Spartan Beast: Lebec CA, 2018
It’s not often that I look forward to getting up early on a Saturday morning.
But when I have the chance to run a Spartan Beast in the mountains only 45 minutes north of my house at a brand new venue, well, I find it actually hard to sleep anyway!
This race season has been extra special for me because I’ve had the opportunity to not only help my Dad work on his 1st ever Trifecta. . .but I’ve also been able to help my 16-year-old son work on HIS 1st TriFecta as well! The Beast at Tejon Ranch in Lebec, CA would be my sons biggest challenge yet, but it would also bring his TriFecta hunt to a close.
It’s always fun to be able to run a Spartan Race at a brand new venue. . .and when that venue is less than an hour from your house, it’s even better! My 16-year-old son and I had a 10am start time so we left our house at 7:30am. Arriving 90 minutes before your start time is what Spartan typically suggests, and most times I find it works out just right. This time, however, even though we arrived at the venue parking line by 8:15am. . .by the time we actually got parked, registered, bought our venue shirts at the Merch Tent (I have found that if I do not buy my Venue Shirt right away I risk them being completely sold out), checked our bags, and hit the restroom. . .we barely made it to our starting gate at 9:58am! Yes, we made it, but we were rushing to get everything done that I can normally do and still have about 30 minutes before my start time. A little frazzled, but we made it! Technically, we could have started in the NEXT group and been fine. . .but I always want to get onto the course as early as I can.
I DON’T LIKE WAITING AROUND WHEN THERE’S A COURSE TO RUN! 🙂
Well we sure didn’t have to wait around THIS time. . .we gulped down a Clif Gel Pack for a quick energy boost, proclaimed “I AM A SPARTAN” when the race starter asked what our profession was, let out a mighty “AROO! AROO! AROO!” and began our search for that ever elusive Fire Jump that would signal we had found the Finish Line.
One thing I noticed about this Beast that seemed different
from any other Spartan I’d run so far is they seem to be grouping the obstacles together a lot more and making sure that most of them are either in the Festival Area or within a short walking distance from the Festival Area.
I believe this is something they are trying out to see if they can make it a more ‘Spectator Friendly’ event.
I’m not opposed to this at all. In fact, I kind of liked how it used a FEW obstacles to break up the trail running, but managed to sort of group the journey into long TRAIL RUNNING sections followed by OBSTACLE GAUNTLETS. I thought I’d rather have the obstacles spread out evenly along the course, but I liked how the longer trail sections felt. I think it also helped to alleviate some of the ‘build up’ traffic at the obstacles later on. In the first 3 miles of the course we only had a total of 4 obstacles. The Overwalls were your standard 4 foot – 4.5 foot tall walls and were followed soon after by Rolling Mud. I’ve gotten so used to having Rolling Mud lead directly into Dunk Wall and the Slip Wall that it felt very different to have them broken up! It goes to show that a change in the order of obstacles can make a somewhat familiar race setup feel fresh and new. I liked it!
A short trail run and a hill climb led to the ‘unique’ obstacle for Lebec. . .the Hay Wall.
Now, I was actually pretty surprised by this one. . .and not because it was difficult. It was FAR FROM difficult. With all the ‘Walls’ that Spartan puts on its course I KNOW they understand the meaning of the word. . .but calling a Hay BALE a WALL seems like a gross overstatement. Yes, this Hay WALL was simply a row of Hay BALES that you simply had to step up and over. It would have been hilarious to have seen someone doing Burpee Penalties beside THIS obstacle!
After another trail section involving more hills we came to the Z-Walls. These Z-Walls were very dry and flat, so we made sure not to make any stupid errors and made pretty short work of them. They seemed to be the polar opposite of the ones we encountered in Asheville N.C. Those were COVERED in Mud and in the middle of a marsh!
Enjoying our swift victory we began the first of many long trail sections. We had just around 1.5 miles of hilly terrain to cover before we would come to our first big obstacle of the day, the Tyrolean Traverse.
In true LA fashion, there was a MASSIVE TRAFFIC JAM at the Tyrolean Traverse!
We ended up having to wait in line for a full 15 minutes before getting our chance to cross! If we were trying to get a PR on the course this would have been maddening. . .but since our goal was simply to finish the course and be as efficient as we could in the process (run where we could), we just waited patiently and enjoyed the forced rest.
For this obstacle, you have a length of rope that is stretched between 2 points. You have to suspend yourself from the rope, typically by grabbing it with your hands and locking your ankles over the top, and then move along the full length of the rope until you get to the cowbell that’s hanging from it. Once you ring the bell you can then drop from the rope and get back on the ground. If you touch the ground at any point before you ring the bell, then you fail the obstacle.
I was expecting to breeze thru the obstacle like I had every time in the past, but for whatever reason I found myself moving very slowly thru it this time, having to mentally will myself NOT to drop back to the ground, but rather continue to drag my body (that seemed to be made of cement) along the rope. I finally reached the bell and rang it, glad to be done! I also had managed to burn a hole in my Mud Gear socks with the rope! Not an easy task to do!
(Poor, green Mud Gear socks. . .you will be missed! I've still got my orange pair, but I'll need to order more before the Beast in Spartanburg S.C. in case I need a backup!)
My 16-year-old son hadn’t faced this obstacle before, but he ventured out onto the rope the same way he had seen me do it. . .but I believe his body must have also been made of cement because just over halfway thru it his feet slipped off of the rope! Luckily we were in the Open Heats where you can help each other and I happened to be close enough that I quickly reached my arms out and grabbed his legs behind the knees. He hadn’t let go of the rope and I had gotten his legs before they hit the ground, so he was still good.
He got his legs back up and I walked with him the rest of the way. . .him pulling himself along the rope and me with one arm under his knees and the other under his back, just in case. He didn’t need anymore help, but Burpees had been avoided and we hit the trail for some more hill climbs.
At the Atlas Carry, my son got to see just how much all the deadlifts we had been doing in the gym paid off!
He had NO problem lifting the heavy concrete ball and carrying it the 10 yards required before putting it down, busting out 5 Burpees, and carrying it back. I believe the ball weighs around 100 lbs, and since he only weighs around 120, this one has been a challenge in the past!
One heavy carry down, we took a short hike over to the first Sandbag Carry of the day.
Again, not too bad on this one, but I was expecting MUCH worse! This was a short bag that was probably around 60 lbs and required you to hike a loop that took you up a hill and back down. The loop itself was on the longer side but since the weight was lighter than I was expecting it didn’t feel that bad. My son did great on this one too, so with smiles on our faces, we began the longest climb of the day. This climb felt like it was pretty much a constant uphill slog for just over a mile. I’m sure there had to be some relief in there somewhere, but it sure didn’t feel that way! Not as bad as Big Bear was, but it had shades of it.
Our climb came to an end when we reached our first Barbed Wire Crawl, where I decided to leave my eye in-tact and rather, try to pierce my nose!
I used to always crawl under the barbed wire, but recently I’ve started to use a rolling-technique. I see the Elite racers use it all the time and I find that it DOES use less energy and it DOES move you thru the obstacle quicker. This time, I also found that when I am wearing my hydration-pack it DOES bump me up higher off the ground and it DOES put my face close enough to the barbed wire that I can get an EXTREMELY close-up look at the sharp edges as they pass right in-front of my eye on the way to my nose, where they DO embed themselves!
Luckily, it missed my eye and it only seemed to go halfway thru my nose.
Just deep enough that I needed to pull my head away from the wire to dislodge it! The wire bounced a bit and I could see blood oozing from the wound, but it must have looked worse than it felt. This happened on the VERY FIRST strand of barbed wire, so I decided to crawl the rest of the way thru. Could have been worse! 🙂 I should have taken a picture of it, but I wasn’t thinking about it!
A few Hurdles followed directly after, then we were back to the trails for more ups and downs!
About the trails, I have to say that these were some of the STEEPEST descents that I’ve ever encountered on a race! The ground was a mixture of loose-dirt sections surrounded with hard-packed sections, and with everyone making their way down you had a cloud of dirt hanging in the air that made it hard to see at times. Between your feet gripping and slipping you had to be really careful not to burn out your quads or tweak your knees and ankles! I LOVED IT!
Eventually we arrived at the Stairway to Sparta!
This was the first time that my 16-year-old son had encountered Stairway to Sparta, but he took to it quickly and handled it like a pro! I suppose after we did the Great Wall in Asheville, N.C. this year, this obstacle wasn’t nearly as bad!
Another trail section of just over a mile, filled with climbs and descents brought us to the Bender.
Just to underline how much trail running was up front on this course, we were now about 8.25 miles thru a 13.80 mile course and we were only on obstacle 11 out of 33!
Bender was, um, Bender!
The hardest part is simply getting up on the obstacle. Either use your upper body strength to pull yourself up. . .or if you lack that, then hang onto the bottom rung and use your core to lift your legs up and wrap them around the bottom bar also. From there you can just pull yourself up into a basic sitting position on the bottom bar and stand up from there! Up and over!
A short descent down the trail led us to our first obstacle gauntlet.
This is where the course dynamic started to change. Monkey Bars, Inverted Wall, and Plate Drag were all back to back, and formed a sort of ‘U’ shape that then sent us right back up into the hills for another short trail section.
The Monkey Bars were nice and dry and probably one of the easier setups I’ve seen in that all the bars were close to the same relative height. There was a little variance up and down, but nothing like what I’ve encountered on other courses.
Unfortunately, my 16-year-old encountered his first Burpee Zone here. He has increased his strength dramatically. . .next up will be grip strength! Inverted Wall was easy enough, although when I was lowering myself down on the backside of it my right calf tried to cramp on me out of nowhere! I took a shot of Pickle Juice on the walk over to the Plate Drag, where once again my son demonstrated how his strength training had paid off by making short work of the obstacle!
If you don’t know what the Plate Drag is. . .
it’ a sled weighted down with about 150 lbs of sandbags about 10 yards away from you. There’s a rope attached to the front of the sled that extends all the way to where you stand and is then attached to a metal pole. You have to stand at the metal pole, grab the rope and pull the sled to you until it touches the pole. Then you grab a short metal chain that is attached to the other side of the sled and drag it clear back out until the rope is tight again.
This is one of the obstacles that’s been frustratingly difficult for my son since he wasn’t able to move it at all on his first course and only barely on the other courses he has been on. But in between our Asheville Super and this Beast we had concentrated on heavy lifts in the gym and it really paid off!
Nothing gives you a spring in your step QUITE LIKE conquering an obstacle that used to break you! So we used that spring to bounce up some more hills!
About a half mile later we came to The Armer and the 8′ Wall.
We had The Armer before and it’s not bad. It’s the same kind of concrete ball as the Atlas Carry, but this time it has a short chain on it attached to a handle. Lift by the handle and carry it 10 yards, turn around and carry it back. Very simple. My son got over the 8′ Wall in his first attempt! I made sure to make him feel extra good by taking around 6 or 7 attempts before I finally made it over. It gave him a chance to play the part of ‘coach’ after about my 5th attempt when I found him suddenly beside me telling me I could do it and yelling “GO DAD! YOU GOT THIS!” when I tried. It was a proud moment for me to hear him mimic what I’ve been doing for him!
More trails and hills for about 1/2 a mile brought us to the 6′ Wall, Dunk Wall, and our second Barbed Wire Crawl. For some reason it seemed to take just as much energy to get over the 6′ Wall as it had for the 8′ Wall! 🙂 I heard a LOT of other racers complaining about how cold the water in the Dunk Wall was, but for us it felt like a very welcomed relief! I didn’t feel the cold at all, honestly, I only felt how good it made my legs feel! After all those hills for the last 10 miles, submerging my body in the cool water instantly took the pain out of my legs!
Of course our Barbed Wire Crawl directly after that was thru a bunch of loose dirt and hay seed
. . .so we basically got soaked and then rolled in dirt and hay bits.
We joked that we should go back and do the Dunk Wall again just to clean off! You know you’re filthy if you think the Dunk Wall will clean you!
Trail sections were getting shorter now and the obstacles were starting to stack up. Our next grouping was the Slip Wall and the 7′ Wall.
The Slip Wall was a little different in that there was only 1 rope in the middle that reached all the way down. . .all the other ropes only came down half way, so you needed to run up the wall until you could grab one of them. It looked more difficult than it proved to be. I probably could have run up the entire wall, but I grabbed the rope when I could just for good measure! We both moved onto the 7′ Wall, and by this time my son was getting worn down enough that our roles were reversed from the 8′ Wall. I made it over without too much issue. . .it was a struggle but I got it on my 1st attempt. He needed around 6 or 7 attempts and extra encouragement. . .but he did it. He did end up finding the wall’s brace with his foot as he struggled with his final attempt and used it to leverage himself up and over. Technically you’re not supposed to do that, which he knew. I didn’t say anything about it because he had been trying so hard for so long, but after we started to jog on down the trail he said in a very somber voice,
“I’m not very happy about that.”
I knew he was referring to how he got over and I reminded him that we all look for shortcuts in our moments of weakness. . .that it was a good sign that it bothered him but not to dwell on it. He made it over on his own, and next time he’ll do it without cutting any corners. He made it over the 8′ Wall so there’s no question he can do a 7′ Wall. He’s a good kid. I’m very proud of him.
We could hear music as we descended the hill and were led into the Festival Area.
The course took us into a barn like structure where we were greeted by a Hurdle and my personal arch nemesis, the Twister! I know my grip strength is good enough to conquer the Twister but I never have. There’s just something about it that messes me up mentally. So I had been telling myself all course that I was going to finish the Twister today! And it worked! Right up until I came off about half-way thru the 1st out of 3 sections! Yup! Burpee Zone for both of us!
After our 30 penalty burpees we left the Twisters area to find the Rope Climb waiting to greet us! I gathered myself and began my climb up the 16′ rope. It was slow going and I felt my feet slip a bit mid-way up, but I reminded myself that I wouldn’t slip all the way down. I know this because whenever I TRY to slide back down it’s ALWAYS difficult to do and slow going. So I kept at it, gaining only a few inches at a time in the middle, and eventually rang the cowbell.
My 16-year-old son, however, only got halfway up before he said his grip gave out and he came back down. Third trip to the Burpee Zone for him.
Another proud moment for me was when he strongly refused my offer to do some of his burpees for him.
He was determined to earn every ounce of his Beast Medal and Spartan TriFecta. Honestly, it’s the answer I was looking for. . .not that I wouldn’t have gladly helped him with his burpees. . .but the fire he showed with his resolve to complete the task on his own no matter what it took out of him. . .that was priceless. I could tell the day was taking its toll on him and the burpees were taxing his muscles, but I could also tell that a switch had been flipped inside him and he had become a machine that would not stop until he’d reached the finish line.
A short walk from that burpee zone took us to the Vertical Cargo, then we were kicked out of the Festival Area and sent right back up into hill climbs as the music slowly faded away. We would be back after a few miles, but it was just Spartans way of teasing you with the Finish Line before sending you away again.
Let me take a moment to point out that there are about 5 points on the course where you cross a ‘check-point’ timing mat that records when you cross so you can see your ‘split times’ later. One of these timing mats was at the half-way point of the Bucket Brigade. When you look at the 14-19 age group for the Beast Course you will see that there were 91 runners in that age group that started the course and 91 runners in that age group that finished the course.
After climbing for a bit we arrived at the Bucket Brigade where you grab a 5 gallon bucket that’s filled with around 65 lbs of rock and carry it up another hill and back down. This particular Bucket Brigade wasn’t the steepest climb I’ve ever had, but it was one of the longer Bucket carries I’ve had. Again, I was proud of my son. He may have had to put the bucket down often, and it may have taken him a while to finish. . .but he did the entire loop on his own.
ONLY 61 RUNNERS IN HIS AGE GROUP CROSSED THE BUCKET BRIGADE!
That means that 30 runners decided it was too hard and skipped it. I’m sorry, but that’s just not an option! Bucket Brigade is one of the FEW obstacles that does not have a burpee zone. . .you either have to finish the obstacle, or you DNF. That’s not me being a jerk, those are the actual rules! Take your time and suffer thru the obstacle! Do something that you didn’t think was possible! That’s the whole point! My son finished the course 59th out of 91 in his age group, and he SHOULD have been at least 37th, since he was 37th out of 61 at the Bucket Brigade.
I could go on and on about this since it’s a pet-peeve of mine. I lost track of how many people I saw fail an obstacle and simply either by-pass the burpee zone completely, or wander into it and do a couple burpees and then figure that was enough and move on. Those people not only short change themselves but they ruin the standings for anyone who abides by the actual rules. In my opinion, anyone who passes by an obstacle, or does not do the burpees they are supposed to and still takes a finishers medal at the end of the course does not deserve it.
Yes, I know I’m being ‘harsh’. . .but Spartan Medals are not supposed to be ‘participation’ medals.
Anyway. I’ll move on now, as we had a short downhill jog to the Multi-Rig.
The Multi-Rig is an obstacle that you must traverse using all upper body and grip strength without ever touching the ground until you ring the cowbell at the end. This particular Multi-Rig was a fairly standard Beast setup. You started with a Gymnast Ring that led to a metal pipe that slanted upward as you shimmied along. From the Pipe you had to transfer to another Ring that swung you to a Short Rope with a knot in the end. That Rope led to a longer Rope and 2 more Rings before you got to the Cowbell. For the first time ever I finished this particular setup! My son wasn’t so fortunate as he. . .well. . .neither one of us is quite certain HOW it happened, but somehow when he was transferring from the end of the Pipe to the Ring he fell and landed on his side. It looked pretty bad but he picked himself up and said he was fine as he marched over to his 4th burpee zone.
A very short jog later we arrived at our second Sandbag Carry.
We were now just over 13 miles into the course by my Garmin watch and getting close to the Finish Line. But this Sandbag Carry was a long bag where the sand groups into both ends, leaving the middle of the bag somewhat flat. The bag weighs somewhere close to 80 lbs and I helped him get his up onto his right shoulder before grabbing mine. I caught up to him about halfway around the loop we had to walk and the bag was slipping off his shoulder, so I had him stand still so I could grab the bag from the back and lift it up onto his left shoulder so it was across the back of his neck. That seemed to work better for him and he took off again. The danger with these particular bags is that since they are slack in the middle, if you aren’t careful they can slip forward off your shoulders and pinch the bag around your neck, which is what happened to him about 20 yards from the end of the loop.
He yelled for help but I was too far behind to get to him!
Luckily another racer who had just dropped her bag off rushed back to him and helped him to the bin where he dropped the bag and collapsed to the ground. He was ok, but later he told me that he had felt like he was going to black out! Again, nothing but pride from me. He pushed thru and finished the obstacle.
We could once again hear the music from the Festival Area and knew that we were approaching the Finish Line. One final gauntlet of obstacles was between us and our well-earned Medals. The A-Frame Cargo Net was an easy up and over obstacle and led directly into the Olympus. This obstacle is wall that is at a slight slant with several types of grips to choose from, but you must use the grips with your hands only and traverse the length of the wall to reach the cowbell without your feet touching the ground. Since we were in the Open Heat where it’s allowed to help each other on this obstacle, we did just that and completed it without incurring any additional burpees.
Next up was the Spear Throw.
For this you get one chance to throw a spear and stick it into a group of straw bales about 25 feet away. If it sticks, you succeed. If it misses, or falls out and hits the ground, then its burpees for you! This obstacle is also known by racers as The Burpee Maker. It’s always been pretty much a guarantee for me that I’ll do burpees here. . .at least it was until I was able to practice at my Dad’s (he built one in his backyard) and I discovered the magic of the Granny Throw Technique! I did it for the first time on the Michigan Super course and it worked beautifully, so I did it again on this Beast. . .and again it worked beautifully!
I’m now 2 for 2 with the Granny Throw!
Unfortunately my son wasn’t able to come with me when I visited my Dad and hasn’t had the chance to practice this obstacle, so he ended up in the burpee zone for the 5th and final time. 150 burpees for the day for him. But he did them all and he didn’t let them dampen his spirit!
All that stood between us and the Finish Line now was the Hercules Hoist and the Fire Jump.
We spotted each other on the Herc Hoist to make sure there were NO MORE burpees that needed to be paid, then with a wave of relief washing over us, we turned and ran for the Finish Line, jumped over the Fire, and grabbed our Medals.
6 hours, 44 minutes, and 35 seconds.
That’s how long my son was willing to endure a constant barrage of challenge, discomfort, and pain to earn his 3rd and final piece of his first ever Spartan TriFecta. He earned every bit of it, and it’s been awesome to have been able to see it all happen. It’s been a great bonding experience for us and I’m sure we’ll both have memories of this that last our lifetimes.
Since this was the final piece in my 2nd TriFecta in 2018, I stopped by the Results tent to pick up my first ever X2 TriFecta Medal! It came in a bag that also contained a X2 TriFecta Patch that can be sown onto a jacket, and an X2 TriFecta Delta Coin. I was feeling pretty great about my X2 medal when we ran into a guy who was holding an X5 Medal! I started talking with him and found out he was with a group of guys who had an X7, X10, and X12 Medal! I’m still happy with my X2, but DANG those others looked cool! Something to maybe try for another year?
Next up I’ll be traveling to South Carolina where I’ll be joining my Dad for the Spartanburg Beast and HIS final TriFecta piece! It’s been a pretty epic 2018 race season! It’s going to be hard to top this in 2019!
For finishing this Beast course we earned a Spartan Beast Finisher Shirt, Spartan Beast Medal, and Spartan Beast TriFecta Wedge Piece. For an additional $30 we picked up the Venue Shirts also. For completing 2 TriFectas in one calendar year I also earned an X2 TriFecta Medal, Patch, and Delta Coin.
Finisher Shirt, Front
Finisher Shirt, Back
Super TriFecta Wedge Piece
(holder NOT included)
Venue Shirt, Front
Venue Shirt, Back
Venue Shirt, Sleeve
Spartan X2 TriFecta Medal, 2018
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