what to pack for the Vermont (Ultra) Beast
Are you packed yet?
The Spartan Race has emailed the racers with the list of rules and notes for the 2013 championship earlier this week, and it is clear that the race organizers are taking this event very seriously. Let’s hope the athletes do too. There is a lot of money on the line, and it would be very unfortunate, if in the end it all came down to who skipped how many burpees (in elite heat no less!).
There is a lot going on this weekend. Like… A LOT. The championship will be featured in a television special, for Darwin’s sake. The new events this year include a Friday night pre-Beast feast at the Amee farm, a special 4-mile charity heat for teams of five, as well as a Spartan Sprint! The latter was an unexpected (to me) addition, and I predict that it will significantly drive up the number of attendees.
Yours truly will be racing in the Beast on Saturday – which is in itself a hilarious concept, given that for the last three months my training consisted of running on flat pavement, getting ready for my road marathon in October. But then again, I have a glow-in-the-dark medal already. 🙂 Thus, consider my “I-can’t-possibly-miss-out-on-this-party” appearance.
If there was a year to do well in the Ultra Beast, this seems to be it – the distribution of points and cash prizes have ensured that most elite racers are racing in the Beast.
A select group of racers are going to attempt to complete both the Beast on Saturday, and the Ultra Beast on Sunday. While an admirable goal, I do not expect more than a handful to actually achieve this feat. Last year, only one individual was able to do this – kudos, Sue Luck!
[Once I finally get to it, probably on the Friday morning], what will I actually be packing?
Last year I did the first lap in a sports bra and running tights, then threw a t-shirt on top for the second lap, and it worked well.
This year I’m wearing Lululemon long running tights, Lululemon sports bra, Salomon dry-fit shirt, Wright Anti-Blister socks, and Salomon FellCross shoes. I think.
Either that or one of my old Halloween costumes.
Do not overthink it. It’s chilly in Vermont at the end of September. Get over it.
You will get wet. Yes, totally wet.
You do not need a wetsuit.
Just wear your regular fall racing gear.
WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR DROP BIN
[for the Ultra Beast racers only]:
Last year the racers returned to the start/finish line, where the drop bins were waiting for them, before taking off for another lap. This year as promised the Ultra Beast is one long (looooong) lap with access to drop bins at roughly mile 13 (about half way).
While running a one-lap race seems more attractive than doing the same damn thing twice, I am somewhat skeptical about the course, having seen certain trends in course design in Super and Beast distances earlier this year. My prediction is that we will see a lot of “climb-the-mountain-then-immediately-descend-just-to-climb-again” mileage. I hope I’m wrong.
- salt pills
as well as…
- Gatorade or another electrolyte beverage to sip on
- sweater – to throw on top, while you are resting, eating, changing shoes. You will start getting chilly very quickly.
- another full racing outfit – to change/replace any component as you see fit
- another pair of shoes
- a pair of dry socks
- real food meal. Trust me. I found that some boiled or baked chicken breast and sweet potatoes work well. Maybe a banana and some cookies. Pack whatever you know you can digest well. Nothing new. Do not pack anything with high fat or high fibre content. Think high quality protein and fast-digesting carbs.
- hot liquid. Last year I’ve been looking forward to this one for 13 miles. When I finally got to the drop bin, there was a thermos of hot coffee waiting for me.
*Unlike last year, when the drop bins were left at the start line immediately before the start of the race, this year, racers are required to drop off their bins the night before. Use a tight container and a good thermos – the food and hot liquids should still be ok overnight.
WHAT TO CARRY ON YOU:
- hydration pack – think tough and smooth. as much as I love Salomon packs, I can’t recommend them for barb wire – they are built to be light, not tough.
- water – 1.5-2L minimum for the first half – refill at every opportunity
- fuel. Gels are probably the easiest. How many do you need?
Ideally, you know how frequently you need to take gels. Otherwise, a basic fuelling schedule to try is to take one gel 15 minutes before the start, and then take one every 45 minutes (or as needed). You would then estimate the longest it would take you to complete one lap, and throw in 2-3 gels more than that.
E.g. If I estimate that one lap will take me 6 hours, then I need:
60 x 6 = 360 minutes
360 minutes / 45 = 8 gels + 1 for the start + 2-3 extra = 11-12 gels ON ME
Of course, you will want to have additional 11-12 gels IN THE DROP BIN to restock. Consider that most racers will be slower on the second half of the course, thus, you may need to budget for more gels.
Note – sometimes I find it helpful to combine gels with energy/protein bars for longer races, as it’s easier on the stomach. Bars also taste damn good after all you’ve had for few hours is the syrupy gels.
I find that energy gels with extra sodium, or electrolyte liquids, or pretty much anything else, does not contain enough salt. I carry salt pills in a waterproof container and take them as necessary.
That usually means one every hour or two, and then an extra, when I start feeling twinges in my calves or quads. Some adopt a more strict timed schedule as a precaution, and take one salt pill with every gel, or every second gel, etc.
- 2 glow sticks*
- wet wipes – these can be helpful. in the woods, if you know what i mean.
- Vaseline – in the last year’s Ultra Beast, this was the one item that I was dying for. If you have never spent over 10 hours in wet clothing, you may want to consider this one as well. Chafing! Ouch.
- watch – if for nothing else you will use it to time your gels
- extra layer – if you are REALLY concerned about being cold on course, you may want to consider carrying a long sleeve shirt or a windbreaker with you. Now remember how there are water obstacles? You will need to use a waterproof bag to pack the layer. Ziploc baggies are usually not sufficient. Consider something like this. All the packing and unpacking WILL slow you down. Decide if the hassle is worth it.
*Mandatory to continue on course past 6pm.
If you decide to carry [or to keep in the drop bin] a small first aid kit, here are some additional items to consider:
– pre-cut moleskins for blisters
– anti-histamines – especially if you have a known allergy
– extra pair of contact lenses
– puffer [this is arguably a mandatory item to have on you at all times if you actually require it]
NOT WORTH IT
Here are some items/gear that I have carried on me before, and decided that the hassle/additional weight is not worth it. Note your situation may be different.
- band-aids. anything small enough that would require a band-aid, you are simply not going to notice on course
- real food on course. Given that you are crawling and climbing and swimming, real food gets destroyed and mushed up. unless you like squashed potatoes mixed in with Clif bars, don’t bother. [That particular combo does not taste very good. Trust me.]
- foam padding for buoyancy. Some racers fill their backpacks with cut up swim noodles or other float assistance devices. I could never justify the increased size of my backpack. After all, you are increasing your own size for crawling under barb wire, etc. However, I can swim. If having an floaty backpack will provide you with a certain peace of mind about water obstacles, then it may be worth it. [Do remember that life jackets will be provided on course for the water sections.]
- your Death Race axe. I know you have considered this. As tempting as the idea is, I’m leaving Max (the axe) at home. On this race course, he will be… well… dead weight.
WHAT ELSE TO BRING?
- pack a meal to eat as soon as you finish – all the town’s eateries will be packed, and it will be a couple of hours before you actually get food in you.
- the rest of your Spartan medals. Yes, it makes for a great photo opp. Tip: an Ultra Beast medal pinned high on your neck makes an awesome choker-style necklace.
- a cute outfit for the pre-race dinner and the after party – you may look less cute at the after party, but it will be worth it. Besides, some find scrapes and bruises attractive. Right?
Are you carrying anything I missed?
See you on the mountain,