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.
When the sun rose on an overcast, warm New York City morning, Spartan Master Coach Trevor Franklin was already suited up head to toe in Spartan gear and ready to take on whatever life-altering challenge the Spartan production crew had devised for him next. Having already completed a sub-36-minute DEKA FIT mark in Episode 1 — edging out his opponent, former Colts linebacker Curt Maggitt — and the 31-mile Montana Spartan Ultra after nine hours, 44 minutes, and 32 seconds of agony in Episode 2, the 27-year-old trainer felt ready for anything.
The text that he'd received the night before instructing him to be ready for an 8 a.m. pickup at his apartment meant, to Trevor, that his next challenge would take just one day, but that's all he was able to deduce.
But when Spartan producers showed up at Trevor's NYC apartment that morning, he was immediately given his first clue — the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley:
1. "Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed ... I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." It also included the direction: "Head to Brookfield Place Terminal and take the next ferry to Paulus Hook."
En Route to Paulus Hook
Despite thinking the poem was "the dumbest shit ever," Trevor and the crew headed down through Tribeca to get their ferry tickets while the Master Coach mulled over his first clue.
"I knew it was just going to take a day, so I had it narrowed down to some things that I thought it would be in the area," Trevor said.
By the time the ferry docked at Paulus Hook, he had narrowed down his guesses — through googling "Invictus" — to skydiving, going upstate for a trail run, visiting the "big ass mall" (American Dream) to go indoor snowboarding, or — in a last-chance effort to guess correctly — laser tag. It wasn't until Spartan's Head of Social, Jon Oustaev, handed him his second clue that Trevor started to catch on.
2. A mouthguard, including the following note: "You'll need this. Head to Berry Lane Park."
One final Google search (which revealed that Invictus is also a movie) confirmed Trevor's suspicions (and concern for his well-being): He'd be playing rugby.
"Honestly, my first thought was my parents because I don't have insurance, and so I knew that they were going to be pissed at me," he joked.
A Bunch of Jacked Dudes ... and Trevor
Trevor prides himself on his ability to be a well-versed, hybrid athlete who's willing to take on challenges of all kinds, having played just about every sport — from basketball to football, track, cross country, and tennis — in high school. He admits, however, that he was a prominent athlete in high school "not because [he] was really good, but just because they needed bodies."
So when he showed up to the field and met a bunch of "jacked dudes," Ric Zalizzo, Senior Consultant for Rugby United New York, told him, "The thing about rugby to remember — just one thing to remember — it hurts."
Upon hearing that, Trevor jokingly offered to be a water boy rather than a participant.
"[Ric] was not at all impressed by me in any form or fashion," Trevor said. "He kind of told me that I was worthless and useless, and then explained rugby a little bit."
Getting Right Into It
Matched up with Samuela Tawake, a prop on the Rugby United New York team who — in the FIT app trainer's words — had "Redwood Forest-sized tree trunks for legs," Trevor quickly discovered that he didn't feel capable of moving Samuela "if his life depended on it." But that didn't stop him from trying.
"It was fun to know that a person can feel like a brick wall," he said. "Then Ric told me I sucked at that, which I already knew."
Ric decided that the comparatively-smaller Trevor fit in better with the backs, who are the defenders. After running through some passes, the team got right into actual playing time, with Trevor bringing up the rear.
"That was a little more fun because it was something that I'm more used to," Trevor, who played receiver and quarterback on his high school football team, said. "I think I scored. I don't really know how the scoring system works with rugby, but I crossed the line."
While he did, in fact, score, he would not make it out of the scrimmage unscathed. Just minutes later, Trevor got laid out by another guy, who picked him up and threw him to the ground seemingly effortlessly.
"It was like [he was] planting a small tree, or getting picked up and put down like a small child in his father's arms," Trevor explained, to which Ric responded, almost mockingly, "You're still standing, so we've got one more for you."
Conquering (or Getting Conquered by) the Gauntlet
For the Rugby United New York team, "the Gauntlet" is a drill where one player stands in the middle of a five- to six-man circle. While each guy holds a massive pad in front of their body, the player in the middle must successfully complete 20 tackles. Trevor was the middle man, and he struggled, to say the least.
"That was probably the hardest thing of the day," he said. "I think at the beginning they made it unnecessarily hard for me, just to prove a point that they're physically better than me. But just like in a Spartan race or anything else, I want to go against the elites in their respective field, because how else would you measure yourself?"
Despite a day of being put down (both physically and verbally), called the wrong name by most of the team (at Ric's direction), and working his ass off, Trevor said that the team dynamic made it an incredibly enjoyable experience — one he even hopes to try again sometime.
"Ideally I'd like to do this again when I have insurance, just for safety purposes," Trevor said, laughing. "I really enjoyed feeling like I was a part of something. You go into the lion's den with all these elite athletes and you figure it out.
"Obviously they probably took it easy on me, but my main goal was to go out there and not look like a little b**** ... I'd like to think I accomplished that, but that's probably something you'd have to ask them, not me."
'As a Human, You Think You Have These Limitations...'
Having now completed half of the challenges that he will ultimately face throughout the six-part series, Trevor said that every episode has tested him in its own unique way, whether it be mental, physical, or even spiritual.
"There have been a lot of situations where I thought that I'd have to tap out on something, but when you get to a point where you're backed against your pain threshold, you discover a whole different level of yourself," he said. "We definitely live in a world of instant gratification, where you can buy or become whatever you want.
"But for the things that I've gone through, the only way to feel that elation of completion is to put in hours upon hours upon hours of work. You think you're capable of X, Y, and Z, and then you go through certain things that make you realize you have a little more to give past Z."
Watch the full episode above, and stay tuned for episodes 4-6 of Do Hard Shit, coming soon.