Well, just got back from a gentle recovery run, so suppose I can't make any more excuses and need to buckle down to my race report. Apologies in advance for rambling.
So Spartan Beast at Asburnham Place. This was the last Spartan race of the season, and they were out to regain their reputation as the toughest OCR, having lost a little ground to new races this year, so had pulled out all the stops, chucked in every gruesome obstacle they could find and upped the distance by 50% at the last minute. In the run up to the race, the rumour mill was doing overtime - they had the shorter Sprint and Super distances the weekend before at the same venue and the horror stories that emerged had us all quaking in our sandals in a most un-Spartan warrior manner. I wonder now how much those rumours were stoked by Spartan just to psych us out.
Part of the thing with Spartan races is that they are designed to be mentally challenging as well as physical. Sometimes this is in the form of having to solve a Rubik's cube immediately after an exhasuting lake swim, or, at the 5k mark we had to match our race number to a list and memorise a word and seven digit number. 3 hrs and 20k later somebody popped up and asked you to recite your number. If you had forgotten, you get another forfeit - burpees or repeating a section. (mine was Zulu 086-5067. I suspect I will have that etched in my memory until I die, now). Other times the mental challenge is in the form onf mind tricks they play on you. Unlike most races, you have no real idea when you set off how long the course is going to be. Beast distance is 24k +, but could be anything over that. Rumours were flying around of 28, 30, 34 etc. There are also no km markers on the course and wearing a Garmin is not really an option, so you never have any idea of how far you have gone, how long you have been out there and how far you have left to go. Which makes it impossible to break down the distance in your head like you would in a normal race.
So you have little option other than keeping on in the hope that sooner or later it will, in fact end, and you are not stuck in some mudcaked nightmare version of Groundhog day. When you are going through Hell, keep going, as Winston Churchill once said.
In running terms, apart from the professionals and upper end of the elites, who manage to get round quicker than I can do the same distances on roads, there are very few bits when you can really run at any speed. All the sections you can 'run' unencumbered are either very steeply hilly, knee deep in thick mud or technical forest trail, or a combination of all three. All the sections that are open and flattish you have to carry something: a 4' log, a sandbag, a couple of car tyres etc, and interspersed are the obstacles: balance beams and stepping poles to hop over, cargo nets and barbed wire to crawl under, endless walls and A-frames to climb over, still carrying sandbag etc. None of which are made particularly easier by carrying a sword and shield and wearing a cloak, tbh. I soon learned to wrap the cloak around me and tuck it into my belt or it tangled my legs on every obstacle.
The water sections were my biggest worry. Swimming in deep cold lakes sucks the heat right out of you and it can be very hard to warm up again, especially if there is wind. A good number of DNFs are usually through hypothermia. Normally I wear a thin neoprene top, but being effectively topless this time this was the bit I could see breaking me. Happily though, we caught a real break with the weather. This unexpected Indian Summer meant it as bright and sunny on the day and I did not have an issue with cold once. I did lose my helmet during the rope traverse over a section of lake, but was not remotely upset by this. It was a terrible PITA either to wear or carry.
Writing this in reverse order rather. The idea of the costumes was a group of 300 of us from an online OCR community would run in full Spartan costume in one wave as the Spartan 300. We would set off in formation, race as one and finish as one. Everyone had to have a sword and shield and you finished with your shield or on it, as they say in Sparta.
That was the idea at last. There weren't 300 of us on the day. A lot of people signed up but dropped out on or before the day. I don't know how many we were. 200-ish I would say, but it was still an impressive sight as we marched into the start pen, smoke billowing, swords clattering on shields. It was a bit of a goosebump moment when the Spartan leader did his speech and roared "Spartans! What is your profession?" and we all bellowed back our battle cry. Some people find the theatrics of it a bit silly, but I am happy to admit I loved it.
The 'run as one' idea was abandoned before the start as being impractical and we formed into phalanxes of 15-20 ranging from Hare for the speediest through Hydra and Chimera down to the self explanatory Tortoise. The problem was, once you are running and covered with mud, everyone in a Spartan costume looks more or less the same. I started with the Silverback (40+) mid paced phalanx, but within half an hour had completely lost contact with my comrades and just ran the rest on my own, tagging along occasionally with other Spartans as and when I saw them.
In technical terms I threw out the 'nothing new on race day' rule (I seldom run dressed in a cloak and skirt so that was already out) and experimented with wearing Injinji toe socks underneath compression sock - this worked amazingly. Not one blister or toe scratch at all in 5 hours of running and sodden footwear. I also took loads of gels with me. I only ate 4 or 5 in the end but had no stomach issues and felt fine, so another tick there. Lastly I had a small bottle of pickle juice from one of our fermenting crocks as an antidote to cramp. Cramp was my other big concern after cold. In the event I did not start cramping until the very end - about 4 1/2 hrs in I suddenyl started getting them in my gastrocnemius. By that time my pickle bottle was rather depleted as I had been treating other runners around the course, but there was just enough to keep the cramps just about at bay for the last few km. Was a pain (hoho) though because, looking at the results, a group of runners I had been with most of the way up until then, finished 120 places and 15 minutes ahead of me. My pace dropped right off to a hobble.
Just to keep us on our toes, as we rounded the final bend and saw the finishing line ahead, they stuck in 4 more obstacles back-to-back: a spear throw (spear has to stick in target), Atlas ball (pick up ball: 40kg for women, 60kg for men, carry it 20m, put it down, do burpees, pick it up and carry it back), yet another bloody wall and then the fire jump. The Atlas stone was just horrific. 60kg is not a lot to lift on a barbell but as a spherical lump of stone, when you are drained, it is like lifting a house. One poor fellow staggered along with his, dropped it down and started his burpees only to see the ball start rolling down the hill towards some other runners approaching from below. He had to leap up, give chase and somehow stop it before it crushed someone.
and then there it was done. 5 hours 7 minutes across the line. Slightly disappointed that I would have been comfortably under 5 hrs without the cramps, but as I had been anticipating somewhere around 7 hrs, I was not complaining. A green medal to go with the others and great big trifecta medal for completing all three race distances in one season, and, as I said in previous post, a really big item ticked off my Bucket List. Not only that, but a bucket list that a couple of years ago I would never even have entertained as being possible. I sometimes have to pinch myself when I realise that it is still less than 18 months since I first set out of the door with Laura for W1R1, and was on my knees gasping for breath after the 3rd 60 second run. I absolutely owe all of this to C25k and the support and camaraderie of this group. So thank you all, and thank you Laura.
Aroo! Aroo! Aroo!
p.s. just found map of the course. The Beast course was all three sections, the balloons are obstacles. Hope this link works: