On Saturday, June 13th, 2015, I ran my first Spartan Race, the Breckenridge Beast. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot about the Spartan, and met a lot of great people. Before the race, I said this would be my one and only run at it, but I can now see why people do multiple obstacle course races.
Since I haven’t done any obstacle course racing before, I didn’t know what to expect. The Spartan Race Beast in Breckenridge turned out to be be 12.6 miles with 30 obstacles. It was set on the ski slopes above Breckenridge, Colorado.
Although it was June, the weather in the Colorado Rockies can vary widely. On Saturday, it started out a bit chilly with the temps only in the 40s. By the afternoon, the temps were probably around 60 degrees. That is a pretty good temperature for running and most obstacles – except the ones in water or snow.
There seemed to be a ton of people racing, and each heat included a mix of runners in the Sprint and Beast race. The courses overlapped in the beginning and end of the race.
Training and Prep
I didn’t really do any specific training for the Spartan Beast. For the past 4 years, I have done a lot of cycling and in the past year or so, I have done some CrossFit and Krav Maga as well. I think the cycling helped a lot with my endurance prep and the CrossFit helped with my strength and agility. If you are interested in the gym I used, you should check out my article on Axistence Athletics. I ended up running the race with 6 other Axistence Athletes including both of the owners.
Altitude and Incline
For most people, I think the biggest challenge was the altitude and steep inclines. Since I live in Denver, the altitude change wasn’t as big for me, but you could still feel it. If you haven’t done any athletic events at altitude, it can be a big adjustment.
Performing at altitude simply means less oxygen for your muscles. You tire more quickly and run out of breath easily. You will also dehydrate a lot quicker in the low humidity and intense sun. I saw a lot of people trying to stretch out cramps and bent over trying to catch their breath.
Of course, it doesn’t help matters when you are running up steep slopes. Breckenridge sits at about 9,600 feet and the top of the course was at 11,258 feet. The organizers said it was about 3,000 of elevation throughout the course. You really have to adjust your running style when going up or down like that (and some parts were covered in snow).
Ah, yes, snow. The Spartan organizers did a great job utilizing the remnants of the winter snows in the course. There were several inclines in snow including one where participants had to crawl under barbed wire as well. The downhill sections also had some parts with snow. Some people took those really slow and cautious, while others ran/slid down the slope. The snow also made your view blindingly bright at times and increased the likelihood of sunburn. The final crawl under barbed wire was on a field of densely packed snow/mud.
It all made for some unique Spartan photos for participants. It looks pretty awesome to see competitors in shorts and sometimes even shirtless crawling through a snow field. But just because it was June, does not mean the snow wasn’t cold. Fingers and toes can quickly go numb crawling through the snow.
The 30 obstacles on the course challenged you in a variety of ways: strength, agility, balance, endurance, etc. It was interesting to see how different athlete types excelled at different types of obstacles.
For me, my favorites were any obstacles that required scaling a wall or climbing under something. I’m 5’6″ and about 149 lbs., so agility is one of my strengths. Of course, the 8 foot wall was a bit of a reach for me, but I was able to scale it on my first try. i also surprised myself when I was able to complete the obstacle that required you to navigate some walls horizontally while hanging on to some 2 x 4 blocks of wood.
The two more challenging obstacles for me were the Hercules Hoist and the combo Tarzan Swing/Pole Traverse. For both of those, I would love a chance to practice my technique to get it right. Some of the other strength obstacles (bucket brigade, log carry, Atlas stone carry), they were heavy, but very doable.
At the very end of the race, and in the view of many spectators, were the final obstacles. Two of them worried me. I was worried I would fail at the rope climb out of muddy water and have to do the 30 burpee penalty with everyone looking on. Luckily, I was able to scale the rope, ring the bell, and get back down with relative ease. The other obstacle that caused me some worry was the dunk wall. It was an easy obstacle, but it just plain sucked in its own way. Basically, they put a wall over a pool of muddy water. You had to dunk yourself in the chilly, dirty water and go under the wall. If this had been an early obstacle I would have hated it. But since it was just before the finish line, the chill and stink of the water was quickly eliminated.
Overall, I think the event was run really well. The course was well laid out and staffed with lots of volunteers. There seemed to be a decent amount of water stations, although there was a small stretch in the middle of the course that seemed to be lacking. I also really liked the free action photos they took and the t-shirt and medals they gave you at the end. i can’t compare it to other obstacle course races, but it seemed to go smoothly the whole day.
I can’t say enough about how much fun I had running the Spartan Beast in Breckenridge. It was a lot of fun and a great group of people. If you are thinking about giving one a try, I say go for it!
For more photos, check out my Google Photos Album: Spartan Race – Breckenridge Beast 2015