A little after 5 a.m. a day before the 2019 Spartan Trifecta World Championships in Sparta, Greece, and I’m drinking Spartan Tea with Spartan Race cofounder and CEO Joe De Sena on the porch of a guest house that sits atop a mountain. We’re several miles outside of Sparta, killing time before our pre-dawn workout. What we’ll be doing when we train is a mystery, as De Sena met all of my inquiries with a shrug and “We’ll figure something out.”

Later in the day, De Sena will be part of a press conference with Sparta city bigwigs and a handful of racers favored to win. After that, he’ll oversee a parade featuring elite racers from more than 68 nations vying for the title in their respective heat. His phone blows up with texts and emails as I ask him about raising kids, intermittent fasting (he’s been testing out a plan to eat between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to provide a four-hour cushion without food before hitting the sack), and how he arrived at certain career decisions. Later, when the M&F camera crew joins us, I cover some of the same topics, which will be featured in a future video. 

We’re joined by two more for the workout shortly before six—Spartan’s VP of Product, Dave Watson, and De Sena’s friend, Jeff Foster. When the M&F crew arrives De Sena and Co. snag three rocks from the porch and take off down the stairs. I search for a fourth rock but have no luck. I run after the group empty-handed, spot a rock alongside the road, and yank it out of the ground. It’s filthy, jagged, and way too heavy. By now I’m 50 yards behind, so instead of finding a more manageable rock I pick up the pace and try to ignore the rock’s ragged edges that are digging into my stomach and forearms.

Behind me is the M&F crew, who are hustling to keep up; they thought they’d be capturing the workout session, not getting one of their own while filming the footage. Classic De Sena. 

I ditch the boulder for a rock that’s more manageable but don’t catch up until De Sena calls for 100 burpees. All told, we wind up hiking around five or six miles holding our rocks. It’s something De Sena does routinely, but for those who don’t, it’s challenging in a different way. My arms are fatigued and bruised and my shoulders scratched—likely not the way most people prepare before running their first Trifecta: competing a Sprint (3+ miles and 20+ obstacles); Super (8+ miles and 25+ obstacles), Beast (12+ miles and 30 obstacles) in one weekend. But even if I limp around for the next two days or lose my grip because my forearms are shot, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. In fact, I’m planning to pitch De Sena on a one-on-one Death Race bootcamp.