All pictures are used by permission and were taken by Luis Alberto Iniguez Farias. Special thanks to him for following us around all night, to the medical staff that kept us safe, all of the volunteers that made the event a memorable experience, and especially to the Krypteia for the Hurricane Heat; Cody Allen, Dingo Dominguez, and Map Dominguez. The guy with the bright orange camelback in the pictures...that's me.
Maybe you’ve never heard of the “Hurricane Heat,” it’s been pretty clear to me over the past few weeks, and especially after my Hurricane Heat was over that most people don’t really know what it entails and what it means. Lots of people I know, that know that I do Spartan Races, ask me “How did the race go?” I respond that it’s not exactly a race. It gets even worse for people who don’t know what a Spartan Race is in the first place.
The Hurricane Heat is touted by the Spartan Race Series as a team based event that is harder than a regular Spartan Race that takes place both on and off the regular Spartan course. The best way I can describe it: An actual hands-on Personal Development seminar (think “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero; “No Excuses” by Brian Tracy; “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek) that lasts for 4+ hours, where instead of just being told or reading how to push past limits and fears to become a better person you get to experience it first-hand, sometimes face-down in the dirt. It does take the right attitude and mind-set going in. There are likely some people who try it and hate it, but from what I’ve seen almost everyone who completes a Hurricane Heat has an exceptional time and can’t wait for their next event.
So, it’s not a race, although there are some “race” elements incorporated into it, and while a goal is to just finish, the real goal is to spend a few hours surviving in-your-face personal development that refines you, adjusts your frame of reference, and makes you come out a better person. In the process you become exhausted, dirty, massively uncomfortable, and inspired.
Every Hurricane Heat is unique and different. They are led by a “Krypteia,” and there are a bunch of
volunteers and Spartan Staff who assist in executing each one. The events themselves are planned out in depth and in advance by the Krypteia to take advantage of the unique terrain of each venue and also to provide a unique and unforgettable experience. Our Krypteia was Cody Allen. About a week before the Hurricane Heat a gear list is emailed out and a video explaining it is posted on facebook in the Spartan Hurricane Heat group. Pretty much every Hurricane Heat has some basic gear (hydration pack, glow lights, head lamp, black sharpie) and some venue specific gear. For our special gear, Krypteia Allen asked us each to bring rope attached to the ankles and wrists, two carabiners, and safety goggles that were painted completely black.
Since I was on a Caribbean cruise the week leading up to the Hurricane Heat and did not have any internet or cell phone service, I didn’t find out what the gear list was until the night before, and had to hope that I could find everything the morning before, because, there will certainly be burpees and other unpleasantness in store for each missed item.
Luckily I was able to find everything at Wal-Mart in Las Vegas, and found an empty parking lot to paint the googles before I headed up to Mesquite. While the Hurricane Heat technically starts at 6:00 PM, we were told to be there no later than 4:50 PM to check in and to be ready to “warm-up” at 5:30 PM. Those late, or forgetting their waivers got burpees before they joined us.
The first half hour or so of warm up consisted of some jogging, some pushups and other exercises, and getting arranged into different lines and other “follow our ***** instructions” activities, which seemed mainly designed to get several of us focused on the task at hand instead of thinking we were there for some kind of refreshing picnic. Krypteia Allen’s main assistants were Dingo Dominguez and his brother, Map. There was lots of yelling and cursing as some of the people in our group had difficulty focusing. One thing that was made very clear was that any time we were resting, listening to instructions, waiting, etc., we were to be in a “horse-stance” which is basically a half-squat that burns the legs, especially when holding it for several minutes at a time, over and over during the course of several hours. We also were taught the “Warrior Ethos” (A will always place the mission first; I will never accept defeat; I will never quit; I will never leave a fallen comrade), which we would repeat many many times during the night.
Before long we were divided into two groups of 25 or so and we set off on a short jog to a pile of sandbags. We were told to get equal numbers of sandbags and after a few minutes of confusion and arguing amongst ourselves we got it figured out. After that was a short jog with the sandbags on our shoulders to across the road and out of the main venue area at the bottom of a hill. The Krypteia asked for two people to step forward to lead our groups and then pulled them aside and gave them some instructions on our next task. When Captains came back to give us instructions, there was a lot of confusion, but essentially we understood that we needed to get all of the sandbags (both the ones we had carried, and the remaining ones back at the start) to the top of the hill and piled up. First team with all of their sandbags at the top wins.
Taking the bags to the top of the hill was no joke. The ground was loose and every step up slid a bit back down, lots of dirt was getting inside of my shoes and my lungs were on fire. I was one of the first to the top and there was a bit of confusion as the two people in front of me just stacked their bags on the flag and then left. I saw the Captain of the other team come up and tell his team that their bags were supposed to be stacked on the right side of the flag. I hurried and moved the bags that were by the flag to the left side of the flag, and made sure that the next person from team 2 knew to put his bag on the left and that he should pass that on. Then I ran back down the hill to grab another bag.
When I got the second bag to the top of the hill, I noticed that there were several guys from team 2 standing around the pile of bags laughing and talking. It frustrated me a bit, because I felt like most of us were busting our butts as hard as we could to win, while those guys weren’t pulling their weight, but I decided not to say anything and just went back to the hill. This time, I found someone part way up the hill and took their bag, at the top of the hill, I handed it off to someone else, and went back for another. I grabbed one more from someone and took it up, as I was near the top, I looked down and saw that quite a few people were lining up at the bottom, waiting for the remaining few to finish with the bags. This time when I got to the top, I noticed that our pile of bags was not exactly organized, while team 1’s pile looked pretty good. Knowing that people were already lining up and there weren’t really any bags left, I booked it back down the hill and got in line.
Once everyone reached the bottom, the Krypteia informed us that one pile of bags looked like crap and so team 2 would be doing 30 burpees. I could tell our Captain was not doing well as our burpees were pretty slow, with lots of breaks. Several people from them team kept yelling encouragement to our Captain to keep going, but he looked almost dead. After we finished our burpees, and were given some pretty direct criticism of our lack of teamwork, the Krypteia picked a new Captain for our team.
Next we were taken to a pile of tires and told to pick a tire from the pile and then line up. I spent a few seconds and found a good medium sized tire. We lined up and shortly after moved out, sometimes at a light jog and sometimes at a fast walk. The trail was extremely dusty and dirty, making it hard to breathe and see. From what I could tell we were following the race course down toward the Virgin River. After a while the guy in front of my said he needed help. I offered to carry his tire for him, but he said he just wanted to trade. For some reason he had picked up a huge 4x4 tire that was probably twice as heavy as the one I had grabbed. I traded him tires, thankful that I wouldn’t have to carry 2 of them at the same time.
Sometime while we were carrying tires, Krypteia Dingo gave us a quote that he repeated several more times during the night. I’m pretty sure this is it, although I may be a word or two off: “I treat my body hard, and make it obey me. Having declared myself a participant, I will not be disqualified for reasons of my own negligence.”
Before too much longer we made it to the river. Here we got a quick break to eat something out of our packs before we went into the river with our tires. We were told to carry, drag, or whatever our tires, as long as our knees and hands were on the ground. I put my tire up on my back and balanced it there as I crawled down the river. It reminded me of crawling around my house with my daughter on my back. We crawled a good distance down the river and then came to some thick, sticky mud. We were told to either roll our tires or slide them through the mud. I do my best not to roll (get sick easily), so I decided to stick with pushing the tire through the mud.
After the mud we were told to stack our tires and then get in the water. The Krypteia pulled our Captains over and this time, they were to lead us in 21 hydro burpees, in unison. A hydro burpee is essentially a burpee done in the water. I personally found these to be a lot of fun.
We got out of the water and headed back toward the registration tent area of the course. Once we got there, they had us use our carabiners and ropes to attach ourselves together in groups of 3. The two on the outside put on their goggles, essentially becoming blind, and the person in the middle was responsible to guide. I was one of those with the goggles on. At first both our wrists and our ankles were attached and we had to maneuver our way through the registration tables and another distance. Once we’d arrived at the designated spot, we were able to take off our goggles for a minute and they let some people go use the restroom. Before long we reattached just our wrists and put the goggles back on. This time we had to climb over several huge tires, climb a hill, do a barbed wire crawl, and then make it back down a hill.
My group was one of the first ones down the hill and as we waited for the others to make it, they had us do a bunch of pushups. One of the staff said that if he caught one of us slacking off, we would be pulled and would be disqualified. I don’t think any of those that were there in the first groups had any intention of slacking off either way, but the reminder didn’t hurt. Once everyone else arrived, they told us to hit the next barb wire crawl as hard as we could. I did just that and plowed my way through. The ground under this barb-wire crawl was rock hard, and very uncomfortable, leaving scratches and bruises all over.
After the barbwire crawl we did some more “exercises” like squats and spin burpees. Then we were told to run through some mud pits and through the “dunk wall.” They then excused three of the group to go and do the 12 Hour Hurricane Heat which would be starting soon. I have to admit that I was a bit jealous, but also pretty sure that I wouldn’t have been able to last another 12 hours.
We were given so much good guidance, and then opportunities to put that guidance into immediate action and see the results. It’s one thing to read in a book that you need to push your limits to get better, and completely different to be told to push your limits, and then immediately be given 21 hydro burpees to test it out. Or to be told that its important to push your teammates and help them be their best, and then see the results when teammates push each other to be better.
I’ll certainly be doing more Hurricane Heats in the future and look forward to the day when I’m ready to take on the 12-hour Hurricane Heat. It feels good to have accomplished something that would have been physically impossible for me fifteen months ago. While it was certainly tough, the Hurricane Heat is something that pretty much anyone who wants to focus their training and attitude can complete.