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Spartan Beast - Monday, March 14, 2022
A mere six weeks after Daniel and I ran our Spartan Sprint down in SoCal, it was time for our San Luis Obispo Spartan Beast. We were not fully prepared and we got our butts handed to us in different ways. But it was a lot of fun.

On Friday, Priscilla and I drove down to Atascadero and met Daniel and his family at the Airbnb that we'd rented. The house was pretty spacious and had a lot of amenities. Their kids in particular liked the toys and the trampoline. After we got settled, we drove down to San Luis Obispo 25 minutes away. We walked around the downtown area and had dinner at Firestone Grill (I had tri-tip and it was delicious) and got ice cream from McConnell's. The downtown attractions that we saw - Bubblegum Alley, SLO Museum of Art, and the walkways around the creek - were all pretty short. It seemed like a laid-back town and everyone we interacted with was really nice.

While Daniel and I were running on Saturday, Priscilla joined the rest of Daniel's family in visiting Avila Valley Barn and more sights in SLO. They got a pie from the farm that had really good crust (I didn't care so much for the filling). And on Sunday, we drove over to Morro Bay and did a short kayak trip after Daniel and I decided that we weren't sore enough from the race. We kayaked to and walked around the sandbar close to Morro Rock, a place that Priscilla and I visited with friends 10 years ago. Afterwards, we got lunch at Giovanni's Fish Market; Priscilla and I got a clam chowder bread bowl and fish and chips (fries). The fries were amazing - very crispy; everything else was decent but nothing to write home about. After we said our goodbyes, it was time to head home.

Alright, back to the Spartan Beast. In the spirit of self-improvement, here as always are my notes about the course.

Over Walls (4' Walls): Easy warmup.

Inverted Wall: Easy, with the usual gap between the rungs and the wall providing a good place to grip.

Monkey Bars: Used the hand to hand technique as usual.

Barbed Wire Crawl: Part of it was grassy, so I was able to roll without getting too dirty.

7' and 6' Walls: Easy with the heel hook technique, though I found that I'm able to swing my right leg higher than I can my left. Or maybe that's just what I'm used to.

Hurdles: These were on a slight slope, adding an extra challenge. I got over these clumsily but twisted my left shoulder (it was fine after a few minutes).

Tube Crawl: Exactly as it sounds. Might've been the easiest obstacle I've ever done. The tubes were completely dry, but maybe in some venues they're filled with muddy water?

Armer: Possibly the same weight stone as with Atlas Carry, but the handle made this easier.

Tyrolean Traverse: My initial plan to do an upside-down crawl along the rope immediately went out the window when I found that I couldn't keep the other leg on the rope when lifting one leg off. So instead, I kept my legs locked around the rope and pulled myself along using my arms. The high socks I had on protected my legs from rope burn, but this motion was pretty rough on my hands.

8' Wall: Was able to jump up and grab the edge with an inch of clearance, so I didn't need to do a running jump and kick off against the wall.

Pipe Lair, Helix, Z Wall: All straightforward.

Olympus: Used mostly the holes and used a reach across technique when possible, making short work of this obstacle. Definitely a lot easier than when I did this for the first time during last year's Super.

The Box: A lot of people were having trouble with the ropes, but I ignored the rope and just jumped and hoisted my way onto the platform without much effort. The benefits of being light.

Spear Throw: Failed again when the spear went to the left of the target. I took two retries since it wasn't too busy, and I managed to stick it on the final attempt. Each time, I threw a mostly decent arc, so the "spear" training (with a tennis ball on the end of a broom handle) I've been doing with Daniel has been paying off. I just need to adjust the aim. I still did my 30 burpees since you're really only allowed one try.

Atlas Carry: Was able to lift the stone using a sumo deadlift, so I didn't need to roll it onto my knee like before.

Multi-Rig: Rings, horizontal bar, then ropes with no ball on the end. I thought I'd have trouble with the ropes, but I was able to maneuver from one rope to the next without sliding down. Guess the grip training has been paying off.

Bucket Carry: The bucket felt noticeably lighter compared to the one on the Sprint. Could just be variations in how much the volunteers fill them.

Beater: This was on mile 11 and my calf was starting to cramp. When I jumped up to grab the bar, a paralyzing pain shot through my calf. I had to rest for 10 minutes before I could do the obstacle. This sucked because this obstacle is pretty much all upper-body. I saw a couple others suffering from calf cramps here as well.

Bender: The cramps didn't deter me too much from swinging my feet up to help me get over this obstacle.

Stairway to Sparta: When I did this during my Super, the obstacle involved jumping and grabbing the top of a slanted wall and pulling yourself up. Pretty basic. But on the Beast, there was that (smooth) wall panel, plus another wall panel above it with climbing holds. So you basically had to jump up, grab the holds with your hands, pull yourself up and grab a higher hold, and then you'd be high enough to get your foot onto one of the holds. There was a volunteer there who gave most people a boost, but I wanted to do it on my own (as Spartan races are technically supposed to be done). I had a couple failed tries at grabbing the holds without falling, but I was finally able to do it and get my foot high enough to allow me to climb the rest of the way up. In terms of absolute difficulty, I'd say this was the hardest obstacle on the course.

Rope Climb: My hands were pretty roughed up by now, but using the S-hook took me to the top without too much trouble. My fingers held up without bleeding, unlike last time.

Twister: Going backwards made this quick, but my hands were starting to feel it by this point.

Plate Drag: I initially picked a bad lane where halfway down, the sled got stuck behind a mound of dirt. At least it wasn't just me - the next guy also had trouble with that lane. With my grip strength suffering, I had to borrow Daniel's gloves and pick a flatter lane to complete this obstacle.

Sandbag Carry, Vertical Cargo Plus, Slip Wall: Not too bad. On Slip Wall, we had to run up the ramp a little more than I remember doing on the Super, but the lack of a Dunk Wall this time kept things dry.

Hercules Hoist: My hands were completely raw by this point and my grip strength was gone. I tried twice, but not even the gloves helped me pull the bag all the way up. 30 burpees.

A-Frame Cargo: An easy obstacle to end with, with the finish line straight ahead. Boy was I glad to be done!

Aid station placement was excellent and I didn't need to drink water at every station. Much/most of the course consisted of uneven ground, and I rolled my right ankle around the halfway point, leading to pain whenever I landed at an angle on that foot. After that, I had to run a little slower in order to keep the ankle stable. But Daniel started cramping a lot in the last couple miles, so we both needed to slow down. The first 10 miles were all easier obstacles, and the last 3 miles contained the harder ones. With our injuries, the race got exponentially harder at the end!

My final time was 4:20:32, putting me in the 33rd percentile, placing 605/1857 overall, 496/1233 for men, and 109/266 in my age group. I didn't do badly, though I should've been able to do better. I'm glad that the training that I've been doing has shown some results, and I think I can go gloveless on a Super, but for a Beast, I seem to need that extra advantage from gloves since so many of the obstacles are hard on the hands. Once I do the Super in June, I'll be done with the Trifecta. I do enjoy the races, but I think I've gotten my Spartan fix and don't feel like I need to sign up for more anytime soon. I'm not that competitive, and the cost and overhead of the races are a bit much.

I'm glad that the hardest race is done with and I'm glad that we got to spend time with our friends and their kids. It was a tiring weekend and my arms and legs are quite sore now, but it was time well spent.
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