by Jason Rita

There are no favorites in the Vermont Beast except maybe Mike Morris and Russell Cohen.  Whatever the result, those two are guaranteed to be laughing at the start of the race and the end.  No, they are not members of the Spartan300, they are not obstacle racers, they are the Race Director and Course Designer for the Vermont Spartan Beast and Ultra Beast, and they are promising that this race will be unlike any other Spartan Race in the past.

Throw out the stats, the results, the preconceptions, and the betting lines.   Anything can happen and probably will.   There will be carnage, devastation, tears, swearing, prayers to deities, and bargains with demons.  At the end, someone will emerge victorious; someone will earn the crown as Spartan Champion and be called the World’s Best Obstacle Racer.  The question is “Who?”

Marco Bedard

Last year’s victor was Marc-Andre Bedard, the Canadian Olympian biathlete.  Being a biathlete coming to race Killington is actually a handy skill because you might encounter both snow and wolves on race day.  Marco recently represented Spartan Race in the first Spartan event in mainland Europe, where he showed his class and dominated in the Slovakia Spartan Race.   But Marco’s Canadian national team coaches have Marco on a tight training schedule as he prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and as of press time, he is not entered and not expected to race.  A cryptic Facebook post on Sunday night hinted that a Canadian storm might be blowing in from the north, so don’t be surprised if a man on skis with a rifle emerges from the Green Mountain forest on Saturday morning, grabs a bib number and toes the line.  It could be Marco.

2011 proved that Hobie Call could not master the Killington course.  The pre-race favorite was shocked by the length and toughness and finished a disappointing 9th.  But last year’s race was barely a month after the Death Race, which saw Call put in a 40 hour ultra-effort as he chased Joe Desena’s $100,000 Holy Grail

Hobie Call

for anyone who could win 15 Spartan Races andthe Death Race in one calendar year, and recovery might have been an issue.  Call severely bonked about 2 hours in to the Killington challenge.  He still ended up winning 15 races last year, including the year-end championship held in Texas.  But so far the scoreboard reads:  Vermont 2, Hobie 0.  Call has continued to dominate the Spartan Race series this year, racking up an amazing ten wins.  Call has been winning easily, winning in style, winning even while wearing a 10-lb weight vest.  The only event where he participated but didn’t take top spot was the Super Spartan in Arizona, that one he ran tethered to his wife, Irene.   She was last year’s third place female in our World Championships in Texas. Call

has focused his training over the last month specifically to redeem his performance from last year.  But the Beast doesn’t care about resumes.  If Hobie is to be this year’s champion, he will have to do something he hasn’t done to date, and that is win in Vermont.

Junyong Pak

With the defending Killington winner uncertain of racing and Vermont being Hobie’s Kryptonite, the race does shape up as an open question.  In 2011, Junyong Pak finished 2nd to Marco in Vermont, and 3rd in the Texas Championship Race, and since then has not rested in his quest to become a Spartan Champion.  Winner of the Spartan Sprint in New England, JYP has also proved his long course pedigree by finishing 2nd at the 2012 Spartan Death Race, an amazing result considering he was moving as fast at hour 60 as many were at hour one.  Junyong is one of the most passionate and dedicated competitors in the field, as well as one of the most honorable, and must be counted as one to watch.

Alec Blenis

One of the youngest competitors in the Spartan universe, Alec Blenis, has quickly become a star endurance athlete.   Already sponsored by Amazing Grass, the organic green superfood company, this 17 year old vegan has racked up some impressive road racing and triathlon wins at:  the Callaway Gardens Marathon – 1st place, Chattahoochee Challenge 10k – 1st place, Historic Roswell 10k – 1st place, Lake Lanier Sprint Triathlon, 1st place, and Red Top Roaster 15k, 1st place.

Often racing with 67 year old dad Robert, Team Blenis, usually takes home the Spartan age-group prizes.  Alec’s passion for the sport of Spartan obstacle racing is legend through his extreme workout videos on the Spartan Race Facebook page showing his commitment and athleticism.  A former pole vaulter in high school, Alec is second in the Spartan Point Series, showing amazing consistency, trailing only Hobie Call himself in the Points Competition, which runs through to the end of the year.  Is it possible that Alec could pull an upset and vault over Hobie?

Chris Rutz

As captain of Team Juwi, Chris Rutz can also be counted on to provide a tough challenge.  One of the world leaders in large-scale solar photovoltaic projects, juwi solar Inc. is the first company to sponsor team of Spartan athletes and has provided a great model for far-sighted corporations to engage with the fast-growing sport in the world.  Along with Chris, fellow Team Juwi athletes Nick Maynard, Mark Husted and Elliott Megquier have all featured on the Spartan podium in 2012.  Elliott is one of the top Spartan racers and would be expected to challenge in Killington, but this 1st Lieutenant in the US Army is on a training exercise that prevents him from being at the Killington Beast – unless he goes AWOL.  His teammates are sure to represent him well.  Chris is on pace to earn an amazing seven Spartan Trifecta medals in 2012 and plans to complete seven Supers (five done) and seven Beasts (one done) to go with ten Sprints (eight done).  (Rest assured Chris, Spartan will honor you with a medal for each Trifecta you earn.)  As Chris writes on his blog, Live the Tough Life:  “Some think I am a little crazy for doing all of these races, but hey it is what I love to do and like the saying goes “Do more of what makes you happy”, and Spartan Racing makes me happy.”  An avid CrossFit athlete, Rutz has been training and racing for over 20 years, including triathlons, bike racing, yoga, surfing, canyoneering, rock climbing, and backpacking.  According to Scottsdale Health magazine:  “I could see the progress I was making with CrossFit, but I was still missing something. I didn’t know what I was missing.”  Rutz discovered his missing link when he signed up for the Spartan Race in February 2011.”

Sebastian Monette

While Canadian Olympic coaches might keep Marco north of the border, another threat from the land of the midnight sun, Mounties, moose and poutine (look it up) is Sébastien Monette.   Sponsored by women’s race favorite Rose-Marie Jarry’s Kronobar company, Sebastian has proven he can win at home – Ottawa Sprint, Montreal Super, Toronto Sprint – and away, recently crushing the Americans at the tough Tri-State NJ Super Spartan.  Don’t lose track of this fierce competitor.

Cody Moat

Who else can challenge?  Cody Moat who finished 2nd to Hobie in the Utah Beast is a dark horse.  Don’t underestimate this high school teacher despite him only having only one Spartan event in his resume: Cody comes to Spartan as winner of the Mid Mountain Marathon, an incredibly torturous high altitude race that will give him great confidence in the Killington mountains.  Did we mention that Killinton is a ski resort?  That means lots of vertical…  A great mountain runner like Cody is sure to be there at the finish to upset the Spartan regulars.

Team Inov-8 sponsored athlete Ben Nephew might also have something to say about who walks away with

Ben Nephew

the top prize of $5,000 at the Killington Beast.  Notable results for Ben include 6th at the IAU World Trail Championship and 11th at the IAU World Road 50k Trophy in 2011.  He holds the course record at the Escarpment Trail Race, FKT’s for the Great Range Traverse in the Adirondacks, Devil’s Path in the Catskills, and the Pemi Loop in the White Mountains.

What is amazing about the Spartan Race series is that so many great athletes are competing.    As last year’s race showed, the winner might come from anywhere so stay tuned.  In tomorrow’s update, we will preview the women’s race where the field is deep and talented.

Less than one week until it all goes down.

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by Mike Morris, Vermont Spartan Beast/Ultra Beast Race Director

Just about one month left until race-day.  Hopefully you’ve taken preparing for this event seriously and are looking forward to one of the hardest obstacle courses of the year.  The course will be harder than last year and the self-supported nature (i.e. ONE water station) will add an element that even the most seasoned racers won’t necessarily be accustomed to.

Preparing should be looked at from multiple angles: preparing your body physically, preparing your mind mentally, and selecting and getting comfortable with the best possible gear.

Physical preparation means hours on your feet, getting comfortable ascending and descending, building full body strength and power so you can attack the obstacles (there will be some good new ones).

Mental preparation means understanding what is ahead of you and being convinced that you will do the best you can and conquer your goal.  Anything less and you have set yourself up for failure from the start.

Having the right gear will allow you to focus on the race.  Having the wrong gear will distract you and add even more challenge.  You should be very comfortable with three pieces of gear as you toe the start line: Shoes, a headlamp, and a Hydration Pack.

inov-8 Trailroc 245

Shoes:  Don’t pick them based on color, the latest fad, or what someone else says.  Pick one that fits well, has the level of traction you want, and the level of protection you want.  Protection comes in the form of a beefier shank and beefed up toe-box and sides for those accidental root/rock strikes.

inov-8 is the official shoe of Spartan Race.  When we asked them what they thought would be the perfect shoe for the Ultra Beast, here is what they had to say at inov-8 HQ, “Inov-8s grip on slippery surfaces, drain mud and water quickly, and fit snug to your foot so they won’t get left behind on any obstacles. Different styles provide different amounts of cushion and heel to toe drop depending on personal preference. The Roclite 295, Roclite 285, x-talon 212, and the Trailroc series are all great options for tackling 26 miles of obstacles.”

Headlamp:  A headlamp will be required gear to pass certain parts of the course after a certain time.  It gets dark at about 6:45pm and the course will be open until 10pm (time subject to change).  Light means speed and safety.  Pick one that can handle bad weather, is light, is comfortable on your head, and provides sufficient illumination.

Hydration Pack:  The single water station will be approximately half-way through the 12+ mile course.  There will also be two ponds that you could pull water from if needed.  You must have some sort of water source as you cross the start line (mandatory gear).  If you skimp on this then you will suffer.  I highly recommend the use of a hydration pack over other options.  I’ve used many brands and I’ve recently fallen in love with a particular product that I think would be perfect for the BEAST: the Geigerrig 500.  This pack stands out from others for many reasons:

  •  A pressurized bladder system… the first time I’ve ever seen this and perfect for when you don’t want to put your mouth on the bite-valve, if you need to share your water, or if you need to clean out some dirty eyes!  Just squeeze the bite valve and it squirts.
  • You can add an in-line water filter.  It’s light and small and if it’s hot out this would allow you to pull water from those ponds.  Could be HUGE on race day!
  • Two external compression straps are great for synching down the pack (just don’t do it too hard or you’ll cut off your water-supply)
  • Removable Hip Strap
  • Ballistic Nylon (if you get the black one) will stand up to the abuse and  barbed wire
  • Internal (removable) lightweight back-plate adds some structure and support to the pack
  • Enough internal space to add a small jacket and some calories.
  • Webbing on the back for those Ultra-Beast teams that are considering towing as part of their movement strategy.
  • 70oz bladder should cover most of your needs (plan to be hydrated when you start.)

Additionally, the hydration system has a lifetime warranty for leakage and a 2 year warranty for manufacture defects in workmanship.  Here are two videos that demonstrate the durability of the system..something important for Ultra Beast Spartan Racers.

a)      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd48bBwLIUA  (Demonstrates a RIG 500 Ballistic)

b)      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SwL7xUb4Ao   (Demonstrates a RIG 500 Ballistic)

I was going to create a nice video review but found one online already that covers everything: Click HERE to watch the review.

After finding this awesome pack, we reached out to Geigerrig and explained the BEAST and they thought it would be the perfect event to team up with Spartan Race.  Their product offers a perfect solution to our racers needs (pressurized bladder, in-line filter, beefy design).  If you are registered for the BEAST, you should expect an email soon with a huge discount code for Geigerrig packs.

Most importantly, follow the golden rule of gear:  Don’t try something new on race-day!  Train like you are racing.

Good luck.

There is still time to register for the Spartan Beast in Killington, VT.  Go HERE to secure your spot!  Want to take on the Ultra Beast?  Email ultrabeast@spartanrace.com with your race resume and you could still be accepted.  See you on the mountain.

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Of all the questions that we get at Spartan Race HQ, many of them revolve around gear, specifically shoes.  Having the right footwear for a Spartan Race is a big part of the equation for race day success and Spartan was excited to announce our partnership with inov-8 shoes earlier this year as the official shoes of Spartan Race.  In fact, Spartan HQ rocks the shoes on and off the course ourselves!

inov-8 staffers in Chris's old pants

Recently, our own Chris Davis headed into the inov-8 offices to get fitted for a new pair of shoes.  We’ve been following his weight loss journey and road to the Spartan Ultra Beast September 22nd that began with him at 696 pounds and has him currently weighing in under 300.  With only a hundred pounds to go, some new shoes would help him meet his goal and assist in his training.  Chris is a Spartan Race veteran, so he knows what kind of courses we throw at athletes and what he’ll need to be successful in training and on the course.

Helping in the effort was the amazing team at inov-8 who invited Chris

Getting Fitted

and Spartan staff onsite to get him laced in for his upcoming Amesbury race and his training towards the Ultra Beast!  The inov-8 team of Caitlin,  Nicole, and Lizzie will also be joining Chris to run their first and his third Spartan Race in Amesbury on August 11th.  

From a recent blog post by inov-8,  Caitlin Fenn explained how they chose a shoe for Davis and what he can expect from his new kicks:

Chris used to have trouble with fitting into his shoe size, and now we are helping him choose a shoe that will help him scale walls and climb mountains. Chris was a little worried that he wouldn’t be able to fit into a size 13, because he has a wide foot and had heard that our shoes were narrow. He also used to have to wear a size up because of the width of his feet. But since he’s lost so much weight, he was back to his normal shoe size, and they fit great!

 Chris had never worn minimalist shoes before, so we are transitioning him slowly. We gave him a pair of Road-X 255, our 3 arrow, 9mm drop road running shoe for his road and hard trail training, and a pair of Terrafly 313 GTX (also a 3 arrow 9mm drop) for his hiking on the mountain. He said he could feel the difference between his motion control shoes that were prescribed to him for over pronating. He liked the lightweight feel of the minimalist shoes and we talked to him about natural running and pose running, that with training, could help strengthen his feet and ankles. He was also excited because his last shoes held water and mud and had no grip during the Spartan Race in PA he did last weekend.”

We’ll be tracking Chris’s progress and finding out about his new shoes!  And stay tuned to hear about some other inspirational inov-8 Athlete’s we’ll be introducing you to and check out the inov-8 website for more information on how you can get into your own pair!

Inspired and want to get in on the Spartan action?  Get registered today!

About inov-8: inov-8 designs products to be lightweight, minimal and functional. Inov-8 shoes give runners the confidence and freedom to run hard through any environment and over any obstacle. The aim of our footwear is to keep the foot close to the ground so that runners can feel and adapt to the terrain beneath them. We offer a range of soles and cushioning. Each shoe provides the optimum grip and comfort for the terrain — from road to rocks, mud to sand, the mountains to the box.

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