After climbing the mountain a few more times we finally came to what I was dreading at the top of a hill…the Stairway to Sparta and the A-Frame Cargo net.  The Stairway to Sparta is a 7 foot wall with a wooden A-frame ladder that is probably 25 feet high, you have to jump and pull yourself up onto the ladder, climb to the top and climb back down.  The tricky part to all the height obstacles is at the top, it’s hard to transition your feet from one side to the other while precariously bear hugging the top of the obstacle, especially when you’re frozen in fright.  I had to take a few breaths and fight back the tears but was quickly boosted up by a super tall guy and just went for it and climbed, at the top I managed to get over without slipping and landing on my butt on the next rung like I did in Red Deer.  It felt amazing to conquer that one.

Stairway to Sparta Montana

Stairway to Sparta

Right after was the transverse wall, you have to hold onto the wooden pegs and make your way across and around a corner without touching the top of the wall or the ground and ring the bell.  With some help from my bestie I finally made it across without falling off and we managed to make it into a pic without even knowing it.

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Traverse wall with some help from a friend

Next up was the A-Frame cargo net which looks simple enough until you start climbing it, look down and realize how far up you actually are.  Again at the top it’s tricky to transition your legs over with the metal pole and the pole frames in your way.  It didn’t help that the lady in front of me was also afraid of heights.  The volunteer was perched on top of the net like a bird, clearly she was not afraid of heights. The elites flip over the top of the net…they make it look easy.  I think I prefer the vertical cargo net, there’s no looking down as you climb up.

a frame cargo

A-Frame cargo net – what a view from the top!

After more trails and hills we eventually came to the tire flip where we had to flip some huge tires 6 times, I think we flipped them twice in Red Deer, another heavy log carry and the memory test.  We had to memorize a word and number combination around mile 3 and recite it at around mile 10.  Mine was Bravo-748 6689, although when I recited it I apparently memorized 98 not 89 (the last two digits of my bib number)..luckily I got a sympathetic volunteer who let it slide since I got it right for the 98 series.

We spent some time on trails in the woods which was a welcome break from the hot sun (although at this point we were wet after crossing the water and a couple mud pits).  In the trees we came across more log hurdles (which really were my least favourite obstacle since I never did find a good way to get down from them), another heavy log carry and a cargo net strung between trees that another racer held steady for us.  The water station even had Clif shot blocks for us which was a welcome surprise for many racers.

More hills and running eventually brought us to the 8 foot and 10 foot walls.  I don’t like walls but this year they weren’t as bad as I remembered them being probably due to my work on my upper body strength.  I still needed a boost but was able to muscle my way up once I got my head over the wall.  Getting down from the 10 foot wall wasn’t as scary as I imagined since there were helper steps and my bestie who knew I was scared, guided my feet onto it.  My goal for Red Deer in September is to make it over the walls with no help, not that there’s anything wrong with getting help, I just want to build up the strength I need to do it on my own.  One of the things I love about Spartan races is that there is always someone there willing to help give you a boost when needed.

I remember passing the mile 11 marker and feeling elated that we had come so far but also wondering how much further we had to go.  By that point my toes were really sore which I discovered after the race was because I had a couple giant blisters.  I had amazing shoes (Salomon Speedcross) and padded quick dry running socks on but the running in wet socks and downhills did a number on my poor toes and they were sore for a week after the race.  I will definitely add more trail running and hiking to my training plan for my next race.

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One of the many hills

Eventually we came down a big hill, we could hear the music from the festival area and when we came around the corner there were spectators cheering us on which meant we were getting close to the end.  I was beginning to think there was no long barbed wire crawl until I heard someone’s friend tell her “you just have a really long barbed wire crawl and a bucket carry and you’re done!”.  When I looked up I saw it, the longest barbed wire crawl I’ve seen on a race so far, I’ve heard it was anywhere from 500 ft to half a mile.  It was dry and dusty and all I could see was people rolling in the dirt with no end in sight.  It would have been impossible to army crawl under since it was so low so rolling was the quickest way to complete it.  After catching my pack a few times I ended up having to take it off and throw it in front of me before each roll which resulted in losing my cap for the mouthpiece.  The barbed wire was so low we had to hold it up for each other in many spots and I’m not sure how some of the bigger guys made it through without ripping a shoulder open.  It was sharp too, the guy beside me tore his thumb open and my favourite running crops became a casualty of the barbs when I got caught and ripped a hole right in the butt.  When we finally came to the end we had to go under a low log bridge which was a bit claustrophobic but marked the end of our rolling adventure.  I was more than a little dizzy when I stood up.  After a few tears about my pants and fear of the bucket brigade that was coming (by this point my lower back was killing me from all the hills) we were off again to the inverted wall which proved to be not too bad when I used the tips from the tutorial we watched the night before.

The very long, very dusty barbed wire crawl

The very long, very dusty barbed wire crawl

After going under the dunk wall (a wall in water that you have to stick your face in gross muddy water to get under), climbing up a big hill and back down, we came to the obstacle I was dreading for the entire race, the bucket brigade (aka the bucket of suck).  You have to fill a bucket with gravel past the line with holes in it and carry it by holding onto the bottom up a steep hill and back down, if the volunteer can see any of the holes when you are done you have to do it again.  I’m not sure exactly how much it weighs but it is really heavy, I’ve heard people say anywhere from 70-100 lbs…that’s like carrying both my children in a bucket up and down a hill.  I admit that my eyes filled with tears a few times during this one, the worst part was you could see the finish line from the top and knew how close you were to being done.  I made it through eventually but I did stop and put it down when needed and even filled it with extra gravel to avoid having to do the obstacle again, I also tightened up my core and could tell my grip strength was a lot better than it was in Red Deer at the Super.

Bucket brigade

The bucket brigade

Once we were done it was onto the home stretch!  First the vertical cargo net which went ok except that I forgot to take my pack off and water came spilling out onto the metal frame at the top making it very slippery.  Then came the multi rig which is a hanging bar you shimmy across and then swing from a small rope to a ring alternating until you can hit the bell at the end.  We helped each other across this one and reached the fire jump.  The fire was no joke, it was big and I wasn’t sure my tired legs would get me over it but they did and it felt so amazing to cross that finish line and get our well earned medals and a big hug from the volunteer.

Fire jump side - Montana

Fire jump to victory

 

It truly was an amazing experience and I proved to myself that I am stronger than I think.  The feeling of accomplishment when you finish a race like that is indescribable.  13.5 miles with 4000 ft of elevation (according to one of the elite’s tracker) and over 30 obstacles was not easy but it was so worth it and I would do it over again in a heartbeat.  The Spartan Beast is the hardest race in the series (besides the Ultra Beast) for a reason, the heavy carries all felt a lot heavier than the super (Atlas stone, log carry, Hercules hoist, etc) and the terrain was a lot harder.  I’m so proud of us for taking this challenge on and completing the hardest race in our Trifecta run first.  (Trifecta is when you do all three races Sprint, Super & Beast in one calendar year).  Up next, Red Deer in September for the Super and Sprint weekend.

 

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Me and my bestie in the finisher tent