I left you, my dears, right after the sandbag carry, as I started climbing yet another hill, while reminiscing about my sweaty encounter with Sandy, the sandbag.
Suddenly, I am surrounded by chirpy girls, wearing both mascara AND lipgloss – the effort is indeed remarkable. This is where the thin stream of Beasters connects with what seems like thousands of Sprinters. In truth, there were probably only few hundred of racers, wearing red bracelets, but the perception is that of being overtaken by a herd.
One of the racers points at a guy in front of me – he is covered in sand, and is now slowly crawling up the hill. “Oh, those are Beast people!”, the other says with an almost fearful expression on her face.
Beast people, eh? I can live with that.
An array of some simple obstacles follow – I get my butt over the walls, and face the Hercules hoist. I have not met a Hercules hoist yet that gave me any trouble – this one is significantly heavier than the usual pathetic piece of rock that they tie to the rope, yet it’s dangling up in the air few seconds later, and I keep going. Lighter women and men are really at an disadvantage here, and many racers are already doing burpees.
As I reach the monkey bars, I feel a little bit anxious. The bars are my favorite obstacle, but I have not yet been able to get across those when they are dripping wet. This time…. DRY. The ease with which I get across makes me realize that we haven’t really used our upper body yet. My arms and shoulders are completely fresh.
Which turns out to be a good thing – tractor pull is next. There is a huge line-up at the obstacle – the Sprint racers have arrived. I approach the head of the line, and politely ask whether they would let me through, as I’m doing the Beast, and simply would not finish before freaking sunset otherwise, and they all nod enthusiastically and let me pass. I grab the friendliest looking stone and start dragging it behind me – why the hell do they even call it a tractor pull? Where is a tractor? Where, I’m asking you???
Can you tell I’m still pissed after the sandbag carry? What follows really does not flood me with positive emotions. As the crowd waiting for a stone grows, one of the course marshals moves the course markers, cutting the tractor pull in half. At this point, I just passed the halfway point, and if you guessed that I dragged my damn stone to the very end and back, you guessed right.
“We kinda figured that we’d have to do this eventually, although we tried to postpone it as long as possible”, I overhear the marshal saying to the volunteer. “There are just too many people”. Good to know.
At this point, my race mojo is pretty wilted. I have no doubt that I will finish, but what will it mean? Another green medal with no point of reference to thousands of racers that came after me.
I am thankful to see a cup of salt at the water station. I’ve been refilling my Camelbak (thank you, Jeff) dutifully at every station, but salt is the one thing I am missing. I take spoonfuls into my mouth, and wash it down with water. Much. Better.
As we start descending a sharp hill, I notice a guy beside me who is limping bad. “Are you ok?”, I ask yet again. He responds that he badly injured his ankle, and had already seen a medic who strongly suggested that he stops racing. “But I’m stupid that way, so I’m still going”, he comments with a weak smile.
I can’t stop myself. “You do realize this whole thing is already pretty stupid, right? Continuing to race on an injury and causing permanent damage is straight up idiotic. Finishing is cool. But you know what’s even more cool? Seeing you next year. So, don’t be a complete moron, and take care of that damn ankle”.
He seems taken aback, but nods. I do hope I will see him next year.
Rolling mud is next, and this is (mercifully!) the first time we get wet. The water is waist deep and really cold. Then we are dragging ourselves through barbed wire for what seems like hours. I finally get out just to miss my spear throw and bang out thirty burpees.
After some haystacks, and couple of other obstacles, we are close the the start line – roughly half way. Spectators are cheering, as we climb the rope, and then crawl through the tight tunnel, just to emerge on the other side for another barbed wire crawl. Yay, barbed wire.
The next obstacle is new to me – it’s a spider web that is suspended in the air. HIGH up. Oh, I would kill for some sort of agility on these freaking air obstacles.
Behind me a male racer who is terrified of heights, lies on the net with his eyes firmly shut. “Do not look down!”, his friends holler at him.
That, indeed, sounds like a great idea! Heck, I’m not afraid of heights, and I’m trying not to look down. I climb up, and roll, drag myself across, contemplating the whole way whether the holes are big enough to fall through. I don’t think there is any risk for yours truly – thank God for squats, but I’d be worried about some of the Elite men.
Some of the racers who have already finished the race are passing underneath, looking up and smiling. “Good job!”, they shout.
Being back at the start line during a Vermont Beast can only mean one thing. The lake.
*This beautiful photo was taken by Jimmy Fred Tester.
The line-up of obstacles around the lake was masterfully sequenced.
Swim out into the lake, climb up the rope, swim to shore.
Walk around, and complete a traverse wall.
Swim out into the lake (yes, again! see what they did here?), climb up the ladder (or rope), get across the Tarzan swings, and swim out.
Theoretically, you could be doing as many as 90 burpees before continuing on course.
I fumble with the life jacket for few seconds, before realizing that I really do not want it interfering with my rope climb, toss it aside, and get into the water.
I’ve never done a rope climb out of the water before – note that while many rope climbs during Spartan races are submerged into water, you are only about thigh to waist deep. Climbing the rope in the middle of the lake is much more difficult as you have to pull the full weight of your body out of the water.
Bonus points for difficulty if you start cramping here. And boy, oh boy, the little spot on the ground in between the lake obstacles was a cramp fest. Racers were shivering, and cramping up so badly, you could see their quads compressing and decompressing by as much as an inch. Some had knots in their calves the size of golfballs. Later I learn that many DNF’d right here because of cramping.
As I reach the first rope, and try it out, I realize that this indeed will be tough. I never use the knots on the rope for assistance, as I find it easier to simply wrap the rope around my feet, but I think this will be the time to use all the help I can get. I can feel the onset of cramping whenever I try to elevate my legs.
I feel around the rope under water, looking for the first knot. Then holding on with both hands, I carefully place both of my feet around the knot – my Salomons’ tread grips firmly, and I have a stable base. Now, I pull myself up, and I’m standing on the knot, waist deep in water. Look for the second knot, and repeat the process – one foot up, then another. Hug the knot with my feet, pull with my arms. I ring the bell, let go, and submerge in water completely, before starting to swim out to shore.
Yep, it’s quite cool. Not pleasant.
Traverse wall. The damn wall. I am slow as a turtle on this one, but I usually get across (Jeff showed me a new technique after the race, so I’m looking forward to trying it out soon). Two weeks ago at New Jersey Spartan, the wall defeated me, and now I’m a little worried.
Splayed against the wall, I’m gripping and stepping and jumping, and hopping. It takes all of my concentration. I’m two thirds across, and starting to struggle, as a friendly volunteer takes notice, and makes it his own mission to ensure that I get across. “You can do it!”, he is screaming. “That’s it, girl!”. “You got it!”.
I’m starting to experience murderous urges. “Can you please stop talking to me?”, I squeeze out through the gritted teeth, all the while trying to sound as polite as possible. Thankfully, he listens and disappears. Few seconds later, I ring the bell, and head over to the volunteer to give him a hug.
Oh, right. We have to get back into the water. I see emergency blankets wrapped around racers, as they pause after the traverse wall. The idea of getting back into the water is pretty dreadful, but I do not want to linger. The longer I wait here, the worse it will be. The last thing I want right now is to get warm.
You have to swim out to at least touch the obstacle before completing the burpees, and I know that I cannot get across the Tarzan swing on dry land, so the chances of me completing it here are nil. Nevertheless, I grab hold of the ladder, and start climbing up. Lifting my legs = onset of cramping. Nope. Not worth risking a full blown cramp. I drop into the water, and swim out. The thirty burpees help to warm me up a bit.
We have to remember the number we were given earlier next. Three racers are already starting to do their burpees. I try to suppress the full blown story about the baseball player.
I take off running, desperately trying to ignore the voice of the volunteer behind me who says “Ten burpees is enough. You are done”.