After each mud run or obstacle race I compete in, you'll get my review and grades for each event to help you decide which ones you might want to sign up for. The following categories will be discussed:

1. COURSE- the design, venue, and setup of the race itself- how creative/ adventurous/ difficult the obstacles were, and obviously... how was the MUD?!?

2. FESTIVAL- all the fun beyond the actual race- the social atmosphere which usually includes food, beer garden, dj/ music/ concert, contests, vendors, and more during the after-party

3. SWAG- the included goodie bag and prizes up for grabs- all the "free" stuff that comes with price of entry and the quality of awards, shirts, and other giveaways

Feel free to use the search box to read up on any past topics you might be looking for.

SPARTAN BEAST, Killington VT, 9/20/15

It's become one of the most loved/hated OCR events on the planet (along with their very infamous Director "EffNorm" Koch) because of the brutal course design over one of Vermont's largest ski mountains, that has easily produced the longest average Beast finishing times and probably the longest recovery periods to follow!  And as anyone who's been around Spartan for at least a year knows, their 2014 World Championship last September set a bar so high that our sore legs may have trouble ever reaching again, especially since this course is no longer (at least for 2015) their season ending finale.  As the big money race moves to Lake Tahoe in a few weeks, I think some of Spartan's attention had already too.

1.  COURSE-  Only in the few weeks leading up to the Killington weekend, Spartan dubbed this as a "Founder's Race", which I had previously thought referred only to the first event at a new location. Obviously this wasn't so, as it's my 4th year doing this Beast race, and it goes back even another year to 2011.  But, I guess a more appropriate definition started to develop as an explanation for the design of its obstacles- using more of the natural elements (and of course the nasty steep landscape of the mountain) rather than so much of the high-budget apparatus-heavy technical obstacles?  What this equated to was really not much of any improvement to the previous course, just with possibly some extra of those evil wooded trails and tough, technical bouldering climbs or tree branch grabbing declines. What was noticed, though, was the subtraction of several of its more amazing obstacles that this race became known for!  All year long their two water obstacles, the over-the-pond Tyrolean rope traverse and the unforgettable swim to the rope ladders and Tarzan swing under the entrance bridge, has given every Spartan Racer nightmares on how to both endure the cold VT lake and try to avoid being the 90%+ who were faced with failure burpees.  We did get a consolation in two shorter rigs with rope swinging, but no 50-degree water below.  I'm still in shock over what they considered their two rope climb obstacles, as a hanging bell from around 9-10 feet overhead wasn't out of reach for many to just jump and slap it in the air.  And the memory test disappeared on Sunday for at least the earlier heats, so all those that stashed Sharpies in their pants got a relief there, too.  Most would say the toughest parts or at least most time-consuming, were the multiple heavy carry obstacles- with two sandbag carries, two log carries (though free to choose as small and light as you wanted), and a gravel bucket carry- though none of these were quite as bad as doing the much longer double sandbag carry/drag from last year! Two spear throw stations were cut down to only one, as a final pass/fail right before the finish line fire.  As Facebook complaints made us well aware this weekend, and whether it falls into this "Course" review section or not, water stations apparently has some troubles with supply during parts of each day.  I'm mixed on choosing which side to argue for, but even though the race is supposed to be primarily self-supported and advertised as a tough-natured and extreme event, the organizers should be able to provide the appropriate aid as a safety issue, for the amount of racers on the mountain.  Despite any negatives, and a few let downs from always expecting just more and better from the birthplace of Spartan Race, its the only event I believe every year being worth the 10 hour round trip drive, and still can't find it in myself to give them any less than the top score for this category.  GRADE = A

2.  FESTIVAL-  This was one of the most confusing setups to find what you were looking for, and thankfully the base ski lodge was open to basically avoid hanging outside during the early morning chilly pre-race hours.  You almost needed a map just to navigate where to go, more than for even the winding endless 14 mile race around the mountain! First stop always includes the bib and registration tents in the parking lot, but now Merchandise Central has followed it out there too, just in case you need more Spartan gear on your way in or out!  Although a lot of people had trouble finding the bag check area, it was the best arrangement of any SRs this year, housed self-serve in an indoor, upstairs conference room, which eliminated long waiting lines and exited right to the showering area.  Start and finish lines were on opposite sides of a tunnel- so you'd have to choose which you wanted to watch, since couldn't see both. But most of the excitement was around the finish, and had a long spectator aisle to catch the last 100 yards of the race.  GRADE = B

3.  SWAG-  For the slight bad news, though it didnt affect me and might have been resolved when Joe DeSena arrived on Sunday, I know a lot of people rightfully complained when they ran out of Trifecta medals the day before.  I think the same happened last year too?  Shouldn't that be planned for, especially since I'm going to assume a Beast is usually the final (third) piece racers attain, and would be collecting their completed trifecta status' here?   This was only my single Trifecta for 2015, so no extra medal for me.  No worries though, as the finisher medal is amazing and easily the best of Spartan's year (we'll see if Tahoe tops it).  Chromed out and a commemorative design above the other Beast green medals with special lanyard and date on both parts, it made my 4+ hours of racing hell worth it all.  UltraBeast'ers got an equally impressive souvenir that reminded us of a few years ago with their glow in the dark medallions, as well as an exclusive finisher shirt that does trump the other race versions.  I'm just thrilled for a record two weeks in a row, since doing the NJ Super, I have some new color tee-shirts to throw in my own wardrobe rotation!  GRADE = A