The Spartan Group X Catamount Games

HatchetsThe Spartan Group X Catamount Games, described on the event registration page as an event/workout ran by three coaches with military, SGX, CrossFit™, triathlon, and extreme endurance race backgrounds. In true fashion of an event that embodies both mental and physical challenges, very little information was provided up front, with the exception of what you should physically expect and a packing list. We were provided the location of Frozen Head State Part in TN and to expect WODs (CrossFit workout of the day), and a general time frame of 12 hours of work. Rucks had to weigh 25 lbs for women and 35 lbs for men, including water.  Tents and sleeping bags were on the list, which gave some indication of what was in store.  We would work as a team as we hiked, however WODs were scored and one had the opportunity to be the top male and top female of the event. The event only allowed 15 participants.

The packing list was specific. We knew that January would be cold, and given the location of “Frozen Head State Park”, solidified that battling the cold would be part of the challenge…at least logically. A little bit of research showed the temps we should really expect. I have been challenged with the cold weather in the past, so researching and coming prepared for sub-freezing temperatures was a must. Those who did not do so, suffered.
camp siteWe were provided with a map and the start point directions were precise, accurate, and well organized, which helped relieve the stress of the unknown. Arriving at 530am, the gate was opened and were were guided to the meeting point. After a safety brief of the terrain, rucks were weighed and each participant was made to carry an equalizer. This was practical weight used later in the event that became a necessity to survive the cold of an overnight camp. Food was provided to eat for lunch and some time was given to get everything set.
Game time! Off we went, into the trail at dawn…frozen ground, rugged terrain, and all smiles! What we did not know was the elevation of the mountain, nor how far up we would be going. A 13 person team, moving together, each battling their own issues with the sub freezing temps, ruck weight, distribution of weight…all playing a part that would either benefit or hinder the individual. I chose to have all the weight up top, but this did not include my lack of knowledge of knots when securing things to keep from getting knocked in the back of the head or the weight shifting during a ruck.
Snow BurpeesWe moved 6000ft of elevation in just under 5 miles. Keep in mind, this was not a speed race. We all helped each other get through the difficult elevation, however some moved faster than others. When we reached our first checkpoint, those that arrived first were given a little perk. Those of us that trickled in after were not as lucky. Then came WOD #1: Seven Minutes of burpees.  Keeping in mind the terrain and elevation, the only positive thought was at least I didn’t have my ruck on! Realizing that being first in every WOD wouldn’t solidify a win, sandbagging was not an option either, this was discussed in the beginning, and not looked upon with approval.
The temps and lack of sunshine meant completion of the WOD and expediting the next leg to keep from hypothermia. In true fashion, we were given casual distances, soon finding out that the coaches were less than accurate with their calculations, of course, this wasn’t by mistake. More rucking, same weight, but some descent, only to be ascending shortly after.
rucking snowWOD #2 came a few miles later. A quick demonstration and explanation of the WOD standards were given. After finding a solid place to perform the WOD, we performed plenty of reps…trying to complete the total number was bad enough, but every minute we had some extra enjoyment thrown in. We soon realized that our bodies were being truly tested.  We were told lunch was our next check point.
Two miles later, we are all tired, beat up, and still climbing! We reach the campsite and one of the coaches is already starting a fire for cooking, warming cold hands and defrosting of water bladders. MREs are devoured like we had never seen food before and we relished the 30 minutes we had to break. The coaches gave us a 15 minute heads up that we would be on the move again to the next WOD. When we arrived, there was no sign of a WOD area.
mental testWOD #3: The coaches reviewed the movement and standards, provided detailed instructions, and explained the mental portion all before each heat went off.At this point, we all knew that a WOD was physical, but now we realized being tested mentally was also part of the event. While I knew I could physically perform the WOD, I wasn’t as confident that mentally I could accurately answer the questions asked on the test.
Looking at the sun, the scenery, the accomplishments so far, it was enough to be proud, but we knew there were more WODs to come, and we knew that the sleeping bags and tents were nowhere around us. The sun was starting to set as well. I kept pushing, struggling with the terrain causing the weight to shift and lack of packing my ruck for easy accessibility.
frozen waterfallDown the mountain we went, steep descent, frozen waterfalls, impassable water crossings that took a few moments to navigate around, and the thought of more WODs loomed in the back of our minds, but didn’t deter us from chatting up the campfire and food for dinner.
Another WOD, affectionately known as the “LEG BLASTER” was performed, and loathed, right after it was explained. DEFEAT! I knew my legs were toast but could only hope to push through it. We teamed up to count for each other and completed the WOD again. Now it was all mental. Just finish!
all competitorsOn we went, down the trail for a few minutes and over the radio from one of the coaches we heard stop at the bridge. My first thought was, “here is the next WOD???” We haven’t been moving for 10 minutes! A few minutes and we were greeted with the amazing words, “drop your rucks!” Hooray!! Unfortunately, this was only for a photo op, but it was still a welcome change for my shoulders.
The coaches spent some time explaining how much land we covered, the ascent, and our gourmet dinner to follow. 7k feet of elevation, 15 miles and we were spent. Darrin explained the last WOD, and although I may have been trying get a little head start, he kept us in suspense, and may have been a little off with the calculation of 500m left to go. GO! My ruck was in disarray, paracord, hiking poles, and a log laying around my ruck. I grabbed my gear and ran as fast as my tired legs would take me, watching out for the rough terrain and trying to fight off the footsteps of the other competitors right behind me.
morning afterReaching the finish, it was over! I learned something though. The camaraderie was just beginning. Cheering each of the other competitors across, then setting up the tents, sleeping bags and changing into warmer clothes, I noticed the event IS about being a team, not about being first. The coaches went to work setting up a fire, getting a fine spread of sausage, soup, and well thought out snacks while we setup our personal arrangements. The good times were reminiscing about the event and wondering who would go home with the coveted TOP CAT award, we cooked, shared stories and set about a night of rest.
The sun came up and the coaches were already setting a new fire, making coffee and bringing out danishes, muffins, bananas for us to devour. We all stood around the fire as the anticipated moment came up. Darrin Ingram was to announce the TOP CAT for male/female. I stood with certainty that my friend Pete was the winner after he smoked multiple WODs (I counted his reps multiple times) and was egging him on while he was convinced I was the winner.

Top maleAfemale

Darrin came to the fire and gave a quick speech, then noted, “The TOP CAT winners are going home in the same car”. Michele DeMarco was a shoe-in in my mind, but wait, she rode with me! A true moment of accomplishment for both of us!
EVERY competitor showed true courage and honest concern for each other from the start of the event. The coaches, Darrin, Dana, and Brett, all had our safety and well being at heart each moment of the event, all the way through getting home safely. I’ve done multiple races, events, challenges, courses and never have I seen one where it seemed more about the competitors learning, understanding, and being safe than this. The shirts and patch we all received were amazing and well thought out. The awards for top male and female were by far the most unique, and obviously plenty of time and effort were put into making the hatchets. CrossFit Xiphos organized and executed The Spartan Group X Catamount Games to teach, challenge and make people better. In my opinion, they accomplished that goal. Job well done!
Check out the route, courtesy of Pete:

The next event is already in the works according to Crossfit Xiphos and is being setup for an April/May timeframe.

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