First of all, I am so excited to be back to actual races instead of the virtual ones that filled my schedule for the beginning of the year. They helped keep my goals going, but there’s nothing that matches the thrill of being physically in a race.
A quick recap of what happened… I had elbow surgery on February 11th. The tip of my elbow broke off when I fell down stairs and smashed it on a concrete step. Ten-and-a-half weeks later with bones wired together and three weeks of physical therapy under my belt, I was itching to see what I could still do on an obstacle course.
Enter the Hurricane Heat.
If you’re not a Spartan racer, you probably aren’t familiar with what the Hurricane Heat is. Here’s an excerpt from the email participants received during the week of the event from Hurricane Heat Coordinator, Anthony Matesi.
“For those of you that don’t already know, the Hurricane Heat started in August of 2011, when Hurricane Irene forced the cancellation of our Sunday program at Amesbury, Massachusetts. Even with thousands of bummed out racers, no one was more devastated than our founder, Joe Desena. So, he gathered 150 athletes and Spartan staffers at 5:30am on Saturday morning, handed them some sandbags, did a boatload of burpees, and proceeded to spend more than 3 hours covering less than 4 miles. Needless to say, there were some very tired people when we got done.
30 days later, we decided to have a Hurricane Heat at every event in 2012, and we’ve kept that tradition rolling straight through 2013 and now into 2014 .”
The Hurricane Heat is about being part of a team. You rely on each other. No one is left behind and you finish as one. This is where my hesitation came into play. I wasn’t prepared as I would have liked. If it were a solo thing, I would have had no hesitations. If I failed, the only person I would be holding back would be myself. I could live with failing myself, but not a team.
All week, I was back and forth on whether I would do it or not. I figured I would be prepared with everything I needed and decide during the road trip from Michigan to Indiana if I was going to participate.
Mandatory Gear List:
- All athletes MUST wear a black shirt. Can be a t-shirt, sports bra, tank top, whatever you want, but it must be black.
- 1 Headlamp (per person). It will be dark when we finish.
- 1 Black Sharpie Marker per athlete.
- 1 Camelback, backpack, ruck, purse, whatever you want to call it. You must be able to carry your own water supply.
- 4 Salt/electrolyte packets. If you start to cramp up, eat the packets and drink some water.
- 2-4 energy gel shots or energy bars, whichever flavor you prefer.
- Uncooked Egg in Shell (no hard boiled)
*Each team that does not have a required item will start their day with many, many burpees.
I brought everything except the egg (Dion had extra). Even after we checked into our hotel room (which we dubbed “Murder Hotel” for its five star accommodations </sarcasm>) and left for the HH, I still had not made a decision (clearly I was still unsure, because I was still wearing make up).
On-site, it was clear this was going to be one of the biggest Hurricane Heats ever held. I was itching to join with so many people there.
We found Matesi and Andé Wegner to turn in the waivers. Both are Death Racers and would be running the HH. I told them I decided I couldn’t do it, but offered to volunteer if they needed me. They didn’t need help, however, so I went over by Dion and watched everyone prepare.
Dion could tell by the look in my eyes that I was second guessing being a spectator. After staring around a few minutes, I took off sprinting to the car to get one of the eggs from his cooler.
“I’m in. I couldn’t sit out,” I said to Matesi and Wegner. I explained the reasons why I was unsure, because of my injury and surgery. Matesi sympathized with me over his own surgical experience and said I could modify anything my elbow couldn’t handle.
Returning to Dion, I told him I was participating now.
Let the fun begin.
The group gathered around the HH leaders to receive instruction. We were told that the egg we were carrying could not break or there would be consequences. Immediately, I started panicking because I wasn’t prepared with anything to protect it. Luckily, I had at least suggested to Dion that he should buy organic since they have harder shells, so I had that in my favor. Other people had containers with padding inside, egg cartons cut into pieces and wrapped around them… I had nothing.
I looked around and found some plastic semi-buried in the dirt that reminded me of flower bed liner. I whipped out my pocket knife (glad I brought that) and started cutting off a large piece to wrap around it. Another guy had a spare egg carton and offered whatever I wanted to take off of it. I ended up with some chunks of foam with plastic liner wrapped around it. I shoved the mess into my hydration pack and hoped for the best.
The leaders needed to know how many of us were there and we needed to figure out how to get them that number. Naturally, we formed a long ass line and counted off.
The leaders counted our waivers and said if the number didn’t match, we would be punished. If anyone had not turned in theirs, they should speak now. A handful of people stepped forward. They could now do burpees to earn a waiver and continue.
The whole group did a warm up with a Spartan SGX Instructor including ankle rolls, jumping jacks and bear crawls. Next, we all ran down the hill to the festival area for a group photo and to split into smaller teams.
I ended up in a group of mainly Corn Fed Spartans (not all strangers to me, thankfully). Apparently, the HH leaders wouldn’t allow our team to be “Corn Fed” so we ended up with the ever classy title of “E.A.D.” or “Eat a Dick.” (Thanks Paul.)
Our first task was to hurry back up to the festival area, grab 5 gallon jugs of water and carry them down the hill to the finish line where we were to neatly arrange them.
We finished before the other teams (who were stacking split wood neatly near the finish for the race’s fire jump), so we were ordered to hold in a squat position.
When the other teams finished stacking, we were assigned group burpees. This didn’t start off well. We were no where close to being in sync. The five team leaders solved the problem by moving to the middle and having one person say “down” and “up”.
My elbow still couldn’t handle body weight for very many regular burpees, so I opted for supine burpees. Rather than going down in a push-up position, get down and lay on your back, then get up and jump like a burpee. They kind of suck, but I guess so do burpees.
I’m not sure how many we did but it was around 100, I think. Following the burpees, we headed to the lake where we linked elbows and walked into the water to sit.
Matesi asked for someone to teach the group the Warrior Ethos, which we chanted multiple times throughout the night.
“I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
After getting out of the water, we ran back up the hill and into the parking lot area. The teams formed lines and all seemed to use the same basic strategy of placing the slower runners at the front to set the pace for the group. Because “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” We must work as one.
We moved onto bear crawls (I was allowed to modify into a duck walk), followed by low and high plank holds (I was given leg lifts).
Next, we headed into the woods until we reached the sandbag carry. The bags were still in large transportation crates. We each grabbed one and carried it around a trail for a bit then stacked neatly. I opted for the men’s bag weighing 40 pounds, rather than the women’s 20 pound option.
We carried the massive crates through the trail as well. Trading off teammates when it became too heavy or awkward.
Next, we formed a line and each teammate grabbed the leg of the person standing on their right. After a little bit of holding that pose, we switched to the left side.
Another jaunt through the woods and we arrived at the tractor pull. We pulled the cinder blocks on chains around a loop and were ordered to pile them neatly for the next day.
Egg check! 5 people had broken eggs. Ten burpees were assigned for each broken egg to be done without dropping our hydration packs. I moved mine to my chest since I was doing supine burpees and didn’t want to break my egg.
A short hike later, Wegner walked around to each group and picked a few people to “lose a leg.” We had to carry them as a team.
Every time we reached course tape, Todd Sedlak (the course manager and another Death Racer) was yelling for us not to touch his tape. We attempted to move over the tape without touching it, however every team had someone fail. Our punishment was to crawl under them to the rest of the group.
Moving on, we crossed a mud pit. After we cleared it, they said we went too slow and needed to hustle back through it.
Now for my least favorite part of the night: barbed wire crawl. Generally, I just don’t like this at any race because my knees take a beating from the stones. Tonight though, they decided to wet us down while we crawled through. It was the longest barbed wire crawl I’ve ever done and lead up some small rolling hills. My left arm was mostly useless on this. Mostly I dragged myself along with my right arm and scooted on my side.
Our task was to pick one person on our team and never let them touch the ground. We formed a chain, each person crawling ahead to link up and our chosen person crawl over us. Apparently it was taking too long and the mission changed to just get everyone through the crawl.
Another egg check. Each team picked five eggs to line up on the spear throw. We had five attempts for our team’s “champions” to hit one and break it or more burpees. That didn’t happen, so more burpees.
The home stretch came with each time getting 10 rope climbs between at least 5 different people. Those not climbing were told to keep moving in place.
Then 2 people on each team had to make it across the traverse walls.
Lastly, we crawled under elastic cords and scaled the slippery wall. Excited to say I was able to make it over on my own.
Reaching the end, I was so proud to have finished. I had decided I would try it and if needed, I would pull myself from the event rather than drag my team down.
Sedlak sent us off with some inspiring words,
“Pain and suffering are the sovereign territory of victors. Those born smart or strong can only dream of the power that those who persevere possess. Earned with sweat and blood, neither strength of body nor intelligence of mind can compete with those who endure. Be glad of your suffering. It ensures your success.”
Thanks to Anthony Matesi & Roxanne Cann for providing the awesome photos!