The Spartan Dallas Ultra was a big race for me. Aside from being the last major race of the season, it was also the longest race I have ever attempted to complete.
I arrived to Rough Creek Lodge dark and early that morning. I had already picked up my race bib the night before so the only thing I had to do before the race started was drop off my bin in the transition area. I noticed another person’s bin had an American flag on it so I made a point to prop my bin next to that one so I could find it easily when I made my way back.
After that, I made my way to the start line. They were running a little behind, and the Elite racers were still corralled in the start area waiting to begin their race. Joe DeSena came out and announced he would award a free entry to the Ultra World Championship in Iceland to anyone who completed the race. The M.C. then gave his usual speech and sent them off on their race. Shortly after, the Age Group racers took off. After that, I found myself in the middle of the Open heat packed full of other racers and Ultra-hopefuls like myself.
A few “Aroo”s later, I was off. I knew the course would be muddy – it rained a lot a couple of days prior – but I didn’t realize how bad it would be until I started running through it. As it turned out, the entire course was just as bad. I spent a large amount of time skirting around the edges of all the mud pits. This probably added a good amount of distance, but it was so much easier than trying to run through them. In the end, doing so probably saved me a lot of time.
The terrain throughout the race was pretty flat, but Spartan knows how to make a course difficult. There was a surprising number of large hills throughout the race, which I did not expect. After all, I chose Dallas because it was supposed to be “flat and run-able.” Admittedly, none of the hills were terrible when compared to mountain venues, but they were definitely enough to slow me down.
The first set of obstacles were pretty typical: hurdles were followed by 6′ and 7′ walls and then the Z-Wall. I got through them all fairly easily, although doing them in the dark and still being half-asleep made them seem just a little more difficult. I then made my way through the first sandbag carry and over the Stairway to Sparta to the Memory Wall sign. There, I made quick note of my number carried on, repeating “KILO-047-3447” to myself for as long as I could stand it.
Shortly after mile 3, the Ultra racers split off onto the Ultra loop, where we faced the Under-Through, the Armer, and the Sled Pull. The loop itself wasn’t incredibly difficult, but it did seem to go on forever before finally connecting back to the Beast course. I made my way under the Dunk Wall, through the Rolling Mud, and through an extremely muddy barbed wire crawl, and eventually onto the 8′ wall, Tyrolean Traverse, and Bender. The race continued on through a number of obstacles including Twister, Atlas carry, another sandbag carry, tire flip, etc.
Just before hitting the second barbed wire crawl, we ran past the Ultra transition area. It seemed so close, and it was – probably less than a mile, but I knew I had a long way to get there still. I made my way through the crawl and through the next couple of obstacles including the Bucket Brigade and rope climb, but I wasn’t done yet. The multi-rig and Olympus brought a number of burpees and made the transition area seem much further away than it truly was.
Finally, I made it to the transition area, just before noon. I was tired, so I was glad I didn’t have to think too hard about finding my bucket – I just had to look for the flag! I had plenty of time, but I knew I didn’t want to spend too long in the transition area. I quickly enjoyed an Uncrustable sandwich and a can of soup while re-applying sunscreen. I swapped my hydration belt out for a pack, which was already pre-filled the night before so I didn’t have to think about anything. It was time for lap two.
At this point, I was already doubting the whole thing. I had plenty of time, I just wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to do it again. That quickly changed when I realized how supportive all of the open beast racers were. It’s truly amazing how something as simple as “Way to go, Ultra!” can boost your spirit and motivate you. I’d like to thank every single open racer who gave me words of encouragement. I’ll admit, it was also really nice to be able to cut to the front of the line at obstacles and backups due to being an Ultra.
My second lap went surprisingly smooth until the end. The second barbed wire crawl nearly made me sick but I continued on. The final Bucket Brigade took all of my energy, and I couldn’t make it up the rope or through either the multi-rig or Olympus. After an exhausting number of burpees, I made it to the end. I could see it, I just had to make it through the Spear throw. My record with the spear throw has been less than satisfactory this year, so I expected another set of burpees, but I took my shot and it stuck! I was so happy, I ran over to the slip wall and whiffed. No good. It was so muddy and slippery that I just couldn’t get it. I’ve never had to burpee out of a slip wall before, but I joined the mass of people who also couldn’t make their way up.
Thirty burpees later, I finally made it. I jumped over the fire with a smile on my face and had tears streaming down by the time I crossed the finish line. I did it. What a way to end my season. Despite running a number of Beasts over the last two years, this race was way out of my comfort zone. Overall, I would say my first Ultra experience was a positive one. Thank you, Spartan, for a great race!