The Carolina Beast has been steadily growing in popularity over the past several years. The course itself isn’t iconic like Killington or Tahoe, I think that it’s more of the fact that it’s the only Beast available for miles and miles and the location has a lot of people who live within driving distance. That’s not to take away from the race at all, I’ve raced it the past 3 years and it’s always been a fun race. But with that popularity comes growing pains, and Spartan has struggled the past couple of years trying to accommodate all of the racers. They finally realized that they outgrew the venue and had to make a change. So, they said goodbye to the familiar Carolina Adventure World venue and found a new home in Spartanburg, SC. Personally, I don’t know why they wouldn’t have tried really hard to get the race in Spartanburg to being with, but I suppose they had their reasons.
New venues are always exciting, but they can also produce a little anxiety. Facing unknown challenges is a big part of the appeal of these races though, so I was pretty happy to try a new venue. I’m happy to report that the new venue did not disappoint! As always, the first obstacle of the day was parking. I got there pretty early and am used to not dealing with too much traffic, but I underestimated the popularity of this race. Even before 7 am there was a significant line for parking. Thankfully, it moved pretty quickly and wasn’t too much of a hassle. The ground of the parking area was pretty uneven and was causing some problems for people that didn’t arrive in a big truck. I hope that they adjust the parking area next year or at least try to fix the big ditches before next year’s race.
The festival area was a short walk from the parking area, which is always welcome; No long walks or shuttles to deal with. The lines at registration were pretty long though. Of course, I got stuck in the line with the person who didn’t understand how to use the barcode scanner properly and was having to type in everyone’s information. I wish the Spartan employee who was standing right behind her would have given her some help instead of talking on the walkie-talkie about lunch plans. I eventually made it through registration, but my pre-race time was cut short by the parking and registration wait times. I know better for next time. I hurried to get in my pre-race nutrition, get to the bathroom, to get my bag checked, and to get warmed up. I didn’t get as much of a warm-up in as I would have liked, and right away I felt my hamstrings tighten up. They ended up bothering me pretty much the entire race, but they didn’t cramp at all, so I can’t complain too much.
The race day weather was good. It was a little chilly starting off the morning, but it wasn’t so cold that it was a problem. The day started off very dark though and the sun was just beginning to show over the trees when the elites went off. As the day progressed the sun came out, but it never got above the mid-60s (18C) and it was a very good day to race. The chillier overnight temperatures did make some of the water obstacles a little more daunting, but it really wasn’t that bad once you got in. I raced in the 8 am heat and never found the air or water temps to be too low, and I am sure things were ever better for the afternoon racers.
The course itself was pretty fun, though not super challenging. There were a few decent climbs, but I would say the course was mostly flat. As I was running I was looking around and I think if they wanted to they could have punished us a lot more than they did. A lot of the trails appeared to be blazed specifically for this race so a lot of the course was very technical. Most of the course was in the woods or you were at least very near to the trees, so it was a lot of trail running. There were a few sections that were on service roads and there were a few creek crossings, but for the most part, it was really good trail running. When the race first started I was a little concerned as there were a couple narrow bottlenecks right off the bat. This isn’t the first race I’ve run where they send the waves straight into single trails, and it’s not just with Spartan Race. I wish that they would take more time to realize how annoying it is to get backed-up right at the start of the race. When the race starts I feel excited and I feed off the energy of the crowd and I just want to get out there and run. To get stuck behind 100 people trying to get through this one skinny trail is frustrating. I will admit that after the initial traffic jam the rest of the course was clear and most of the trails were wide enough to pass on.
All of the obstacles were pretty standard Spartan stuff. Didn’t see anything new like Monkey-In-The-Middle or the Ape Hanger. One new thing that happened was on Twister. Twister, for the whole of 2017 has been tearing the hands of countless racers, myself included. I suppose there was some pressure on Spartan to do something about this. Thier idea was to wrap the metal handle with a grip of some sort. This grip was held on with velcro and was even more difficult to grip than the metal bars. I already have a hard time fitting my hands in the Twister grips ( I feel like the openings are too narrow) and this thick grip made it that much harder. Not only that but they were secured loosely so the grips rotated in your hand around the handle. I agree that it would be easier on your hands, but that was impossible for someone like me to get across. I heard a lot of people who normally make it through Twister had a hard time with it. While it wasn’t impossible, I feel like the obstacle was tough enough without the grips. Hopefully, they don’t show back up in 2018 or they think of a different solution.
I am sad to say I broke my streak and missed the spear throw. Well, I stuck it, and it looked good but as I was starting to leave, it slipped out a little and the end just barely hit the ground. It broke my heart a little and I had to take a deep breath to get over seeing that happen. As I walked over to start my burpees a fellow racer decided to chime in. He was in the burpee area, hands on his knees, breathing heavily. He took a moment between breaths to point out to me that my spear “fell out.” I responded with a curt “Yeah. I know.” and went about my burpees. Sir, if you are reading this please remember next time to mind your own business. You are not a referee, you have no influence over the rules and have no authority to enforce them. I am not an elite racer and I was in no danger of accidentally appearing on the podium. All of that aside, I was already heading to the burpee area, so I don’t know why you felt the need to say anything. The last thing anyone wants to hear at a time like that is someone rubbing their failures in their face. I will run my own race and you run yours.
Overall, I had a pretty good time with the obstacles, that is until the end. I am pretty sure I know what I need to do to get through Olympus, but I didn’t make it this time. Looking back I think it was a combination of being really tired and that I was trying to save some upper body strength for the rig that was about 20 feet away. Well, I wish I had tried harder on Olympus because I didn’t make the rig either. I’m not experienced in the rope/knot grips on the rig and while I gave it a good effort, I wasn’t able to hang on. At the end of a 13-mile race, those 60 burpees ended up adding about 15 minutes to my overall race time. I’m not too upset about it though as I still got my best Beast time to date: 3:43:32. Even though it wasn’t quite the result I was hoping for, it was a good race to end the season. Oh! And it finished out my third Trifecta of the year! It’s interesting to think back to where I was when I started racing, imagining then that I’d do three Trifectas in a year, but here I am, Proud owner of this medal!!
There is a part of me that is sad that I won’t have any more obstacle races for several months, but there is a big part of me that is relieved. It’s been a busy summer and I’m tired. I’m taking some much needed time off to rest and recover. I am excited to get back into training, but I want to start fresh so I can really maximize my time. I have learned a lot about myself this year. I’ve learned some things about my ability to perform athletically, about my biggest strengths and weaknesses (physically and mentally), and I learned a lot about performance and recovery. As much as this has been a transformative year for me physically I think it was also a huge year for me emotionally. I feel like I have grown considerably and there are a lot of things I see more clearly now. I am really excited for 2018, not just for racing, but in general. I really think if I put the work into I can make some good things happen.