Spartan Beast: Spartanburg SC, 2018
37° might not be the IDEAL temperature to run a Spartan Beast in.
Not for someone whose lived thru the harsh winters of Southern California for the past 20 years. Don’t get me wrong, I do my fair share of night runs in the winter and it gets down-right chilly! Mid to Low 50° chilly! So I consider myself able to stand up to the elements as good as the next person who lives in a fairly-consistent, hospitable climate. But when I found out that it was going to be only a handful of degrees warmer than waters official freezing point at my 9am start time…well…I got ‘concerned’.
Luckily I had been monitoring the weather in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the week leading up to the race and had prepped for possible cold weather by packing all my warmest running gear. Of course, all that included was my short sleeve compression top AND my long sleeve compression top! I actually DID have ACTUAL NIKE COLD-GEAR compression leggings, so I packed them as well.
I’d been really looking forward to this race. Not only was it going to be the first time I was able to run a venue in South Carolina, but I was going to be running with my 69-year-old Dad! This was going to be his first Beast AND the exclamation point at the end of his first ever Spartan TriFecta! I’d flown from Los Angeles to Indianapolis on Thursday to meet up with him and my brother-in-law (who had run Spartanburg the previous year and was going to try for a new PR this year)…then the three of us took an 8 hour road trip Friday to North Carolina where we checked into a hotel for the night. We were staying about an hour outside the venue, so our plan was to leave by 6:30am. With a 9am start time, that would leave us enough time to get checked in, get a feel for the venue, take care of any last-minute things (bathroom, bathroom, bathroom), and not be totally rushed getting to the start line. After checking our gear a couple (dozen) times, my father and I decided to turn-in around 9pm. Everything was going according to plan and I felt calm as I drifted off to sleep with dreams of the adventure that awaited at 9am. . .until I bolted upright in a panic.
ME: What? WHAT!
DAD: Mhhmmmm? (asleep)
DAD: Hmmmhph? (slightly awake now)
ME: IT’S 10 O’CLOCK! WE’RE SUPER LATE!
ME: DAD, WAKE UP! WE OVERSLEPT SOMEHOW AND MISSED OUR START TIME!
DAD: 10pm. It’s still Friday.
ME: Oh. . .yeah. . .on an unrelated matter, I think I just had a heart-attack.
Yes, that actually happened. The rest of the night passed by without any OTHER mishaps. By the time Saturday morning DID arrive, I had decided to wear my short-sleeve compression top UNDER my long-sleeve compression top, which actually worked out VERY well and insulated me from the cold nicely!
We arrived as planned and were in our starting coral on time, ready for our 9am start…in 37° temperatures! Thankfully we knew that it was supposed to warm up to around 61° by Noon, and once we got moving it would feel warmer, so we would only really feel the chill until we started running! Our race director announced that it had been raining and flooding at the venue all week, so he had to cut out a few water sections that had changed from 3 feet deep to 12 feet deep…AND in order to help out with the cold temperatures (a very strange thing to hear at a Spartan Race) he had arranged for a few burn-barrels to be placed after the few remaining water crossings! He assured us that we would only have a little bit of water to deal with which made us all feel much better, then sent us off in good spirits for a short run to the Hay Wall (which, unlike Lebec, CA., was ACTUALLY something you had to climb over), then down a short hill into the wooded area and directly into…you guessed it…the river! Not more than 200 yards into the 13 mile course and we were not only IN the water, but the course now had us following the river, trudging up-stream in water that ranged from calve-deep to waist-deep. One of the main reasons I had entered this particular Beast was to support my father and make sure he had every chance to make it to the finish line safely. Of course, I got separated from him early on in this river section. He had been directly ahead of me when we came to a small log that crossed the water, causing you to need to climb over. Everyone was in single file at this point and crossing the log on the right-hand side of the river because a few people had been calling out ‘hole on that side’ and pointing to the left. I called out ‘hole on that side’ and pointed to the left, as one should do, but the girl behind me must not have heard (probably due to the cold water). She decided she could move faster by passing me on the left. It was nice of her to demonstrate just how deep the hole actually was by doing the splits and disappearing under the water. . .all while leaving her trailing foot high and dry, still on the log! Her head quickly re-appeared as she flailed around wildly!
HER: THERE’S A HOLE OVER HERE! A HOLE! A HOLE!
I’m fairly confident she was referring to the lack of being able to touch the bottom, but it was strange how she was glaring directly at me as she yelled out that last bit. Anyway, another spartan and myself stopped to make sure she got back to solid ground and I had lost track of my father, who hadn’t seen any of this happen and had continued down the course. Now, being from the West Coast I’m admittedly not 100% familiar with East Coast traditions, but from what I’ve picked up, the proper way to thank someone from making sure you don’t drown in ice-cold water is to loudly proclaim that your crotch is frozen. Happy to know she was ok, I decided it was time to find where my father had gotten off to. Not long after that log section we climbed out of the river and into some nice ankle-deep mud. Each step gave a nice sucking sound that made you check to see if you were still wearing shoes! I met up with him just after this mud-bog section gave way to ground that was just a bit more stable. He was off to the side of the course on his hands and knees. Of course I was immediately concerned that something bad had happened and began wondering just how I was going to explain to my Mom that I had lost track of Dad and failed to get him thru the course safely! It turned out that he had lost his footing and face planted in the mud-bog! He had found a patch of muddy grass and was trying to clean himself off as much as he could. He was a little upset by the incident, but I was relieved to see he was ‘ok’…even if he didn’t think he was at the moment! Once he was back on his feet, we continued to jog down the path that was now very sponge-like with a lot of tree-roots. I’m not sure if Dad was simply trying to demonstrate what had happened to him in the mud-bog, but he caught his foot on a root, pitched forward, landed on his shoulder and rolled onto his back! I wasn’t sure what to say! We hadn’t even gone a half-mile into the course yet and my Dad had already taken 2 headers! As he lay there I remember saying, “Dad, we’ve got a LOT of course left.” Now, it’s not like he was goofing around, so I’m not exactly sure what made me say that…it just seemed more appropriate at the time than, “Are you ok?” Maybe I was trying to distract him from the fact that he was having a hard time staying on his feet by reminding him of his goal to finish the course? Maybe it just seemed like a funny thing to tell your 69-year-old Father after he was rolling around in the mud, as if he was a child splashing around in rain-puddles. Either way, he did EVENTUALLY find it funny. Thankfully that was the last of his stunt-routines…for a while. 🙂
The ground was a constant mixture of ankle-deep mud, spongy-wet ground, tree roots, and slick rocks. The venue was a beautiful landscape of rolling hills and meadows mixed with forest sections, river crossings, and lakes to skirt. Loads of variety! I loved it and hope to go back again soon! Maybe even to attempt the Ultra-Beast!
This was my first time running a Beast course that also had an Ultra-Beast.
The Ultra-Beast started around 6am, so by the time we started at 9am the faster Ultra-Runners were finishing up their first lap or already on their second! At various points during our run we would encounter an Ultra-Runner, passing us on their second lap! Very impressive! Very inspiring!
One of the things that stood out as different on this course was that it crammed in the majority of the high-failure-rate obstacles into the first three miles!
When you started into the fourth mile you had already gone thru the Rope Climb, Olympus, Twister (which I COMPLETED THIS TIME!), Spear Throw, and Multi-Rig.
From that point on the course started opening up into longer trail run sections and less technical obstacles. This allowed us to settle into a somewhat relaxed pace, which was a welcome change from my Dad’s two falls earlier, along with visiting a couple of burpee zones. It seemed like the worst was behind us and all that was left was to enjoy clicking off the miles.
Until the Monkey Bars near the start of mile 6 that is, where my Dad promptly tried to poke his eye out! Did I mention that my Dad was running without his contacts OR glasses? He cannot see very far without them, but he didn’t want to deal with either of them on the course. So when he visited the burpee zone for the Monkey Bars he couldn’t see that the ground was covered with tiny twigs sticking up out of the matted grass like little punji-spikes! I had finished the obstacle and was watching other Spartans make their attempts when I heard my Dad cry out. Turning quickly I saw him holding his hand over his left eye. I rushed over to see that he had dropped down to do a burpee and rammed one of those twigs directly into the outside of his left eye socket! Luckily it had hit the bone and slid to the side of his head, but it had left a gnarly looking cut and bruise! If it had been a fraction of an inch the other direction it would have gone straight thru his eye! Again, I could see my Mom glaring at me!
Ok, so THAT was the last of my Dad’s reckless attempts to impress me with his Spartan-like pain-tolerance. . .almost.
Next up we were expecting to find the Atlas Carry, but instead we found the Armer! Knowing that the Armer was supposed to be on the Ultra-Loop and not on the regular Beast course, I became slightly concerned that we had taken a wrong turn somewhere. Looking around we both determined that if we HAD, then so had everyone else because we were not alone, so we did the obstacle and continued on our way. It turned out that the Armer and the Atlas Carry had been switched. (We’re guessing that someone delivered the wrong concrete balls to the wrong places. Very similar obstacles.) The Armer is much easier than the Atlas Carry, so we didn’t complain!
More awesome trail. More epic river crossings. Walls to climb and heavy objects to move or carry. A surprise EXTRA Sandbag Carry that wasn’t on the map. We put in the work and enjoyed ourselves! Other than a slight miscalculation on the Z-Walls that had my Dad in the burpee zone again, the rest of the adventure was very straight-forward and very fun. As for the Z-Wall, he had already done the hardest part! He’d gone around the blind turn (which I always suggest doing first) and was at the inside turn when his back foot simply slid off the peg. He wasn’t expecting it so he came off the wall. He said he just had a lapse in concentration. It happens! He paid his burpees and we continued on, under barbwire and over hurdles, to the obstacle I had been looking forward to all day. . .The Great Wall!
Of course, they were only calling it Stairway to Sparta. I’m not sure why it was labeled that way since Stairway to Sparta does NOT have a section of rock climbing grips you have to pull yourself up! I had first encountered The Great Wall on the Super in Asheville earlier in the year. It’s a newer obstacle that I hope becomes more common place on Super and Beast courses since I have enjoyed both experiences with it!
My Dad watched me give it several attempts before he told me he was going to go pay his burpees while I finished up. We were already past the 12th mile marker and he was spent. Just watching me struggle with the grip told him he would be doing burpees anyway so he might as well get started. 🙂 I eventually got up and over the obstacle about the time he was done. I could tell he was exhausted so I reminded him that we only had a short distance left to go. I’m not sure he believed me until we came out of the trees and he could see the finish line ahead of us.
All we needed to do was climb over the A-Frame Cargo net, traverse the rolling mud, take a plunge under the dunk-wall, ascend the slip wall, jump over fire and we were home free!
Strange as it may sound, all of that was a welcome revelation to both of us and we finished out an awesome day on an epic course. My 69-year-old Dad did something I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have dreamed of attempting even 5 years ago and finished his first Spartan Beast, becoming an official Spartan TriFecta Finisher! I’m very proud of him, and I’m very encouraged to see that there is NO REASON that I shouldn’t be able to continue running races like this for the next 26 years! I’m only 43 now. When I’m 69, I hope to be able to still run, climb, and roll around in mud with my sons and grandchildren!
I’d definitely recommend the Spartanburg, S.C. course if you get the chance. Be ready for cold temperatures, lots of river crossings, tons of mud, and massive amounts of adventure!
Now for the final incident of Spartan Toughness that my Dad was INTENT on proving. Changing shoes and socks back at the car, my Dad loudly exclaimed ‘the end of my toe is gone!’ Of course, I didn’t know EXACTLY what he meant by that so I said ‘what?’ and went to investigate.
As it turned out, the red-clay mud on the course also had a very fine silt-like-mineral mixed into it. This mud had gotten into his shoe (much like it had every shoe on the course) and wedged itself up in the toe-box, grinding against his MudGear Trail Sock until it had worn clear thru. Acting like sandpaper, it continued to grind away, except now it was grinding on the tip of his big toe! He had worn a few layers of skin off and was left with what looked like a bloody stump! Thankfully it looked much worse than it ended up being. It hadn’t exposed any bone or even gotten down to muscle tissue, however it looked very ‘uncomfortable’! Just another ‘trophy’ for surviving the Beast!
Special thanks to my awesome brother-in-law who offered up his car for the 8 hour trip each way AND paid the extra $10 for PreFerred Parking! Nice touch! Always good to hang out with you and share a Spartan Race, even if you ran on your own! By the way, he DID get a PR on the course like he wanted to! Great job!
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.
Finisher Shirt, Front
Finisher Shirt, Back
Beast TriFecta Wedge Piece
(holder NOT included)
Venue Shirt, Front
Venue Shirt, Back
Venue Shirt, Sleeve