When I found out that the actual birthplace of the Spartan Race was in Killington Vermont, I knew I was going to eventually have to head up there one day and see what that mountain was all about. A few of my teammates had done this mountain last year and all of them agreed that it was the worst mountain that they've ever stepped foot on. So when an already purchased ticket to the race became available from a No Buller who couldn't make it, I jumped at the chance.
In August my team and I had conquered the Super in Palmerton, Pa (Blue Mountain), a mountain notoriously known for being very steep and brutal, so we were already in great shape and great spirits. I knew Killington was going to be a different monster of its own, so we trained accordingly. On a daily basis I (we) were either lifting weights, biking 20+ miles, doing long hikes with weighted vests and rowing thousands of meters per day. But I must admit, no matter how big everyone told me that this mountain was, no one can prepare you for what it's like to actually go up it.
At the starting line I was surprisingly calm, so calm in fact that it actually worried me. They hyped us up and we took off, two-hundred and fifty fellow spartans took off running down a one mile flat road where we encountered three hay bails and a couple of high hurdles that we had to get over. This was immediately followed by a nice long hike/jog up the side of the mountain. This was going to be the first of many steep climbs to the top of Killington.
After what felt like forever, we got to a peak and had to climb a few seven and eight foot walls and do monkey bars, this was matched with a long descent down to the "bucket brigade". This is where you fill a bucket up with stones and walk it back up and down the mountain for a few hundred yards. This is an energy killer to say the least. After a mile or so in the woods heading up again, we encountered the "hercules hoist", this is where you hoist (on a pulley) a very heavy sandbag and let it down slowly. Many spartans cant complete this obstacle alone, so we all chip in and help each other out.
After another descent and ascent on a different Killington peak, we reached mile six. This is what I personally was dreading most, the "Swim". In my head I had it planned out that I was going to doggy paddle with my life vest on and just get out of the FREEZING water as quickly as I could, but as I sat there contemplating my plan of attack I noticed a dozen people doing burpees and walking around the water. When I asked them why, they told me that there were no available life jackets left. I wasn't disappointed one bit, I smoked my thirty burpees (ok, maybe 20) and was excited to get to avoid the water....Or so I thought.
When we walked around the bridge a bit, we were told to do more burpees and get in the water to get to the other side of the lake. The water was about chest deep and was shockingly cold, we had to swim/walk about a quarter of a mile until we finally reached land. After the initial shock of the water, it actually relaxed my muscles and cooled my core temperature. Now that we were wet and muddy we had another hill to climb and a few more obstacles to complete.
The next hill we hit was in the woods for a long while, when we finally got out of the woods the group of spartans that I was with started to cheer and lay in the grass to collect all the heat that they could from the sun. About here is where we encountered the "traveline rope", a very tough obstacle that you have to grab onto a rope that's connected about fifty feet apart, throw your legs up on the rope and basically drag yourself upside down until you can hit the bell. It looks relatively easy, but it really drains your energy.
At about mile ten we had to get wet again with the dunk wall and immediately start climbing again. We hit a few more obstacles like the sand bag carry and more walls, but spartan wasn't done with us yet. The fatigue started to kick in and everyone was really quiet all of a sudden. This is the part of a race where people are asking themselves what the hell they're doing up on this stupid mountain. It's also where you see a lot of tears from fellow spartans.
And as if we were tired enough, we had to do the "Death March". This was a mile long hike up the steepest mountain face Killington had to offer. This march was around mile twelve and it hurt, it hurt your bones, your muscles and your will to live. The only thing that kept me (us) going was the fact that we knew we were almost finished. After completing that hideous march, we were at the top of Killington and the views were breath taking, you felt like you were on top of the world. That euphoric feeling was quickly stifled by the sound of a volunteer yelling at me to grab two heavy logs and walk them down and back around some markers.
We now knew that we were on the home stretch and our auto-pilot had kicked in. We started to descend down the massive hill only to encounter lots of treacherous terrain. I heard a lot of people yelling for medics at this point from the cramping, rolled ankles, dehydration and falls. We got to the middle of the mountain and they threw a nasty log carry at us, followed by an inverted wall climb, the slip wall, the atlas stone carry, the multi-rig and the A-frame cargo net. These were all back to back to back which was brutal, but at this point we could see and smell the fire!
Jumping the fire at Killington was a feeling that I can't explain to anyone that hasn't done it. I highly recommend that you all try Killington ONCE! I don't plan on doing it ever again, but you never know. My personal goal was to get done in under eight hours and I almost succeeded, I finished in 8:07. More importantly than a time, these mountains show you exactly who and what you are made of. You can't hide what you are at mile fifteen; if you're soft and weak, it shows, if you're mentally tough, that also shows.
Everyone has their own reasons for doing these races, I like the fact that they push you to your absolute physical, mental and emotional limits. This is where you really see who you are as a person. There are people that skip every obstacle and go home and brag about their times, and then there are spartans that try everything they can, help others out on the way and stay humble. But regardless of what type of person you are, it'll show, and only you will be the one that knows it.
Finally, the best part of these races is the bonds that you make with your team and the positive impact they have on your health. They give you a reason to get stronger, leaner and faster. They give you another reason to eat, train and sleep properly. They also give you another reason to surround yourself with like minded people that become great teammates and great friends.
I'm proud of you guys!
Go find out what you're made of....