Saturday, September 29, 2012

Finishing the UltraBeast, Helpful decisions and strategies

Following this weekend’s Spartan Ultrabeast a slew of posts about the race came out.  The Ultrabeast turned out to be harder and more unforgiving than anyone had anticipated and many of the posts have been about or from those who “DNF” or did not finish the race.  Without reliving all the painful details, the incredible gains in elevation, the sticky mud, the unforgiving barbed wire climb, and the limited signage……..this post will be different.  On Saturday evening, just after 6pm, I crossed the finish line!

While many factors helped me cover those 30 miles, I made a few decisions that really helped out.  I don’t always make great decisions on race day (example:Utah), but this weekend my brain and body seemed to be in sinc!

1.        Positive attitude.  This is simple and I don’t really even want to talk about it but it makes a difference.  I went into this race excited about the mountain, excited to race with some of the best competition, and excited for the challenge Spartan would throw at me.

2.       Realistic expectations.  My only real goals for this race were to race well for me.  I planned that if I felt I gave the race 100% I would be happy.  I didn’t put a ranking on the outcome I wanted, I gave myself what I thought was a generous estimated finish time.  In the beginning when I ended up walking the single track section for over 1 mile, I told myself it was for the better, I was conserving my energy on a section I likely couldn’t have run anyways, and I stayed calm.  While I always hope to come out on top, I didn’t put stress on myself to pass any certain people, or place any certain way.  When I was able to pass certain people, it served as a nice surprise and confidence booster.

3.       Quick transitions.  I learned this from my experience at World’s Toughest Mudder last year.  Transition times can make or break a competitor and significantly affect finishing times in a multi lap course.   For the second lap of the UltraBeast I had packed a second Camelbak almost identical to my first lap bag.  Like my 1st lap bag, the 2nd bag had a mini med kit, food, water, and electrolytes.  The 2nd lap pack also had my headlamp, strobes, and a windbreaker just in case. When I got to the “pit” area I dropped my 1st camelback, grabbed a banana and my 2nd Camelbak and almost immediately started my 2nd lap.  The only thing to slow down this transition was the fact that my “bin” had been moved from my original spot and I spent a few minutes cursing trying to find it.  Although some of my friends were in the pit I didn’t spend much time chatting, I focused on what I came to Vermont to do, and that was race.   While I had considered changing my shoes and socks after lap 1 I decided against it and my feet faired pretty well. 

4.       I used my voice.  The UltraBeast had rules like no other Spartan Race.  Woman were not allowed to use the “steps” that are put on the 7 and 8 foot walls specifically for us, and we were not allowed to use the sides of the walls.  This made getting over an 8 foot wall very difficult, especially on lap 2 when exhaustion really set in.  Near the end of my first lap I was lucky to have a friend who I literally stepped on to get over the walls (thanks Jeff!).  For my second lap I knew that the help over the walls would not be a luxury but a necessity and I put my sometimes shy, polite, introverted self away.  Loud, and assertive Corinne came out.  I approached the walls with a voice and my bright green arm band waiving proudly in the air.  “Can you help me over the walls, I’m on my second lap…. I’m in the ultrabeast, I’m racing…..Can you BOTH help me over the wall?”  I not only seeked out help from 1 gentleman over the walls but was quick to recruit 2 men per wall! Asking for help may seem like a no brainer but I am traditionally a “do it myself” kind of woman and pride myself on being able to do all the obstacles unassisted…. This just wasn’t going to happen on lap 2.  I am very, very, very grateful to each man who helped me over the walls on that second lap!  I couldn’t have done it without you guys!

I also used my voice running through the single track and every time I passed someone.  I would say I was coming by them, or ask to pass, explain I was on my second lap and racing and give them encouragement to keep pushing on.  It was fun to congratulate others on their progress on the course, and give them insight to what was coming next.

5.       I was afraid of the dark (for the better).  I knew it would be dark around 7 o clock and I used this to motivate me through the last 4 miles of the course.  Going into the “last uphill” section I knew I would be climbing and ascending for at least an hour up the mountain with only 2 hours of total daylight left.  I knew I couldn’t slack off on this section no matter how much I wanted to and I knew I couldn’t stop and rest.  I knew to make it off the mountain by nightfall I had to fly.  I was afraid to be stuck in the single track trees at night.  I was afraid of the literal effects of the darkness such as more difficulty navigating, and avoiding potentially dangerous terrain; and I was afraid of the emotional effects of the darkness.  If it got dark I knew I would have been on the mountain for over 11 hours, I would not be eligible for the season pass, and I might start to doubt my ability to finish.  I let this fear drive me and moved faster in those last two hours than any time in the last loop of the race.  At one point a fellow competitor yelled at me to “relax” and not move so fast through the single track section.  I see their point that I was hurried and flying sometimes uncontrollably down the mountain, but ….at that point relaxing wasn’t an option.  I was running from the night, and I wanted to run as fast as I could for me.

6.       I ate all my food.  I ate when I was hungry and I ate when I wasn’t hungry.  I packed about 600kcal per lap.  I do admit that this was a little less than I actually needed but it was OK.  On my second lap people began offering gels and bars to me and I took them with much gratitude.  I started eating after only 1 hour into the race.  I wasn’t hungry yet but knew my body probably needed it and knew it would be a long day.  I mostly used the uphill sections of the race to eat because I wasn’t moving very fast and it gave me time to chew/digest/unpack snacks/drink water.  I am pretty sure these calories helped prevent me from mentally and physically bonking and provided a little yumminess during the day.  I ate what I usually eat:clif blocks and mini clif bars. 

I hope by sharing my experience I can help someone.  I know I learn something new at every single race…usually something deep about myself, and usually something not deep but practical about blisters, or socks, or balance, or nutrition…  every experience helps.  Like I said earlier, I don’t always make great decisions on race day, but once in a while I do and try to remember those and use them again and again.  I know some of these things “I did right” are simple but sometimes on race day its easy to get excited and forget the little things.  Happy racing and thanks for reading! 



  1. Good strategies and great post! Thx for sharing.

  2. Thx so much for the recommendation: just picked up 9 different flavors of Clif Bars to give 'em a try!

    [out of curiosity, are Clif bloks + bars all that you're planning on refueling with @ WTM?]