Without a doubt my favorite Spartan Race distance is the Beast. The large distance, numerous obstacles and the variety of terrain covered in Beast always provides an incredibly rewarding and powerful experience. After completing a Spartan Beast (or Ultra Beast) you feel like you can take on anything life can throw at you. With this in mind at the start line at the Montreal Beast I was ready to tackle a grueling course.
Having ran one Eastern Canada Spartan Beast before I expected there to be an abundance of steep climbs throughout the course. Therefore I was not surprised when immediately off the starting line we were faced with a steep climb straight up the mountain. With the starting line still insight I put my hands on my legs and began to power hike.
As we climbed I passed a few people here in there, but I wasn’t trying hard to get ahead of people. The slope was too steep and it was way too early to worry about position. I did find it amusing however to watch people jostle for position on such a steep climb.
At the top of the first climb the course pulled a U-turn. We jumped over a few small vertical walls headed straight back down the mountain. Once again near the base, we headed right back up. At the top of the second climb guess what we did…we went straight back down…once the bottom was reached…we went straight back up. Within the first 2.5 miles we climbed 3 steep and long ski slopes that were essentially side by side. Just up and down, up and down, and up.
I wasn’t too surprised with this as I expected a lot of climbing. These initial climbs were still too steep to run so a lot of power hiking ensued. Even the descents were borderline too steep making the downhill running quite challenging as well.
Only a few obstacles were present in the first few miles. There was a set of 3 small vertical walls, hurdles and the inverted ladder. The inverted ladder was a new obstacle I had never seen before. Imagine an inverted wall, but instead of a wall it has 3 horizontal pipes and you have the inverted ladder.
Ascending the third climb the leaders began to pull away and I was closely following 3 guys not too far ahead of me. I took a look back and to my surprise I saw no one. I thought that if I could keep these few guys in eyesight and make sure no one sneaks up on me I should be able to do pretty well.
I had no idea what position I was roughly in but assumed I was around 10th or 15th place, but that was really just a guess.
Near the top of the third climb there was a cargo net to crawl under and an 8 ft wall. Then to no one’s surprise we headed back down the mountain. The slope was covered in long wet grass and I actually took a couple falls (4 to be exact) down this slope and have a pretty good bruise on my butt to show for it.
This descent didn’t take us all the way down the mountain, but it did pull a quick u-turn (again) and headed straight back up the mountain, to only take another u-turn and head back down…and then back up.
At this point I had lost track of the amount of ascents and descents I had done. Every climb and descent felt the same…a big, steep ski slope. I had easily power hiked the majority of the course so far and was wondering if I was ever going to get to run.
Somewhere in the midst of all the climbs I came across another obstacle I hadn’t seen before, the water pipe carry. The water pipe carry was a PVC pipe that was half filled with water. This was a very simple but unique obstacle because any slight motion to one side or another and the pipe would begin to tip drastically. I loved the originality and simplicity of this obstacle, as it provided a small but new challenge/aspect to the heavy carries.
Back at the base of the mountain there was a relatively light Hercules Hoist and a tall rope climb. Then as you might have expected we headed back up the mountain.
On the way back up the mountain we encountered the sand bag carry, O-U-T (over, under, through) walls and the first barbed wire crawl. The barbed wire crawl was up hill, but had a lot of clearance making it a fairly easy obstacle to maneuver.
Now well over the halfway mark and the theme of steep climbs and descents did not change. I had been power hiking the majority of this course and I was honestly becoming bored!
Continuing on the 3 guys ahead of me began to pull away slowly. I wasn’t too concerned with this as I was happy with my current pace. That was until I heard somebody behind me moving at a fast pace. “Shit”, I thought to myself “I let someone catch me.” Well to my surprise it wasn’t just anyone who had caught up to me, it was Jesse Bruce.
For those of you that don’t know that name, Jesse is one of (if not) the best obstacle course racer in Eastern Canada. Luckily for me Jesse was running the Ultra Beast today so having him pass me wouldn’t affect my placement. But let’s think about this for a second. Both the Ultra Beast and Beast racers started at the same time. After the inverted ladder the Ultra Beast racers split off from the Beast course for an Ultra Beast only loop, before rejoining the Beast course. I’m not sure how long the Ultra Beast loop was or if there were any obstacles on it. But either way Jesse had a run a further distance than I had, caught up to me, and passed me like I was running backwards, and he had to do this whole course twice! The guy is an absolute machine!
Finally there was a section of downhill that was actually runnable. I caught up to and passed the 3 guys who had pulled away from me. I made it to the bottom of the hill and came to the Bucket Brigade.
The Bucket Bridge was long, steep, and heavy. Now about 10.5 miles into the race I knew the end was on the horizon so I wanted to keep the 3 guys I passed behind me. I grabbed my bucket and headed up the slope. The heat from the sun, and the heavy bucket nearly made me vomit as I charged up the slope. I tried to remember to breathe and stay calm but that was easier said than done. I’d count in my head the number of steps I’ve taken making sure to get at least 10 before resting. I stopped 3 or 4 time on the way up, and once on the way down. I think I could have made it back down the slope without stopping but I was being cautious I guess. This wasn’t my best bucket carry effort but I managed to stay ahead of the racers behind me.
After the bucket carry we continued further down the mountain, to the balance beam-slack line obstacle. There was a guy doing burpees as I made it to the balance beam and I wanted to take this opportunity to pass him. I tried to find a sturdy balance beam and headed across. Falling before I even made it to the slack line I went over to do my 30 burpees.
I missed the opportunity to pass the racer ahead of me and while I was doing 30 burpees, the 3 guys I had passed earlier made it down to the obstacle. All of them completed it and left me alone to do my burpees.
I finished my burpees as fast as I could and hoped that the other racers didn’t make it too far. A short distance later I encountered another new obstacle. The obstacle was a series of 5 vertical posts that racers had to navigate across. One of the 3 racers who passed me was doing burpees here and the other two must have completed it.
With another opportunity to make up some ground I began making my away across the poles. I made it to the 2nd pole and reached out for the 3rd one. The gap between the 2nd and 3rd pole was huge. As I leaned out I couldn’t even graze the 3rd pole. Not sure exactly what to do, I attempted to leap off the 2nd pole and grab hold of the 3rd. A bit of a hail marry attempt and I failed. Off to do more burpees and another opportunity to pass someone missed.
Oh well at least no one had snuck up behind me and passed me. That’s what I was really concerned with. As long as I only got passed by the 3 guys I’ve essentially ran the whole race with, that was ok with me.
Heading back up the mountain I encountered the log carry, wall traverse and parallel bars. I was running alone at this point. I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me nor behind me. I was happy with this because my number one priority at this point was to not get passed. I kept moving at a solid pace and constantly checked over my shoulder.
I never did end up seeing anyone behind me but when I made it to the spear throw, two guys were doing burpees. I had caught up! Now to take my time and make sure I hit the target. I balanced the spear in my hand, took a deep breath and threw the spear. It left my hand and remained perfectly horizontal, exactly what you need for the spear to stick into the target. I felt good about my throw…but my aim was off and the spear sailed right in between two targets. More burpees and once again an opportunity missed to pass some racers.
It was a short distance from the spear throw to the Platinum Rig and then on to the finish. I still felt strong and thought I should be able to complete the rig. I navigated the rope, rings, and cargo net where I hung on the very last portion of the rig and asked if I had completed the obstacle. No I hadn’t. There was a small line marked by Spartan tape that I had to jump over. Having lost any swinging moment at this point (because I thought I had finished the rig) I tried to build it back up and jump over the tape.
I leaped off the rig and had my heel touch the tape…30 more burpees, bringing my total to 120! Not very pleased I did my burpees as fast as possible making sure no one had caught up to me, which no one did. I completed my burpees and headed off to the fire jump and the large A frame then to the finish line.
I crossed the line in 13th place in the Elite Heat with a time of 4:04:46. I’m happy with a 13th place finish, but am unhappy with the 120 burpees. I could have done a lot better but 13th is still good.
I feel like there is a pissing contest out there to see who can make the toughest Spartan Race. This is not good! A tough course doesn’t go hand in hand with a good course. I love a challenge and testing my body physically and mentally on hard tough courses. The Montreal Beast was a tough course no doubt…but it was boring! There was no variety to the course. The course design was a steep climb followed by a steep descent, and repeat for 21 km. I was not mentally or physically broken at the site of steep climb after steep climb. I was bored of power hiking and wanted to run.
Having lots of elevation gain isn’t the only way to make a tough course. However it is the easiest. Running up hill is hard so send runners up and a down a mountain and you have a tough course…but not a good one. There is simply no creativity to that and I for one was absolutely bored during this race.
The thrill of the race is lost, if everyone is power hiking the whole thing. There is hardly any excitement passing someone as you both slowly make your way up a steep slope.
I highly doubt I’m the only one who feels this way but Eastern Canada Spartan Race needs to up there game and provide racers with some variety throughout the course. If I want to go do a hike I’ll do that on my own time. I came here to race!