Last Updated on January 31, 2022 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Confession: I’ve been pouring over the Ultra Beast facebook group page soaking up every tiny detail I can in preparation for this, uhh, beast. There are some serious elite and experienced Spartans among the accepted Ultra Beasts who have been sharing their training tips and past (regular) Beast experiences.
When it comes to training for the UB, it seems the consensus is to climb up as many hills as you can. Forget simply running, this is going to be an uphill battle all the way. Literally.
I am very lucky to live about 20 minutes from the world’s most frequently hiked mountain (for real, I googled it) Mt. Monadnock. At 3,165 ft above sea level, it’s certainly not a monster. However, my favorite trail (so far) covers an 1807 ft elevation gain over only 1.89 miles. In other words, it’s STEEP and the perfect place to train. I’m sure to the locals it’s just another mountain in the skyline, but being new to the area, I just can’t get enough of Monadnock. It’s simply gorgeous. And so I plan to hike that sucker as frequently as I can over the next few months , until I’m running up it with ease. The term “running” used loosely, ha.
The other huge discussion, beyond “how the heck do I train for this thing” is equipment. It’s been no secret from the Spartan HQ that this race is largely unsupported. The regular beast has one lone aid station. Since the Ultra Beast course has not been posted, we still don’t know if we will have the opportunity to loop the Beast twice and thus, hit the aid station twice, or if we are on our own, other than the one pit stop. Therefore, it is imperative that we carry all hydration and nutrition on us.
I’ve never really run with a hydration pack. I’m a handheld bottle kind of girl. However, 20 oz isn’t going to cut it, and further, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to scale very tall walls or carry ginormous rocks/logs/sandbags/whatever they throw at us with a water bottle in my hand. So the quest for the perfect hydration pack is on.
Conveniently, the monadnock hike/runs have been the perfect time to test out possible UB gear. So here’s what I’ve got so far:
CamelBak Women’s Annadel Vest
Up first: the CamelBak Women’s Annadel. (and no, I don’t smile in self portraits, Spartan hydration is a very serious matter folks.)
Hydration Capacity: 50 oz (1.5 L)
Total Capacity: 153 cu in (2.5 L)
Like: It is small so it doesn’t bounce around a lot. Chest strap helps keep it in place.
Dislike: I’m not whining, I swear, but it kinda hurts my shoulders a little bit. Perhaps I just need to train with it some more. Perhaps I need to carry a monkey on my back 24/7. The Annadel has tiny pockets, that I have to take the pack off to reach. No, I have no idea what I’m going to carry with me during the race, but I want options, at my finger tips.
Which brings me to pack #2 : the CamelBak Ultra LR Vest
CamelBak Ultra LR Vest Review
|Why yes, that is a banana in my pocket!
Hydration Capacity: 70 oz Lumbar (2 L)
Total Capacity: 200 cu in (3.28 L)
Likes: The hydration pouch is lumbar, so it sits on your lower back/hips. This puts FAR less (if any) stress on your shoulders and back. It’s mega easy to carry and incredibly comfortable. Further, the pockets… oh the pockets! There are tons of them. Two on the front of the vest, two on the hip straps, and one giant one in the back. This pack is AWESOME for simply hiking. Camera, phone, and snack, right at the front within easy reach, and a large pocket to hold my jacket/long sleeve shirt.
Dislikes: I can’t run in it. It was clearly designed for a man. A man with shoulders. Even on the tightest settings all around, if I try to run, the shoulder straps leap a few inches up and off my shoulders. Wildly uncomfortable and just beckoning for some serious chafing issues. If you are a man reading this review, however, get the Ultra LR Vest. It’s awesome. (And it comes with a safety whistle. Bonus!)
Right now, if I can’t find any other options, I’m leaning towards the Annadel simply because smaller will be better when you consider I’ll probably be climbing trees and swimming in lakes and who knows what else over the course of 26 miles during this race. And let’s be real, as much as I love pockets, when it comes to Spartan racing, if I put stuff in the chest pockets, I’m going to be rolling and/or crawling through mud and under barbed wire and who knows what else, and things will get smooshed. No doubt about it.
So I’m looking for your opinion!! Those of you who have run with a hydration pack, do you have a favorite model? I think I still may be on the hunt…
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.