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1613878_10202934340190872_1919178184158422441_nSooooo…maybe the “I don’t ALWAYS get muddy” part isn’t quite accurate, but truth be told, I do prefer the Spartan Race… this is a race series that definitely knows how to bring the pain….and that’s a good thing!

I just finished up a full weekend of Spartan Races, starting with my first ever Hurricane Heat (HH-052) on Saturday morning, May 17th…the story starts before then though…

I first ran a Spartan Race way back in 2012, at the same venue the most recent series was held. I thought it was awesome then, but it wasn’t until Red and I tackled the Spartan Beast in December of 2013 that I truly fell in OCR love with the race series and all it embodies.

A quote from Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena’s new book “Spartan Up” sums up the draw the Spartan Race has on me:

An inverse correlation links how miserable you feel in the race, and how great you feel after it”

With the Hurricane Heat starting @ 0530 on Saturday morning, as well as needing to be there for multiple heats on back to back days,  I figured camping overnight at the venue would be my best option, not to mention the CHEAPEST at a mere $20 for the WHOLE WEEKEND. So I spent most of Thursday checking and packing up my camping/race gear and getting it ready for the upcoming weekend. I set myself up to be self sufficient for the weekend, and brought a little extra just in case.

2014-05-16 06.53.21

…And, like an omen, my new book Came in the mail…2014-05-15 15.54.04

 

I had a great sushi lunch with Mrs MuddyJ, and hit the road to head up to the venue and set up my camp. It was easy to find, and since I had registered via the RPR website to camp, check-in was a breeze. I found a suitable spot for Camp MuddyJ  under a tree and set about pitching my tent. The campsite area looked to have been cleared recently, and there were thorns and cactus needles all over the place, so I donned my “J”uaraches as I worked.

As an afterthought, I had packed my rickshaw-just in case I had to park far away from my campsite. This wound up being extremely useful to gather firewood and stones to build a fire pit. As I was doing so, I met my camp neighbors and introduced myself… and it turned out those in the immediate vicinity were either fellow Team RWB members, or fellow members of the Lone Star Spartans– a proud group of OCR fanatics who laid claim to the largest team tent of the event… with over 250 race entrants on both days…more about them in a little bit….anyway….here’s what camp MuddyJ wound up looking like….

 

With the campsite set, and my weekend campsite companions Red and Kristie still en route,  a fellow LSS member and camp neighbor, BJ, and I carpooled to the pre-race “carb up” dinner hosted by Mad Dawg Fitness, a local crossfit gym located in Burnet.

We got there with ease, only getting turned around a few times parked and went inside. I recognized a lot of folks I had met at previous OCR events, and it was great to be around such a large group of people that were so obviously enthusiastic about getting muddy. My usual anxiety kept me close to the edges of the room, but since it was a crossfit gym and had large doors, I was mostly at ease, taking time to chat with friends and make some new ones.

I was standing outside the main door when yet another car pulled in, and I was shocked to see none other than Hobie Call, Spartan racer extraordinaire and all around badass exit the passenger’s side… I extended my hand as he walked up to the loading dock I was standing on an hopped up.

“Hobie Call”, I started, shaking his hand as he stood up on the dock,” welcome to Texas dude.”

…and just like that, I had met yet another a living legend via obstacle racing….(the first one being a childhood hero by the name of Dan Nitro Clark)

Eventually, my new friend and I headed back to camp. I got there just in time to meet Red, as Kristie, our other friend, had already arrived and was busy setting up her tent. I had noticed a large pile of square granite pieces on our drive out, and I took my rickshaw up the hill to grab some…allowing me to make our camp’s firepit a little on the ridiculous side….

We got a fire going and started chatting as I finished checking my gear for the next morning Hurricane Heat. For those unfamiliar with the Hurricane Heat, here’s an excerpt from the email I received a few days before the event:

Come prepared to “figure it out.”

For those of you that don’t already know, the Hurricane Heat started in August of 2011, when Hurricane Irene forced the cancellation of our Sunday program at Amesbury, Massachusetts.  Even with thousands of bummed out racers, no one was more devastated than our founder, Joe De Sena.  So, he gathered 150 athletes and Spartan staffers at 5:30am on Saturday morning, handed them some sandbags, did a boatload of burpees, and proceeded to spend more than 3 hours covering less than 4 miles.  Needless to say, there were some very tired people when we got done.

30 days later, we decided to have a Hurricane Heat at every event in 2012, and we’ve kept that tradition rolling straight through 2013 and now into 2014 .

The email the quote above came from also included a packing list of mandatory gear and instructions:

Important

Everyone should arrive at Reveille Peak Ranch, 105 CR 114 Burnet, TX 78611on Saturday morning no later than 5:15am.  We’ll be warming up at 5:30am and heading out on course at 6:00am sharp. Be dressed and ready to go.

All Hurricane Heaters should remain in the parking lot and wait for others to arrive. Our Hurricane Heat Leaders will be there to greet you. Look for other people arriving for HH-052. Say hello.

There IS a mandatory gear list, see below. You and/or your teammates MUST bring these items with you on Saturday morning.

Mandatory Gear List:

-All athletes MUST wear a black shirt. Can be a t-shirt, sports bra, tank top, whatever you want, but it must be black.

-1 Headlamp (per person). It will be dark when we start.

-1 Black Sharpie Marker per athlete.

-1 Camelback, backpack, ruck, purse, whatever you want to call it. You must be able to carry your own water supply.

-4 Salt/electrolyte packets. If you start to cramp up, eat the packets and drink some water.

-2-4 energy gel shots or energy bars, whichever flavor you prefer.

-Hunting Knife (K-bar or similar)

-Know how to make this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VgzMsz3dPM#t=50

 

*Each team that does not have a required item will start their day with many, many burpees.

It’s going to be wet and muddy, and it may be chilly in the morning. Please come prepared. Bring a change of clothes for when we’re done.

We’ll provide the rest of the equipment.

NOTE:  We DO NOT use bib numbers or timing chips at the Hurricane Heat, so don’t worry about that.

I tried to fall asleep early, but with my excitement over the pending day mounting, it was useless…this pretty much sums it up:

10378950_10203294028178673_4293717810780120129_nUnable to sleep, I got up and chatted with my camp-mates a bit as we sat around the fire roasting bratwurst links over the flames of our fire… I downed a few, figuring I would probably do a decent job of burning the calories off the next day… (spoiler alert: I did) Around 2300, I finally felt a little drowsy and settled in to watch some classic episodes of Doctor Who I have saved on my phone… good ol’ William Hartnell’s portrayal of the doctor had me sleeping in no time at all, comfortable in my cot and snug in my sleeping bag.

At 0400 I was again wide awake. I poured water into a pre-measured supplement shake I had prepared the day before. As the pre-workout pump took the place of my usual AM coffee, the excitement of the day to come took over any leftover sleepiness and I was dressed and ready to rock by 0415…and I still had a whole 5 minutes to go before my alarm was set to go off… I sent Mrs MuddyJ a text message, let the Facebook world know I was going to be AFK for the day and turned off my phone.

I donned the BCG hydration pack I had purchased at Academy sports in response to the packing list, within it, checked and double checked and triple checked, lay all the supplies I would need as per the HH-052 packing list, as well as a few items I thought would be good to have just in case (an extra headlamp, some para-cord/gauze wrapped in plastic bags/ a gerber multi-tool and a few bandannas)..  I donned my trusty ancient KSO’s and my black tech-tee and stepped out of my tent into the cool morning air.

Mere mortal words cannot describe the beauty this morning held… the only unnatural sounds were fellow Spartans waking up, and the moon overhead was so big and bright I didn’t need my headlamp at all- I could see as if the sun were up. I trotted up to the port-o-potties and voided myself (the final prep of any pre-race ritual) and set off at a trot to the starting area of the Hurricane Heat. It was 430 in the morning, and I had measured the distance from my tent to the general starting area to be about 3 miles…and I honestly couldn’t think  a better way to get my blood flowing in the morning, dispel any pre-race jitters and actually get where I was going then to run a nice and easy 5k warm-up….

I ran along the dark and lonely isolated country roads in solemn and complete silence. The only sounds I heard after leaving the camping area were the occasional were the soft padding of my nearly bare feet upon the road, my own breathing, and the occasional windblown rustle in the branches of the trees at the edge of the road. I kept to the blacktop and scanned the road so I wouldn’t happen upon a dozing Diamondback or Copperhead warming itself on the asphalt against the cool of the night….. but beyond that, my mind cleared and I found my happy place running in the silent and meditative solitude of the brightly moonlit morning, only turning on my flash light when the occasional car approached. I hit the main road and made a right hand turn to run the final mile to the venue. I ran up to an attendant, expecting to be waved past…only to be stopped…

“Hey, uh…isn’t the Hurricane Heat supposed to start here?” I inquired.

“Hurricane Heat? naw…man…. that’s about 5-6 miles down the road in the parking area, about a mile off the road once you get there….”

“Oh….shit what time is it”

…”about 5-510″

I took off back down the road I had come in on…doing the math as I went… I had to cover another 7 miles in the next 20-30 minutes….

…that wasn’t gonna happen… but I RAN ON AND PRAYED… thinking the worst that could happen was that I would either miss it completely, or be “THE LATE GUY”-i wasn’t quite sure which might be worse…

Thankfully, providence and good fortune were on my side. My camp site neighbour and I had chatted briefly in the morning, and when she had gotten dropped off by her husband to the starting area and not seen me, she mentioned it to him and he set out to find me…and 15 minutes and about 2 miles of running later, he found me and offered me a ride…

Which I gratefully accepted… Thanks again dude… you are AWESOME!

We turned into the parking area, and hit a wall of taillights… not wanting this generous guy to have to wait 20 more minutes in his car to cover a distance I could cover on foot in much less time, I hopped out, thanked him again, and ran the final 1/2 mile to the starting area, lit by generators, with a few rather intimidating characters wearing blue “Spartan Race STAFF” shirts.

Now,  I realize that intimidating is a relative term… so to describe these guys…well… these guys were intimidating in that they came off as being the bi-product of the insanely unholy and secret union of Jillian Michaels and R. Lee Ermy: Half Drill Sargent of all Drill Sargents, Half Personal Trainer from hell and ALL BADASS….like they were brewed from the distilled essence of real-life heroes with a dab of mythical legendary figure thrown in… Joe De Sena must hand-pick these guys…

I fished out my waivers and ID from the plastic bag I had stowed them in as I walked and checked in with a 300 movie cast member look-a-like ….I now know him as Tony M., but at the time, he was just an imposing figure standing half in the shadows taking waivers and checking in participants against a master list… I hurried over to the port-o-potties for a final bladder release and joined the ever growing skirmish line of Spartan Racers doing warm-ups being led by a man I now know as Johnny Z.

….you can see my orange wrapped head to the left in the picture below:

2014-05-18 01.42.31There was a dazzling and mind-boggling array of different people in the crowd… military, veterans, civilians, cross-fitters, marathoners, seasoned Spartan racers and OCR newbies… the only thing every single one of us had in common was that we were all present, and no one had any fucking idea what we had gotten ourselves into. I shook hands with friends I had made at other races, took more than a few “holy shit…you’re wearing shoes…sort of…” comments, and generally began to feel at ease knowing that I was not the only one experiencing a twinge of…well..not fear….less than fear…but not exactly excitement… I can’t really think of a word… but that’s how I felt… and so did everyone I talked to…which made me feel better….

As the start time approached, we continued doing some warm-ups, and at precisely 0600 hours, the attitude of the cadre shifted from “hey, don’t be scared, this is going to be FUN!” to “Welcome to the HELL you signed up for this morning Ladies and GERMS…ITS TIME TO GET FUCKING STARTED ” (they didn’t actually say those words, but the former soldier inside of me woke up when they formed us into lines resembling a military formation, and that’s what that part of me heard….)

We counted off by ones to get an accurate number, then by 8’s…1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8…1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8….1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9…

“damnit…everybody do burpees…in unison…. on my cadence… “

Not to sound high and mighty… but the military and veterans in attendance picked this up immediately… it was truly nothing new to us… a few harsh whispers and comments were aimed at those who screwed up the count, but I would like to think those were uttered by people without a military background- cause I knew from experience that during the early moments of this dance – if an excuse wasn’t found to put us in the dirt, an excuse would be made up… we were there to get smoked… and they were there to smoke our asses like a bunch of day-zero privates fresh off the bus and just out of the barber’s chair….it was simply going to be the game… and some of us had a leg up…not that it did any of us that much good…

It was made obvious, that for any of us now in attendance quitting was not an option… Every one class is different, but The Hurricane Heat is steeped in a single tradition-EVERYONE FINISHES…either everyone who starts crosses the finish line together, or no one finishes. All for one-One for all.

We were sorted into Teams by number… and I had counted off a “2” I found my group of fellow “2’s” and we gathered in a circle…I was happy to find I wound up in a formidable looking group…with quite a few Lone Star Spartans in attendance…among them was Paul…one of the founders of the team. A call went out from the cadre to elect a team leader, and all fingers pointed directly to Paul…. and next came a Team name: We chose the incredibly simple and elegant name: “DEUCES”- for the rest of our time together we were a team… and not too bad a team at that..

We set off down the trails, responsible for our teams… Paul knew me, so he had no problem assigning me to a caboose position….simply put… it was my job to make sure none of our team got left behind… We set off at a trot, and the Deuces took up the back of the line. The pace was easy, and I took the running time to learn a bit about the young man running next to me… and young he was…barely 17, a high school senior.. and soon to have bragging rights about being a super badass… not bad for a weekend kid…not bad at all…

Looking back on it with the 20/20 clarity which hind-sight offers, I am conflicted now as to how much detail I want to go into about The Hurricane Heat…. part of me wants to brag about the feats of strength and endurance we all accomplished as a team, even though many of us had never met, and might never meet again…

…but the other side of me wants you (the reader) to yearn to know it so much that you go and do your own…

..oh, and I did manage to keep my shoes for a little over an hour….then we did some trail running indian sprints…and they had to go, and from there out I was naked footed all the way…for the rest of the day…

We were pushed physically and mentally, and punished physically and mentally…

The pictures below tell some of the story:

We hit the course at an angle…and we were never certain which way was out…or when it would even end… all we all knew was that each of us wanted to earn the right to brag that we had completed a Spartan Hurricane Heat…

Here’s a few Highlights:

  • We had to carve a canteen from a Prickly Pear Cactus frond while on the run…literally…run and scrape and pick cactus needles out of your hands…..
  • When one member of a team cramped and couldn’t run, he or she was then carried… and if one team had to carry one team mate.. ALL teams did…
  • We passed a 300+ pound tractor tire over our heads through the festival area, but those touching it were not allowed to walk, so each time it was passed, the passers had to run from the back of the line up to the front to pas it again… and again… and again…
  • We stood in frigid muddy water up to our chests singing the SpongeBob Squarepants Showtune, screaming A-roo! A-roo! A-roo! at the top of our lungs and reciting the Warrior ethos
  • The Tunnel of Love…’nuff said…
  • A workout in the center of the festival…something like 75 burpees, with squats and push-ups thrown in for good measure….
  • We stacked wood…. lots of wood….

… and we loved every second of it…and then it was over… our journey went from 0530 to around 1015 and took us over parts of the course, but didn’t offer any semblance of a “preview”…

…oh, and 1015 was only 15 minutes before my assigned wave with the Lone Star Spartans was set to begin…at 1030….

… but that story belongs to part 2 of this weekend’s epic tale….

Part 2 Coming Soon…..

Stay Muddy My Friends!

Texas MuddyJ

 

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