How the Warrior Ethos stayed with me into everyday life

By Adam Starling

As a former software engineer and current solutions architect, I’ve worked for companies large and small, and each has held team-building sessions in some form or another. The lessons from them last to varying degrees of time, but inevitably they all fade as though never learned in the first place.

What does that have to with Spartan, you might ask? Well, we’ve got our own special means of creating bonds and learning how to work as a team in the form of Hurricane Heats. I realize they’re more than just that, but teamwork is certainly an important tenet. Throughout every grueling hour, we repeatedly recite the Warrior Ethos and apply its words to our actions. It’s because of this mantra that each is an opportunity to thrust ourselves into situations requiring us to work with others we’ve only just met but before long feel a kindred pull towards and by the end consider more than mere friends.

We all leave them motivated (and exhausted, of course), but like those team-building exercises, do the lessons we learned only exist in the vacuum of the Hurricane Heat? Do we just take our bling and hang it in our trophy cases as simply another achievement, or do we abide by the words on those dog tags when the opportunity presents itself? I shared a story with Krypteia Cookie that I like to think emphatically answers that last question in the affirmative, and he’s now allowed me the privilege of sharing it with a broader audience.

During the West Virginia Beast, a fellow Spartan and I struck up a conversation after each of us failed the Z Wall. I lamented how I hadn’t failed that obstacle since my second-ever race, and he commented that he had never done it before because he was running in his first Spartan event. Not only that, but he mentioned that he was also signed up for the Super and Sprint the next day! I was both floored and impressed that he decided to tackle a course ominously entitled “The Ascent” not once but three times in a single weekend as a starting point so I bestowed on him the title “Rookie of the Year”.

Later after completing the 6ft Wall, we were side-by-side again so I joked with him how I was still fuming about the Z Wall failure, and then I saw the Bridge coming up. Knowing it was right before the Swim, I commented how it was going to be refreshing to hit the water to which he responded in a nervous tone that he didn’t know how to swim. I admit to stopping short for a split second in surprise before assuring him that he wouldn’t be going it alone as I would swim with him. I went into the race challenging myself to finish in a specific time, but all thought of that was abruptly abandoned in that moment.
As the Warrior Ethos reads, “I will never leave a fallen comrade”, and I wasn’t about to dishonor that which Cookie and the other Krypteia taught us in HH-104.

Although we had PFDs and lifeguards at the ready, I couldn’t fathom leaving this brand-new Spartan to struggle through the water requiring rescue that would single him out and potentially make him feel embarrassed. Spartan Races, more than any other event, foster a sense of camaraderie, and I wanted him to know that we’ve got each other’s backs come what may.

Like me, I’m sure each of you has lent a hand on the course when someone needs a boost over one of the walls or something straightforward like that, but dealing with people in water when they can’t swim is an entirely different challenge. Having lifeguarded in Daytona and New Smyrna Beach, my experiences have run the gamut from lending a hand to swimmers in chest high water to hauling in panicked families in very deep water on a single buoy to administering aid to shark bite victims, but each encounter is unique so there’s always a risk. With that in mind, I figured if it went sideways, at least he wouldn’t be alone when the lifeguards on duty came to both our aids.

In the end, I safely guided him along with me as I did a one-handed breaststroke on each leg of the swim, and he powered through the rest of the race as I saw him again when all was said and done. I called out “rook” to him, and we had a good laugh before shaking hands and parting ways. My teammate, who did the Super and Sprint the next day, knew him from the pictures my wife took of the two us, and sure enough, he ended up knocking out a Trifecta in his first weekend of Spartan racing.


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