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Bucket List: Spartan Ultra

So it's been over a month since my hubby and I completed the Spartan Ultra Race in Utah. This was my big goal for 2022 and an item to cross off my "bucket list". However, it was NOTHING like I was expecting ....

I could probably write a book on my Ultra race prep and the race itself ... so I will try to condense it as best as I can, while still getting my point across!

2020 was one of the MOST challenging years for me {on many levels}. You can read more about the challenges, working through them and getting back into racing HERE!

Once the 2021 Spartan race season was completed ... it was time to set a NEW goal. I chose training for and competing in a Spartan Ultra Race ... and Nate chose completing a Spartan Tri-fecta in the same weekend. Even though we set different goals ... we both participated in each other's :-) 'cuz that's just the way we roll.

What is the Spartan Ultra? The Spartan Ultra is a 30+ mile run with over 60+ obstacles throughout the course. Now depending on what venue a person chooses to race in, an Ultra can be "manageable" or "one of the hardest things you could do".

Training for the Ultra: I gave myself a little over a year to train for the Utah Ultra ... this race venue is known to be in the top 3-5 hardest Spartan Ultra's in the United States. I knew it was going to be challenging, so I took my training very seriously.

For over 15+ months I followed my endurance coach's training protocol's and trained very consistently ... per scheduled by my coach. I sacrificed hanging out with friends, whitewater kayaking {during a year that the water was fricken' amazing}, mt biking and many other activities ... for successfully completing the training that was scheduled for me to do. I trained, on average, 6 days a week ... if not 7 on some weeks ... focusing mostly on improving my endurance, maintaining my strength and staying injury-free. Weekends were the hardest ... while my hubby and friends went off to "play" ... I tied on my running shoes and went for my long runs, which were anywhere from 2-5 hours in length. During these long runs, not only was I laying a base of endurance for my body ... but, I was also "practicing" how to hydrate and fuel.

The Ultra:


Length - 31 miles

Elevation - Start at 6500 feet and climbed up to 9550 feet

Elevation Gain/Loss - 10,550 feet

Weather - Sun exposed trails and over 95 degrees

Completion time for us - 13:24

The distance of the race was the least of the challenges ... the Utah Ultra lived up to being "one of the MOST challenging" Spartan Ultra's in the United States. Everything about the race was challenging ... the distance, the weather, the exposure, the elevation gains and losses ... and then on top of ALL of that ~ completing the 60+ obstacles.

Venue pictures

There were a few obstacles that we actually chose to skip, due to the high potential of injury associated with "trying" to complete the obstacle and then failing by a fall of some sort. So, when an obstacle is skipped or failed, you either have a penalty "running loop" OR penalty burpees. So, to add onto the exhaustion of the 31 miles of running/hiking ... we had multiple burpees and added mileage from penalty laps.

I personally felt VERY weak in the obstacles during the Ultra. I had injured my shoulder in the last Spartan race we had in March so I didn't get to train my upper body as well as I would have liked ... plus, we focused the majority of our training on endurance for the miles in the race. So, the walls, the 'monkey bar' obstacles ... anything that took powerful, explosive upper body strength felt really weak. In addition to just feeling weak ... wearing a loaded backpack and waist pack for adequate hydration and fueling really "weighed" me down and made the obstacles a little more work.

I had originally decided to race SOLO during the Ultra since I was training a lot more than my husband ... but, a few days before the race {and after a LOT of time thinking about 'race strategy'}, I decided that it was actually best if we just stuck together for the entire race. I'm VERY happy about this decision ... sure, I may have been able to move a little quicker on foot if I was on my own ... but, I needed Nate's help on a few of the obstacles due to being so exhausted ... and that saved me from doing a LOT more burpees and penalty running laps. Plus, we actually REALLY ended up needing one another ... to be one another's cheerleader ... When Nate was feeling low, I was there to encourage him to keep going ... When I was feeling low, he picked me up and encouraged me to keep going.

The race was mostly steep UP and steep DOWN ... it was basically 31 miles of "hiking" versus a "running race". It was WAY too steep to keep a running pace ... not even the ELITE racers were running up and down the steep hills. We were guessing that there was probably about 5 miles of trail that were flat enough to get a good running pace on ... and the rest was way, way UP or way, way DOWN.

The most painful part of the race were the last 2-3 miles ... our feet burned ... blister's formed and then popped ... there were multiple "hot spots" on the bottom's of our feet and our toenails felt like they were going to fall off once we took off our socks ... we literally had to remind ourselves that this pain was temporary and that we were almost done ... it took everything we had to make it to the finish.

When looking at the results for the race ... over half of the people who started the race did NOT finish. Throughout the course there were injuries, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, cramping ... people were being taken down the mountain all day, unable to finish the race. So, to just FINISH the race should feel like the biggest accomplishment EVER ... RIGHT?

But it didn't .....

And that was the part that I was feeling confused about after the race. WHY did I feel "unfulfilled"? WHY did I feel unsatisfied? WHY wasn't I excited and stoked to have completed something of this magnitude off of my bucket list?

And that is why it has taken me SO long to sit down and reflect ... because I had nothing "exciting" and "amazing" to share with you {or so I thought}. I was left feeling "empty" afterwards ...

Well, here is what I learned while thinking about the race over the last 5 weeks ...

Feeling the "Ultra race FUNK" is actually a REAL thing. After talking with some friends {who are moms}, we've agreed that it's kind of like "postpartum depression" ... I spent 15+ months of my life committed to this ONE goal; I sacrificed MANY things for this ONE goal; I spent hours and hours and hours alone while training for this ONE goal .... And while I was doing the ONE goal that I worked on so hard for over a year, I was just miserable the entire time and hated it ...

It just felt unfair that I felt "unfulfilled" when I finally completed this "bucket list item"!

Another great example ... it's like having TONS of presents under the tree on Christmas Day and you open them and you didn't get ONE thing you really, really wanted ... That doesn't seem RIGHT or FAIR!!!!

But, the more I read about Post Ultra race funk ... the more I learned that anyone - whether a professional athlete or enthusiast - experiences these feelings after a BIG event.

And, my most recent discover is that I actually feel "disappointed" to have trained SO hard for a "running race" {remember, hours and hours of running by myself when everyone else was 'having fun'} when this ended up being a "hiking race". I almost feel like I could have done a 13 1/2 hour "hiking race" without sacrificing everything that I sacrificed for the 15+ months {see ... feeling a little bitterness from the past year} ... but, it's OKAY!

So, did ANYTHING good happen from this experience????? Or am I just FOREVER left in this "unfulfilled" funk?!?!?!

The more I think about how I feel about the race and how I am different now AFTER the race ... I HAVE come to the realization that I did experience growth from all of this and am proud:

#1 - Committing to something and staying on track for 15+ months. These days it's so common to make goals and to want to accomplish something ... until the road to those goals get's REALLY challenging and bumpy. Once the road and the journey get uncomfortable ... people quit. I didn't ... there were MANY days I wanted to quit ... but, I persevered. And, I am very proud of that ... following through with an uncomfortable commitment says a LOT about a person. "When the going got tough ... I kept going!"

#2 - My "pain threshold" is higher. Mentally and physically I can say I'm a LOT tougher. I mean ... when you complete 13 1/2 hours of grueling, horrible PAIN ... you can do a lot of tough things ... haha!

#3 - Hydrating and Fueling correctly. Many people were "taken off the mountain" during the race, due to improper fueling and hydration. In my opinion, THIS is the most important piece to being successful on race day. You can train really, really well ... but if THIS factor isn't perfect, you're F@#$'d. Nate and I did a really great job at fueling and hydrating prior to the race AND during the race. There were many times when the last thing we wanted to do was eat ... or the last thing we wanted to do was take another sip of our electrolyte-filled water. We literally forced ourselves to eat and drink on the schedule suggested us by my coach ... but it worked. Just a few minor muscle cramps, which a mustard packet took care of right away!

#4 - Family. I am proud of my hubby for being right there beside me ... I am thankful for Nate's mom, his sister and her husband for being our cheerleader's ... it meant SO much to us.

So, even though I don't have a whole lot of excitement and stoke to share with you or anyone that asks how the Ultra race went ... there were things that I took away from that experience that have made me a stronger person ... and THAT is what's important.

Find experiences in your life that challenge you ... find experiences in your life that make you feel uncomfortable ... because on the other side of this "pain" and "discomfort" is GROWTH on many different levels {even if you don't feel the satisfaction right away}.

Now, would we compete in another Spartan Ultra in the future? Well, first of all ... I could NEVER say "NEVER". However, we have found that the shorter races make the obstacles a LOT more fun ... plus, it's not the distance of the race that makes it hard ... it's the EFFORT in the race!!!!

Stay tuned for the write-up about Nate's goal: Completing a Tri-fecta in one weekend ...


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