Thursday, September 26, 2013


I've had a few of days to look back on one of the most difficult races I've completed to this day - the Reebok World Championship Spartan Beast - a 14+ mile 12,000'+ elevation obstacle race held at Killington Ski Resort in Vermont. This race tested me both mentally and physically - it was a painful, bloody, cold, and cramp filled torturous challenge - but all can think about is that I can't wait to do it again.
Photo Credit Spartan Race

It's really difficult for me to write a full review since running a 14 mile race like this tends to leave my brain slightly scrambled, but I'll do my best to piece it together. First - perfect weather for a race. Not too cold not too hot. Loved it. One of the best times of year to be in Killington and New England (although I do prefer snowboarding down the mountain to running up it).

1 mile 65lb sandbag carry
We started a few minutes later than the normal 8am elite start time due to the NBC Television presence and some introductions of the incredible athletes from around the world. Then it was game time...Aroo! Aroo! Aroo! - and we were off. The first two miles were pretty much completely uphill - as expected and very difficult. There were the normal walls, over unders, etc. There was a tire drag on a chain then a pull - I live for the upper body portions of the race. Around mile 4 or 5 (it's honestly become a blur) we got to the dreaded sandbag carry. This was no ordinary 40lb sandbag carry up a hill and back down.
This was a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BEAST sandbag carry and it lived up to it. The sandbag weighed 65lbs and the carry was up one of the steepest slopes Killington had to offer for A FULL MILE - 1/2 mile up and back down.

This was also the part of the race that my better half, Gretchen Krueger, caught up to me - I think (still blurry). We decided to stay together for the remainder of the race - also with my buddy Keith. During the next couple miles there was a spear throw (which I was thrilled to have NAILED - Gretchen made it too) and a few other obstacles including a pretty long barbed wire crawl.

Barbed wire scratches
At mile 7ish we got to the rope climb, inverted walls, another barbed wire section (one of 4 barbed wire crawls). I was wearing my Ultraspire Omega hydration vest and I did not want to shred it on barbed wire, so every time I went through a barbed wire patch I would take it off and roll with it. This is how I got scratched up pretty bad during the race. I was also starting to cramp up in my legs from the cold muddy water.

After the barbed wire we had to cross a pretty cool raised ladder to a cargo net then back down. We also met up with a good friend and great guy, Rob Butler - owner of Shale Hill Adventure Farm. Next was the real water portion of the race and the start of crazy cramps and hypothermia. A brief swim into the late September chilled waters of Killington's runoff led to the second rope climb of the race - the rope is attached to the bottom of a 20' high bridge. That was not too bad. Then we had to run around the lake to the traverse wall. Legs were very cold and slightly cramped but still did it no problem. THEN was the hard part - another swim to the bridge and another rope climb followed by a tarzan swing on very short ropes to a bell ring. Gretchen went first and I cheered her on. I really thought if anyone could make it, she would. She got to the second rope of the swing and fell.
Swim - rope climb - Tarzan swing (mile 7) - Photo Credit Spartan Race

This is also something on a normal day I feel I would be pretty good at - I did not make it either. When I swam across the lake to the other side to meet Gretchen, she was holding her hand and practically in tears. Uh oh...

Her pinky was purple and white and turned to the side. Four different people looked at it and said "yes, that looks broken." We thought it was broken. We were freezing. I felt sick that we would have to stop the race. I could not imagine how Gretchen would continue the race and all obstacles with her finger looking like that and I asked her repeatedly if she wanted to go to the medic. If she did, that was it - race over and she would be DQ'd. If she went to the medic I felt like there was no way I could continue racing while my hurt wife was in the medical tent. I'll be honest - I was so cold and miserable at that point I almost wanted her to say "ok, let's go to the medic." It would not have taken much to twist my arm to drop out at that point. But Gretchen is tougher than anyone I know and she said "no, let's keep going." I was amazed at her fortitude. I'm a baby - if my hand looked like hers I probably would have dropped out. Luckily it was just sprained and freezing cold because once we started moving for another mile or so we all warmed up and her hand was ok.

Photo Credit Spartan Race
After a 1/2 mile bucket carry up the mountain (5 gallon bucket filled with rocks) and some actual fun running (not climbing) for a few miles we were routed back to the water again around mile 9. This time for the tyrolean traverse - a 40-50 yard rope strung over the lake which you have to climb under or over to ring a bell. I went first this time and made it no problem. I go underneath and rest my calves crossed and pull using all upper body.

Gretchen went next with the more conservative technique of staying on top of the rope. That way takes longer but uses less energy. She made it and so did our friends. The rest of the race was pretty straight forward with more running up hills, down hills, a few walls to scramble over and some other obstacles...More barbed wire...this time uphill.

After race pose with Beast & Trifecta medals
The last major obstacle was another sandbag carry for about 3/4 of a mile. The slope was much less steep and the sandbag was only 40lbs, so it seemed easy after what we had just been through. Last was the fire jump and gladiators - Gretchen and I held hands over the fire and rushed the gladiators together. It was a great feeling to get that medal with my wife. It's funny - I still don't really like to run, but I LOVE to finish a run or a race. This race was really satisfying to finish especially after the debacle from last year with the "lost tribe."

The other incredible highlight from the weekend was seeing my Spartan Family and VPX Team Xtreme family. I have made lifetime friendships with people from literally all over the world and it is such a great feeling to get together with friends who share the same passions.