How to do Spartan Endurance events — Part one; Hurricane Heat

By Danielle Rieck

Danielle Rieck was the first person in history to complete the Spartan Delta. Having successfully done multiple Spartan Endurance events, there are few people with the same knowledge.

I’ve been asked to write a 4 part series of blogs about Spartan Endurance, by the powers that be in SpartanLand. At first, I thought it would be a super easy thing. One quick afternoon in a coffee shop and I’d have all the answers to survival written down for all of you to read.

But, here’s the kicker. I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does. That’s what keeps those of us in the Endurance races going. The neverending quest for… more.

So, why should I write anything? Because, honestly, I’m a better person because of these events. I mean that truly. The people that participate in Spartan Endurance, and the people that run Spartan Endurance, have changed me. They’ve inspired me. They’ve brought out more in me than I can. And if I can do that for anyone, I will try my best. This blog is my effort to give back in some small way.

A bit of background about me (or rather, why you should listen to me)- I’ve been doing Spartan Races since Fenway 2012. I started doing them as something silly for an afternoon. Then it was something silly for a couple afternoons. Then I decided to go for a trifecta. Then I decided I might as well get 5 trifectas. That turned into 11 trifectas. Then the Spartan Delta (shoutouts to my Delta Squad!), then the Endurance Delta. And somewhere in that journey, things snowballed and I wasn’t just a participant in these events, I was living the lessons of these events every day.

In the past year alone I did 10 trifectas, earned the Spartan Delta, earned my endurance Delta, completed seven Hurricane Heats, participated in six HH12HR, finished four. I finished six Ultra Beasts. I participated in five Agoges, completing four (though my crash and literal burn at 001 was probably the event I most learned from, even if it took me a year to admit it).

Here’s the most important part of all of this- I’m not superhuman. I don’t walk into a room and immediately intimidate people. I don’t spend all day at the gym. I don’t watch every calorie that goes into my body. I live a completely normal existence and still manage to have some pretty epic adventures. There’s this myth, that I totally had bought into before I started doing these races, that the people that participate in them are a different breed. And that it takes being a giant man who runs a 5 minute mile carrying a medium-sized animal on his back while chewing on kale every day to be able to finish a Spartan Endurance. It doesn’t. In fact, I’ve seen a few of those guys go down during events. Spartan Endurance is about so much more than the physical.

And that’s what I’m going to blog about.

Part 1: The Hurricane Heat (HH)

The most important thing to remember in a Hurricane Heat is that You. Can. Finish.

My grandma can finish a Hurricane Heat. Because it’s not about you anymore. This is the first event you may do where it isn’t about you. It’s about the team. Everyone, barring any major injury, should finish. If they don’t, a lot of the blame is on the team, some of the blame is on you.

And, everyone is going to struggle at some point. So, if you quit (or don’t sign up) because you are afraid you are holding people back, that’s something you need to analyze, something you need to deal with (what better way to deal with it than to conquer it!).

Some bullet points to success:

  • Respect the gear list. Bringing all the gear on the gear list is vital. If you don’t, you may be sent home. But also, you may be forced to stay and cause much damage to your team. Don’t be that person. And don’t be cute. If the gear list says bring a pineapple, bring a freaking pineapple. Not a picture of a pineapple, not a keychain shaped as a pineapple. Bring a pineapple (this is based on a true story, unfortunately). The Krypteia aren’t trying to fuck with you on the gear list. They have very specific plans for each item, and when you don’t follow the rules, people get punished. Because now we can’t spend time playing fun pineapple games, instead we do grueling team based pineapple workouts.
  • Carries. You’re going to do a whole bunch of them. The key to a team carry is simple. Swap out. Tall people carry together, medium people carry together, short people carry together. As one of the fun-sized crew, when team carries involve the entire team, I’m worthless. Tire carries on the shoulders? It’s above my head. Sure, I’ll put my hand on it to look important, but I’m not. I might even let out a sigh, to show the team I’m still down there, but I’m not working. Swap. Out. Short people want to be helpful too. If the carry involves the whole team, the whole time, and you can’t quite reach the item, then hop out, grab someone’s pack that is struggling and be useful that way. When you do things the smart way instead of the hard way, these events become a party. A tire carrying, reflective belt wearing party. In Hawaii, we could have carried those giant tires for miles (we actually may have), because we did it smartly (is that a word?). Oh, and swap out when it’s your turn to swap out, don’t wait until you’re exhausted and worthless.
  • Check your ego. Know your strengths, know your weakness. Know that the other people in the group are stronger than you in some areas and are weaker than you in others. And I’m definitely not just talking about physical stuff, though maybe that might be your strength or weakness. When it is a point of weakness for you, be willing to learn from other people’s strengths, so that they can someday become yours. When you are strong, look around to those who are struggling and figure out a way to help. Sometimes this can just mean making eye contact, sometimes it just means checking in. A simple, “this is brutal, huh?” can really go a long way in letting someone know they aren’t alone and keep them from going to a dark place.
  • Have a question about an event? Try Google. It’s magic. If that fails, try the FAQ page on the Spartan website (also found on the magic Google). Thirdly, ask on the Spartan Endurance pages. Crowdsource the question. You will never be told what is going to happen, but you should never have questions about basic things going into the event. There are resources. Use them.
  • Leadership. Sometimes they’ll ask the team to pick a leader. When they do, consult the group. It’s weird when you don’t and just run up. This happens a bit too often. If you feel like today’s a good day for you to lead, tell the group why. Trust me, this will go a long way in gaining the trust of your group. Sometimes the leaders will come out of the group naturally. That’s pretty cool when it does. Often times, leaders will change as the event goes on. That’s cool too.
  • Be happy. You chose to do this. A shitty attitude is your worst enemy. In life. Make today your best day ever. Every day.

So, why should you do a Hurricane Heat?

Because at some point, you need more. (Warning: this is the most controversial thing I’ll write in this series probably, and I’m absolutely not trying to put anyone on blast. This is just my thought, and we all know how scattered that can be sometimes).

You can trifecta chase all you want (trust me, I know how hypocritical I sound when I say this, but stay with me). Anything over 3 trifectas borderlines on obnoxious (I’m super obnoxious). And I’ve never really understood the point of running a whole bunch of laps (unless, of course, that is the point to the event, to see how many laps you can fit in). Put everything you have into one lap, maybe run a second to help others, but anything more than that… I’ll file it under “that’s your thing, I guess” and leave it there.

But at some point, you may want to see what ELSE you can do. How these races can be more than races. How you can take these things… these silly little climb mountains, swing on monkey bars things… and put them into life lessons.

I’m not saying races can’t be life lessons. They absolutely are. The first time you get over a wall by yourself, or the first time you ring the bell at the top of the rope is HUGE. Suddenly, you feel unstoppable. But if you’re doing seven trifectas and running four laps of sprints, getting over a six foot wall is probably not life-altering for you anymore. You are now NOT getting out of your comfort zone, and getting out of your comfort zone is how you grow.

Sign up for a Hurricane Heat. Make a few new friends. Get muddy. Wipe snot on your sleeve. Be gross. Be scared. Laugh the entire time. Make awesome life stories. I promise you won’t regret it.

Oh, one more thing…

It’s Hurricane Heat or HH. Not HH4HR. Not four hour hurricane heat. Not sure when that started, but I’ve never been to a HH that lasted only four hours. Just get there and work hard until they say you can go home.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Steffen Cook’s story.