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Super Short HH12HR Review:
Spartan is well known for its individual experiences and competition, but they can put on a hell of an amazing team event as well. A little Agoge, a little GORUCK, and a little Spartan race all mixed together to create a unique experience. I have done a ton of events, and the HH12HR will go down as one of my favorites!
I have been running OCR (non-competitive) for a number of years and recently got into GORUCK. After tackling a bunch of GORUCK events, I started looking at other team based events to participate in. The HH12HR was recommended as an event “you might fail” so it was of immediate interest.
What is a HH12HR?
Spartan has a whole series of endurance events outside of the standard race format. The Hurricane Heat is a team based event hosted on a Spartan race course, often carrying additional items and with team/time based objectives. The HH12HR is the 12 hour version, but it is not just longer, it is significantly more difficult. I am doing Sealfit Kokoro this fall and I plan on doing the Spartan Agoge next summer, this is a great training event for those. In fact, a number of Agoge finishers did not finish this event!
A HH12HR event requires that you have a ruck, and that it has 25 pounds of weight in it. Steel is best of course. Rucking is outside most obstacle racers normal training/events, but well within a GORUCK or Sealfit event finisher’s wheelhouse. The event is truly a competitor to those military-style endurance events, and doesn’t have much in common with something like a Spartan Ultra Beast, even though they are both ~12-hour Spartan events.
You are going to want to be plugged into social media (Facebook specifically) for the event. The gear list is posted there, the team interacts there, the Krypteia (instructors) post in there, etc. If you aren’t in the Facebook group for your event, you are putting yourself at major risk of screwing yourself over.
Please Note: Since I was training for Sealfit Kokoro (50 hour event with dress code requirements) when I did the HH12HR event, I wore my Kokoro gear (boots/BDUs) as prep. I didn’t wear my Kokoro style ruck, as it is not durable and would be a liability. Normally I would wear my OCR gear (Inov8 shoes, Shorts, etc) to this event.
● Black top: Russell plain black tech shirt
● 1 Rucksack – (STRONG Recommendation to use a GORUCK pack. The GORUCK GR1 or GORUCK Rucker are amazing)
● Ruck weight: GORUCK Weight plate – 30#
● Caribiner – GORUCK one fills the need, attaches to you Molle.
● Hydration bladder – Source 3L is great, tough bladder, bundle it with your GORUCK order.
● Headlamp – Black Diamond Spot 2016 – Link to item here, Full review here, it’s offered on the GORUCK site too)
● PT Belt -or Vest =This one on Amazon is good.
● Boonie hat – Rothco hat works fine
● Gloves: Mechanix Fastfit – better than standard Mechanix – no velcro to fail on this style.
● Black BDU Ripstock Pants – (Rotchco BDU’s are functional and inexpensive)
● compression shorts – (Nike Combat Pro are awesome)
● “broken in” boots – (New Balance Bushmaster)
● 1 BDU Utility Belt (Black) – (Propper Tac belt)
● Water Bottle – (Make sure this is something crush proof! Nalgene works great)
● Socks – (Fox River liners, with Darn Tough Wool socks. Cover your feet in Trail toes lube!!)
●Don’t forget to bring a garbage bag for your wet gear and a towel and change of clothes for after the event!
●We also had to memorize “The Humpty Song” and the intro song to Spongebob Squarepants! (as per instructions in the Facebook group)
Day of the event:
Palmerton is a 3-hour drive from my place, and I wanted to make sure I was there a bit early for the 7AM start, which meant being up at 2:30 to eat and get my car packed. Hit the road with a monster sized protein/carb/chia shake, a few energy bars, a water and huge coffee at 3AM and arrived at 6AM. We were told to park by the trailers but when we arrived we were made to park about ½ mile or so farther away. I was getting ready and I noticed the other participants were rushing and seemed flustered. “Hey its 6AM – this thing starts at 7AM right?” I asked. “Oh jeez, this guy didn’t read the instructions! He is probably gonna get us burpees all day! There is a warm up at 6:30!”. Ruh roh – time to get my butt in gear. I rushed and got myself ready – oh crap! I left my signed and filled out participant waivers on my kitchen table! Off to a bad start. Luckily some others had extra copies and saved my butt!
I was supposed to meet up with a friend to get a mandatory 3’ long piece of 2×4, but I ran over to the warm up area and everyone was lining up, so I couldn’t connect with him. Oh crap, maybe I am going to get everyone burpees. I spoke with some other participants and was told about a spare 2×4 that was left around the other side of a fence. Went and snagged that during roll call without getting in trouble and was good to go. Another teammate saving my butt. This would be a recurring theme for the day.
Class HH12HR-021 started with a warm up that consisted of some basic PT movements. Plank, pushups, flutterkicks, etc. It wasn’t terribly challenging but it wasn’t super fun either. After a few minutes, the instructors introduced themselves and we did roll call. We handed in our waivers, then rucked up and headed off to get this party started!
My understanding is that the typical Spartan HH12HR culture is that the Krypteia will give you an extremely small amount of the data you need to accomplish a task. Ask a question? You don’t get an answer – you get burpees. So you have to FFIO (F’ing Figure It Out). Additionally, it is my understanding that its common for the Krypteia to be negative or hard on the participants. Rob Barger lead this event, and he was very personable/friendly/humorous. He allowed questions with no burpee penalty, but almost never answered them, answered with a lie, or answered with an even more confusing statement. It was nice to not do lots of burpees, but we never really benefited from being able to ask questions.
At 7AM, it was already nearly 90 degrees. It would top out at 106 degrees! Didn’t get much of a break from being in the blazing sun either. Good times. We hiked up an empty grass hill. 79 people lined up in 4 lines, and began receiving instructions. First the ground rules of the event. Build your cardboard box. OK, now dump your ruck out, do we all have the required equipment? Someone didn’t bring water! I had an extra water bottle and he used that during the event. Another person’s bladder broke and I always bring an extra bladder so I lent it to them. It felt good to help my teammates, since they had helped me few times already. Next we played the where is your equipment game – put your tennis ball in the box, put your zip ties in the ruck, put your paracord in your ruck, put your straps in the box. Now take your tennis ball out of your box and put it in your ruck, then take your straps and put them in the ruck, etc. All our food ended up in the box, we wouldn’t be eating very much. Finally after moving everything 3 times, we had to grab our tennis ball.
“I need 2 volunteers from each team!” I love volunteering for stuff – let’s do it! We got assigned as team leaders and were given instructions to split our teams up for our first challenge.
Team leaders ran and grabbed 2 paint buckets each and placed them in a 20ft circle (each team had a circle). 1 bucket in the center of the circle, another randomly in the circle. All the tennis balls start in the center bucket, and must be transferred from the center bucket to the other bucket. Oh yea, you can’t step in the circle. Oh and if you step in the circle you spend the rest of the time holding a plank (you became a “zombie”). One team had almost every single person holding a plank. All planks had to be held facing downhill – that’s no fun! Oh, plus the balls can’t touch the floor. Oh and the second bucket (once full of tennis balls) must then be placed in the center. Lots of rules! The only thing we could use was our straps and carabiners to accomplish it. We finished second and were awarded a longer break.
We then moved to a welcome party, going up and down the mountain: crawling, lunging, crab walking, etc. with our wooden planks. Wooden planks couldn’t touch the floor, unless directly instructed to do so. We all stuffed our planks through our shirts or vests or PT belts. Class HH12HR-021 did over head lunges and repeated the warrior ethos over and over again.
The Warrior Ethos
I will always place the mission first
I will never accept defeat
I will never quit
I will never leave a fallen comrade
AROO! AROO! AROO!
After getting a good sweat going, those of us that finished the tennis ball bucket challenge quickly were awarded a water break, while the other teams were not. We ran down the hill, put the buckets back, filled our water bladders, and ran through a giant hose spray to cool off. On to the next evolution!
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
We rucked up and were told that we had 10 minutes to go down the hill, through the festival area, and to the porta-potties. We high-tailed it over there and found ourselves at the bottom of another hill (fun!). Here, we were tested on our first memorization requirement – the Spongebob Squarepants song! After singing the song reasonably well, it was our turn to “flop on the deck like a fish” with a set of 10 armless burpees.
After that it was time for team races! I found these fun – it pays to be a winner. The first race of class HH12HR-021 was laying on our backs, heads uphill, foot to shoulders, we had to pass our rucks up the chain. We were in lead until someone’s ruck blew up and we lost time putting it back together, but it was photo finish. Next, we had to bear crawl up the hill, and forward roll down the hill. A bunch of people were ready to hurl after that!
Big tires are also heavy, who knew?
Next evolution: hike around the Spartan Sprint course over to where the giant tires were stored. Once arriving there, it was the full heat of the day. I was applying sunblock every 30 minutes or so, but some others were getting torched. Each team was told to volunteer 2 people to memorize some code, get a tire, and follow the instructors on a trail. Our memorizers memorized while we tried to figure out the best way to rotate people in and out under the 600lb tire, but we had a number of very tall people and number of very short people so it was challenging.
The trail we followed was surprisingly difficult in some spots with steep step downs, deep mud, and narrow sections. We had our tire nearly fall, and when it slipped it ripped all the skin off my shoulder. Not my favorite feeling. We carried the tires maybe ¼ mile or so down to a very mucky shallow lake.
We put down our tires and got into 1 line in the water. Getting in the water felt amazing, the water was cool and we got to lay down to do flutterkicks and push ups. Putting our faces in the disgusting water was even nice because it was so damn hot. 10-15 minutes in the water and we got back in our lines. We had to volunteer 7 people for an unknown reason, so we arbitrarily chose the first 7 people. Those 7 then squared off in the first HH12HR-021 class race across the lake and back. It didn’t seem too challenging, but the lake was ~2ft deep, with ~1ft deep mud so it was a complete smoke session. After the lake foot race, we had to volunteer 5 more people for another unknown reason.
We picked the next 5 people in line, picked up our tires and headed over to the next challenge. Then, we went over a small hill to the monkey bars that are suspended on steel wire. After we put down our tires the 5 volunteers raced across the monkey bars while the rest of the team did some basic PT and cheered them on. We repeated the warrior ethos loudly here and I think that was the best one of the day. After the race was finished, the winning team got to rest (it pays to be a winner) while the rest of us had 5 minutes to do 100 pushups. If it wasn’t 100 degrees and 5 hours into the event that wouldn’t have been too bad, but given the conditions, it was surprisingly tough. The class HH12HR-021 leader calling out the cadence of the reps totally nailed it though, we finished in 4:58! Time to put the tires away – we picked them up again and walked around the course to where we got them from and returned them. We lined up and awaited further instructions in the blazing sun. I was dry already!
We picked another 2 volunteers for no apparent reason and then were told we they were our casualties to take to the second hill we were on earlier in the day. I said “ok, I’ll just pick this guy up, then when I get tired, somone else can carry him, and we will rotate”. Rob came over “Oh yea! I forgot – you can’t touch the casualty!”. What the what? So we started plotting how to tackle it and the other teams just slid some boards under their casualties and started moving. We had some Agoge finishers who tried creating a litter but it wasn’t happening. We were in last place – by a lot! We continued to try different things but nothing was working. I wasn’t doing a great job as team leader here. After a while, a member of our team (who was carrying the other casualty) showed up and told us we only needed 2 planks and to carry the casualty on our shoulders. We tried this and our pace picked up immediately – this was SO much better. Lesson learned!
Once back at the hill, the winning team got to pick our punishment – log rolls down the hill. This SUCKED with our rucks on. It took a little while but eventually we got to the bottom. While we waited for the rest of the people to finish we hid in the shade of the porta-potties. No shame. We made our way back to the water refills and the hill where we started the event.
We grabbed the buckets again and each team lined up at the 20ft circles we started the event at. The bucket was in the center, and we had to try and throw our tennis ball into the bucket. Made it? You got to go rest and eat 1 food item. Miss? You have to run down the hill and then try again until you hit it. We did quite a few runs up and down the hill! Eventually we all got to grab some food and rehydrate. We refilled our bladders, and just back into the spray hose to cool off. This was right about 6 hours into the event.
A team that is strung together stays together
Once we got a short break, it was off to the next evolution. We hiked over to an off-course area with a winding single track trail up a steep hill. We then learned what we would be using our paracord for – tethering ourselves into a giant connected line. We were each connected to the person in front and behind us by caribiners very closely. This was the slowest part of class HH12HR-021. We started up the trail team by team and immediately found the pace to be insanely slow as each part of the line needed to move at a different pace depending on how steep the section of trail the part of the line was on. We eventually got a little rhythm going and made it to the top, then spread out and walked side by side on the way down the ski slope. Once on the bottom we remained connected and moved to the next evolution.
We rucked down the to the log carry and refilled our bladders. Then it was connected as a team log carries. Down the hill, up the hill, dump the log. We nominated another 5 random people. After that, the group headed over to the rope climbs and did team rope climb races. We didn’t have much in the way of PT to do while we waited for the racers to finish.
Next we headed all the way back down to the festival area and had our ultimate test – could class HH12HR-021 rap and dance to “The Humpty Song”? The answer? Not a chance – ha! We danced our butts off but in the end we were really terribly. Afterward, we had to “wobble” a song that none of us had ever heard – that’s burpees! We had made it this far without punishments but the “Wobble” song might be our undoing. Luckily, one participant came up to the front and lead the group in the wobble dance. We botched that too, naturally, but we were trying hard. This was a lot of fun! It was getting late in the day though, and we had been outside for almost 9 hours in 100 degree blazing sun. It seemed like the intensity of the event was waning.
We left the festival area and headed up to the dunk wall to cool off on the way up to the next evolution. Turns out we had one person on our team that had never done the dunk wall and was terrified to have her face underwater. We stayed together as a team and coached her through getting under to wall. After 5 minutes, the entire class was at the start of the next evolution and we were still at the dunk wall. The instructor came over and alerted – you have 2 minutes to get moving. We stayed together and kept encouraging her to complete the obstacle. After almost 10 hours of the event, surely the dunk wall wouldn’t be her undoing. Finally the instructor came over and let us know – either get under or quit, but the next evolution is starting. Finally, she stuck her head under and did the dunk wall for the first time ever! This was a major breakthrough for her and I am glad we were able to come together as a team to help her conquer it. In addition to that, we got to hang out in the cool water for 10 more minutes, which was perfect timing – I was starting to over heat bigtime.
We hiked up to meet the rest of the group at the bottom of the single track trail we had done earlier as a connected unit. We lined up and dumped the water out of our rucks from the dunk wall. Now we found out the next event – the individual performance hack. This portion consisted of an unknown distance/unknown time hack that would determine if we would be cut from the event or if we got a patch. Each of us had to do the lap (up the winding single trail, then down the ski slope) alone. Rob let us know how critical the stakes were and then started the clock! This was make or break time for everyone in class HH12HR-021. Off we went as a big pack all trying to squeeze into the trail, but then we quickly got spread out. At the end of each lap, we had to check in to get credit for the lap. One lap, feeling ok. Lap two, feeling ok. Lap 3, fading fast. REALLY fast! I barely made it to the top, I was totally smoked. Not good! OK no problem, I’ll get down the hill slowly and be done. It had almost been an hour, and if it was taking me nearly an hour to complete, then it must only be 3 laps. Well I got a rude awakening when I got to the bottom and there were a whole bunch of people sitting around. Some had completed 4 laps, others had quit. I checked in, and Rob let me know – I had 9 minutes to complete a lap, and my current pace was WAY to slow. I should probably just sit down. I was spent. Totally spent. My legs were dead, I was severely dehydrated and not thinking straight. Did I jut fail? I never fail, how is this possible? I was heart broken. I stood there for a minute weighing my options. What was that warrior ethos again? Oh yea – I WILL NEVER ACCEPT DEFEAT. I WILL NEVER QUIT! I said “I am going back out”, and he let me go. At that moment I knew I had more than 9 minutes. He was playing games to test my spirit – he wouldn’t waste the whole class’s time with me on the trail, holding everything up, unless I had a chance. I had no idea if it was true or not, but until I was pulled from the course, I wasn’t stopping. This reinvigorated my spirit bigtime. Unfortunately, my energy levels were still really low and I was so focused on the mission I had stopped drinking water. I was just putting one foot in front of each other as fast as possible. My toenails were completely wrecked from smashing into the front of my boots on the down hill, but when I finally got to lap 4 down hill, I hit it as hard as I could anyways. I got to the bottom, and I was exasperated. I logged in my last lap holding back tears. I put it all out there and I was having a hard time keeping my composure. When I sat down in the shade I started talking to the person next to me. He alerted me that I was unsteady and slurring my speech. He couldn’t understand some of what I was saying, which is very not good! So I started drinking water as much as I could and a few people threw me some electrolytes. I ate everything and just kept drinking water while we waited to hear our fate. A teammate helped me stay in the game by quizzing me and engaging me. This was the point in the event when I was extremely close to dropping and my AWESOME team mates kept me in the game. I would have never made it without them, I am so grateful for their help. This evolution was the ultimate embodiment of Spartan HH12HR– the challenge, individual effort, high standards, testing your will, and teamwork – all in 1 hour. Rob orchestrated this fantastically.
Rob came over and let us know that we had not made the time hack, but that we came damn close to it. There were 30 of us in the “close but no cigar” group, and 26 in the “made the hack” group. All the other people had been sent home for missing the hack by too much or quitting. At this point the two groups stood up and faced each other. I almost fell right over when I stood up, I was dizzy. Kept drinking and focusing on my breathe. Breathe in, breathe out, you got this! Standing in one spot seemed like a large task at the time, but I was pulling it off – winning! Positive self talk was keeping me in the game.
Rob gave the “made the hack” group an offer: they could go (right that second) to the finish and get patched. OR they could save “close but no cigar” group with a few conditions. If they chose to save us, we would have to perform another time hack as a team (unknown of course) – if we missed that time hack no one gets a patch. There wasn’t one second of delay – we were getting saved. Hell yea – Never leave a fallen comrade! This was a well designed team test/building exercise disguised as an individual hack. Anyone can PT you to death – Rob did a great job capitalizing on every opportunity to test us physically, mentally, and as a team.
So what was this mysterious time hack? Buddy carries! Unknown distance (but some people who knew the course estimated the distance at 1.5~2 miles) in 27 minutes. Without buddy carrying anyone that would be tight. Our team was great – we had no time to lose so we grabbed as many people as we could and started buddy carrying. This would be my personal moment of epic failure. I am a buddy carrying monster – I love it, I train for it, and excel at it. Unfortunately, I was still uneasy on my feet, I was having a hard time staying upright under my own weight. It would have been a bad idea for me to pick up a 200lb guy at that moment. I grabbed some wood planks to try and be useful, but inside I was so disappointed that I was having a pity party. I was determined to keep drinking water and contribute! So I carried the wood to a stop point, probably ¼ ~ ½ mile away, and by that time I was feeling a little better. I ran back to the start point and we 3-man carried the biggest guy all the way to the stop point at a full jog. It wasn’t a full redemption but no one else knew how to do a 3-man carry so I was able to share some knowledge and help the team. Once we were all collected at the stop point (far short of the end point), we were told that we wouldn’t be buddy carrying any further, but that we would have to pick up the pace.
We finished the distance and ended in the secret garden of finishers. At last year’s HH12HR only a few people made it here, but this year we had a large group. Here, Rob said a few words and opened the floor for finishers to say something if they wanted. I was honestly shocked – I expected to breeze through the event, which I did not – I was pushed to my limits. I learned a few things about my perceived strengths and weaknesses vs. reality. I learned about my training and where it could improve. I learned about the how to deal with the heat/hydration/nutrition. I learned that even though Spartan is well known for its individual experiences and competition, they can put on a hell of an amazing team event as well. I have done a ton of events, and this will go down as one of my favorites!
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