Struggle, Teamwork, & Success – Spartan Beast VT 2015

I thought I was looking for redemption.

I came to the mountain on a mission. The Beast broke me last year…and though I got my finish…it didn’t feel like a true victory. At the end there was no celebration. No camaraderie. No reveling in our success with hugs, beers, laughter and high fives. I came back looking for what I thought was taken from me. To correct my mistake. I thought I wanted…no…NEEDEDredemption.

As it turns out…I was wrong.

What I found and what I learned was much more valuable and worthwhile than that. Too bad it took me a year to figure it out.

As far as a rating goesLet’s knock this out now.

Pre-Race: 7.5
Race-Day: 8

The Course: 7.5 
Support/Swag: 7
Post-Race: 8
Overall: 38/50

Overall…average to above average. You’ll get why by the end.

The theme of the day was “struggle”.

What can I say about the Killington Beast that I (or someone else) haven’t said before? Those who have done it…know. And those who haven’t yet…can’t possibly REALLY know until you’re there. Suffering and struggling through it. There are insane ascents, vicious descents, technical trails that eat ankles for lunch and top it off with obstacles strategically placed to push you to your limits.

This year was a bit different from the past, though. This year Killington was a Founder’s Race.

What does “Founder’s Race” really mean?

Some would say it means Spartan Race is getting cheap and taking the easy way out on a course build. Spartan calls it “going back to their roots” when things were simpler. Honestly…I think it’s a little bit of both.

The “Founder’s Race” idea results in a less complicated, less grandiose build-out. No massive banners. No 5,000 foot high rope climb rigs with a water ditch below large enough to build a house in. To be perfectly honest…the build-out reminded me of some smaller, local OCR’s I’ve run lately. I kind of liked that.

Each year is different.

Each year at any given venue is its own event, and you kind of have to take it for what it is. I heard some people (some, my own teammates) complaining that this year’s VT Beast wasn’t as hard as years prior. I read one blog in particular that I thought was pretty…shall we say…elitist…about it. Complaining that US races are incredibly disorganized. It kind of offended me.

In hindsight…I WAS slightly disappointed.

As hard as it was…ultimately…it DID feel a little…disappointing in the obstacle category. There were innumerable things to climb over, at least 8 carries of some sort and three barbed wire crawls. These made up the VAST majority of obstacles. I felt there was a lot less…creativity…than I expected. Local OCR’s I’ve done…hell, even other SPARTAN races I’ve done…have had more variety than that. Is this what “Founder’s Race” means? If so…I won’t mind if I don’t run another. Lack of variety doesn’t mean it was easy…but still…it felt like something was lacking.

Despite it all…the struggle was real.

That mountain is no joke. This year’s course had all the steepest ascents and descents from last year’s course…plus new ones. The heat was a new challenge…one that got the best of me for a while. You just never know what you’re gonna get on that mountain…

Lack of water didn’t help, either

I’m not gonna sit here and make a Federal project out of it…Spartan Race blew it with water…but at least they owned their mistake. They depleted their water sources way early and lost pressure on (it seems) their one available hose. People (myself included) weren’t allowed to fill Camelbaks. I had to ration my water a lot more than usual. Given the heat…this was a challenge. One I was not prepared for.

Teamwork saved the day.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I would not have made it without my battle buddies. For the uninformed – a Battle Buddy is someone you run/crawl/climb/struggle through the race with. Maureen and Rob were mine.

Happened kind of by accident, too…I lost my original BB very early (it’s ok, we had a deal, not upset) and came across them on the first major ascent. Deciding to stick with them was probably the single smartest thing I did all day.

They had my back at every turn. I was stunned to find them waiting for me at the bottom of the bucket carry. It got the best of me, whipped my ass…and there they were. Waiting. I felt bad because I took so long…this is exactly where I lost my battle buddies last year (except it was later in the race)…but there they were. And they were right there with me until the very end. Salt tabs, conversation, looking out for each other…they covered it all. It was a much different back-half of the Beast this year getting through it with a couple of BB’s like that.

I would not have finished without them. Not this year’s Beast. No way.

Imagine an entire community like that.

That’s the New England Spahtens – over 3,000 people just like that (to varying degrees). A whole community of “care”. That’s what OCR SHOULD be like…not whining about this or that, not complaining that someone didn’t do their burpees, not bellyaching about cheating…just looking out for each other and having fun.

I almost cried at the finish line.

The look on my face at the fire jump was borderline horrified…but I jumped it. I landed. And I screamed out of pure elation. I could finally run across the finish…on my own. And I did. And there was my wife. And my Battle Buddies. And that G-Damn medal I’ve been chasing for months. I did it. The feeling is simply indescribable.

Thanks to the team…I found TRUE success.

And it was a bit different than I thought it would be. 

High fives and hugs. Shared stories of successes. Lamenting opportunities missed on-course. A teammate not-so-subtly offering a victory shot and beer. And also…asking after teammates we hadn’t seen or heard from. Not for the gossip factor…not out of curiosity…but out of genuine care, and to perhaps be ready to help console a teammate feeling like a failure. So much positivity…

Sitting in the lodge, much later, as I’m getting ready to finish my beer and head home…A teammate comes in for hers. It’s late, most others from the team have left. Despite being more sore than ever…of course I practically leap out of my chair to congratulate her.

Back to the house…where other exhausted, beaten teammates rest as well. In the morning – shared stories of success. Breakfast in town surrounded by finishers, spectators…and people who get it. The next night…furiously hitting “refresh” on Chronotrack hoping to see friends finish the UltraBeast…did they make it?

The sense of completion…of victory…of success…didn’t come from the medal, or simply from running across on my own two feet. It was everything else.

Fool Me Once…

There’s no turning back now.

A lot of words, feelings, and thoughts are going to be expressed fall out of my face right now that may not make sense. For the sake of the uninformed…

In four days I will, for the second time, be taking on the Spartan Beast at Mt. Killington, VT.

Those who have done this event before, like me, get it. Those who have not…probably have an incredible sense of dread and anticipation. For those who are interested, you can read my rambling, complainey recap of last year’s race. Buckle up, it’s a long one.

Through all the raging emotions…somehow… I’ve managed to find a little zen. There are some undeniable truths about this race that, if embraced, will help us all find a little solace, a little calm, and a little sleep in these final few days leading up to the mountain.

This “race” is going to destroy me.

Let’s not kid ourselves. No matter if you’re on the podium or DFL… this will wreck you. The sooner we make peace with that the better. This is one of the most difficult events I have ever done. Harder, I think, than my first marathon. Harder, for sure, than the Seven Sisters Trail Race. The Spartan Beast at Mt. Killington has no equal, in my opinion, unless you start going to the realm of Ultra OCR’s, such as World’s Toughest Mudder, the Death Race, or even the Ultra Beast (which is two laps of the Beast).

I am taking extra care of my body NOW so that it can withstand the unearned punishment it will endure Saturday. This “race” is going to annihilate me, body and mind. I will cross the finish. I will recover. I know this. I accept this.

The time to train has passed.

We are four days away from the race. There is no more time to train. Hell, there’s barely time to pack. Whatever is not yet planned…will not be – yes, even items to bring on the mountain. You should only run with what you’ve trained with. By now, you must already know what you’re bringing.

No, I do not need every piece of gear I own. I know what nutrition I need. I know what clothing I need. I know what I will drink. I know what additional gear I need. I just need to pack it, put it in the car, and be done with it. I will be ok. I know this. I accept this.

This will be harder than last year. Unless it’s easier.

Photo Credit – Spartan Race

Last year Killington was the World Championship race. This year its not. However, it IS still Killington…the birthplace of the Spartan Beast. Hell…the birthplace of SPARTAN in general. This year, instead of the World Championship, its a Founder’s Race – this simply means the race founder(s) will help the already-evil course designer make this race more challenging.

Because it clearly needed to be more challenging.

And though rumors may fly about this obstacle or that obstacle (or lack thereof)…we all know this race is going to be hard, and we cannot know EXACTLY how hard until it’s over. “You’ll know at the finish line”…what a bunch of jerks. I know this. I accept this.

I am overthinking this. It is what it is.

Photo Credit – New England Spahtens

I know what I’m doing. The fear of the unknown is strong, but there is much less “unknown” than I think. I know what a Spartan Race is. I know what last year’s Beast is. I estimate this course will be in the neighborhood of 16 miles long (including carries). It’s going to suck. It’s going to be long. There are going to be (multiple) sandbag carries, bucket carries, log carries, barbed wire crawls…But, frankly, it doesn’t matter. It is what it is. I will survive.

A wise man once said…“Don’t Panic”. I know this. I accept this.

I will not repeat last year’s mistakes.

I made a lot of mistakes last year. I will not waste time. I will not stop unnecessarily. I will not stare at obstacles I know I will fail. I will hydrate and fuel every 45 minutes. If I fail an obstacle I fail it. Burpee (or don’t) and move on. I will not fear failure. I will not make the rope climb. I will not make the rig. I may not make the spear throws. But I WILL finish the Beast. I know this. I accept this.

This “race” is not a race. Just do it. 

Photo Credit – New England Spahtens

More important than anything else, I must remember – this “race” is not a race. I said it last fall after finishing, and anyone you ask who has done this will tell you…this is not a race. This event…its a test. A test of your will, your fortitude, your ability to overcome. Don’t race the clock – it will only cause you to make avoidable mistakes. I WILL be careful, and I WILL finish.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got – “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must.” I can do this. It will take everything I’ve got, but I can. I know this. I accept this.

Run your own “race”.

You are here for a reason, whatever that reason may be. This is YOUR event, nobody else’s. Other peoples’ opinions of how you run your “race” do not matter. How you burpee (or don’t), how you climb a wall (or don’t), how you fuel/eat/pee/walk/run…it is your business and nobody else’s. I know this. I accept this.

It’s time to prepare.

Photo credit – Spartan Race

You’ve got some things to do. Account for and pack your gear/nutrition. Get your race clothing/gear selected and packed. Charge your GPS watch. Hydrate. Constantly. Make sure you eat enough. Make sure you rest enough. Most important of all…Don’t Panic. It’s here. You’re as ready as you can be. With this event, that’s all anybody can ask for. I know this. I accept this.

So, if we see each other on the mountain Saturday…say hi. Give a friendly wave. Perhaps “run” part of the course with me. In the end, most of us will finish. Some will get injured. Some will get hypothermia and be pulled from the course. Do not quit. Do not give up. Do not give in. You can do this. Trust your training, trust your knowledge, trust yourself. What will be…will be.

I know this. I accept this.

The Marathon

They say The Marathon changes you.

Just over three weeks ago I finished my first marathon. 26.2 miles. For 5 hours, 12 minutes and 5 seconds I ran, jogged, walked, and struggled. But in the end, I crossed that finish line. I finished. And at the finish line…I wasn’t really sure what to feel. Finishing that marathon…achieving such a really made me take a hard look at where I’m at and how far I’ve come.

The Marathon did change me…and the nugget of knowledge I gained? It’s one I will never let go of.

It’s amazing to realize what you can accomplish in just two years. Really…March 2013 I “went for a run” for the very first time ever – 3.25 miles…it hurt…and now…just over two years later…I finished my first MARATHON. 26.2 miles…and I felt fine.


Or is it? I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more…it’s truly amazing what the human body will do if you give it enough time, training, and fuel. There are people that successfully run Iron Man triathlons – they cover 140.6 miles swimming, biking, and running. There are people who run ultramarathons covering as much as 100 miles (maybe even more!) ON FOOT. There are countless examples, but the lesson is the same:

Your body will go the distance.

Despite what you may feel right now, your body will do it. Your body yearns for the challenge. It wants to be treated well, maintained, trained, fed the right foods and asked to move in ways you might not have moved in a very long time. If you train and fuel correctly your body can and will do what you will ask it.

And so it becomes a mental game. Do you have the heart, the spirit, and the mental toughness to outlast the forces that are working against you? In The Marathon you’ve got 26.2 miles of unforgiving pavement and the forces of Nature – sun, wind, heat, humidity, cold, rain…you’re battling the Earth itself to achieve your victory (and as far as I’m concerned there is nothing more pure).

But what about in your own journey?

On a daily basis, you fight against much more. Self-esteem. Peer-pressure. The fact that healthy food and gym memberships are SO expensive, but that McBurger with fries is just $2.99 and hey, my favorite show is on!

You’ve got to win the fight. It’s life or death. Battle back and say “NO, it’s NOT ok to just sit there and rot on the couch.”

“NO, I WILL invest in myself…because a gym membership now costs a lot less than my medical bills will later. If I eat out one less time a month…there’s my dues! I shouldn’t even be having that platter of nachos anyway.”

“NO, you will NOT make me feel stupid for going to the gym when I weigh 300 lbs…because I’ve got news for you pal, I’m NOT going to weigh 300 lbs for much longer…and won’t you look silly when I’ve got a 6-pack and you’re still rockin’ the ‘dad bod’.”

The Marathon taught me a lot of things about myself I never expected to learn…but quite possibly the most important thing I learned…is that there truly is no limit. It’s something I’ve believed for a long time, but there was a nagging suspicion somewhere in the back of my mind that there was, in fact, a ceiling…albeit a high one…and eventually…you would find it.

But now it’s been made crystal clear to me: there is no ceiling. There truly is NO limit to what you can achieve. As long as you set your goal, make a plan, train, fuel, and believe…you really can achieve anything. It might be hard to believe right now, sitting where you’re sitting…but I was sitting in a place very similar not too long ago…

Don’t lose faith in yourself. You can do it. Whatever “it” is.

Battlefrog’s (Literal) “Make Or Break” Moment

Battlefrog distance changes

“When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”

Something interesting is happening in the OCR world right now: BattleFrog (a reportedly fantastic obstacle race series born just a year ago) is now implementing MAJOR changes to the rest of their schedule for 2015 as well as to their format in general.

What will ultimately be the death or rebirth of BattleFrog as an OCR series is unfolding right now before our eyes. So what’s involved? What’s at stake? How will this affect BattleFrog, it’s participants & staff, and the OCR scene as a whole? And why are people so damn mad?

Now that the dust is beginning to settle…let’s take a look.

Read more…

Looking Back – BoldrDash on the Beach

So, by now it’s no secret that I overloaded myself this past summer. So many people believed in me and my message that I was inundated with opportunities to get out there and show people you can do it. Now that my wedding, the summer, and my race season is over, it’s time to catch up.  This is the first of many long-overdue race recaps and product reviews from the past year.

TODAY…I’m stoked. TODAY I revisit a GREAT obstacle race. My wife’s very first OCR…


BoldrDash On The Beach was a GREAT OCR! 

Boldrdash was a great example of what a top notch local race can be. Any Joe out there can put on a decent 5K road race, but it takes a special kind of Race Director to organize a great local obstacle race – Lynn Hall of BoldrDash has done just that.

Let me start by saying I’m 10x as happy that this OCR was as good as it was because it was my wife’s first obstacle race. We both had a great time, ever since running she understands the sport and my obsession with it, and she was encouraged to run more! I’m sure she wasn’t the only first-timer out there and I’m sure their experience was similar. That said…my rating (how the rating works):

Pre-Race: 10/10
Race-Day: 10/10
The Course: 9/10
Support/Swag: 9/10
Post-Race: 9/10
Overall: 47/50 – A solid “A” rating!

From sign-up to show-up to climb-up to clean-up, BoldrDash on the Beach just does it right. This is an excellent Obstacle Course Race for the whole family – participants of all ages and skill levels will have fun here, find a challenge, and be able to succeed – even the kids! Is this a back-breaking extreme-endurance challenge like The Beast? No. It’s not trying to be and it doesn’t need to be. It’s everything it’s advertised to be and more, and you certainly won’t regret signing up.

So let’s break that down:

Pre-Race: 10

BoldrDash really just knocks it out of the park in the pre-race department. I mean, damn, look at that! OUTSTANDING! Nevermind giving you a registration confirmation & a pre-race info packet…BoldrDash takes it 10 steps beyond. Lynn really makes sure to keep you up-to-date on everything that’s happening as soon as it happens. 

Not only that, there’s plenty offered to participants free of charge before race-day. How do you find out? All those pre-race emails are full-fledged newsletters complete with events, news, and community updates. Packet pick-up? Child’s play. BoldrDash kicks it into overdrive working with their sponsors/vendors/partners offering injury prevention clinics, free workouts, and community outreach events. BoldrDash has your pre-race needs covered. You’ll feel like part of the family by the time race day hits.

Race-Day: 10

SPEAKING OF RACE DAY…they’ve got that on lock-down too. There was ample parking (which was FREE, by the way), and we were easily able to find a comfy spot and finish getting our gear on in the parking lot. Parking was pretty darn close to the festival/registration area, and it wasn’t very challenging to see where we needed to go. Waiting in line for packets, t-shirt, port-o-john and marking station were all a breeze, and there was more than plenty of room to hang out, stretch, and prepare. From there, starting corral was super easy to spot – with an L.E.D. timing clock right there it was pretty darn hard to miss your start time, too.

The Course: 9

The course was AWESOME. I have to say, a beach OCR sounds pretty daunting…sand is awful to run on, but man…that view! Also, the sand wasn’t as bad as I had expected – it was more of a 3 mile long obstacle! The actual obstacles were great; very well-constructed and challenging, but not impossible. There was certainly your typical OCR fare – wall climbs, over-unders, etc, but BoldrDash had plenty of unique offerings! Water carries straight from the ocean, a quarter-mile walk/run/climb/crawl along the jetty (tricky!) a couple of surprisingly-challenging balance obstacles and an inverted wall harder than Spartan Race’s really made this OCR stand out to me.

There were two reasons this category didn’t get full marks, and they’re relatively minor. 1.) There were a couple of points where we were confused on where to go and there either wasn’t clear marking or a volunteer readily available to point you in the right direction. A simple sign with an arrow would’ve sufficed. 2.) There was some back-up at the water carry – a temporary shortage of men’s buckets (women had smaller buckets) left my wife waiting a bit for me to finish the obstacle. Overall, though – the course was very well thought out, well-built, not impossible (read: discouraging) and most of all…FUN!

Support/Swag: 9

I sometimes feel like a spoiled brat rating this category, but the fact of the matter is…swag can be a deciding (or at least major) factor in race choice for many people, and that’s totally their right. Can you blame someone for wanting something memorable to take home to celebrate their accomplishment? I’ll admit, I’ve picked one half-marathon over another before because it had a better medal/shirt. That said: The BoldrDash t-shirt is kickass, and (*spoiled brat*) the medal is kind of average. Know what, though? That’s ok.

As far as “support” goes – BoldrDash did pretty darn good. There were a TON of volunteers on-course and in the festival area. Many of them were JROTC, and I love that Lynn / BoldrDash gave them the opportunity to help out (and probably get some service hours in?). There were also plenty of spectators and “other” volunteers throughout to cheer you on and help with morale! The volunteers were, overall, very knowledgeable, very helpful, and very friendly (except the “tough guys” at some obstacles, but they were just playing their role). There were maybe a couple of volunteers throughout our experience who seemed a little lost/confused…but that’ll happen.

There was a whole med trailer on-site, ATV’s rolling along the course (including Lynn herself!), plenty of water and, of course, ample port-o-johns available. They just plain had it covered across the board!

Post-Race: 9

Nailed it. Seriously…a veritable mountain of KIND bars of every flavor plus Hint water and plain water available literally steps away from the finish chute. From there, the festival began. I don’t know that it really felt like a festival, but that could just be because all the little pop-up canopies were spaced so far apart. The free foam-rolling/KT Taping was available, Zico coconut water was there, etc. It was a decent little festival.

Bummer of the day – no alcohol allowed as Scarborough Beach is RI State property. However, this didn’t stop BoldrDash – they worked out a deal with a place about 5 minutes away to offer all participants a free beer! AWESOME! Downer that we couldn’t have it right there at the finish, but I certainly appreciate that they still made it happen.

Overall Impression – 

What a great experience. Megan and I really had a blast – it was a great experience for her and I loved seeing her “get it” as we went along the course. We loved it so much and talked it up so much that my mom’s gonna go for it this year and is even recruiting a friend! It’ll be her first OCR too! Great for the whole family, too – There’s the 5K course (with elite heats available for those seeking a challenge), and a kids race too. Make a day out of it!

Important Note:

This year’s BoldrDash on the Beach is Saturday/Sunday May 2nd/3rd – THERE’S STILL TIME TO REGISTER!!! Which, by the way, I highly recommend you do! As with most OCR’s, the longer you wait, the more expensive it is. Tomorrow (March 6th) at midnight the price will jump up!

So, if you think this is a race you want to do, register ASAP, preferably before midnight 3/6/15! Use this link to register. Hopefully I’ll see you there 🙂