When I registered for my first Spartan last winter, the Indiana Sprint to be held at the end of April, I remember saying 'There's no way I can do the distance of a Super and certainly no way I could do a Beast and get my trifecta.' I don't exactly remember where I changed my mind but somewhere I decided that this would be my major goal for 2013. I chose the Virginia Super when it was still located at a 'flatter' location and the Illinois Super was in October. Then Spartan relocated the Virginia Super to a ski mountain and changed the Illinois Super to July. If you haven't read my blog on the Virginia Super, you can read it here, but I'm not sure what would have been worse, the incredible slopes of the course or the Spartan Herpes of Illinois. I somehow survived the Super but came away wondering if I was just not physically capable of handling the extremes of a Beast. I immediately started researching what the problem was with my knees and learned that it was more IT Band related. I set a routine to work and stretch my IT Bands and strengthen my knees for the next 2 months. A couple weeks before the Beast I met with the running coach at my gym. His knowledge was invaluable. He interviewed me and analyzed my gate and told me several things that I was doing wrong. Using his advice, I hit the Mud, Guts & Glory course for training 2 weekends prior to the November 2 Mud, Guts & Glory event. Constantly paying attention to my running, particularly with the ascents and descents, and using the advice from the running coach, my knee pain was gone. I was incredibly happy. As I mentioned, the week before the Carolina Beast was the fall Mud, Guts & Glory event. Five miles with 2,200 feet of elevation change and incredible obstacles. The week before this, I decided to run my first half marathon on Sunday, November 3 with fellow Crazy Dewaynne Tackett. Yes! A 5 mile extreme OCR on Saturday and a half marathon the next day, all one week before the Beast. This was the only way I would feel confident that I could slay the Beast. The longest distance I had ever continuously ran before was a 10k. At MGG I concentrated on my off-road skills and keeping my knees and IT Bands in one piece. At the half marathon I concentrated on pace. We made it through both without stopping, except for the 5 second water stations and one potty break.
Coming out of the half marathon I have never felt so confident and ready. I knew I was going to slay this Beast and the only unknown was the elevation changes and how long my knees would last.
For a few weeks before the Beast I asked questions and paid attention to the posts of the veterans of the Corn Fed Spartans with regards to hydration and fuel. Our wave time was to be 10:00 so a big breakfast was out of the question and it went through lunch time. I have a couple hydration packs but they have little storage in them for things like fuel so I started leaning towards my CamelBak Mil Tac H.A.W.G. with lots of storage space. I decided to remove the hydration bladder and just take a couple of bottles but I had all kinds of room for fuel. I looked into 'fuel' and everything out there is nothing but simple carb based sugar boosters and my body does not deal with sugar overload well. In a book I recently purchased called Superfood Smoothies, there was mention of Chia Gel. I did some investigation into this and the calories in Chia are incredible. Basically you place Chia seeds in a liquid and they absorb the liquid. I chose to use 100% Apple Cider so that I did get some carbs. I found a squeeze bottle at the Eddie Bauer booth at MGG the weekend before and it was perfect. The substance tasted like applesauce and had about the same consistency. Total calories in the squeeze bottle was about 1000. It was incredible and kept me going much longer and better than any carb-only substance would. For additional carbs I had some Island Boost given to me from Jascia Redwine to test. It was good but again just straight simple carbs. Here is a quick and dirty calorie breakdown on the substance.
I registered for the Carolina Beast because because I had NO intention of going to Vermont or Texas, so this was my only option to complete the trifecta. Up to 4 weeks prior I still wasn't sure how I was getting to South Carolina or where I would be staying. Devon Brown hit me up and we decided to drive down together. I heard there was onsite camping available so I called Carolina Adventure World and all they had left was RV sites. $63 for the whole weekend was a great deal and it was ONSITE. There was room for 4 or 5 tents on the site so I let it out that I had room and was able to sublet space to Mark McKennett from Maryland and Jeff Hoskins of South Carolina. You've heard me mention before how much I love the camaraderie of this sport. I love it! Devon and I left early Friday morning. I set my GPS, not paying enough attention, to the last place in the Carolina's that I searched for, which happened to be the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte where they have held past Spartan's. We were almost there before I realized we were going to the wrong place. The good news is we were only an hour off course. We arrived around 4:30, quickly setup camp and then we were off to dinner with all of the Corn Fed clan.
The forecast for that night was to be cold and we were sleeping in a tent. When I camp, I do it in style with cots and all. I stopped and bought a space heater for $25 because I knew we were on an RV site with electricity. Plugged it in before we left for dinner and it was like sleeping in the tropics all night. There really was no better way to prepare for this race than to be in a comfy cot at 10:00 p.m. the night before and so warm that you kick the covers off. We slept a solid 8 hours that night. We dreaded leaving the tent in the morning because it was 28 degrees but the view of the sunrise over the venue was incredible and required some contemplation.
We walked over to the festival area about 7:00 a.m. and started to gather at the venue. We got checked in and I watched Devon and others take off in the Elite Heat. I was extremely disappointed and saddened by the actions of the so-called 'Elite' runners as half of them actually skipped and ran past the first set of obstacles. They should all have their points taken away from this race. At 8:30 I watched the ever-inspiring Operation Enduring Warrior group with their grand entrance. Before you knew it, it was 9:45 and time to make our way to the Start Line so I found my Spartan running partner and pace-setter Kaitlin Stein (who almost didn't make it to the event) and we headed to the Start. If it weren't for the accomplishments of the weekend before, I would have been extremely nervous.
|Come along little doggy !|
The second half of the course entailed a lot of trail running with obstacles strewn throughout until just past mile 11 where we came upon the Tyrolean Traverse. We were just a little past 3-1/2 hours into the race and feeling good about our time as our goal was to finish around 4 hours. The Tyrolean Traverse had about 10 ropes going across a pond that you had to cross the rope about 40' and ring the bell. At every rope there was a line of at least 20 people waiting and the people 'attempting' the crossing were taking forever. I really like these obstacles and find them easy but after watching everyone else, I'm the minority. After 20 or 30 minutes of waiting in line, it was finally my turn. I went first so Kaitlin and the others could watch and learn, up and over in about 15 seconds to ring the bell. To keep the line moving I dropped into the water instead of going all the way across and that was a mistake as I sank in muck up to my knees. We had considered just doing burpees instead of waiting on this one because of the line and the lack of desire to get wet again but chose to STFU. Kaitlin started her crossing and made it about half way before she fell in. Now she was wet, cold and having to do burpees anyway and really hating life. The good news is we're very close to the finish line. Just before the Traverse is when I started to feel that familiar pain in my knees bringing back terrible memories of Virginia. It was funny how throughout the entire course, all we heard was "this is nothing like Virginia" or "Virginia sucked way worse than this". After the Traverse was the sandbag carry which I'm fine with but had to start going backwards on the downhill or I wasn't going to make it. After the sandbag carry was an uphill climb to the Log Jump. The lame part about this was they were allowing you to help each other across this by holding hands. At this point, we had no intention of doing burpees and were glad to take this opportunity so we helped several people and then went ourselves. Back into the woods on some gnarly uphill and downhill terrain until we came back out of the woods to the bucket carry. I've not experienced this one yet but you basically take a 10 gallon bucket, fill it with gravel and carry it up and down a hill. I carried it on one shoulder going up the hill and switched to the other shoulder on the way down as i gingerly went backwards. After this was a standard 8' which I can usually handle easily on my own but we were so exhausted that we all worked the buddy system this time. Then we we see a small little hill with some barbed-wire. I was thinking "this doesn't look bad", I had heard bad things about last years crawl. We started up the hill and as you crest this 'little' hill under the barbed-wire then you can see the next 40 yards of the nastiest looking barbed-wire crawl you have ever seen. It looked like a war zone and the only thing missing was bullets flying over your head. What looked like mud and muck was really sharp little shards of jagged gravel covered with mud and muck. This is where all the planking, yoga and mountain climbers pay off but nothing can prepare you for the absolute shredding that my legs got from all the rock in the mud. Glad to be out of that, but now there was a muddy water pit with a wall across it that you had to go under.
I'm not sure what they call the next obstacle but it's basically a high ladder climb and then you cross a horizontal cargo net that's about 20' up and then back down the other side. Not good for those with a fear of heights. I could almost see the Finish Line. The Fire Jump and Gladiators were the only things standing between me, that pretty green medal and that even prettier tri-colored trifecta medal.
Aside from being near hypothermic, I felt great. This marked the end of a very long year with enormous strides in my physical health and endurance and I have never felt better. Now to set next years goals.