You’ve decided to take on Killington… In 2017, after 2 years and a half dozen OCR races I decided to find/take on the toughest Spartan Race in the USA, The Killington Vermont Ultra Beast. Or as it is simply known in the OCR world, “Killington.” Where the toughest obstacle you will face all day has nothing to do with ropes, spears, or buckets. Rather it’s the un-relenting up hill climbs (like the death march) and joint crushing downhill controlled falls descending ski slopes on loss rocks. This race is not for the timid, the weather is unpredictable, and averages around a 50% completion rate, so if you aren’t ready for a challenge this race probably isn’t for you. But since you’re here I’m guessing you are foolish enough to take on Killington. So let’s get to the fun stuff!
You are going to read/get a lot of advice about training and believe me, I did too. I live in Georgia where we have what we call “mountains” but nothing compared to the veracity you will face in Killington. I trained long, hard, put in way too many hours, and in the end… wasn’t prepared at all! Not because of lack of time or effort, but because of inefficient training methods.
Having learned from my mistakes I have completely re-oriented my methods. Less than six month later I crushed my goal at the Georgia Death Race (Race Review Here). Then used the same training to place 21st overall at Tough Mudders World’s Toughest Mudder in 2018. And in 2019 I the 6th overall Elite Male at the OCR Enduro (24 hour) World Championship in Australia.
- Time on feet
It sounds simple but putting in time on your feet should be your number one goal. The priorities should be trail running, hiking, and road running but walking and even just standing all help. You need to be prepared for 12+ hours on your feet so when ever you have a chance to be on your feet, take it.
Besides time on feet the most important piece of advice I can give you is to lunge. I was told to lunge at least a quarter mile (around 400 lunges) in X amount of time. That’s a great goal but not even enough. Shoot for being able to do 1200 walking lunges “semi-unbroken” (max 10-30 second breaks every 100-200 reps). Buy some knee guards and do this outside, the change in terrain will benefit your joints. Also make sure you are doing walking lunges, they are much more effective for hiking than lunges where you bound up to your back foot.
- Weighted Vest
Buy a 14-16lb weighted vest and where it everywhere you can. This will accomplish two major goals; preparing your bodies joints for the impact it will take and reduce the time you need to train. You will need to build into time in the vest which will help build/prepare the joint and the vest should never be worn on long road runs. Combine the weighted vest with time on feet and your lunges for an unbeatable combination.
- Weighted Carries
Spartan Race: “We need more obstacles!”
Spartan Race Director: ” Have them carry something heavy from here to there… and back! *satisfied with I’m a genius look on face*”
Sandbags, dual sandbags, or the bucket, weighted carries are a great way to prepare your body for the brutality of the loaded carries Spartan is going to throw at you. Do farmer and suit case carries, buy a bucket from home depot fill it up and walk with it. The key is not rush, slow stead time under tension will build strength through out the entire body including grip on hanging obstacles.
- Trail running
The obstacles are brutal but if your legs give out, you’re done. Road running will build your lungs but give you a false sense of security before you hit the rough terrain. Put in your miles with as many of them on the trail as possible.
- Time on Bar
Meet your new nemesis, gravity. Killington is going to break your grip in every way possible and expect the signature bridge crossing. Spartans every race obstacles (think Twister) are getting more grip intensive and it adds up. You need to spend as much time doing pull ups, bar hangs, bar shrugs as possible, build up until you can hang from the bar at least 3 minutes with a goal of 6.
- Tread Mill
A necessary evil the tread can be an incredibly effective training tool, especially for those living in flatterer areas like myself. Start working on building a “fast walking” speed while on an incline and don’t forget to include the weighted vest. After at least a 5 minute warm up, start at 3.5 miles an hour at a 4% grade, every 1 min add .5% grade adjusting speed accordingly. Do theses in waves (raising and lowing) as great accessary work to time on the trail.
- Stair Stepper
There’s a saying in the ultra-community, “the stair climber will get you great at the stair climber.” For some reason this has not caught the attention of the OCR community. Without question a 40 minute stair climber session would be better off replaced with a 40 minute walking lunge session.
- Longer Long Run
Not signing up for a 50k trail run 3 months before the race. Even doing it at slow hike/run pace would have made a world of difference. Even though nothing in my area could compare to Killington, having the time on feet that far in advance would have saved me a lot of cramping on race day.
Gear for an Ultra Beast
This is the single most important piece of gear you wave for the race. Make sure you get something that you’ve tested for months before. Once you know you love the shoes buy a second pair. You need to break those in with 5-10 hours and the new pair will be your race shoes with your training going as your back up in your drop bin. I’ve run in both Salomon and Inov-8 and personally prefer the Inov-8 standard fitting shoes which are much lighter, drain better, and have a much wider toe box.
For Spartan Races I typically use Mud Gear socks and prefer the high compression. You’re going to be on ropes, through weeds, and more in this race so protecting your lower body is key. The compression will help keep you warm at the start and help cramps late in the race. I recommend having a backup up pair in your drop box.
Fact; you’re going to need to eat and drink constantly. Because of this you’lle need most likely want to bring a hydration pack or water bottles. At Killington I used a 1.5 litter blatter and 1 up front water bottle. Since then I’ve started ditching the hydration blatter in favor of two collapsible water bottles in front and one empty in back. The squeeze design makes them easier to drink out of and they are much easier to refill. There are also so many water stations that I only drank half of the water in my pack leading to extra weight carried for 30 miles.
Just listen and get this Headlamp, the Black Diamond Storm. Don’t make the mistake of going cheap, getting DQ’d for gear is just bad planning. I got my glow sticks and back up batteries from the dollar store.
- Everything Ells
You’re going to over think this, but don’t. Go to home depot and buy a 5 gallon bucket once you get to Vermont and bring one of these cool screw on lids with you to make getting in and out a breeze. I also bought a small garden flag and attached it to the side making it visible in a crowd. As for what to put in it:
- Backup Shoes
- Backup Socks
- Wet Wipes
- Small Amount of Duct Tape
- Hydration Refill
- Fuel/Food Refill (food, gels, salt tabs, payday bars etc.)
- Food to walk and eat leaving the pit
- Head Lamp w/ backup batteries (if you’re not required to start with it)
- Glow Sticks (see above)
- Anything else is a luxury
Your longest “long run” should be 3 weeks before the race and decline in miles over the next two weeks. So if your long run is 30 miles, two weeks out your may run 15-20, and then an easy 5 the weekend before the race. Remember, after your long run it is all about staying healthy. The long run should also be your chance to test your nutrition and gear for before/during/after the race.
Week of Race
Eat a lot but don’t change what you eat. Carbo loading is a real thing it just doesn’t happen overnight, the entire week will be building fuel for race day. And if you don’t normally eat dairy or wheat this isn’t the week to start. You should be eating carbs by this point based on need from training but if you haven’t, don’t start now. Eat what you have been eating during training, just more of it.
Stay loose and to don’t do anything longer than 5 miles. The goal it come into the race as fresh as you’ve been in months and you should feel anxious to get out there and run. Make sure stay stretched out, use the foam roller, lacross ball….
Day of The Race
Wake up early and make sure to get some food in your system, something you know and trust. I always eat Kodiak Protein pancakes (made the night before) with banana.
Make sure you get the venue early so you have time to drop your bin, try your best to work out any stomach issues that may come up, and do your best about getting in a quick warm up/stretch.
Now it’s time to get to the starting line and run your race…
- DON’T CHANGE YOUR NUTRITION THE DAY OF THE RACE!!! You are going to hear a lot of people talking about works for them, but all that matters is what works for you. Stick to your plan.
- Run your own race. Don’t try to keep up with anyone especially at the beginning. You are going to feel fresh but that wont last long. Know your body, find a pace you can go at forever and skep moving.
- Eat, even when you are not hungry. You are going to burn an unreal number of calories so it is important that you are eating constantly. I love the Energy Beans since they come with a resealable pouch and eat them between set fulling times to keep my calories count even higher.
Killington Ultrabeast – Race Day
No race report can prepare you for a course that changes every year, but here are a few tips:
- Sleep two night before the race is just as/more important than sleep the night before
- Eat something before the race
- Start cold, wear a trash bag over your cloths onto the course/until you get warmed up (thank me later)
- Don’t start too fast, you can always speed up but if you red line it’s over
- Eat before you’re hungry
Now enjoy the race! Killington is one of the most beautiful venues there is and make sure to take it in. You’ll see plenty of people sitting on the “death march” but that’s not the place. This race is a legend in Spartan Race history so show the mountain it’s due respect or it will spit you out in that 50% DNF rate.