This past weekend I decided to try my first obstacle race ever. That's right. First obstacle race, of any kind, any brand, any distance, ever. So, naturally, I decided I would start with the company that has hands down won the title of toughest obstacle race series (Spartan), at the their toughest trifecta distance (Beast), at the toughest Beast location in the country (Winnsboro, SC), in November.
pffff, what's the worst that could happen ;)
So I rounded up a few other completely insane friends to hit it with me (only 1 of which had ever done obstacle racing before and their longest race to date was a 6 mile Savage Race in the summer in ATL), vowed to stick together the entire race, no matter what - start together, race together, and Finish together. We loaded up, made the ~5 hour drive, threw some Sport Beans in our pockets (well, mostly in my pockets of old shorts I had that had no drawstring and I had apparently bought when I was much heavier... the dang things tried to fall off of me the entire race).
So here you go sports fans, the obstacle breakdown of The Beast:
First off, the distance and terrain were intense. The distance was somewhere between 13 and 16.4 miles. The only 2 sure things about the distance was that
A: their mile marker signs LIE! and B: EVERY water station, from beginning to end was heralded as the "official half way point!" lol
The terrain was insane... I did not at all expect the hills. Spartan had said "those who can climb will be well rewarded" which I thought referred to rope climbs. Nope. It referred to mountain goat climbs, stretching in elevation to 100 yards nearly straight up. AROO!
Next thing to point out, anyone who has heard that you have to do 30 burpees for skipping an obstacle, no worries there, that's a lie. You aren't allowed to skip obstacles* (1 was an exception based on time) and you have to do 30 burpees for any obstacle you fail, or if you don't finish the rep under control, or if you drop whatever you're carrying, or if you don't set it down gently enough, or if the marshal likes you ;)
*At most races you simply walk up to the start line. Not so here. Here, to even get to the start line to get ready to race you jump a 6ft flat wall.
*Then comes the mud pits (4 in a row).
First one is knee deep (but I got a running start and jumped and cleared it!)
Second one is waist deep
Third one is waist deep
Fourth one is Chest deep.
*Then comes the next wall, also a 6 footer
*Atlas carry was next. You grab a 120 pound cylinder of concrete (as if you'd used something like a 5 gallon bucket for the mold), pick it up, walk 15 yards, gingerly set it down, do 5 burpees, pick it back up, walk 15 yards, and gingerly place it back down how you found it (dropping it at any point resulted in a 30 burpee penalty. dropping one hard enough to break it resulted in a 100 burpee penalty).
*Next up you had a horizontal log hung about 50 feet up in the trees with ropes through pulleys under the log and you had to grab the rope and pull a 120 pound concrete block up to the log and then (gently) let it back down. The girl next to me did it. She was So excited! So excited, in fact, that she dropped the rope when the block was still about a foot off the ground to excitedly clap for her accomplishment. 30 burpees.
*Next we had a down hill. Now, remember what I told you about the ridiculous hills? Yeah, and this was one was so insane that I still mention it specifically. They had trees all down the hill to grab on to because you could Not physically walk down it. Your options were to pinball your way down, tree to tree, or get on your butt and slide.
*You then come to a box full of concrete blocks attached to chains. You lift one out of the box, set it down, and get to pulling it down this hill, maybe 80 yards. At the bottom, you turn the corner and, you guessed it, drag it back Up the hill 80 yards back to the box.
*Next up you had the log flip. This was really cool! It was like a tire flip, but you had a long tree log instead. You would flip it, end over end, 4 times. Now, let me say this. There were a lot of people who didn't get this one. One of the guys that was with me deadlifts over 500 pounds and this gave him some pause. I deadlift 300 and I thought I would just dip my back a little and hurl this thing up. Denied. I had to go in full squat, lock up, and beast this thing. No idea what it weighed, but it was _heavy_. Very cool obstacle.
*Then you come to a tire (pretty standard pick-up truck tire) attached to a rope. You carry/drag the tire down a lane maybe 50ft or so, then run back to where you started, grab the rope, and pull the tire back to you.
*There's then a creek section where you wade the creek for a ways (remember that water of any kind is an obstacle because it is Cold outside and then the water was freezing!)
*Next up a pond to walk through, starting at ankle deep then increasing to chest deep.
Up to this point the obstacles have been quite spread out. Now you come to a section of 4 right on top of each other:
*The traverse wall (a long wall of maybe a 100ft with small pieces of 2x4 screwed on at varying spans)
*Inverted wall. A wall that was 10-12 feet high but that was like a ramp... only the ramp was on the other side and you were under it. Pull/up muscle up skills are huge on this course.
*Then comes the obstacle Every Spartan is waiting for. The Spear Throw!
I nailed it. Dead center. Fluke? Probably, but I'll take it!
*Immediately after this is the rope climb. However, a simple rope climb just will Not do! This was a rope climb that starts you out in almost neck deep frigid water and you have to start your 30ft climb from there. Once at the top, you ring the bell and make your descent. Back into the frigid water. When I hit that water... Both of my calf muscles completely locked out in the worst muscle cramps I have ever had. Completely debilitating. I was literally stuck, unable to move at all. After a few moments I floated to my back and backstroked to the edge and was pulled out of the water, still unable to stand. Luckily, (haha!) I had reached 27ft of the 30ft when my calves cramped up and I didn't make it the last 3 feet to the bell so I had my very first set of 30 burpees to warm myself back up... ;)
*After the rope climb, you take a brief run through the woods to thaw out and find yourself at the "Rolling Mud" obstacle. Rolling mud is 4 mud pits filled with ice cold water that you drop yourself down into, wade through, and then meet a tall wall of mud that you have to try to climb out of, scale, climb over, and then slide back down the other side into the next pit. The first one the floor was pretty solid underneath you and the water was waist deep. Calves cramped immediately again. Second one was chest deep and the ground underneath you so thick mud that you had to work really hard to pull your feet up with each step. Now the quads are cramping. Third one was the same as the second and the 4th was super thick, mixed with lower amounts of quickcrete for consistency.
(at this point my muscles were super cramped. I never expected the damage of the freezing water on the muscles when you hit it. Going into the rope climb I felt untouchable. After the cramps at the rope climb, the cramps continued and were brutal - dramatically changed the race!)
*After rolling mud you had the uneven monkey bars. They looked like fairly normal monkey bars from any playground, but the bars were at different heights, and then the last several the really spanned out the distance between the bars which caught me off guard and at a towering 5 foot 6 inches, I dropped with 1 bar left to go (I was ticked at myself bad for that one!). Next (and final) set of 30 burpees.
Finishing the course with only 2 sets of penalty burpees (60)... I was reasonably happy with that, but sucked that the 2 I had the penalties on were ones that I shouldn't have had any problem with.
*Next up, 7ft wall.
*Then came the cargo net. It was an up and over.
*Then came the Tyrolean Traverse: a rope stretched out over the water that you had to wrap your legs over it, grab on, and pull yourself across the water. Probably 50ft total distance?
*Then came the sandbags. About 60 pounds in a sand bag. Grab the bag, throw it on a shoulder, swap to the other shoulder, hold to your chest, cycle through again. You hiked up a hill with it, around, and back down: Check out this little "hill":
*After that you came to an area that had a dozen thin (4" diameter) pine tree stumps stuck in the ground at varying heights and distances that you had to walk across.
*Next up, place a strap around your ankles, locking your legs together, and maneuver a mini obstacle course - 1 legged race.
*Then came the bucket carry. Similar to the sandbag carry, you grabbed a 5 gallon bucket full of gravel (~70 pounds) and hike up a big hill, around, and back down again.
Next up is another big section of obstacles all grouped up in about a
1/2 mile distance:
*Walk through a holding pond
*Mud slide hill
*Barbwire crawl. They really touted this thing. They did Not disappoint ;)
The barbwire crawl was low, even for me (at a small stature). You crawled 50 yards through thick mud, underneath barbwire, all Up-hill. Then you crest the hill, glad to be finished, and realize you are still under the barbwire and have another 100 yards to go. In this next 100 yards, it's not uphill, but their are mud pits full of water, places where the barbwire drags the ground, mud hills you have to crawl over, and... a water cannon. A guy, holding a water cannon, that's hooked to a fire hydrant. I hated that guy. _hated_ that guy lol
*After you emerge from the the last strand of barbwire (that's real. And new. And sharp. Just ask my pants. And the cheek of the guy next to me ;)
you have to climb a wooden ladder that has been painted and caked with mud up 90ft to the top of a platform. Once at the top, you have a 45ft long horizontal cargo net to get across, followed by the 90ft climb back down the same type ladder on the other side (lot of people had a very hard time starting the descent due to the extreme angle).
*At the bottom you get to climb up a slick mudwall with a rope
*Slide down the mud wall on the other side into waist deep water.
*Once in the water, there is a solid wall with barbwire across the top that skims the surface of the water so you have to submerge yourself to go under.
*Once on the other side, you climb out and get to run and jump the fire wall (which was a lot higher and wider than one would think haha!)
*After the fire jump, just one thing stands in your way of your "I Finished, Can You?" T-shirt, your "Beast" medal, and your Spartan Glory. 4 guys with big jousting sticks who are well rested and looking to thump you on your way through - The Gladiators. Fortunately for me, I pictured them as the guy manning the water cannon on the barbwire crawl, rushed through
Done. Spartan. BEAST.
And..... my parting gift:
No idea what from, never felt it - the advantage of having everything completely numb ;)
Don't Forget to Really see what it's all about by tuning into NBC sports network on DEC 7th to see the Spartan World Championships on TV!
--4/4/14 EDIT: Check out the Spartan Founder's New Book: Spartan Up!--
I have a long standing love for Lems. I reviewed their first shoe (The Primal Origins) in May of 2011. At that time, their brand name was "Stem" and it was almost 6 months before their first shoe ever hit the market. It was raw, creative, innovative, brand new... it was an audacious idea put on by dreamers... it was awesome.
Since then (and 3 different branding names I believe) Lems has taken off. But in the rapid success of a small start-up, they've kept true to their idea and continue to come up with new innovative products that are (on top of everything else) some of The most affordable on the market.
When I got my prototype 'Origins' back in 2011, they were they only shoe I wore for a very long time. I loved them. They were like wearing house slippers. Well, Andrew and the team at Lems have done it again and these Boulders are my new personal favorite shoe. I wear them nearly everyday. I wear them to work in the office, I wear them taking my daughter to the zoo, I've worn them camping, hiking, to split firewood, and to go to the movies. Honestly... it's like secretly wearing house slippers everywhere you go.
The boots definitely take the prize in weight. They weigh under 9 1/2 oz (ounces!). For reference: a Vasque Sundowner weighs about 3 1/2 pounds, the Russell Thula-Thulas weight about 1 1/2 pounds, and the Vivobarefoot Off-Road weighs a pound.
They're a blend of water-resistant nylon and real full-grain leather. They are Not waterproof, but for general use in puddles and rain they have been perfectly water resistant. I actually really like this because with no waterproof membrane and a 100% cotton liner they are perfectly breathable (unlike any other boots I've ever tested).
Of course, they have the 0mm drop and a 9mm sole made of proprietary injection "LemsRubber"
And I Love the 100% cotton liner (see picture above.
There is Nothing to this boot....in a good way. No heel counter, no toe counter, no shank, no arch, no... nothing. Just a barely there, perfectly flexible, bendable/twistable/foldable and perfectly packable boot.
Now for the kicker: These boots are $115. $115.00.
For a minimalist boot you're probably going to spend anywhere between $185 and $400, these are $115 and I'm telling you... you will Not be disappointed.
Icebreaker "....Is the antithesis of fashion. It's about simplicity and being natural and being long-lasting, as opposed to high-change fashion" (Jeremy Moon, founder and CEO).
You see, icebreaker is a very unique company. They have taken a stance (a real stance – not a marketing ploy) on environmental conservation, from their materials, to their factories, every step of the way.
Now, this isn’t done by throwing a couple bucks at Al Gore to offset a carbon footprint, instead, icebreaker took a holistic approach: from the raw materials, the farmers, the supply chain and transportation, to the manufacturers and their employees, icebreaker is striving (and doing an amazingly good job) to be in control every step of the way.
Icebreaker is making a valiant effort to not only have a great slogan, “It’s about our relationship with nature and to each other”, but taking ground breaking steps in transparency all the way down to the end user on how they are living that slogan out (check out their ‘baacode’).