Spartan Beast Windsor, UK 2017

My Spartan journey began way back when (2014) when my brother persuaded me to run the Spartan Sprint in Calgary, Canada. Since then I have done another Sprint, a Super and now this. The Beast.

I’m excited and scared all at the same time.

First Spartan Experience

My Sprint experience in Calgary was interesting. I had trained to “run” sure, but I wasn’t prepared for the world of hurt that this 5K obstacle course race had in store for me. It took me so much longer than my brother (@theOCRGuy) that he finished the race and walked back along the course looking for me (embarrassing). After that, I vowed to never not train for a race again. It was also the day I experienced post-Spartan Five Guys Burger and Fries. Soon to become a new tradition, one that I took home with me to the UK.

Trifecta Hunt

My next Sprint in Wales, UK was better. Way better. I did it in half the time with a harder course. And as a bonus, I beat some of the lads running with me. Score. There’s something to be said about training well for a race;  you enjoy it far more not only because the world of pain is far less, but also the satisfaction of finishing without wanting to die is great. Post-race Five Guys burger and Fries was also amazing. Yay for recovery food.

The Super was next on the list. I took to this race alone. I was due to take part in another Sprint but it clashed with a friend’s Hen party so I deferred my entry and in a spur of the moment decision, decided to level up. It was a great decision. The race was well laid out and was really tough. That’s a great compliment for Spartan Races. I was exhausted by the end but was so happy to add to my own trifecta display. Sadly, no Five Guys after this race but Nandos would have to do. (Nandos is a chain of Portuguese Chicken restaurants).

I had to complete my trifecta (I know, I haven’t done it in a single season this year). It was a no-brainer. And after the Super, I am glad to be taking part in this race with three guys. Let’s be fair to me, I can handle the race alone, but the lonely trip to Windsor and then Five Guys Burger and Fries on my own after was not appealing. No doubt that this race I will be referred to as ‘one of the lads’. Game on.

The dreaded day came. I had already been assured by my brother that, “You’re going to die Nance, but you’ll be alright.” I was trying to hide the fact that I was actually terrified of what this Spartan Beast would entail. A couple of days earlier, Spartan published their race layout and the amount of Beast Green on the map was enough to realise that it was true and that I might actually die. The death waiver was signed and filed so, at least Spartan Inc. was covered.

Windsor Beast

This will be the 4th Spartan race I have taken part in and up until this point, I have always had nothing but good things to say. Having said that, I was a little disappointed with a few aspects of the day.

I’m not sure how much control Spartan had over this, but it was absolute chaos getting into Rapley Farm. A busy two-lane road already had a lane closure meaning that we were left sitting in traffic for a good 15 -20 minutes before we even got to park. Then there was a decent walk to registration, a little bit of a queue which all accumulated in us missing our 12 o’clock heat.

But, hey ho. We tagged along on the next heat. I knew this was going to challenge me, so I took the slow and steady approach. After waving the lads off I put my head down and began running.  

The obstacle count for this race was intense, so instead of boring you all with a description of each one and how it slowly destroyed my will to live, I’ll just talk about the ones that were mildly aggravating and the ones that I kind of liked (WHAT?).

Beastly Obstacles

Bottlenecks are my least favourite part of an obstacle course race. Sometimes it can’t be helped, but the first pipe crawl (which seems to be missing on the course map) caused lots of people to climb out of the muddy ditch in which it was situated and take the burpee forfeit. Not cool. I was in a queue for at least 15 minutes. Not the best way to start this Beast.

I loved any type of ‘a-wall’ obstacle and there were a few. I particularly enjoyed the climb the rope up one side and cargo net down the other side. Otherwise known as the ‘Slip Wall’. I saw strong men and women slip on this one. I instantly felt better about myself because I nailed it. Amongst these a-wall obstacles were ‘Stairway to Sparta’ and a good old ‘Cargo Net’. I mean, I was allowed to enjoy myself some of the time right?

Every time I reached one of the life draining 4′, 6′, and 8′ walls I was reminded that I hate walls. The first lot I could manage. The last two I decided to look as helpless as possible ’til someone noticed and asked if I needed help. It worked of course.

There were also plenty of ‘Pick this up, carry it round there and bring it back please’ obstacles. Tyre Carry, Log Carry, Sandbag Carry, Atlas Carry, Bucket Carry, Farmers Walk, and yet another Sandbag Carry. So many carries. My only negative opinion about these challenges was that they really weren’t that challenging. I figured that the sheer amount of obstacles they needed to cram in meant that we didn’t have to carry anything for all that long. Why am I complaining you ask? I’m not sure. I think I just felt like these obstacles were a bit of a break from the rest and I’m not sure how I felt about that.

Three barbed wire crawls meant that my forearms are significantly battered. I can see the bruises as I type and my colleagues at work are a bit concerned. They think I’m crazy and they are probably right.

Bender, I have a bone to pick with you. I hated you in the Super until I beat you. Then I loved you, then you hurt me. Taking a friction burn on my upper inner arm was a gift I could have done without. The pain was real. I beat you, but I’m sorry. Our friendship is over.

On a similar note, Rope Traverse – You are just as bad as Bender. I like the skin on the back of my ankles where it is because it serves a purpose. And after taking that away from me, you also dropped me and gave me burpees. Cheers.

Next up were Twister, The Multi Rig and the Rope climb. No, no, and Just no. I hate you all. Sensing a theme here? My arms were out of energy now and I failed all of them. My legs were getting heavy now, and the race was becoming a blur. Not because it wasn’t good, I was fatigued and probably high on a combo of Clif Shot Bloks and bananas.

The last 10 – 15 minutes of the race were packed with obstacles. What a way to lull you into a false sense of security! I could see the finish line, but was still not there. My personal favourite was the ‘Balance Walls’. I am so glad I practised hard in gymnastics on the balance beam. Come at me jelly legs. Olympus just earned me more burpees. A left calf cramp on 8′ wall number 1 made it interesting and the 8′ wall number 2 was scary at the top, but when I turned to jump down, I was greeted by cheers from the rest of my team (who had probably been waiting for hours). Fire jump, medal and done. 

The Windsor Spartan Beast certainly lived up to its name. Aside from a few hiccups in parking and getting into the race, I am so glad I did it.

I have come to realize that my motto for these races really has become, ‘You can tell a race is good when it makes you never want to do it again.’

Tough Mudder UK Southwest 2017

 Tough Mudder South West UK 2017 – Badminton Estate

Last year, I joined a number of my work colleagues in my first ever Tough Mudder. I have always been skeptical about this event. I had previously taken part in two Spartan races, Invncbl, and some other minor obstacle course races in my area. For some reason, Tough Mudder had never appealed to me. I think I felt like I didn’t want to be tortured for a distance of 10 miles for a headband. But in the end, I mostly decided to take part because it was an excuse to do something ridiculous with a bunch of my friends.

 

All it took was the Kiss of Mud and I was hooked.

 

On the day, it actually took our team an unexpectedly long time to get through that first Tough Mudder, but I really felt that we took ‘team effort’ to a whole new level. At every obstacle, we waited for all of our crew to join us before moving on. From the Arctic Enema to Everest, we helped each other tackle the next nightmare whilst covered in mud and freezing cold (cheers Britain).

 

For weeks after, pictures circulated the office and we laughed at how epically we failed at some of the obstacles. We reminisced about how I got dropped on my back, how my legs cramped endlessly and how my manager almost chickened out of ‘Electroshock Therapy.’ It wasn’t long until I found myself wanting to do the whole damn thing again.

I thought everyone had shared my insane love of this form of torture. I was wrong. When the time came, I sent the obligatory chirpy email around the office attempting to recruit members for my team. Much to my dismay, big fat “no way!” responses were all I got.

Crap. I had spent the year training for Spartans and my ultras, thinking that I would be ready for Tough Mudder when it came to it… well at least I would be ready for a team challenge.  I slowly realised that I was going to have to go it alone.

Tough Mudder relies heavily on teamwork. This was something I had made great use of in 2016. And now, I would be going it alone. I hated the idea but was determined that despite my obvious lack of a team, I would do the race.

So the day came, I woke up bright and early ready for some mud.

Getting signed up for parking was easy (dare I say expensive, £10) Editor’s note: roughly $13 USD. Registration on the day was pretty simple, just filled in a few forms and was on my way. I was given a standby wristband as I wasn’t on a specific wave. So I took my time as there were waves leaving every 15-30 mins. I got in line for standby but wasn’t too impressed with the wait. We were in line for a good hour and a half before being let in. People in the ‘pig pen’ consisted of latecomers, those who were running the race again (absolute nutters), and those who were running for magazines or websites. Still, it took too long.

Finally, we got into a wave and took part in the obligatory workout and pep talk and pledge recital.

Then we were off!

If there is one thing that I have learnt from this year’s Tough Mudder, it was that I absolutely LOVE this stuff.

The course eased you into a grueling 10 miles of blood sweat and tears. It started with a short jog to ‘Skidmarked’ which really got us into the spirit of ‘leave no man (or woman) behind’.

On to Bail Bonds, Kiss of Mud, and Pyramid Scheme. The lack of helping hands at Pyramid Scheme made it difficult to do it properly. Was a bit disappointed. On the Hero Walls is where I really showed some grit. I was devastated last year to be dropped by a team mate. I made it up one wall this time. Small victories.

Arctic Enema came just after mile 3. For which I was eternally grateful. Plenty of time to recover, rather than be freezing cold.

Agustus Gloop or Snot Rocket (Legionnaires) were new to 2017 and were a heck of a lot of fun. Next came Devil’s Beard. I didn’t really get this one last time and still don’t (not my favourite).

Blockness Monster was just as fantastic as before, despite the water being just a little too deep for most people to even get a grip on the floor to help push it over. We relied heavily on the tall mudders to get it to the tipping point.

The Liberator, Birth Canal, and Lumberjacked. All solid obstacles. I didn’t stick around, I just got it done and moved on.

The course was very well planned out. 2016’s layout left a lot of next-to-impossible obstacles. In comparison, last year’s course was poorly planned out leaving many obstacles too slippery to have a good go at.

Last year,  Funky Monkey saw even the fittest racers fall at the first rung. This year was far more fun and more manageable that even I, EVEN I, got halfway across before face planting the water and almost winding myself. All part of the fun, hey?

‘Mud Mile’ was one of the highlights of my previous Tough Mudder experience. I loved every second this year but wished it was longer. Definitely was not a mile long – last year was longer. The racers really lived up to the Tough Mudder pledge in this one though. It was hard not to stop and help out your fellow mudders. Everyone really just wanted everyone else to make it to the end. My faith in humanity was restored.   

‘Hold Your Wood’ saw me joining forces with a team I was waiting in line with. What I really liked about this race was that despite me completing the obstacle with another team, there was no obligation on either party to then stick together. A quick chat, get the job done, a round of “well-done mate and good luck” and off they ran.

So, that was 9 miles down. 1 mile to go. I was getting TIRED.

With just Hero Carry, Everest, and Electric Shock left, I was getting worried. Everest was my nemesis from last year. It was one of the few obstacles that I just could not do no matter how hard I tried.  The Hero carry came and went without too much trouble, and although I wasn’t looking forward to it, I knew I could do Electro Shock Therapy.

But Everest…. I didn’t want to stand in line for 20 minutes, freezing and covered in flies, to try countless times to then have to walk around, ashamed of myself. As I rounded the corner from the Hero Carry I could see it. Thank goodness there were no queues and I had well and truly dried off from the epic face plant at Funky Monkey. I was ready for this.

Took a decent run at it, reached two hands (yes), held on (YES), swung my leg up and some other tough mudder (an absolute legend) grabbed it and pulled me up. YES!!!! I was beyond ecstatic (cue the awkward fist pump to myself – but I didn’t care). I ran up the final straight toward the finish line grinning like a goon. Just one more obstacle to go.

I had a choice, as a legionnaire I could choose Kong or Electroshock Therapy, I knew at this point my arms were shot and if I failed the last obstacle I would be devastated so I took on Electroshock Therapy instead. As I ran through I thought, “Dammit, should have done Kong!” I regretted calling all my teammates wimps last year for avoiding Electroshock Therapy last year. This round nearly floored me. I started running and got a shock that propelled me into a hay bale (in the course I might add). Face full of mud I straightened up only to get a shock in the face. These pictures are going to be incredible. Only a couple more strides to go. Inches from the finish, I sucked it up and rubbed some dirt in it. Crossed the line and was presented with some well-deserved rewards.

This Tough Mudder was definitely 10 miles of blood (bloody elbow), sweat (so much sweat) and tears (promise, there was just some mud in my eye). Epic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Tough Mudder and Author