November 16, 2019, I was on the start line for my very first Spartan Ultra Beast, at Iskandar Puteri in Malaysia. I should have said it was a carefully considered choice, but I signed up with a team, along with the teammate, two months earlier, while still crutching (after my injury, where I drew conclusions here). What happened during the two months of training, and the 8h17: 05 test, was an experience apart and I'd like to share my thoughts, questions and conclusions with you (I think it's more interesting than telling you about the race okay, in the end).
You will find in my article all my tips for preparing an Ultra Beast!
1. Never say "never"
I have been running Spartan Races for 3 years – since my first Spartan at the highest I've run for two weeks, including a trifecta weekend, 3 Hurricane Heats, and I've become a Spartan SGX Coach certified. And for the last 3 years I have seen runners unstack the Ultra (50 km, 60 obstacles) without ever being able to understand the motivation. I saw them there, in purple chasuble, and I told myself you had to be crazy to do two rounds of the Beast + 8 terminals. It has to be said that I hated running, and suddenly 50 km was a named nonsense – and I know that for many who will read this, so be it. But we tend to look for an ever-increasing challenge, and Ultra was perhaps the last format that scared mebecause he aggressively confronted me with my weaknesses. It was much easier to sign up for two (I'm not sure I had done it alone, or at least not this year) and talking about it with our loved ones kept us from supporting us, every time or we were in doubt. JSo I went from "NEVER" to "it is today", and it's a fun feeling.
2. Preparations do 70% of the job
Not having carefully considered our decision (since we needed a glass of wine too much one evening to say "and why not" and to take the bite) does not mean we have not prepared. We created a workout program (which took into account my differences, my teammate was rather a runner, not a big fan of the gym, and me just the opposite), but also lists of advice we found by reading blogs and feedback, talking with ultrasound (obstruction or not) and checklists for equipment. (I condensed this into an article: my Ultra Spartan preparation tips here!)
Getting started without getting ready would be stupid, in such a long and intense race – you can't expect your body to respond well to these types of confrontations if you haven't worked on every component before (the race, the course, the obstacles, the stamina, the hardware tested, etc.).
In short, we arrived as clear as possible, after having 2 months of preparation. Come to think of it, 3 months may not have been a luxury, but 2 months was enough to give us the necessary insurance.
Pretty proud of my embellished box (because it's easier to find in the transition zone, but also because it's seriously cool like that.)
3. Getting into the starting area has a special flavor.
An Ultra involves a lot more preparation in terms of training, but also equipment.
On race day, we have to arrive earlier (we had to be on site between 5am and 6am) to drop our things in the transition zone – There is a tent in the middle lane, between the two laps, or & # 39; & # 39; you can fill gasoline (put water in the camel bag, take energy bars, change shoes or T-shirts if needed). So we had time to get ready, warm ourselves up and make sure everything was right where it should be.
The race was a little out of the way and we went into the starting area with the first rays of the sun. It was sunny, not too hot, we were in good shape.
We had taken the time to spread the glitter on our cheeks – a little second degree in a moment of concentration never hurts. We also had the purple runners chasuble, which distinguishes them on races of other formats (here Beast (21 km) and Super (10 km), which ran in the morning and afternoon respectively).
Stress, slightly tense smiles, very loud music coming out of the speakers, and the same motivational speech from the host: this is your time, this is your moment. It was the first time I had really engaged in the preparation of a Spartan, and it was also the first time I had embarked on a competitive race with anyone. It was a special moment, no doubt.
4. You have to be in the moment, enjoy yourself and have fun (without thinking of coming.)
When you compete, it's something you can sometimes forget (or put aside) – but the point is still to have fun. OK, we are fighting for the first place, and it will be very difficult moments physically and emotionally. But we are here above all to feel good, surpass yourself and enjoy the adrenaline to enjoy.
Appreciate what's happening, without trying to project yourself, is a really good way to break away from fear (not to get done, not to end up hurting yourself, etc.). And you had to meet the obvious: the weather was beautiful, the scenery was amazing – the route went through very different terrains, in the jungle, in fields, in vast expanses of red or white soil, reminiscent of salt marshes.
A detour even took us through a palm plantation, and we managed to get the hose down on the garden hose by one of the staff – it was a terrible heat, and it is still my most intense memory of the race, I think.
In short, it was good to take every moment – and say "another 40 km", or "more than 30 km" would have been stupid. Just enjoy – listening to your body, but not too much, listening to your thoughts, without holding them back. Stay in the bet, because in the bet, we are good.
5. Nothing should be taken for granted (especially no obstacles)
I did 210 burpeer. It may seem like a lot, but at 8am in the end it's not so much. That said, it is always disappointing to miss an obstacle (especially when you think you have mastered it).
- twist it twice – the first time after crossing 2/3 of the rods, which is especially annoying, the second time without trying it, because it steals a lot of energy too much)
- Olympus 2 times – the second ending in a rather horrible half anxiety attack
- Spear twice – at that, no regrets, I'm not screwed to aim a balloon, I don't see why I would be better off with a lance
- The monkey blocks once – on the second round, and it's one of my big disappointments, I know and usually like them, the first one went without much concern … but I was in lack of strength and I dropped, stupid.
To be honest, the storm had knocked down 5 obstacles the day before, which we had no opportunity to do – it probably accelerated the race a bit – I couldn't say for sure that they would all be past, given the state of exhaustion.
I keep anyway that I have to keep exercising, including the obstacles that I already thought I had, we are never immune.
6. Time flies surprisingly fast
At the end of the first round, we had to face the facts: it went faster than we thought. The first loop went really well because we weren't in a hurry: we didn't really think we were doing well, so we just did our best without being worn out: by going up, taking care to put and removing the gloves for obstacles (to prevent our hands from overheating, or to take water) .. and the supply tent arrived faster than expected. There we got the white chasuble "Lap Leaders", The 10 fastest runners in the race (10 for men, 10 for women.) Knowing that we were in the top 10 half way gave us a real boost, and we started quickly from the transition zone, after filling our bags (and changing chasubles).
And then … there was only one lap left, and we tried to keep going and get over it, quickly and well. We lost some time, I think – I only occasionally checked the time spent on the course because you had to eat every hour, to make sure you have enough energy to complete the race. Eating was not the easiest thing to do – frankly, after 7 hours of eating only cereals and sugar gels, we saturate a bit, and chewing, swallowing and digesting becomes very painful. But it was also a sign that time was passing and that we were moving on. We had mini-comfort Snickers, which we were happy to find and devour.
Find my nutrition / hydration tips for endurance events here!
It is a very long time at 08:00 on paper, but when I look back I feel that I have spent much less on the race. In comparison, the days at the office seem like forever.
7. Spartan society gives wings (when needed)
The more Spartans we run, the more people we meet. And more, suddenly there are familiar faces in the race, or in public, or among the volunteers. People we have driven with or driven towards. The ones that we will hang on to keep a rhythm, the ones that we will chase after going up the rankings. And yet there is a huge family where everyone smiles and uses their elbows. We stop if someone hurts, we clap our hands when we meet. We smile at each other, because we are in the same mess, that we do everything together. I have never experienced this in sports before, and in such a long run, every smile, every encouragement played a crucial role – I wish I could thank them one by one, really.
8. The "walls" during a race are not a myth
We had never run very long distances – for my part several 10 km, some Beasts (therefore 21-23 km), and a 35 km training. And that's it. So we had no idea what to expect, and to talk to marathon runners, it was a matter of hitting “walls”, moments in the race where you feel you can't get any further – and that must be overcome in order to continue .
And I discovered … it wasn't a myth. The first loop of 25 km was no problem, the start of the second was more difficult (in direct sunlight, 37 degrees, long straight lines to run without obstruction), and around 40 km, the desire to give up. We weren't over, it was too hot, everything hurt. We took turns to choke, each pushing the other as the need arose. And that brings me to the next point …
9. The head takes over when the body no longer follows.
Whether you are trained or not, there comes a time when you just can't do it anymore. From the 40th mile I hurt both my ankles as soon as I scooted. The sun was beating so hard that I finished my water supply too quickly, and I saw the last 10 kilometers beyond my physical capacity. My teammate had hip pain and a barbell under my stomach.
There were also 2 sets of obstacles left, and it was likely that we would miss some, just because of the exhaustion.
And then .. the head took over. We promised to end up together and we would end up together. We had not seen anyone for a while, so our ranking was almost guaranteed as long as we crossed the finish line.
It wasn't really a medal story, it was a story of achievement – and then, we wanted to run more than the distance of a marathon, with pride, because we both know that marathon is not a discipline for us. By crossing the finish line, you can say "I never ran a marathon, but I ran 50 km under an obstacle course".
On the other hand, the feeling you get when you come through a very difficult event (as I say for Hurricane Heat) is incredible. The adrenaline, the confusion, the emotional shock of coming out of something that seemed endless. I wanted more than anything in the world. And then we continued to trot, without complaining. We just had to get there.
On the last obstacle flight, the storm that has threatened to burst begins for a while: there is lightning in the distance, wind, the tropical storm will fall. There is something very dramatic, magnificent, intense to end with watching the sky explode.
10. The feeling of arrival is very different from other races
It has been 8 hours, 17 minutes and 5 seconds since we left. And at some point we skip a light, we cross the finish line and everything stops. We don't have to run anymore. We cut the bracelet with the tracking chip, we are taken to find the medals. It is over. My teammate is lying on a cardboard on the floor, to stretch. I try to fight to know our times, to get the t-shirts. The muscles cool down at speed, and I shiver with cold. The rain hits suddenly, you have to get the boxes at the transition. We await the results.
We finish 2nd and 3rd place in the female rankings, behind an adorable elite runner who will congratulate us 1st and 2nd in our age group, 7th and 8th in the age group, all ages and genders combined. We had a really good race, firstly.
We are exhausted, but nowhere near as bad as we expected. Sure, everything hurts, but it's not that "never again" feeling that one can sometimes feel after a really difficult race.
I did really well, I think – despite the pain and moments of uncertainty – and I believe my teammate as well. I really hope we make a whole again – I know it wouldn't be the same on our own. I don't even know if I would have the courage to continue when the physical limit is reached, if I have no one to start a little ahead and start trotting again. It was a unique experience, from preparation to arrival.
I also know that it will take some time to recover completely – the pain is already gone and the bruises are slowly disappearing, but the joints are still pulling a bit and the performance of the gym is still not optimal. It's part of the process, it's normal, and it gives us time to think about the next goal.
For my part, I will be joining a Spartan Race podium in 2020, on a super or a beast. I have to work on the race, which I hated so much, and improve my technique on obstacles. But now that we have driven this, the others scare me less. Maybe that's why you always have to look a little further and get out of your comfort zone: you learn to trust yourself, you go beyond yourself and you improve.
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