Going back for more discomfort — the return to the Hurricane Heat

By Shannon Lucas Ritter

Wet, muddy, cold. Swearing I would never, ever do it again. When I called my husband after it was all over, I apparently dropped the f-bomb more times in five minutes than he had heard in the last five years. Or so he tells me. I don’t remember. Kinda like childbirth. Also, kinda like childbirth, as the days passed, the pain and suffering started to blur and the after effects of being through something difficult with a group of people also sharing that pain and suffering started to change into…something. Something indefinable.

“[It’s] the pride of doing something so many are afraid to try; because it’s everything a regular race isn’t.” Richard Clark, Knoxville, TN

Indefinable. We all have people with which we share things. Friends, colleagues, family. But it isn’t until you share discomfort and difficulty that you make those deeper bonds. I don’t mean the discomfort of an awkward situation — we’ve all had those — but real discomfort. Wet, muddy, hurting, and yet still moving forward because your team needs you. Once you’re pushed so far out of your comfort zone that you can’t see where you started, and you look around at the other wet, muddy faces struggling right along side you, things change. You change.

“I have a dozen friends that I met at and through HH080 that I would walk out my front door right now and drive hundreds of miles if they needed help”. A group of 12 or so has remained very close and has raced as a group a few times.” Craig Daniel, Covington, GA

What is this thing that happened? I’m talking about Spartan Endurance. Specifically the Hurricane Heat (HH). What? You haven’t heard of it? Well, let me just tell you, it’s Hell, it’s cold (or hot), it’s definitely wet, it’s probably going to be muddy, and fun. How can it be fun? Imagine being duct-taped by the wrist in a group of about 12–15, and having to negotiate your way through mud and under barbed wire, all while trying to educate a Frenchman on the slang of the word “slippery”. Imagine standing in a line, facing a similar line of people, and having to pass a bag of peanuts down the line, using only neon-green, 2ft long broom handles, and not letting the bag fall, otherwise you have to start over. Imagine a grown-up version of a 3-legged race, with someone you may (or may not) know, in the dark, up and over muddy hills. And imagine joking and laughing the whole time, keeping each other’s morale higher than yours, so they can boost yours higher than theirs. Interestingly, I adapted a few of these challenges for my Cub Scouts, and they loved it.

“I signed up last year to see if I could do it. “Enjoy” is not the right word for a HH; I was FREEZING afterward! But I made so many new friends, including Craig Daniel (my duct-tape partner) with whom I have raced several times now. We are friends forever. HH080 was really special though. It seemed to me that we really had a bond that was uncommon. I did the HH12HR in Nashville again to see if I could and because I knew so many people there. I knew that I would not be alone or left out. To be honest, my mantra was “Keep Craig in your sites” and that was how I finished — I let him keep the pace. I met more ‘Nutz’ there and made more friends, good friends. I think that the special part of the group is that we all really took the ethos to heart and never leave anyone behind.” Janet Gubser, Greenville, SC

“What I got out if it? 221 amazing friends that are like family, though sadly I have only gotten to see a few since Atlanta. Was I scared? Nope, I had no clue what I was getting myself into, other than looking out for the gear list, I did no research on what a HH was. I did it to try something new, get out of my comfort zone. I was freezing cold after, but once I washed up and got warm, I felt like a total badass! I’m doing it again to reconnect with some of the original people and to meet new ones as well. My only regret is having run a half marathon in Charlotte, having inflamed knees and not being able to fully participate. I’m looking forward to getting my redemption in ATL this year.” Audra Ramsey, Charlotte, NC

Why am I talking about this? It’s simple. It’s been almost a year, and the Hurricane Heat is back in Atlanta. That one that I swore I would never, ever do again? This will be my third HH. Over the summer, I participated in one at Ft. Campbell, KY, and it was almost like a family reunion. There’s something special about this group of people. We bonded in Atlanta that night in a way not many people do. I’ve made lifelong friends, bonded closer with acquaintances I had only just meet a few weeks before, and have found a network of people that “get it”.

“It’s amazing to see how the HH has added another depth to my personal journey. Since Trifectas were now moved into the “done that” category, I was looking for the next challenge. Enter HH series, where the initial Atlanta Deez Nutz was a shock of an event, especially since I tacked it on the same day as the Sprint. But guess what, I survived it! What’s next then, but a HH12HR (The 12 hour version) of course! I made a commitment to get out of my comfort zone a little bit more each time and so with the HH12HR journey I’ve met more inspiring people, and their journeys. But most importantly I’ve learned more about myself, and what I am able to achieve, if I train and believe in myself.” Belinda Lu, Winchester, TN

“So why did I sign up for the Hurricane Heat in Atlanta? Because there is a challenge of the unknown, because they said it was hard. But in doing so, it ignited [a] fire within me. I wanted more, so I signed up for the HH12HR. It has brought a new purpose to life and helped me personally fight depression in battling PTSD; giving more of a reason to go to the gym to train; giving more reason to hit the trails to run. This lifestyle that we choose [is] a warrior lifestyle. It give a release for the true calling, that’s the fire that burns down within me.” Brad Beckham III, Knoxville, TN.

We started that evening nervous, scared, excited, and as strangers for the most part; But we finished as family. There’s something indefinable about that night, the night that started with HH-080. Last year, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. This year, I can’t wait for it to happen. That’s the magic of 080. I don’t know what the new number will be; I don’t know what the new team name will be; I don’t know who I’ll see/meet there. But I hope you’re one of them. Come define the indefinable with me.