This past weekend, five Vero Strength athletes took on the Spartan Hurricane Heat 12 Hour event. Chuck Sullivan, Jason Nance, Vinnie Burke, Chuck Sullivan, Bill Westrom, Rick Fiore and I (Wendy) endured a variety of challenges from 7 PM Friday to almost 9 AM Saturday.
The point of Hurricane Heat is that you don’t get details about the event and you don’t ask questions. Because this particular one was taking place at the Navy Seal Museum during their annual Muster celebration, we knew it would have a “military” flavor.
About 10 days before the event, we received our equipment list. It included things like extra weight in our packs (25# for women and 30# for men), a hatchet, pocket knife, rope, chem lights, a waterproof headlamp, buff, duct tape, buckets, a flotation device, mask and snorkel, etc. We were to wear a plain black shirt, cargo pants, boots and a bathing suit. Oh, and we had to learn five knots (bowline, square, becket’s bend, clove hitch and right angle) and the military alphabet.
My pack weighed in at 40 pounds and they guys were about five-ten pounds heavier. The weather was horrible – rain the entire time, which started off light but, by the end, it was pouring and the wind so aggressive that you could barely hear the commands being yelled at you.
When the event began, we were given a “welcome party,” which basically meant we had to get wet and sandy. We jumped into the dark ocean and then we were told to lay in the sand and roll to the left and right. We’d be sandy 100% of the time. We then had to dig a 10′ x 10′ x 2′ hole using our buckets. After that, we were instructed to fill one of our 5-gallon buckets with with sea water. We carried these for hours, each one weighing 40 pounds. The welcome party also included filling our masks half full with sea water and breathing (i.e. choking) through our snorkels while we did push-ups, burpees and crawls.
After that, we were given a PT test: 1.5 mile run (no packs on), max strict pull-ups, 2:00 max pushups and 2:00 max sit ups. Then, we had to do the pull-ups again and match or beat our first score. And then we did more push-ups. Push-ups were the most common exercise throughout the night – with and without packs – and we probably performed at least 300 of them. And out “rest” was at the top of the push-up position. Flutter kicks were also a favorite of our Krypteia (leaders).
There was no rest time throughout the night, so we had to hydrate, eat and use the bathroom whenever we found a moment. That usually meant trying to be in the front of the pack when completing tasks so that you could get a few minutes of down time while waiting for others to finish.
After PT, we broke into four groups and rotated through four stations: the Navy Seal Museum’s obstacle course, a knot-tying test, hatchet throwing and a station where were were blindfolded, asking and answering questions and being berated. This was the most “mellow” part of the event.
From there, we were segmented into five teams, with about 15 people each, where we remained the duration of the event. Each team was given a boat to blow up and carry, first with our buckets inside, then a person, then packs (at least 600-pounds). We carried the boat mainly overhead and, with varying heights of team members, this was a struggle. This boat would be with us the entire night, no matter where we traveled to.
We had a “battle buddy” (partner) we had to stay with at all times. On the beach, we were given lots of different tasks such as partner carries and drags, a low crawl of about 200m+ that ravaged your body, sand sprints, wheelbarrows and more. Many times, we were instructed to head to the water, lay down and link arms and do flutter kicks while the waves crashed over our faces and bodies. And, of course, more push-ups. By this time, the temperature had dropped and, combined with cold rain, we were freezing.
Several Navy SEALS were commanding the groups and trying to break us. They were yelling and begging us to quit. One saw me shivering and told me to quit and offered to get me a “warm blanky.” As the night wore on, many people tapped out or were escorted out because of injuries.
After the beach torture, we endured another 1.5 mile run, this time with our packs on. We did more sprints and crawls across a field. We did some military drills back on the beach.
Just before the 12-hour mark, we were given a mission to complete with our boat teams. With mask and snorkels on, we had to complete the obstacle course once again, then find “hostages,” which were two cadets. We carried our hostages to the boat and then carried the boat to the finish line. We were so happy to have finished, we were told “good job,” then then our spirits sank when we were told, “but you’re not done…” We had to complete the Navy Seal 5K on the sand.
By this time, we were experiencing the hardest rain and wind of the event. This final run was absolutely brutal – we were scraped up, our feet were swollen, our backs, knees and hips were on fire.
But, WE ALL DID IT! So many quit, but we didn’t. Back at graduation, we were told that if we didn’t have at least two punches in our wrist band (we were given punches for individual and team activities throughout the night), we wouldn’t graduate, even if we survived the night. Fortunately, the Vero Strength crew all graduated!
Words can’t describe how hard this event was for me. I did a 12-hour/20-mile GoRuck event with Jason, Vinnie and Bill a few months back and, while challenging, wasn’t nearly the struggle of Hurricane Heat. I wanted to quit on so many occasions, but didn’t want to let my pals or myself down. The physical stuff was hard, but I also found it difficult to have people (the SEALS and Krypteia) yelling at me, trying to break me. The weather was probably the worst element and all I wanted was be in my warm bed. Immediately after getting our patch and dog tags, Vinnie, Jason and I hobbled to my car and turned on the heat and seat warmers!
The morning after, as I am writing this, my entire body hurts – muscularly and all the bruises and scrapes from being human sandpaper. But, I am glad I endured and I am so proud of Jason, Vinnie, Chuck, Rick and Bill for not giving up, too. Chuck and Rick were definitely the oldest participants out there and they are so badass for hanging in.
In reflecting on my experience, most of all I am filled with respect for our military, namely Navy SEALs. Their skills, mindset and physical capabilities are absolutely incredible. This one-time event for us is what they do daily. They are wired differently than the rest of us and I am in total awe of them.