Every day, many of us are out there fighting a much bigger fight. Leading up to the night of the Spartan Hurricane Heat 12 Hour (in Littlefield, Arizona), I was too. And it was personal. What I took onto that course was not only my desire to lead, motivate and inspire teammates, along with the excitement to participate in something greater than me, but I quietly carried my own baggage that I needed to leave behind once I crossed the finish line, too. I was determined to overcome any obstacle in my way that night.

We’ve all had moments in life where we stopped, we quit, we ended something, knowing we had more fight in us. That applies in any aspect of life, and that feeling sticks to your ribs. Nobody wants quitting on their conscience, ever. 

After running several Spartan Sprints, Supers, Beasts and Ultras, the Hurricane Heat was the next step up in my journey. Without any real clue as to what I was walking into, I showed up as a new face among the many HH veterans the evening of March 8th looking to motivate others to be their best, by being my best. But what I didn’t anticipate, was that the person I’d be motivating, was me.

Let me set the stage.. a Hurricane Heat is from 8 p.m. Friday night until 8 a.m. Saturday morning and is a stand alone event designed to test your mental and physical abilities through challenges, problem solving, teamwork and individual performance under physical duress. The completion rate is 40%. No pressure. The gear list included a ruck sack with a 20 pound weight (which would be carried the entire 12 hours), enough fuel for the night, hydration pack, three sandbags, duct tape, a multi-use tool, sharpie, head lamp, reflective vest and a black shirt. Your Krypteia (aka leader) creates the missions laid in front of you. You could do 300 burpees, your food could be taken from you.. you could be doing literally anything as a team and individually. Their goal is to push you past your perceived limitations. And by the way, you may not finish. Time hacks are timed challenges where being cut is a real possibility.

A few crucial pieces of advice were provided: Be prepared for anything, don’t overthink it, and don’t stop moving. Noted.

The Krypteia led the welcome party with squat holds, plank, and the ‘tunnel of love’. All 73 of us created a circle in plank position. One by one, we crawled and squeezed our way under our teammates, ruck sacks on, around the entire circle. What seemed to be 30 minutes of plank later, we moved on to burpees as a team. Then, we were off to fill our three sandbags, which had to weigh about 15-20 pounds each. Watching the veterans, I followed suit by duct taping two of the sandbags handles together for an easier carry across the back and shoulders. This would come in handy later..

Nearing 1 a.m., almost five hours into the event, we were given an individual mission, a time hack. Run the Sprint course with our rucks and two sandbags, never stepping off course until we cross the finish. I found myself in the front of the pack with another teammate. The added 65-70 pounds on my shoulders and back added a whole other dynamic trekking up and down those hills, but I felt strong and anxious for what the rest of the night would bring. 
The slip wall. An 8-foot incline with a rope that hangs half way down. Not normally an issue, but I was far heavier than normal and couldn’t kick my leg over to anchor myself on the first try. The rope slid through my hands and I let go. My fall was accelerated with the added weight and I had no opportunity to catch myself. I landed all wrong and immediately knew I’d done something to my ankle. Staring up at the stars in pain, I knew I needed to get up and walk it off before I became too stiff. My teammate had gone on, not knowing I’d fallen. I saw headlamps in the distance and waited for them before moving on. Without hesitation, I tried the wall again, making it over this time. I limped and cried my way across the finish, and headed straight to the medic tent where they wrapped my ankle. My teammate duct taped my ankle and shoe David Goggins style for added support. I didn’t know what I’d done, but there was only one decision, and quitting wasn’t one. Whether it was badly sprained or fractured, the outcome would remain the same. Checking in with myself, taking stock of the situation, the thought of stopping never once crossed my mind. And nobody ever asked me to or even hinted at it. In fact, I can’t recall a time I’ve had such clarity to do whatever it took to continue forward.
I told myself, until I’m faced with something I absolutely cannot do, I will not quit. And I didn’t. I continued the remaining seven hours of the HH12HR 055. I could’ve stopped at any moment and nobody would’ve held it against me. But instead, I was the person I wanted to be that night. When our challenge was to to bear crawl up a long hill, rolling our sandbags up with us, I crawled on my hands and knees through the dirt and rocks instead, crying every time my ankle moved the wrong way. As the sun came up, our challenge included long jumps and burpees, I hopped and dropped into a single leg burpee. Then, crab crawls with our sandbag across our lap through the finish, I drug my frozen, taped foot through the dirt. I couldn’t hold back the tears. But I did it. While I wasn’t able to help others in the way I’d originally anticipated, I was still able to provide the motivation to continue on, because I did. My teammates were going through their own struggles, but a few offered a hand when they could. They will always have a special place in my heart and an unforgettable bond that they may not understand, all because of what went down that night and the mental space I found myself in. My love goes out to them!

It turned out, I had fractured my fibula in that fall five hours into the event. Yet, I still somehow completed the remaining seven hours. I overcame every obstacle in my way, including the biggest one of all. Myself. When we get to the other side of the pain, we will be changed forever. And I was. It wasn’t the first time I’ve endured physical pain during an endurance race, and it won’t be the last.. but I grew exponentially and am stronger every time for it.

Endurance events prepare you for life. How you handle them is practice for how you will handle life’s other events. Who you become because of these events is what they are about. All of the missions and challenges put before you are not there to make you better at burpees or holding plank. It’s about being a better you, and discovering what that means.

Many people I know tend to avoid pain (mainly referring to our willingness to push through temporary emotional discomfort to reach our goals.. some might include physical pain, too). But our lives actually become easier once we are able to deal with pain more effectively.

Reality check. If you’re unwilling to push the boundaries of your pain tolerance consistently, you must accept living a mediocre life. What’s worse? You’ll die without knowing what it’s like to achieve or experience anything even close to your fullest potential. A low pain tolerance equals a small life. Truth.

Any goal that’s worth having in this world is probably going to hurt a little initially. Now, I’m not suggesting that you break your ankle and continue seven hours in a race to increase your pain tolerance. This is my life, this is my story.. you can write your own.
What I do know, is that once you fight through pain, the pain shrinks and your pain tolerance expands. Once your pain tolerance expands, you become more willing and able to experience more of life. Trying new things, learning things that you’re not good at, doing something that scares you to expand your comfort zone, learning not to take yourself so seriously, and most of all, living life to the absolute fullest while you’re alive and able to do so.

We have ONE LIFE. Live it. And believe that you can. Stop using the idea of pain as an excuse to stay stuck in a smaller life than the one you deserve. I commit to pushing through pain because I know that I will be of a greater service to my loved ones, friends, clients, myself.. and to the world if I’m able to do so. I choose to LIVE BIG.

Now, I challenge you to challenge yourself. 

Jess Kidd

Jess Kidd

Jess is one of the Cerus Pros, a fitness and nutritional coach, and an elite athlete. She has a passion for motivating others to be their best by being her best. Follow her on her blog A Better You than Yesterday.