History Channel’s – The Selection: Evolution 7 Recap

Evolution 7: Integrity and Humility

With only 2 episodes left, there are 5 remaining candidates: #2, #11, #12, #17 and #19. They start off the episode with the candidates doing more PT, and then, we are transitioned into seeing the candidates receiving medical attention for various issues. Candidate #2 has knees that have been worn raw. Candidate #19 has a blood blister (and we also learn that while he has a size 10.5 foot, he is wearing size 8 boots. WTF?), and we get to see #11’s medical issue: butt blisters. I am sure there are jokes and comments to be made on this issue, and I will leave that up to the audience.

At the same time that medical is going on, the instructors are reviewing the candidates. This is one of my favorite parts of the episode. They feel that #2 has transformed himself. They feel that #19 is not excitable. They wonder if there is something eating at #12, but they also comment on the passion of #11 and #12. They also comment that, despite his age, #11 is being carried through by his passion.

Candidate #17 is taken for an interrogation and when asked, “Why are you here,” he replies with the same answer he has given in the past and this irks the instructors. He opens up and reveals that he believes he is the weakest link on the team. He also states that he has thought about becoming a SEAL and felt that this was a good experience to prepare him for that path if he so chooses. He also mentioned that he was bullied growing up because of his small stature. The instructors tell him that he needs to step up if he is going to make it to the end.

We finally come to the episode’s evolution: INTEGRITY. Basically, the candidates are going to run a 2.1-mile course with 6 PT stations. At each station, they are to do 50 reps of a predetermined exercise.

  1. Squats with ammo cans
  2. Shoulder presses with ammo cans
  3. Push-ups
  4. Burpees
  5. Jumping Jacks
  6. Return the ammo cans to the pits and then run to the top of Flag hill and back.

What they aren’t aware of is that they will be filmed at each station and that the instructors are looking for integrity violations – candidates who says they did all the required exercises but really did not. It is during this segment that instructor Ray Care says something that resonates with may of us who do OCR’s, GORUCK‘s, marathon’s etc.: “People want to get dropped off at the top of the hill and look down.” We have all heard of how others want things handed to them without working for it, but instructor Care said it best. Plain and simple, if you want to make it to the top, you are going to have to climb it. Good words to live by.

The candidates seem to finish the evolution with no issues and are seen relaxing for a while before they are back in the classroom. It is here that # 17 is asked to stand and read from the board: what is the meaning of integrity? The class is asked why it thinks the instructor has asked #17 to read the meaning of integrity aloud. Yes, it appears that someone has broken the integrity rule. Someone did not do the required 50 burpees at station #4.

When asked who might not have done all the burpees, at first no one replies, but then, #17 stands up and states that he may not have completed all 50. He stated that he was overheated and may have missed a couple. This does not set well with the Instructor who states that #11 was overheated as well and did all 50 of his burpees. He gave kudos to #11 for doing it all despite his age and the heat.

As they finish up in the classroom, you can see that #17 is upset at himself for his infraction. The team is very supportive of him and #11 can be heard saying, “Everything is a learning experience.”

Candidate #17 later has a one on one with Instructor Care who asks, “Why did you not complete the 2 burpees?” He really could not provide a good answer. He is disappointed in himself and feels that he should quit. The instructor tells him not to quit (I was a bit surprised, but then thinking back, again we learn from out mistakes. He admitted he made a mistake and was willing to accept his punishment), but he is told that he owes the instructor 50 burpees and that he will have to pay his debt later. The instructor believes he has integrity and #17 is seen leaving to go apologize to his teammates for his failure. Like a good strong team, they are very supportive of #17 and forgive him.

The instructor then calls out #17 to “pay back” his 50 burpees, and we see the whole team come out to do burpees as a team. This is what teamwork is all about and what the instructors strive to instill in the candidates. You win as a team and you lose as a team. When all is said and done, the instructor and #17 are all squared.

In reflecting back on this episode, there seemed to be a lot of “down time” for the candidates. Was it time for reflection on their part or part of some mental game being played on the part of the instructors?  Making the candidates wonder when the other shoe drops? As the evolution ends, we see instructors interviewing the candidates; #2 is emotionally weak and thinking of quitting; #11, when asked about his role in the group, states that he thinks he is a leader  and is able to share his life experiences with the team; #12 still feels that he has to prove himself to his dad who has never told him how proud he is of him; and we close with #19 when asked what one thing he has learned from his experience so far he replies, “Humility.”

Next week’s episode appears to be the culmination of everything the candidates have been taught and experienced during the past 7 episodes. In the previews, we see what appears to be the return of the box, and based on the comments made by the instructors in the preview, does anyone make it through? Looking forward to seeing the final episode.

Read recaps of previous episodes here:

Watch the episodes here.
All photos courtesy of A&E Television Networks  ©2016 A&E Televisions Networks

Are you fit for the F.I.T. Challenge?

A short OCR course, based in New England. This OCR brainchild of Robb McCoy, brings its racers a non stop experience. With three words defining it, fortitude, integrity, toughness, F.I.T. Challenge tests physical capabilities on a multitude of levels. So are you fit enough for the F.I.T. Challenge? According to McCoy “Everyone is fit for the F.I.T. challenge.” His question is to what degree is your challenge? Covering distances and skill levels from multi lap survivor to mandatory obstacle completion, open waves and even coming out for a fun time as a team. “…there are so many challenges with in the one event you cant go wrong.”  Still unsure? Here’s a quick peak behind the curtain.

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The Fall Fit Challenge VII was located in Cumberland, Rhode Island, a 3+ mile course stacked with 40 obstacles and a solid 1,100 feet of elevation gain. Needless to say, this is not your average 5K in the woods. Taking off, racers immediately hit their first climb. A direct shot up the mountain. What goes up, must come down, right? Lucky for us it goes back up too. After making the first descent we hit a back to back climbs over walls, vertical cargo nets, over-under-through combo walls, before the first of two carries, the log carry. A quick, but steep loop followed by hitting to more jumps and a floating inverted wall, before our next climb. Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-ChallengeAre-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

This climb wasn’t as rough, but the obstacles that followed were stacked. Descent into a hoist, pulley curl, Double Ups, and a, choose at your own risk, Wreck-bag carry. If you were questioning your fatigue now F.I.T. presented you with the first Destroyer before going back into the trails. Where we faced a cargo net style monkey bar, back to back peg board and rope climb. Hitting an incline, army style crawl then a final steep rolling hill and climb.

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Just when you think your out of the woods and in the clear, F.I.T. Challenge makes sure to get in some of its toughest obstacles. Over-Under Rig, walls, The Destroyer 2.0, 3-optioned Rig, Atlas Balls, and a slip wall, with a few walls and crawls sprinkled in between, before you were able to cross a finish line you know you earned.

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So, are you fit for the F.I.T. Challenge?

Yes, your physical capabilities will be tested in many areas, pure brute strength, cardio endurance, lifting and carrying, along with speed and agility, if your racing it, but being super human is not a necessity. F.I.T. Challenge opens itself to catering to many different athletes, whether interested in an Elite, open, or Multi-lap Survivor option.

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If your looking to have a challenging, but fun race, check out the open wave option. With ability to take your time and learn the obstacles, you’ll be able to build your confidence. Joe Crupi, founder of Team Panda Fit Camp SGX, says going out as a team is one of his favorite ways to take on a course “…It makes for an outstanding and fun experience, helping each other over walls, coaching each other through challenging obstacles like the rigs, and motivating each other to try our best and discovering abilities you never new you were capable of”.

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“Signing up for the elite heat in F.I.T. challenge is definitely intimidating” – Sarah Kelly

Ready to fight for your band and take on the Elite course? If 3 plus miles of quick elevation climbs and 40 obstacles wasn’t tough enough, F.I.T. Challenge has a mandatory obstacle completion for its Elite wave. Upside is you get to give that Multi-Rig another shot if need be. Female Elite, Sarah Kelly’s advice is to be confident. “It’s a small and stacked group…but it’s a great way to see what your made of and how hard you can push yourself, since it’s such a brutal course.”

Are-you-fit-for-the-F.I.T.-Challenge

Now if Open and Elite waves don’t quite feed your appetite, F.I.T. Challenge offers you the Multi-lap Survivor wave. Giving you a solid 5 hours to get in as many laps as possible, with a mandatory last lap start before the final noon wave takes off. Get three or more laps in and earn yourself a handmade block to show off your toughness. Taking on a multi lap course, competitively, takes a bit more grit and mental preparedness then the others. As competitive multi-lapper and elite racer Antoni Favata would say its “an entirely different animal.” Aside from training, he stresses the necessity of having fun in order to keep a good and competitive mental state on the course. His advice is to “…get familiar with pacing. Train time on feet!” and to toss out the “cookie-cut 60 minute workout window”.

Whether Open wave, Elite racing, or Multi-lap Surviving, or having fun, the best way to see if your fit for the F.I.T. Challenge is to cross the start line.

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Spartan Race World Championships: Elite/Pro Tips for the Mental Obstacles

Spartan Race World Championships - Start Line

When one chooses to compete in a Spartan Race, one never knows, 100%, what to expect.  Having designers, directors, and build crews acting as evil scientists in a lab, concocting what they feel would not just be a physically challenging course, but one that is filled with mental tests in which the winner and the quitter battle and tuning out the noise is a necessity. The 2016 Spartan Race World Championships delivered just such a course – one that required both physical and mental preparation and stamina.

So how does one mentally prepare to reach the finish? Here are a few tips from elite and pro racers on how they overcame the common mental obstacles faced before crossing the finish line.

Mental Obstacle #1: Extreme Temperatures

Spartan Race World Championships - Cold Water

The 2016 Spartan World Championships were held in Tahoe so athletes had somewhat of a preconceived notion of what to expect, or heard the horror stories of temperature from the previous year.

It’s northern California in October and the chance of cold weather is high. Not to mention swimming obstacles would be a guarantee. This didn’t stop athletes from across the world  making the pilgrimage to compete. How you might ask? Well aside from preparing physically and knowing how to work temps to your advantage, Male Elite Competitor, Kevin Seaman reminds himself that “… you didn’t make it there by accident. You’ve proven you’re strong enough to handle it.”

Mental Obstacle #2: Seemingly Endless Elevation Gain

Spartan Race World Championships - Elevation Gain

As the start line corral filled up, nerves and excitement set in. Athletes soared through the festival area, to the first set of walls and rolling mud before the first, of two, ascents up the mountain. Although, this first lap was obstacle light, the continuous uphill, paired with the mountain winds and dropping temperatures, make for a sure fire set up for becoming weary. Female Elite racer Alex Sawicki says the best route is to keep it positive. Don’t let any self-pity in. Especially when fighting injuries, she refuses to waste energy on negative thinking.

“Move with purpose, move forward.” -Alex Sawicki

Mental Obstacle #3: Facing New Obstacles

Spartan Race World Championships - New Obstacles (Thigh Master)

Upon reaching the bottom of the first climb, racers hit the first of quite a few new Spartan obstacles. First was The Thigh-Master. A fun addition, in my opinion, involving a solid amount of thigh strength rather than anything else. Other new creations unveiled were – Olympus (a slanted wall fitted with rock climbing holds, chains, and cut outs, testing your grip strength), the Spartan Ladder, and the new multi-rig style, filled with old favorite rings and adding in rope hangs to the finishing bell. Along with the Apehanger, making its first appearance at the Blue Mountain Championship, fitted with a rope climb to angled hanging monkey bars over 4-ft of water.

Spartan Race World Championships - New Obstacles (Apehanger)

How does one racing to the finish not get held up by so many new twists? Well, Spartan Pro Kevin Donoghue doesn’t waste a second  saying that speed is the best approach, “Quickly assess, dissect, and execute.”

Mental Obstacle #4: Added Sanded Bags and Extended Bucket Brigades

We all can agree that the carry obstacles can be some of the most mentally torturous. So when told that the Spartan World Championship Beast was going to have a double Sand Bag carry and half mile Bucket Brigade jaws dropped and eyes rolled. All the grip training and back strengthening efforts are great reminders to get you through. In addition, Pro racer and 2nd Place Elite Female Championship Finisher, Lindsay Webster’s advice might just make you dig a bit deeper than you thought you could and keep pushing.

The thing about obstacle racing that really and truly sets it apart from any other sport is the amount of mental grit it requires. You just have to set aside thoughts of your aching muscles and screaming lungs and focus on forward progress. I came to Tahoe to race a World Championship, and even though my body was cramping and exhausted, I did my darnedest not to let it stop me. – Lindsay Webster

Spartan Race World Championships - Log Carry

Throughout all the courses and especially one as intense as the Spartan World Championship course, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you ARE capable. Get out and race, and as Spartan Race says “You’ll know at the Finish Line.”

Spartan Race World Championships - Medal


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Green Beret Challenge: Behind Enemy Lines

While many OCR competitors, endurance enthusiasts, and ruckers spent the past weekend racing or competing in the more commonly known events of our community, a small group took to the mountains in North Carolina for something different. The Green Beret Challenge endurance event Behind Enemy Lines Class 001 took place just outside of Bakersville, NC for 19 brave individuals.

Green Beret formation

The Green Beret Challenge has developed a reputation over the past few years for owner Mark Ballas’ courses that test competitors with a format typically focused more on push/pull/carry than the standard run/climb/crawl setup. 2016 has been a big year for the Green Beret Challenge brand, as they recently introduced a shorter, faster version of their race series more appealing to the masses (the GBC Operator Course vs Commando Course) and as of this past weekend revealed Behind Enemy Lines.

Behind Enemy Lines: Clandestine Operations Class 001 began Friday evening, September 16th. The event was organized as a simulation of the Army Ranger experience broken down into three phases: Phase One provided a taste of Special Forces Assessment & Selection, starting with a physical fitness assessment. Participants fell into a military formation and lined up in groups of four took turns with the standard 2 minutes of push-ups, followed by 2 minutes of sit ups. Following the calisthenics, candidates had five minutes to warm up for a non-standard run assessment. Being on top of a mountain range, the typical 2-mile assessment wasn’t particularly feasible so a winding trail along gravel roads and wooded ridges was our substitute. Upon completion of the run portion, candidates were given a short break in order to consume some calories, hydrate, and change from workout clothes to pants and boots; we were to be in for a long night. We loaded up our rucks with 40 lb sandbags and whatever nutrition and clothing we wanted, and headed out on our long ruck with only a guess of what to expect. Our first movement had us winding down old service roads and off onto some single track trails until we got to our first task, building a bunker. We were provided shovels, miniature pick axes, full axes, and empty sandbags with a diagram to follow. 24 bags needed to be filled, a hole had to be dug 3 feet deep, and branches needed to be cut in order to cover the top, and we had one hour to successfully complete the task. After a couple of adjustments and with two minutes to spare, objective accomplished. We picked up all tools and materials from the task and kept moving through the dark.

Green Beret BEL ruck prep

Our next task was a site very familiar to anyone who has participated in a Green Beret Challenge. Three casualty sleds loaded with three sandbags each, two carry litters with two sandbags each, a few loaded wooden ammo boxes, and a couple of tires. With one member of the class being designated team leader for each task (who could only guide the team and not help with the load), that left 18 free sets of hands to move everything. Some quick planning for how to move everything was put together before we all shoved off. After many breaks, switches, and struggles we lined up our bundles of fun and were assigned a new task: puzzles. Under the light of headlamps, we had four crossword puzzles and two separate bagillion-piece jigsaw puzzles (mixed together in one box, mind you) and an hour to finish them. After a frantic rush then deep focus on a cold and windy ridge, there was nothing to be done; we experienced our first taste of failure. We continued for another stretch with all of the weight until being allowed to drop it before hiking down a very steep and slippery stretch, leading to what actually would be one of our final (and most trying) tasks of Phase One. The best name I heard it referred to throughout the weekend was “the caterpillar yokes”. Nine wooden landscaping posts were tied together with a sandbag at each end of the post, with two team members to a post. What made it trickiest was coordinating all of the rows to get their “yokes” lifted at the same time before any row began moving. Add in the fact that those landscaping posts couldn’t decide if they wanted to be rounded or flat (depending on the side that found itself attempting to sever the spine at the base of our necks). Around 4 am we finally arrived back to the base camp, with many nearing their breaking point. Backs hurt, ribs were sore, and even an ankle or two had been rolled. “Recover, refuel, and be in fitness clothes with boots formed up by 0600” were our orders.

Green Beret BEL Ruck

Many chose to grab a quick nap; myself and a few others decided not to fall for the trap and snacked around the campfire, staying warm and awake. When the time came, we were all formed up and waited for further instruction. Names were called out, slowly. Eventually, there was a group of 10 formed off to the side from the remaining 9; these would be the separate teams for the remainder of the event. We each received dog tags verifying that we had passed the “Selection” stage, and prepared for Phase Two – Training. In our separate teams, we proceeded to go through short training sessions covering various elements to include team movements in the field, basic first aid lessons, knot tying, and room clearing strategies. Throughout all aspects of training, end even during the initial assessment stage, we were given the opportunity to really think about scenarios and present solutions. As owner Mark Ballas stated, “Developing and testing the mind, body and spirit are the core of it all.” We were constantly prompted about principles that are important in leadership and teamwork, whether or not in a combat/military setting. The final step of the training phase included how Ranger units do their extensive planning (which they admit other units sometimes make fun of, being so in-depth). What I really appreciated about this endurance event is that it wasn’t designed just to push people past their breaking points like most of the multi-hour or day events; rather it made sure to bend all participants, but then focus on teaching them applicable skills for life.

Around noon on Saturday, we took another break to refuel and dress to prepare for Phase Three, which was the performance segment of our weekend. It was time to put all that we had learned and apply it to a simulated scenario that a Ranger team would encounter. We received an Op Order briefing by Mark, providing us with the mission objective and all details available at the time to begin preparations. Then the two teams broke off for their specific tasks in the mission and went through mission prep, planning, and rehearsal.

“It’s about developing organic leadership through unique team building events,” as Mark put it.

Eventually, it was time to follow the plan and schedule we agreed upon. The first team headed out for their part of the mission, led by Cadre Matt and John. Shortly after my team hit the trail, led by Mark and Cadre Dino.

Green Beret BEL Planning

The first team’s mission involved reconnaissance and eventually a room-clearing operation of a secluded cabin in the woods, and for a nice add-on encountered a civilian U.S. “casualty” requiring first aid and evacuation. My team had a mission to act based upon the intel from the recon and perform a roadside ambush to capture/kill a cartel terrorist with WMD components. Upon securing the target, we assessed the components and how to evacuate with said payload, then met up with the other team for a hike out of “hostile territory.” As Mark and the Cadre reiterated, “the scenarios are such that one’s leadership traits are exposed and refined.”

Green Beret Challenge Flag with moon

Upon arrival back within site of base camp, as the sun was beginning to set over the western mountaintops, we were finally told to set down everything. “Mission accomplished” were such sweet words to hear! We were all invited to come to the beautiful cabin at one of the highest points, where the property owners were gracious enough to host our smelly, dirty, tired bodies as we celebrated with a good old fashioned burger burn and some delicious Bird Dog Whiskey, who sponsored the after party.  Many only had the energy to eat, have a few drinks, then head straight to their tents due to the 24+ hours with almost no sleep; a few others took advantage of the time to share a few laughs with Mark and the Cadre.
This event not only tested participants mentally, physically, and spiritually; it allowed all parties involved to truly pay tribute to the Rangers and other Special Forces members whom have given their life fighting for our country. “This is only the beginning” Mark was sure to point out, as he is at this moment preparing for their next event in the Behind Enemy Lines series. Behind Enemy Lines: Survival & Evasion takes place in Texas the first weekend of December. If you want to go through a little pain and suffering, but walk away with some uncommon skills, I recommend checking out the event. Classes do have a small cap, so don’t delay!

Spartan Race – Killington Ultra Beast 2016: No Small Undertaking

The 2016 Killington Ultra Beast was no small undertaking. Two laps of one of the toughest Spartan Races on the map is not a feat to be taken lightly. One of the most challenging aspects of the Ultra Beast for me was knowing on the first lap that I would have to complete everything in front of me not only this time, but another. And when I dared set foot back out on that monstrous course for lap two, I already knew every last detail of what waited ahead.

I had never raced at Killington before, let alone attempt the Ultra Beast, but I figured why not. I know I could do the beast. Let’s push it a bit here.

My drop bin was prepped long before we arrived at the venue emblazoned with the words “You ran FIFTY MILES… You got this.” I was surrounded by family and friends, words of encouragement and good food leading up to the race. I was ready. Nothing much was different from any other race.

Saturday morning, my friends picked me up and drove me to the venue. They dropped off my bin so I could go directly to the start, being the only one in the 6 am heat. Standing around waiting, I got to talk to many friends I wasn’t expecting to see at the start, but I felt like I was in a daze. After a 15 minute delay and then 10 minutes of explaining the rules and singing the national anthem, we were finally off by about 6:25. Consequently, the cutoff times were all pushed back 30 minutes.

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From the very beginning, racers got spread out based on power hiking ability. The course started with a 1,000 ft ascent and from just those beginning miles, I was already thinking about lap number two – how much I didn’t want to do this twice. I knew it was far too early to think like this and I redirected my thoughts to each step, one by one.

It didn’t take long before I realized I was somewhere near the front of the pack. I could count the women in front of me: three. I wasn’t moving like I normally do through the obstacles though. I felt extremely sluggish through the first barbed wire crawl and practically powerless on the vertical cargo net. Something wasn’t right, but I knew I had to get it done; so I opted to keep my eyes on the women who kept passing me on the obstacles. I made sure I passed them back on the runnable portions of the course as well as the climbs seeing as that’s my strength.

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When we neared the festival grounds, my pace improved greatly, that is until I stepped into the lake. For the remainder of the swim, I was gasping for air because the water was so frigid. I climbed the ladder and made it to the top but chose not to go across the Tarzan Swing since one of the ropes was not knotted and I knew I would slip. I climbed down, swam the rest of the way across and completed my 30 burpees. Back in the lake, rocks and sand in my shoes, and then finally back on solid ground for some more power hiking – rocks and sand still in my shoes because I wasn’t taking them off.

Almost more treacherous than the ascents were the knee shattering and ankle rolling descents. If we weren’t hiking through dense woods on extremely technical “trails” then we were on the ski slopes. Usually, I’d be cheering myself on at this point because downhill running is another strength of mine and typically where I would make up a lot of time, but not on this course. A few steps into each descent and I could feel the pressure building up in my knees. I decided to go swiftly, but not too daringly, at a jog.

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I missed the spear throw… SHOCKING. And then a few obstacles later, I made it to the final and easiest object on the multi-rig, the pipe, but just could not shift my left hand forward. I fell. 60 burpees right there at the end before I could get to my sweet salvation: potato chips, sour patch kids, and chocolate covered espresso beans. But why was I so out of it?

After the multi-rig, just before the slip wall (one of the final 3 obstacles), was an exit off to the left which brought us to the transition area. As I entered the transition area, there was a woman holding white bibs. She proceeded to hand me one and said congratulations, you’re in seventh. That was probably the first smile I cracked in several hours. I was extremely proud to be amongst the top 20 females, but I also knew how exhausted I felt. I long thought about stopping here, but it wasn’t what I set out to do. I needed to get back out there for another lap.

After 5 minutes of searching for my bin, which I just couldn’t seem to locate, others began to help and ultimately found it for me. I was greeted by my water, Gatorade, Clif Bars and Bloks, gummy bears and other treats as mentioned earlier. I also had a med kit, towel and extra socks, none of which I used. Very unlike me, I couldn’t be bothered to take my shoes off. A racer nearby took a massive container out of his bin and asked if anyone wanted a peanut butter & jelly. He must’ve had ten sandwiches! So yes, I ate one. I refilled my hydration bladder and packed my race vest with all of my new morale-boosting snacks as well as some solid calorie foods and I was off.

We set out on a short trail run beside the start chute which quickly reconnected to the course. It was there that it was apparent who had just begun the course and who was on lap two. The Ultra Beast participants jogged or even walked as Beast participants sprinted on by. But for the first time this race, I was running with people I knew. And as we approached that first climb once more, we got down on our hands and knees, crawling forward. Before long, I was by myself again and moving slower than everyone around me.

All of the obstacles were textbook Spartan with no real surprises. The course started off with some of the easier obstacles and proceeded to diminish your spirits and crush your soul as you went along. But by lap two, nothing was easy. The Bucket Brigade must’ve taken me 20 minutes the second time around. And at the Tarzan Swing, I barely made it up the ladder at which point my grip was fried. I reached out and grabbed the first rope and then let myself drop into the water. “Well, my headlamp’s gotta be dead now…” And it was.

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The burpee area was a mud pit by now and I was thankful we were getting back in the water afterwards. Upon exit of the lake, I took out my Ziploc baggie filled with sour patch kids and espresso beans, drained the lake water out, and ate the espresso beans. It only took 6 miles at a snail’s pace to realize that this would give me the boost I needed. The power hiking expert me was back.

As I climbed up through Norm’s trails in the woods once more, I was soon stuck in a very slow-moving line. I used every opportunity to climb rocks and tree roots just to pass people. Many cheered me on saying, “You go, Ultra Beast,” but I replied “More like ultra idiot.” Although I was completing the obstacles with the most ease I had all day and really began to boost my pace as I watched the clock tick down to 6:30, I was only at the plate drag. Regardless, I sprinted down the mountain to the sandbag carry, got it done as quickly as possible, and sprinted toward the cutoff. I heard a stranger say good for you for finishing strong just before I reached the rope climb… 15 minutes too late. I topped it off with a smile and a heel click, just what I said I’d do when I finished, but it wasn’t long before my timing chip was cut off and I could no longer hold back the tears.

We had 15 hours to complete the course twice. We had to be out of the transition area by 2 pm, giving us exactly 7.5 hours per lap. I completed my first lap in 6.5 hours and despite the extra hour, I still didn’t make it. Approximately 28 miles into the 32 mile Ultra Beast and all that remained from that point was the Death March with a number of obstacles back down at the base right before the finish. The Race Directors knew that racers wouldn’t make it to the finish by 9:30 pm if they didn’t get through the rope climb with at least three hours left to complete the final 4 miles. I knew if I could catch my friend and my mom doing the Beast I would make the cutoff, but I never caught up to them.

As I returned to my drop bin, I received consoling words from friends as well as strangers, none of which seemed to help. Still now, I’m not quite sure how to explain exactly what it is I’m feeling, but one thing I know for sure is that I earned my DNF.

I watched headlamps line the mountain slopes as racers completed the final ascent and descent while I waited by the fire. Everything about it was remarkable: from the simple beauty of the lights to the incredible challenge Spartan Race put in front of us on such a magnificent mountain. Although what stands out most is the physical and mental resolve of the competitors who took on, and more so those who were able to finish, the 2016 Killington Ultra Beast: no small undertaking.

killington-ultra-beast-2016-drop-bin

Photo Credit:Kevin Donoghue, Bill Durando, Spartan Race, Justina Rosado


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How to Prepare for an Endurance Event

I’m not going to claim to be an expert, however I have participated in plenty of endurance events such as multiple BFX events, Spartan Hurricane Heat, Spartan Agoge Class 002, multiple road races and an ultramarathon. If you are interested in testing the waters or pushing your mind and body to the limits, you want to be as prepared as you possibly can for anything that might happen. Here are a few of my basic tips on how to prepare for an endurance event:

  1. Always follow the gear list. Then double check it. It may sound stupid, and you may think “I don’t need that item,” but you will. For instance, on my most recent Spartan Race HH12HR event, some of my gear list required 3 balls any size, a condom, a sharpie, a bucket with no handle, a headlamp, 1 gallon of water and a bag/ruck sack with 20lbs for females and 30lbs for males. If you don’t have everything you need, you may not finish. You have no idea what the item will be used for. You may or may not use all the required items during the event, but at least you will be prepared. Also always have duct tape, even if it’s not on the list. You can use duct tape to strap on all kinds of things to your bag or body to keep your hands free. Trust me, duct tape is a life saver.
    HH12 gear list
  2. Create a mantra. Ok, I know this sounds corny, but when you are exhausted and think you can’t continue another step it comes in handy. Being mentally strong is a big part of the battle during endurance events. You will be physically exhausted, but more times than not, it’s not the physical exhaustion that causes people to quit or DNF. It is the negativity that creeps into your mind that will make you feel like you can’t continue another step. Just know that whatever pain you are in, it’s only temporary and you can do it. I personally keep it simple. I just keep repeating to myself, “Don’t stop. Don’t quit. Just keep moving.”
  3. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. If I have an event on Saturday, I start hydrating on Monday or Wednesday at the latest. Cut back on caffeine, because it is a diuretic. My 7 hour drive to Nashville from South Carolina took 9 hours, because I stopped every hour on the hour to pee. Peeing every 10 seconds like a 9 month pregnant chick sucks on a long drive, but, if I hadn’t been hydrated I may have not finished. That wasn’t fun, but I was adequately hydrated for my event the next day. Not drinking enough fluid before a race, can lead to fatigue and muscle cramps. I personally experienced this a few weeks ago at the Asheville Spartan Super, I was so dehydrated that my run turned into a crawl. Fatigue from dehydration is no joke. For reference, if your urine is clear or pale you are well hydrated for race day. For you beer lovers this means, if your urine looks like a pale ale or IPA, you need to drink more water.

    IMG_0893 (1) My 7th pee stop on a 7 hour drive :/

  4. Switch up your training. I’m guilty of gravitating towards the weight section of the gym way too much. I’m not claiming to be a great endurance athlete, but I do know plenty of them. They alternate weights, with trail/hill running, HIIT (high intensity interval training), plyometrics and more. They don’t focus on one type of training, because in endurance events you can be doing anything from heavy carries up hills, sprints to regular PT (i.e. burpees, bear crawls and squats). Endurance athletes must be well rounded. And if it’s a Spartan endurance event, absolutely be prepared to go for long distances under heavy loads.
  5. Eat healthy for you. Now, I’m not going to say carbs are bad or good, or that you should only do a certain type of diet. We all can’t be amazing #wafflehouseelite athletes. Different diets work for different people, but you should try to eat foods in moderation. A well balanced diet that includes protein and carbohydrates to replace the glucose that is burned during  activity is important. Try to eat more natural foods versus processed foods. You can’t out train a bad diet. So eating pizzas, cake, and cheeseburgers aren’t going to make you feel that  amazing while running 10 miles. Common sense people.

    mind over matter

  6. Train your brain. This may go hand in hand with mantras, but honestly endurance events are just as mentally challenging as they are physical. Train your mind to avoid the negative. When you start to think negative thoughts like, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I’m too tired to go on” you need to change your thoughts. Focus on one thing at a time. Focus on that one task or obstacle, not how much more you have to do because it will overwhelm you. Think about how much you have already completed versus how much time you have left. Why quit when you have finished 10 out of 12 hours? 2 hours is nothing compared to all the hard things you already put yourself through! When times are really rough, vision yourself at the finish line getting your finishers medal or patch. Visualization is one of the best techniques that even Olympians have used to help them focus. Finally, just believe in yourself. If you had the guts to sign up for an endurance event in the first place, you must have had some faith in yourself that you could finish. So take that faith, work hard and make it happen.

Good luck and I hope to see you at a future endurance event! Next stop for me is the Spartan Agoge in China!!

HH12 Nashville