A gorgeous weekend welcomed Spartans to Killington; the location where it all began. Huge crowds were on hand for the Ultra, Beast and Sprint weekend. Parking seemed to move smoothly and allowed athlete a chance to stretch out their legs with a 15-minute walk to the festival area. Loud music, many vendors and temperatures in the 70s remained on tap from Saturday morning until Sunday evening. The Gondola took spectators to the peak of the mountain for the chance to watch the Death March as well as take in some amazing views.
The layout for the Beast course was very similar to that of last years. When you run the Killington course, you know what to expect. The first third of the course took you on a climb up part of the mountain and included such obstacles as 7-foot walls and the Monkey Bars. After a short decline, the race through its first punch at you. Z Walls quickly were followed by the Tire Flip. A few hundred feet further, the famed swim awaited. This year, the swim was shorter in distance and it took you out to the bridge for the ladder climb and Tarzan Swing. The ladder climb is difficult enough with the rope ladder swinging as you are trying to get out of the cool water. Once at the top of the ladder, you have 5 knotted ropes hanging from the bridge that you must climb across. At the end of the fifth rope, you must get a good swing to hit the bell hanging about four feet away. This obstacle clearly had the highest fail rate of the day. You are soaked, tired from climbing the ladder, and now you have five wet, thin ropes to swing from. Burpees were waiting for many as they finished the swim.
The middle third of the course took Spartans up the mountain in very dense woods. In most cases, the trails in the woods were a single lane, which makes passing others very difficult. The Tyro Traverse was in a remote section of the mountain and split up the wooded ascent. Before descending the mountain at mile 8, Spartans had the Cliff Climb, which was a face of the mountain so steep, you had to use the cargo netting provided. After a very slippery descent which brought you back to the festival area, Twister awaited. As if the Death March was not grueling enough, most Spartans began this final climb immediately after doing burpees from the menacing upper body obstacle.
The final leg and most definitely the most grueling part of the course began with the 1.3-mile Death March. Like years past, athletes were littered along the narrow trail which took you to the top of the mountain. The top of the course meant you now had to navigate back to the festival area and many challenging obstacles were still to come. The Herc Hoist, uphill Barb wire Crawl, and Rope Climb broke up the final descent. More closely to the bottom is where the fun really began. A second and much more difficult Sandbag Carry kicked off the final gauntlet of obstacles. Just minutes later, an enormous Bucket Brigade took you on a huge loop up and down part of the mountain. This obstacle crushed the spirits of many around me. In the competitive waves, Spartans were found taking rests every 25 feet. I saw several people crying at this time. In the festival area, Multi Rig, Spearman and Olympus rounded out the end of what was a very challenging course.
This is such a tough course and you keep hearing people all day questioning why they signed up in the first place. I was there last year, and I am sure I shared those thoughts. But Vermont is so beautiful, and it really is hard to not come back and try and better yourself from years past. Trash seemed to be on the course but on a much lesser scale. Personally, last year I had trouble on Tarzan Swing and it felt so good to find success in 2018. The Death March did not seem to cause as much trouble for me as it does with some. I did have plenty of trouble with Spearman and Olympus landing me a total of 60 burpees. There is a very good chance of returning to Vermont in 2019 to tackle the Beast again.
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