The 2016 Spartan Ultra Beast in Lake Tahoe was defined by its start line. It was a million times deeper in talent than the year prior as the sport is exploding with new talent. A who’s-who of OCR racing featuring Isiah Vidal and Robert Killian who toed the line and are two of the best in the world along with elite former triathlete Ben Greenfield and myself who toed the start line. But the cross over athlete to fear was Olympian Marcus Andre-Bedard.
I had my normal pre-race breakfast of a Pure Fit Bar 2 hours prior with 24 oz of Drip-Drop sports drink, 2 cups of Boston Common Coffee and a Carboom gel 15 minutes before the start. The Spartan Ultra Beast started with a sense of fear that was thicker than any OCR race I ever did and you could tell this one was gonna hurt. Nevertheless the 34 miles, 70 obstacles didn’t seem to make anyone pause and we all hit the first miles like this was a 5k. Isiah put his stamp on the race and took the lead with me and other OCR pro Chris Shapman in close pursuit. It was 30 degrees and totally dark making this as surreal as it was painful. The thin freezing air felt like breathing in fire but the frantic pace early was fast so we swallowed the air like hungry hungry hippos chomping on Ice-flames. A rush of reality hit early on when we jumped in freezing water several times in a succession of waist high water plunges making sure we were at max suffering the whole time and all of us had our hands in the air trying to keep at least one thing dry, warm and useful. Lucky for me I had on OWP gloves which protected me from the elements and also have superior grip for the obstacles.
The course for the Spartan Ultra Beast this year had two big climbs and the first saw Killian come to the front and bridge up to Isiah blowing past me and Chris. I was running hard, but well following them about 30 seconds back with Chris but on the downhill I got dropped and as we headed into the a new obstacle called the “thigh-master” I was 4th. I put time into Marcus on the next major climb that took us to the top of the ski resort; then I missed the spear. GAH. Marcus who is a biathlete doesn’t miss targets ever (he shot perfect at the Olympics) and was through ahead of me along with Chris and one other.
I found a nice groove for the rest of lap one and was smooth through the barbwire, ape hanger and other stuff. I ever pulled time back on some of them during the double sand bag carry. At 9000 feet carrying 100lbs of sand bags up a black diamond steep ski slope is pretty painful; I guess that’s one way to make sure the elite field doesn’t fill too quickly. I was thankful for my OWP calf compression calf sleeves for the support on the steep grades. I got a shock when on the way down as I saw a half dozen fast guys chasing me and I realized the difference between 5th and 15th would be a single misstep. Lucky for me the Brooks Pure Grit shoes don’t slip!
The Spartan Ultra Beast is two laps and you get to go through the venue at laps end. At that point past Spartan Ultra Beast winner Josh Fiore, caught me. We did a cat and mouse game for the entire second lap and I was able to put two minutes into him by the top of the mountain. At the second sand bag carry I saw Marcus was in the lead over all and just in beast mode. He really paced well and moved through the field in steady manor showing his Olympic race experience. Isiah was in second and seemed to have zero ideas of giving up and looked determined to try to catch Marcus or die trying. Killian looked like he was dying and had fallen back a bit but managed to cheer me on the way down as I was on the way up. Serious class move on his part and I replied with the same, amazed that at that elevation and with a sand bag we could speak!
I could see Josh was behind me and closing in and I tried my best to just go as fast as I could on the running uphills where it seemed I put time into him, though hammering uphill 25 miles into a race this hard is fairly brutal. But he is a champion and on the downhills he seemed to close the gap until we hit the second bucket carry with about a mile to go. He simply destroyed that second bucket carry and passed me for 7th. After 7 hours of racing and 50k in, I was determined to fight to the end for every spot and flung myself down the mountain towards the line but ultimately couldn’t pull the time back and finished in 8th over all but a full hour faster than the year prior and 15 minutes faster than the over all winning time last year; and convinced this was my best OCR race to date. Topping this off the results showed I was first Masters and once again am the Masters World Champion! Being a world champion of such a sick sport is a title I cherish, made even sweeter by the fact that I this race was just brutal. Cold, wind, 8000+ feet of climbing and the race course is so high that you feel like you are breathing through a straw. It’s great to finish, but to finish in the top 8 of such a stacked field and as the masters world champion has me over the moon even if I can barely walk this week because I a so destroyed!
Special thanks to Original Warrior Pack for all the gear and support for the Spartan Ultra Beast! Also anyone interested in free coaching by my can visit www.teamcontinum.net
to join my cancer team which fights childhood cancer. Also thanks to the Block Island Sport Shop for all the support through the years and also to Physio Logic Sports Medicine in NYC for making me the best athlete I can with acupuncture, nutrition, strength training and PT.