When Spartan Race Australia announced that it would be holding an Asia Pacific (APAC) Championship race in Perth at the end of 2017 I knew that it would be a race not to miss.
Spartan has only ever had three events in Perth – a Super/Sprint combo in 2013 and a Sprint in 2015. They were held at a farm in Keysbrook, an hour south of Perth city, and the course was well known for its tough hills. This was the first time a Beast would be in Perth and I was amongst those who were incredibly excited to see what torture fun Spartan had in store for us.
In the days leading up to the event I made sure to stay hydrated as the temperature was forecasted to be in the mid-30s, and when combined with dry conditions, it was going to be a scorcher. I’d already completed the 12 Hour Hurricane Heat on the Thursday night so I was exhausted going into the weekend. My nutrition on the Thursday and Friday wasn’t great thanks to my sleep deprivation, but I made sure to carb-load on the Friday night as my body would need the fuel for the 42km that I would take on over the weekend.
The Sprint (7km+) was the first race on the Saturday, followed by the Super (14km+), with the Beast being held on the Sunday.
DAY 1 – SPRINT AND SUPER
The first few hundred metres of the course was the worst. We crossed a small stream, then headed straight up ‘that stupid hill’ (a name coined by those of us who’d done a Spartan in Perth before). It was only 8:30am but it was already starting to warm up and by the time I reached the top of the hill I was knackered! I got through the first obstacle (an over-under-through) before grabbing a quick drink.
I’d originally planned to walk the Sprint and then go gung-ho on the Super, but as I walked to the next obstacle I realised that I’d be exhausted after the Sprint, so I decided to push on and try and run as much of the Sprint as possible. I wanted to run downhill and the flats, and walk the uphill sections, but that didn’t go to plan as some of the downhill sections were full of rocks and honkey nuts that were just waiting for someone to tread on and go sliding or twist and ankle. So I stepped carefully as I made my way between the obstacles.
I had assistance on the obstacles that required a lot of upper body strength (the walls and Olympus), and by the time I got to the spear throw I was yet to do burpees. As I lined the spear up I hoped I would nail the throw, and sure enough, the spear hit the target and stuck! I was so excited! It’s only the second time out of 30+ Spartan Races that my spear has stuck!
They’d left all the best obstacles to the end of the course – and I managed to get through the rest without assistance – including the balance beams, rope climb, monkey bars (my fave) and of course the very muddy dunk wall and mud mounds. It ended up being my first ever burpee-free Spartan Race (although I did have some assistance on a few obstacles). One day I will do a proper burpee-free Spartan Race!
As I crossed the finish line I was already tired, but had another 14km to go. I ate a protein bar, re-filled my hydration pack and headed out for the Super at 11am with some friends.
The start of the Super was horrible. We were led half-way up ‘that stupid hill’ before being led back down to an open field with some small walls to climb over. Then we were led back to the hill and made to walk up the entire thing. The sun was beating down on us and a lot of us were resting for a minute each time we’d pass under some shade. By the time we got to the top of the hill for the second time we were all wanting the day to be over.
The obstacles seemed to be harder on the second time around. The warm air was stale around us, and creek crossings became a place to cool off like baby elephants and splash water on ourselves. The course was becoming more of a mental struggle than a physical one as we repeated obstacles and climbed up and down the hills.
The sandbag carry seemed to be breaking a lot of people’s spirits, but it was nothing when compared to what came after it. The next obstacle was called ‘Fetch Boy, Fetch’ and involved us walking up the side of a really big hill, collecting a piece of paper at the top, then going back down. The uphill made your quads hurt and the downhill made your knees hurt – so overall it was a great obstacle (I really wish there was a font for sarcasm).
The Super introduced more obstacles like more walls, a double jerry can/sandbag carry, gymnastic rings (instead of a multi-rig), a tyre drag, floating platforms, the Fortress and a tyrolean traverse. Oh, and the typical Australian obstacle – the flies. I had my buff over my mouth and nose for most of the day as I tried to avoid swallowing or inhaling a fly.
Half-way through the course my friends realised they needed to move faster in order to complete a Sprint as well, so they headed off leaving me to make friends whilst out on course. I started walking with three others who’d been playing tag team with me over the first 7km. I can’t remember their names (I’m terrible with names), but they were great to walk with.
There was one moment when we walked up yet another hill and the woman in front of me was struggling while her boyfriend waited at the top, calling to her. I walked behind her, put my hands on her lower back and helped push her up the hill (where her boyfriend was waiting in some shade). She was so grateful and I mentioned that it’s just the Spartan way – when someone is struggling you help them out!
By the time I neared the finish I was so excited for the final swim and a chance to cool down. It was tempting to just skip obstacles but I powered through until the end. I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and the craving for a bucket of hot chips. The chips were a no-go, but at least the post-race beer was enough to appease me until later that night.
DAY 2 – BEAST
Sunday was the Beast – and what a Beast it was!
I joined my friend Ray and his friend Mikey in the start chute and was preparing for a rough day. I was hoping to get the beast done in between 6-7 hours, based on my times from the day before. What I didn’t factor in was my exhaustion, dehydration, and the much warmer weather.
The Beast course started like the Super – leading up halfway up ‘that stupid hill’, then back down for a loop, before heading up the hill again. Mikey was struggling by the 1km mark and so was I. Despite the early start, the heat and dry air was making it tough. Thankfully I had a fly net over my head so at least the flies were one less thing that I had to worry about.
Once at the top of the hill, the course led us down a small hill, then the Beast turned off and we were taken (once again) to the bottom of the hill that we’d just walked up. In Spartan land – what goes down must come back up, so I guessed that we’d do a short loop and then head straight back up. Sure enough – as I watched as tired people walk up the hill towards me with tired looks on their faces I knew my legs would be feeling it the next day! The three of us were soon joined by our friends Scott and Justin, and together we headed down the hill.
At the bottom of the hill was a tyre drag, inverse wall, and a few other obstacles, before the climb back to the top of the darn hill. Then it was time for more tyre flips and heavy carries before we found a creek and ended up bathing like baby elephants. All we could talk about was how hot it was and how tired we were all feeling.
We were a few hours in and it was clear that we were on the fast train to struggle town. We embraced every bit of shade that we could find as the dry heat and sunshine was exhausting. Hill climbs were done slowly as our legs and lungs were hurting, and we took our time at obstacles to not exhaust ourselves. We did try and make up time when going down hills in an attempt to speed up, as time seemed to be slipping away from us.
After many ups and downs on the hills we were finally on the home stretch and back on flat ground, which is there the mental strength was tested. There was a section that was about 1.5km long (it felt like 5km at the time) that weaved around a paddock and was just included to make up some distance. It was like a death march out there as people walked along reluctantly, occasionally stopping to climb a wall or crawl under some barbed wire. Spirits either thrived or died in that section – and mine certainly died. We were all hungry and just wanted to finish so we could get some food.
Enthusiam was certainly waning as we hit the last onslaught of obstacles, and even the burpees were suffering. I skipped the Fortress and the Tyrolean Traverse as my arms were sore, and I barely managed to get through a few burpees before feeling like I was going to faint.
The last few obstacles included a cargo net, balance beams, A-Frame, Spartan Ladder and slip wall, before we got to another barbed wire crawl (this time on grass – a welcome relief from the hay and sticks we’d been crawling on). This barbed wire crawl required us to hold a torsion bar (10kg for the women) as we crawled.
I made my way up the rope climb before having a rest on the inflatable mattress that was underneath the ropes, and then the five of us went for a stroll through the creek before taking on the Z-Walls. I actually got through them unassisted which was great for my ego!
Then it was time for the impossible Hercules hoist which was so heavy that even some men needed assistance, and the monkey bars which were so hot that my hands stung for 5 minutes after I completed them.
Lastly it was time for us to go under the dunk wall and climb the mud hills one more time. I’d taken my fly net off and as I was ready to go under the wall a fly decided to go straight up my nose – resulting in me half choking and half laughing at the fact that it was all on camera.
The swim at the end was incredibly refreshing and worth the wait – although I wish there’d been more swims throughout the course. Then it was time for a final crawl under a cargo net and run past the gladiators – and finally the Beast medal was put around my neck. As I walked to the shade tent I was met by a friend holding out a bucket of chips and gravy – possibly the best thing I could’ve ever seen at the end of a course!
I think this was probably the toughest Beast that I’ve ever taken on due to a combination of factors. The constant ascent/descent of hills, the heat (it was 36 on the Sunday), the dry air, the lack of water obstacles, the tricky terrain (damn you honky nuts) and the introduction of US Spartan obstacles meant it was a tough physical and mental challenge. It was worthy of being a Championship Beast and I think may be up there with Tahoe as being one of the toughest courses.
Spartan Race Australia certainly upped the ante and delivered an epic Championship race. Here’s hoping they decide to return in 2018!
Event: Spartan Race
Type: Obstacle Race
Distance: Beast – 21km+, Super – 14km+, Sprint – 7pm+
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Date: 25-26 November 2017