Two weeks after my Agoge DNS and I’m back at the beginning of another Spartan Endurance event – the HH12HR – an event designed to test every facet of your mental, intellectual and physical abilities through the use of mental challenges, non-linear problem solving, morality, as well as teamwork and individual performance under physical duress.
No easy task after the relative disappointment of two weeks before. I’d deliberately let my training be light between the two weeks, partly trusting the conditioning work of the previous few months leading to these events, and partly not feeling up for the challenge.
Some swift words and exploratory conversations with people I trust helped me to define my mantra for this event – “I am strong. I am capable. This is for me”, and I went in focused.
As we began at 6.00pm, these words started to play as we began the PT, containing firemans carries, bear crawls, casualty drags, backwards bear crawls, hill repeats, over and over again for nearly 3 hours.
People started to drop out, leaving their self-made tombstones as a marker of the time they drew a line in the sand for their event.
Packs on (~13kg for men, ~9kg for women), we set off for the first teamworking challenge – relocate 60-80 haybales one mile from their current home to begin making the monument in the middle of the festival area.
Oliver suggests we move the bales in distance shifts, covering 20% of the distance each time with all bales, before starting the next block. Slowly but surely we get everything back.
Next up more PT, mental challenges, punishment for failing the challenges, before our first individual time hack to a rope climb. Miss the deadline, time to mark your tombstone.
Making that time hack comfortably, on to 200+ burpees and the ‘stories’ of the Krypteia, how they like this bit to get a rest, make a bet of a meal on someone to quit, etcetera etcetera.
Next up, the first heavy challenge. 3 telegraph poles. First movement with it, then move it under 50 metres of uphill barbed wire crawl, then PT with the log. Teamwork and communication skills being developed, tested and honed by the group, with the call to move the log being excellently lead by one of the ladies in the team.
After that, time to rehome those logs on top of the monument…nearly 2 miles away! A herculean team effort keeps each log moving, switching, rotating positions to keep arms fresh as possible and spirits up as best as possible.
It’s approximately 4.00am, we’re given a 10 minute break before the next individual time hack – visit the cinder block pull 1-mile away, return with one block, 25 minute time. Miss the time = tombstone time.
Losing nearly half of the group, 26 are left to take on the final block of challenges. And with a good 20 minute break, there’s time to catch some breath and gather thoughts.
First, complete the ninja rings with the packs on. Fail. 30 burpees to the total. Double or quits on the last man, and after a sterling effort, we owe the Krypteia 600 burpees.
Second, as a group, move 8 truck and tractor tyres of various sizes a mile, then send 150 car tyres around the loop (including 20% gradient incline and decline).
Finally, a ‘lifeline’. If we agree to do one hydro-burpee each in the river, only 3 tractor tyres and 4 logs need to return to the monument one mile away, without putting anything down.
The 26 battle through, get the job done, and begin the final challenge – burpees…600 burpees.
First 100 with the pack on, then onwards without the weight of the pack, but the mental weight of the challenge and the nearing pot of gold weighs so much heavier.
150 in and my body starts to feel broken. Form is going, and the Krypteia are noticing…160…this is getting difficult…170…I’m wobbling…where can I get support…there’s no-one near me…180…this is getting ridiculous…190…what am I going to do…
And then, in one swift moment, I decide now is my time. I bend down, pick up my bag and tombstone, and draw my line. I can’t pick up my body any more. I’m broken. Physically and mentally in almost every way possible.
Little did the remaining 24 or I know they would have to finish all 600 before burning their tombstones, and crossing the finish line. But for those 24, the sensation was no doubt incredible.
It’s never easy missing a goal or target you set yourself. The feeling wretches at first, then comes the frustration, then comes the reflection, then comes the disappointment, then the learning.
After the events in Skye two weeks prior, I’d set out to prove to myself “I am strong. I am capable. This is for me”, and for 95% of the challenges laid before us, I managed this.
However, this is a tier 1 Spartan event. The crème de la crème of what Spartan have to offer. In my experience, high difficulty events require everything to be in place to achieve the successful outcome.
Physical training has to be tailored to the needs of the event. For this, strength in both ability to lift weight as well as have a strong engine to retain movement are key.
Mentally, it’s about being prepared to manage oneself, one’s energy levels, but crucially recognise that the tasks can’t all be completed individually, and the ability to collaborate, communication and conjugate together in order to efficiently and effectively complete the tasks at hand.
But, this is where I slipped up. I didn’t use the down time after the second time hack effectively. I rested, which yes I needed. However, I didn’t use the time to acknowledge the position I’d reached, and refocus on my goals for the remainder of the event.
I also didn’t feel hungry, so I didn’t eat. In previous endurance events, a sound nutritional plan was key, providing fuel to keep on going. Not eating meant I was running on empty. In short, I’d bonked, I’d hit the wall.
I loved the event. I loved the challenge. I loved the team I was part of. I also loved the acute reminder that in order to succeed in endurance, it’s about the preparation, it’s about the self-awareness, and it’s about retaining the focus on yourself and your condition throughout, no matter the circumstance.