2017 Spartan Race Dallas UltraBeast Obstacles
For this year’s UltraBeast, I was fortunate enough to document all stages of the race. As a result, this is the first of a 3 part series recapping the entire event. Let’s first talk about the obstacles. The course description stated there were over 50 obstacles in store for those participating in the UltraBeast and I believe it. Now, some of these include climbing over walls of various heights to which there is minimal risk or complexity involved in completing these tasks, but they are including in the overall obstacle count. What good is a Spartan if you can’t climb over a 9 ft wall. Additionally, the course was outlined with the usual suspects: Atlas Ball Carry, Rope Climb, Spear Toss, Traverse Wall, and Bucket Carry just to name a few. But there were a few new obstacles thrown into the mix, including the Olympus and Twister.
A big thank you to my fiancé Jessica and Melissa for being so supportive and patient and for taking all these pictures of me and Derrick throughout the race. I cannot say how much I appreciate this enough..
Now there are all sorts of tutorials out there on YouTube that describe in great detail the proper technique to conquer all of these obstacles. Or, you could read this post, where I will outline some key tips and tricks in completing these obstacles. Seeing as I’ve had lots of practice over the years, please draw on my experience and failures in completing these exercises. My first recommendation would be to find a rope, and practice climbing using a J hook or other technique that involves both your arms AND legs. This will be your savior especially since Spartan Race Course Designers love throwing Arm dominant obstacles towards the end of the race. I use a J hook technique myself, and I focus on really squeezing the rope between my feet to really lock in that step before pushing upward.
Let’s continue with the Atlas Ball Carry..having problems getting the ball up to carry position? Get down on one knee, and slide the Atlas ball up your leg like a ramp. One the ball is at your hips, move it to the leg that is propped up. From there, find a firm grip underneath the atlas before standing up. Search for Atlas Ball Carry on YouTube and you can find a video showing what I’m trying to describe.
The Olympus Obstacle is a new one for me. The various grips that line this obstacle is challenging, and I attacked it using my upper body strength only. Looking back, I think it might have been easier to push out simultaneously with my feet, instead of allowing my hands and arms carry my body weight. Of the grips here, I think using the holes is the easiest, but next time I might try the chains since you have a bit of length you can use to stand against the wall. Honestly, still trying to figure this one out.
Spear throw aside, the traverse wall has been the bane of my existence when it comes to obstacles I fail on a regular basis. It wasn’t until I realized how to trust my grip strength and to not wear old running shoes that slip off the pegs that I began passing this obstacle. The key here is to maintain 3 points of contact at all times, and not to freak out when you hit the blind corner. Take your time, feel for that peg you cant see, and you will be home free.
The slip wall gives a lot of people a hard time, but I’ve never had a problem in my experience. This may be because I’m a larger athlete, but I think it comes down to having enough speed and momentum to get you to the rope with enough slack that you can find your grip. Once you have a hold of the rope, don’t try to pull your entire weight up using your arms. Stand up against the wall, and you’ll find it much easier to reel yourself up and over.
Shoutout to my Spartan Brother Derrick who got to try out the Twister the day before the race, and figured out the easiest way to attack this obstacle. It might seem counter-intuitive and a bit scary, but the easiest way is to go backwards. I think its about how the rest of your body is positioned; going backwards forces your body to be in front of your arms, and so as you are progressing, you are never reaching outside further forward than your body. This allows you to focus on reaching for each handle, which requires a lot more effort than it looks. I also suggest keeping your arms bent if possible; its much easier to reach up for each handle. Finally, there are three transition bars that break up each of the 4 twister sections. You can hang from the bars within these sections which are comprised of both thick and thin bars. If you use these bars, go for the smaller/thinner bars; they are much easier to grip.
A verticle cargo net is pretty easy to handle, but I just wanted to take a moment to showcase how in-sync Derrick and I were on this obstacle. This happened a few times throughout the race and we didn’t even practice!
This year’s Hurcule’s Hoist was a struggle for me. My grip was pretty much toast at this point, which was the very last obstacle of the day before the finish line. Unless you are competing in the Elite Waves, you are allowed assistance from fellow Spartans. You are also allowed to use the gates, go to the ground, and leverage any or all of your body weight in order to get the sand bag up and down. Make sure you don’t let it slam to the ground on the way down though; burpees are required if you just let the bag go.
There were 2 very long barb wire crawls, and 2 techniques I prefer in completing this obstacle. The first is what I call a knee-to-elbow forward crawl. Pull your body weight forward using your right arm, simultaneously bringing your right knee to your right elbow. Then do it on the other side, and repeat. Another, and more popular technique is the horizontal roll. As shown in the second picture below, you face either side of the barb wire obstacle, tucking your arms into your chest, and roll. No lie, this technique can make you incredibly dizzy. If you can, learn to spot..a dancing technique to reduce the spinning sensation. Find an object in the distance to spot, fix your eyes on that object as long as you can while continuing to roll. Quickly find that object again on your next roll, and so on.
There are many many more obstacles one must overcome in completing any race in the Spartan Race Series, but over the past few years of racing myself these techniques have saved me a few minutes and many more burpees. That would be my final piece of advice: practice burpees. Even the most skillful of racers will at some point have to complete a round of burpees. Burpees are not fun, but you gotta include them in your training program. Do these things and finishing your next Spartan Race shouldn’t even be a question!