Six months ago I made a questionable decision and signed up for a HH12HR. If you have been reading my blog then you know the last six months for me have been wrecked with injuries, over training, and a few coaching changes. In fact three weeks before this event I was unable to stand up straight and had to go on steroids to reduce inflammation in my back. I spent two weeks on complete rest and tackled the PA Super on tanked cardio. I survived with minimal issues and decided to tackle the HH12HR with some light training the week of.
That morning my alarm went off at 2:45am and I met up with my friend from the gym at 4am to head to Blue Mountain. We were greeted by lightning which had the whole venue on lock-down. Luckily the storm passed and we were able to start at 8am instead of 7am. The storm left very hot, very humid weather for us to enjoy. 29 souls were brave enough to show up for this event, only 3 of which were women. We began at the start line and watched the Elite males fly past us up the hill as we headed over to the ski lift area with a bucket.
When all four groups reached the Z wall area we were told to line up in two lines to count off. This was a disaster and Rob and Dylan punished us with feet on the tire push-ups, with ruck bags on. I could barely move up and down. We lined up and counted off. It took us a few times to get this right, but we learned pretty fast to do what was instructed and as fast as possible. We learned to FFIO (f'ing figure it out) when Rob started counting down.
A veteran HH'er became our leader and kept us in line, teaching the newbie’s the Warrior Ethos and setting an inspirational example throughout the day. As we marched back past the ponds we were yelling out the Warrior Ethos. We repeated the Ethos over and over all day. At one point I wanted to kill our leader as we were going uphill and I could barely catch my breath trying to mutter those words. But I will say it again – he is a complete inspiration and showed outstanding leadership and teamwork throughout the day. Hats off to you Sir. And that Ethos really did help us mentally.
By this time I had noticed my back injury pretty frequently. My left SI joint was giving me an issue. It was so early in the day and I was afraid it would get worse and I’d have to make a decision about continuing. All I wanted was the ibuprofen sitting in my bucket. Next we started our first major uphill climb of the day. It was the first hill in the race (after the warm up hill). It was rocky and long. I tried not to look up and just keep pace with the HH’er in front of me. Every time I paused and started contemplating my abilities the HH’er with a bandanna behind me would say, “You got this girl.” It was the perfect amount of encouragement to help me up that hill.
As I came out of the woods and realized we were actually completing this obstacle with our rucks on my eyes probably tripled in size. I stood in line not even processing the task. I had only completed this obstacle successfully a week ago during the Super – without 25ish pounds strapped to my back. I grabbed the rope and swung my legs up, hooking my ankles and started putting one hand in front of the other. I think I got about two thirds of the way through before realizing I could actually do it. I left out a few painful sounds and just kept pushing. I reached out and hit that bell before losing my grip and crashing to the ground, landing on my ruck with my lower back hitting the two 5lb weight plates in it. My right leg cramped and my teammates helped pull me out of the way. The fist-bumps and hugs were all I needed, I couldn’t believe I had just completed that.
When everyone finished we all took off running to the pond with tennis balls in it. Standing about 6 inches into the muddy water we started doing PT. Push-ups with our rucks on, our faces being submerged into the water. Flutter kicks with our feet hitting the water. Modified movements were the best I could muster and I was slightly relieved to realize the men beside me were doing the same. I had been nervous I would hold up the group or get called out for slacking, unable to fully complete tasks. Rob and Dylan pushed us and demanded everything we had. Our group bonded so fast; we encouraged and helped each other throughout the day. We then waded out into the chest deep water to retrieve our tennis balls. Lining up again we put them in our rucks and headed back towards that first hill climb.
We headed sideways on the course and came out to a ski slope. Up or down? What a silly thing to even think. Up it was. But not just up, bear crawl up. I stopped to check on one of the other girls who had collapsed unable to feel her face. She had been dry heaving earlier, I motioned Rob to come over before continuing. I took a few breaks before reaching the top where we were rewarded with a water station. We refilled our packs and I dumped a few cups of water on my head. We headed back down the mountain to get hosed by the barb wire again.
A little PT and Ethos chanting before heading back to the large tires. This time we had to divide into two groups to carry much heavier tires. The groups split up unevenly and the first crew made their way pretty quickly with some of the strongest athletes. My group struggled a lot. Even though there were more bodies to carry the tire, we all couldn’t fit under it to help. We originally passed off rucks to help those carrying the tire have less weight. However, it made it next to impossible to then swap out with them. I was carrying one, sometimes two, extra rucks as I tried to help guide the group to avoid holes and rocks.
We lined up in front of our buckets and took off our rucks, our food pile just staring up at us. We then took our shoes off. We placed them in our buckets and picked up our wood. We walked across the stones of the venue in two lines to an open field where the sun beat down on us. As we counted off we realized we were missing a HH'er. Turns out he took his supplies and left his bucket and wood at the ski lift. Two down before the individual test. At the field we were given a wonderful speech by an Army Ranger about the Ranger Creed. They attempted to spray us down with some sunscreen but we were already burnt to a crisp and sweating profusely.
Somehow I made it up the warm-up hill of the course and headed to the logs. Got over the first one myself and grabbed a boost from a HH'er over the second one. And then I began falling behind. Uphills are my weakness. Add in everything I had done that day, the pain throbbing in my back, and I knew this was going to turn into a massive battle. My friend “Philly”, who I knew before the HH12HR, and I fell behind a larger group. There were two behind us, the girl was pulled by medical as she was puking up the food she just ate. The course sweeper caught up to the three of us at the first rocky incline.
Philly came over and I told him what the course sweeper said, but he decided to chase him down. I couldn’t move. I saw the course sweeper waving Philly back down the hill as medical pulled up and started asking questions. The course sweeper radioed in that they would get Philly at the next obstacle. I felt torn wondering if I had misunderstood what the course sweeper had told me. Wondering if I put up a fight or tried to go with Philly if they would just pull us both right there. Did I just accept defeat? Damn my inability to stand up to authority. My day was over. I wrestled with this scene for a few days after the event.
It ate me up. I resolved to find it an unanswered prayer. I was not physically prepared to take on that day, and my body was on its way to breaking. My quads were starting to cease up like they did in the Super the weekend before, making it almost impossible to finish the last mile of that race. My back was killing me and I honestly had foolishly accepted the fact that I might not be able to walk the next day. There is no guarantee I would have made it 300 more yards on that course or made it through without serious injury. As my coach told me - do not waste time and energy on things you can not change. I did not ask to stop or be pulled off the course. I gave it my all until I was told I was done. I take my DNQ (did not quit/qualify) with pride. I did what I set out to do. I pushed myself further than I had ever thought I would make it. I made it up that hill three times. I kept pace with the group. I made it over the cargo net twice and the Tyrolean Traverse once, all with my ruck bag. I made it 7.5 hours with only taking in a protein bar as fuel.
I can't even begin to describe all the lessons I learned that day. I tried to cover a few here, and I hope this inspired even just one person to step as far out of their comfort zone as possible and see what happens. My meaningful word on my 3x5 card was "Perspective", because I signed up for this event to push my limits and get out of my comfort zone. It did both of those things, and changed my perspective immensely.
I want to give a huge shout out to Rob and Dylan for leading us and pushing us towards greatness. I want to give a shout out to the two ladies brave enough to take on this challenge with me. And I want to thank all of the men who treated us like equals the entire day. The teamwork and fight each individual showed bonded us all within a few short hours. The emotional strain of the day became apparent to me as I experienced depression and anxiety the days following the event, which are not normal things for me.
Looking forward, I will definitely return to a HH12HR. The desire is real and it is deeply rooted. These types of challenges appeal to my core and I am determined to find how far I can go. The experience was one of the best adrenaline rushes of my life, and the atmosphere has me dying to do it again and again. However, I have resolved to postpone another HH12HR until I have made dramatic improvements to my abilities. I have lessons to rehash, pounds to drop, muscles to gain, and endurance to increase. Those improvements will take longer than a month or two to make. I owe it to my future team, and myself, to return a stronger athlete and teammate: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Looking back I realized how the top 8 acted during the team portion. They were the guys leading, pulling the weight, and helping their struggling teammates. The rest of us were really just surviving. I want to reach the next level, to better myself and to better assist my team. Don't you worry, I will definitely be back.
One last big AROO to my HH12HR-X crew. I was so honored to endure the day with you amazing Spartans. I wish you all the best of luck as you take this event and let it shape your life. As Rob said, "You have done some thing, now go and do something".