Although the course was similar to last year's, there were a few differences I noticed. After they started our heat of 200 runners we had a few simple over and under obstacles, a small mud pit and then immediately went up the mountain for trail running. I felt like there was more trail running and it took much longer this time.
Last year one of my frustrations was being stuck behind slower runners on the single file paths and it was a big problem again this year. In order to pass someone, you have to wait for the moments when the trail widens or when tired runners step aside and rest. I saw many impatient runners sprint through sage brush and bushes to pass people and I ended up doing this myself several times, but it is next to impossible in some places when you are going down very steep trails with no passing room.
I was shocked to see how long it was taking to progress over the course. The first several miles in the mountains were averaging close to 20 minutes per mile and I couldn't believe it was taking so long. Along the way the usual 25 obstacles to slow you down included crossing many mud pits, dragging concrete blocks, carrying buckets of gravel, and sand bags over small portions of the course. There were several wooden fences of various heights that had to be scaled. Jumping these obstacles was one of my few strengths and they didn't slow me down at all. There was a balance course of walking across tall wooden pegs of different heights. There were a couple tire pulls, large tire flipping, hoisting heavy sand bags up a tower with a pulley, and a heavy stone ball you had to carry. Failure to complete these challenges require 30 burpees before you can proceed with the course.
This year I didn't slip off the climbing wall but I couldn't stick the spear throw again despite hitting the target. Who practices throwing spears? Where do you practice throwing spears? I've always just planned on doing 30 burpees at the spear throw unless I get lucky. The hardest challenges for me were the rope climbs. Last year I successfully climbed them both of them to the bell, but this year I was just sliding down the muddy rope and didn't have the strength. The ropes seemed like they were higher and didn't have as many knots in them this time. I ended up doing burpees after failing these. This year instead of crossing monkey bars, they had a large cargo net above a mud pool that every one tried swinging across. It was much harder since it sank down so low and was not very stable. I fell into the water. Burpees again.
One of my biggest problems was lack of energy. I left my zip lock bag containing two Clif bars in my car by mistake. Last year they had water, sports drink, and various sports snacks to give you energy. I kept looking for something to eat at the water stations after the first hour but all they had for the entire race was water! They did put an occasional Morton salt container out with the water in lieu of sports drink. I tried a little at one station and felt like I took a mouth full of water from the ocean. No thanks.
Last year the temperature was 99 degrees on the course and this year it was only around 85 yet I felt much weaker and exhausted this time (probably because I wasn't fueling myself as well). By the time I got to the last mile of the course I was exhausted and discouraged. As I approached the 13 mile mark I could see the finish line but I was dying. I almost asked spectators for water since I was so weak. I had no chance on the second rope climb, but the barbed wire crawl was much nicer this year. Last year I was just rolling down 100 yards over small rocks but this year the mud was much thicker and softer.
After finishing the mud crawl they had us jump in one last wet mud pit right before we had to scale the final wall. I felt like that was a psychological low blow since they were introducing so much mud on the final wall. The wall was over 10 feet tall and had ropes you could hold while trying to walk up it but nobody was making it due to the amount of slippery mud. People ended up helping each other up and over the wall. Someone gave me a hand from the top to get over and I did the same to the guy below me. Finally after scaling the last wall it was just the fire jump before the finish line. I jumped it and nearly wiped out on my landing because I was so weak. I'm glad there were no gladiators to pummel me in my exhausted state this year. I made it to the finish line and got my medal. I could not see my watch since it was covered in mud but it ended up taking me exactly 4 hours. (Half an hour longer than the prior year). I was very frustrated with my finish time.
I was so glad to finally get some nourishment at the finish line. I then waited in line to wash myself off with freezing water at the community hose down showers. If felt good to finally get cleaned off. Last year it took me about an hour to wash my shoes when I got home and they were pretty much ruined anyway. This year I used an older pair of shoes and just donated them when I finished.
Despite being disappointed with a much slower time, it still felt good to finish. While running I noticed and later heard several people talking about taking short cuts, not doing burpees and going to the finish line early since they had enough so I was glad to have finished the entire challenge. I had several bruises, cuts, and scratches over my body but wasn't really hurting too bad the next day.
If you are looking for a fun physical challenge, I recommend the Spartan Beast race. It is very challenging and a good workout. I will be better prepared next year. I will put more emphasis on trail running, practice burpees more, and have food on me. I may also pay for an earlier start time with cooler weather.