So, you want to do an Ultra Beast? If you are going to your social media accounts posting…”Should I do an Ultra Beast?”….then you are probably not ready.
Since Spartan announced that the Glen Rose Beast would now be an Ultra Beast, I have seen ridiculous amounts of posts from people asking if they should compete, how do they prepare, will they die?… and so on. I have also seen people that have completed a UB demonstrate that they are now the experts on all things endurance and adventure racing, giving advice simply because, in my opinion, they feel the need to make sure everyone knows they attempted, completed, or almost completed an Ultra Beast. Welcome to social media.
There are a lot of people that want to give advice, but have not a clue or the credentials to back up what they are talking about; they are not you nor have they taken any time to gather any data on what you are doing or need. Advice from others is great, but people on social media lie because they want to paint a pretty encouraging picture that you will do it, and finish the UB!!! When, in all honesty, 50% (most UBs have a finishers rate below 40%) of you will not finish. Now, there is nothing wrong with encouragement, I have done it. However, I have also told the truth to those that will probably not finish. Is that too harsh of me? Perhaps, but I know what it is like to DNF and it sucks, but it happens and people should be prepared for it. Those of you that do these races for the shirt, the bling, the medal, the fire jump pic, be prepared for the pain and agony to your psyche if you do not finish the UB because there will be no bling, no shirt, no medal, no finisher pic. You either Finish or you DNF, there is no consolation prize and that is a major point/part of the Ultra Beast in the first place.
I know because I DNF’d my first UB. I trained for 8 months leading up to the Killington Ultra Beast in 2014. I ran 3-4 times a week with some training sessions being 18-22 miles of trail running. I started the race with 3 friends of mine that I had been training with, all 3 had DNF’d the year before so I just knew I was gonna finish with them. Reality Check! At the 26 mile mark, I came out of a looooonnnggg downhill trek, only to be greeted by Tony Matesi with a nice pair of scissors aiming to cut my off timing chip. After 13 hours on the course, with only 5 miles left, I missed the time cutoff they had set. Two of my three training buddies were there to greet me, having already bowed out for medical reasons. Several friends that had only done the Beast were there looking sad and hugging me. but I was smiling! I just DNF’d a race I had been training so hard for and I was fine with it. Why? Because I knew going in that there was a possibility of failure. I walked off with my friends, no medal, no shirt. Everyone was saying “You deserve at least a Beast medal because you did one lap!!” “You deserve a shirt because you made it so far”…but I did not complete it, so, no…I did not.
I am telling you this because those of you that are looking at this race should want to do it for YOU. Not for a medal and not for a shirt. You have to want to challenge yourself for 26-30 miles of non-stop running up and down hills, over obstacles, heavy carries, and lots of burpees. Yes, even in Ultra Beast, you still have to do the burpees if you fail an obstacle. This should be your race and you should be prepared to fail. The point is to see how much your body can take and not how many selfies you can grab while on the course.
After my DNF I went back to Killington, not once but twice. I was able to get that medal AND shirt in 2015 and 2016. My first DNF was not a waste, it was not a failure; I used it to grow. I knew exactly what I needed to do the following years to make that time cut off.
So here is my advice. Am I an expert? No, I am only an expert on how my body does in endurance events and even then, I screw up. I have completed a Death Race, but yet, DNF’d three HH12HR’s. My advice to you is that you stop asking others if you should do the Ultra Beast and figure it out yourself. Go run. Run for miles, then run some more. Figure out how long you can go without eating while you are running, then ignore that because you will have to set a timer on your watch to remind yourself to put something in your mouth every hour so you do not forget. Preferably food. Run in different conditions like rain, cold weather, the heat of the day, all because you have no clue what may happen during your race and YOU need to know what to do, because you will not be able to login to social media to ask for help.
If you are unable to run a mile without stopping then more than likely you will not finish an Ultra Beast. Should you still sign up? Why not? Do it, and still go out and train your ass off. If you miss the cutoff then you know what held you back and you are better prepared for the next one.
I have run the Glen Rose Beast, but of course not a UB at that venue so I have no clue what to expect. Part of me thinks it will be a cake walk compared to a Norm designed Killington Ultra Beast, part of me plans on getting top 3, but anything could happen like crazy/non-traditional time hacks, extra mileage, even heavier and longer carries. The best advice I could give, that has gotten me through pretty much every endurance race I have done, is go in with the mindset that you may fail. One, because it sucks a lot less when you do; and two, it’s pretty freaking awesome when you don’t. I am somewhat twisted though so my logic may not work for others. Hey, but it is the truth.
Don’t plan on running with friends. This is your race. Train with friends, but be prepared to leave them, or for them to leave you because it is their race as well. Don’t be that guy/gal that holds your friend back from completing their race and be ok with being that guy/gal that says “hurry and catch up!” when they make an obstacle and you have to do burpees.
Figure out your nutrition. There is no set of winning nutrition tips. This drives me crazy when people ask and people respond like they have “THE ANSWER FOR EVERYONE”. This is pure garbage and, in all likelihood, will lead you to a DNF before it will a Buckle. It is your body. Try different things like Gu’s, bars, beef jerky, candy, pizza, soup, you name it! Some of us swear by Sour Patch Kids and Skittles on the course. I brought at least 20 different snacks in my pack and transition bin that first year and you know what got me thru? Snickers, almond bars, Sour Patch Kids, baby food squeezables, and Fireball. (If you ever see me on a course, just know I have Fireball on me, and yes, I share). Be prepared to have a set nutrition plan, then want none of it during the actual race.
Have 2 bladders. I say don’t do water, do something with electrolytes in it. My first year I ran on coconut water, but it was awful after it warmed. Whatever you choose, fill your bladders half-full the night before, then freeze it. The morning of the race, fill the rest of the bladder. Start with one, then at your half way point pull out the old one, and slip in the new one. Do not be that ass clown filling your bladder with luke warm gallon jugs. Be prepared.
Find some shoes that you WILL NOT have to change halfway, a backup pair just in case is not a bad idea but make them Plan B. Trust me on this. What worked for me? All three UB’s I prepped w/ Trail Toes, then wore toe socks and another pair of knee socks over those (simply fashion purposes because I like to party) and Inov8 X-talon 212’s. Thru the mountains of Killington, through the swims, through the down hill poundings, I never had to change my shoes, and it was glorious.
Saving any time you can is good because you do not want to be wasting it when you hit that half way point. Do not sit and chat and have some snacks with your buddies. Think TIME CUT OFFS at all times.
Change your hydration, refill your nutrition, take some shots of Fireball, change your shoes ONLY if necessary, and then go!
Don’t. Stop. Moving.
I am not saying you have to be running a 7-minute mile pace at all times. you just need to keep going. Run all the down hills andd walk the steep up hills. Take that time to re-fuel. Please, for the love of God, do not be that person taking pictures at every point possible to remember that what you did. Unless you get amnesia, there should be no reason you do not remember participating in an Ultra Beast. If you finish, you will have the medal to prove it.
Time your pace with the time cut-offs. Plan on Spartan changing it on a whim because it happens. See how long it took you to do the first lap, then figure out if you need to move faster or keep the same pace for the second lap to meet time cut offs.
It is not too late to start training. Stop asking others if you should do it. You decide if you want to do it. Start training. Train to complete the race, plan to complete the race, prepare yourself for the possibility of failure. Run the race, then brag on Facebook that you did it. Brag that it sucked and you completed it with picture proof of your selfie wearing your shirt and medal. Or brag that it sucked and you DNF’d and take a selfie with the volunteer that cuts your timing chip! Be proud of yourself for even wanting to take on an Ultra Beast!
Oh, and don’t forget the Fireball….You’re welcome?