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In summer of 2013, I volunteered at the The Midwest SUCK where I had the honor of meeting Joe & Nicole Decker. They are the owners of Gut Check Fitness and creators of The SUCK.
Joe is the World’s Fittest Man according to Guinness World Records. He’s a two-time
Summer Death Race winner, along with a slew of other accomplishments after surviving alcohol and drug addiction, even a suicide attempt. Nicole is an ultra runner herself. She seems to be the organization behind her husband’s “madness” at events.
During The Midwest SUCK, I walked through the woods in complete darkness on a narrow trail. I was alone with my headlamp hiking back and forth between checkpoints and encouraging the racers. I’d never had the courage to be alone outside in the darkness, especially not in a heavily wooded area. After watching the participants do hundreds of overhead presses, push ups with their rucks, burpees, bucket carries and much more during the event… I decided I had to try it in 2014.
Following my elbow break in February 2014 and the resulting surgery, I wasn’t ready for the Midwest Suck in early May. Instead, I looked toward The Northeast SUCK in Pennsylvania at the end of May. It was more than double the travel of the trip from Michigan to Indiana, but I was set on having my shot at The SUCK. I already committed myself to The Ultimate SUCK over Labor Day weekend, which is 36 hours as opposed to 12 hours and far more demanding. I knew I needed to have one of Joe’s endurance events under my belt to even have a shot at being successful for that challenge.
On this day two years ago, I started training for my first 5k and obstacle course race. While it isn’t the day that I started my journey towards a healthier lifestyle, to me it has become the day I reflect on my accomplishments over the past year.
Running was my gateway drug.
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.
No, I’m not referring to the more commonly used “shut the f#$% up” when I titled this STFU. If you’re familiar with the Spartan Race community, you know the real meaning.
STFU = SPARTAN THE F$#% UP!
Spartan Races get top billing in the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) world. There are different distances, challenging obstacles, burpees for failing obstacles, rough terrain and cash prizes for top finishers. A good portion of OCR runners ONLY attend Spartan Races now. It has expanded globally to Canada, Mexico, Australia and Europe. They hold a world championship event in the fall and hope to one day become an Olympic sport.
Any Spartan Racer can also tell you who founded the race… Joe DeSena. Do you know who founded Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder? Probably not. And you know why that is? Because Joe ATTENDS races. He’s accessible, interacting with racers and spectators. Spartan Races have become more than just a race for OCR enthusiasts. It’s become a family and Joe is the patriarch.
He can tell you about himself better than I…
Timeline of Events(Updating when possible)
12-3pm: Racers were sort of “penalized” for being early. They were told they had to chop wood for 2 hours and later found out after completion they didn’t have to do it. First puzzle piece was given for checking in and chopping wood. Each racer has their own puzzle. When they’ve earned all the pieces and assembled their puzzle, they’ve completed the Winter Death Race.
3pm (00:00): RACE CLOCK BEGINS. Racers who were on time began the time trial up the mountain. Ascent included 70 pound sandbag (women have a 30 pound sandbag) and full ruck. Racers who did this were as follows (time trial length listed):
#220 Mark Jones – 1:38
#196 Flo Zurkinden – 1:48
#300 Steve Noviello – 1:57
#324 Robert Bailey – 2:01
#308 Eric Delahaye – 2:20
#133 Ted Coffin – 3:04
#316 Timothy Midgley – 3:25
#186 Andrew Coleman – 3:55
#189 Chris Rice – 3:55
#188 Jonathon Binnie – 4:35
#323 Mitchel Vaughn – 5:26
Approx. 4:30pm (01:30): Other racers have trickled in who have missed the official start clock. They are instructed to check in and prepare for instruction. Meanwhile, time trial racers are starting to return. They have an advantage now. The late racers will have to make up their time trial tomorrow.
5pm (02:00): Fire starting class with Steve, a survival expert, and Josh, an off-the-grid type of guy who lived without a light switch for 21 years. (Quickly writing this explanation after discussing with a racer, so I apologize if not accurately described.) An email sent Thursday evening required racers to bring an Altoid box. Steve showed them how to put a hole in the top of the box, then cut cotton fabric into strips after pulling it and spreading the fibers. Place box in fire with strips inside until fibers catch fire. Quickly put out the fire. This builds up carbon on the fibers to eventually ignite the fire. This box would be something to prepare ahead of time for wilderness survival since it requires a fire to make. Then gather beech tree bark and shred into small strips. Knead in hands to form it into a nest. Place charred cotton fibers in nest and create a spark with flint and steel. Once spark catches on fibers, they cup the nest in their hand and gently blow on the spark until it spreads. This technique would come in handy later.
6:30-7pm (03:30-04:00): Andy Weinberg lead racers to Amee Farm down the road for ballet class. Last 4 racers were still on mountain for the time trial when the rest of the racers left. Took about 30 minutes to get to Amee Farm from base camp at Riverside Farm. At the farm they stripped to shorts and race bibs. Ilene Blackman was brought in to conduct a ballet class. She has been dancing since age 7, and when asked her age she replied, “I never tell. It’s a show biz thing.” You put the age out there and you’re stereotyped into certain rolls, she said. Ilene began by having each racer introduce themselves with a dance move. Class continued with first through fifth positions to start, and advancing to more complicated combinations.
10pm (07:00): Joe Desana decides the racers aren’t working hard enough. He instructs them to hold a 10 minute leg raise, pointing toes, arms raised parallel to floor. He adds a minute for every person who drops their foot. Total time ends up being 13 minutes. Next, Ilene demonstrates a position that resembles a squat with arms straight and hands on knees. They must hold this for 20 minutes. Three racers were punished for joking around too much. They had to do burpees on the frozen pond. Next up were 500 leg extension kicks with the left leg, then the right leg. Finally, Ilene wrapped up the class with some waltz technique.
Approx. 11pm (08:00): Andy informs racers they have 25 minutes to get dressed, throw their packs back on and get back to the Riverside Farm.
A week before the race, participants received an email to find a partner and bring proof of email communication to race check in. They were told the next task would require that partner.
As racers return, they receive puzzle pieces for completing ballet and their fire starting skills are now tested. They must start a fire without a lighter or match and get it knee high to move on to the next task.
Meanwhile, first DNFs due to injuries occur.
#177 Mark Harvey
#204 Edward Koropchak
11:48pm (08:48): First pair finishes fire task.
#301 Peter Coleman
#308 Eric Delahaye
Now begins summit repeats. The racers will summit the mountain as many times as possible between now and 5am. No one will be allowed to start a new ascent after 3:30am though. Odd numbered trips will be with full pack and 70 pound sandbag (30 for women). Even numbered will be with just the pack and no sandbag. Racers checked in with Anthony Matesi at the cabin near the summit. They pass the word to each other to knock 3 times and he will inspect the sandbag and ruck then radio back to base to keep track. Once they return to base, they receive another puzzle piece.
12:35pm (09:35): Last two racers complete fire challenge and begin summit repeats.
#322 Valerie Harriman
#197 Melody Hazi
Summit repeats continue through the night. Summits completed range anywhere from 1 to 5). Two more racers DNF before 5am.
#308 Eric Delahaye
#144 Jonathon Westervert
5am (15:00): Andy gives instructions for racers to hike up Sable Mountain. He estimates this trip takes 4 hours for fast climbers, up to 6 for others.
To be continued….
Everyone knows the saying, “Nothing worth doing comes easy.” It’s pounded into our brains and yet people are still continually looking for the easy way. They’re looking for that magic pill to make them skinny or some made in China crap that you wear on your stomach that contracts your abs for you to give you a six pack. Consumers seem to love wasting their time and money on infomercial crap . On the supplier end, you’ll always have those looking to make a buck and exploit that “shortcut” mentality that comes so naturally. I can’t completely dismiss that longing for shortcuts though.
If you think about the birth of modern conveniences, they’re all the brainchild of an inventor solving a problem. “Sewing garments by hand takes so long… perhaps I can make a machine to stitch faster.”
With health and fitness though, you don’t get shortcuts.
A six pack won’t come from eating fast food and you’re not going to have a nice round perky ass by sitting on it all day.
Ongoing list of goals:
Run a 5k.(First 5k was 8/18/12) Run ten 5k races.(4/13/13) Xtreme Muck Ruck.(9/8/12) Kayak.(9/7/12) Run a 10k.(9/2/13) Run a half marathon.(9/15/13) Get a road bike.(2/22/13) Tough Mudder.(6/30/13) Warrior Dash.(9/15/12) Sprint triathlon.(7/7/13)
- Olympic triathlon.
- Half Ironman triathlon.
- Ironman triathlon.
- Hit goal weight 160.
Wear a size 10. Xtreme Muck Ruck Club 247 Member.(6/22/13)
- Attend a yoga class (& do more yoga).
- Run a marathon.
- Spartan Trifecta.
Complete The Suck.(5/30/14)
- Complete The Ultimate Suck.
Sub 30 5k.(10/19/13)
- Sub 25 5k.
Run a 5k every month in 2013.(12/1/13)
- First woman to finish the Barkley Marathons.
- Compete in a figure or physique competition.
- Complete Summer Death Race.
- Complete Winter Death Race.
- Complete Legend of the Death Race.
- Vermont Spartan Beast & Ultra Beast.
- World’s Toughest Mudder.
- Run the Boston Marathon.
- Fuego y Agua.
Run an ultramarathon.(10/26/13)
- Solo jump skydiving.
- 50 mile Ultra.
- 100 mile Ultra.
This list has grown so much in a year from only run a 5k and try yoga!!! Wow. I’m open to any suggestions.