Why My Wetsuit Played A Huge Role At World’s Toughest Mudder

There is something about a 24-hour race that you can never fully be prepared for. I could train harder, run faster, complete more pull-ups, and carry heavier things, but that doesn’t guarantee anything at World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM). Training is imperative to success, but there is a limit to what your physical prowess can provide. There are moments when you have to rely on our emotional and psychological strength to push you through, but even that gets tapped out at a certain point. Just like any race, there is utmost importance to prepare physically and psychologically, but unlike other races, gear plays an essential role in this 24-hour grind.

 

Coming into WTM for the fourth time, I knew what to expect, but there is only so much that prepares you for 24 hours of the unknown. Unlike previous years, I was competing in the Team Relay competition instead of the individual category. This would throw in a whole new dynamic to the once familiar race. Instead of slowly grinding my way throughout the race, I was tasked with racing hard for a short time and then stopping.

Here was the plan, start the race as a four-man team and then alternate two people every lap, minimizing pit time, until the wheels fell off. I was hoping that faster laps would allow me to wear a thinner wetsuit than previous years, knowing full well that things can go downhill quickly. I prepared my usual gauntlet of wetsuits and layers just in case. The plan was to start off in shorts and a t-shirt.
Once the sun went down, I switched into long compression gear. Then the Blegg Mitts and a windbreaker came on for a little more warmth. I knew that temperatures would quickly drop and more water obstacles at night meant that we would be cold and wet for the duration of the race. During previous years I wore full wetsuits ranging from 3/2mm to 5/3mm, often making it difficult to move. The relay calls for quicker laps, so I needed something that was warm enough, but less constricting than a full wetsuit. The plan was to use the Hyperflex VYRL 2.5mm Shorty Springsuit with a front chest zip and the 2.5mm Neosport Wetsuit Cap with an adjustable chinstrap from Wetsuit Wearhouse.

I wish I had more to tell you, but the truth is, this combination worked like a charm. Every lap, my teammate and I would start our lap in cold, wet gear. Putting those cold clothes on every lap added a whole new dimension of suck to WTM. Less than a mile into the lap, my body would warm up and it was off to the races. While the water temperature threw a wrench into many people’s plans, my layered outfit was perfect for staying warm on-course. When we finished a lap, we would quickly strip out of our wet clothes, throw on something warm, and try to recover for the next lap. While it would have been nice to have two wetsuits that I could alternate, this was a small wrinkle in the scheme of things. Plus, this is WORLD”S TOUGHEST MUDDER. It isn’t easy. While it was hard putting on wet clothes as we prepared for another lap, it didn’t rival the psychological ups and downs of the relay format.

All in all, it was a tough race. Starting and stopping throughout the night was a whole new challenge that I have never experienced. I was forced to stay loose while trying to recover in time for my next effort. My laps felt like an all-out sprint at times and it gave me a whole new experience at WTM. Our team managed to finish 2nd overall in the Team Relay category and I am so proud of my teammates and pit crew for helping us along the way. While Atlanta will bring a whole new challenge to WTM, I can only speculate that people will underestimate the conditions and forgo bringing a wetsuit. Don’t be one of those people. World’s Toughest Mudder is a race of unknowns, so always be prepared. I can’t wait to see all you crazies out there!

Dallas Spartan Race Weekend: How I Survived My First Ultra Beast

My first Spartan Ultra Beast was in Dallas on October 28, 2017. There was laughter, there were tears, there was a mess. Seriously though, there were some things I learned that I hope might help others during their first Ultra Beast.

Transition container – What it is, why you need one, and why you don’t have to use a 5 gallon bucket!

First, I didn’t even know what the transition container was all about or why you even needed one. I saw people post pictures of theirs but had no idea what was supposed to go in it or what it was used for. After doing some research and asking questions I found that it was pretty helpful to have a resupply of food, water, and clothing at the halfway point.

I was under the impression you had to use a 5-gallon bucket with a lid and decorate it up so you could find it in the sea of other buckets. I found, through some great groups on social media, that you can actually use pretty much anything. If it’s going to rain you certainly want to keep things dry and secure so the buckets are a great choice, but there are many options. Some of the containers I saw were plastic totes, backpacks, duffle bags, fabric grocery store bags, a shoe box, and even a plain old garbage bag. Since I was flying, I was hoping for an option that would be easy to carry on the plane and didn’t require bag check, as I didn’t want to take a chance of my luggage being lost.  I opted for a backpack so I could put it in my suitcase for traveling and fill it up at the hotel.

What went into the transition container:

-IMPORTANT: I lined the backpack with a trash compactor bag in case of rain

-Food for transition included baby food squeeze packets (chicken and rice, sweet potato, and banana). Someone listed this on a site and it was great. Quick, easy, and didn’t weigh me down.

-Food to resupply my pack for the second half of the race included homemade energy balls (date-based with nuts, chia, coconut, etc.) and honey stinger gels

-Food for after the race was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to get me by until I could drive to get dinner

-2 Liters of Water to refill my bladder (quicker to pour it in than switching out for a new one)
-Electrolytes
-Towel (to clean feet at transition)
-Shoes and socks
-Extra top and pants
-Garbage bag for dirty clothes
-Gloves
-Sunblock
-Advil
-Body Glide
-Band-aids

What I actually used from the transition container:

-1 liter of water
-Electrolytes
-Change of shoes
-Garbage bag for dirty clothes
-Sunblock

What worked:

Backpack – I was very happy with the garbage bag lined backpack. Easy to transport on the plane and easy to carry to the drop site at the race (nice being able to put it on my back instead of doing an early bucket carry)

Trash compactor bag liner – they are much heavier than garbage bags and won’t rip unless it’s an extreme case

Food – I sorted the three categories of food into their own gallon baggies so they were easy to pick out

What didn’t work:

Sunscreen incident – At the beginning of this article, I mentioned tears, laughter, and a mess. Well, I didn’t close the sunscreen all the way when I reapplied at transition and it leaked inside my bag. Yes…..it wasn’t pretty! Putting it (and this goes for all liquids) in a baggie would have prevented a big mess. Lesson learned.

Packet pickup:

I arrived the afternoon before the race to pick up my packet. I decided to store my transition bag the next morning as I came directly from the airport and didn’t have time to completely pack last minute items in it.

Race day:

I live in Seattle and chose Dallas for my Ultra Beast partly because it’s warm! Well, it ended up being colder in Dallas than Seattle that day. Very, very cold. My start time was 6:15, so I arrived at 5:15. I heard it was 28 degrees and I believe it. It was still dark, so I broke in my headlamp as I took my bag to the transition area. As I set it down I saw the grass sparkle from frost. I grabbed my neoprene gloves (they are the best thing in the cold and have great dexterity). We headed to the start line.

The Ultra Beast Elites went out first. Things were a little behind schedule, so they sent both open wave UB’s at the same time. We were off! It was dark, cold, and a bit crowded through the first few trails. It was awkward to run with the headlamps and uneven ground.

As the sun rose, the terrain came into view and it was a spectacular site. We started to spread out and came to the hurdles and short walls.

There was a lot of rough terrain,  more walls, and then we came to one of my favorites, Bender! Once it was complete I could see something looming in the distance. It was the first sandbag carry. These were old school sandbags which were duct taped in a criss-cross fashion. They were firm and had no wiggle room to drape over a shoulder. Just a solid bag of sand to carry. I was able to get mine on my shoulder which helped. The second time through was a bit easier as the bags had become unraveled a bit. I was able to hold onto an end this time.

The hardest part about the carry was the ground. There aren’t many hills on this course, but they utilized the ones that were there to the fullest extent. The sandbag was on a short steep hill with very loose gravel and some spots you had to step down quite far. With the bag on the shoulder, it made it harder because your weight isn’t distributed evenly. I almost went down a couple times but saved myself.

We came to the barbed wire crawl which was long and had a lot of dry hay like grass. I like to roll, so this went pretty fast. Next up was the Ultra Beast loop. It was about 1.5 miles and consisted of hay bales to jump over, the memory test, and the Cormax flip. Then up more hills, over water crossings….more hills, more water. It seemed like that went on a long time.

When I reached the Tyrolean Traverse I talked with a gal who had paced most of the first half of the first loop with me. We ended up hitting it off and running the rest of the race together. She was so much fun and so interesting. Vanessa and I were both running in the open heat, so we were able to help each other along the way.

The UB group didn’t have to cross the “Ball Shrinker” the first round, but the second one was cold as heck! I tried to keep my shirt dry but it didn’t work. Went into a hole and it was all over.

A very interesting development occurred at the Olympus. The obstacle was the same, but the penalty was not the standard 30 burpees! If you failed the obstacle there was a loop you ran instead. I was very curious if this is something they are testing or if they may incorporate more alternate penalties at future races. I like the idea of varying penalties.

We reached the festival area and had the usual obstacles including the rope climb, spearman, A-frame cargo net, and multi-rig. Usually, that means you’re getting towards the end, but not this time. Next up were the bucket carry and about six more obstacles and a rather large distance to travel before reaching the transition area.

To enter the transition area we recited our memory test word and number combination and received our pinney to wear during the second loop. I applied sunscreen (messy incident moment previously discussed), changed my shoes, and ate. I caught up with a couple of my team members and Wes looked a bit concerned about my baby food pouches, but they worked like a charm. I had chicken and rice, sweet potato, and banana. They settled right into my stomach and I couldn’t even tell I ate anything. They were great! I thought about leaving some of my layers behind as I was wearing four shirts, but it barely got up to 60 degrees that day so I opted to keep them all on and I was very glad I did.

Round two began and my new friend and I were underway. The second loop started out fine, but as time went on I could tell that the obstacles were going to be more of a challenge. I particularly noticed it with the atlas carry. I could barely pick up the stone. I got it up about knee height and duck waddled to the flag, burpeed, and duck waddled back. They also had a second atlas stone, but this one had a chain attached. You just carried it to the flag and back without burpees. This was the first time I’ve seen it. It was a bit awkward and hard to decide whether to carry centered or off to one side.

We finally made it around and reached the wonderful, marvelous fire jump! I had been waiting for this moment for quite some time and it was here at last! We did it!!!

It was funny because I introduced my new friend Vanessa to my Seattle friends and they knew each other already! Such a small world! We went to the results tent and received our belt buckles. What a great feeling! It is something I will cherish as it holds memories that will never be forgotten. Oh, and a quick side note….if you notice the white slip of paper you will see that my bag was randomly selected to be checked at the airport. I bet they loved it when they unknotted my double garbage bag full of cow mud covered clothes! AROO!

Photo credit: Spartan Race, Kim Collings, Patricia Glaze

 

Tough Mudder Allowing Votes for Favorite Obstacles To Appear in 2018

 

TOUGH MUDDER OPENS OBSTACLE “VAULT” FOR 2018 SEASON

Tough Mudder will be releasing an obstacle archive known as “The Vault” for the 2018 season. Does this make anyone else think of Disney? Will these obstacles only come around once every 50 years?? What is this vault, you ask?! The Tough Mudder vault will include “blueprints, design renderings, whiteboard drawings, retired challenges and more of the 200+ obstacles designed by Tough Mudder’s industry-leading innovation obstacle lab today. Mudder Nation will be able to find info on such classics as Ballshrinker and Dingleberries as well as unique obstacles such as Hot Shots and Massive Turd that only appeared on the course one time.”

“Tough Mudder will begin to disclose on “Mudder Leaks” at https://toughmudder.com/tough-mudder-obstacles-2018 from now through December 31st, iconic obstacles, and files from “The Vault.” The remaining roster of possible “Vault” obstacles will be revealed on January. 11, 2018 when, for the first time in Tough Mudder history, Mudders will then be able to vote online that day on which obstacles they would like to see back on course in 2018. In addition these classic “Vault” obstacles, Tough Mudder will be debuting brand new obstacles for the new 2018 season on January 11th as well.”

We know that Tough Mudder loves to innovate with new obstacles that test us more than we can imagine while we silently chuckle at the cheeky names Will and his crew like to bestow upon these ball-busters.

“The first historic Tough Mudder obstacle from “The Vault” announced today on MudderLeaks at https://toughmudder.com/tough-mudder-obstacles-2018 is Human Gecko. This classic obstacle tested participants upper body strength while navigating across two walls decorated with rock climbing hand grips – all while dangling over a water pit.

While the information released from “The Vault” is unpredictable, key dates to visit the website for information include Nov. 23, Dec. 7 and Dec. 21. Follow @ToughMudder on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and follow hashtag #MudderLeaks for additional “Vault” secrets. And check out this video on Youtube: https://youtu.be/QTMXsHQq8mM.

In addition to hints from the Vault, Mudders looking to get the inside track on more obstacle secrets should tune-in live to ToughMudder.com and the Tough Mudder Live Show Page on Facebook (Editor’s Note: where our own, Matt B. Davis will be commentating) on Nov. 11th and 12th. The 24 Hour race is considered one of the most extreme endurance events in the world and, with an unprecedented 1,600+ competitors from 21 countries participating this year, is the ultimate Tough Mudder obstacle testing ground. World’s Toughest Mudder features a five-mile loop course, containing diverse desert terrain, steep hills, mud pits and more than 20 obstacles – some might even be “Vault” leaks – which can only be found in this 24-hour, timed event.

The complete World’s Toughest Mudder Livestream schedule with more than 14 hours of programming is as follows:

  • World’s Toughest Mudder Day 1 Kick Off:
    • Saturday, Nov. 11th, 11 am PST to 5 pm PST (2 pm EST to 8 pm EST)
  • World’s Toughest Mudder Midnight Special:
    • Sunday, Nov. 12th, 12 am PST to 1 am PST (3 am to 4 am EST)
  • World’s Toughest Mudder Day 2 Finish:
    • Sunday, Nov. 12th: 7 am PST to 2 pm PST (10 am to 5 pm EST)

 

If one misses the Facebook Live Show, Mudders are encouraged to watch The World’s Toughest Mudder one-hour special on CBS on Dec. 23 at 12 p.m. ET.

To experience the industry’s best obstacles, purchase 2018 tickets by visiting toughmudder.com now through Nov. 10 for 50 percent off event day prices.

 

About Tough Mudder:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder obstacle course event series, Tough Mudder Inc. has become a leading global sports, active lifestyle and media brand. With more than 3 million participants, the company hosts more than 130 non-competitive (Mini Mudder; Tough Mudder 5K, Tough Mudder Half, and Tough Mudder Full) and competitive (Tougher, Toughest, Tough Mudder X and World’s Toughest Mudder) events annually in 11 countries including China, Dubai, Indonesia, and Australia through its partnerships with IMG, Seroja and Sports Media and Entertainment 360 (SME360). The company’s content arm provides the more than millions of engaged online brand enthusiasts with fitness, nutrition and wellness content delivered daily across social and digital platforms. Tough Mudder broadcast, OTT and Live Stream programming can be seen worldwide through partnerships with CBS Sports, Facebook, Sky Sports, The CW Network and ESPN Media Distribution. Other sponsorship and distribution partners include Merrell, Amazon, KILL CLIFF, Jeep, Aflac, Guinness, Vega, Samsung, Olympus, Lucozade Sport, Nexcare, For Goodness Shakes, Bosch, TREK, Head & Shoulders, L’Oreal Men Expert, Käserei Loose, Snapchat and Live Stream.”

 

What obstacles are you hoping will appear on Tough Mudder courses in 2018? Any particular obstacles that you miss, or even ones that you hope never show up on a course again? Let us know in the comments here or on Facebook!

 

Kill Cliff: The New On Course Recovery Drink for Tough Mudder

TOUGH MUDDER AND KILL CLIFF PARTNER TO BRING CLEAN ENDURANCE AND RECOVERY SPORTS DRINKS TO 2018 – 2019 US EVENTS

KILL CLIFF Equips Athletes With Extended Energy And Necessary Recovery To Dominate World Class Obstacles As The Official Sports Drink Brand For Tough Mudder And Serve As Presenting Sponsor Of Tough Mudder X Series

ATLANTA/BROOKLYN– Nov. 7, 2017 — Tough Mudder, Inc. and KILL CLIFF have partnered to provide KILL CLIFF’s clean label endurance and recovery sports beverages for the 2018 and 2019 US event seasons in its capacity as the official sports drink brand for Tough Mudder and presenting sponsor of the Tough Mudder X Series. Tough Mudder X is the one-mile race with 10 obstacles and 10 workout zones that tests competitors from across multiple disciplines to determine the fittest and fastest athletes in the world. The series debuted this summer on CBS with millions watching its first World Championship.

At all Tough Mudder events, KILL CLIFF will provide its ENDURE clean endurance sports drinks on the course during events to help participants experience longer energy maintenance as they push harder through the course. KILL CLIFF recovery drinks will be handed out at the finish line to provide electrolytes and assist in participants’ post-event clean recovery and hydration. KILL CLIFF will leverage its relationship with gyms around the country to further the Tough Mudder brand through its product offerings.

The partnership will kick off at this year’s World’s Toughest Mudder at Lake Las Vegas on Nov. 11-12, 2017. World’s Toughest Mudder is considered the most extreme, insane, imposing, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping 24-hour obstacle course race on the planet that is viewed by millions globally via Livestream and also on CBS. KILL CLIFF will be the official sponsor of one of the event’s most infamous obstacles, The Cliff, a 35-foot cliff jump into the chilly waters of Lake Las Vegas that begins at midnight on Nov. 12. KILL CLIFF will also have its own TEAM KILL CLIFF tackling the course.

“Partnering with Tough Mudder as the official clean sports drinks sponsor is a great next step for both of our brands, as well as the dedicated warriors of the Tough Mudder,” said KILL CLIFF CEO Joe Driscoll. “We are getting our drinks into the hands of hundreds of thousands of athletes who are challenging their fitness, while Tough Mudder is partnering with a cool brand that is disrupting the artificial, sugar-filled sports drink category. We are incredibly excited about being the presenting sponsor of Tough Mudder X race series, which is a fast, exciting event that is a great crossover for many of our CrossFit athletes and gyms.”

“KILL CLIFF’s Kill the Quit attitude, clean label products and brand awareness in the HIIT category makes them a great partner fit that will not only elevate the Tough Mudder brand to a broader audience and new category of athlete but enable us to offer Mudder Nation great hydration and recovery drinks for everyone to be at their best as they tackle Tough Mudder’s demanding courses together, ” commented Rich Abend, VP, Global Partnerships, Tough Mudder. “We are also proud to name KILL CLIFF as the first presenting sponsor of TMX, which has garnered significant interest from the industry since its’ debut this past summer on television.”

KILL CLIFF drinks have gained popularity in HIIT gyms across the country, and the brand has led in the emerging clean sports drink categories at places like Whole Foods and Amazon. The KILL CLIFF brand has been on a rapid growth trajectory with a loyal and passionate following of the world’s toughest athletes.

About KILL CLIFF:

Founded and created by a Navy SEAL with the spirit of giving back to the community, KILL CLIFF® makes clean sports beverage products. KILL CLIFF Recovery Drinks deliver clean recovery, providing the hydration and nutrients without all the junk so many beverages have today. Headquartered in Atlanta, the KILL CLIFF team includes civilians and accomplished military veterans, and is absolutely committed to serving and supporting the Navy SEAL community. KILL CLIFF honors the dedication and sacrifice made by these warriors and their families by donating a portion of the proceeds through their Official Partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation. KILL THE QUIT™. Visit KillCliff.com and follow KILL CLIFF on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram @killcliff.

About Tough Mudder:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder obstacle course event series, Tough Mudder Inc. has become a leading global sports, active lifestyle and media brand. With more than 3 million participants, the company hosts more than 130 non-competitive (Mini Mudder; Tough Mudder 5K, Tough Mudder Half, and Tough Mudder Full) and competitive (Tougher, Toughest, Tough Mudder X and World’s Toughest Mudder) events annually in 11 countries including China, Dubai, Indonesia, and Australia through its partnerships with IMG, Seroja and Sports Media and Entertainment 360 (SME360). The company’s content arm provides the more than millions of engaged online brand enthusiasts with fitness, nutrition, and wellness content delivered daily across social and digital platforms. Tough Mudder broadcast, OTT and Live Stream programming can be seen worldwide through partnerships with CBS Sports, Facebook, Sky Sports, The CW Network and ESPN Media Distribution. Other sponsorship and distribution partners include Merrell, Amazon, KILL CLIFF, Jeep, Aflac, Guinness, Vega, Samsung, Olympus, Lucozade Sport, Nexcare, For Goodness Shakes, Bosch, TREK, Head & Shoulders, L’Oreal Men Expert, Käserei Loose, Snapchat and Live Stream.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

FOR TOUGH MUDDER 
Angela Alfano
(703) 447-5629
Angela.Alfano@ToughMudder.com

FOR KILL CLIFF
Reina Porritt
(651) 789-1272
reina@kohnstamm.com

Robert Zimmerman
(917) 543-1046
Rob@zimstrategies.com

Spartan Race Dallas Beast 2017

Spartan-Dallas-2017-Start-Line

The Weather

There’s no way I can review this race without addressing one of the toughest obstacles of the day: the temperature.  A quick google search shows the average low in the Dallas area for October is about 56°F.  November’s average low is 45°F, but we weren’t even that lucky.  When the first wave went off this day (just before the sun came up), the temperature was at a frigid 29°F with a little bit of wind to top it off!

Everyone that arrived early for the elite and competitive heats stood around shivering in the dark before shedding a couple extra warm layers and making their way into the start chute.  Luckily the sun started to make its way out after the first couple of waves were released.

Spartan-Dallas-2017-Map

The Course

The start line emcee told us that we would be running 14 miles while the official map showed about 12.5 for the Beast course.  My watch clocked me at about 13.5 miles, but that includes a couple of burpee stops.  One interesting note is that the Olympus obstacle ( the slanted wall that you navigate horizontally using a variety of handholds) had a penalty loop instead of the typical 30 burpee penalty.  Looks like Spartan might be trying to add a little variety to the penalties they use for failed obstacles.

Spartan-Dallas-2017-Sandbag-Hill

The course didn’t waste much time before having everyone wade through a waist-deep pool of water which got the bottom half of everybody cold and wet.  Most of the initial miles were broken up by a variety of walls in addition to the first of two sandbag carries – this one up and down a steep, rocky hill.  Next up was the first of two barbwire crawls, another wall, and the only time we were forced to submerge our entire bodies in the cold water: the dunk wall.

Luckily, this occurred just beyond the 5-mile mark and the sun was starting to warm up the air just a little.  (And by “a little,” I mean hardly at all.  It was still freezing!)

The dunk wall was followed by a lot of open ground to cover through the gorgeous Texas landscape.  Rolling hills, open fields, and plenty of cacti made for a scenic view as I tried not to think about the soaking wet clothing pressed up against my body.

Spartan-Dallas-2017-Rope-Climb

Gauntlet of Obstacles

After a few more obstacles and opportunities to wade through waist-deep water, the course really hit its stride with a brutal obstacle gauntlet over the last few miles.  The spear throw was preceded by Monkey Bars, Olympus, and the Rope Climb just to make sure our arms weren’t too fresh for the attempt.  After that was the second sandbag carry of the day followed by the multi-rig consisting of rings, a horizontal bar, and then more rings with a vertical pipe thrown into the mix.

And if that wasn’t enough, we were treated to a solid bucket carry and atlas lift before getting a chance to attempt Twister.  I don’t know about everyone else, by my arms were beat at this point in the race.  A couple more wall climbs in addition to a final Herc Hoist stood between the final Fire Jump and a shiny new Beast finisher medal.

One last item of note is that the course spread over many different parts of the ranch which required navigating mini A-frame ladders to get up and over barb wire fences numerous times.  Unfortunately, each one of these managed to create a backup on the course, even in the early heats, as only 2-3 people could use it at once.  A small suggestion for future years would be to widen these out a bit in each direction to not slow everyone down.  As I was driving out of the venue, I saw a group of about 50 people waiting to get over one of them!

Spartan-Dallas-2017-Festival

The Venue

Spartan has hosted races at the Rough Creek Lodge and Resort in Glen Rose, Texas for years and it was even the home of the 2011 Spartan World Championship.  Parking was on-site and a short walk from the festival area, which contained a wide variety of vendors and amenities for race day.  The rolling hills were well-utilized by the course which made for some amazing views (if you had a chance to look up while a sandbag rested on your shoulders).

Overall, I had a great time and would definitely return to this venue for another Spartan Race, possibly to attempt my first Ultra Beast.  Although I’ll be crossing my fingers for warmer temperatures next time!

 

Photo Credit:

  • Becky Bouillon
  • Spartan Race

Check Out Other Recaps By This Author Here

 

Looking at the Stats: Comparing the Spartan Killington Results

You finished your Spartan race. Congratulations! You checked your finishing time, and you posted your awesome fire jump picture on Facebook. As you start planning for your next race, you wonder: How did I do compared to everybody else?  Should I sign up for an Elite or Competitive wave next time? Does that twenty-year-old kid have an advantage over me? Is there a significant difference in performance between age groups? How fast do I need to be on a single lap Beast to complete an Ultra Beast?

To answer these and some more questions for myself, I decided to take a deeper look at the finishing results of the Spartan Vermont Beast, Ultra Beast, and Sprint weekend in September 2017 as published on the Spartan website. Read on, and learn how the data tells you if you’re ready for your next Spartan challenge. You will see that the cold facts show that your age and gender have little influence on your results. And as we zoom in on the small group of die-hard multiple-laps runners, you will be astounded by some real badassery.

Before we get going: this post is kinda geeky. I could not resist to occasionally add some statistical gibberish into the text. Don’t get intimidated and feel free to skip those passages. You won’t miss anything…

Overall Stats

Let’s start by looking at some overall numbers. A total of 8011 racers finished on the slopes of the beautiful mountains of Killington, Vermont. Below is a break down by type of race and gender.

Spartan-Vermont-2017-Overall-Stats

The first side note to make here is that these numbers represent only participants who actually finished their race. Information about the total number of racers who started is not publicly available. As we will see later, it is likely that the number of DNF Beast and Sprint racers is small. However, this number is significant for the Ultra Beast.

Unconfirmed information (aka rumor from Facebook) is that slightly over 1,000 racers started the Ultra Beast in Killington this year, which results in an estimated completion ratio of around 49%. Compared to previous years, where ratios in the 20-30% range have been reported, this is a high number. Is this because the course was easier or were the runners better prepared? It’s not easy to give a definite answer.  One clue is that the course this year may have been up to two miles shorter than in 2016, which at a pace of ~30 min/mile, results in a full hour more to go. An hour that many racers would not have had–as we will see later.

With 5459 male and 2552 female runners, the number of men is roughly twice as large. That said, if we look at the percentage M/F per race category, there is some significant variation. There’s a nice 50/50-ish distribution for the Open Sprint, while the women are clearly under-represented in the Ultra Beast. Ladies: I’ll show later on that on average the men hardly perform better than the women, so if you are considering joining an Ultra–go for it!

In fact, the table below shows the average finishing time per race group. Even though it would seem that the men have a natural advantage, it is clear from these stats that overall the difference between the two sexes is small. Taking the biggest group, i.e. the Open Beast on both days, which represents more than half of all participants this weekend, with an average time of 8h37 the women finished around 37 min after the men, which is only 7% slower. Just saying.

F M
Sat Beast Comp 07h40m47s 06h59m17s
Sat Beast Elite 06h14m42s 05h19m46s
Sat Beast Open 08h33m45s 07h57m54s
Sat UB Comp 13h49m12s 12h36m36s
Sat UB Elite 12h38m32s 12h15m11s
Sat UB Open 13h19m47s 12h56m29s
Sun Beast Comp 07h37m15s 06h44m25s
Sun Beast Open 08h48m54s 08h06m17s
Sun Sprint Comp 02h25m55s 02h09m03s
Sun Sprint Elite 01h55m34s 01h35m29s
Sun Sprint Open 03h12m60s 02h52m48s

 

Saturday and Sunday Beast

Let’s break down the race results for the Beast on both days. In the figures below you’ll see a scatter plot of finishing time versus age, for male and female runners separately. Each dot represents one runner, and the colors of the dot differs depending on whether the runner was in the Elite, Competitive or Open waves.

Some interesting conclusions can be drawn from these figures. To start, we can see from these graphs that the relationship between age and finishing time is very weak. To highlight this, a straight line is added to the scatter plots that best describes the trend (in statistical mumble jumble: this is the linear regression model representing the data, with the shaded area representing the 95% confidence interval of that regression). For most waves there is a slight connection between age and finishing time, but the magnitude of this is in the order of minutes. In other words, you’re never too old to do a Spartan race, and even runners of fifty-and-over can be fierce competition for the young folks in their twenties. The oldest male runner was 67 and the oldest female runner 66! Particularly noteworthy also is that the data shows that the elite women seem to get faster as they get older.

These lines are obviously highlighting the average trends. When we only look at the top performers in the male elite wave on Saturday the picture looks different. Here the faster runners are in their late twenties, and the finishing time of the fastest runner for each age group after that steadily increases.

Spartan-Vermont-2017-Sat-Beast-Scatter

Spartan-Vermont-2017-Sun-Beast-Scatter

Also remarkable from these point clouds is the significant overlap of the Elite, Open and Open wave runners. The histograms below, which count the number of runners finishing within successive intervals, visualize this.

The far majority of all runners finished in a time between six and ten hours. The group of runners that completed in under five hours is predominantly in the Elite waves. On the other hand, these plots confirm the significant overlap between the distribution of the Elite, Competitive and Open Waves finishing times.

What should be the conclusion from this? It’s hard to tell based on this analysis alone. Is it possible that a runner in a Competitive wave ran faster than he or she would have done in an Open wave? Perhaps, but if you’re on a budget and not aiming for a podium place or place in the world ranking, don’t waste your money. This analysis shows that running in an Open wave does not give you a significant disadvantage.

The last observation is that the histograms are pretty symmetrical, and have the shape of a ‘Bell’. This means that roughly as many runners are faster than the average time as the number that are slower (more statistical blah blah: the distributions are approximately normal, having a median value that is similar to the average value). If the DNF count due to runners not meeting the time cut-off would be high, the distribution would look more skewed to the right. There have been Spartans who started in one of the last waves and did not make it to the cut-off in time, but for the majority there was sufficient time to make it to the finish. Stated otherwise: the Beast participants were well prepared for their challenge. This says something about this group of athletes, as we all know the Killington Beast is no joke.

Spartan-Vermont-2017-Beast-hist

Saturday Ultra Beast

We’ll move on to the Ultra Beast and start by plotting the same point clouds for the Elite, Competitive and Open wave racers.

Spartan-Vermont-2017-UBeast-Scatter

The first striking observation is that the clouds for the three categories are overlapping almost entirely. As expected, the fastest runners are in the Elite waves both for the male and female runners. The separation of the best performing Ultra Beasters and the rest of the gang is down right impressive, with over four hours of difference between the fastest runners and the average.

The spread in Elite times is significantly larger compared to the Open wave racers as well. The most logical explanation for this is that the Elites start earlier than the Open wave runners, but all are facing the same cut-off times, meaning that the Elite runners simply have more time to complete the race.

These graphs show again that on average the men tend to get a bit slower as they get older, while the women seem to get faster (geeking out: For the men the regression model shows a slight positive correlation between age and finishing time. For the women, this correlation is negative. However, the 95% confidence interval of the linear fit for the women is large due to relative small number of racers. Therefore it is entirely possible that correlation as depicted is an artifact of the data and that the real correlation is positive).

Looking at the histogram of finishing time for both sexes, shown below, we clearly see the effect of the time cut-offs. The distributions are highly skewed with a sudden drop-off in the number of racers after roughly fourteen hours. Knowing that the DNF percentage is around 50%, we can hypothesize that the distribution below represents the left half of the total population. This means that if there was no time cut-off, the Ultra Beast distribution would have a distribution with its maximum at around fourteen hours and the majority of finishers between ten and eighteen hours. This comes to five to nine hours per lap. That’s a large spread.

The Spartans with an average single lap time of five to seven hours got their buckle. I did not calculate the ratio between the first and second lap time, but my best guess is that most Ultra Beasters need about 20-40% more time for their second lap. My recommendation, based on the data I analyzed: if you want to set yourself up for success and finish the Ultra Beast within fourteen hours, make sure you can do a single lap in Vermont in about six hours and sign up in the Elite wave to give yourself some extra time. Among all waves there were 747 racers out of the 5867 Beast racers on both days who completed within six hours. This means that completing within six hours equates to finishing in the top 13%.

I already mentioned the impact of a mile shorter course compared to last year on the DNF percentage. From this histogram it can be concluded that if everybody had one hour more to run, the DNF percentage would drop significantly. This would be equivalent at putting a virtual time cut-off one hour earlier, meaning that the cut-off we see at the fourteen hour mark would shift to around thirteen hours. This would reduce the number of finishers by roughly 175-225, dropping the DNF percentage to 27.5-32.5%, which get us close to last year’s percentage.

Spartan-Vermont-2017-UBeast-hist

One last observation about this histogram. The distributions for the male and female runners are highly similar in shape.  If there had been more women, it is likely that the two distributions would completely overlap, which is another way of saying that the advantage of the men over the women would be negligible (this is assuming that the percentage of men and women who finished is the same, which is reasonable but difficult to prove without stats on the number of UB’ers that started the race). Let this be another encouragement for the women Spartans to sign up for the Ultra challenge.

Sunday Sprint

The scatter plots for the Sprint look distinctively different from those from the Beast. The dots are more spread out and more ‘rectangular’, which indicates that in all age groups racers participated with varying levels of fitness. The overlap of the Elite and Competitive wave on the Open wave is also noticeably smaller.

This is also clear from the larger separation between the trend lines, which show that in the age group of 30-40 the Elites are almost twice as fast as the Open wave runners. This suggests that the overall level of fitness and preparedness between the Open and Elite wave runners is different than with the Beast. This is intuitively understood, knowing that the Sprint is the entry-level Spartan race.

Spartan-Vermont-2017-Sun-Sprint-Scatter

The histograms of the finishing time of the Sprint show a pretty remarkable picture. In the case of the Beast we saw a ‘Bell’ shape like distribution. The Sprint distribution is more triangular in shape, peaking around two and half hours. What to conclude from this?

The width and shape of the distributions confirm indeed that the level of fitness of the Sprint participants varies much more than that of the Beast runners. The finishing times are up five times (!) as long as the fastest Spartans. The peak of the distributions (the so-called modal finishing time in statistics) is also lower than the average finishing times (see the table in the section ‘Overall stats’ above).

Did you run the Killington Sprint this year and do you want to know how you did? The most common finishing time was around two and a half hours. If you did better than this, well done! Consider signing up for a Super.

Spartan-Vermont-2017-Sun-Sprint-hist

The Real Beasts: Double Lap Runners

I will end my analysis with the stats of the small group of participants for whom one race was not challenging enough. Out of the 8011 medals that were handed out on both days, 247 went to Spartans who did a double lap. There were 84 racers who ran the Beast on both days, and 124 who ran a Beast on Saturday and a Sprint on Sunday. Out of the 486 Ultra Beast finishers there were 37 who went for another lap on Sunday, 6 doing the Sprint and 31 going for the ordeal of another Beast, which essentially meant they completed three laps of the Beast that weekend. To complete the line-up, there were exactly two who ran two Sprint on Sunday. To visually depict the performance of these Spartans, I plotted their Sunday time against their Saturday time, resulting in the scatter plots below. The red dot at (11h05, 6h20) is mine, by the way…

Spartan-Vermont-2017-double-laps

The diagonal lines are added to the plot to help comparing the results: if you add up the Saturday and Sunday time, then all points that have the same total time would end up on a diagonal. There is a lot that can be seen from these plots, and I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions from these results. But one thing I will say is this. While for all 247 double lap Spartans it can be said their performance is outstanding compared to the averages in the Beast and Sprint waves, the top performers show exceptional accomplishments. I mean, if you can complete a Beast and Sprint in around four hours, two laps of the Beast in less than ten hours, or an Ultra Beast and Beast in 14h33 you are a real machine. Aroo!