Utah Spartan Race – A Desert Beast
The BEAST, a race that I hold very very close to me. It’s the race that was the tipping point for me with my racing, blog and obstacle racing career. The weekend in Vermont last August was some sort of magical experience and this most recent BEAST in Utah had a lot to live up to in my eyes.
I had arrived in Utah early on in the week and taken a couple days to attempt to adjust to the dry desert heat of Salt Lake City. The week marked record temperatures in the area along with wildfires sparking fairly close to the race venue. On Wednesday, I was able to head over and take a sneak peak at the course at Soldier Hollow. I was stoked to head to this venue as it was the site of the Olympics! It’s always exciting to be in Olympic venues. This would be a much different BEAST than Vermont was but I would not know how true this statement would be until after the race was over. I spent most of the week hydrating and trying to rest and recover coming off the Death Race.
Race morning arrived early we loaded up the truck and headed out to the race site. The smoke from the nearby wildfires was apparent in the air, thankfully it didn’t effect much of the race. As we pulled up to the race venue about an hour and a half before my heat the air was buzzing with excitement. I love looking around and seeing new racers who have no idea what will lay ahead. We walked from the parking lot and said our hello’s to many of the race staff.
As I walked in for the first time I was recognized by people who read the blog or follow the Spartan Race posts. I am definitely taken aback when people recognize me, so sorry if I gave anyone the deer in headlights look. Thank you to each person for coming and introducing themselves to me, I love meeting readers! I was able to meet in person many people I had been interacting with online for almost a year.
As we neared the start of the race many familiar faces showed up and we discussed last races and future races this season. It’s really awesome how many of us are traveling the country and racing, it is truly making this into a sport and not just an event. I lathered a solid layer of sunscreen on while hiding in the back of the merchandise tent. (I am so thankful for the crew at Spartan Race for letting me prep in the back of the tent) After last preps and some calming music I headed to the start line with Irene Call, Andi Hardy, Corinne Kohlen, Sue Luck, and a few other top men and women in the sport. The field for women was stacked!! This was the deepest field we have seen yet on the women’s side, and something I had been rallying to see happen since the sport began.
We were ushered to the front of the line by race staff, much to the chagrin of several racers. However, after a few minutes everyone was focused in on their own races and totally forgot we were there. Then it was time to take off, after the last Aroo then field sprinted out of the start, it was on! As the field took off, many sprinted out of the gate as the first mile or so was fairly flat with few obstacles.
I found myself in a new position, I was probably about 20-25 women behind the leader and well in the middle of the pack. I tried to kick it into the next gear and found nothing, crap, this was not good! Coming off the Death Race I had been feeling fine in my daily life but when it was time to race and tap into my race reserves I found nothing! This was going to be a long race. After a mile or two we have gone over a few small walls but not much more. I was way back!
It was not until about three or four miles into the race that I started to find anything in me to actually start to move faster. Luckily this was when the obstacles really started. The first obstacle where I was able to gain ground on my competitors was the sandbag carried. I sprinted up and down the hill with the bag, passing Spartan Race founder Joe Desena, who was doing the whole race carrying two 40lb sandbags. For the first time in the race I was starting to feel good again, the obstacles were my saving grace in this race.
As the race progressed I kept waiting for the killer terrain that the Vermont Beast had held but they were not to be found. This was truly a runners race and I didn’t have the speed for the race. As the top women ran at blistering paces I trudged along. For part of the race I ran with elite racer Alec Blenis’s father, who was completing his first trifecta of the year later I would runs few miles with Jeff Cain, a racer whom I have known for almost a year online. It was great to have so many familiar faces on the course in the harder moments.
Most of the obstacles were standard to Spartan Race however a few new additions made the race interesting. One of the most interesting additions was the tire jump, sure we have all done high knees through tires but what about with a band around your legs jumping. This was probably one of the harder obstacles of the day since it was new. The other uniquely Soldier Hollow obstacle was the target shooting, I loved that one. The best tip for this obstacle is to take the extra time and get the sight lined up.
Directly after the target shooting was the spear throw, now with the amount I had been throwing in the backyard my my house and the Call’s this should have been the easiest obstacle and yet my only 30 burpees of the race came here! As my spear glanced throw the hay at the edge of the target I looked in disbelief! Time for more practice in the backyard. The final obstacles that was interesting was the barbed wire/mud pits at the end.
As I crossed the finish line I knew it wasn’t a podium but was very happy with my 13th place finish. As soon as I crossed the finish line I was greeted by friends new and old. Andi and Irene had waited for me to cross the finish line. I say this often but the friendships created in this sport are second to none. I spent the rest of the day hanging out at the race venue doing interviews, taking photos, talking with other racers and spending a lot of time with the Call family.
We headed over to Irene and Hobie’s house after the race and had a relaxing night and some spear pig in the backyard. As I write this now I am in transit back to the east coast and looking to get back into some training before heading to PA for the Sprint there in two weeks. So for now it’s back to the grind of work and training.
Overall, this Beast and the Vermont Beast can’t really be compared. The Vermont Beast was much more challenging, however the heat in Utah was unmatched with that in Vermont. As I have said before all the races are so different it is hard to compare them. However I would classify this one as a runners race and Vermont as a hikers mountain race. At the end of the day both were fun and I was just as happy to have my muddy green medal hanging over my neck at the finish.