In Do Hard Shit, Spartan Master Coach Trevor Franklin attempts some of the hardest feats imaginable, all of which are complete surprises. You can watch the entire series now on Spartan's YouTube channel and on SpartanTV, and you can also watch them here.
Standing at the foothills of Glacier National Park on the shores of the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, a Spartan producer told Spartan Master Coach Trevor Franklin that he was unsure whether Trevor was capable of completing the challenge he was about to face.
The second he heard that, he knew he had it in the bag.
"As soon as somebody says that to me, I'm like, 'F*** off, it's go time,'" Trevor said. "One of my triggers is when somebody says I might not complete something. I'm either going to complete it, or die."
After smashing the 36-minute mark in the Atlanta DEKA FIT arena against former NFL linebacker Curt Maggitt, Trevor proved that he was capable of crushing intense (and spontaneous) physical and mental challenges. So for Episode 2 of Do Hard Shit, presented by Mike's Hard Lemonade Seltzer, the crew decided to up the ante — secretly, of course.
1. "The final piece."
2. "Mauve, Lavender, Thistle, Mulberry, Orchid, Heliotrope, Phlox."
3. "Power bars, energy gels, real food, Spartan energy ... headlamp."
While Trevor — who'd previously completed a Spartan Sprint and a Super, two out of three of the races required to earn the coveted Trifecta — mulled over the possibility of taking on a night race and the meaning behind the "plants and flowers" (all of which happen to be purple) from Clue 2, he grabbed every piece of Spartan gear that he had and, just a few days later, was wheels down in Big Fork, Mont., still unaware of the challenge to come.
"The beauty of not knowing what I'm doing is almost kind of a blessing, because I'd stress otherwise," Trevor said. "I'd like to say I have a more positive mindset going into this stuff. It's going to suck, but I'm going to do it."
After arriving at the event venue steps from Flathead Lake, Trevor received an anonymous text: Go to the registration tent. There, the registration lead handed him Clue 4.
4. "Find TrailMaster Hammond."
Steve Hammond, a Spartan course manager (and Spartan legend), supplied Trevor — whose previous uninterrupted running record was 22 miles (at sea level, nonetheless) — with a purple pinny and some humbling intel: He'd be running the Montana Spartan Ultra the following morning at 6 a.m. sharp.
"This Ultra is one of our hardest Ultras," Hammond said. "It is 31 miles, 7,400 feet in gain, and over 70 obstacles. Good lucky, buddy."
Preparing for the Unknown
Following a few Ultra-specific pointers from the master himself — including the tip that long, legging-like pants help with bushwhacking and that consuming about 300 calories per hour throughout the race is crucial — Trevor took the bucket that Hammond gave him and went offsite to fill it with fuel for the transition station, roughly the halfway point of the race.
In search of carbs that were not just ideal for Ultra-fueling but also familiar to his digestive system, the 27-year-old picked up some peanut butter, jelly, and white bread at a nearby gas station. If you know Trevor even a little, you know that Domino's pizza is his absolute weakness. So before bed, he ordered an entire pie and crushed it, adding to the glycogen stores that he'd need to complete his first Ultra.
Getting an Early Start on Race Day
The next morning, Trevor was up at 4:20 a.m. He left the hotel at 5 and got to the course at 5:40, cutting it dangerously close to the 6 a.m. start time. When he made it to the start line with the rest of the Elites just ahead of the hour, Trevor realized that he was up against some pretty serious competition, including 2019 Ultra World Champion Rea Kolbl.
He ate one GU Energy Gel — which he was familiar with from past endurance training — before the race, planned to have another every 30 to 40 minutes, and packed some protein bars and nuts for slow portions of the course. Despite the early start, Trevor consumed no caffeine beforehand because for a race that long, he didn't want his heart rate to be affected by anything other than the race itself, or have a mental crash three miles in. As always, consistency was key.
Right out of the gate, Trevor said that the incline was around 17–18% grade. And at the top of the first hill, just minutes into the race, his heart rate had already reached 170 BPM.
'Going to Work'
For the first few (obstacle-less) miles, Trevor — to his own surprise — was not in last place, a feat that he credited to being a "decent" runner. The obstacles, however, were the Master Coach's kryptonite, adding to his mileage with every penalty loop.
"I don't spend a lot of time doing obstacle training, so that was a little bit demoralizing for me," Trevor said. "I might walk, I might fail some obstacles. But what I won't do is stop."
After over 17 miles of running and several failed obstacles — he was also starving, felt "like shit," and was repeatedly told to "stop bitching" by a fellow racer — Trevor completed his first lap.
"This is the hardest thing I've ever done, by far," he said. "My body is breaking down for sure."
Pushing Through 'Total Body Failure'
During the 10–15 minutes that Trevor spent in the transition zone, he dipped his bread into his peanut butter and jelly, crushed two Spartan Energy capsules, drank some aminos and replenished his electrolytes, and felt — honestly — GOOD. When he got back on his feet, he continued drinking water every 10–15 minutes for the remainder of the race, just as he had during the first half.
"I was trying to break things down into 30-minute segments," Trevor said. "I was thinking that if I could just continue picking up my feet for the next 30 minutes, I'll basically be done. Then you just have to rinse and repeat. It's almost like tricking your mind."
Interval by interval, he powered through the second lap, reaching 27.7 miles in six hours and 56 minutes. By that point, Trevor said that he was experiencing something close to total body failure, with little control over his hip turnover and throbbing knee pain.
"To that point it was definitely the hardest thing I had ever done, just because I had never experienced my body breaking down to that extent," Trevor said. "The mental anguish of hours and hours of movement is extreme. But it's like if you stop moving, you're dead. You have to keep moving."
By the time he crossed the finish line, the Master Coach had fallen twice, twisted his ankle three or four times, gotten passed by Elites and Open competitors, and was humbled by the Rope Climb, Tire Flip, and his arch nemesis, the Spear Throw (again). But in the nine hours, 44 minutes, and 32 seconds that it took him to complete 31 grueling miles, he never once considered quitting. Coming in 18th place out of 18 Elites didn't phase him, because he knew that he had done what he set out to do — complete the longest, hardest race of his life (to date...).
"The ability to do things that you don't think you can do is so f****** empowering," Trevor said. "I think stepping out of your comfort zone, getting comfortable being uncomfortable, getting into a f****** pain cave, elevating, and reaching higher than you think you can — I think that's so great for your mental health that it's like the physical shit just follows ... That's why I love this type of shit."
Watch the full episode above, and stay tuned for episodes 3-6 of Do Hard Shit, coming soon.