A little context (for those who don't know me yet): I am a 27 part time French PT & SGX Coach, based in Singapore. I also happened to be a 5 ″ 2, 43 kg individual.
Sarawak's HH12hrs (HH12MY001) was my 3rd hurricane heat. I participated in 3hrs & 4hrs editions in Singapore in 2018 and 2019.
I wrote these lines on Monday morning that followed the HH weekend – the day after the incident, and I hadn't managed to get much sleep yet. I wanted – or rather need – to write about my experience while the memories were still alive and before I had taken the time to really think about it.
All photo credits: Abyss.life – Thanks for following us all night!
I know many readers don't understand "Why34 individuals would voluntarily spend a night like the one I'm describing – and even less, why would they pay before.
We all have a very personal reason for doing so, and of course it's not for everyone. I've seen people sign up and give up, and I can't blame them: it's lost both physically and mentally, and participants often end up in the darkest corners of their own heads. It is a very unique experience.
Hurricane Heats is eventilation openings organized by the Spartan Race, under the "Extreme Endurance" branch, and it is nothing like traditional Spartan Races.
Duration and format may vary, but some factors will never change:
They are not technically "races" – there is no distance to cover (you will find out only when you have done it), no finish line, no glory. There are points to earn, either individually or as a team – get enough of them and you have the right to "upgrade". They usually won't tell you how many you need – you play without knowing all the rules, which means you first have to decide how much you are ready to enter.
They are monitored by Krypteias – people who are responsible for providing instructions, counting points and testing boundaries for "students" – they make sure you stay out of your comfort zone, which is by all means necessary (and yes, that may mean they may not be pleasant against you and you can be called).
Finally, most challenges are deliberately absurd and incredibly difficult: you have to lift heavy things, crawl in the mud, run back and forth – and repeat the whole thing hundreds of times, for no rational reason – you get orders that you simply obey (although most of us will not accept meaningless orders in real life).
Learning is also part of the journey, but you only learn as much as you're willing to put in, I guess.
There are only three ways the event will end for each of the participants:
- Medical or voluntary waiver (DNF – Did not finish)
- Time cap for the entire event, without having accumulated the required number of points (DNG, or Didn't Graduate)
- Time cap for the entire event, after accumulating enough points, in which case you "Graduate".
There is no other alternative, and it is part of the first push.
Now that you (sort of) understand the concept, here are my views on HH12MY001 – unfiltered and pretty raw.
Gearing Up Before Storm
Unlike a normal race, there are many things to think through before D-Day. It is mandatory Gear List – which includes standard military items such as paracord, tape, compass, knife, etc., some dead weight (here, 8kg for women, 12kg for men), and always some special items – 2 red blocks for HH12MY001 & # 39; s Event. Choosing my dead weight was liquid cement flat in the bag – sometimes you have to get creative with those things.
Add this to 4L of water and 'food' (energy bars, gels, gummy bears) – my bag weighed about 23 kg – and I had an anxiety attack the first time I tried it in my hotel room before the event. You could say I'm pretty petite, and the prospect of carrying a bag that's half my weight for 12 hours was just petrifying.
Here comes the storm.
The start time was It was expected to run until 7 o'clock the next day. A sleepless night in the jungle, with 33 other participants – you can't really prepare for this in any way.
We gather at the meeting point. There are some familiar faces, seen before on Spartan races or during HH, and quite a few new ones. I know we won't be a stranger for a long time because we need to work together and get to know each other soon.
I'm the youngest, it seems. The smallest too.
It's time to get ready – we're handing out our anomalies, getting the dead weights checked and weighed.
We are jokingly nervous – we know that we signed up for something that does not make sense to most people, and yet, here we are, waiting together for the "storm" to come.
The event begins with an orientation: a quick presentation of responsible Krypteias, a vague summary of what's going to happen (spoiler: there was literally no information in there) and a reminder of the values and lessons we will get from the event.
They are represented by "Warrior Ethos" – 4 sentences that we will spend the night repeating loudly in chorus (well, "shouting out" is probably a more appropriate term)
I will always place the mission first
I will never accept defeat
I will never quit
I will never leave a fallen comrade
We have our bricks, we have equipment and bags, we have floodlights and reflective vests on it since it's already dark. Let us begin.
The first 6 hours.
I think you never fully understand the value of time until you have to do something for 12 hours in a row. You wouldn't agree to partying or lying on the beach for 12 hours straight if you knew there was no way out.
The heating section (a section called “Battle Ready”) is quite simple – I am relatively good and trained, am myself SGX Coach and personal trainer. Some PT style exercises (squats with bricks, armpits, etc.), some running, nothing too scary – I feel good.
We also learn a traditional technique of Borneo, the Malaysian region where the race takes place: how to shoot arrows with blowing pipes at targets. It is relatively easy, we are still healthy and the night has not fully settled yet. They warn us: we must remember how to do that 'technique' later.
To make sure that all of us have every element of the girlist right, Krypteias gets us to unpack and pack our things a dozen times. All equipment must be easily accessible and organized in a sensible way. I've learned from past events that you need to have control over what you can actually control – unforeseen shit will happen anyway, and the more prepared you are, the faster and the better you can respond to it.
In one of the top rows I can see Olga, a friend from Singapore and another SGX coach. We spent hours talking about the best bag to get, and here we are – standing there with 23 kg loaded in the bags "after the election". We laughed out loud as we promised to try and keep smiling until the end.
The challenge that comes next is called “Movement Under Fire”, Takes a heavy toll on the participants' mental calm. Try to picture a meandering route, covered with thick mud, rocks and pebbles. I can't remember the actual distance, but can remember the moment they indicated where the midway point was, I thought, "This is crap and this is too far." Maybe 50 meters.
We get a partner and we have to lose one of our hands together with duct tape. Then we are told to carry the crawl all the way to half way and back. If we can get back within 40 minutes, we get 2 points, within 50 minutes, we only get one – 0 points otherwise.
I don't know what's the hardest part: the idea of doing something painful and repetitive related to a stranger, not knowing how long it will take, or doing all this with a 25 kg backpack on.
We get started anyway. I now wrap black tape around the wrist of a rather frail girl, Alison, who doesn't quite know what she signed up for. It's her first HH, and she obviously didn't expect any of it. The bear crawl part really hurts, and I have to cheer her up when she slows down – partly because I'm a little worried about her, but also because my points depend on her will and effort, and vice versa. I try to hold my hand under hers, so the stones stop cutting her hand open. We chatted when we started, but now she's silent.
34 minutes later we are done and we receive 2 straws each. I try to get rid of the tape using my knife while my hands are still shaking, and it slides pretty deep into my thumb. My heart beats too fast, my blood starts to flow, and I see it dripping on my purse. I try to calmly call for help. Some people flush it with water, and a participant and a volunteer help me cover it (all with just the light from our headlights). I probably would faint under other conditions, but it just wasn't a good time.
I fill my face with a cereal when they tell us it was just the first part. We have to go the exact same route again, but this time in Crab Walk, with a new partner tied to one of our ankles. This is the most depressing I've ever heard.
It sounds a bit lighter, but we realize pretty quickly that it just sucks. The weight of the bags pulls the butts down, the elbows and wrists must support us. My new partner is a little older – and she hurts. It takes us forever, shoulders and backs kill us – but Olga starts singing some random songs, and we sing along.
49 minutes later we cross the finish line and earn only 1 point. The team that comes right after us gets none, and I begin to realize how long the night will be. It is only 23:00.
Next event, "Search and salvation" is a team challenge, and I volunteer to be the team leader for 10 strangers. I recently learned how to use a compass, and it looks like it was a useful skill to get: we would go to the jungle with a tire and follow the instructions given in ball bearing, to get something, and came all the way back. We were asked to select a team leader (we have formed three teams) and I am named to it for my team, Olga also leads her team, and I know she will do a fantastic job.
My team is pretty fragile. Most of them are friends before and signed up for a whim. They have no motivation, no will to challenge themselves – they just wanted to have fun, and clearly they are not having fun at all. I smile to myself thinking about the beers they should have been drinking rather than listening to the instructions of a tiny red-haired girl in the jungle at night.
We complete the challenge without any major problem – we take back the deck and some concrete blocks we found up there back to the base camp. On the way, the team spirit begins to build, and we are singing and cheering together now. We all earn 1 point.
You need 4 points to get a brick, which you must take afterwards and add to the total weight – but every brick is a step towards confirmation. My bag then gets a little heavier, and for the very first time it makes me happy.
We have half an hour to recover, when our team was the first to come back. I do my best to have a chat with everyone, ask how they are doing, why they are here. I remember the people who talked to me during my first HH and the difference they made. If no one knows you, you feel like you can give up and no one will notice. But if someone learns your name, knows your face and your story, then you become part of the team, and you do everything you can to push through.
Everything hurts. One of our teammates is falling asleep now – others are opening and sharing bags of nuts. It's past midnight and I'm starting to get really cold. I dig in my bag, take out a jacket, eat some cereal and drop some energy gels – don't really make a big difference, and I'm still shaking. I take a walk to warm myself up. It's a dark night, and apart from our group and our reflective vests, there's nothing to see around.
The 6 hours that followed.
Next event, "Obstacle Attack" is individual and takes place on the actual Spartan race course. We have shown a circuit with 6 obstacles – A-frame, disc wall, Hercules hoist, Multi Rigs, Rope Climb & Spear Throw. We have to run from obstacle to obstacle with the bags on, put the bags down, pass the obstacle (or do 30 burpees penalty) and keep running. Each loop completed gets us 1 point.
It was probably my favorite part – I am reasonably good at obstacles and am a regular Spartan racer. The few optimisms I have left tell me that it will also be very good training for my upcoming races.
The time is 03:00 – it feels like the damn clock is stuck. We are not told how long the event will last, so we go for a loop, get our point and go back again. And again. And again.
I don't really know when I started to lose my mind, but I'm singing and mumbling to myself now – none of that makes any sense.
From somewhere farther I can hear Olga exploding with joy: she managed to score her very first spit. I'm proud of her.
After my 5th round, my grip weakens and my strength is gone – I miss Hercules's lift once, and I start to cry. Next time I miss the last ring on the multi rig, and from that point I don't stop crying at all. I still manage to get my 2nd 'Award' brick, which brings my bag back to the beginning weight. I don't feel anything anymore.
Then a new team challenge, “Raise the flag” starts. There are 32 weights at Hercules Hoist and we are now 33 participants. We need to get all the weights up to the top and keep them there for 10 minutes in a row (at zero intervals between the top and the weight bag). Everyone is exhausted, some want to give in, and refuse to put the least effort into it. Many frustrations now, and we cannot coordinate. I guess you see who people really are when they get too far from their comfort zone.
We waste a lot of energy and an hour and a half – we run out of time. I tried, most of us tried, but some simply gave up midway through the challenge – and nobody gets any points. People swear, some have really bad tears on their hands. It's 5am, I think.
Then we go for a walk. The jogging ability of the participants is uneven, and it is difficult to hang together as a group and 'close up' all the gaps between people, but no one complains anymore. It lasts for maybe half an hour, and the sun begins to rise, the sky turns pink and blue, and it is beautiful.
The guides then get us in line, and we recite the warrior Ethos for what appears to be the 100th time. They have water hoses and point them in our faces. I would probably think it was pretty humiliating if I didn't find it funny. After spending the night crawling in the mud, the fresh water on my cheeks feels really good.
Our last chance to get points in an event called "Go for Glory". An individual challenge too, with a circuit that includes more running, push-ups, burpees, jumpers, rock climbers … and the windpipe & arrows – the technique we had learned what appeared to be many years ago, right at the beginning.
I've run out of energy, and now drag my body and my bag from one station to another. Each raise raises my shoulders apart, every leap gets off my thigh. After several rounds, I get my third brick and move on. I count the mechanical burpees I've made since the beginning, just to focus on something other than the pain. 350. I hear someone say 'I've done at least 500!'
And suddenly it's over.
The sound of a whistle bursts, and we are called to gather at the base. We're done. Probably the weirdest feeling ever.
Those who earned 3 or more blocks are graduated. There are about half of the participants. The others are considered "DNG" and will not receive a medal. They've suffered, learned and pushed through the incident – they just didn't get enough points.
The cryptias deal with the final speech and remind us that you can't win every time. That we need to be humble to continue learning. We then proceed to the awards ceremony.
I get in line and receive my medal, it is 7:30 in the morning. I shake, disoriented, exhausted and hysterical. We take some group photos, fall into each other's arms. On every dirty face is a smile left. Some tears as well.
I'm going to take a shower, walk in the now lively racing village, full of athletes getting ready for the Beast Race. But our 'race' is over.
What should be taken out of this?
I said that before, but everyone has a very personal reason for signing up and pushing through. Some may want to test their physical or mental limits, experience the pain we spend our lives avoiding. For others, there may also be a need to confront absurdity and find out how they react to it. What is life, apart from a series of random events? We must always cope with unforeseen and complex situations, go through difficult times sometimes, and if we know ourselves well enough to understand how to react under pressure, when we are afraid or in pain, we can make better decisions, if you ask me.
My very own reason? It makes me feel alive. The pain, the adrenaline, the stress.
I have a very busy life, but most of it is routine, and being (quite violently) pulled out of my comfort zone makes me feel more alive than anything else.
Of course, I learn a lot every time I attend an HH: I am better at organizing, managing my feelings, leading others, and following the instructions. In a way, I was hurting my friend and doing my best now to help others cope with theirs.
During HH12MY001, I suffered from colds, hunger, dehydration and fatigue. I have sores and bruises everywhere, my entire body is sore from fingers to toes. I may not be able to sleep well for a while, but recovery is part of the process.
Every Hurricane Heat touches something deep inside me. Because it is nonsensical and unnecessary, because it hurts and it is a step above my physical abilities – it helps me to become stronger, both physically and mentally. It highlights the gaps, weaknesses, and I know what to work on.
I was more prepared this time than ever before, and I'll be training as much as possible to make the next one a little easier again.
Of course, there will be one next time. I don't want to think about it now. First, I need to clean up my bag of cement that has gradually spilled in, probably get me a glass of wine and give me some time to reflect.
Then I register again.
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