My second race of 2021 is officially complete and what a race it was! This past week, I completed the Spartan Beast in Bigfork, Montana. The race covered ~13 miles, 30 obstacles, and 3,300 feet of elevation gain (hills). Everything from the scenery to the course itself, this race is definitely one I’ll never forget. In this article, I’ll recap my official results, endurance performance, strength performance, and obstacle technique.
From an endurance standpoint, I’m very happy with the outcome and see that my programming is paying off. For those that are new to my articles or training, I have a heavy focus on building an aerobic base as I prep for my first Spartan Ultra in July 2021. This means a ton of miles at a low heart rate coupled with trail runs and strength training. The reason why I’m happy with the outcome is because I finished this race feeling strong versus completely winded. One of the first thoughts I had was that I didn’t push myself enough during the race but with that being said, I did complete in the top 33% overall versus the top 50% like I did in Las Vegas (March) where I was completely winded. In Montana, there was 3,300 feet of elevation gain where Vegas had roughly 250 feet total. I’ll cover in the “What did I do differently?” section below of the changes I made leading up to the race that helped me perform this time around.
The two areas I found most success where during the hill climbs and aerobic running. For the hills, I could feel that hiking a 14er once a month paid off as there were steep hills that didn’t phase me as much. They instantly reminded me of the Quandary and Grays/Torrey where you feel like it’s never ending but during the race you could see the top. This helped dramatically from a mental standpoint that there wasn’t a false summit.
The aerobic running is an area I felt strongest and I believe that my focus on building an aerobic base is making a huge different. I say this because even after those steep climbs, I would be able to pick up to a normal run and control my breath versus feel completely gassed. It almost felt like I was recovering as I was running which is a new feeling.
I believe I’m extremely close to where I need to be and if I had to put a number on it, I would say I’m 90% of the way there. I say this because I don’t want to get any bigger nor do I need to, I need to be an efficient machine and only carry what I need (body composition). I say I’m 90% of the way there because I was able to complete all of the obstacles that required strength but there were two that really gave me a challenge.
The first obstacle that gave me a challenge was the tire flip. I mentioned the tire flip in my last article where I wasn’t able to complete at all. This time around, I was able to grip the tire from the side versus underneath and barely get my legs underneath. This lead to using all of my force to flip it twice and still curious if I got lucky. I know that my grip strength will increase from now until the Ultra as I’ll be continuing my strength training. Now that I’ve gotten through this once, I feel like I know what to expect and will be able to execute slightly easier the next time around. The feeling I get with this obstacle is similar to what I felt with the atlas stone in the past which is now one I don’t even think about.
The second obstacle that gave me a run for my money is the Hercules Hoist. This is where you’re pulling a 90 pound sand bag with a rope up roughly 20-25 feet into the air. From there, you need to slowly bring it down and if you slam it down, it’s considered a failure (30 burpees). At 140 pounds, this one sucks and I have a great video on my social media showing my struggle on this one. This obstacle is one where I need to combine my bodyweight/gravity and muscle to raise the sandbag. The grip portion wasn’t an issue which is a plus but definitely one that makes you work for it.
From a rig perspective, I feel like I couldn’t have been having more fun swinging from grip to grip. Since incorporating rocking climbing twice a week followed by one visit to the OCR gym, I now approach rigs with excitement which is what it’s all about. There were 3 obstacles that I failed this time around which is great progress from Vegas (6 penalties).
The first obstacle was the Olympus Wall which is a repeat from Vegas but I did make progress. In Vegas, I was only able to get a quarter of the way through where in Montana, I fell short right before the bell. My grip strength and back muscles gave out but I did get further along which makes me happy. This is one that I know will come while continuing my rock climbing sessions.
The second obstacle was the Irish Table which is also a repeat from Vegas. This one is frustrating as I completed this obstacle the first time around in Indiana 2019. After rethinking this through, I feel like I can’t rush the pull over and really need to allow my body to settle on top of the table then pull with my arms. Being a whopping 5’3, this obstacle has it challenges but then again, there are ones that bode well in my favor so no excuses.
The third obstacle is the Spear Throw which is one I’ve yet to complete in my 3 races for Spartan. I connected with the owner of the OCR gym I go to and he mentioned that they will be building a spear throw practice areas so that will be a non negotiable on Saturdays.
What did I do differently?
I believe the biggest difference between the Vegas and Montana race was the two weeks leading up to the race. In Vegas, I added a stop in Moab which was amazing but I felt like I didn’t give myself enough actual rest the days leading up to the race. We were consistently on the go checking out cool places but I feel I needed more downtime. My nutrition the night before and morning of was not where it needed to be which I believe was another factor in feeling completely winded at the end of the Super. For Montana, I had plenty of downtime plus I monitored my nutrition heavily. The night before, I had sushi, vegetables, and plenty of water the night before. For breakfast, I had two servings of oatmeal coupled with fruit and more water (with electrolytes). If there is one thing I would change for the next race, it would be to add another banana just to give more fuel to push harder.
Overall, I’m happy with the progress made in Montana. This proves that my programming is working and from now until the Ultra, I will slowly increase the volume to ensure my aerobic foundation is prepped for what’s the come. The next race will be 31 miles, 60 obstacles, 10,000 feet of elevation gain, and in the middle of Summer. This will be the most difficult race I’ve done to date and complete the Trifecta challenge.