December 18, 2017

Heavy 2.0 — Ed’s Valentine’s Day Massacre

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A Guest Post by Ed Shelton

This post is an AAR from Ed Shelton who did the first Heavy 2.0 (Heavy 026) in Dallas, TX on 14th February 2014. Thanks Ed for sharing

GoRuck Heavy 026 started in Dallas, TX at 6:00pm on February 14.  It was the first Heavy to run under Cadre Dan’s Heavy SOP.  Before the Heavy even began, the chorus had dubbed it the Valentine’s Day Massacre.  We even painted “Valentine’s Day Massacre” on our team weight.  I don’t think anyone realized how appropriate that name would turn out to be.

28 people began Heavy 026, only 13 finished.  My name is Ed Shelton, I am one of the 13 finishers.  This is my AAR.  Since I have never written up an AAR before, it would be more accurate to call this my story of Heavy 026.  In the end, there is a good chance you learn more about me than about GRH 026.

About Me

A quick background on me, I did my first GoRuck Challenge in Austin, TX on Dec 22, 2012.  Since then, I have done 5 more Challenges, 2 Lights, and 1 Heavy before Heavy 026.  I do not have a military background and I have no plans to do Selection.  I did not sign up for Heavy as a prep course for Selection.  I signed up for it because I wanted to complete another Heavy and it was the only Heavy listed in Texas at the time.

In the week prior to Heavy, I began to prepare my body for the event.  The Sunday prior to 026 was my last workout.  From Sunday to Thursday, I made sure to drink a 32 oz drink of chia seeds, coconut water, honey, and lime in addition to 64oz of water everyday.  Despite all the preplanning, I made a huge mistake of only having breakfast and lunch the Friday Heavy started.  My last meal before Heavy was at 1pm.

The Calm Before the Storm

As usually about 5:45pm, everyone was showing up.  Cadre Michael and Cadre John Big Daddy started to call everyone together.  Cadre Bert was also there, walking around with a baseball bat.  They did the roll call and quick safety briefing before moving the group to flatter ground.

Heavy had started and it was time to pop my collar.

The Cadre explained that we would be the first class with the Heavy SOP.  Cadre Michael brought out 2 garbage bags and told us to put all our food in the bags.  I knew that this meant we have to go without food.  I was kicking myself for not getting something to eat right before we began.  Then I remembered what I learned from Kung Fu Panda, “It is said that the Dragon Warrior can survive for months at a time on nothing but the dew of a single Ginkgo leaf and the energy of the universe.”  I would need to keep a lookout for dew and energy juice.

We were also told to remove our water so our rucks could be weighed.  Cadre John Big Daddy walked around with a hanging scale and weighed each ruck.  He only told you if you were good or if you were light.  I felt good about my ruck weight since I knew with water it was over 50 lbs.  At least two people were under weight.  Luckily someone had some weight plates in his car.  Cadre allowed them to get the weight and add it to their rucks.  The rucks were reweighed and then given the thumbs up.

Meeting the Standard

After the ruck weighing, the PT test started with pushups.  John Big Daddy read the rules and Bert did the demo. We were split into two ranks.  Rank 1 counted while rank 2 did the push ups.  My partner, Michael, did awesome getting over 70 pushups done while sticking to the rules.  Cadre John Big Daddy went down the line to ask for the scores.  He wrote down the names and counts of everyone that completed less than a certain number.  Then we switched.  It was my turn to do pushups.  When I reached pushup 47, my shoulder popped out and I was stuck in the down position.  While I knew I could not get back up, I was not going to give up and held in the down position for the rest of the time.  Cadre John Big Daddy recorded my name and count.  This was not the way I wanted to start Heavy.

Next was the sit up test, rank 2 went first.  Cadre John Big Daddy again asked for counts and wrote down names and counts of everyone that was below a specific count.  Luckily, in my first Heavy Bert described the best technique to do the sit ups in order hit the Selection number.  Since then, I have practiced the technique and felt pretty good about my ability to complete 65.  When it was my turn, I completed 69 situps.  I was trying for 70.  On the bright side, I thought with 69 completed at least I could make a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure reference. When Cadre John asked for my count, he did not write down my name.  I was relieved to not be on Big Daddy’s list a second time.

When the final count was tallied, Big Daddy told us that 8 people failed the push up test and 18 failed the sit up test.  After the 12 mile ruck, he told us he would test those that failed again.  I was very nervous because I was confident I would not be able to do 55 push ups, especially given how my shoulder popped out during the first test.

On a Scale of 1 to 10

We were told to put our rucks on, grab the team weight and food bags, and prepare to move.  Big Daddy told us that throughout the Heavy he would ask us how we were doing on a scale from 1 to 10.  We started on our way.  Pretty quickly after we started, we had gaps.  We lost our left shoe.  Soon after that, we had another gap and lost strap privileges.  We hit a roadblock – construction closed off our path so we had to find another way.  A couple miles of travel later, we hit upon two concrete pillars and a stack of cinder blocker connected together.  They were now team weights and came with us.  I jumped under one of the pillars and we started moving again.  First down a levy, then back up, then back down again.  We were told to drop off all the weights near the bridge.

Cadre Big Daddy told us were about to begin the 12 mile ruck.  We had to ruck out to Cadre Michael, go around him and come back.  We had 3 hours and 30 minutes to finish.  We started as one unit with the pace set by our team leader.  The ground was made up of loose rocks which were not kind on the feet.  I could see some people struggling with the terrain.  Big Daddy said that for every gap he saw, he would give us a minute penalty.  It did not take long before we had 2 minutes of penalties.

Big Daddy decided we were not moving fast enough, so he got in the front and set the pace.  We were really moving now.  The Assistant Team Leaders (ATLs) started asking people how they were doing (1 to 10).  I figured a 10 would be equivalent to sitting on my couch with my wife and cat binge watching a TV series on Netflix.  I answered 9.  Most people were between 7 and 9, but we did have a couple of lower numbers.

A couple of miles in, where the lights of the Dallas skyline were no longer illuminating our path, the average number for the group was dropping.  We had our first drop, closely followed by a couple of more.  I don’t know if the drops were medical or they hit their limit.  We kept pushing forward and finally came upon Cadre Michael. We went around him and started on the way back.

Hurry Up, Hurry Up, Hurry Up

On the way back, Big Daddy was setting the pace again.  Now, we started to lose people as part of the group.  One group was with Big Daddy, the rest started to fall behind.  I was with the Big Daddy group and we were on a fast and steady pace.  After a couple of miles, we stopped to see how far behind the others were.  Big Daddy told us we were going to wait just long enough to give them hope before crushing it.  Pretty quickly we saw someone appear, shuffling alone, out of the darkness.  It was Candace and she was wearing two rucks.  When we she joined us, we started out again.

Once we were moving again, we asked Candace where the extra ruck came from.  She said that one of the guys was struggling and she took his ruck from him.  I had to ask, “Did you ask him first or just take his ruck when he went off to pee?”  I try to make light of situations when I can.

As we started getting closer to Dallas, Patrick was convinced we were stopping at the next bridge .. then the next one … then the next one.  I felt like we in a real life Super Mario Brothers situation, “Thank you Patrick, but our food is under another bridge.”  I honestly kept thinking we would get to the bridge and see that one of those giant rodents Cadre Bert told us about, has eaten our food.  As we got close to the actual bridge I could see a bunch of people.  My instant thought was great, its not rodents, but bums that have found and eaten our food.  Turned out it was a bunch of Texas GRTs, so almost the same thing.

When we got to the the bridge, Big Daddy told us we finished in 3 hours 19 minutes.  There were 16 of us, including Candace who still had two rucks.  Sal and I were picked to find water and off we went.  After some looking around, we found a 7-11 and headed back.

We ran back down to the bridge, but could not find our team.  Cadre Michael told us they were back on the trail and to double time it to them.  As we were shuffling, Sal’s calf decided to cramp up on him.  He pushed through and we met up with everyone.  We shuffled back together as a team.

As we got close to the starting bridge, 3 volunteers and I were sent to get water.  We were told to get 8 gallons and to hurry.  We shuffled to 7-11, moving as quickly as we could.  We picked up 9 gallons of water, using 1.5 gallons to fill our bladders outside 7-11.  We shuffled back to our team to find they were already doing PT.  We were told to leave the water by the food and join our team for PT.

Smoke Session

The PT session was pretty similar to other Cadre Michael’s welcome parties – 8-count body builders, flutter kicks, mountain climbers, etc.  The major difference was there was a little more running from point A to B and there were several folks already smoked from the 12-mile ruck.  During the 8-count body builders, I noticed the guy next to me was really struggling.  I kept giving him a hand to get up.  At one point I looked at him and he had the most blank look on his face and was mumbling something.  I was about to call Cadre Michael over, but he was already on his way.  I believe the guy dropped at that point.

After our PT session, we filled our water and we were one the move again, except this time we had a lot of extra weight to carry.  We had two concrete pillars, a sandbag contraption (courtesy of Cadre Bert), 2 bags of food, and our team weight.  We had 4 people on the pillars, 4 on the sandbag man, 1 on each of the food bags, 1 on the team weight, 2 flag bearers, and I believe we had 1 or 2 people without weight (14-16 in total).  It is hard to remember because it was not long before more people dropped and we were down to 14.  With only 14 people, everyone was carrying weight or a flag.  I was under the concrete pillars during this time.

Mr. Sandman Bring Me a …

We went several miles, but we were moving very slow.  The team under the sandbag man was having difficulty keeping up with the rest of us.  We made a stop to use the bathroom and put some warmer clothes on.  You could tell the team was hurting.  We were tired, sore, and hungry.  I tried to lighten the mood by asking, “So who is signed up to do the Austin marathon on Sunday?”  It was just silence and stares back at me.  The only other time I have seen a response like that was the night before my wedding when I tried to joke with my wife and she responded, “I can’t handle jokes now.”

Eventually, we came to a spot where the Cadre let us drop the pillars and food.  We assigned two teams of 4 to carry the sandbag man.  I was on one of the teams.  For next several miles the 2 teams kept switching back at forth.  It was during this part of the night that was the hardest part for me.  I was having a real hard time staying focused.  My eyes felt tired and were playing tricks on me.  I would see the ground shift when it did not.  The best way I can describe it is like when you start to fall asleep while driving.  You know you should not and you fight it hard, but you still doze off.  The best thing I could do was keep my mind busy.  I tried to think of a song to sing and all I could think of was “Let it go” from Frozen.  Even though my daughter insists on listening to it and singing it every day, I could not remember how the song starts.

Not sure how long I was in the zombie mode, but I do remember we lost another during that section.  The guy that usually took over my spot on the sandbag man was not there when we went to switch.  Luckily, Colleen stepped up and took my spot.  After the switch we realized he had dropped.  I had a hard time believing that we had lost someone else.  I switched back on; I did not want anyone else to drop.  I thought, “How could I have missed someone drop at this point?  Especially the guy I kept switching with.”

Conquering The Night

The sun was beginning to rise.  The darkness started to fade.  We had conquered the night.  We had gone 20+ miles in about 13 hours.  I looked back and saw the sun rising up from behind the Dallas skyline.  It was an awesome sight – a combination of human engineering and nature’s rawness.

We stopped.  It was time for our first break and food.  A group of us was sent to drop the sandbag man into Bert’s truck and take a bag of food and case of water back to the team.

The sun was up and we were about to eat, life was good.  Due to some unexpected delays in traveling to Heavy, I had not eaten anything since 1pm on Friday.  I estimated it was about 18 hours since I had food.

When we returned with the food bag, I thought it was going to be a live action reenactment of Hungry, Hungry Hippos.  Surprisingly it was not too bad.  We all looked for our food.  All three of my food bags were in the other bag.  Damn it.  So I started looking through what was left in the bag.  There was a surprising amount of candy.  It was like the day after Halloween – there were Twix, M&Ms, Snickers, Gummy Bears, etc.  The last thing I wanted was candy.  I was just looking for a Clif Bar, some caffeinated gels or goo, or something.  Luckily, I found a Cliff Bar, a gel, and some honey almond butter.  The almond butter was so good, I ended up buying some the other day for lunch.  Thank you to whoever brought the almond butter, it was awesome.

No One Left Behind

Big Daddy told us to gather around.  He told us that we started with 28 people and we were down to 13.  Big Daddy stated, “No one else it dropping.  Everyone finishes.”  He told us to clean up our garbage and get ready to go.  Sal and I went for a quick bathroom break before starting back.  I remember telling Sal, “No one else is quitting.  I will carry their ruck.  I will carry them, if need be.”  Sal responded, “Same here, brother.”

We had made it through the night and we were a stronger team.  We knew we still had at least half of the Heavy left, plus water work, bottom samples, etc.  It did not matter, we felt invincible.

Over the next 4 to 5 hours, we covered a lot of distance, went for a cold swim in a nasty pond, and eventually met up with Cadre Michael at a big open field.  It was time for another Cadre Michael PT session.  We still owed him 70 8-count body builders.  Michael gave us a couple of challenges to reduce the count of Body Builders.  After a couple of exercises, one of the team was having a hard time.  She was shaking and having a hard time breathing.  Michael checked on her and she was able to stop the shaking of her muscles.  She was still in.  After a couple more exercises and paying back the Bodybuilders, we were allowed to eat again.

I was so excited about the food, I knew my food was in this bag including my Trader Joe Espresso Pillows – espresso and toffee covered in dark chocolate.  They are fantastic and I am completely addicted to them.  Once my wife made chocolate chip using the Pillows instead of chocolate.  She did not use all the cookie dough and was going to toss it.  I actually sat there and ate all the Espresso Pillows out of the raw dough so I would not waste them.

Take Care of Your Feet Forrest

Some folks started to change socks and care for their feet.  There were some very nasty blisters, including some big purple ones that looked like grapes hanging off the side of their toes.  Big Daddy saw this and asked for a foot check.  All of us removed our shoes and socks.  Big Daddy walked around and checked everyone’s feet.  He asked a couple of questions based on what he saw.  I had two small blisters, nothing bad.

We put our socks and shoes back on.  It was time to head out again.  As we were rucking, I noticed one of the shadows helped himself to one of my food bags – the one with my espresso pillows.  When I saw the shadows eating my espresso pillows, a white hot rage flashed in front of my eyes.  Who dares to eat my pillows without asking.  I quickly calmed down when I thought about it.  He shadowed since the beginning and would continue to the end.  If I ever see him again, he owes me a pack of espresso pillows.

We continued rucking our way back to Dallas, which included a stop at our morning water hazard.  This time we stopped for bottom samples.  Big Daddy lead us into the water for bottom samples and a quick swim.  He told us that given the water temperature (which he measured to be 48 degrees), hypothermia would set in in 10 minutes. He kept us in there for 5.  Once we were out of the water, we were allowed to change.  This was not easy to do since Colleen was grabbing asses and calling out “bottom samples.”  Soon enough, we were back on the trail headed to Dallas.

We met up with Cadre Michael, who took over as the lead cadre to bring us back into Dallas.  It felt like we were on the final stretch, even though we probably had about 7 miles to go before reaching the starting point.  Cadre Michael was determined to get us back to the starting point at 24 hour point.  This meant shuffling, a lot of shuffling, and little to no breaks.  When we did not shuffle enough, we were punished.

Tunnel of Love 2.0

On the way, Michael saw a tunnel under a bridge and through one of the levies; a tunnel he would have us crawl through.  The tunnel is a drainage tunnel for floods.  It was a nasty and dark tunnel, which we later learned was over 100 meters long.  The tunnel was dry up until the last 10%.  I do not envy the first person on the team that had to determine how deep the water was.  Luckily, we could see the light and all of us made it out without incident.  Cadre Michael was very proud that he had us crawl through the longest tunnel he has found (to date).

Once we got back on the trail, it was time to shuffle and walk, walk and shuffle.  We kept this up until we got into the city.  Somewhere along the way, I became the flag bearer and was setting the pace.  While I try my best to set the correct pace, I am terrible at it.  I always go too fast.  It seemed that I was doing alright because no one was speaking up.

We were back in Dallas and the temperature was dropping.  Cadre Michael saw a nice fountain and decided it was time for a little fun in the water.  First, we had to sit on the edge and flutter kick, splashing as much as we could.  He was not impressed with our splashing, so into the fountain we went.  It was hydro-burpie time.  After 2, we were instructed that we were not doing them correctly, so we started over.  This water was cold, to me it felt colder than the pond we were in earlier.  After we completed our task, we went back on the move.

Breaks appeared in our line and we lost our right shoe.  Soon after, Candace ran up to the front and took the flag from me and said “Back of the line; you are going too fast.”  Like I mentioned earlier, I am a terrible pace setter.

We entered the park, that was our starting point, to see a crowd of GRTs, friends, and family waiting for us.  We were not finished yet.  Cadre Big Daddy pulled out the piece of paper and said, “There are still those that owe me pushups and sit-ups from the PT test.”

“Damn it,” I thought, “well, maybe all this rucking and the adrenaline of finishing may push me to hit the numbers.”

PT Standard Redux

First was sit-ups, I was paired with Patrick.  He went first and put up a respectable number in the 60s.  We switched.  I was tired, but I felt I could do this.  The words I heard in my head were, “All the effort, all the time.”  That was what I was going to do.

Cadre said go and I knocked out as many as I could, as fast as I could.  I don’t remember where I needed to rest but I knew it was earlier than my normal spot.  Took two deep breaths and kept going.  I took another break, I heard Patrick offering some words of encouragement, but all I heard was the words in my head, “All the effort, all the time.”

Cadre called time, but I ended up doing 2-3 more before it sunk it.  My final number was 57 (as best I can recall).  When I heard the count, I wanted to have completed more.  I instantly started to dissect my performance and how I could improve.

“Get in the up position,” the Cadre called out.  Cadre had us call out phrases as we went down and pushed back up.  I knew this was the end, but the words, “All the effort, all the time,” repeated in my head.  These push ups were going to be as close to perfect as they could be.  In the end, they may have been terrible, but they felt right.

Finishing as a Team

We were told to hold the up position while the Cadre came around and handed us our patches.  I received my patch from Big Daddy.  Heavy 026 was completed.

We started as individuals, were tested as individuals, then came together as a team.  We were tested as a team, suffered as a team, and finished as a team.  It was an honor to be part of our fantastic team: Patrick, AG, Tim, Mariela, Brian, OG, Colleen, Dave, Candace, Abi, Mike, and Saul.

After it was all over, Big Daddy came over to a couple of us and asked why we did not quit.  I told him, “I always had more in me.”  He asked how I knew that.  I replied, “I don’t know.  I would just pause and realize that I always had more in me.”

Heavy 26 Team Photo

Heavy 26 Team Photo courtesy of Abi Rittenhouse Wilson

My final thoughts on Heavy 2.0

Heavy 2.0 is more than just a 24 hour version of the challenge.  I am happy with the changes that Cadre Dan has made.  It pleases me to see GoRuck evolve over time.

Heavy 2.0 will test you both as an individual and as a team.  I have been asked for my advice on tackling the new Heavy.  My advice is simple, but not easy.

  • Get yourself physically ready: GORUCK has a great training page and so does SGPT

  • Practice the PT test often.  Get used to it.

  • Ruck:  Ruck often with your Heavy weight.  Ruck far – most people’s bodies will start to have issues around mile 7 or 8.  Make sure you are rucking at least 10 miles.  Keep a steady 15 min/mi pace.  I realize the standard is 17:30 min/mi pace, but that assumes no stops, no time penalties, etc.  If those things happen, be sure you are able to recover the time.

Get yourself mentally ready

  • Quitting is a virus:  Quitting is highly contagious and can take down even the strongest person.  My personal philosophy is never think about quitting.  Some people repeat the mantra: “Don’t Quit” or “DFQ.”  I don’t.  That mantra means you are thinking about quitting.  I keep my mantras positive, “Be Water,” (from Bruce Lee) and “I have more.”  After Heavy 026, I have a new one thanks to Big Daddy and my team, “Feel the wind in your hair.”

  • When you ruck the long distances, try to ruck alone in the dark and in the silence.

  • Smile: If there is one thing I could change about my performance, it would be smile more.  Smiles are also contagious and they are up-lifting.  Smile when you are out, even if you have to fake it sometimes.

Impossible Challenge — Freak Frogman Plus Selection Part 2 — 30 Day Assessment

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For the past 30-days, I have been doing the Freak Frogman Workout program by Brad McLeod over at Seal Grinder PT. If you missed my initial assessment, you can see that here. I decided to try it out to mix it up a bit and to see how I would perform againest a standard.

Freak Frogman Workout Assessment

Overall, it’s a great program full of challenging workouts that really push you to the limits. To be honest, I did not do all the workouts due to scheduling and ability (the pull-up workouts really sucked and I struggled to get through them) but I’d say I followed the program about 85% of the time.

My plan is to incorporate the Freak Frogman Workouts into my overall fitness program because I feel that they really challenge me to push past my limits, they are fun and who doesn’t dream of being a Navy Seal :)!

Mixing It Up Makes Training Interesting

The thing I really like about Freak Frogman is that it has a lot of variety and dedicated rest days (active recovery) that makes it easier to absorb training. As I talked about in other trainings posts, rest and recovering are vital to absorbing your training and preventing injury.

If I was to pick my favorite workout, it would have to be the SGPT Filthy Fifty workout. That workout really pushed me outside my comfort zone and kicked my ass. My time was horrible but I finished and sometimes, that’s all that matters.

30 Day Assessment

In my initial baseline assessment, I mentioned that I would do both BUD/S and Selection minimums on different days but as I thought about it, I figured why not do both. So for the 30 day assessment, I combined the two and came up with the following (Note: A 2 minute rest is inserted in-between events):

  • Swim 500 Yards: Using the Combat Swimmer Stroke, sidestroke or breast stroke. The cut-off time is 12 minutes 30 seconds (BUD/S minimum)

  • Pull-ups: 8 is the minimum with no time limit. No “kipping” (BUD/S minimum)

  • Push-ups: 55 is the minimum in 2 minutes (Selection minimum)

  • Sit-ups: 65 is the minimum in 2 minutes (Selection minimum)

  • 5 Mile Run: Cut off time is 40 minutes (8:00 pace. Selection Minimum)

  • 12 Mile Ruck: With 45 pound ruck (excluding food and water). Cut off time is 3 hours and 30 minutes (17:30 pace. Selection Minimum)

I figured that by doing the maximum of the minimums (say that 10 times fast) at the same time would be a good test of overall fitness. My performance after 30-days is as follows:

  • Weight: 186 (+2 pounds. Too much Turkey)

  • Swim 500 Yards (Breaststroke): 10:04 (met)

  • Pull-ups: 6 (Off by 2. Improved by 2)

  • Push-ups: 44 (Off by 11. Improved by 7)

  • Sit-ups: 51 (Off by 14. Improved by 9)

  • 5 Mile Run: 38:13 (met)

  • 12 Mile Ruck: 3:24:34 (met)

Overall, not bad for a 42 year old triathlete. I think I’d would actually pass the minimums for all services for my age grouping.

Know the Why

As I did the Freak Frogman workouts, I was reminded what Coach Brad talks a lot about which is knowing the “Why” as in why you want to achieve what you want to achieve. That’s probably the most important aspect of any type of training because it’s the”why” that will get you through the struggles and hardships that will happen on whatever path you find yourself on.

Knowing the why was the best lesson that Freak Frogman Workout taught me. Without the knowing the why, life is just a series of haphazard events until you die. This is also an important part of building and sustaining healthy habits, which is one of the cornerstones of my The Endurance Habit Class.

For me, the why is to push myself outside my comfort zone to see what I can achieve if I put my mind to something. That why has driven me to achieve pretty much everything I have ever achieved.

Am I Ready for BUD/S or Selection?

Not at all and the numbers show it. One thing that’s obvious is that the endurance events (swim, run and ruck) are my strong suits and the strength events (push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups) need work.

If this taught me anything it’s that it takes more than 30-days to effectively train for anything. It took me over 13 weeks to train for an Ironman and that was just to finish.

Even if you have a solid baseline to work from, it can be a challenge to have that baseline translate to other events but it does help. One thing that’s important to realize is that you need to train for what you will face. Cadre Bert’s Selection training story highlights this perfectly. You really need to condition your body for the challenges it will face. BUD/S and Selection are two very difference events and training for one may not help training for the other.

I will say that cross-training can and does help your overall fitness because it pushes your body in different ways and lets muscle groups rest and recover so that you can absorb your training more effectively.

Moving Forward

I’m pretty happy with the Freak Frogman Workout and how it pushed me past my comfort zone. I think I’ll incorporate the modified baseline assessment into my workout routine to see how I perform over time. Assessment is an important part of physical fitness and while I’m not as hardcore as my friend Troy, who tracks his performance down to the calorie. Checking in with how you perform every once in a while can be really valuable to assess how effective your training program is.

Impossible Challenge — Freak Frogman Plus Selection Part 1: Baseline

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Starting on Nov 4th, 2013, I decided that my next impossible challenge would be to do Brad McLeod’s Freak Frogman Workout program. The Freak Frogman Workout is a 30 day program that is meant to prepare you for BUD/S (Seal Training) or any other special forces type training.

The workouts are a combination of body weight, swimming and running with some cross fit workouts thrown in for good measure. The program is based on what Brad would do today to prepare for BUD/S.

BUD/S & Selection Minimum Requirements

The first day of the program you do what Brad calls the BUD/S Prep Baseline Workout which consists of the following exercises (A rest period of 2 minutes goes between each exercise):

  • Swim 500 Yards: Using the Combat Swimmer Stroke, sidestroke or breast stroke. The cut-off time is 12 minutes 30 seconds.

  • Push-ups: 42 is the minimum in 2 minutes.

  • Sit-ups: 52 is the minimum in 2 minutes

  • Pull-ups: 8 is the minimum with no time limit. No “kipping”.

  • 1.5 Mile Run: Wearing boots and pants. 11 minutes and 30 seconds is the cut-off time (7:40 pace).

Those are some pretty aggressive goals but in line with the minimum requirements for Goruck Selection which are:

  • Push-ups: 55 is the minimum in 2 minutes

  • Sit-ups: 65 is the minimum in 2 minutes

  • 5-Mile run: Cut off time is 40 minutes (8:00 pace)

  • 12-Mile Ruck Run: With 45 pound ruck (excluding food and water). Cut off time is 3 hours and 30 minutes (17:30 pace)

Each minimum has a unique focus that tests various aspects of your overall fitness. Brad’s program (with some minor additions) should be good for both.

The Challenge

The goal for this 30 day challenge is to meet the minimum requirements for the BUD/S Prep Baseline Workout and the Goruck Selection (although not at the same time). The Freak Frogman Workout does not have any rucking so I’ll have to supplement some rucks to prepare for that. Otherwise, the training program should be good enough to improve my times over my present baseline (see below) enough to meet the minimums. I’ll do each baseline a couple of days apart to get the best possible times.

My Baseline

The first setup in this challenge is to baseline my performance. I choose to use the BUD/S Prep Baseline with one modification — the run is 3.1 miles without boots or pants. Here are my baseline numbers (including starting weight)

  • Weight: 184 pounds

  • Swim 500 yards (breast stroke): 10 minutes <= Met

  • Push-ups: 37 <= Fell short by 5 and 18

  • Sit-ups: 42 <= Fell short by 10 and 23

  • Pull-ups: 4 <= Fell short by 4

  • 3.1 Mile run: 24:15 (7:49 pace) <= Fell short and on Pace

 

Overall, not a bad performance considering I mostly do triathlons. The biggest challenge hands down will be the strength events since those are the ones I have the least amount of experience with.

My First 50 Miler Benefiting The Green Beret Foundation

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On August 2nd, 2013, I completed my first 50 mile run as a benefit for Run For 1 Million — a virtual race that benefits the Green Beret Foundation. It was a fun and challenging course that I completed 11:51:15.

I got involved with the Run For 1 Million because the guys that put it on are fellow GRT’s who are helping with Goruck’s goal to raise $1 million dollars for The Green Beret Foundation. The run for 1 million is one of several fundraising activities that people can participate in.

Picking The Most Scenic Route

I have always wanted to either bike or run the 49 Mile Scenic Drive around San Francisco. The only draw back is that it’s only 49 miles (actually, according to wikipedia, it’s only 46.3). Thankfully, I found the route below that turns out to be 52 miles.

Photo Courtesy of http://usmotogpfans.com/roads/49mdplus/

Photo Courtesy of http://usmotogpfans.com/roads/49mdplus/

The nice thing about the 49 mile drive is that it has these fantastic signs that (mostly) guild you along the way. The map also came with some links to Google Maps for the details of the original route and the extra 3 miles that are off the original drive but are well worth it.

Roman Style Running

If you have read some of my other race reports (like the one from Diablo Trails, you would know that I run in Teva sandals. I have been doing this for the last 3 years and it’s been fantastic.

When I ran the Diablo Trials 50k, hot spots on the bottom of my feet (foot pad) flared up big time. For this race, I decided to learn from that and put some tape all along the bottom of my footpad. This worked amazing well for my footpads but I failed to consider the rubbing on my pinky toes. That rubbing caused the blisters I had the whole run.

One odd thing about the tape was that it embedded itself into the sole of my sandals. This made my foot stick to the sandal just like that Stickum stuff they used to use in the NFL. I think this is the main reason I did not get any blisters on the bottom of my feet.

Foot care is important and thankfully I knew what I had to do with the two blisters on my pinky toes — pop them and tape them up. Once I did that, the pain went away and I could continue on pain free.

The Motivation of Getting Others Involved

The great thing about this race is that it had a tremendous amount of other people doing it all around the world. That made it a ton of fun to send it updates via Twitter or Facebook.

During the run, I’d sent in periodic Twitter and Facebook updates from the historic landmarks that I would run by (it’s not called 49 mile Scenic for nothing). This was a good way to pass the time and motivated me to keep at it since I can’t let me Twitter and Facebook fans down :)! See below for all the pictures I took along the way.

Breaking Through The Struggles & Challenges

There were plenty of struggles & challenges along the 50 mile route. Most of these struggles revolved around the mental toughness to push past being uncomfortable.

Discomfort takes many forms — hunger, thirst, chafing (BodyGlide helps), rocks in my sandals, not knowing the route, odd ankle pains and thigh tightness. All of these discomforts can wear you down if you let them. Pushing past them requires a lot of mental toughness.

Two techniques really helped me push past the discomfort more than any others included: focusing on the incremental and visualization.

Focus on the Incremental

Running 50 miles is a pretty big goal. Taken all at once, it seems daunting and almost not doable. That’s why it’s important to breakdown this bigger goal into smaller, what Brad McLeod over at SealGrinderPT calls, micro-goals.

These micro-goals are good because they give you the small wins that build into the bigger wins. When I was out running and felt tired or discouraged, I’d give myself the micro-goal of running to the next light pool, bush, bar, gas station or landmark. This kept me focused on specific and actionable goals in the here and now.

Visualize

Endurance athletics is about 80% mental once you have properly conditioned your body. Your mind — not your muscles — will get you through the tough times when your body wants to quit.

Visualization is a method that works well for this. The basic premise is to build a mental picture of what needs to be accomplished and accomplish it.

Paige Bowie, the only Selection 003 candidate to finish, explains it well in her Selection 003 AAR with this quote:

I also visualized finishing. I saw myself completing movements, succeeding. I came up with mantras and things to tell myself when it started to get hard. — Paige Bowie

Selection (48+ hours) is much harder than a 50 miler but this is the same technique I used to push past some of the more painful moments when all I wanted to do was quit.

Performance Assessment

Overall, I’m happy with my time given the amount of training I did (which was not much more than my normal training schedule).

If I did another one, clearly I’d need to do more long runs. The longest training session I did was a 7 hour ruck with some of the guys doing the Goruck Heavy. That was actually a pretty good way to train since weight amplifies fatigue and you want to get used to performing when you are tired.

Some of the other lessons learned include:

  • Run with a Buddy: it gets kinda lonely running by yourself although I did try and make friends with the tourists.

  • Tape my feet: I should have realized the pinky toe hot spot and taped them like I did my food pad.

  • Carry less food: I ended up only eating about half the food I brought because I stopped for food along the way including some delicious donuts from Dynamo Donuts

  • Do Longer Training Runs: this ones kinda obvious but I needed to do more training runs to condition my legs for all those miles.

Knowing the Why Helps

Running for charity provides great motivation. It’s one of the best ways to stay focused when the demons come to tell you to quit. This sense of meaning can pull you along when quitting seems like the only options.

The fact that this race benefits The Green Beret Foundation made it even more motivational since every single one of our silent warriors had to endure much more physical and mental challenges then anything I encountered on my scenic stroll through San Francisco.

To all those that serve and have served, thank you for your service and commitment.

Picture Gallery

 

Channel your angst over setbacks into the will to overcome them

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I’m about 25% through these aha’s (this one is 33 if you are counting) and while I’m really excited everyday to make progress, it’s been tough.

If you recall, I stated in the first aha Starting is the scariest part, that I would write 1,000 words a day until I finished all these aha’s. At that pace, that’s about 3 aha’s a day or 46 days. I’m now on day 11.

Life Gets in the Way

Frankly, I have a lot of angst about my 1,000 word a day goal. Not that I don’t think I can do it. I really want to. That’s not it at all.

The angst comes from all the other commitments I have in my life — from work, to volunteering, to having a social life. Throw all that in with a much needed (and welcomed) vacation and I start to feel the setbacks mounting.

21 Days to a New Habit

There is a long held mantra (well, at least a Google answers mantra, backed up by some research) that it takes 21 days to form a habit. This realization came about by Dr. Maxwell Maltz who observed that amputees took about 21-28 days to get used to their new limbs.

This 21 Day Habit Theory stuck and now is popular within all sorts of self help circles.

For me, I think once I get in the rhythm, the angst will subside — I just hope it’s sooner than 21 days!

Habits Are Non-Linear and Plateau

The 21 Day Habit Theory is somewhat simplistic in that it observed amputees who had to deal with their loss of limb 24/7.

New research suggests that we reach a plateau in forming a habit at about 66 days. This, of course, is highly dependent on the activity.

This is far from the so called 10,000 hours it takes to become an expert but hey, you got to start somewhere.

Ways to Take Action

  1. Form a positive habit: Setbacks can be a little less scary if you develop positive habits to overcome them.

  2. Don’t over think: Sometimes we get angst about events that have yet to happen. Just relax and do it.

  3. Adjust when you have too: Too often, we hit a setback and wham, stop. Learn to adjust your approach when conditions warrant and that will help get over setbacks.

  4. Be in the moment: Akin to over thinking, being in the moment allows us to deal with the here and now and not worry about the next setback or barrier.

 


 

This aha is from my book, #ENDURANCE tweet Book 01— A Little Nudge to Keep You Going. The book is chalked full of mantras, sayings, words of wisdom and encouragements to help you get past your challenges so you can achieve your goals. If you found this aha inspiring or helpful, then I would appreciate your support by sharing it with a friend and/or purchasing a copy of the book. If you missed any past amplified posts, check out the #ENDURANCE tweet Amplified! page. Want to get my latest on enduring? Then sign up for my FREE newsletter. Thanks for reading and keep enduring!

Pushing on a barrier should deepen our resolve to move past it

endurance_tweet_aha_32

Barriers are really things we fear.

If we are courageous enough to attempt to break through a barrier, then it’s an important barrier to overcome.

Barriers are our inner critics way of creating points of pause. These pause points are a way to test our mental and physical resolve to face adversity.

To some, barriers are annoying and frustrating. To those who change their attitude about barriers, these points of pause can turn into points of development and growth

Barriers Makes Us Stronger

That which does not kill us makes us stronger — Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche’s quote applies to all the barriers we face if and only if we become engaged enough to resolve to move past them.

It may seem a bit extreme, talking about being killed and all, but the metaphor is apt because we don’t have to physically die in order to kill our spirit.

Getting Into the Fight

Engagement with the barriers and struggles we face is the only way to keep our spirit from getting killed. Barriers keep us in the fight because they define who we are and what we are about. If we let them stall us or stop us, we can lose ourselves — which slowly kills who we are.

Everyday, we need to be fighting to push through our barriers so we can keep who we are intact. Without this fight to get better, we lose ourselves.

Ways to Take Action

  1. Acknowledge the barrier: Recognizing the barriers in front of us goes a long way to pushing them our of our way.

  2. Take action: The best approach is to take action. Action will make progress even if it proves to be backward progress. At least you’ll know that approach won’t work.

  3. Gather support: Once you take action, you may need support from others to overcome the barrier. Gather support whenever and whereever you can.

  4. Push hard: Barriers can only be removed if we push on them with determination and vigor. If it’s a big barrier, we may need to push harder than we have ever pushed before.


This aha is from my book, #ENDURANCE tweet Book 01— A Little Nudge to Keep You Going. The book is chalked full of mantras, sayings, words of wisdom and encouragements to help you get past your challenges so you can achieve your goals. If you found this aha inspiring or helpful, then I would appreciate your support by sharing it with a friend and/or purchasing a copy of the book. If you missed any past amplified posts, check out the #ENDURANCE tweet Amplified! page. Want to get my latest on enduring? Then sign up for my FREE newsletter. Thanks for reading and keep enduring!

Going Heavy — David Pearson’s Experience at Goruck Heavy 006

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Dave after 006 Heavy with his much deserved Heavy Patch. Photo courtesy of David Pearson.

On May 18th, 2013, a group of 38 Master’s (40+) descended on Washington, DC to participate in a custom Goruck Heavy.

David Pearson (almost 47) was one of those masters who participated. I sat down with Dave to go over his experience at Goruck Heavy 006 (24+ hours of Good Livin’).

 

Jarie Bolander: Thanks Dave for agreeing to be interviewed on your experiences with the Master’s Heavy.

David Pearson: No problem. Glad to help

JB: How many people signed up for the Master’s Goruck Heavy.

DP: 40 signed up, 38 showed up, 36 started and 29 finished. The two who didn’t start had a good reason as they were a couple and just found out she was pregnant.

JB: Why did people drop?

DP: Two were definitely medical. One a shoulder and one a back. One person dropped out pretty early. He was in his 60’s and did two challenges in a row and basically said he had no business being here.

He said, I’m too beat down and I’ll just slow you guys down, which is not fair to the team.

The other four dropped after 4 or 5 hours. One could not keep up with the pace, one because a buddy said they would drop if their buddy dropped. One of them looked medical and the fourth I never had a chance to talk to but may have been a med drop.

We started on the mall with a smoke session, then to the Jefferson memorial and got photo bombed by some Japanese tourists. Then we went to Arlington and watched the changing of the guard. That was pretty good.

We missed both time hacks getting to Jefferson and Arlington. Cadre Devin said he would extract punishment from us later.

After that we went to Roosevelt Island and that was were we lost the four before going to the island.

Before crossing to the island, Cadre Devin gave us a speech about this being a custom challenge and we were all masters. If we wanted the Heavy patch then we had to meet the standard.

You either step up and perform or go home now or tell me you don’t want this to be a heavy and we can change it to something more fun. If you want a Heavy patch, you’re going to earn it.

After the speech, another person was ready to drop out but a teammate convinced them to stay.

From that point, we lost two other people who had med problems. The one with the shoulder problem (he had surgery a couple months prior) and another one, his back was giving out.

Everyone else finished. We did have two pretty serious medical problems that we treated during the event.

JB: What were the two serious medical problems?

DP: The first guy went down for dehydration. He was throwing up and could not hold anything down. Thankfully, a teammate treated him with meds and got him going.

That took about 15 minutes and all of us had to lay down and not say a word. Most people fell asleep but I stayed awake because I just knew that Cadre Devin would pull some sort of surprise, which he did.

The other guy had an epileptic fit. It scared the crap out of me since me and another guy watched it happen. I thought he was having a heart attack since we could not get him up.

Luckily, we had an EMT in the group and he and Cadre Devin came over and got him going. It was scary.

JB: Was he a known epileptic?

DP: He was known to himself but no one else knew about it.

JB: He did not tell anyone. Oh my God!

DP: Every thing that we were doing in a Heavy are the things you are not supposed to do if you have epilepsy. Every bad thing you are not supposed to do, we were doing.

JB: But in the end, he made it too. Wow, I guess he should have done more or maybe, I don’t know.

DP: Yeah, stuff happens. The only time I came close to dropping was when my right knee started acting up and feeling funky with shooting pains. I thought that if this keeps up, it’s serious and I would have to med drop but after about a half an hour, it just stopped hurting and I was fine.

JB: Okay. So, what was the most grueling part? Was it the physical or the mental? What was it that you had the most problems with?

DP: It was a combination. After we left Roosevelt Island, we went to Georgetown to do a rest and refit. From there, for the next 13 hours, Cadre Devin gave us sandbag babies.

So we had 1,400 pounds of babies we had to carry, which is 22 sandbags.

At one point, because we damaged some of his babies by dropping them, Cadre Devin decided that we needed some sturdier babies and gave us two additional concrete babies to carry.

And then because we missed a headcount, he gave us a big log that one person could carry but it looked like a big recoilless rifle and then we had to carry that.

We had like 31 people which later dropped to 29 and 27 items to carry. So no matter how bad off you were, you had nobody to trade with.

We were basically walking from lock or bridge to the next lock or bridge, dropping our load and taking 3 minutes off since that’s about as far as you could go without taking a break.

JB: Right. that’s because of the weight.

DP: Yeah, because of the weight and you had no one to trade off with.

Most of us, at any given time, we carrying between 70 and 110 pounds on our back for 13 hours.

JB: That must have wore you down.

DP: Yeah, it’s just a long way. If you have any kind of injury or whatever it starts to get exacerbated. That’s what happened with the guys with the shoulder and bad back had to go out on.

But everyone, including Max who was one of the young babies we let do it, by the end was injured. Both of his knees were in bad shape and his back. All of us were struggling and it’s just a matter of pushing through it.

JB: So, did you guys have to lift any logs?

DP: Yup. We lifted a log on Roosevelt Island that the ROTC kids put there a couple of weeks before.

JB: Nice. I love it how they seem to find logs like “Gee, where did this log come from?”

Cadre love logs and I just don’t get it. Every Goruck guy I know hates them.

DP: Well, that’s because it builds the team. If you can’t work together as a team and get a system going, then you can’t move the log.

Luckily we had one guy who stayed under the log the whole time and he had a huge booming voice. He got everyone moving in the right direction and got the log moving.

At one point Cadre Devin got pissed because we were not moving very far before we would drop it. He said that if you don’t get this 100 feet in the next 4 minutes, you are going to carry it all the way to the Potomac River.

JB: I’m sure the motivation was pretty high. Those are the worst possible things. I hate them [logs].

DP: I was under it twice and it crushed me.

JB: Lifting the log is a tough, tough thing to do.

What were some of the gear changes that you did between a normal challenge and a Heavy? What did you add or take away?

DP: I read everyone else’s reports and what Cadre recommended. I switched from tennis shoes to boots for ankle support. I was glad for boots especially when we crossed a pond before the Potomac River. There must have been a foot of muck on the bottom. I don’t know how people did not loose their shoes. As I said, I switched from tennis shoes to boots and I also went from a kilt to long pants and knee pads and that helped tremendously.

One thing I did not consider was what would happen when you wear compression shirts for long periods of time. Chaffing is an issue and I should have brought some Body Glide. That was a mistake.

JB: So if you ever did it again, it would be Body Glide for sure.

DP: Definitely. Body Glide over 24 hours when you are wearing the same clothing and going through all the stuff, you definitely need to get some Body Glide.

Heavy means that you are going long distances with lots of weight. So you are getting stuff rubbing all over your body.

While a compressions shirt might be good for 6-12 hours, after 18 or 20, you need something to be between your skin and that shirt or shorts.

JB: Yeah because it’s going to start to chafe. Chafe for sure.

So, how soon after you guys started did you guys realize that this is a different event — more than a challenge? It seems like more weight. Did it pretty much start out the same? Was it just a challenge with more weight and time?

DP: It pretty much started out the same and most of us did not know what to expect because this was a custom event. We were all in DC. We were thinking we’ll see some monuments, move a log and that it would be just longer time.

Cadre Devin started out with the normal PT and that kind of stuff which we all expected no big deal. And then he started to set time hacks that younger guys could have made but there was no way our group was going to make it especially with a couple of 60 year olds. It just was not going to happen.

We were fine. We accepted the punishment. It’s not a big deal. We know we are going to miss the time hack. Who cares?

So it really did not get real until his speech at Roosevelt Island where he said you guys are missing your time hacks. It’s not going to get any easier — it’s only going to get harder. That’s when it started to set in. He started to wail on us and then he gave us the sandbags.

When you have 80 pounds on your back and he’s like I want to do 60 miles which is more than any prior challenge has ever done, it gets real.

JB: That’s a lot of miles. How much did you end up doing?

DP: About 45 is what he calculated. The longest so far was New York at 50. We were just shy of New York and our average age was probably double theirs.

JB: Yeah, Cuz I mean going 60 miles in 24 hours with 80-110 lbs on your back. That’s pretty brutal. That’s not going to be fun. Not at all. No fun.

This is no joke. It’s more than a challenge or a double challenge. It’s like a challenge plus.

DP: It way beyond a double challenge. If you look at past classes, they have a 50% drop out rate where ours was more like 20% for a Masters so Cadre Devin was impressed as hell by that.

JB: Well Masters — guys over 40 — are crazy anyway.

DP: We are used to pain. We wake up with it everyday so we are used to it. We’re too stubborn to know any better.

JB: Or too stupid. Wow. So the typical Heavy has been a 50% drop out rate.

DP: If you look at the prior ones that have been run, they have been a 50% or higher drop rates out of 6 Heavy’s that have been run so far.

JB: That’s pretty up there. I mean a typical challenge has a 98% pass rate. You have to put out and all but that’s a huge disparity. You’re like doubling. Wait way more than doubling the fail rate.

DP: On ours, it’s like we had no relief. If you had trouble with your sandbag, you had no one to give it too because everyone else had one. You just had to suck it up.

At some point, people were asking to switch sandbags for a lighter one.

JB: That’s just the way it goes. I mean it’s funny when someone says, can I get a lighter sandbag. That’s when you are embracing the suck. Can I just trade with you for a little bit to get a lighter sandbag just to recover? Amazing.

DP: You would be shocked. We would stop every mile or two for maybe a couple of minutes but that couple of minute break was great. By the time I got there, I was sweating profusely, ready to throw up but after that break, I was good to go. That break provided a tremendous amount of relief.

You get to the next stop and you are in the same broken down condition.

And the other thing that I learned because I was watching the other guys do it was every time we stopped by a tree or a ledge or something to get your feet up in the air for the swelling. And that’s a big thing when you are on your feet with that kind of weight for that length of time.

Anytime when you can take a rest, get on your back and get your feet up.

JB: Aw. Okay. So just to reduce the swelling.

DP: Yeah, that worked great.

JB: So some of the things that you learned. Get your feet up to reduce the swelling and to reduce the stress. Body Glide is a must.

DP: The other thing is know your equipment. I did the half-marathon on Mt. Diablo with my boots and ruck. So I was doing that under 45 pounds of weight while you guys were running by me.

That helped teach me where the hot spots were going to be on my feet. So before I even started I had blister pads on, moleskin over that and rock taped it down or the moleskin will move as soon as it gets wet. So the KT tape will hold everything in place when it gets wet.

I had only one place on my feet that erupted and that was below my ankle. Everything else was perfectly fine. Never blistered. It hurt like hell and I thought my feet would look like sausage but they were perfectly fine in the end.

JB: So you handled the hot spots by really just beating your feet up. Knowing where the hot spots were going to be and taking care of them ahead of time.

DP: Yup. You need to be out using your equipment under tremendous amounts of weight and time so you can figure out what’s going to break where and fix it before you get there. Because if you look at some of the Selection reports, a lot of guys dropped out because of their feet got in their head.

JB: Yeah. That’s why Dan had to drop from NorCal because his feet. I saw his feet after. You were there and saw them too. They were pretty bad. That was pretty awful.

So, what about training? What did you do to train for this? Is it different than a challenge?

DP: I started lifting a lot because I wanted to put on more muscle because I knew I would have to carry a lot more stuff for a lot longer. Doing longer rucks under weight was what I did. That’s why I did the half marathon, under 45 pounds on Mt. Diablo. It was something like 2,500 feet of elevation.

So, I wanted to see because I never wore boots for a challenge before to see what would happen for that kind of elevation gain.

Going back to DC, it’s pretty flat so you don’t have to worry about hills. If I could do the hills out here, then I knew I could do DC.

JB: So basically, longer duration rucks, with the equipment to understand where things are going to pop up like hot spots, how your equipment is either going to fail or pass or whatever.

DP: Yep and getting used to once the weight is on my back just to continue to walk forward with it. So, it depends on where you are mentally. On the mental part, I’m always pretty strong. It’s the physical that I’m more concerned about breaking down.

I stopped doing spinning and running and focused on the lifting so I had more muscle mass.

JB: Okay. So for you, what were some of the mental things you went through or the mental toughness so to speak. I mean, how do you condition yourself for the mental aspects?

DP: I think part of that comes with age.

JB: Ha Ha. Age. I guess we are just too stupid. Ha Ha.

DP: Doing Diablo a year ago and failing at it told me where my body was breaking and recognizing how to fix it.

As you know, doing the ultra running, you are on your own. You are in your head the entire time. There is no one next to you to talk to. That’s what makes you mentally tough.

JB: Okay, so basically going out and doing things where you rely on yourself, maybe even fail, understand where that failure is, adjust and just keep on going. Really building that mental endurance.

DP: A Heavy is still a Goruck Challenge where you can talk to the person next to you. If you can keep a positive attitude, then that’s good.

People were smiling, telling jokes. We had one guy from the south who talked the whole night. It was awesome because you had someone to listen too. You know, that helps.

In Selection, people get into their own heads because they can’t talk to anybody. So if you can’t manage, like Paige said, learn to mediate so that you don’t get into your own head.

You need to be able to control that and what you are thinking when you do these kind of events.

But the Heavy is not Selection and in a Heavy you have a team that can pull you through it.

JB: So, Okay, that sounds good. It seems to me that the general summary. You have to get physically conditioned and more muscle is important. Cardio is important but muscle because you are carrying a lot of weight.

DP: We had to move fast in the beginning because he was setting time hacks that we were not going to make. I don’t know if it would have made that much difference.

JB: Okay. So mostly focusing on the muscle mass, obviously cardio is going to be important. Second thing would be knowing the equipment and making sure that it’s all right, understand how to use it and actually knowing where the hot spots are on your feet are going to be and the chafing. Lesson learned on chafing was invest in some Body Glide.

DP: I never had chafing like that before ever.

JB: Oh yeah. I don’t even want to image how bad that can be.

DP: The benefit of having pants is that if you sometimes only have a 2-3 minute break. During some of the longer breaks, I would stuff food in the pockets.

So on a shorter break, I would lay on my back and I could reach into a pocket for food. There would be no way I would have time to reach into my ruck to get food out before we were up and moving again.

So the pants were a benefit from that standpoint because I had all these pockets I could stuff food.

Over 24 hours, you are burning like 1,000 calories an hour, which is 24,000. That’s a lot of calories.

JB: Did you think nutrition was a factor for you?

DP: I had plenty of food so I was eating regularly. We were reminding people to drink and eat. We had a resupply point during the night as well.

Cadre Devin was really good about getting us water and making sure we had it.

Normally during a challenge, I don’t eat. For 12 hours, it’s no big deal but for 24, I made sure I was eating a bunch of food throughout the event.

Having pockets for that food was a big plus.

JB: What kind of food? Was it the normal kind of food that you would eat? Like bars or what?

DP: Bars, gels some dried fruit (bananas and apricots). I brought some chocolate covered Acaci fruits. I had a chocolate bacon bar which was one of my rewards.

We were sharing food. A couple of people brought potatoes cooked with salt. People were sharing that. Jerky. Easy finger foods to eat.

A bunch of people brought MRE’s. So on a longer break, they were breaking out MRE’s and eating them.

[MRE’s] are easy food to carry. Light.

JB: Yeah, that’s true. So nutrition was a factor and so was hydration and all that was important. Did you feel that you hydrated enough? Was there ample time to hydrate?

DP: There was plenty of opportunities to hydrate. The one guy that went down for dehydration I don’t think was paying attention to his food and water.

That was on him for not paying attention to that. Everyone was reminding people to drink, drink, drink.

We had plenty of stops for water and the weather was perfect. Low 70’s. Cloudy. Warm but it was not humid. Heat, from that standpoint, was not a factor.

It never really got cold at night. We really did not need a lot of clothing.

If we would have started 2 days before when it was in the 90’s, half of us probably would have dropped due to dehydration.

JB: Yeah. Dehydration is a killer. When I did that ultra-marathon, Mt. Diablo. I was like every water stop I would fill up. I must have gone through 8 or 9 liters of water. That was a 7.5 hour race and I was constantly drinking and going to the bathroom. It was sweating out as well.

DP: Someone brought one of those marshmallow rollers, he said that was his M4, he would break that out and people were rolling their calfs and thighs and that was a pretty good idea.

JB: Yeah, Yeah. You will definitely get your calves seizing up if you are under that much strain for that period of time.

Any closing thoughts? Do you plan on doing it again?

DP: Yeah. I would not mind shadowing one or helping out with one but I don’t know if I would actually want to do another one. It does a lot of damage to your body.

My legs and hips are still sore. Both shoulders have bruising on them. I’m not nearly as bad as some of the guys I have seen. It’s a lot more damage than a 12 hour challenge.

It was fun to do and it was a great group of people because everyone had done multiple challenges. There was no new person that you had to teach how to form a team, so that was cool.

JB: So that was good that a least there was that knowledge of what to expect.

DP: There was no one there that did not know what to do with a log for example. We knew how to move sandbags. We knew how to do all the different workouts. When to cheat and when not to cheat.

JB: That’s so important. That is really important. Okay. Any final words? Like advice if someone is going to do this kind of thing?

DP: Take it seriously. If you have an injury or mental reservations, then don’t show up or drop out early. Don’t hurt the team by making them carry your weight just because you want to be there.

You need to be putting out for the team because it’s going to be miserable during the event. If you have an injury, it’s going to get worse if you have that much weight on your body over that distance.

Don’t do a challenge the weekend before like some of the knuckleheads did. A lot of guys were regretting that they did that.

JB: Sound advice. I mean it beats you up. It takes me like a week to feel normal.

DP: Even Mark Webb was ready to throw up.

JB: It really beats you up. Yeah, and Mark’s a vet at this stuff. He’s done like all of them.

DP: He’s done the most other than the Cadre.

JB: Okay. Great. Dave I appreciate your time and letting me interview you for my blog.

DP: No problem.

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Class 006 Team Picture. Photo courtesy of Max Beckman Baird

 

The Pretty Definitive Guide to Toughing Up Your Feet

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That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures. — Josiah Gilbert Holland

 

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor. Heck, I don’t even play one on TV. The advice in this post is my experience along with the experience of some people that I trust. This works for me and them but results may vary. If you have any doubts whatsoever, don’t do it. Toughing up your feet takes patience and lots of time. There are no quick fixes. So all you hard chargers out there, relax and take it slow.

UPDATE: I added a few more words of wisdom after completing Kokoro 32 since I ended up losing both big toe nails due to boot problems. You’ll find those additions after Workout in minimalist shoe.

Feet take a lot of punishment.

It’s no wonder that those of us who do endurance events are always taking care of our feet. This constant battle can be frustrating to some and limit the performance of others.

The best way I have found to deal with foot, knee, ankle and leg issues is to toughen them up. This guide is how I went from chronic foot (plantar fasciitis, blisters and soreness) and knee problems to feet and knees that can outwit and outlast with the best of them.

1% Inspiration and 99% Perspiration

This post was inspired by an excellent article on foot care by Cadre Garrett over at the Goruck Training site along with countless friends who have had foot problems.

Toughing up your feet takes time. It’s not something that you can do in a month or even a year. The simple fact is that most of us have been protecting our feet our whole lives and that history needs to be reversed.

Don’t get me wrong. You will tend see results in months but the big gains will take much longer and more effort than simply buying a pair of minimalist running shoes or running barefoot on the sand.

These Feet Were Made for Walking and Running and Jumping

Humans have a unique physiology that is ideally suited for endurance activities like running. Part of that unique physiology is in our feet.

Our feet have short toes compared to our closest ancestors and our big toe is in alignment with the rest of them. This is an advantage since our big toe is the last toe to leave the ground. If it was longer or misaligned, it would require more energy to lift off.

Our feet also have springlike ligaments and tendons (like our fully developed achilles tendon) that propel us along and absorb the shock of walking, lifting or running.

All these factors (along with our narrow waist and big butt muscles) make us able to run long distances and for our feet to take a tremendous amount of abuse if they are trained properly.

Stress and Strain is a Good Thing

In order to toughen anything up, it has to be put through a disciplined series of stress, strain and recovery cycles.

Feet are no different.

The problem with how we deal with our feet is that we tend to protect them in shoes that try and correct our natural gate. This correction, for most of us, is making our feet, knees and ankles weaker.

When you wear corrective shoes or stability shoes, your feet, ankles, knees and legs can’t really sense the environment. They are isolated from the uneven ground or rough terrain that we evolved to correct for.

This weakens them since the main correction mechanism when we run, our feet, are isolated from the sensory feedback required to slow our speed, change our gate or absorb a rut in the road.

As all of you know, that which is not used decays and so our feet decay and lose their toughness along with our bodies ability to correct for less than perfect operating surfaces.

The Pretty Definitive Guide to Tougher Feet

Toughing up your feet is just like any other type of workout — you need to assess where you are at, come up with a plan that works for you and stick to it.

This guild will take you through the techniques that I have used to toughen up my feet.

One of the most common mistakes people make when starting to toughen up their feet is to jump right in to either minimalist shoes or barefoot running or walking. That’s a real bad idea. Trust me. I know since I did the same thing and it set me back months.

The best way to build foot endurance is to take it slow and find the combination of things that work for you. Again, this takes time. Remember, you have been coddling your feet your whole life and that’s going to take some time to undo.

Listed below are the techniques I used to toughen up my feet over the last 2 years:

  • Gradually reduce shoe stability: Shoe stability makes your feet weak. It prevents your muscles from adjusting to the changing terrain. This was my major problem that took me a decade to figure out.

  • Trail running or hiking: Any kind of uneven surface will allow your feet and legs to build stability and strengthen your muscles. Don’t get too Gung Ho about climbing a mountain. Gradually mix it into your workouts.

  • Hill Repeats: Hills force you to get up on the balls of your feet. That’s the way we naturally evolved to run when we had no shoes. By doing hill repeats, you can build those muscles up as you reduce the stability of your shoes.

  • Rucking: Putting on a backpack full of bricks and going on a hike will stress your feet and accelerate the formation of hot spots (places where blisters will form). Tough feet will build calluses over those hot spots so they won’t bother you any more.

  • Barefoot walking or jogging on grass or sand: After a workout, it’s great to take your shoes off and go for a brief walk or job on a soft surface like grass or sand. Doing this will develop the foot and leg muscles related to stability. Most track and field coaches will do track infield barefoot workouts after their normal workout.

  • Calf lifts: Reducing shoe stability or going completely barefoot will tax your calves. It’s important that your calves are strong to absorb the additional shock. Minimalist or barefoot running feels like you’re always running up a hill, which will blast your calves.

  • Improve core strength: Your core strength has a lot to do with how your foot strikes the ground. The stronger the core, the better able your body will absorb shock and adjust to changing surface conditions.

  • Feel the ground: Make it a point to walk barefoot as much as you can. Do it around your home or office. When you do this, you start to feel the ground and how your feet react to it. This also builds up the support muscles in your ankle, shins and knees.

  • Determine your swell factor: Feet swell during rigorous activities. This swelling will create new hot spots and pinch points. That’s why it’s good to know how much your feet will swell so that you can either adjust your shoe size or adjust your sock thickness.

  • Switch between socks and no socks: Socks can mask problems until it’s too late. Switching between socks and no socks will allow you to figure out where your hot spots will be and how your shoes will feel when your feet swell.

  • Workout in minimalist shoes: Weight bearing exercises will increase your foot strength as well as improve stability. If you do these exercises (like squats, box jumps, burpees, etc), your feet will learn how to adjust to different loads and get tougher.

  • Break In Your Boots: If you wear boots for an event, make sure to break them in. New boots will rub you in all the wrong ways during an event. I have heard of or seen countless people suffer because of this.

  • Boot Break In is Still Not Enough: Even after breaking in your boots, you’ll need to determine if you have the proper boot fit. The problem I had at one event was that the front of my foot did not fill up my boot enough. This caused both feet to move forward too much thus causing my toe nails to hit the front of the boot.

  • Find Your Sock System: Socks play an important role in foot toughness and comfort. There are many ways to wear socks so experiment with what works for you. I have found that a light inner and a heavy outer sock work great for reducing blisters but make your foot slide forward too much.

Know Yourself by Knowing Your Feet

All of the techniques above are ones that have allowed me to run marathons, ultra-marathons and do GORUCK Challenges in either sandals or minimalist trail shoes with little to no feet problems. I do get the occasional blister or cut but nothing that has prevented me from finishing. Strong feet have also eliminated my knee and ankle issues which I used to get every year.

Do you have additional techniques to toughen up your feet? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

Exploring Further

Take a look at these resources to better understand your feet, take care of them and how to toughen them up:

3 Ways to Flip Your Endurance Switch

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It never fails to amaze me how my body and mind react to adversity.

I have done a lot of endurance events and it always comes down to something inside me flipping so that I can get through it.

This feeling of “flipping the switch” is a metaphor that I have talked about in my event report from The Goruck Challenge (hat tip to my friend Dan for the wording).

Flipping the switch is different for each of us but we all know when it happens. We get in this weird zone where all we can do is focus on the here and now. It’s almost mediative in that nothing can distract us from the task at hand.

Getting to “flip the switch” takes practice and patience. The three ways I have found effective for me to flip my endurance switch include:

Way #1: Practice Pushing Your Limits

Practice makes perfect or rather more perfect. By practicing, we can work on ways to improve and be ready for situations when we must endure. Practice pushing your limits by being in an environment where it’s safe to fail or come short.

By doing this, we can feel what it’s like to be on the edge of our limits and endurance. The more we do this, the easier it will be to flip the switch when we need it most.

Way #2: Embrace the Suck

A big part of endurance is being comfortable with being uncomfortable. For us Gorucktards, that means Embracing the suck.

Embracing the suck is an attitude that whatever is thrown at us, we will just do the job and move on. No complaining. No moaning. No quitting. Just deal with the situation and get it done.

When we embrace the suck, we are in the moment. We don’t worry about where we came from or where we are going — we are just consumed in the moment and we don’t let anything else get in our way. When we can feel that way, we have come closer to flipping the switch.

Way #3: Surround Yourself with Allies

Every single one of us needs others to help us endure. There will times when we just can’t get ourselves to push past a barrier or limitation. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with allies that can help you when you might not want to push any more.

These allies will pick you up and/or encourage you to march on even when you may feel like quitting. This camaraderie is a tremendous source of endurance since most of us don’t want to let others down.

Go Get It Done

Flipping your endurance switch takes combining the three ways above consistently. By practicing pushing your limits, you can feel what it’s like to be on the brink of giving up. By embracing the suck, you can be fully in the moment and not worry about the past or the future. By surrounding yourself with allies, the experience becomes a shared sense of duty and purpose.

The most important aspect of flipping your endurance switch is to just go get it done. Even if you may fail or suffer a major set back, actually trying to get it done will bring you closer and closer to flipping your endurance switch when you need it the most.

Incremental improvement is better than fleeting leaps

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I’m a big believer in making slow and steady process. I know, sounds kinda boring but what I have found is that the incremental solutions (e.g. those that have been methodically conceived and executed) stick. The fleeting leaps where you make huge leaps usually fade away.

The Breaking Records Mentality

Don’t get me wrong. It’s really exciting when you make a major breakthrough or crush an existing record. Those are notable achievements.

The problem with setting your sites on one offs and record runs means that you are pushing the edge pretty hard. That usually leads to highly variable results — something that most companies can’t ship. This variability is what I mean when I say fleeting leaps — achieved once but not reproducible.

By focusing on the incremental, you can get the big leaps but in a sustainable, repeatable way.

Home Runs are Great But

Sure, getting the single or double is not as sexy as the home run but you need to realize that what wins at both Baseball and innovation is the consistent player.

Just ask Billie Beane of [Money Ball] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moneyball) Fame.

Billie used data to compile a team that defied conventual wisdom.

Instead of using the normal stats, like stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average, he focused on what the data told him. Namely that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success. This fundamentally change the way Billie fielded his team and is a good example of the incremental approach instead of relying on all those home runs!

Ways to Take Action

  1. Be Data Driven: Data hardly ever lies but people’s interpretation of data can and will be skewed. Look at the data in front of you and make informed decisions.

  2. Reward the little things: If you want to instill an incremental approach, then you need to reward it. It’s fine to also reward the huge leaps but don’t leave out the small steps that got you the big leap.

  3. Consistency is king: Consistency rather than huge jumps should be what you strive for. I know, boring, but way more effective than the shotgun approach that most people take to innovation.

  4. Don’t lose site of the goal: Fleeting leaps sometimes get people excited about jumping even farther. Resist the urge to jump farther than you can consistently reproduce.


This aha is from my book, #ENDURANCE tweet Book 01— A Little Nudge to Keep You Going. The book is chalked full of mantras, sayings, words of wisdom and encouragements to help you get past your challenges so you can achieve your goals. If you found this aha inspiring or helpful, then I would appreciate your support by sharing it with a friend and/or purchasing a copy of the book. If you missed any past amplified posts, check out the #ENDURANCE tweet Amplified! page. Want to get my latest on enduring? Then sign up for my FREE newsletter. Thanks for reading and keep enduring!