The Wild Ride That Was My First Hurricane Heat
By Ron Fuller
I signed up to do my first Hurricane Heat in Chicago. I originally was excited to be signed up and was looking forward to the challenge of doing two Spartan events in the same day as I would run the Super earlier in the day. As the day drew closer, the nagging doubts started about what we would do during the event. I saw my son finish his first Hurricane Heat in Ohio earlier in the year and knew the physical challenges they did. I wondered if I was “ready” both physically and mentally for this. I’ve completed a Spartan Trifecta and knew what to expect with them. The Hurricane Heat was going to be a new challenge for me. I knew I would give it my all, roll with the program and do my best but that small voice was there until the event started.
Our Krypteia was Kyoul Cha assisted by Danielle Rieck. I had done some research and both of them are well known figures and generally, awesome endurance athletes. I knew right away we would have a great, challenging event. The overall mood of the other 60+ participants was excitement which helped assuage the doubting voice in my head. We started by learning about the Warrior’s Ethos and talked about each of the values. With those words resonating in my ears we moved out to the festival area and started with a warm up that was akin to a dance rave and a lot of fun. I thought “I got this in the bag.” Oh, silly, silly, man with so much to learn.
Our first activities were ones where we immediately needed to work together as a team with these complete strangers. Our specialty items were a 5 gallon bucket and a towel. We put the towels to good use doing “Tunnel of Love.” It was a good activity as you have to communicate and trust your partner to do it right. We then moved into an activity called “Conveyer Belt 2.0” and the first signs of escalations I noticed cropped up. It was pretty warm at that time of day and we were not working well as a team so we roasted in the sun while we worked again and again to get it right. At about this point, the “fun” factor was wearing off and being frustrated that we were not working together started showing. People were yelling instructions, some confusion was amok and we cooked.
I think they Kryptiea decided we were never going to get it right so we moved to a new activity and more escalations. We put our 5 gallon buckets to work and broke into smaller teams for some interesting balancing activities. The team I was on gelled quickly and I am proud of how we did even as the escalations continued. The grind wore on though I was sticking to my “roll with it” program. The next activity involved more fun with buckets and water as well as some simple movements, but complex execution with three large groups of people. Again frustration was there and we had people attempting to help by shouting orders and counting but it added to the confusion. I wondered what some of my friends who specialize in sociology would think. Were we a classical dysfunction group or were we breaking new ground in failing? Based on the escalations that continued to pile on the physical discomfort, I’d say it was the latter. The Krypteia offered suggestions to help improve the team work but not everyone heard them over the others shouting. Danielle especially had some sage advice but once again the group think and many Type A personalities all trying to lead took over. I’ll be honest, it was a bit demoralizing and the fun factor was pretty low as we repeated the activity again with more escalations to increase the discomfort. I tried to take a “Grin and Bear It” approach but secretly, there were a few people I’d like to have seen get tossed in the pond. My back was aching, quads were burning and arms were getting worn out but I kept my external composure. The lady next to me was nice and we talked a bit in between activities and formed a bit of a shared misery bond.
Our next activity was called “Couples Therapy” where we were paired up and used our towels to tie ourselves together at the wrist and ankle. We then were to bear crawl until told to stop. Oh crap. I was worn out and bear crawling is an activity I struggle with. About now the doubting voice in my head was screaming “You’re gonna die, you’re gonna die” over and over again. I was paired with my new friend from the bucket fun and she was amazing. I bear crawled my best, but it was really, really slow going as my shoulders were gassed. Through it all my partner told me words of encouragement and helped keep me moving. This was about the time I was ready to toss in the towel and quit. It was dusk, we had been going for a few hours, I was tired and doing miserable at this activity. To make matters worse, or better depending on your perspective, Danielle asked what was going on with us as we fell further behind the team. I explained it was my fault and she told us to walk to the front of the line and be the pace setter. We did and I resumed what ended up being a crawl on my hands and knees across the dirt and gravel.
I have read about HH12HR and Agoge participants reaching a “dark place” and this was pretty flipping close to it for me. As I trudged on my partner and the people behind us kept encouraging me. I can’t underscore how humbling of an experience this was for me. I knew the entire team was wondering why we were so slow and knowing it was me was beyond my comfort zone — like in a totally different parsec out of my comfort zone. We trudged on and I quit inside my head dozens of times but never stood up and walked away. My mind was reeling with the Warrior Ethos, the pain in my knees, which were now bleeding from crawling on them and knowing that if I was quit, there was no going back. I kept plugging away like a turtle in peanut butter with my awesome partner. After what felt like miles of crawling, Kyoul told us to stand up. We were done — we had finished the event and needed to take a team picture before it was too dark.
Everyone was elated and smiles while I was still crawling out of my mental funk from “Couples Therapy.” We took our pictures and walked back to the rally point to get our shirts, dog tags and wedge. I slowly felt more comfortable but still had pangs of shame for impacting the entire team. We collected our swag and in what I am learning is classic Spartan style, people congratulated me, complimented me on finishing and not giving up. It was an awesome feeling to walk away with those positive vibes.
A few weeks on from the event now and I still am humbled by the experience. The Hurricane Heat was definitely a life changing event. I look back and remember the good, bad and ugly parts and use them to grow. Every run I’ve done since then has had thoughts about the event.
It was such a roller coaster of emotions and experiences which honestly, is exactly what I was hoping for. Would I do it again you might wonder? The Indiana Hurricane Heat said yes.