Intro by Carrie Adams
In Killington, Vermont August 6, 2011, Marc-André Bédard, from the Canadian National Biathlon Team took the top spot at the Spartan Beast, ousting Hobie Call from supremecy on the Spartan Obstacle Courses. Bédard’s athletic career and dedication to athletics is awe-inspiring. A member of the Canadian National Team since 2000, Biathlon Canada’s 2008 Athlete of the Year and ACBQ and Biathlon Courcelette in the same year, he is an established force in his primary sport. In addition to Biathlon, Bédard cross-trains with mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and soccer.
When Bédard arrived in Killington, he admittedly expected some basic running, a few mud puddles, and Spartan Gladiators, but he left the Vermont mountains not only a Spartan Champion, but also a believer in the emerging sport of Obstacle Racing. Here is his Beast experience, as a part of a series Spartan Blog is beginning entitled “Ode to Sparta.” This series will feature stories of Spartan Race experiences from our own Spartan athletes told in their own words. We thought it fitting to kick off the series with the words of our newest champion, Marc-André Bédard.
After taking on the Beast headstrong, a lot of people have asked me how I trained to beat the “Beast” like that! The easy answer is that I’ve been training all my life. I made it my job. The one they want to hear is that I trained 300 days, 600 to 1000 hours a year, one to six hours a day, 20 to 40 races a year for the last decade and more!
My July consisted of hours of roller skiing, trail running, kayaking, biking (road and mountain) and strength training! And my week before the Beast found me doing 13 hours of cardio and 2 hours and 15 minutes of strength training hours.
To maintain my energy during the Beast, I drank 500ml of sports drink, downed 2 power gels, and 1 and 1/2 power bars. All that was in addition to the 1 to 2 cups of water at every water tent!
August 6th is a day that I will remember all my life, in the same way that I will remember my first race at the Olympic Games: the DREAM I thought about and trained for, for 18 years!!
I wasn’t sure how good of an idea this was considering my contract with my national team. As a member of the national team, we are not supposed to participate in extreme sports. I pondered and decided that 18-20km runs in the woods would not be a big deal; we were doing that every couple weeks as a team!! I imagined the Beast to be a couple of mud holes and a bunch of wannabe “gladiators” that wouldn’t make it that much harder. WRONG!!! This race was harsh!! The Beast lived up to its name, but the feeling I got when I crossed the finish line…AMAZING!!!!
This is where it gets “dirty!!”
It took us 7 hours to get to our Hotel, the Snowed Inn, in Vermont and, when we got to the Outback Pizza to get our bibs, we came to realization that this was no joke. People were ready, mentally and physically, to get hurt!!! There is no surrender in Sparta, so we came back the next morning to see the Beast face to face! We “learned” that we would have to climb all the way up and down (more than once) this steep and solid mountain. ”Okay, this might get interesting,” I thought to myself. Also, I didn’t forget that Hobie Call, the undefeated Spartan beast of a man, was at the party. He is the best there is in this kind of madness!
On the starting line Claude (my Spartan Chick) told me not to get crazy and stay on my feet. I smiled knowing exactly what I was there for. I saw tons of footage of the champ, and I wanted to see how I would do against the crème de la crème! I noticed that a few racers racers that looked like athletes were not carring sugar/bars/gels. I’m surprised, especially by Mr. Call because he is a great marathoner! Anyway, I know my body very well and I knew what I’d need.
A race recap would be very long so I’ll cut it short and share only the “special moments.”
By the first 100 meters I wanted to be in front so that I wouldn’t lose time in the back for the first obstacles. I jumped the first fire wall (which was huge) in first and stayed around the leading pack for the next couple of walls, crawls, etc…
When we started to climb, we climbed… no joke there, and not in a path either!! I think they looked for the worst places they could make you hike through and guided you there! It often felt like even lions would have trouble going through. I got a little slowed with the pack in front, so 3 guys took off with an advantage. When I finally reached the top, I looked back and screamed a big AROOOO!!! That went out to my fellow Spartans.
When trail started it’s descent, I knew that a few runners could pace with me while on the off road “route” we had to take. So I pushed myself, and it didn’t take long for me to pass those 3 guys without looking back! I could hear Hobie shouting something, but I kept going alone until we hit the 3 mile “dignified exit” for those unable to go 4 times longer.
I ran alone for a while until my balance failed me on a obstacle…. 30 burpees for me (squat, pushup, squat-jump makes 1). A smiling Hobie passed me probably knowing what was to come. I really felt like an amateur for one of the few times in my sporting career!! I saw the champ take on the barbed wire like a piece of cake and thought I could do it too…
Nope… this got me out of his sight. I probably lost 3 minutes right there. I got passed by the next guy down there rolling around… ouch!!… I sucked at it big time, but I saw and understood how one could be dominant in this sport. You had to be fast at those long obstacles, very strong mentally, and a good trail/off trail runner.
Then, I get through the “Berms,” at which point my shoes were filled with rocks and sand, and I still had another 10 to 15 km to go …WOW!!!!!
I went up and down the mountain a few more times and through progressively harder obstacles: the gravel carry, the weighted sleigh pull through fire(…please), bush runs, wall and rope climbs, a memorization task, lake swims, more runs up and down; I could go on. From all of this craziness, my feet were burning from the stuff in my shoes!!!!!!
Carrying the 50-pound sand bag half way up, across and down a peak was another tough one! I thought about the brave “Spartan Chicks” out there, knowing that they’d have to do it too. (I heard that Spartan women are the toughest on the planet!! It’s true.) Try climbing a ski slope (but not in the slope, in the woods next to it), while simultaneously making your own trail for I don’t even know how long (maybe 2 km?), AND carrying 50 pounds… Yeah, not so much fun!
After more obstacles, I then got to the mental part where volunteers asked me for the code that I had memorized like an hour before! Alpha 952-2322 ; this one will stay in my head forever.
Then, around the 9-mile mark, I and a fellow “québecois” saw the champ in sight! We finally got to him, and I asked if he had been hurt. He smiled but looked pissed, so I figured he’d either gotten hurt or hit a serious wall. I then downed some of my power gel to make sure that I stayed alright enough to finish with the little juice I had left.
A couple km later, I took a bad fall and lost my new friend for a second. We were about to descend for a while, so I raced my heart out to get back to him, knowing than I was strong enough to get back quickly. But I never did!!! I figured he’s either lost or hurt or freaking amazing at running down mountains!!!
Prepare for Glory!
I reached the last big obstacle: the ‘freaking’ lake that we had to cross. I misunderstood a volunteer so I chose to do some “burpees” and run around it since I’m not a swimming champ! Then I learned that the running around was waist deep………. c’mon. I decided to swim. After what seemed like an eternity, I had to get up on a rope 8-10 foot high and then go “horizontal” for the remaining portion of the lake. The swimming made both of my legs cramp up, so I couldn’t get very far. At this point, I was suffering like never before! I swam across to do 30 more “burpees” (90 so far) and finished up the lake obstacle.
It took me a couple minutes to take care of the cramps that were painfully affecting both my legs. After the lake, I faced the last hill, the spear-throw (the only thing I had worked on), the last big wall, and THEN I took on 3 Spartan warriors who want your life! I thought to myself, “No way! I’ll go through this like my life depends on it.” I finally finished it up like a real Spartan!!!!
I am satisfied that I finished this thing in one piece. I could have done a lot better, and I WILL next time, but until then, that was one hell of a ride!!
I consider myself fortunate to have had the chance to chat with a lot of amazing athletes and some of the Spartan Race crew, who were all amazing! You guys run your races way better than most sport federations. Spartan Race is going to be the biggest thing on the block if it isn’t already!!
The Spartan Race is destined to grow fast and huge, as it’s already started to do.
Thanks again for the best time of my life, and you will see me again!!
Member of the 2010 Biathlon Olympic team
Finisher and winner of the Spartan Beast 2011