Fast forward to the weeks leading up to the race. Weather predictions for a race start of 33°F, sunrise at 7:45 AM (105 minutes after the start of the elite heat at 6:00 AM), and possible rain. Well, a couple days out, the good news was that the rain predictions dropped but the bad news was that it would still be cold. I estimated it would only be about 54°F by the time I wanted to finish (2:00 PM—8 hours). I packed everything I thought I would need but ended up forgetting a few things: a cold weather buff, my Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes pills and Endurolytes Fizz tablets. Oh well, how bad could it be? On Friday morning, I headed to LGA in Queens and met with the ladies with whom I’d stay for the weekend—Jes and Katie.
The flight was fine—I read a few chapters of “Natural Born Heroes” by Christopher McDougall, listened to country music by Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean, and slept a bit as well. From the airport, we went to eat at Hard 8 BBQ, then traveled separately for the 1.5 hour drive to Iredell. About 30 minutes out, I had realized I forgot to pick up a bucket for my drop bin so I took a 40 minute detour to Home Depot and back to the venue. I managed to pick up my packet before 6:00 PM, scope out the festival and course, and practice on Twister a little before talking with some friends about the race and life, and then head to our room at Rough Creek Lodge. This place was beautiful! Of course, the ladies had their race gear lined up on the pool table so I set my bucket there and then we headed to dinner. The rest of the night was spent prepping our buckets and gear. Around 9:30 PM, I knocked out on the bottom bunk alone and rested pretty well until voices in the adjourning room, separated by a locked door, woke me up 2 hours later. I kindly informed them that I had a race at 6:00 AM and the rooms are connected so I can hear them. Then I slept well again until I was woken up way too soon at 4:10 AM. Eating and more prepping went down until about 5:00 AM. Everyone was worried about the cold so, of course, we all layered up with compression pants and at least 2 layers of tops (I would remove the outer long sleeve after the first lap).
Waves and waves of headlamps flashing, long layers of clothing everywhere, and the occasional crazy shirtless guy. People jostling to get ahead in position before we hit single track trails. Early on, a shin-deep water crossing. Lots of running through the dark. Cacti, supposedly, everywhere. Most of the “easy” obstacles were spread out earlier in the race as they wanted to save the harder, taxing ones for when we were wet and cold and our fingers wouldn’t work properly — Hurdles, Over Walls, O-U-T, 6’ Wall, Inverted Wall, Bender, Sandbag Carry (filled burlap bag) on the steepest hill of the course, and Barbed Wire Crawl.
After a lot of running through open fields, which didn’t help warm me up because of the wind chill gushing over me, next was the Farmer’s Carry, which was different in that it was a single atlas ball attached to a handle by a chain (introduced at Tahoe earlier). More running through open fields for a while and we came across Tyrolean Traverse. The obstacle was no problem as I sprinted across it, but my hands were so numb and I could barely close them that they now had a burning sensation from the thin rope I just traversed. More running and climbing throughout the course and then I distinctly remember the 8’ Wall. I ran up, jumped, and caught the top, but it was a lot harder to grip and pull myself up since my hands were frozen. After a few more obstacles, we started noticing more of the familiar venue.
We came across the Ball Shrinker obstacle, which was a wade through the edge of a lake. I looked at it and shuddered because I was still shivering and hoping to warm up soon. A photographer snapped our pictures and, shortly after, I tripped on a haphazard hose which shot horrendous cramps through both of my calves. I laid in the fetal position, writhing in pain and massaging my calves as best as I could (this also happened at a water crossing somewhere else on lap 1, but I don’t remember where). The pain was gone but I couldn’t run as fast as I had been going. It only got worse as we approached the Z-Walls, which was in viewing distance of the balcony of our suite at the lodge. I tried my best to grip the holds, but I couldn’t turn the outside corner without slipping off. Great, so this is where I start doing burpees. After counting 30, while simultaneously reciting my Memory Test code to myself over and over, I ran off to make up some ground. There was a Plate Drag and then Monkey Bars. I’ve never failed Monkey Bars in my life before, but the up/down transitions on this one combined with the lack of feeling in my hands threw me off the second rung. 30 more burpees. Olympus was right after and I was worried to miss it because I didn’t want to do a penalty loop, but I made it across just fine!
We moved across the open fields a bit more and finally came across a water station and Bucket Brigade. I saw a Spartan live feed camera focusing on me and thought, cool! It turns out he was focused on Alyssa Hawley, Spartan Pro Team Member, and current leader of the female Beast race. That bucket took a lot out of me. I rested quite a few times with the bucket sitting on my knee but eventually made it through. More running and an Atlas Lift, and then I saw Twister. I thought, no way! I tried going across but slipped off after a few handles. Oh well, 30 more burpees. With 125 burpees in my first lap, I made sure to move through them all with purpose and as quick as I could to warm up! Then I flipped over the Vertical Cargo, ran to transition and recited Zulu-950-9200, and received my second lap green Ultra Beast pinnie.
I spent 10 minutes in transition—confused, trying to deal with cramps (some guy gave me salt pills and I downed 2), eating candy, drinking powerade to rehydrate, shedding an outer layer, replacing a few missing calorie sources, and off I went at the 3:35 mark (around 10:00 AM)! Lap 1 went pretty well despite the debilitating cold and 120 burpees. I didn’t need to eat or drink much and I finished in 3:24, 6 minutes ahead of my proposed schedule to achieve an 8 hour finish time.
Because this is my last OCR ever before retiring, I placed a lot of importance on this race and wanted to have the best experience possible. I can honestly say that this was THE race to be at for an Ultra Beast. Everything about it was epic. 27.5 miles (+0.25-0.5 extra if you failed Olympus 1-2x) and 2500 feet of elevation gain made Dallas a really fast and competitive course. Running this race well means being able to run 25+ miles (rather than run, climb, bomb downhill, climb, run, climb, etc.) and hang on.
Chrissi Shewchuk and Tom Spitzer also took the trip to Dallas excepting warm temperatures much to their chilly surprise. Chrissi ran the Open Beast heat of 14+ miles in 4:24 which she felt was a huge accomplishment for her rehabbing knee injury. She also secured her 3x Trifecta.
Tom took on the Elite Beast heat (3:20:41) with a 29 degree start line. He was happy that he had checked the weather before traveling south as he made sure to pack his UnderArmour ColdGear and running beanie. Even though he felt comfortable with his beanie on, he felt super slow; however he takes his burped-free performance as a big win.
With Sunday morning not much warmer for the Elite Sprint Race, Tom (58:03) felt faster and again went burpee-free, but still missed his elusive personal goal of 50% or better placement. He also picked up his well-earned 7x Trifecta.
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