Heading back up the mountain was extremely difficult I could feel the strength in my legs beginning to fade but I made a conscious effort to never stop and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Jog the flats and walk the steeps until I reached that summit. Although my muscles were feeling the fatigue I was having an absolute blast out there and could not wipe a smile off of my face! I was on my way to conquer my goal and not only that I was currently in the top 10! My goal was just to finish the race let alone actually compete with some of these guys!
As I reached the monkey bars for the second time, it began to snow. First it was only snowing a little bit, but as I kept climbing into the clouds it started to really come down and it actually got quite cold. But I wasn’t going to let this get me down, this was all part of the Ultra Beast experience and I was going to embrace it. During the climb to the atlas carry I began to pass some of the Ultra Beast races who were slowing down and even a few Beast racers. Every time I passed someone I got another boost of energy. Either moving up position in the Ultra Beast from 7th to 6th, or passing Beast racers who were only doing one lap and I was completing my second lap faster than they would complete there first. Now I know the latter makes me sounds like a dick, but hey during an ultra-endurance race like this I’ll take any bit of motivation that I can.
As I reached the summit I was finally above the clouds and out of the snow. I was able to move up into 4th place right at the top of the mountain and once again I could not believe how well I was doing. On the ascent from the summit I ran passed the male who was in 3rd as he was unfortunately being loaded into a cart to be taken off of the mountain. I’m not sure what happened to him but to me it either looked like a twisted ankle or a cramping calf. Either way I hope it was nothing serious, but at the same time I was super excited as I now reached the podium. I was in 3rd!
Now feeling a burst of adrenaline I picked up my pace and began passing Beast contestants left and right. As I zipped past other racers I would ask them if they have seen any other Ultra Beasters recently. I was now on the hunt to try and catch 2nd and 1st place. When I asked a volunteer he told me I was in 4th place and that 1st and 2nd were miles ahead. Being in 4th didn’t sound right to me (but I didn’t care, if I was in 4th place I was just as stoked as being in 3rd I was way outperforming my goals!), but 1st and 2nd being miles ahead sounded correct. I knew I probably wouldn’t catch them but I had to try my best.
The second lap was going a lot better than I had anticipated. My fueling was on point, I did not have any stomach issues or cramping. I continued down the mountain with a mindset to catch 1st and 2nd place but with an even bigger mindset to distance myself from the rest of the Ultra Beast pack trailing behind me and secure my potential podium finish. I took the long descent after the atlas carry to really fly and let my legs spin down the mountain. And then it was back to the death march and the double sandbag carry.
I was confident as I approached the double sandbag carry for the second and final time. As a bigger guy I’m self-proclaimed “strongman” when it comes to the heavy carries in an obstacle race. However I was graciously humbled as I tried to flip both sand bags onto my shoulders. After a couple attempts I realized these sand bags weren’t making it up to my shoulders. Instead I stacked one sand bag on top of another and bear hugged them on my chest, similar to the way you would do the bucket carry. Bear hugging the sand bags I waddled my way up and down the slope, legs screaming, back aching, and teeth clinched I finished the obstacle and continued on up the mountain to finish the death march.
One mistake I consistently saw on the death march was people taking breaks and sitting down. Sitting down this late in the race whether you’re doing one lap or two can be costly. As you sit you may cramp up, pass out (I’ve done it, see my post about my first marathon [still to come]), or you’ll simply have a difficult time getting up off your butt and continuing on. It is by far in your best interest to keep trudging a long one foot in front of the other. A simple technique that helped me tackle the death march was walking in a zig-zag pattern. I’d take three steps at a 450 up the mountain to left, and then take 3 steps at a 450 angle to right. If you`re familiar with sailing, it’s the same idea as tacking into a headwind. I repeated this pattern whenever I encountered a particularly steep section or needed to take a bit of a rest.
Coming down the final descent I couldn’t stop grinning I was close to finish what I had set out to do. With only 60 burpees so far on the day, I came up to the z-wall traverse. I made sure to find a wall that was relatively clean and that would allow me to put my right foot forward (it’s just how I prefer it). I took my time and made it one hand hold away from the bell and fell. The 30 burpees that were to follow were by far the hardest and slowest burpees I’ve ever done. I could feel every muscle in my body as I went down to the ground and feebly jumped at the top of the burpee.
I still couldn’t stop smiling though! I was so close to that finish line. All I had left was the bucket brigade, parallel bars, zig-zag balance beam, spear throw, rope climb, vertical cargo net, and the fire jump.
Continuing my way down the mountain I came to the zig-zag balance beam. Took some deep breaths and put my first foot on the beam. Before I even started walking across the beams, my legs began shaking as I was well over 8 hours into the race at this point my legs were nearly sapped of all their strength. I took my time and got through the obstacle and raced toward the festival area for the final four obstacles.
The spear throw was in eye shot and I made up my mind that there was no way that I am doing any more burpees in this race. I grabbed the spear, made sure the string was clear of my feet and body, took aim, and threw that spear with everything that I had. I nailed it! With a huge double fist pumped I cheered and a volunteer “asked you ultra beast?” I replied “oh yeah!” he gave me a huge fist bump as I ran down the final little hill to where spectators could see the last few obstacles and the finish line.
I waded my way through the ropes scanning the crowd for my girlfriend and friends. I could see them right by the fence, hearing them cheer me on over the final obstacles was spectacular. I climbed the rope, whipped over the cargo net, jumped over the fire and sprinted over that finish line.
I did it, I completed the Ultra Beast! There is nothing better than crossing that finishing line after 7 months of hard work and over 8 hours of racing.
I got my Ultra Beast medal and shirt, and made my way to the results station. I thought I was in 3rd place my one friend said I was in 5th and a volunteer said I was in 4th. So no one was truly certain on my position. I checked my time at the results tent and it said I was 19th male out of 25, now I knew this was wrong but whatever I finished, I didn’t really care what place I came in.
I waited around in the festival area with my girlfriend and friends for about an hour as a few of my other friends came across the line to get there Ultra Beast medals. At this point there had been no awards announcement, so we decided to head back to the condo and hit up the hot tub and indulge in some much needed food. It’s too bad that we didn’t stick around for the awards because I did come in 3rd!
I did not know officially until the post-race email came out a few days later and there was my name in 3rd place with a time of 8:52:01. I guess all that hard work really did pay off. Now I was still very far behind the 1st and 2nd place males, 1st place Mikail Gerylo finished in 7:02:04 and 2nd place Ben Kwiatkowski finished in 7:48:40. Comparing these times to the previous year’s Ultra Beast at Sun Peaks, it was very evident that the race directors made this course much more challenging. In 2014 the Sun Peaks Ultra Beast winning time was 5:50:48 and the completion rate was 80% (20% of the people did not finish). This year only 31% of the field finished, therefore it was clear the race directors were out for revenger after many 2014 Ultra Beast contestants scoffed at its “easiness”.
Well I can assure you there was nothing easy about this Ultra Beast, it was long, brutal, and an absolutely amazing experience! Congratulations to all the Ultra Beast finishers out there, you have truly accomplished something remarkable!
Official course stats:
52.87 km, 70 obstacles, and 3804 m of elevation
1st Ascent: O-U-T, 8 ft wall, log carry, Hercules hoist, monkey bars, 7 ft wall, mud pits, second log carry.
1st Summit: atlas carry
1st Descent: tree maze, tractor pull, log balance beam, trench, tire pull, slippery wall, stairway to Sparta
2nd Ascent/deathmarch: inverted wall, barbwire crawl and cargo net walk, 2nd barbwire crawl, double sandbag carry, 5 ft wall, tire flip
2nd Descent: burlap sack carry (Ultra Beast only), double tire carry, 3rd barbwire crawl, z-wall traverse, hobbie/bunny hop, bucket brigade, parallel bars, zig-zag balance beam
Festival area: Spear throw, rope climb, vertical cargo net, fire jump