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?”
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
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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.
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
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.