One of the biggest and toughest Spartan races of the year, is the Spartan Ultra and Beast weekend in Killington Vermont. The elevation is some of the highest of all races in the United States. The climbs are difficult, and so are the steep descents. Killington is the birthplace of the Spartan Beast Race, so it’s always a big deal when race weekend comes to town.
The Ultra is a 30 plus mile race with 70 obstacles. It consists of 2 laps of the Beast race, as well as a Ultra specific loop of 2 plus miles that must be done on each lap. Upon completion of the first lap, racers are allowed to go into a transition area to refuel, and grab anything they need from a drop bin that they have placed the day before. Due to the length of the race, there are specific time hacks and cutoffs each racer must reach in order to avoid being pulled from the course. The Ultra has the highest Did Not Finish, or DNF, rate of any Spartan race.
I was just starting to feel 100% with my leg and IT band issues. So I chose to do the Beast on Saturday and Sunday instead of pushing myself to attempt the Ultra. I felt my training up to that point was not sufficient to complete the Ultra, and after viewing the course I knew that was a wise choice.
So I’ll be discussing my experience at this race as a Beast competitor. This is my 3rd year in a row at this course, so I have seen lots of changes to the format.
One of the unique things about the area is that all the local hotels and restaurants, with the exception of the ski resort itself, are mom and pop type places. There are no hotel franchises like Quality Inn or restaurants like Applebee’s. So the locals love to see all the new visitors and it’s pretty nice to be a member of the town for the weekend. I’ve always had a good experience at all the establishments as the locals are quite friendly and they enjoy hearing race stories from the visitors.
The venue itself is also quite large and the ski resort is open to Spartan races. This allows for lots of food choices inside the resort, as well as tables to sit at, and bathrooms to use. Most OCRs you’re limited to the vendors that are on-site and they’re always outdoors. Also this venue has a large covered outside bar area with even more tables. It is close to the finish line so it’s a great venue for racers and spectators, during and after a race.
Another feature the Killington race offers is a unique obstacle called the Tarzan Swing. It consists of a racer swimming out to the underneath of a bridge, climbing a hanging ladder, then swinging across several short ropes to ring a bell on the end of a pole. It is a very difficult obstacle, as you are soaked from the swim, and the ladder is not stable. So you want to climb up and get across quickly before your strength and grip give out. It is one of those obstacles that’s almost impossible to practice outside of a race, and it is in my opinion the hardest obstacle Spartan race has.
The race itself provides many good photo opportunities for Spartan, as well as spectators. This venue has a working gondola that can take spectators from the bottom of the venue all the way to the top. There they can watch racers climb the mountain and complete the Death March.
The Death March is an over 1 and a half mile climb from the bottom of the mountain, all the way to the top. It is quite exhausting for even an experienced racer and can chew up a lot of your time on the course.
Also there was 9 water stations in the 14 mile course, so there was no shortage of chances to hydrate. For this reason, I didn’t wear a Camelbak, I simply put all my race fuel in the pockets of my Clinch Gear shorts. This was a sufficient strategy for me both days, I didn’t have any issues with hydration.
Killington is one of my favorite race venues. It is an extremely challenging course for even veteran racers, and it has so many unique features that make it stand out from other races. Killington should be on every racers calendar every year.
Despite all the Pros, this years race did have a few Cons for me, especially since I have run this race before.
First, the swim to Tarzan Swing was extremely short. You started by entering the water right next to the bridge and swam to the ladders in front of you. Previous years you had to swim from one of the farthest points all the way out to the ladders, so you were very tired by the time you got there. Not sure why they shortened it, but it was disappointing as I did enjoy that challenge.
Also for some reason the obstacle Twister was only 2 sections, not it’s typical 3. This made the obstacle much easier to complete. Since this is supposed to be one of the harder races, this change was disappointing and I hope it doesn’t become the new norm.
I know I’m not the fastest racer, but there were very few course marshals out on the course when I ran Age Group on Saturday. Not sure why, this race had over 7000 people in attendance. I would definitely like to see more of a presence enforcing the rules.
Lastly, only 4 photographers in a 35 obstacle course. Just not enough. Photos are something every racer wants more of and with the beautiful scenery, that should have been taken advantage of.
In spite of these issues, this race weekend was still an awesome experience, one every racer needs to try. It seems to get better and better every year!
Thank you very much for reading my review. If you have questions, or have comments, please feel free to reach out to me!! Thanks! 🦁👍🏽👍🏽