The Beta Test — how Spartan Endurance challenges are born.

By Kyoul Cha

Sitting on at the end of the Low Crawl obstacle, I looked down at the decline slope and scanned the last quarter mile of the Las Vegas Super/Sprint course, while I took a pull from my hydration nib. My pack straps were giving me the familiar bite in my traps and shoulders from the weight in my ruck, and my forearms had been burning for the last two miles, thanks in part to the 25 lbs slam ball that I elected to carry as awkward weight. Glancing at my phone, I noticed that I’d been a few minutes off on my time estimation and started the trek down the steep slope to finish my time hack beta of the Las Vegas Sprint course that the HH12HR class would be undertaking later that same night.

This was all part of leading a Spartan Endurance event; testing every facet of the plan and structure to ensure that everything that is asked of the participants fall within the standards of safety, achievability, and time constraints. It’s what we call “Beta Testing” and it is an integral part of the success of Spartan Endurance events.

Each event consists of four stages:

  1. Planning
  2. Testing
  3. Execution
  4. Review

At this time, I want to address the first two stages.

The Krypteia for each Spartan Endurance HH12HR, or 12 Hour Hurricane Heat, begins their event months prior to the participant’s start of the HH12HR. It begins with an idea or inspiration. Something as simple as restructuring a garden in the backyard can create an entire event in the minds of a Krypteia. From that point, hundreds of hours are then consumed in planning, outlining, and structuring the event on paper. Emails and communication occur at this point, mainly with the various directors at the race venue. Plans, outlines, permissions, and adjustments are made here on both sides of the Spartan fence; Race and Endurance. Materials and work hours needed to make a successful endurance event are determined, and plans are set in place regarding the method of achieving a safe yet challenging event. Endurance works hand in hand with Race, and we maintain a clear channel of open communication to ensure that each event runs smoothly with very little disruption of the Race aspect.

Whenever Steffen “Cookie” Cook and I have collaborated on an event, we will always over plan the event, oftentimes having enough activities and contingency plans for 24 hours. This way, the flow and pace of the event is never disrupted and we are never caught off guard or in want of more challenges to present. Every decision tree is carefully considered, which is why parameters and not strict structure is provided. It affords the participants the ability to become creative with their problem solving skills, and allows us to set specific decision trees in place. Each event that I have directed, HH and HH12HR, always has three full events. Meaning that I come to the venue with three complete and separate events. I have the original event, or the event that I intend to provide. I have an escalation of the original, meaning that I can increase the difficulty of the event dependent upon the behaviors and choices that are made by the class or participants. I have a lighter version of the original event, meaning that the tasks become easier and more fun. The lighter version is a reward that can be earned by adhering to the Warrior’s Ethos, or through exemplary behaviors and decision making. This is what we call “The Causality Clause”. You decide your event by the decisions and actions made by you.

The second aspect of Planning occurs when the Krypteia arrive at the venue and put boots on the ground. Here is where we get to see, first hand, the terrain and venue layout. It is at this point that some changes are generally made to portions of the event to better streamline or have better logical flow and progressions. Sometimes, the beta testing that we initially do away from the venue has to be retested because of the venue layout or terrain.

Once the administrative work is completed, turning thoughts and concepts on paper into real life workable exercises and challenges begins. This is Testing, or “Beta Testing”. Like all products, before they are available for public consumption, those products are tested, sent back for adjustments, retested, sent back, adjusted, retested until the product is the very best that it can be. Every Spartan Endurance event goes through that same process. Sometimes the Krypteia will employ friends or fitness clients to go through the Beta Tests; taking notes, making adjustments, retrying the programs. But most times, it is the Krypteia themselves that will test out the processes, the distances, and the carry weight.

For example. I received a call from Cookie one afternoon and he told me, ”Look, I read this book about Shackleton. Exceptional man. What struck me was how he carried his supplies in a sled, and I thought that that would be a horrible way to have to carry the HH12HR gear. What do you think?”

I agreed that it would be a horrible idea, and we started to work on how to make that concept a possibility. Initially, the material and equipment that he wanted to use was expensive, and Cookie is very aware of cost and providing an exceptional event on minimal cost to the participants, so the snow sleds and discs that were the original idea had to be scrapped. We decided to hit the local home improvement stores in our respective areas, and it was on the hunt for polypropylene bags that I came across a cement mixing tub. I took a picture and sent it to Cookie, who found them and decided that the larger tubs would make more sense than the smaller tubs.

He purchased his, I purchased mine, and from that point, we began our separate testing of the tubs. And testing began with the best method of securing webbing and 500 paracord to the tubs to turn it into a sled to drag. Initial concept was two holes in the front, but with the structural integrity of the tub with potentially 200 or more pounds in it, two holes in front would see the tub ripped open. My wife was laying down a cement back porch, so I was able to put multiple 60 bags of concrete into the tub and drag it around. Cookie and I found that multiple holes drilled in the front, both sides and back would disperse the pressure along the entire tub, and that holes too close to the top would rip the tub open, so holes more center mass with a weaving of 500 paracord.

I found that with my multitool, I could make two holes every 63 seconds and it took me a little over six minutes to have those drilled through. Dragging the sleds proved to be every bit of a challenge as expected, and it was during this test phase that we figured out how to attach paracord to the ruck, how to make handles for the leashes, whether or not a single connected loop made more sense that two separate leashes, if pushing made more sense than pulling (it didn’t), and at what mile point would the sled collapse. When it did collapse, could it be repaired with duct tape or other materials on hand (yes and yes), and how sound was the repair and would the sled have to be constantly repaired throughout the event (moderately sound, and yes)?

The participant that owned this tub may have regretted their design.

For those who were at HH-87 (Tuxedo), you had the experience of using cardboard turned into shields. As an after action review, I released the proposal video that I submitted to the other Krypteia, explaining the material, how to build the shield, and how it was to be used. And then I released another video where four of us were in my backyard using our cardboard shields to protect against water balloons being thrown at us.

And if anyone knows me, they know I love my towel. And when I first presented it, no one knew what was about to happen with that towel. First SoCal HH12HR, then Dallas HH12HR. The activities with the towel began as a training exercise and is a part of the Rope Program designed by my fitness training company. My friends and clients initially tested out all of the exercises for me during several free weekend group workouts that I hold. This allowed me to ask questions, make notes, and determine best positions and shortcuts. I was able to narrow down the specific muscle groups that I wanted to target and then sequence multiple exercises to achieve the overall goal that I was striving for.

Every challenge presented to the endurance participants has been tested, personally, or through a group. Every distance that is to be traveled has been traveled, and traveled more than once, before you even step foot at the start line. The weight that you carry has been carried long before you strapped it to your shoulders, and it has been carried in every manner and possibility to determine effective methods and approaches. Methods, game playing, cheating, teamwork. It has all been assessed and planned for before you even get to try and unveil your great idea at the event. Why do you think Cookie just stares at you and I give you a short, but very evil laugh?

We’ve planned it. We’ve tested it. 
 And we’ve done it longer than the twelve hours that you’re going to be doing it in.

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