Upon checking into class 020 I was greeted by a few familiar faces from the winter Agoge 001 and wondered what Tony Matesi had in store for us all night. We immediately went into the warm-up; 300 burpees in unison with all 29 participants who began the endurance event. I thought, find your happy place, we’re going to be here for a while. My main concern wasn’t actually the burpees, but the heat and humidity. After the first 100 I was already completely soaked with sweat and making a mini mud pit when hitting the ground on the push up portion of the burpee. I was trying to conserve water being you never know when the Krypteia will let you refill. I’ve heard that during most events they even take all your food so I was prepared for anything, but had already crushed more than half my camelback of water. I felt at the time it would be more important to hydrate early and worry about water later.
With the 300 burpees complete most everyone was already black* on water so we were given three minutes to quickly refill our supply which was awesome and a huge relief. (*in the military we report equipment status in colors; green, amber, red, and black) After the warm-up the course wasn’t quite ready for us yet, so what did we do in the meantime? More burpees of course! The call finally came in for us to hit the course after 50 more burpees and we were off to the rope climb.
At the rope climb we were instructed to figure out a system to get a code from the top of the rope climb that was written on a piece of paper. Now what makes a Spartan Endurance event such a unique experience is the many levels of interpretation when given a task to complete. There are some people who will only focus on the exact task and others who think outside the box about the best way to complete a task given each and every resource you have available. Those are the type of people you want to surround yourself with. In my opinion being street smart, having common since, and creativity always win over book smart intelligence.
To make our task easier, instead of each one of us climbing the rope we worked as a team and sent one person up the support beam which is easy to climb like a ladder. They then called off the codes for each of us. Now we weren’t just standing around but rather in the low squat position so time was of the essence. Once given your code it was to be memorized and the Krypteia could ask you at any time to recite it. The penalty for not knowing your code was 30 burpees.
After our first task was complete we walked for about a mile to a pile of very large telephone poles. We split into two teams and were given the task to carry the pole as a team until told to stop. At first the team was working great together, but as we continued to move down the road the heat and humidity topped with a race that day started to take a toll on some. I stepped out to offer some electrolytes to one of the guys and some crackers; others were passing down mustard packets. But before we knew it there were three people dropped for medical due to excessive cramping and dehydration. That certainly wasn’t good and just made it harder for those left to complete the task. Lesson to learn there, come prepared; especially when other people are relying on you.
Our team had a good rotation going with the log with most people carrying it and some walking with double backpacks to offset the weight. We finally got to the finish point and started a tunnel of love race between the teams. So what is the tunnel of love? Each person is in a long line holding the high plank position while the person at the end starts crawling through the tunnel until they reach the end. Then that person rejoins the tunnel until everyone reaches the end. We were able to win this task and got a bit of a rest while waiting for the other team to finish.
From there we started on the trek back to the base station by way of the final miles of the race course. To my surprise the trail was like night and day from the conditions I ran earlier that morning. The mud was literally knee deep in areas and it wasn’t watery mud, but real sticky thick mud. I saw numerous shoes abandoned on the trail and imagined what it would be like doing the rest of the course barefoot. I took a mental note to ensure I made my laces super tight before the sprint start just 8 hours away, and knew that little piece of information might pay off big. Once we arrived at the base station the team portion of the event was over and it was time to move on to the individual portion.
Traditionally there are only about 40% of the participants who start that make it past the individual tasks and are able to finish the 12 HR HH. However, you never really know where you are in that 40% so it’s just best to go big and hope for the best. Our task was to memorize a point on a map that we would have to travel to. If you’ve ever done any type of land navigation you know it’s already difficult with a map, now imagine taking that away in an unfamiliar environment. I studied the map and decided to use certain obstacles as little bread crumbs or attack points to get me to the first point which was about two miles away. Right around midnight we were off and I started running by myself along the route in my head. I was definitely having flashbacks to a few months prior during the night land navigation portion of the Best Ranger Competition. However, I was confident after winning that portion of the competition, trekking almost 30 miles cross country with a 50lbs ruck.
I arrived at the first point well ahead of the predicted time where I picked up one of the two five gallon buckets on the packing list. I took a look at the map and figured out the route to the second point and was off. While on this leg of the trip I began to think about what was going on, we were going to all these points to retrieve pieces to build something. Well upon reaching my third point I realized what we had to do. With the two five gallon buckets and six foot 2×4 I was given the task to carry about ten gallons of water back to the start point over 2 miles away. Obviously there was some other creative thinking that needed to be applied to do this successfully. I filled the buckets and used the duct tape from our packing list to make lids so the water wouldn’t splash out while walking. I then used the handles and tape to attach them to the board and my apparatus was finished. Two 5 gallon bucket fully of water balanced by a 2×4 and resting on my shoulders; the next two miles would not be fun. I started to move out down the road and used my arms to help keep the buckets stable. I decided to go as long as I could before taking a break but only made it about half a mile before finding a picnic table to rest the buckets on so I wouldn’t have to lower them all the way to the ground.
At this point I hadn’t stopped to eat anything so I thought it best to slam down an MRE and chug some water. I didn’t see anyone around so I figured I was good on time. The last mile and a half seemed to take forever but I muscled through it and reached the base station not knowing what was next. I quickly found out that two more points were still out there and for the next one I was going to have to carry two logs back. Although, the point was only half the distance as the bucket carry so that was a bit of a relief. I headed out and got to see some of the other participants coming in with their buckets. There were some interesting designs that incorporated the 550 cord on the packing list to drop the buckets lower so when you went to set them down it was much easier. Certainly would have done that looking back, but my system worked and I now had to focus on the best way to carry the two logs. I just taped them together and threw them on my shoulders thinking my backpack would support a lot of the weight as well. That seemed to work just fine and after about a mile I was back at base camp and ready to take on my last point. The final point was awesome, no backpack and the item you had to retrieve was a sticker. I was like, I can totally do this! The only stipulation was that this point was a little tricky to find, but I remember it was right by the Spartan Rig so I started running that way. It took a little searching once I arrived, but I found the sticker “I’m training for a Spartan Agoge” and started making my way back.
Once I got back to base camp I showed my sticker to Tony and thought to myself, either pushing the pace to do all those tasks fast is going to hurt me depending on what the next task is, or I might get some rest before tomorrow’s race. Well hard work pays off and Tony said I would have at least an hour and a half before moving on with the 14 others that made the cut. However, what I didn’t think about was how cold I was about to get. Lucky for me the fire jump was still smoking a bit so I went over and bunched up all the wood I could find until a little fire started. I sat there for a bit until I got dry and then thought it best to try and take a nap. I went back over by the stage and found a spot that was blocking all the wind and laid down. I might have slept for all of 10 minutes but was mainly shivering and trying to stay warm.
Tony called everyone over and told us we were the group who completed the individual task and to prepare for the next task. The next few hours were filled with moving logs, burpees with our backpacks, circuit sets on the Spartan Rig, a great yoga session, and just when I thought he had forgotten; the memory test. Well Tony didn’t stump me, I nailed it so we didn’t have to do more burpees which was a good feeling considering I was about to toe the line for the Sprint. We went into our after action review and only 5 minutes into it I started to hear everyone lining up for the sprint start. I told Tony and the rest of the group that I had to get going if I wanted to make the start as the National Anthem was being sung. I literally walked up as Rob Lyday was going through the Spartan intro and I got an amazing welcome from everyone at the start. Seconds later, we were off!
A big thanks to all my sponsors who make it possible for me to represent the USA at Spartan Race and other OCR events. Ascent Protein: for rapidly helping to rebuild muscle with the new benchmark in protein purity. HyperWear: for the one of a kind Hyper Vest Pro and SandBells keeping me ready for those heavy carries. CeraSport: for electrolyte support. Tailwind Nutrition: for fueling me during the Spartan Endurance Hurricane Heat. WearBands: for the great resistance system keeping my legs strong. Mudgear: for the best socks. Reebok: for the all-terrain Super ORs keeping me in contact with the ground.