People have been asking me the same questions about Killington. Was it hard? Did you win? What was it like running down those hills?what was it like going up those hills? Is that a mud run?
I’m not really one for clichés, and I’m certainly never been one that smiled profusely when someone looked at me and said it’s not about the destination… It’s about the journey. Usually that type of talk made me want to punch you in the throat, but I really think it’s because I’ve never had the opportunity to get exposure to what a statement like that actually means. It’s overused, but it’s really not that stupid at all… In fact when you get the opportunity to gain perspective it can be quite something. These opportunities don’t come along that often, we don’t usually put ourselves in the position to have the vantage points necessary to get visibility to it all. I can also say that when you do get the opportunity it’s not always something that’s overwhelmingly joyous,strong emotions really coming to play in areas like this.
More on all that later…
Quite frankly you could not have asked for a better day, the day prior had been freezing cold for those folks running the Saturday beast but for some reason or another the skies opened up the warm air moved in and we were blessed with temperatures in the 50s that would eventually move up into the high 60s towards the end of the day. Given that we would be on high elevations for a good portion of this we were staring down mid 50s for the bulk of the race which couldn’t be more ideal. My heat started at 6:45 AM, and we left out in typical fashion screaming Aroo Aroo Aroo and ran down the short hill and around the corner into the first leg of the race. We were a whole gaggle of winners
You’re immediately greeted with a moderate 1 mile climb that awakens you quickly to the fact that you have a lot of this in store for you. I was able to move up this hill pretty good at a great pace and and the top met our first obstacles: a small sandbag carry and a bucket carry but neither of these were very difficult. This quickly lead into a downhill run towards Snowshed and the lake. This was probably the fastest portion of the runover all for me and I came to the bottom of the descent with one of my running partners ,Justin , on a pretty good high. We were both moving very quickly and felt great. the first obstacle at the base was the wall traverse which we both handled easily and from there it was going to the lake for the swim out to the ladder climb and Tarzan rope swing.
At this point I was right at an hour in the race, and I will admit that I approached the water with a good deal of hesitation… Justin went ahead and plowed on in saying something about you signed up to do it and I slowly followed him into the water afterwards. Swimming is something that I excel at it’s one of the few areas that I would call a standout strength of mine, this comes from swimming competitively for quite a few years when I was younger. I’m very confident in the water. All of this goes out the window when your body meets water temperatures that are 60°, to say it was a shock is an understatement. But but I did it and we started to make our way out towards the ladder climb under the bridge….For about the first 50 or 60 feet I will be quite honest and say that I thought that my entire body was going to seize up in that I would sink into the lake. The cold that surrounded me was absolutely incredible , I had never felt anything like it… But I found as I rounded the first buoy and got closerto the bridge that it got more bearable or maybe I just got numb to it. Short story I made the ladder climb easily and missed the Tarzan rope swing so it was a swim out to the edge to complete my 30 Burpee’s and move on down the course.
I’m surprised how little I paid attention to the cold, one would think that coming out of 60° water soaking wet that it would command a good deal of focus to overcome but I really never even noticed it once I got out. We did our walk around The lake keeping our feet in the water which was really just more cumbersome than anything and Justin and I came out of the bank and started our move on the back leg ascent to the peak.
The atlas carry was something we arrived at quickly and I was able to accomplish this without much trouble for some reason the following Barbwire obstacle slowed me down a good bit and the rest of my group starting group called up to me. I remember Donald yelling over that he had wondered where I had gotten too… This is the last time that I really saw all these three guys as they came out of the Barbwire obstacle ahead of me and moved quickly passed the balance pole obstacles afterwards. I had some rather “personal” discomfort with the balance pole and sliding across it but I attribute that to my poor judgment and selecting a pole that was not very smooth…taking a tree knot right into the junk is a great way to slow down momentum in case you were wondering.
At this point we were just over two hours into the race and started hitting the climb on the backside of Killington that would take us up to the peak. I am not sure at what point on this climb that it hit exactly but somewhere around three hours into the race I developed a pretty strong GI pain……this derailed me for about 15 minutes as I had to make my way off the trail to take care of this issue. I do remember the onset of it hitting me after going up and over the cargo net obstacle on top of the mountain… One other thing that really sticks out as a strong memory is as I was running away from this obstacle I became keenly aware of the smell of Christmas trees. Looking around me as I was running I traded this to all of the natural firs that were growing thickly alongside the path but I kept bouncing back-and-forth between noticing the Christmas smell and the pain in my gut.
I reach the peak of Killington a little under four hours into my race… And where I had done all I could to resolve the GI discomfort I found that running at any type of a quicker pace exacerbated the issue significantly. This isn’t something that stopped me but it started to really take away from the fun factor of being able to open up on any downhill or flat land running. The obstacles at the peak were a pretty simple drag the rock “tractor pull” and I made the spear throw ……trying to make up some of the time I had given up I moved as quick as I could over the edge and started the descent down Killington. I had taken some Imodium and was starting to feel a little bit better but I will tell you that at this point the down hills started becoming significantly more technical and really were not very supportive of moving quickly at all. In many cases it looks like The trail we were running on had been hacked through the brush just a few days prior… It did make for fairly slow go.
Coming out of this downhill I encountered one of the first difficulties in course marking, towards the base of the hill there was a left turn into the woods where the trail had caution tape strong all across it with a huge Spartan sign saying trail closed… The appearances were that everyone was running straight onto a new trail so I followed this new route…this ultimately proved incorrect and required a good bit of backtracking to get back up into correct position in order to go down to the trail. I was giving up time left and right and from what I could gauge was about 30 minutes behind my original starting group, I couldn’t think of a good spot that I would be able to catch up to them as the down hills were getting more and more technical and no longer presenting themselves as options for making up time. Reaching the base of the hill I first hit the inverted wall obstacles which really were fairly simple to cross and on to the bucket carry which was not difficult either. Finishing up the bucket carry I ran into another racer I know Jamie Drew who was finishing up a protein bar following the bucket obstacle. Seeing the familiar face was extremely welcome as I had been pushing through a good bit of discomfort on my own and could really use some good conversation. Things were starting to feel pretty good and in general I felt like I gained a good bit of momentum back and made up quite a bit of lost ground. Jamie and I made our way up the trail away from the bucket and into another ascent, I had absolutely no idea what was in store for me. I do remember as we came out of the woods and stared up the climb in front of us under the gondolas that Jamie said he remembered this one being a real bitch, he had run the beast the day prior.
this climb took me right at an hour to complete, I went through the motions and felt that I did quite well and continuing to move forward but this climb is the one that ultimately cracked my spirit. I reached the top and we moved through the woods over to the tire drag and although I completed this fairly easily I did notice that my morale seemed to be dampening a good bit, recovering from the previous climb was going to take a lot. Jamie and I finished up the tire drag and moved off to the Woods for another technical downhill go, I really wanted to be able to open up and move quickly but the terrain was not very cooperative and it took me about 40 minutes to complete the dissent down towards the sandbag carry…..this is frustrating because it took me about 20 minutes longer to climb the hill and I knew that I had given up a significant amount of time. The lost time starting adding up in my head and this was the point that I would say I first encountered real doubt about making cut offs.
It’s very difficult to adequately describe the sandbag carry…..it really only took me about 20 minutes to complete but I know that many racers were stuck on this obstacles for an hour or more. For the ultra beast racers we had to carry two sandbags up the hill and back down(each sandbag weighed about 45-50lbs), as you moved up the hill about 50 yards,it went from about a 30% grade to something really closer to 45% for the next 30 to 40 yards it was pretty damn tough but I moved through it quickly and was heading back down the hill toward the watering station in pretty good time. I had moved ahead of Jamie a pretty good distance and made the decision to just keep on moving when I ran into Joe one of my starting group at the base of the hill by the watering station. Joe had been fighting to keep calories down through the entire race and it really wasn’t working out very well for him, as a result he was pretty weak but still able to move forward. We spent A few minutes at the watering station and moved on back up into the woods after a while of slight climbing we came out to clearing where we had to move through the “Big orange rig”, upper body strength was not exactly with us so this rig brought 30 Burpee’s.
Another technical downhill go and we were at the rope traverse and another 30 Burpee’s… Moving back up through the woods we were with another to racers and learned that one of them had been about a mile ahead and decided to turn around and come back to race with his partner due to being informed he was going to miss cut off and be DNFd. Mentally I started adding the time up in my head and realized just how close we were to the cutoff and how far we still had to go.
Over the next few obstacles, rope climb… Spear throw…Burpee’s…
It Started to sink in that when I reached the end of the first lap that I would not have enough time to make it to the base of the hill several miles away for the cut off at the lake.
Worse yet my fatigue was really starting to become apparent and the obstacles ahead of us weren’t allowing any type of real speed.
Barbwire crawl… Mud pits… Barbwire crawl… Burpee’s… Barbwire crawl… Bunch more stuff…
It was a slow go and Joe and I were just over seven hours into the race at this point with about a half-mile left before we reached the finish line of the beast portion of the race.
Moving through the final portions really was not that difficult, the Hercules hoist was easy …..up and over the bridge… And somehow I still had energy to make the final climb prior to moving back down towards the beast Finishline ending the first lap. There was a nice man in a blue shirt that was giving out the good news to folks about the cut off…
There is a finality that comes at the moment that your timing chip is cut off by the volunteer. It’s not good or bad but the symbolism of that is not lost on you even in a moment of complete and utter exhaustion… It is a moment of formidable impact. I knew I was done… I knew I had lost… And where I lacked the spirit for any particular emotion at the moment I guess I should have known that it would come.
I trained for a long time to attack this mountain, I trained hard… I trained consistently… I trained with purpose.
However with no real understanding of what I was training for , I concede that I was probably set up for my result from the get-go. The only true way to gain comprehension of what is required for this event is to participate in this event…..there are no possible substitutions.
I set my goal to complete the ultra beast this year, I completely missed the mark. I walk away with a DNF
Somewhere on the mountain, I did gain a different perspective on the journey that had gotten me to that point… It wasn’t a moment of epiphany, I just realized everything from a different vantage point that allowed me to understand it all as a whole. Maybe part of me knew at this moment that the mountain was going to win, maybe I knew that from the get-go… I’m really not sure. If I didn’t maybe I should have, because at the end it didn’t matter… The story that I have inside of me is a far better achievement than anything else, and this new perspective allowed me to see that. For me… The ultra beast became a lot more than just me and the mountain….at the end of it all it was about my experiences with a lot of really good people.
Like everybody else… I hated that damn belt buckle medal until I walked past it and saw them hanging there. So who knows…
But to all of those that offered your support both on and off the mountain , I cannot thank you enough for helping me go through all of this.