Three years ago a couple of my friends entered Spartan Beast. At the time I’d never done an obstacle course race and in truth hadn’t even heard much about them other than what they had told me but that was enough to get me tempted. In the end, still being in full middle distance track racing mode, I decided against it and it was another six months before I took the plunge by entering my first OCR.
Two and a half years and over 30 events later I’d still not got round to doing a Spartan Race but finally the time had come.
The Beast is always one of the most highly anticipated and hotly competitive OCR’s on the calendar, so much so that I almost missed out again as several months before race day I found that the elite wave was already full and all my other attempts to get a place had failed. That was until a place was made available on a social media group forum which I quickly snapped up.
A three hour drive from home to the event location in the aptly named Battle and a 9am start time meant an over night stay was essential to ensure the right preparation so we booked up two rooms in the near by Hastings and doubled the weekend up as a family trip to the seaside.
Traveling down on Saturday morning along with my Dad, Wife, Son and Daughter (who I’d also signed up for the Spartan Junior race) we arrived in good time for an afternoon walking along the seafront and riding on the fair ground before a good nights sleep to take me into race day on the Sunday.
If your a regular reader of my racing blog you’ll know by now that things rarely seem to go straight forwards for me pre race and although I was only a short distance away a large traffic queue to get into the venue meant the normal rush commenced. My Dad had to swap from passenger to driver as I got out the car and proceeded on foot to the event village running the finally mile as an impromptu warm up.
Luckily the queues weren’t repeated at registration or bag drop and I still, just about, had time to get all my pre pace rituals done before we were called to the starting pen.
Looking around I could see that almost all of the UK’s top racers were there as well as some from abroad. This coupled with the long distance of the Beast (not specified but normally around 13 miles yet rumoured to be a lot future this year) meant I had set myself an ambitious yet realistic target of a top ten finish.
As we started disaster almost struck immediately at the first corner as a high speed golf buggy narrowly avoided taking out the majority of the early leading pack. This lucky escape, some tightly enclosed woodland and the uncertainty of the distance resulted in what I felt was a slower start than usual for such a strong field of runner. This suited me and I took up position amongst the top 20.
An early barbed wire crawl and rope climb meant everyone stayed in close order. We then came to a long rope traverse over water. This is an obstacle I failed at when in the top five at the OCR World Championships last year so one I’ve been practising since and that had paid off as I fly across putting myself well within the top ten.
Next up was a 200 meter swim broken up by three walls to go over, under and through. The water was deep and cold and this soon spread the field out as the strong swimmers moved into their element. Swimming isn’t one of my best qualities but during the first 100 meter crossing I felt good propelled from my efforts on the rope traverse. I started to struggle as we swam back on ourselves and lost a few places but once out the water I picked up my running again and laid chase.
At Spartan races a 30 burpee forfeit is in forced for none completion of any obstacle in the correct way. It’s rare that anyone gets a clear burpee free run and I narrowly avoided my first punishment on the kettle bell hoist. I pulled it up no problem then let it fall back to the floor at which point I was told it had to be lowered slowly. After a fee moments of complaining that the specifics weren’t explained to me I was allowed to run on. Then came another error at the next task involved filling a bucket with gravel and carrying it around a loop. I filled my bucket then climbed over a wall with it only to be told by a fellow runner to the correct route was to run down the hill so I had to go back over the wall (with bucket) and proceed.
After a bit of running another carry followed. This one was a log run around a grass field for approximately half a mile. I’m quite confident on carrying tasks as I’ve done a fair bit of training with sandbags and tyres and I found myself overtaking three of those who had pulled away during the swim and my mishaps.
Three of us grouped back up and flipped some tractor tyres side by side before all reaching the infamous spear throw at the same time. This is a throw of a javelin into a suspended hale bale from a distance of five meters. It sounds simple but is known to take almost half of racers as it victim at all Spartan events. One of us failed and landed 30 burpees, myself and the other guy hit and ran on.
We had a little chat as the next mile of so was almost all running and worked out we were in roughly 6th and 7th position. I was more than happy with his and still feeling good.
The carrying tasks would become a theme of this race with a 20 lbs sand bag, a double log carry, a double tyre carry and a double brink run (for over a mile) all followed. Only during the tyre carry did I face the dreaded 30 burpees as I fell from a log stepping balancing obstacle. This cost me a position and allowed the guy I’d been in close order with for so long to pull clear.
As we then faced the harshest barbed wire crawl I’ve ever witnessed, up hill, on hard, dry, bumpy mud, with logs strategically place in the way, using razor sharp wire, I noticed another couple of runners had caught me up but at the same time two others were walking off course and were out if the race.
Finally out of the wire, kit ripped to bits I was asked to recite a code I had been given to memorise serval miles before. I had been repeating it over and over in my head ever since and confidently answered “Sierra- 121- 6971” for a pass.
Now there was only a hilly running section before entering back into the main event area and one of my favourite obstacle, a rig. I arrived at this dead level with one of those who had caught me at the barbed wire and although I negotiated it without fail I took longer than I’d have liked getting my feet in the hanging rings which allowed him to get away.
A short water wade under a bridge took the course back into some woodland. I could clearly hear the noise of the event village where the finish line was but didn’t feel I’d been going for long enough for the race to be coming to an end. Just as I was expecting at least one more loop away for this area the finish arch was in sight. only four obstacles laid ahead.
The first was another spear throw, which I again hit. Next up was a 50 kg atlas stone carry. I bent down to pick the giant ball up (easier said than done!) I found it really hard to get my hands underneath to lift it. After several attempts I eventually got it in my arms and carried it the required ten meters before putting it down to do the five burpees before attempting to pick it up again to carry it back. It just wasn’t happening. I tried and tried but just couldn’t get the grip I needed to produce enough strength to lift it. Eventually someone else passed me.
After working so hard for so long I couldn’t lose my place in the top ten so close to the finish. I decided I was losing too much time and it would be quicker to take the 30 burpees. Every single one of those burpees became the hardest one I’ve ever done as the attempts to lift the stone had taken it’s toll. I knew I couldn’t afford to do them slowly either as my next challenger came in sight. The relief of seeing him miss his spear throw out the corner of my eye as I battled my way though the burpees was indescribable. Eventually I got there, cleared the final wall and even had time for a showpiece heal click over the fire jump to the cameraman before the final few meters to be greeted by the MC who announced I was the 8th male to finish.
I had achieved my goal and although my arms where hurting from the atlas stone and the burpees I’d just done I actually felt a lot fresher than I do at the end of most races. My legs has a lot more running in them. The sooner than expected ending to the race had meant if missed my normal charge to the finish but that’s the nature of this event I suppose. It was a course I had really enjoyed and I loved the competitiveness from start to finish. Finally I’d become a Spartan.