I’d never been to Texas before, so when my husband Ben suggested we go and visit his friend and do the Texas Spartan Beast I was completely on board! We left straight after work on Thursday December 12th and arrived into Dallas Fort Worth airport late that night. We stayed in Waco, about 90 minutes from the Beast venue. Friday was spent in Waco doing some tourist things. Apparently one of the most well-known things to do in Waco is visit the Dr. Pepper museum.
After eating real BBQ food on Friday night, I set my alarm for 5am and went to bed. We left for Glen Rose at 5:30am. We arrived at the race site at roughly 7am, the sun was just rising. It was cold… The temperature was mid-30s but the wind was blowing hard, making the cold a million times worse.
I stood around for about an hour, saying hi to friends and trying to keep warm when finally 8:15am rolled around and it was the elite women’s turn. I climbed over the wall to the start line and stood with some amazing women athletes, Amanda Ricciardi my Mud & Adventure and Reload Fitness teammate was there, as were some of my fellow New England Spahtens, Jen Taddeo and Jessica Kehoe representing as part of the NE Spahten Race Team. Surprisingly there wasn’t very many elite women. Less than 30 perhaps. After the Spartan speech we took off. I pretty much sprinted out of the gate, but I quickly slowed down because the terrain was so uneven and full of cacti and other tall Texas plants. I watched Amanda, Jen and Jessica pass by and knew I had about 15 miles to catch back up to my friends.
The first couple of miles were pretty flat,we were in some waist-deep water at the rolling mud obstacle. As soon as I hit the water my feet pretty much went numb. I couldn’t help but think back to Winter Death Race, being stood in that freezing river for so long. It was a reminder to myself that it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t want to get wet but I knew I could handle it if I had to. Then we spent 2 miles (maybe?) just zigzagging up and down a mountain/steep hill. After being on Killington I can’t really complain, but the short inclines were steep and definitely slowed me down (note to self: must increase hill training). The sandbag carry was bearable, but the gravel/bucket carry… boy did that slow me down. The weight was difficult but nothing I couldn’t manage, but the awkwardness of the bucket was what I found the hardest thing about it. I just couldn’t seem to find a comfortable way to carry it.
The wind was freezing. I didn’t have gloves so I was running with my hands in my arm pits trying to warm them up. They were so cold it was actually painful. I got through the atlas carry and saw the monkey bars looming on the horizon in front of me. But first I had to get through a barbed wire crawl. This barbed wire craw was actually relatively easy when I think back to others. It wasn’t very muddy and not too long, the biggest thing I had to watch out for was cacti. I crawled out from under the barbed wire and was wiping the mud off my hands for the monkey bars. Usually monkey bars aren’t that much of a problem, but it was so cold out that my hands were numb and the metal bars were cold to the touch, making it worse. Taking my time I managed to make it across.
My hands were so cold, the pain wouldn’t stop. Thankfully a really nice racer stopped and pulled out 2 hand-warmers out of his gloves and gave them to me. I held on to those for the next 7 or so miles.
The next few obstacles all sort of blended together. I missed the spear throw (shocking….) so had 30 lovely burpees there. The swim was closed because of the cold, but we had to walk in the water (it went up to my thighs. My feet were numb. After the “swim” we had to recall our numbers from the memorization board at mile 2-3 (papa 839-8586) then on to the dreaded tyrolean traverse. We had the option to complete the obstacle entirely, crossing on the rope straight to the other side; crossing to the bell and then dropping into the water and wading/swimming the rest of the way; or taking a 30 burpee penalty without attempting the obstacle. I got on top of the rope using the navy seal (I think) approach. I could not seem to get comfortable on the rope and it kept digging into my chest. I made it about 4ft before I dropped underneath the rope. I decided at this point to take the burpee penalty. I was freezing cold and new I was only about half way through the course. I knew it could be detrimental if I got wet.
Eventually I reached the inverted wall. Personally I really enjoy this obstacle, and this time it was bigger than usual, so I was even happier. After the inverted wall the course took us back into the festival area. I looked around for Ben, I was supposed to completing my second lap with him. I couldn’t see him so I carried on. I figured there couldn’t be much left and I would make it back in time for the last heat at 12:30pm.
I got through the tire flip pretty fast and then the course took us further and further away from the festival area. I started to panic. I knew it was roughly 12pm, and I didn’t have any way to communicate to Ben to start without me. I got nervous. The whole reason for this trip was to spend time together and complete a beast together (we’ve only ever ran together once, our very first OCR and I screamed at him for about a minute when his shoe lace came untied and we had to stop…).
I made it to the hobie hop and the volunteer told me we had about 2 miles to go. I knew I had to make a choice, to complete the race and not go out with Ben, or to DNF and then go and complete a second lap. I have been training for Fuego Y Agua (a 75km obstacle course race in Nicaragua in February) and I had planned on completing this course twice to log miles. With that in my mind and not letting Ben down I decided to DNF. I caught a ride back to the festival area, jumped out of the truck and ran and found Ben. He had waited for me. I knew I had made the right decision.
Not only was this lap with Ben and for training, I was also the Inov-8 Masked Mudder. I would complete the lap helping other races and handing out Inov-8 wrags (which I love) some of which had a code for a free pair of Inov-8s.
I got into my Masked Mudder gear (a tank, a race fuel belt, and a collection of wrags) and we took off running to the start line. We had missed the last heat by about 15 minutes. We decided we would play catch up. So off we ran.
Quickly we caught up to the last racers. Andi Hardy was being amazing as always and completing the course with the last racer. She got a wrag. I was having way more fun this time, laughing and joking with Ben, telling him what I thought the hardest parts of the course were.
I met several wonderful people. We spent some time running with two women called Lacey and Sarah. Listening to their stories and why they race was just inspiring. It completely re-sparked my love for the sport.
Everyone was super encouraging. We all helped each other. I love racing the elite heats and competing, but running the course not worried about time or place was awesome.
I failed my second attempt at the monkey bars, my hands were so cold. I did manage to hit the spear throw the second time around! First time I’ve ever made it on the course! It got dark and we still had about 4 miles to go. I didn’t bring a headlamp so I was sharing Ben’s light. Pretty soon there was a group of us sharing Ben’s light. When we reached the hobie hop everyone we had been racing with decided to skip it to make the time cut-off, but me and Ben completed the obstacle with one headlamp between the both of us. I’m surprised we didn’t trip over one of the logs and break our faces.
The second gravel carry was easier than the first. Still awkward and heavy but at least the incline wasn’t so steep. The volunteer on this obstacle was super strict, telling people they couldn’t skip it and that if the gravel didn’t meet the mark in the bucket the obstacle had to be repeated. I do like it when the volunteers push racers. Especially at the very end of the day when it’s cold and you just want to be done, it is easy for people to just skip obstacles.
The course took us along a stream bed. It was slow and hard to keep your feet dry. We caught up to two racers having a difficult time. I looked down and saw this guy’s ankles/Achilles was all cut up and ripped open. Blood was running down into his shoe and the area looked red and raw. This is why he was so slow. He offered to let us pass but we stayed with him for a while offering to help whenever we could. This guy was an animal. He was traversing the stream bed all by himself, even though it looked like every step was agony.
Eventually we reached the traverse wall. This was the home stretch; I knew it would be over pretty soon. I nailed the traverse wall (in the dark!) and we went on to the rope climb. I stood in front of it for a second, shaking and dreading the ice cold water. I saw a young man completing burpees on the other side of the course tape, away from all the mud. We went over and did burpees with him. He was struggling and his parents were there giving him words of encouragement. Even though he was tired and he said he didn’t know if he could go on, his burpees were immaculate. Text book burpees when this man was exhausted. He joined me and Ben for the last bit of the race.
The slippery wall was like ice. I tried but my feet kept slipping out from underneath me. Ben and the awesome burpee guy grabbed my feet and pushed me up until I got some grip. I managed to pull myself over. I turned around and saw awesome burpee guy couldn’t get up the wall. He kept sliding down. He looked defeated. I leaned over the wall as far as I could, trying to grab his hand. After several minutes we decided he would hold on to the rope and Ben and I would pull him up using the rope. Finally this technique worked and he got over the obstacle. He gave us a huge hug and said “let’s finish this”. So we did. The three of us took off running, jumped over the fire and took on the gladiators.
After we received our medals, awesome burpee guy gave us another hug and then went to his parents. It was an amazing feeling knowing I had helped someone complete the race. I know it’s not in my nature to quit or give up. But not for a second do I regret stopping in the elite heat to run with my husband. It was an eye opening experience.