt and done. My calf cramped at the end and I couldn’t get it out for about 10 minutes after the race though. I climbed the wall and pretty much willed myself and limped across the finished line.
After checking the times I finished in 2:33:32. Not bad considering I only had one foot essentially, a popped blister the size of a nickel, and had to walk ¾ of the race. Not to mention that I only finished 5 minutes behind Rudy.
Finally, for all you people who want to see why this race sucked…
I think it was a good experience. I really almost hit my goal and really had the entire universe against me. I originally said NEVER again, but honestly… maybe if it’s next year. I figure it’ll give me time to block it all out. A spartan sprint (3 miler) would be pretty fun though. Rudy’s wife and my client, Christine, want to try a sprint, so we’ll see. Overall, I was still pretty proud of my performance mentally, and NOBODY really expected me to finish by the time we found out they didn’t have any tape for me. I’ll leave you all with these final words from my fortune cookie that I got earlier this week. “Attitude, not aptitude, determines your altitude.”
I did a quick write-up for my team mates to jump-start our Spartan training. See previous post on the Spartan Race for context.
This is far from complete, and is just some basic principles. As I’ve mentioned, each of our 5-person team is coming with completely different strengths and weaknesses so this is just to get us all on the same baseline. What I personally am doing is slightly different. I’ll share that at the end.
- work up each week (longer or more intense, etc.); each week should be harder than the previous [we had 8 weeks at the time I wrote this]
- use varied training methods
- keep an eye on recovery: you don’t want to be so sore that you miss workouts but you don’t want to undertrain either
- deload (reduce training 4-5 days before the event)
- stretch daily; this is important for recovery; my advice is mostly active stretching, but static stretching is fine too as long as it is AFTER exercise; foam rolling is amazing
- eat smart (don’t try to diet during this, but don’t eat junk; eat lots of good, real food to help your body recover)
- sleep well for recovery
Types of Training We’ll Cover
- endurance running (long distance)
- core training (stability, strength, endurance)
- load training (carrying)
- strength training
My Recommendations For the First 2 Weeks
These are the things I think should be a minimum.
1) TRI once a week. [For you WFN readers, I don't have time to explain the game of TRI but think of it as Rugby with 3 teams.] If we miss a week, you need to spend at least 30 minutes doing similar training (sprinting with change of direction, add in throwing).
2) 2 runs a week. One shorter one longer. Goal will be to get your longer runs up to 8 to 10 miles by early July. Depending on your current capacity, this could be a big leap so let’s talk if you can’t already do at least 4 mile runs. Try to do a lot of your running on trails.
For your shorter run, I suggest the type of training you see in the spartanraceblog. Something like this: (more…)
UPDATE: Other articles in this series on this site are:
- The Vermont Spartan Beast – Summary and Lessons Learned
- Spartan Training Plan – Draft
- Vermont Spartan Beast – Photos and Details
- More forthcoming, including Tough Mudder training
Some of you may have seen some recent discussion over at the forum on The Spartan:
This is one of those intense “races with obstacles”. Cameron is doing one this month in SC and I’m doing one in August in VT. The obstacles might be any variation of:
- fire pits
- 8 foot walls
- mud pits
- log carries
- barbed wire crawl-unders
I’ve got a team of 5 of us for the VT and each person is in different shape. For example, one guy is strong as an ox but little running endurance whereas another guy has no problem with distance running but needs to work on upper body strength.
Our VT race is 12+ miles. So clearly endurance and strength are both needed.
So the question arises: how to train for this?
I’m going to be posting our training plans, in draft form and then in refined form, because I think WorldFitnessNetwork readers can learn from this even if you have no desire to do a Spartan race. While these races gear a little more towards endurance, the strength and power components are there too.
My biggest concern is that I am nearing completion of a fat-burn phase I had planned, and was about to enter into a hypertrophy phase. But training for this will change that a bit. But I need to make sure I do not lose any muscle while training.
I’ll post the training plans in a couple days but in the mean time, any questions?