Over the weekend I participated in the Spartan Beast race at Flathead Lake Montana. The terrain around Kalispell, MT and the lake was beautiful. The temperature was perfect in the mid 70's. This was my first Montana Spartan race so even though I knew to expect running up and down mountains and doing burpees, I was unsure of any other details that this particular course offered.
I got checked in, checked my bag, and found the porta-potties with just a few minutes before my heat started. I'd recommend showing up early when you do a Spartan race. The race started with a short run up a hill then was followed by the first obstacle which was the monkey bar challenge. I lost my grip and did 30 burpees right off the bat to start the race. The next most memorable challenge was a sand bag carry that went straight up a very long, straight, and steep path and then back down again. I was shocked how long it took and my calves were on fire by the time I finished.
There were several wall jumps throughout the course which I enjoyed. I didn't have a problem with the rope climb and I loved the sand bag rope pulley. There were several log carries, tire flips, sled pull, atlas balls, an upside down latter traverse, cargo nets, etc.
My next setback came at the spear throw. I hit the target but it did not stick so I got 30 more burpees. This year there was a new challenge when you got to the station you'd look up the last two digits of your bib number on a board and had to memorize a code. Mine was Mike 210-3411. About 40 minutes later you got to a station where you had to recite it back correctly or do burpees. I was surprised how many people had forgotten their code. It offered some variety to have them throw in a mental challenge during the course to see how well your mind does while under intense physical stress.
The biggest surprise this year was how dry the course was. We didn't really get into any mud until about half way through the race and even then it was only knee high mud levels. I am not complaining since I've run some very muddy courses that keep you bogged down the whole time so this was nice. The course also offered quite a bit of shade and many of the trails had been softened up from dead pine needles and rain from the prior days.
When I finally passed mile 12 I was expecting a quick finish since I could hear the music below coming from the finish line, but the barb wire crawl was very long and dry this year and it was strung extremely low. My clothes got caught on barbs many times as did many other runners. That was followed by crawling under a bridge and then being fully submerged in muddy water to pass under a wall. I was running hard and passing people for what I thought was the last half mile but then I got to the gravel bucket carry which went up and down a steep hill and I was really tired. I had to rest a few tines with the bucket before finishing. There was one last small mud area followed by a bar swing and ring traverse but my upper body strength and grip could not take it and I fell and did my last set of burpees which took me forever right before jumping over the fire to the finish line.
I was a little disappointed with my time of 4 hours 57 minutes. My times for my Beast races have gradually taken longer each year even though I am moving up higher in my age bracket. I think it is hard to compare two separate courses since there are so many differences. Even the mileage can be off by a couple miles between two Beast races.
My only gripe was seeing many people failing the obstacles and trying over and over or being assisted by others and not doing burpees. I know the race is a personal challenge and there are people at varying skill and conditioning levels and my hat is off to all the participants, but it would be nice to know my time and ranking is not being compared to people who were helped and carried across many of the obstacles by friends without being penalized throughout the race.
The race was fun (as fun as running around in the mountains for nearly 5 hours can be) and I was glad to finish with only a slightly sprained ankle and sore hamstring but no serious injuries. I am going to earn the trifecta this year so I was glad to get the hardest race out of the way first. The course terrain is beautiful as is the surrounding areas around Kalispell. It was a 10 hour drive but was worth it. I recommend the Montana Spartan for anyone looking for a challenging race.