Posted in Racing

Vermont Spartan Beast – 2016 (Part 2)

If you want to recall the exploits from the first half of the race you can read them here Vermont Spartan Beast – 2016 (Part 1) otherwise we can just continue to the end.

We were heading to the bridge which would take us over Killington Road.

After crossing the bridge, the 2 1/2 hour warm up over and now the real race begins. . .

Luke and I are standing on the shore of the lake putting on our life vests before stepping out into the 60° degree water for the 200 yard swim to the rope ladder.  We had checked this out the night before and the water didn’t seem that cold.

The swim out to the ladder was quite uneventful. I just floated on my back and enjoyed a couple minutes of relaxation as I gently kicked and paddled to the bridge. I had been looking forward to this obstacle all week.

Once we got to the bridge, it took a couple of moments to pick a lane and start the climb to the top. Both Luke and I made it to the top of the ladder and hit the first bell, ding! I was surprised; climbing the ladder was far more taxing than I expected it to be. So as I gathered myself together, I watched Luke start across the Tarzan swing, six short ropes leading to the next bell. Swing, grip, swing grip, and at the end he kicks the bell. Success!

But me, I am having a hard time getting started, I grab the first rope, swing to the second, so far so good and then as I reach for the third, I feel my hand slip and SPLASH! I into the water I go! Darn, my first failure of the day. 30 burpees are waiting on the shore.  So we start to swim over to the shore and we both notice that the water is feeling a lot colder than it did before. In fact,  by the time we reach the shore Luke is shivering from the cold. He heads of to try and find some sun to warm up (there was none) and I head off to the muddy burpee pit to start the penalty.

After I am done, we are back in the water for another 300-400 yards of walking through the water to finally leave the lake behind. The only problem with the walk is that the bottom of the lake (which can’t be seen through the murky water)  is covered with rocks, trees, holes, boulders and just about anything else to make the journey difficult. Also, from one step to the next, the depth of the lake could change from 2 feet to 5 feet. Needless to say, other than just being physically challenging, it was mentally taxing as well. One bad step could have easily led to a DNF.  Also, the combination of shade, wet clothes, 60 degree air temps and a brisk wind lead to us being VERY COLD!! In fact both Luke and I were shivering by the time we were finished.  Both my hands and my feet were totally numb from the cold.

Fortunately, the next thing we did was to head into the woods for a mile of running which was great to warm us up and get back some feeling before we hit more obstacles. After the run, in quick succession we hit the:

  • Tyrolean Traverse
  • Barbed wire #2
  • Rolling mud and
  • 8 foot wall.

These were all pretty uneventful except for the 8 foot wall. By this time my legs were a bit tired and I couldn’t get traction to get over the wall. If you look in the video, you can see, my attempts were pretty lame on this one.

Failed obstacle number 2. Another set of Burpees.

I made sure to take it really easy on the burpees and conserve as much energy as I could. As I did the burpees I watched Luke who also struggled a bit on this one finally made it over the wall.

At this point, I did a quick metal check, we are 8 1/2 miles in to the race and there weren’t many obstacles left that I was concerned about failing and needing to burpee. The only two that worried me were the spear throw and the multi-rig. But both of these came as part of the “Obstacle-gauntlet” in the final ½ mile of the race.

But back to the moment; we were down level with the base lodge so that meant only 1 thing, time to head back up the mountain.  After 42 minutes, 1.3 miles and 1,300 feet of elevation gain on mostly wooded trails we arrived at the third summit of the day.  Including the one short downhill, this stretch had an average grade on just about 20%. Pretty steep, but not brutal; the brutal part was yet to come. But the views along the way were amazing.


And after we finished the climb, I was able to bust out my favorite treat for the the day. POP-TARTs®. At this point there was nothing better than a


At the top we hit the Spartan sled drag and the cargo net climb.

At this point I still believed we had a chance to crack the 6 hour mark. Luke said no way, but he thought it would be the carries that slowed us down. But it was just the course that slowed us down, nothing specific.

Then we were heading back downhill once again. But before were we down the hill we needed to finish the:

The  plate drag. For this we needed to drag a 100 lb across 20 yards of rough rocky ground. All-in-all it was not very difficult.

The sandbag carry,  on this we only needed to carry one 50 lb bag on this one and the hill that we used wasn’t even very steep. In a bizarre way I was disappointed. I was really hoping for a double bag carry since I had been training for them since Palmerton.

The rope climb has become pretty easy since I have finally figured out the technique of how to do it

And then it began. The infamous Vermont “Death March” the final climb of the race and did they ever save the best for last. It was 45 minutes of slogging up an average grade of 23% (max grades over 40% in spots) covering 1.2 miles and 1,550 vertical feet. The worst part of the climb was the first mile which was dead straight up the mountain. As I looked up, it never appeared we were getting any closer to the top. So it was put our heads down and “Keep chopping wood” heading to the top.

But on my way up, I had an interesting thing happen.  After about 26 minutes of climbing, I saw a small flower (a clover I think) right in the middle of the trail. I thought that’s weird, just one flower in the middle of nowhere. Then I paused for a second and looked around at the mountainside, it was literally covered in flowers. It was hard to believe that I could have toiled for that long and never realized the beauty that was all around me. My focus to get to the top was that narrow that I was completely unaware of my surroundings. So I took that in for a moment or two and then it was back to “Chopping wood” and continuing the climb.

Not long after that, Luke excitedly yelled back to me,

“Dad, I think we’re almost at the top!”

Followed about 30 seconds later by a dejected:

“Never mind, they just have us turn a corner.”

But after we turned the corner, the grade began to ease a bit.


We made one more turn and started up a dirt path and then finally there it was the summit, according to my watch 4,181 feet above sea level.  We were 13.5 miles into the race and it was literally all downhill from here.

All that was left on the downhill was the

  • Farmers carry and
  • Downhill rope climb

These both passed without much difficulty and we were back on our way down the mountain.

And now we were back onto the merged Sprint/Beast course. All I kept telling myself at this point was to stay under control and make sure that I didn’t get hurt. DNFing at this point due to injury would have been heartbreaking.

The memory test was supposed to be next, according to an updated map of the course that I saw after the race, but no one was there when we went past. So unknowingly we just kept cruising downhill.

In the last half mile at the end we had these final obstacles facing us.

The Spear throw, this was going to be a difficult throw, the target was higher than normal and it was uphill from where we threw the spear. But,  Luke and I were determined to hit this. But as can be expected, things don’t go according to plan, his spear hit the hay bale and fell out and mine hit the edge of the target and fell to the ground. We were both off to burpee pit. Luke blasted through his burpees amazingly fast and I told him go ahead and get started on the next obstacle.

Log carry – was easier than I thought, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. The hill wasn’t that steep and the distance wasn’t that long.

Inverted wall – easy as usual

Atlas carry – nothing like lugging a great big heavy rock for 20 yards, but it was one more obstacle out of the way.

Then came the final obstacle that could give me trouble the multi-rig. At this point I knew that I was going to make it to the finish line and I think that lead to me giving less than my best on this. I fell early on the transition to the rings. There is no real reason why I can’t complete this obstacle, but for some reason I have a mental block. As usual, Luke was able to make it across even though he had to make it a bit dramatic. As he got to the horizontal pipe. one of his gloves was slipping, so he decided to stop, hang on the other arm and pull his glove off with his teeth and then finish the rig. A job well done!

We crossed a couple of other easy obstacles

  • Slip wall – easier than usual since it was dry
  • A-frame cargo net – not a problem

And then finally, there it was the

Fire jump

and the


Race done!

Trifecta completed!


Thanks for reading!

5 thoughts on “Vermont Spartan Beast – 2016 (Part 2)

  1. A great experience of father and son quality time. I would love have a trip like this with my son. Training first of course.


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