Make Way for Ultra

By Nick Klingensmith

“Ultra on left!” you’ve overheard as Spartan warriors in purple tank tops make their way around their second lap. Doing your best just to survive the Beast, you thought, “I don’t know how they’re doing it. They are that bad ass.”

But now you want to find out if you are, too.

The Spartan Ultra is a 50k, 60+ obstacle SUFFERFEST. It’s two laps of the Beast course plus an “Ultra Loop” of 2.5 – 5 miles that you’ll run once or twice depending on the venue. Beginning before sunrise and often lasting until after the sun has set, the Ultra will truly test your mind, body and spirit. But if you are willing to endure, you will earn the coveted Ultra Buckle and forever remember what you’ve achieved.

I’ve completed Ultras in Dallas, Ohio, and Fayetteville and earned my first ever DNF in Killington – missing transition by a matter of minutes. An Ultra will change you. It will steal your soul if you let it. But it can be beaten. You just have to be prepared for it – physically and mentally.

Prepare for the Venue 

This is an all day affair. Be prepared for weather, varying temperatures, and sun exposure. Consider the terrain and estimate a pace so you can prepare for nutrition and hydration.

Headlamps are required to start the race and be sure to pay attention to the cut off times. The first cut off is to be through the transition by 2:00-2:30pm depending on the venue. There will be additional time cut offs throughout the second lap of the course.

Cut offs aren’t a big concern on a drier, flatter course like Dallas. However, they are critical for a mountain race like Killington.

Prepare Nutrition 

Hydrate. Hydrate before, during, and after. Begin fueling several days before the event. You’re going to need all of it. The Ultra starts early, so I typically eat a bigger meal for dinner and just some coffee with MCT oil, perhaps a bagel and banana, and a honey stinger bar or wafer.

During the race, I wear the Spartan Hydration vest with 2 500ml flasks filled with tailwind nutrition. I’ll resupply at water stations as needed. Being diabetic, I carry 4 honey stinger gels or GUs for every hour I estimate it will take me to complete the Beast as well as additional tailwind.

Prepare Your Drop Bucket 

Pick up your packet the night before, but I bring my bucket in the morning. It’s not necessary to leave it overnight. It doesn’t have to be a bucket, either. Buy one from Wal-Mart for $5 and mark it with something so you can find it.

Here’s where you’ll store anything you might need in transition between laps. I bring a back-up of everything – shoes, shoelaces, socks, shorts, sunglasses, yet I have never needed them. I’ll bring KT Tape, Duct Tape, Biofreeze, Aleve, Neosporin, and a hotel hand towel – all of which I’ve needed.

I prepare refills for the exact same nutrition as the first lap. I also have Body Armor, water, bananas, Honey Stinger bar, Uncrustables, Pop-Tarts and probably some random candy. I typically down the Body Armor and the Banana, but the rest I take walking.

Prepare for Transition 

Refuel, resupply and get the hell out. The NASCAR driver doesn’t get out of the car to talk to his friends while he pits. Stay fully engaged. It’s not a break. You’re still in the race and the clock is ticking.

Keep moving forward at all times. You’ll be surprised how much ground you can cover when you decisively move forward. Need a snack? Eat it walking. Had to do burpees? Bitch about them walking.

Make Way for Ultra

Hit the first lap like a Beast! Literally. Depending on the venue, the cut offs may become very real. This is not a slow and steady event. Give it hell. It’s what you signed up for.

If you tire, dig deep and know you’ll be fueled by cheers of “make way for ultra!” “Go ultra!” “Ultra on left!” And just remember, you earned it, because you are that bad ass.

Nick Klingensmith is an amateur obstacle course racer closing in on his 100th OCR. He’s completed 5 major marathons and is currently training for the Berlin Marathon in September. An ambassador for MudGear and Spartan 4-0, Nick is the author of Through the Fire. Nick works as an executive in the logistics industry and lives in Seminole, Florida, with his wife and two dogs. 

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