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  • Quick Glance:
  • Host: Spartan Race
  • Shoes: VFF TS/ Barefoot
  • Venue: Rough Creek Lodge & Resort: This place is amazing, and it has some of the toughest and most beautiful trails Texas Hill Country has to offer
  • Muddy Toes Rating: 12 out of 10! A-roo A-roo A-roooooo!

Well, here it is….with great pride and the smallest hint of sadness, may I present to you, my fine readers, the Final MuddyJ Race Review of 2013!

…and umm…it’s a long one, a real epic tale …. you might want to go get a cup of coffee or something….

…and boy was this one, well, I don’t know if the word ‘tough’ is strong enough,…for that matter, I don’t know that there is a single word in the English language that can describe this challenge… it was unlike anything I have come across thus far…it really and truly is a horse of a different color…

This is the Spartan Beast.

2013-12-15 17.00.21

Do you all remember my friend Red? ..you know, the brave 70.3 Iron(wo)man, and marathoner who had the great misfortune to win a Spartan entry in a give-away I hosted earlier this year? If you don’t, or you’re just tuning in and you don’t feel like clicking the link above to read her intro/bio, here is a little refresher/re-introduction:

MuddyJ:  Glad to hear you survived the Rebel Race! If you had fun there, you’ll definitely love the challenge and superior organization/quality the Reebok Spartan Series has to offer! Which upcoming race are you planning to enter? Are you sure you don’t want to start small with a Spartan Sprint, or are you planning to go for broke and try the SPARTAN BEAST?(as your <Beast Mode> tee-shirt in the picture above suggests)

Red: I am going for the BEAST! All or nothing baby! And, Muddy J, I will be chomping at your heels!

Usually I am a solo racer, preferring to challenge myself and push my own limits, but rather than have her chomping at my heels, I decided to share this experience with her…it just seemed like it would be more fun that way…after having a blast as half of the two-person team “Barefoot Muddy Buddies” with my pal Amanda at Toobabalooza earlier this year, and running a lap of the Gladiator Rock’N Run in December of 2012 with a friend, I have shifted my views a little as to how the challenge goes with a friend… in life,  some things are more fun with other people, even if its only more fun because you’re showing off…after all,  we all know, MuddyJ loves to show off!

It isn’t that it gets easier or harder with other people along…it just gets to be a lot more fun! It’s said that a team is only as strong as its weakest link, but it has been my experience that friends tend to lend strength to weakness. This results in everyone moving upwards and challenging themselves-rising to greater heights- rather than one weak person dragging down the team.

…that, and we could share the gas/driving/parking expenses…a win win situation for everyone!

So, after a successful evening jaunt through the beautiful City of Lights 5k in Windcrest, (Mrs MuddyJ’s First 5k!) I headed home to try and capture an elusive good night’s rest, but really, who can sleep before a race this big?

I packed and re-packed, deciding in the final few hours before the race that I would bring a Bear Grylls survival blanket, carefully folded so that it fit into the pouch of my iFitness cellphone holding race belt…having dealt with hypothermia the week before at the Natural Bridge Caverns Duathlon, I decided I would try to take some precautions. On my body I opted for compression tights instead of shorts (so sexy!), a warm long sleeved compression shirt, light duty injinji socks to go with my VFF TrekSports, My day-glo orange running sleeves and my dual-recon wrap ninja head set up that I started wearing during the Illuminations 1/2 Marathon…I would be warmer for this race, but everything I was wearing would certainly dry quickly. Over the top of this outfit I wore some loose fitting comfy sweats to keep warm until race time.

I kissed Mrs MuddyJ good-bye in the wee hours, and she mumbled something about returning with my shield-or on it- and I got dressed and headed downstairs to wait for Red to come pick me up – Glen Rose is a long drive from San Antonio, and her 70.3/26.2 stickered Saturn gets WAY better gas mileage than my 350-Z….

She pulled up to my house around 0330, and I opened the door to head outside, locking it behind me, and setting of to meet whatever destiny the day had in store for us!

The morning air was rife with the kind of teeth-chattering cold that felt like the air itslef had millions of tiny sharp teeth was trying to excise a bite out of any part of your flesh that you were silly enough to leave exposed. Red’s car was nice and warm though, and the drive up to the venue was mostly uneventful. We tried to stop at the Blue-Bonnet Cafe for breakfast, but it hadn’t opened yet by the time we were driving through Marble Falls-so we settled for some truck-stop coffee and breakfast biscuits a few miles further up the road…it was actually very good, and so clean that Red and I commented to each other about it.

The sun started rising as we got closer to Glen Rose, bringing with it a startling realization….

“Uh, Red….”, I stumbled to get the words out of my disbelieving mouth,” there’s fucking SNOW on the ground!”

“No way”

…but sure enough, the morning sun revealed the cold hard fact that there really were patches of snow, and every part of the fields we looked out upon which the rising sun had lit, but not yet kissed was covered in a thin coating of frozen morning dew…

“Uh, Red….”,I repeated,” there’s fucking SNOW on the ground!”

“Uh, yeah, I can totally see that…”

This conversation went on for a few more miles, becoming a sort of mantra, and then we arrived at the gates of hell the entrance to the venue.

We turned onto a well-groomed single track dirt road that served as the main thoroughfare for the Rough Creek Lodge & Resort and I was immediately relieved we hadn’t made the folly of bringing my Z…350Z + bumps=no bueno. After a mile or so, we passed the “Spearman” obstacle on our way to the parking area, and it was ominously empty, with no Spartans tossing spears or performing burpees… I had no idea where on the course the obstacle would lie, and I knew the first elite heat hadn’t been out that long, so I shrugged it off.

Soon we pulled into the parking area and caught our first glimpse of the fairway… the entrance to the main grounds of the race were well guarded by several stacked shipping containers… and then I realized that they weren’t just an entrance…this was an obstacle we would later have to overcome – 20 feet above our heads a cargo net was strung, and at some point in this race, we would be passing this very point…I made a mental note of it and filed that under “stuff that really doesn’t matter in the long run”

We paid the $10 parking fee and parked, striking up a conversation with the guy who parked next to us…as his fortune would have it, as I was deciding my long-sleeved compression tee would be too much, he was discovering he hadn’t brought one…so in my usual fashion, I gave a total stranger the shirt off of my back and we headed into the staging area.

Red looked up and gulped audibly as we passed beneath the cargo obstacle, but I told her it was nothing to worry about…after all, you would really have to TRY to fit between the squares of the netting to slip through and fall…it was more of a mental grit thing than an impending physical danger.

We signed our “you might die” waivers and collected our race packets, and discovered a really nice touch…NUMBERED HEADBANDS!  I don’t know when Spartan started doing this little bit, but it really is a nice touch…and another thing to wear on those days when you feel a need to tell the world you are Spartan tough.We had a little under an hour until our wave start, so we walked around a bit, took some pictures  and signed the Wall of Fame.

Fire pits were strewn about the grounds, well marked by the throngs of people huddling in shivering groups, as well as a well-heated “warming tent” for spectators and frozen finisher’s to get their body’s core temperature into normal range.

The final obstacles before the finish line loomed ominously over the fairway as well, waiting with ice-covered pools for their first victims of the morning:

oh yeah..and I stopped to take a quick panorama with my phone:
2013-12-15 08.37.26The morning passed and the mercury rose a bit, leading to defrosting in the areas where ever the light of the bright orange ball in the sky fell, but not before I had a chance to make a MuddyJ logo:

2013-12-15 08.27.46 As the morning’s temperature climbed from ‘sub-zero’ to ‘freezing’ to ‘really freaking cold in the shade, but we should be alright if we are running’, Red and I stripped down to our racing attire, settling both on arm sleeves and short sleeve t-shirts and headed over to the bag drop.

The bag drop at a Spartan race costs $5 per individual, and this initially bothered me because most races provide this service as a courtesy. However, with the attendants providing us wristbands and a secured bag check area, I quickly got over my initial impression. Later I would discover they provide you with a $5 coupon for use at the merchandise tent upon collecting your bag, so really, it balances out in the end. I dragged Red over to the bodymarking area, insisting that she get her bib # on her face, and we started to get into our race mentality.

“You know Red, ” I started, ” at some point today, I am probably going to have to put my hand on your ass to push you over something…”

“I know,” came her reply, “just try not to enjoy it too much!”

The waves of would-be Spartan finishers were released every 15 minutes, so when the 0930 wave was released, we headed to the pre-starting chute wall climb-yes, you have to conquer an obstacle to start the race- and I helped Red over, hopping up and over with ease as she grumbled about how I made it look easy…

“I have done a lot of these”, I said, and let the subject lie.

I received a bunch of comments about my choice of footwear: VFF TrekSports, and I tired to play off being a newbie, pointing to my Windcrest 5k shirt and claiming, I have only done a 5k…but Red spoiled that by telling on me:

“yeah, in the last 24 hours…Barefoot and hauling a cart full of children! shut up J”

The MC gave his usual pre-Spartan pep-talk as some Guns and Roses played, covering all the bases, you know the usual stuff; don’t be an asshole, help people out…if I missed anything you signed a death waiver… and sooner then we were prepared for, it was time to head out into the waiting jaws of the Spartan Beast.

The initial trail was wide and flat, but the easy running it provided lasted a very short time. It narrowed quickly and Red and I got  separated in the pack for a short time. We quickly regrouped and ran on, knowing that there was plenty of race to come we slowed our pace to an easy trot…I have trained with Red a lot, and her biggest althletic flaw is her desire to keep someone else’s pace. Rather than have her burn out in the first few miles, I tried to rein her in and keep us slower…

We both knew that this wasn’t going to be easy.

Soon the trail ran us all smack dab into the first obstacle: The over/under and then the over/under/through. Red tried to hop the small wall herself and nearly made it. I decided to give her a leg up on her second try and she cleared it easily, keeping pace with me through the next few momentum scrubbing obstacles.

Then came the “through”

If you haven’t done an obstacle race, the “through” obstacle is commonly a 26″-30″ square hole in a short wall. It’s just tight enough that you might find yourself struggling to get through headfirst, and trying to scissor one leg through at a time is a sure-fire way to castrate yourself.

I ran straight at the wall, hopped into the air and grabbed the top, using my upper body strength to thread my body through the opening feet first.

I couldn’t resist being a cheeseball and shouted “HARDKORE PARKOUR” as I did so…

Red shook her head ar me, and I did it again in reverse, then repeated the maneuver one last time to be certain she got it… She walked up, grabbed the top and jumped up, pulling herself through the opening as I had just demonstrated…

This was a big boost of confidence for her as we continued on. The track shrunk even further into a single track trail, and we fell into a group of runners that maintained a pace the two of us fit well into…

The trail wound between some trees and everyone ahead of me was taking a quick left to avoid a knee deep (?) mud pit in the middle of the trail.

I looked at Red, and she looked at me. She read the yearning apparent on my face and said:

“Go ahead, you know you want to!”

That was all the encouragement I needed, and I sprinted straight at the puddle, leaping into the air with a battle cry (AROOOOOO) and coming down in its center. Everyone in its path on the other side winced as the ice-cold muddy water splashed upward, pausing at the top of its arc as the sun glinted off of its crystaline edges before coating them in a cold mess….


The trail turned back into a wide and easy trail, I trotted alongside Red, turning to run backwards as I placed a mud-coated hand on each of her (face) cheeks and told her she was my bestest best friend….

We climbed over a lumber A-frame, which was decidedly less of an obstacle and more of a “way to get to the other side of the barbed wire fence without being cut to ribbons.” We crested a hill and came face to face with our first real taste of the trials the Spartan would inflict upon us…

A small ice covered pond lay in front of us, with a series of hip-deep mud pits with 8 foot tall moguls to climb up on the other side of each. Red and I carefully navigated the treacherous single track trail leading up to the first pit…

Throwing caution to the wind, I leapt in, splashing again… then I realized there were bits of ice floating in the water as it closed in around my thighs, immediately robbing them of any and all sensations not immediately related to “ouch, this is so fucking cold it hurts really bad” I scrambled up the hill on the other side and glanced back at Red-She had opted to slide into the water carefully, but was no less obvious in her determination to make it across..she looked up at me and waved me on…

I repeated my performance, jumping into, before scrambling up and out of, the pits two more times, stopping at the top of each and lending a hand to those behind me, and to make sure my rose haired companion had the challenge well in hand…

Red finished the obstacle right beside me, and we started walking …

“No”, I told her, shaking my head from side to side like a drunken idiot,”we need to run… to warm up faster…”

So run we did… and as the cardio exercise pumped blood back into our frozen legs, we quickly warmed up and stopped shivering just as the trail opened up to reveal the single most masochistic Log Hop obstacle I have ever seen…

Log hop-type obstacles are usually fairly simple… step to the next inverted log, steady yourself, repeat… perform burpees if you fail.

This was not most log hops… the logs were actual logs close to 3-4 feet tall, about 8 inches in diameter, meaning they were thin enough to flex under your weight, and they were tall enough that falling off of on while straddling it could potentially end one’s career as a virile male.

Oh, and there was a trench of mud before the first log.

I strode up to it, full of bluster as I stepped onto the first log. I carefully made the step to the second log before realizing with great horror that the next log top, coated upon its top with mud like all the others, was at least 6 feet away.

On a good day, I can make a 6 foot precision jump…but onto a slick surface with cold muscles already frozen by an icy dip? I pictured myself joining a choir as a 35 year old soprano and made the smart choice…

I leapt…

Thankfully, I didn’t make it—well that is to say, I didn’t make it in such a manner that “Not Making It” would cause me grevious personal injury. I walked over to the side to give the Gods of the Spartan Race their due burpees, and was soon joined by Red…she had seen me go down and decided that she was not in the mood to take herself out either…

With our spirits undaunted by failure, we finished our penalty burpees and headed onward to the foot of what I now look back on retrospectively as the Spartan version of “Mount  Doom” unaware of the horror the Spartan Beast was about to rain down upon us.

A large foothill, nearly a mountain and most certain a fine example of the worst that Texas Hill Country has to offer loomed in front of us as we left the log hop of Hades in our wake… The shadowy side of it was covered in ice and snow as we climbed.

“Uh, Red….”,I repeated for the twentieth or thirtieth time that day,” there’s fucking SNOW on the ground!”

We giggled together in the mutual remembrance of the morning’s joke. As we started straight up the next trail, we looked to our side as Spartans carried buckets of rocks up and back down a portion of the hill next to us before setting out back along the field that was now to our backs…

The gravel strewn trail made for a challenging ascent, and finding the same on the next descent made for a brutal descent as well…

…then the descent turned upwards and became another ascent, which in turn made a quick turn to send us back down….

After the fourth  climb, our quads burning and shaking, Red and I made a mutual and unspoken decision to walk, and I paused at the top to remove my shoes…

It’s really no secret I don’t like wearing shoes, even minimalist shoes… in the 2 miles we covered thus far, I hadn’t encountered anything that would hurt me badly enough to warrant keeping them on…so I freed my feet and hung my VFF’s from my race belt.

My feet came alive and with them my mood lifted… Red and I joked as we slipped and skidded down the muddy descents, and pushed our knees down with our hands to help save our quads on the climbs.

We came upon the “memory test”… a banner where you had to memorize a code based on the final 2 digits of your bib to be recalled later… someone handed me a pen, and I wrote mine down…Take that TBI damaged memory!

As Red and I were starting to feel parched, we came upon a water-stop and paused to hydrate… I asked her how she was doing, and she was still smiling despite the beating we were both taking climbing up and down this mountain over and over again. As we left the water point, I stepped through a muddy puddle.

“Did you take your shoes off?”

“Yep. a while ago…”

She just shrugged her shoulders and gave me a look that spoke volumes of “you’re crazy, but you’re my kinda crazy” as we padded off down the trail.

Our pace picked up a bit for a little while after we hydrated, and I cracked jokes like a madman as we went along… when we finally made it around the side of the mountain and into full sunlight, I paused ahead of Red on the trail, held my hands up to great the sun, and belted out the opening lyrics of the Lion King as loud as I could:


….which of course drew a fit of laughing from everyone within earshot…

Where we met up with the Pancake climb….Hauling a pancake of sand up and down the mountain trail…

Which we handled easily before we next met the Monkey Bars, which I dispatched quickly. Red made it about halfway before her grip failed her, and I took on some of her burpee penalty before we continued onward, meeting with more mountain before the rope climb.

My barefeet gave me a definite advantage over the rope climb, and upon reaching the top, I pulled a page from Hobie Call’s book and flipped upside down to kick the bell.

Red gritted her teeth and stepped up… She grasped the rope and pulled upward to mount it. She shook her head and dropped back off:

“I. Just. Can’t”, she said, headed over to the side to take her burpee penalty…

Then I got an idea…”Hey, I’ll just do it again!, then you won’t have to do burpees!”

Maybe this wasn’t exactly ‘Spartan Legal’, but it made it so me and my team mate would be able to finish the course… and the Gods of the Spartan Race still received their tributes!

This action set the flavor for the rest of the race. She attempted each and every obstacle as we met them, and if she failed, I would either complete it a second time, or do some burpees with/for her.

A short distance after the rope climb, we circled back to the water point we had visited previously as the course doubled back…. then, we ran smack dab into a horrible suck-fest:

The Bucket Carry: Much like the Pancake, the bucket carry was a text of raw strength. Spartans were instructed to grab a bucket and fill it with MOIST pebbles from a nearby trough before climbing a mad ascent trail and descending on an even worse trail. To make matters worse, you couldn’t “burpee out ” of this obstacle, it was mandatory for all finishers, and if you spilled your rocks out and returned with a half empty bucket, you had to DO IT AGAIN…

I grabbed a bucket filled it up and then named it ‘George’ (which I do for any obstacle that requires me to carry/drag/pick-up/babysit an inanimate object. I glanced at Red, we nodded at each other and I  headed up the trail as fast as I could, thinking the faster I could end this, the less it would suck. You were not allowed to carry the bucket on your shoulders or atop your head, so I hugged it tightly and placed each step carefully while moving as quickly as I could…I paused a moment at the top before carefully half-stepping down the descent… The loose stones on the trail made climbing tough, but it made the descent portion seem like you were only a second away from disaster…and some Spartans met with disaster, slipping and spilling their buckets..I recall a girl actually crying as she attempted to scoop her rocks back into her toppled bucket, but waving off anyone who tried to help her even while her tears cut rivers of clean skin down her mud caked cheeks….

I dumped my bucket when I reached the goal and turned back to look up the hill-I spotted Red at the top, and I backtracked up the hill to her, drawing puzzled looks from those I passed who were headed back down the hill…I reached Red, extended my arms and asked if I could carry her bucket a while… she fought herself internally for a moment, pride almost winning out over the exhaustion starting to show on her face, and she let me take over her burden. At the base of the hill, she had recovered enough to take it over to the trough and dump it…

We started along the path to continue the race, the trail leading blissfully away from Mount Doom, when we got the biggest Mindfuck we could have gotten-

…the ‘mile 4’ Mile Marker….

We were easily two hours in, and gaining ground…the sign had to be wrong….

…it wasn’t….

Ever moving onward,  Red and I battled towards the finish line, we met with, and quickly dispatched, the barbed-wire low crawls,yes plural, there were two,or maybe even three,  each longer than a football field, with our US Army-honed low-crawling skills…

For the rest of the day I spent much of the race singing silly songs (Do Virgins Taste Better/ Mary Mack / Ring-ding diddle iddle Ide Aye), Yelling “ewwwwwww….it’s all squishy” whenever I stepped in a deep puddle of mud and cracking terribly innapropriate jokes to keep Red from slipping into an exhausted funk. At one point I reached down and picked up a lump of mud, sculpting it into a comical face with HUGE bug eyes as we trudged onward down the trail. I set about making it talk in a goofy voice before depositing it in the middle of the path to make another Spartan wonder where it may have come from.

…and throughout the day we heard disbelieving Spartans exclaim,” Dude, are you ok? where’s your shoes???”

….To which I generally replied by looking down in horror and exclaiming “HOLY SHIT!!! I KNEW I FORGOT SOMETHING THIS MORNING!”…before Red would tell on me by saying ,” no, seriously, he never wears shoes…does marathons, ultras, triathlons–all barefoot…you should check out his website…muddyJ.com”

It amazed me, but several people through the course of the day replied to that with “that’s THE MUDDYJ?! Really?! I love that guy!”

There was so much to this race…seriously it was like the TARDIS of obstacle races…it was bigger on the inside and seemed infinite in length… every time we crested a hill expecting to see the finish line, we saw, gasp, more trail…andlike the Hydra of legends,  every obstacle we dispatched seemed to spawn two more to replace itself…

We met the “Spearman”  along the way, this time my spear flew true, striking the hay bale man’s chest and lodging in its center… I was amazed by how easy it looked, but I recovered and puffed out my chest like it was nothing while Spartans looked towards me in admiration as I sauntered over to Red to help her with her burpees…

Because of the extremely cold temps, the swim portion of the race was cancelled-replaced by a hip deep wade along the rocky shore…honestly, I think I would have preferred to swim, I am a good swimmer and it would have been less time suffering to swim than it was to wade…this was just PAINFUL, but Red and I overcame it. We clambered up the bank on the other side and tried to rub some sensation back into our frozen legs as we walked on. Ahead we spotted clipboard bearing course marshalls- I repeated my code nervously and was waved through as did Red. We headed on, avoiding the burpee penalty- and then I remembered I had written mine down..oh well, guess I didn’t need it after all!

We met with the “Hercules Hoist” next, with Red adopting an inspired strategy-sitting on the rope as she raised it skyward…I wish I would have thought to do that! we both conquered this, though I honestly had a tough time of it. We turned to continue onward only to meet the Tyrolean Traverse… upon my turn I mounted the rope upside down and crawled hand over hand to the bell in the center…I rang the bell and let go, plunging into the frigid pool below me, getting a thorough soaking and ice-bath, but avoiding the burpees! Red tried her best, but fell short of the bell, retreating back to the closest shore and climbing out of the water as quickly as she could. We did her burpees and moved on…pausing to help and cramping racer from the shadows and into the sun to warm up before continuing on…

Thinking we were nearing the end, we next encountered the “Pet Rock Pull” A deck anchor cement block with a chain through it… I motored through in my birthday shoes before backtracking to Red and askingin a faux-english accent, “‘scuse me Miss, Might I be so kind and lucky as to take your rock for a walk?”

She smiled and bowed as she replied, “be my guest Sir, Please do”

“Come along Mr Rock”, I said, tapping my thigh as if I were talking to my dog and pulling on the chain a bit…Then I took off at a dead run, drawing audible gasps of disbelief from those around us…(or so Red Says, this is mostly her account of the events)

A Tractor Tire Flip came and went, and the tires were so heavy Red and I helped each other instead of doing it solo..then we tackled the inverted wall, (I did this one twice after Red got up to the top but couldn’t swing over it…The trails got tougher and tougher as the day wore on and we got weaker and weaker…

We finally got to the High Cargo Crossing we had passed under earlier that morning, and Red turned to me:

“I can’t do this, I….I’m done…I…I can’t do another few miles of this, and we have no idea how far it is…”

I was horrified to think she had come so far and was now considering dropping out… I suspected we were still about five mile from the finish, but I couldn’t tell her that…

…so I lied.. I told her we were almost done, just another mile or two…that we had covered 11 miles of the 13 mile course….(I hadn’t told her that my friends who had attended the previous day’s race confirmed that the Spartan Race was still unable to measure distance properly, and the course was 16+ miles long…)

She agreed that she shouldn’t quit so close to the end…

We continued on, and Red, who had spent a large portion of the day walking between obstacles suddenly got her “second wind” and she took off running, leaving me to scrape my jaw off the ground, wipe the dust she kicked up off my face,  and then to try like hell to catch up… The sheer desire to finish-for this race to be done and us to be on our way-overcame her exhaustion, and we met the final miles of the race with a renewed sense of purpose… we ran on at a breakneck pace, panting hard as we scampered down gravel strewn hills and climbed up hills… we slowed to pick our way along an narrow rock outcropping above a small but deep looking creek where a derelict fishing dinghy lay at some point, and I paused long enough to sit in the boat’s chair before standing at its bow and proclaiming myself the “King of the World” with my arms outstretched….

More obstacles came and went, now a blur in my memory, and we dispatched each as a team, conquering a second bucket carry and tire drag (yes I named my tire ‘George’

Red had tweaked her ankle, but was still able to run on it, albeit carefully, when we came to the “Hobie Hop” = Navigate a looping trail with several small obstacles by hopping with an elastic band around your ankles… I couldn’t help myself and sang “Little Bunny Foo Foo” as I went, occasionally changing the lyrics to “Little Hobie Foo Foo” and “Little Muddy Foo Foo” …but making Red chuckle as she winced through each hop on her already wobbly ankle…

Red eventually figured out I had lied to her, but she thanked me for the lie…she really did WANT and NEED to finish this BEAST!

We met another log hop, but this one was tame in comparison to the first…again my goofy side shined though as I pretended to by the “Karate Kid” (Ralph Macchio version)

Finally we met with a hill descent unlike any other… the angle was incredibly steep, and I crab walked down it on my fingers and toes, ready to drop flat onto my back and grab desperately for the nearest tree branch should my footing become lost. I reached the bottom safely and looked up as Red was starting her descent, I glanced around at the piles of snow lining the hill and the nearby creek with chucks of ice floating in it.

“Uh, Red….”, I said as she reached the bottom,” there’s fucking SNOW on the ground!”

She chuckled, this now being our inside joke of the day, and we started back along the path…then the trail markers vanished… then I turned and looked back at the icy creek and realized they hadn’t really vanished, they lined the creek…

We would have to make our way along several hundred feet of creek, with a 6-8 foot wall along either side. The mud suspended in the water dredged up by those who had passed through before us obscured the bottom, but I estimated it to be calf deep…

Then I sunk to my junk and squealed in surprise…making a high-pitched noise similar to the sound of a small dog being stepped on…this was ice water, no doubt…and this particular creek had sat in the shadow of the valley it lay in all day-the sun had barely gotten to kiss its banks, as evidenced by the piles of ice that had survived the daylight along the banks..

I bellowed aloud as I plowed onward through the creek to the other side… I stepped out of the water back onto the trail and my bare foot told me I wasn’t on rock…I threw myself forward as I slipped backwards on the ice patch I had just stepped on, managing to catch hold of a thick root and hold on…I stayed there with a grim face and a death grip on my root until Red caught up (thankfully she was right behind me) I warned her about the ice, and hoisted her to safety before I scampered up behind her…

We climbed the hill out, expecting to see more trails… we had been able to hear the announcer’s voice and the music blaring for the last several miles, so it took us my complete surprise when we crested the hill and met the Transverse Wall-the first of the Final Four Obstacles…

After the trials of the day, nothing could have been a more welcome sight – We now KNEW we were almost done!

I beasted my way across it, making short and easy work of it-I have one of these in my Man-Cave- and helped Red across by letting her sit on my back as she picked her way across…

We had met with the rope climb earlier…though I had no problem with it, Red knew from experience she wouldn’t be able to make it. I slipped into the water and climbed to the top, missing the bell at the top my less than a millimeter before my grip finally failed and I plummeted the 20 feet into the icy water below, knocking my inner thighs on the knots as I went…

The horror of falling ended when the back of my had hit the water below. The shock of the frigid water closing over my entire body stunned me… and although every cell in my body was screaming at me to get out of the water, I was slow to act. Though only a few seconds passed, the panic was evident on Red’s face when I emerged and climbed out, shivering uncontrollably as the cold seeped into my very core.

She knew I was disappointed in myself…and I had been cheering her along all day…now it was her turn to spur me onward… and she flawlessly transitioned into the role, saying exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment:

“I’ll start your burpees, you can do it again for me”

I winced inwardly at the thought of entering that water again, my vision still cloudy from the mud that had gotten into my eyes…and I did the only thing I could do…

I made it to the top again, reaching upward to find there was no bell… the oh-so-helpful volunteer at the bottom wisely suggested I hit the one on the next rope…which was just out of reach…

I clung to the rope for a moment, weighing my options… this guy at the bottom was going to tell me to do more burpees if I didn’t ring a damn bell…well, fuck him…

I jumped off the rope without considering the consequences and managed to graze, but not ring, the bell on the next rope before I again plummeted 20 feet straight down, again knocking my thighs silly and nearly passing out from the impact and shock of the water…

“30 burpees” he said as I climbed from the pit…

“I hit the damn bell”

“yeah, …ok…., i guess you did…ok, I’ll let it go…” —such a humanitarian–

Red was finishing up my burpees as I climbed up the bank…

We moved towards the final obstacles together, passing beneath a short barbed-wire crawl and into an icy puddle before climbing the angled slippery wall in front of us…

The Rope Climb had taken its toll, my grip was gone and my legs were rubber…I made it to the top, with Red beside me…but I just didn’t have it left in me to pull myself the final foot to safety…A hand snaked out towards me from the top and I glanced back at Red…She was grimly inching her way up, a look of sheer determination etched in every feature of her face-“get her” I said to the Samaritan upon the top-he nodded in acknowledgement and I let go to slide to the bottom, landing painfully in a heap of tangled MuddyJ after an uncontrollable descent.

I recovered and shook out my hands and forearms… Red had managed to grasp the Samaritan’s outstretched hand and another Spartan was helping as well. She crested the top and turned… her joy at overcoming this final but seemingly impossible obstacle apparent in her face…then she reached out for me, as if to say it was my turn.

I struggled upward and gratefully accepted the aid of the same Spartans who had aided Red, as well as Red’s help, and we clustered at the bottom in awe of the flames before us…

“Let’s do this, Let’s finish this beast! ,” I said to Red

She nodded affirmation and I took off, leaping over the Flames and past the final pugil stick wielding Gladiators to the finish line…

I collected my Finisher’s medal…now a true Barefoot Beast, and turned to see Red as she slipped past the final Gladiator, earning a shot to her gut for her troubles.

I grabbed another medal, and with a tear of pride misting in my eyes I hung it around my friend’s neck as she crossed the line…

The shock of the rope climb water finally got to me, and I pulled my survival blanket from the pouch and wrapped it around us as we found a nearby fire to sit in front of and warm up as we ate some bananas from the finishing line…

As soon as we got warm enough, we collected our bags and headed to the car, calling our respective spouses to tell them we were alive and well, and pausing to snap a few photos for posterity before piling into her car and finally headed home, our epic race completed…with no (serious) injuries to either of us…


…And wouldn’t you know it, we almost made it to the end of the dirt road and back onto the highway before one of us mentioned the word “Tri-fecta”

See you Next Year!

Stay Muddy My Friends!

Texas MuddyJ