Lead Up to the Spartan Ultra Beast 2014 – Part 1

Spartan Race Ultra Beast Countdown Clock:



With the registration for the Killington Vermont Beast announced last week for september 21st, saturday, that means the Ultra Beast is likely going to be the following day again.  Which brings us to the first in our series of articles interviewing racers from the elite and open field from the previous years race. Part 1 will cover the early stages of getting ready for the race.

For those of you who don’t know what the Spartan Ultra Beast is, it is the toughest race you can run in within the Spartan Race series of races.  There were only two run last year with one being in Australia and the other in Vermont. Only 52% (143 people) finished in the elite field and 44% (108 people) in the open field – that is the lowest of any race they run.  The average time was a staggering 12:28:39 for elite and 13:05:11 for open racers.  And one more kicker is that you have to qualify for this race so all of these numbers are for well qualified athletes giving their best to finish over 28 miles of mountain running obstacle racing.

When asking racers about when they made the decision to run the Ultra Beast here is what they said:

“For me, it was a very last minute snap decision. […]  I am an athlete and live for challenges like that, so I immediately said yes without hesitation. The one problem? The marathon obstacle course race was just under two weeks away. ” -Tucker Marshall

And from someone that put a more long term approach into it:

“I ran the beast in 2012 and did pretty well. Then I saw an ad for the ultra beast… I liked the idea of “seeing if I could do it” and failure sort of scared me. Between the two I was sold. Also – part of the reason I sign up for stuff is to give myself a reason to get in shape. The thought of surviving the ultra beast provided a heavy burden on my conscience if I wanted to skip a work out!”  -Marc Vanderhoof

After deciding to run the race you still need to get past the special Spartan Race Ultra Beast application process, here is what was going through their minds while waiting:

“It took a few months.  I was nervous, but still confident.  I was registered for the Beast, and almost forgot about the Ultra since I was not receiving any news.  Then, mid June (I think), I received an email confirming that I had been selected to run the Ultra.  I called my coach, told him that we were back in business.”  -Patrick Fillion

“I was not nervous. I haave done other marathons, triathlons, adventure races in the past so I figured it would be good enough even though I had only done 1 Spartan Sprint before. I also won the Worlds Longest Endurance Race (on horseback) the Mongol Derby. The Mongol Derby is a 1000km race across Mongolia where 35 international riders navigate themselves (no marked trails), live off the hospitality of nomadic people and use their wits to try and win. I was the first American ever invited and I’m the only American to date to win it (2010). That said, I was pretty confident I was going to get invited.” -Justin Nelzen

“A top 10% WTM finish was good enough to get in, and the second time around, I had already place in the top 80. No sweat in my book.” -Harrison Lessans

Spartan Race Ultra Beast

Harrison Lessans climbing up to the Tarzan Swing

And your thoughts after being accepted to the Ultra Beast:

“I was thrilled by the news! My coach and I pushed the training to another level (more trail running, longgggggggggg trail running, I added swimming once a week to my training. I was very excited about the race. I got nervous maybe a week before the race. Saturday, before the race, I went to see the Beast championship, some family members were competing (brother, cousin). Both told me that the race was way tougher than the year before, there were new obstacles (send bag carry, bucket of gravel, etc.) That’s when I thought that there were no turning back. My brother and cousin were leaving just after their race, so I was alone for the rest of the evening, just thinking about what was going to happen the next day. I woke up early, got prepared, went to the starting line and at that moment, I was in peace, I knew I was going to be ok.” -Patrick Fillion

“I had never done an event that long and I seriously would wake up in the night, weeks in advance and think “Are you freaking crazy? Who exactly do you think you are?” and then have a hard time getting back to sleep! This feeling intensified in a linear fashion as the day approached. It ultimately peaked at 3:50 AM on the day of the race. I woke up and it was 50 degrees and pouring rain.. Like not regular pouring.. more like buckets. I remember briefly thinking “Maybe they will cancel because the weather is so bad” fat chance. Leaving my cozy bed, warm snuggly wife and resident plush owl ‘Chumby’ was a test of will power alone. Side note – My wife and family supported me throughout the entire race, start to finish and it made a world of difference in those moments of self-doubt that surely all racers are familiar with.”  -Marc Vanderhoof

“I looked at it as prep for WTM. In hindsight, I’d probably do better by tailoring certain aspects of training to be more specific to the event (i.e. hills, carrying objects, etc). I wasn’t nervous or anything. I was pretty excited.”  -Harrison Lessans

On training for the Ultra Beast Spartan Race:

“The usual day started out with meeting at his [Joe Desena, Spartan Race Founder] place at 5:15AM and running a lap on his home trails to the top of a mountain with a 100LBS and a 50LBS sandbag between us, and his other 2 clients. After we completed the first lap, which is just under 4 miles, he sent me around alone for 2 more laps with the 100LBS sand bag in tow. I generally finished up this project around 11AM.
After that, I would head back to his office to check in, grab some lunch, and get assigned my next task. Usually after lunch it was a 10 mile loop which had an extremely steep incline. He would have me track these runs and send him my splits, so he would know how I was doing, and how fast my pace was.
I would head home for some food and hopefully a nap after the run, but not before checking in again with Joe at the office. He would assign something “easy” for the late afternoon/night, like a 5-10 mile hike or a bike around his trails in town.
I was averaging around 30 miles a day, or 0 to 300,000 as far as my training routine went. As you can imagine this had a negative effect on my body and my knee got the worst of it. After my 5 day training regimen, I could hardly walk without limping. Scratch that, I couldn’t walk without limping. Something I hid from Joe, for the most part.
For my tapering, since I wasn’t doing much, (relatively), Joe put me on a diet because he wanted me to be carrying as little weight as possible when I got to the starting line. Only fruits and veggies.
Now, when I was training 30 miles a day, one of his nutritionists told me that I had to ingest upwards of 200 grams of protein per day in order to not have my muscles deteriorate. Do you have any idea how hard it is to take in that much protein? I ate an extreme amount of food during those days, but its what my body needed, and I absolutely felt that. But after all that, Joe basically tells me that I can’t eat anything. It was a violent adjustment.”  -Tucker Marshall

“I had about 4 months to train so IMO I wouldn’t call it last minute but I also wouldn’t say that I had the normal amount of time I would take to train for a race like this. Where I live (outside of Houston) we do not have any mountains so I substitued mountains with deep sand runs (which we have a lot of around my area) and running bleachers at the local high school stadium. My runs varied between 3-18 mile runs with the average run being around 7-8 miles. I typically ran 5 days a week.” -Justin Nelzen

Spartan Race Ultra Beast

Justin Nelzen going under barbed wire

 Would they do it again?

“It took me a month after the race to even stomach that question, but yes. I do plan on doing it again.  Enough time has passed that I can’t seem to remember the level of misery I felt on that day.  So naturally I’ll have to do it again to remind myself.”  -Marc Vanderhoof

“I will be going back again this year, this time however I will enter the Elite Division. My goal is to top 10 (but secretly hoping to top 5)” -Justin Nelzen

“Hell yes I am doing the Ultra again. I have some redemption due from last year. I wish there were more than one Ultra in the U.S. during the year. Australia is too hard financially to get to. I plan on being a part of the OCR community as long as I am able!” –Darrin Koski

Now available Part 2 of the Lead up to the Spartan Race Ultra Beast!



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Dario is an obstacle course racer and lover of great coffee. When he isn't writing on this blog he can be found working as a photographer for NYSE, AP, and occasionally Getty Images.
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  1. Chris Tucker says

    I love reading peoples story’s about endurence races, keep’em coming. Now straight to the point. I’ve ran 2 marathons (4hours 15mins), ran the rim2rim at the Grand Canyon, hiked Half Dome in Yosemite. As far as obstacle course races I’ve done 4 TM all under 2hours, best time 1:22. I’ve did my SR trifecta last year all top 1% in the races. The beast I ran was in Vermont with a time of 6:02. No burpees, including Tarzan swing. I’m signed up again for my trifecta already this year and would love to finish this year with the ultra beast. I’m am training incredibly hard for this race and would be heart broken if my application was denied. Is there any tips or suggestions that I could use to get it accepted? Thanks for the good reads, and can’t wait for the next installment.

      • Dario says

        Making the entrance easier will likely up the rate of people not finishing above 60% which should be interesting. I’m curious to compare it to the 2013 course after it is run and all the info is in.

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