Spartan Beast 2017 – A Chilly Sufferfest in Texas

On the particularly cold October morning of Saturday, the 28th Spartan held both a Beast and Ultra Beast in Glen Rose, Texas.  The former home of the Spartan World Championships was familiar territory to the company and was utilized well.  In one of the coldest Texas OCR’s to date, competitors ran on tired legs, clawed with numb fingers, and struggled to catch their breath through miles of some of the most challenging terrain in Texas.

Open wave preparing to take off at the Dallas Beast

Venue

Mound at Rough Creek Lodge

The Rough Creek Lodge was an absolutely gorgeous venue.  It wasn’t named Rough Creek without reason.  Competitors were forced to scale giant mounds several times as well as cross the dreaded creeks and ponds that littered the ranch.  Cacti peppered the landscape.  Rocky terrain proved rough for many.  The wind cut competitors through to the bone, but still, they pressed on.  In spite of all the harshness and uncharacteristic incline, Rough Creek offered so much beauty. One of my most memorable moments was finally reaching the top of a gnarly mound to hear a fellow racer yell “Beautiful!”

As I turned towards him, I saw one of the most beautiful Texas sunrises I’ve ever laid eyes on.  Just for a moment, I forgot how cold I was.  I forgot how much further I had to run.  I remembered why I do what I do and was filled with a sense of warmth from the earth, and from those around me who shared that passion.  Spartan utilized this venue very well and on that, I have no complaints.

Beautiful church at Rough Creek Lodge

Obstacles (Climb, Crawl, Carry)

While the obstacles at the Dallas Beast certainly offered a good amount of challenge and suffering, there wasn’t much variety to be had.  For fourteen miles, aside from the rig and Twister, I spent a lot of my time wading through freezing water, climbing over or up something, or carrying something.  These are Spartan staples and they are indeed what I have come to expect from the company. I just feel a bit more variety would have made the experience better.  I appreciate Spartan’s go-to attitude for testing the grit of their competitors which the Beast certainly achieved exponentially.

There should be fewer A-frames and Cargo nets and more creativity.  The race only began to feel like less of a trudging slog and more of a fun, varied experience during the last third of the Beast. The quality and challenge of the obstacles were very good.  I just feel that with the price competitors pay for a Beast, they should get a bit more of a varied experience.

Suffering is the new Black

Just when competitors could begin to warm up, Spartan would throw them back into the water.  This presented a great challenge, but after about the sixth time it just got old. I can appreciate Spartan using the water to their advantage, but they could have at least cleared debris from some of it and added more variety for the amount paid for such an experience.

Female competitive Spartans dominating the hoist

I know Spartan seeks to push competitors to their limits.  They certainly did.  However, I can run through my pond and creeks over and over during freezing weather for free.  By no means did I not enjoy the race, nor am I saying the quality of Spartans obstacles isn’t superb.  I had a blast and I loved every second.  I just feel that suffering and variety can be had in the same event.  For this particular Spartan, the recap that sticks out in my mind is: cold, water, climbing lots of A-frames and hurdles, nets and hills, carries, some fun swinging stuff, and then it was over.  Oh, and there was a spear throw.

S

Spartan athlete Katie Windham contemplates what she just put herself through

Pre and Post Race

I can say that post-race this time around Spartan offered more contests and vendors for competitors and spectators as well as plenty of room.  However, other than viewing the finish and the Herc Hoist it was hard for spectators to see much else without walking a good distance.  I would expect this in such a long race. I just feel that with the money Spartan makes they could afford to offer more entertainment and activities for the competitors who paid a good amount of money to be there.

Everything felt more like Spartan trying to push merch on racers rather than bringing a sense of community.  Spartan’s tough exterior shouldn’t mask what it began as and I hope the vision of the business doesn’t become clouded by cash.  What Spartan does well is offer venues and experiences that are exclusive to their brand.  They do this very well.  However, they can’t continue to count on the venue and loyalist to carry the brand higher.  By no means was the festival bad. I just feel it had much more potential.

The Big Picture

Spartan Dallas was a success.  Spartan marked the course well.  There were plenty of water stations.  Volunteers did a great job even though registration took a bit longer than it should have. Given the freak cold snap, everything went smoothly for the event to my knowledge.  I enjoyed the crap out of myself and I felt greatly challenged and I thank Spartan for pushing me to some of my limits.  I can truthfully say I’ve never experienced anything like the Dallas Beast.

If it isn’t clear: I LIKED this race.   I just didn’t LOVE it.  I just feel that something wasn’t “whole” about the race.  It was as if I  was expecting an exquisite steak dinner, but I got a really tasty hamburger. The race wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t superb.  Spartan succeeded in bringing in TONS of competitors from all over the country.  Many Spartans smiled and swapped course stories.  There were tons of ultra beast competitors walking and running that I have mad respect for.  There were elites running and putting up insane times. I greatly enjoy and respect all of this.  I just hope that perhaps my next Spartan experience has just a tad more…. substance.

Check Out Other Recaps By This Author

Savage Race Dallas

Warrior Dash Gulf Coast 2017

Warrior Dash Gulf Coast 2017

Warriors are Willing to Work for It

Warrior Dash holds a special place in my heart despite its lack of EXTREME CHALLENGE.  The lack of difficulty is not a good reason to pass on the “beginners race.”  If Savage, Spartan, and Conquer the Gauntlet are super healthy foods like organically raised salmon, fresh farm raised avocados and naturally grown kale then Warrior Dash is a spinach/chicken wrap.  While it may not be on the “superior” level of the other races, it takes on an extremely important role in being the bridge for many into OCR or even into a healthy lifestyle.

Nathan Beisser

Competitor Nathan Beisser after having a great time during his run in the pro wave

 

Helping Start the Addiction

While I may not have encountered obstacles that pushed me to my brink, I did see and meet far more newcomers who were there to make an effort at slowly improving their unhealthy lifestyles than at any other race.  I also encountered more “running for a cause” teams than I have seen recently.  Warrior Dash is that beginning step that is necessary for many.  We can’t all dive head first.  Some of us have to begin with dipping one foot in at a time (not charging for parking or a bag check helps.)  This is where the average working Joe or Jill can see the potential to become greater than they thought possible.

Mud Pit

Venue

The venue of the Harrison County Fairgrounds in Gulfport, Mississippi proved to offer more challenge than most would have anticipated from a mostly flat area.  Though any sort of incline was very rarely found, running three miles in a soggy field that gave way with every step proved to take away some of the speed many competitors would have normally had on a more dry or packed terrain.  Muddy areas were easy to create and find, though they weren’t as large as I have seen before from Warrior Dash.  Even at the finish, each mud pit seemed less like a pit and more like a hole.  The trail was cleared and marked extremely well.  It would have been extremely hard to get lost.

Nets…. Nets Everywhere

The obstacles were a lot of the usual Warrior fare.  There was a lot of crawling under wire and a lot of net usage.  From normal cargo climbs to pipeline to the new (and really fun) Upslide Down I saw more cargo nets during this race than I could shake a stein at. Cargo nets serve as a great introduction to new racers as an obstacle that can burn you out.

Warrior Dash also earned positive points for its new obstacle Upslide Down.  It was a simple, fun obstacle though it could have been longer.  A flat slide lay under a cargo net.  Competitors laid on their backs and proceeded to utilize the cargo net to pull themselves down the slide.  I had a blast with this one and hope to see more like it in the future.

Pallet Jacked

Rather than placing Goliath at the end, Warrior Dash left their new obstacle “Pallet Jacked” front and center for spectators to check out.  I can rightfully say I underestimated this obstacle.   I assumed running across pallets suspended from straps wouldn’t be a problem.  However, the pallets swung and moved vertically depending on weight distribution.  I enjoyed the slight challenge of this obstacle as well as the creativity of Warrior Dash race designers in utilizing simple construction to create a very fun obstacle.  Much like a good hamburger, both of Warrior Dash’s new obstacles offered a lot of satisfaction for something so easily and affordably constructed.

Stein

Stein Holding Competition Trophy

Party Time

Warrior Dash knows what it does well and continues to improve on it year after year by offering more after race competitions and activities than any other race series.  The push-up contests let the macho bros show off for the crowd.  The tug-of-war competition gives families and teams the opportunity to work together and have a good time.  The stein holding competition allows warriors to prove their grip strength and grit and walk away with a free stein.  Even if warriors don’t want to join in on these competitions there are rigs to play on, beer pong setups to play around with, an awesome DJ, and lots of cornholing… I mean the game with the bean bags.

Tug of War

Tug of War Competition

Warrior Dash offers many of the best beer choices and food around as well as the ability to refill your stein for a moderately steep price. A plethora of patrons seemed to be having an amazing time at the festival.  I will be surprised if Warrior Dash doesn’t return to the coast next year given the huge turnout.  Seeing so many newcomers and groups of friends discovering the joys of OCR together filled my heart with glee. I left the festival with a huge smile on my face – not for my own accomplishments, but because I saw something I loved growing and I saw people spreading fitness, love, and no hate all in one place.  That’s one of the better achievements that any of us can achieve in this lifetime.

 

Mr. Incredible

Mr. Incredible receives his newly designed Warrior Dash Medal

Savage Race Dallas

Getting Savage Again

Every Savage is a unique experience.  On a hot day in October at the Beaumont Guest Ranch in Grandview, Savage Race Dallas began in great weather. Everyone was having a great time with a smile on their face.  Savage brings a unique feeling to the OCR community which allows serious athletes to compete and test one another, but to joke and share a hug at the same time.

Savage Race Venue

The Beaumont Ranch is a quintessential Texas venue.  I enjoyed the “Texas” feeling this venue offered more than anything.  Savage did a great job utilizing what little elevation and technical terrain they had access to on the ranch to provide some challenge.  Occasional hills, dried creek beds, and patches of brambly grass provided a technical challenge in a state not known for running elevation.

The scenery in the creek beds and the occasional tight spot through some trees was a sight to behold.  These routes gave me the feeling of fleeing outlaws in the old west. The winding path of the race course was well thought out and utilized every natural obstacle around.  Despite its lack of extreme elevation, the scenic Texas venue made up the difficulty with a good bit of heat.   The lack of any foliage to block the sun can take its toll on runners and hydration was a must.  Savage did a great job providing a total of three water stations spaced out quite well and before key obstacles.

Beaumont Ranch Savage Race Dallas 2017 venue

Beaumont Ranch Facebook

Volunteer Performance

Well-informed volunteers did a great job of being sure the pros were aware of all the rules.  They were also quick to call out any pro who did not follow them.  The volunteers also did a superb job of being sure to repeat safety concerns to competitors at each obstacle such as Davy Jones Locker and Sawtooth.

Obstacles

Designers placed “warm-up” obstacles over the first mile of the course quite well.  A good mix of crawls, under overs, and climbing walls lead you into the second mile which also upped the ante in the terrain.

In the extreme heat Shriveled Richard (Savage’s always super cold ice bath) was almost a welcome sight.  Shriveled Richard immediately led into Squeeze Play which wasn’t under water this time around.  After a bit more running and a water break, we moved through Back Scratcher, Big Cheese, and Big Ass Cargo before hitting the third mile-marker.

Savage did a superb job at keeping rhythm with the obstacles. There were about three obstacles per mile.  All of the difficult obstacles were not placed at the end of the course.  Savages “spectators are allowed anywhere on the course” stance can benefit in the course design in this way.

Savage

Savage Dallas Anthem

Summon your Inner Savage

Next came the upper-body grinder with three obstacles in succession: Tree Hugger, Wheel World, and Kiss My Walls.  These well thought out designs can annoy, challenge, and push competitors to the brink.  We train even harder to be ready for the challenge the next time around.

Each bit of terrain traversal leading to well-placed obstacles felt like a pleasant progression in difficulty to the finish line rather than a slog.  Nearing the end of the 6.5 miles, competitors encountered the new obstacle: Hang-a-rang.  This balance obstacle consisting of two logs suspended from chains is a welcome break up to the usual OCR fare.  Competitors were not allowed to touch the chains but only the tiny rope midway through each log.

Savage Hang-a-rang Savage Facebook

Savage Hang-a-rang

The adventure ended with Davy Jone’s Locker, the time consuming Mad Ladders, the infamous Twirly Bird, and Blazed.  Many competitors speed through until the end: shoulders worn out, forearms burning only to see Twirly Bird standing between them and the finish.  Nothing compares to seeing the smile on racers’ faces as they conquer a well-designed, just difficult enough obstacle like Twirly Bird.  They then jump over the flames with gusto to the cheers of a crowd able to comfortably witness it all from the festival area.

Final Thoughts

Other than one skimmed-over piece of stray barbed wire in a creek bed that could have caused an injury, Savage Race Dallas had no other detriments.  Designers utilized the venue to their utmost and created a hella good experience for racers and spectators alike.  Savage Race Dallas succeeded in cementing my love for the race series and showing me that they continue to improve as a company in providing both challenge and experience for the money.  I would also like to note that upgrading to Pro from Open on-site was quick and simple.  I have never had such an easy time with a company in modifying a registration.

Bling

I will say the new syndicate medals and state pins are a welcome adage to my collection.  These medals are high quality.  You don’t have to buy something extra to put them on OR pay extra money to get one.  Savage seems to have continued to grow and excel while still maintaining that care for their customers and appreciating what they do. Just like the words from amazingly talented Emcee Matty T, “Savages are a family.”  We are all there for one another, and that sense of family is something that is truly felt from the festival area to the course, to the finish.

 

Savage Race Syndicate Medal

My second Savage Race Syndicate Medal