This is part II of my recap of the 2012 Georgia Spartan Sprint-Hurricane Heat. Last time around I was talking about how I did not want to embarras myself as the only one not able to climb a rope. If you missed it…Quick-Go back and read Hurricane Heat-Part One.
So there I was, cheering my new teammates on as they were making their way up the rope. There was a lot of yelling and screaming as all of the teams are quickly going up and down these things with relative ease. Some guys don’t even use their legs. They just pull themselves up on arms alone.
Ok-My turn. Immediately, I am relieved, as there are large knots on the ropes to step up and onto. I am able to pull myself up and stand on each knot with relative ease until I get to the last one. My arms are starting to give and I can’t quite ring the bell at the top of the rope. I swing wildly several times before finally nicking it with my knuckle. The nicking still makes a nice loud CLANG and I descend down.
I avoid being embarrassed and as I watch the others finish, I realize something else really great. As lame as my weak-ass upper body is, there are several girls on the team who are weaker than me. Before you kill me, hear me out. I know there are hundreds of women who could whip my ass on this course. However, in this heat, there are a bunch of girls who are considerably weaker than me. This means that as we go along, I won’t be the weakest one on the course and this eases my anxiety about the day.
After running through the woods for a while and then over a couple of climbing walls, all of us do 30 burpees as one big group. I can’t even finish my 30 before we are off running to the next challenge. We were now asked to carry 40 pound bags and walk up and back on a long, steep, hill. By the time we get back down the hill, I realize that I am now more physically spent than I was at any time during my entire 11 mile-Tough Mudder. I loved the Tough Mudder. It was great time. It was a way to stretch myself, do some really cool obstacles and be around some amazing people. However, I was never close to as tired as I already was less than 1 hour into my Hurricane Heat.
Next up was a walk through a mud creek that was about waist high. After going through this creek over and under trees, we are getting very wet. The morning air is still quite cold. Had we been asked to run along to the next obstacle, I would have warmed up, but that is not how the HH goes. There is a lot of standing around as the leaders decide where to take us next. All of this standing around is producing colder body temperatures for me and many others on the course.
The leaders then decide that we should go back through the mud creek. However, as part of the fun of the Hurricane Heat, this where our leaders ad-lib and make up some additional challenges as we go along to make the course harder. Things like, “This person on your team can not touch the ground” which means carrying teammates. Or…”This is your team’s log for the remainder of the course”- which means someone or two must carry, push, or drag a big ass heavy log through the course and through each and every obstacle. While it appears as though perhaps the leaders are merely fucking with us for their own pleasure. After I while, I realize that these additional challenges have us pushing ourselves to be our best and also working together as a team.
The rest of the Hurricane Heat was a nice variety of trail running and some standard obstacles like wall climbing, some jungle gym traversing and the occasional creek crossing. Along the way, there was always some “burpees on the fly”, plus some additional ad-libs I mentioned earlier from the course leaders. I found time to get to know some of my new teammates better and was really enjoying myself. I was starting to think how much fun it was going to be to do the course again in a few hours with my buddies that were coming later. Then came the barbed wire crawl.
As a veteran of mud races, the barbed wire mud crawl is standard. Get on your belly on some mud, crawl under some barbed wire, about10-20 feet long, get up, get on to the rest of the race.Not at this event.
There was a football field (300 feet) of the lowest barbed wire I had ever seen. If your butt was even slightly raised, you could not go through it. Girls’ hair got caught in it, camelbaks got caught in it, guys foreheads had scrapes from it.
Here is a video of the barbed wire crawl shot by Shane, one of the guys on our team. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, just watch a minute or two and notice how low the barbed wire is and how it goes on forever! (You can also skip ahead to minute 4, and notice the giant hoses that sprayed us. Mind you, this is cold water early in the morning and is not refreshing)
At one point, my legs and arms feel like they cannot crawl anymore and I am starting to regret my lack of upper body workouts. Just then, the course takes a sharp turn UPHILL to the left. Turns out, the leaders were taking us backwards through the course. So a fun downhill mudslide is now a brutal uphill push. The only people, who have it worse than me, are my teammates pushing a log up through this part of the course.
After what seemed like an eternity, I am finally done. I stand up and cheer on the few folks behind me yet to finish including the guys with the log. It is getting near 9:00am. We have to be off the course by 9 because that is when the *Elite Heat starts. I am feeling excited and accomplished that we are nearly done. That is when Tommy and Todd tell us, that we are now going back through the barbed wire crawl. This time in the “right direction”. I am sure they are kidding with us. I mean no way, right?
Just then the guy next to me bends over in pain, his legs looking wobbly and strange. We call Tommy over to take a look at him and the guy calls it quits. His legs have locked up and are not working properly. It occurs to me at this point, that I can quit too. I can sort of “stay back to help”. 2 other guys must have gotten the same idea as they begin walking away with this guy and Tommy to “help him off the course”.
As they are walking away, I am seconds away of saying Screw It and just walk off with them. Just then, I remember that earlier in the morning, we all recited the The Warrior Ethos which makes me remember that I am not a quitter and have more in me.
So off I go, back into the mud. We were asked to crawl on our backs for the first 20-30 feet. This is where a photographer caught me.
After going down the fun mudslide part a short time later, I feel like I can’t go much further. That is when Sgt. Sedlak tells me that he will help me, and that I can push off his hands. He is like 6’10” so I am pushing off this tower behind me, and it helps me a great deal. After several grunts and pushes, I find my 2nd (or 3rdwind) and just decide I am going to get through this freakin thing. I crawl as hard and as fast as I can with no help and am finally through it. There was not much time left at this point, so we went over some small rope climbing wall, climbed up some obstacle together and busted through the Spartans with pugel sticks to the finish line.
We get really cool shirts, our dog tags, and are handed bananas and water.
I go back to my car to theoretically get changed and get prepared for my regular 2pm heat. When I get to my car, my body is shaking uncontrollably. My objective was to put on dry clothes, sit in the car for a little while and warm up. However, standing outside my car, my clothes are soaking with mud and I am freezing and cannot stop shaking. My teeth are chattering more than they ever have. I can’t even stop shaking enough to put on a dry shirt.So I decide to jump in my car with my muddy clothes with the heat blasting and wait for my hands and teeth to stop shaking. I am starting to get concerned as after what feels like several minutes, my teeth are still chattering, loudly. I look at the temp gauge in my car and it says it is 59 degrees outside. My brain is not making sense of this. I can’t decide why I can’t warm up. Eventually, I do start to warm up and are actually able to change into warm clothes and get my wits about myself.
So now I am debating whether to stick around and do the 2pm heat or just head home. I look down and realize that I already wore all my race shirts when I put them on to warm up at 6am. My tights and 3 racing shirts are all in a muddy pile along with my socks and shoes. There is no way I can get that stuff on and race again. I also start to think about my first ½ marathon that I have to do the next weekend, and choose to call it day. I decide to wait for my friends who are coming for the 2pm heat to tell them of my morning adventure and then send them off into their heat. It is disappointing, as I will not pick up my Spartan Sprint medal. Plus, it sucks to not do the whole course in a regular heat with my friends.There are lessons in every race, and one of the lessons I am leaving this race with is to over pack. I don’t want to be in a position to quit or DNF because of lack of preparation. So from now, I will over pack fluids, food, footwear, and clothing. Also, I will not sign up for anything a week before a long distance run. (10 miles or more).
After returning home, I decide that I am retiring from mud racing and want to focus on road running and ultras. The Spartan events and Tough Mudder bring out the best in you. I feel like I am cheating them by not training upper body at all. It didn’t bother me at first, but now I think that since I know I am not a cross fit guy, gym guy, or guy that works out my core or upper body at all, I should really focus on what I am training for.