2017 Montana Beast – Race Recap

Having spent the month of April being sick with mononucleosis (mono), I had very little expectations for myself in the Montana Beast. My main goal for this year is Toughest Whistler in June (and maybe World’s Toughest Mudder), so I aimed to treat this race as a training run. My main goal was to survive this race, as it would easily be the longest run I’ve in done over a month. All I wanted to do was run a comfortable pace and not over exert myself. If I could do that it would be a good sign that I could up my training intensity as I head into Toughest Whistler in a few weeks.

Beyond surviving, I also still wanted to place relatively well considering the circumstances. I was hoping for at least a Top 50 overall and to not let any Elite Woman pass me until the end of the course.

With the main goal simply surviving this race, I felt weird the night before and morning of…because I wasn’t in the race mind set. I was simply here to go out there and have some fun and not die. The night before the race I hardly felt like I had an event the following day and the morning of the race just felt like I was heading out to Bragg Creek for a training run.

The masses charging up the first hill at the Montana Beast

When the race started people dashed off the line. I was immediately swarmed by the pack and was passed by a countless number of racers. The course made a quick turn straight up a hill within the first 100 m and everyone charged up the slope. I really wanted to walk this hill knowing that it’s a long race and I’m not here to push myself…but I didn’t. It’s hard to stop and walk when people all around you are surging up the hill, even though it’s likely not the best strategy for the majority of these racers. I did jog rather slowly though and let the masses pass me.

The course was rugged from the start. There was barely any trail present if at all. I was thankful to be wearing my 2XU compression tights as I plowed through countless bushes and branches. I have no idea what place I was in but I was pretty far back. I have to admit it was hard to let people pass me and not push any harder. But that’s what I had to do, this race wasn’t a race…it was a long training run.

After winding through the dense woods and the first few obstacles (small log hurdles, invert wall) we came to the first sand bag carry. The sandbag was light and the carry was short so I moved through that quite easily. I had to laugh towards the end of the sandbag carry as I saw a few racers yell at the volunteer because they took a few steps in the wrong direction. Like seriously dude if you’re this far back right now, you ain’t winning this thing or even coming top 10. Lighten up.

The racers were well spaced out by this point, I could see a small group of guys about 1 minute ahead of me and then about 8 racers right on my tail, forming a little group of our own. I was moving at a solid comfortable pace, I wasn’t gasping for air, and I could easily hold a conversation. I felt good, but again reminded myself not to push myself, just stay consistent.

I walked almost every hill, and would get passed by the 8 or so racers behind me…only to zip past them on the downhills. Being able to catch up and pass these guys on the downhill was quite comforting, as I knew I could keep up with these guys without too much effort.

Back in Red Deer. Stefan just like me couldn’t believe I failed the Z-Wall twice!

As we crested one hill ~5 km I became dreadfully nervous. Atop of the hill was the Z-Wall Traverse. Never have I been so nervous when approaching an obstacle before, but the memories of the last time I faced this obstacle were fresh in my mind. Back in the summer of 2016 at the Red Deer Sprint/Super weekend I failed this obstacle on both Saturday and Sunday! I was terrified that I might fail it again. I made my way to the wall and began to make my way across. The holds were close together and incredibly dry. I made it across without issue as did every other racer around me. Upon completion I got a confidence boost to know that I am able to complete this obstacle and it won’t haunt my dreams anymore (at least I can hope).

A relatively short distance after the Z-Wall was the Tyrolean Traverse. I’ve only done this obstacle once at the Spartan Race World Championship in 2015, and I didn’t have much trouble with it. So I was concerned when I saw this obstacle. In fact I was quite excited. I ran up to the obstacle, hung from the rope and hooked my ankles on, and began to make my way across. I was moving forward but felt so awkward. Every movement felt forced, slow, and unnatural. But I was making progress. About halfway across the rope, I started to feel a little frustrated with how long it was taking to complete the obstacle and a little more confident in my abilities, therefore I tried to pick up my pace, and before I knew it my ankle slipped off the rope and my feet brushed the ground. Pissed off that I failed an easy obstacle because of a small lapse in concentration I headed over to do 30 burpees.

Although I wasn’t racing, doing these 30 burpees was the most demoralizing experience of any race I’ve done. I was the only racer to be doing burpees when I started and the only one to be doing burpees when I finished. Absolutely EVERYONE completed this obstacle. The continuous ringing of bells as fellow racers completed the obstacle was a constant kick in the nuts as racer after racer after race completed it. And I was face down in the swamp doing burpees…but oh well I’m not racing today…but it still fucking sucked…

I completed my burpees smoothly at a slow consistent pace, so that I wasn’t too gassed afterwards. I headed back out onto the course and ended up being right beside my friend Dave. I ran with Dave for the next little while and he reminded me that I am still sick and too not kill myself out here.

Normally after doing burpees I would do my best to catch back up to the group I was running with before I failed the obstacle. But not today, I just kept trudging along at a smooth chill pace. The obstacle were widely spaced out on the Beast section of the course so keeping a chill pace was relatively easy without abundant obstacles to drain your energy.

Elevation profile Montana Beast. There were definitely some gnarly descents!

There were a few big steep climbs and treacherous descents before the Beast course rejoined with the Sprint course. The descents were incredibly steep single track, with quick turns, loose dirt, and the occasional roots and stumps to snag your feet. I had a few close calls as my foot got caught on a few roots but luckily I was able to keep my footing and avoid any protruding stumps that were waiting to impale you (I swear there were a few spike like stumps that looked like booby traps out of an Indiana Jones movie).

Spikes coming out to get Indy and Shorty! Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom http://www.nerdlikeyou.com/top-5-best-movie-deathtraps/

Emerging out of a thick bushel of trees I heard a cheer from the crowd “Go Adam!” It was my girlfriend! Hearing her cheer me on always perks me up and gives me a boost of energy.

At this point the Beast course joined up with the Sprint course, and I was greeted with Olympus, Hercules Hoist, Rope Climb, and another Sandbag Carry. I was quite nervous as I approached Olympus as I have never done this obstacle before, but given the dry conditions I had absolutely no difficulty with it. The Hercules Hoist was also very easy as it was incredibly light (and no I’m not trying to sound strong). So with breezing through the first two obstacles I climbed the rope and then picked up the sandbag for the second and much heavier sandbag carry.

Olympus at the Montana Beast..I have notoriously bad mobility and flexibility so I was honestly surprised I could get into this position!
Hoisting it up like Hercules at the Montana Beast

Carrying the sandbag I heard someone call out that the Elite Woman were coming through. Faye Stenning and Rea Kolbl were charging through the sandbag carry making it look easy.

Rea Kolbl out front and looking strong at the Montana Beast

I dropped my sandbag off and thought that most of the climbing for the race was over. But I was wrong. Upon completing the sandbag carry it was straight up a steep hill covered in dense brush. I was a few steps behind Rea at this point and Faye was closing in hard as she chased Rea down. I was climbing fairly strong, bushwhacking my way through the brush (or so I thought), with Faye right on my heels. I briefly thought to myself that “how nice of me, I’m paving a trail for Faye so she doesn’t have to work as hard bushwhacking through this crud.” Only to hear Faye call out “Adam! Move! I’m coming through!” Or something to that effect…but oh well it was a nice thought while it lasted. I cheered Faye on and told her to go catch Rea.

Still climbing the hill Faye and Rea were almost out of sight, I took a look back to see where the third place female was and she was know where to be seen. I kept climbing and climbing, finally reaching the top, and then it was a long relatively gentle decent (compared to what the rest of the descents were like) that let you spin your legs and let gravity do the work. While descending Alyssa Hawley caught up to me and passed me…for a brief second I thought I could try and match her downhill pace. But there was absolutely no chance of that. She was flying down that slope like a bat out of hell, it was quite the impressive display of running.

Soon I came up to the short log carry, A-Frame Cargo net, and the Spear Throw. Atop the cargo net if you took a brief moment to look around you would be amazed at the incredible view. Lush green trees covered the mountain slopes, which surrounded a sapphire blue lake, made for quite the beautiful sight. I flipped over the net and headed to the Spear Throw and nailed it! Hitting the spear has to be one of the greatest feelings there is. So feeling incredible I cruised onward.

The bucket carry awaited at the base of yet another steep and technical descent. The bucket carry was short but on the same rugged/bushwhacky terrain as most of the course. I filled my bucket up and carried it around the loop. While carrying the bucket I felt strong, I kept moving forward with no need to stop or put the bucket down. I’d like to attribute this to my training, but I think it’s more the fact that I was taking it easy in the previous portions of the race, so I still had a lot of energy in reserve.

I understand if the Multi-Rig was all rings at the Sprint, but at the Beast?! Come on!

I managed to pass and put some space between myself and the other racers between the log carry and bucket carry. I was trailing a couple seconds behind one guy as I made my way to the Multi-Rig. When I got to the rig I was disappointed to see that it had been set up entirely of rings. What’s the point of calling it a “Multi-Rig” if there is nothing Multi about it? Anyway I made my way across and the guy in front of me failed on one of the last rings.

With the race almost over I knew that he wouldn’t likely catch me. After the rig, there was about another mile and a half of running through more over grown trails and I was admittedly tired of all the bushwhacking at this point. But I knew the race was almost over so I just kept moving.

Rolling through the Barbed Wire. Note my ripped shirt is from bushwhacking, not barbed wire!

I recall hearing horror stories about how long the Barbed Wire Crawl was in 2016 at the Montana race so I was mentally prepared for it as I saw the barbed wire looming in the distance. However as I approached it I realized that it wasn’t terribly long. With a little perk in my step at the relatively short crawl, I began rolling and crawling my way underneath the barbed wire. As I came close to the end, my friend who had already finished (Stefan) told me that there is more barbed wire on the other side of the Slip Wall…So the barbed wire crawl was indeed quite long, the Slip Ramp was hiding it from view. Getting the little heads up about the extra barbed wire from Stefan was definitely a huge plus. For if I didn’t know there was more barbed wire after the slip wall I probably would have dropped an F bomb or two.

Fire Jump – Montana Beast

It was a short distance from the end of the barbed wire crawl to the finish. Right before the finish was the Twister (another new obstacle for me). I wasn’t entirely sure how to tackle this one. I’ve seen people do it sideways, putting both hands on each rung but this seemed to take a lot of energy and a lot of time on the obstacle. I opted for trying it monkey bar style (hand over hand, one hand on each rung), and it worked fabulously. I breezed through it, rang the bell, hopped the fire and crossed the finish line in 2:51:39 which was good enough for 34th male and 39th overall in the Elite division. If I compare my results with the competitive times I would have placed 8th in the competitive heat, so adding both elite and competitive results together still places me in the top 50 overall, so I can’t complain about that.

The Twister was also shorter/easier than at other Spartan Races

When I crossed the finish line I was greeted by my girlfriend and she was asking how it went. I told her it went “ok, nothing special”. Then I briefly found myself wondering if I enjoyed myself out there…and I did, but not all that much. I knew I could complete the course and I did. It wasn’t overly difficult or challenging because I was taking it easy. If I had been trying to push hard and really race I would have felt differently when I crossed the line. I would have been out of breath, legs screaming and body hurting, after giving it my all out. I get my enjoyment out of these races/events by pushing myself to new limits, and seeing how I stack up against the rest of the competition. By treating this run as a training run, there was no competitive drive, no will to push myself harder, it was simply a long a training run and there’s nothing too special about that. With that in mind I think if I ever treat another Spartan Race as a true training run I’ll run in the Competitive (not to be competitive, just to be out there first) or Open waves, but I for sure won’t be paying for it because it’s simply way too expensive to sign up for a race and use it solely as training. Therefore I don’t intend to use any race like this as a training run in the future unless I somehow I magically get a free (or cheap) entry from a friend or whomever…or if I sign up previously and then get sick, like what happened this time.

But regardless of my enjoyment out on the course, I am super stoked to still place in the top 50 and that being sick all April didn’t hold me back too much. All signals are “Go” to up the training for Toughest Whistler on June 17.

Course Stats

According to my Suunto GPS Watch

20.38 km, 940 m of elevation.

Montana Beast and Sprint Course map

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