Sun Peaks UltraBeast 2015

Nothing like being on the tail end of a flu and the starting line of an UltraBeast. 
With the Spartan World Championship coming up in Tahoe next weekend and after having taken a few sick days with zero training, I thought getting back to normal with a long run in the mountains would do me good. 

If I took it easy…

Although, I’m not sure taking it easy was an option out there.

They had the usual obstacles: a couple balances, a few walls (including one halfway up a steep slope), an O-U-T, three very cold crawls, a long hobie hop, mud mounds, traverse wall, cargo net, rope and spear.

I think the big change this year was the relentlessness of the climbs combined with the heavy stuff. There was a tractor tire drag, double sandbell carry, herc hoist, two log carries, tire carry, light bucket carry, tractor pull, and the longest atlas carry I’ve ever done. 

The extra UltraBeast loop also had a heavy sandbag carry up a good vertical with no ladies option followed by a steep hike up a gnarly ski run.

It was a grinder for sure.

Mother Nature also added her own touch: blazing sun to blizzard and back again. I don’t normally change that much in a week… never mind a day.

I almost came off the traverse wall on the first lap since my hands were so frozen I couldn’t close my fingers.

I ended up changing arm warmers and gloves and then putting a long compression on at the drop bag tent halfway. I decided to cook myself in the sun on the climb in order to get my core temperature back up.

The big storm hit as I was just about to make the climb to The Top of the World. I put on my sunglasses to block the snow from my eyes but the wind was freezing me to my bones. A volunteer named Cheryl from the Herc Hoist gave me her almost brand new shell to block the wind. It was glorious… like stepping inside a sauna. I’ve never been so happy or so grateful. 

My nose also eventually stopped bleeding. I had jammed a branch up it early on while doing burpees and it was like turning on a slow faucet.

I was still nauseous and dizzy. I was still tired. But I always try to focus on what’s going right and how I can make things even better. The flu isn’t going to magically evaporate but I can hydrate and fuel well and keep the pace and effort even.

The volunteers were outstanding. I’ve yet to see more engaged, more enthusiastic, more amazing ones anywhere. 

Outside of obviously making more realistic cut offs (since technically only 24 people finished under the 6pm cutoff), I think they need an elite vs open UB heat.

It would clear up things like assisting one another at obstacles, taking burpees instead of doing carries and all that. Stuff you do in an open heat but not as an elite.

I do love the camaraderie aspect of people helping each other through to finish. It’s what makes these long races so special. 

There was one guy on course on his second lap, with his knees blown out, looking for ways in which he could better everyone he passed. Just incredible – and a big part of what this community is about.

But I do feel things get tricky if you’re running for a podium spot. Then it’s got to be elite rules as far as I figure.

The hardest part of the day for me was watching the people who were pulled off course or just missed the cutoff. You know they poured their hearts and souls onto the course and they never got their moment to celebrate its completion.

Still, they ran the same course, conquered the same obstacles and fought the same fight that the official finishers did. Geez, some even went out onto their second lap determined to get as far as they could before they got pulled knowing that they probably wouldn’t make it to the finish line. These are the people I want my children growing up to be.

The Dallas Beast Team Race: don’t mess with Texas

I ran the first year of the Whistler Tough Mudder… the one where we ran in knee deep snow and had to swim through slush.

I ran the Spartan World Championship… the race that notoriously takes athletes to their knees with cramps.

And I never really got cold.

I’m from Northern Alberta for goodness sake.

In Dallas, I was so cold. SO cold. So cold, I cramped all over cold.

Looking at the weather, I knew it would be chilly. However, after having overdressed for Sun Peaks and spent seven hours roasting in the sun on a mountainside… I vowed not to make that mistake again.

New mistake: hypothermia.

On the upside, racing on Team Platinum Rig Canada was awesome fun. I almost forgot how unpleasant the cold was in the company of such amazing athletes and people.

The race started with a typical dash to the over-unders, but led quickly into an eat-up-your-legs creek wade. It wasn’t quite deep enough to swim through but was definitely deep enough to make walking through the muck difficult.

The course had detours for teams on obstacles that needed to be completed together, which was a great way to keep us all as one unit. The first was a big wall with no toe kicks that you had to climb Tough Mudder style but without touching the braces. We had one person hoist the climbers leg while they stepped on another’s shoulder. The last person helped “push the butt” to help with hip extension.

The next team obstacle was flipping a telephone pole four times. One person deadlifted it up, the next grabbed further down and cleaned it to shoulder height and the last two got under it and walked their hands down until it went over.

There were a bunch of latter obstacles big and small along the course, which kept it interesting for us but apparently caused a bunch of congestion for the open racers.

Next was the giant tractor tire flips as a group of two.

I was hoping to warm-up by this point – but every footstrike was jarring and worrisome. I was concerned that if I did hit the ground wrong, my ankle wouldn’t bend, it would snap. It made bushwacking around in a lumpy cow field a bit unnerving… and I felt like I was becoming more and more uncoordinated and clumsy as the race progressed.

As if my lumbering stiff legs weren’t enough added challenge, at this time, my hands decided to join their rebellion. The transverse wall was where my forearms first started misbehaving. I fell off on the last hold, right near the bell. Luckily another teammate slipped off too, so we did our burpees together.

I was more careful than usual on the log hop. Come on body, just do what I tell ya’.

Somehow I made the rope climb. The two ladies that made the traverse wall missed the bell and had a burpee penalty. So now we got a little rest before we jogged up to the memorization test.

All chatter stopped after that. We just trotted along in our little pack reciting numbers to ourselves in our heads.

Big cargo net.

The team Atlas carry was cool. You chained yourself together and each picked up a stone: one heavy, one light. After 5 burpees on the other side, we switched rocks and returned.

Stairway to heaven was a new obstacle to me but I’ve seen a version of it at Tough Mudder. Basically, it’s a wall to a wooden latter and not too tricky unless you aren’t a fan of heights.

Another big wall. More teamwork.

The swim section was long, I’d say nearly 300m. For teams, we put on mandatory PFDs and swam diagonally across the lake to meet our other team members and switch off. Solo racers swam straight across. The PFD was probably the worst part. I haven’t ever tried swimming with one and it really gets in the way. It took about 100m but I finally settled into a surf board type stroke with the PFD around my waist.

Oddly the water was so much warmer than the air (and the wind) that we wanted to climb back in while we waited.

The Herc hoist was super light compared to the beast I had to wrestle with in Sacramento last week. When I through my body weight on it, expecting a fight, I hit the deck.

The team mud pit was cool: it was deep enough that we helped each other out. First by pushing the leader out by the butt (get comfortable with having your bum handled and handling the bums of others if you ever do a team race) and then by grabbing each other’s wrists.

The barb wire crawl was long and filled with people and some manner of spiky Texan plant that was way more terrible than the barbed wire. Oh yes, and cacti. A volunteer warned me about it as I was dragging my torso along one.

Helene, the team leader, was shouting helpful suggestions and encouragement to us throughout the race. One such suggestion was to change rolling sides periodically so as to not get too dizzy with a few crawl steps. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?

The sun was slowly coming out and I may actually have warned up had it not been for the dunk wall that came up next. Back to shiverville.

Next we did a team tire drag, which was tough until we coordinated our pulls with counts and had someone on the other side to push rather than crowd the one side with everyone pulling.

And the bucket brigade. I’m pretty accustomed to bucket induced back cramps, but it took everything I had not to put that bucket down today. My back was seizing right up. I’m glad the carry wasn’t an extra couple feet.

The pancake sand bags were only made challenging by a rocky slippery slope, other racers to navigate around, and being tied by the arm to one of your teammates.

I always go under and “crawl” across the Tyrollean traverse. Today would have been a good day to go on top. My forearms completely went on me about 4″ from the bell. I was hanging there trying to figure out how I was going to ring the bell without letting go with one hand. I ended up having to hook my arms over the top of the rope. I wasn’t sure it was going to work but the sound of that bell sure was glorious.

I missed my spear. I did my burpees. We all did.

The rules stated that three of our four lady team had to cross the finish line within 30 seconds of each other, so we all hoofed it in from there. I was feeling so stiff and uncoordinated, I kept on kicking myself as I ran. Weird.

I took on the inverted wall as usual… but somehow I landed flat on my back. Dang hands wouldn’t close. I had to go over with my upper arms, all army style.

The first three of us reunited on the other side of the slip wall and did the fire jump together.

John wrapped me in every jacket he had. It was like my flesh was frozen for hours and I was sick the rest of the day.

I was super glad to have raced with the team and learned a lot from the stellar athletes I had the opportunity to compete beside… but… biggest lesson learned:

Don’t mess with Texas.


How to Carb Load for a Tough Mudder, Beast or UltraBeast

Lots of people come into the obstacle course racing world through other avenues, outside of distance running. As such, this whole “carb loading” and “tapering” business is new to them – and they often skip it altogether. But… after putting in all that training for small gains every day, why not take advantage of these little tweaks that can make a big difference in your performance and enjoyment.

The studies are out there. Carb loading won’t help you run faster, but it will help you get farther. And let’s face it, in most instances, when running a marathon, the problem is pooping out, not running fast.

Carbs store water, so if you are a compulsive self weigher, either give yourself a mental high five when you gain a couple pounds or hide your scale. The marathon is a long journey, so having a little extra water on board isn’t a bad idea anyway.

I start carb loading 3 days out. The first day, I don’t obsess. I just try to eat less fat and protein and I end up eating more carbs. For instance, I usually eat oatmeal with raisins, vega, and chia. So I eat oatmeal with raisins. I eat dried fruit instead of nuts. I also hydrate little and often.

The next day I pretty much do the same thing with a little more attention to detail.
I’ll still eat fruit and veg since I know the fibre will be gone by race morning.

The day before the whole game changes.

I aim for 3-5 grams of carb per pound that I weigh. That used to be a total pain in the ass to add up. Now I just type what I ate in Livestrong, look up my macronutrient profile and do the math. Simple!

I wake up and do my shakeout run (20mins with some short bursts and drills). I do it on an empty stomach so that when I eat, my body is like a sponge. I eat a large carb breakfast/brunch. No fibre, no fat, no protein. Cereal, dry toast and jam. That sort of thing. If I haven’t hit the race expo, I go now. I wear compression socks and sit where ever possible (even on the floor in lines.)

I spend the rest of the day drinking coconut water and water. I eat dry corn or rice cereal and rice crackers since I find too much wheat hurts my tummy and is hard to digest.

I try to have dinner early and again, cut out all things not carbs. No spices either if course.

I used to try to hit my carbs without totally eliminating fat and protein. Either I ate way too much and felt like a balloon, or I fell way back of my carb goals.

One tablespoon of peanut butter on a roll just cost you 100cals. That’s 25 grams worth of carbs.

I feel I should tell you that this is far from how I eat most days. It’s far from healthy. But we don’t run marathons often enough for it to impact the total picture. And with all the training you did who wants a car with half a tank at an endurance event?