Authors Note: There are specific details, stories, quotes and other happenings that you won’t find in this post, or any post due to the agreement we made before the race began; what is said and done on the course, stays on the course. That agreement, created in blood and sweat, we honor to the grave, so information provided below is edited for content. In addition, Miles 3-9 were mostly a blur to us all, and information might be presented out of chronological order.
The six of us arrived at the 1:00pm start line about 8 minutes early; hoping that they wouldn’t give the same speech to us that they did in the morning; an overdressed “Spartan” reading from a script about leading the troops into battle and that not all of us would return; but instead be just a memory. Half of us, who have completed Tough Mudder would argue that this start wasn’t looking promising, and to be honest, we weren’t really paying attention.
The race began with 500 people rushing the start line through clouds of smoke and fire and an audience of about 1,000 people cheering on the last set of runners to hit the course. The time: 1:03pm. When the six of us crossed the start line, we didn’t realize that it would be pitch back before we would cross the final obstacles. Spartan, like all adventure races, attempt to make you miserable, cold and muddy right off the bat. During a slight uphill we jumped in and over three trenches about 6 feet in length and 10 feet apart through waist deep muddy water and nearly inescapable mudslides if you fell in. Everett took lead and instead of trying to jump over, decided to nearly cannonball into the first chasm. Two fire hoses shot into the air and on all of us and less than 1/10th of a mile in, we were drenched and cold.
Slowing climbing one of the slopes we began a series of over/under obstacles; over 3-6 foot walls and under cargo nets, back and forth until we were about 1/4 of the way up the first peak. We were then greeted with more trenches, about 4x as big as the first, requiring you to trudge through waist deep water for about 20 feet or so. It was here that we were presented with our first view, even though we were still far from the first peak. A 12 foot cargo net was next, and it was the only thing holding us back from our second major climb to near the top of the first section of Killington. At the 2/3 mark of the first peak, we ducked under about 50 feet on barbed wire hidden on the course, where Spencer took a nice chunk of flesh out of his forehead; the makings of hopefully a badass scar.
Up this climb, we also tackled two 7-foot walls, me nearly killing Nick and breaking his shoulder, and other racers helping us climb and help each other over the wall. The walls were the first obstacle we were required to be creative with, and doing this particular race on ones own had to have been a challenge.
The walls marked our last uphill climb for a little while and we completed our first mud crawl and monkey bars obstacles. The mud crawls have and will always be one of my favorite obstacles. You’re crawling in mud, water, grass and most importantly; jagged rocks. The barbed wire fluctuated from being around 9-12 inches off the ground, and trying to get through with a Camelbak posed a challenge for some of us. The easy method: tuck and roll… and roll and roll and roll.
The obstacles were easy. They weren’t always simplistic to complete on the first time; requiring 30 burpees per fair, but the obstacles were the easy part of Spartan. The hills; the HILLS would be the actual challenge. After climbing the first three miles or so, it was safe to say that on our first major descent towards the start line, that while we were looking forward to what the Beast could offer us, we were hurting. Mile four marked two more obstacles; a traverse walk (think horizontal rock climbing) and the first rope climb. The traverse wall got half of us, and out of any obstacles we failed going forward, I think this was the one that was the most frustrating. Eddie and Jordan were waiting for us at this point and we took a picture break before we continued on for Miles 4-14.
Team Eye Sex completed the first four miles in a horrifically slow time; but time wasn’t the point. Our objectives were finish line or die, time was irrelevant. Mile 4 marked another mud crawl, an opportunity for us to stay cold and muddy, and this time it was all uphill. Imagine being on your hands and knees, being sprayed with cold water, covered in mud and climbing uphill on your stomach. For the average person; this sounded to be a nightmare; for most of us – another Saturday adventure race. For Brian, a perfect opportunity for Eye Sex.
It was during this moment that Nick and I plowed into each other, Everett screamed when his bandana got caught on the wire (NBLB = No Bandana Left Behind) and Spencer and Devin were rolling along trying to get up the muddy hill. Getting through the barbed wire probably took us about 15-20 minutes before we began our second climb up the second-highest peak at the mountain. We were expecting to go straight to the top when a sudden turn brought us back down once more to face the obstacle we were the most familiar with from the morning session: The Tarzan Swing. An obstacle that more than 80% of people failed in the morning was more challenging doing it, than watching it. Call it exhaustion, call it a lack of endurance; I’d prefer to call it a one-way trip to Burpee Island for more of us. Worth it. I actually enjoy burpees, although after the entire course, I don’t think any of us enjoy them anymore.
After Tarzan Swing, the beast was winning, but we weren’t giving up. A hike through the woods in flat and slightly uphill sections lead to us a 150lb boulder on a pulley that we had to pull up 20 feet and then set it down nicely; “Don’t just drop it!” the stoner-of-a-volunteer yelled at us. It was here that Everett learned the difference between pink and blue and just because he wanted to lift the boulder that matched his camelback and bandana; man needs to read/listen to instructions so he doesn’t have to do certain obstacles more than once. After the boulder, another steep climb, through the woods; rounding out Mile 5. In front of us a board with 100 combinations; a word followed by a seven digit number. We were instructed to memorize this number and we’d have to repeat it “much, much later” down the course. Hotel 143 5526. I’ll never forget it.
More obstacles; mostly ones none of us remember their existence or order they came in came through Miles 7-9 until we reached the Sandbags. Challenge: take a 70 pound sand bag up a steep hill, get your picture taken, then bring the bag back down the mountain. Exhaustion was pretty abundant at this point but we all thrusted through it; we had no choice. Another lifting challenge, then a water challenge on a singular rope out to hit a bell and swim back. Darkness was beginning to set in, and head lamps and glowsticks were now going to be required for the remainder of the race. After search for my headlamp, I came to the realization that I left it in the car and started popping 20-30 glowsticks to hand out, hopefully no one on the course noticing that I didn’t have a head lamp.
We splashed through more mud, up some hills, down home hills and entered the final wooded climb. I love rock climbing and I love hiking, but this wasn’t either. This was a full-blown scaling the side of the mountain one foot at a time, climbing over 2,000 feet in less than 2 miles. I speak for the group that this was a breaking point for most of us, and constantly looking straight up seeing climbers 30-40 feet from you nearly above your head and line of vision was nauseating. It was without a doubt one of the toughest parts of the day, and at this point – it was near blackness. At least an hour into the climb, if not more we emerged at the top, and the sky opened. There’s a difference between rain in your daily commute, or running from building to building, and when you’re at the top of the mountain with no cover or protection and your only direction to go is down.
Rain, appropriately enough made the final obstacles a bit more challenging; my personal favorite being the log jump – a series of 7 logs in a row you had to jump one by one to get to the other side without falling. I think we all passed it. Another steep climb, after we had thought to be at the top brought us up the actual peak, and the pouring rain; the combination of being 12 miles into the Beast and the temperature averaging just at 50 degrees made the final descent to be freezing.
The last two miles needs no words, and I don’t want to go into much detail on this part of the course, but we’re still having dreams about it. Think a 2-mile long mudslide down the mountain on trails; hearing ankles and bones popping, screaming people, sliding down 10-20 feet at a time only to find a tree to grab onto and stopping yourself, and doing so without a headlamp. For Everett’s sake, for proof in writing; Everett was my hero at this point. Did we all have support from each other on the course and did we meet some very nice girls (Hi Candy, Hi Jennifer) – yes. But Everett stepped up and was my shining light down this final hill so I could see. If only he read instructions and stopped doing the “Ladies” section of each of the lifting obstacles, I would’ve given him the “I saved your life” he so desperately wants, but alas – we all have our faults.
It wasn’t until this final descent that we split up; not for any other reason but our safety. This was extremely dangerous, unbelievably stupid, and made us never want to run in the dark in the race again. A few more obstacles, throwing a Javelin that I think we all failed (did anyone do burpees on this?) and jumping over the final firepit to end at the finish line.
There was no grace, there was no sense of entitlement, and all inhibitions we may have had with one another were thrown away at the start line. We all had breaking points, we all had a sense of fear down that final mountain. We finished together because we started together; we had a goal and we accomplished it. Spartan’s slogan is, “You’ll Know at the Finish Line.” Undeniably true statement.