I Barely Survived Hell on the Hill
Last year, August 6th, I “ran” a race called Hell on the Hill. An event that tests your will and pushes your physical and mental state to the limit. 100 times up and down a grassy slope; for a total of 8.4 miles on a 30° incline; that beast was steep.
I ran along side Marathon runners, UFC fighters, and some of the most physically and mentally tough humans in the world.
Now, before I tell you about my brutal and humbling experience, let me give you some background on how an average joe like me ended up on that hill with professional endurance athletes.
The man behind the operation, Jesse Itzler wrote a book called “Living with a seal”.
In summary, the entrepreneur invited an accomplished Navy Seal to live with him for 31 consecutive days with only 1 condition - do whatever The Seal says whenever and however.
That Seal was David Goggins, many regard him as the baddest/toughest man in the world.
Although the story of the Seal is astounding, what really inspired me was Jesse Itzler’s story. He had accomplished so much in his life from co-founding Marquis Jets, to becoming a partner in Zico Coconut Water, and marrying his dream girl, the founder of Spanx Sara Blakely. He accomplished his business and personal goals with a passion-driven persistence and risk wrapped in grit, discipline and consistency, the exact core values of Maven.
I had to meet this man. I made it my goal. I applied the same principles I learned from his life story to make it happen - create opportunity and persist! What better way than to use the world of social media. My efforts paid off!
It was then I knew I had a real opportunity. That’s when I found out about his charity Hell on the Hill. I found out through the event’s page that Hell on the Hill was a private and SOLD OUT event. So I went with my gut and simply asked Jesse if he would let one more person into the race. To my surprise, he said yes. I was elated and blown away. Now, I won’t go into the details of this period of my life, but let’s just say I was going through some crazy changes all good and necessary but stress-filled and difficult.
Now let me preface by saying when I reached out to Jesse, it was 10 days before race day. Did I tell you I hadn’t run a single full mile for years! I’m a burpees, pushups, pull-ups, and squats guy. Running and certainly extreme hill running wasn’t part of my tricks. I didn’t care. I had to do what I had to do. I had a rough week leading up to the race. Not much sleep and engrossed with unavoidable stressors with business and life..blah blah blah. I was not ready or prepared for the race. But, at that point I saw it was as a once in lifetime opportunity and I had to be there and I had to finish the race even if it meant I had to crawl up or roll down the hill.
I ran the first 70 laps fairly well probably on pace to finish the race within just over 2 hours. The 71st round at the bottom of that hill was when what we fitness people like to call specificity of training worked against me. I hit a “brick wall”.
I look up from the bottom of the hill. All of a sudden what was just a slippery slope really did look like hell. A warzone. Crippled bodies crawling up the hill, with most excruciating facial expressions.
Have you ever had one of those charlie horses/cramps in your toe? Imagine every single muscle below your waist cramping out on you. Each lap at the top, I had to spend at least 6-8 minutes essentially performing PT on myself to get the cramps to calm down just enough for me to walk down the hill again and cramp up again when I began the ascent. I was desperately struggling.
It became so apparent that I was in pain. My daughter, who has never in her 11 years of life seen me physically struggling like this came to me and said, “Daddy.. crawl."
I thought about how aggressively Jesse had tackled challenges in his life. This hill was representative of that. He offered a challenge, and the only way to finish it was aggressively.
I looked at her and said, “Bella, daddy can’t do that”. I kept on chipping away.. without crawling.
At lap 25, my knees had already begun to hurt from ITB syndrome which I was not able to treat leading up to the race. Besides the paralyzing cramps throughout the legs, each step down-hill was excruciating.
90th lap, I’m drenched in sweat and desperate for some relief from cramping and knee pain, I had dropped off barely on pace to finish the race within the time limit of 4 hours. Many athletes had finished some were laughing and looked pretty refreshed. My daughter came up to me again and this time with real concern,
I thought back to the book where he wrote, “when you think you are done, you are into 40% of what your body is capable of doing”. I looked at her and said “Bells, I’m not going to do that”.
I finished the race; barely. When I reached the top on my last lap, it was the most humbling experience in my life.
Stay tuned, it's my wife's turn this weekend!