May 26, 2017

Reflections on Not Finishing The Endeavor Team Challenge

I really did not want to write this post. In fact, I had a whole other idea about what this post would be like – one where I detailed the glories and thrill of finishing.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Team 12 missed the Day Land Navigation time hack and could not continue on.

That just breaks my heart to say.

The Endeavor Team Challenge

The Endeavor Team Challenge is a fantastic event. It’s the ultimate test of an athlete’s physical and mental training. The challenge consists of several events starting off with a crucible ruck march through the beautiful Sierras followed by an assortment of challenges including mountaineering, obstacle course, land navigation (day and night), feats of strength and ends with a long run through the hills.

It’s challenging, well run and the competitors are first rate. The standards are high and the terrain is unforgiving. You have to come with your A+ game or you will go home.

Running Our Race

Our Endeavor Team Challenge started out great. As a team, we talked a lot about how we would pace ourselves, our overall strategy for events and what limitations we had. It was exciting to venture off into the beautiful Sierras on the noble quest to push us to be our best.

Crucible Ruck March + Battle Drill

The first event, the crucible ruck march, is meant to wear you out. It’s anywhere from 15–20 miles, up and down mountains, along sweeping vistas and deep into majestic forests. You don’t even get to start the skills portion until you get past the ruck.

Our ruck started out, as we wanted, with a warm-up pace to get the old injuries and joints warmed up. As the ruck progressed, I was progressively beating up my feet because I made a fatal flaw – wearing boots. Normally, boots for a ruck make a lot of sense but for this particular event, it was a liability because I did not train with boots as much as my trails shoes.

The first stop on the ruck march had us doing the Battle drill, which is 5 events that test your push, pull, lift, throw and carry abilities. These drills were a gut check on how well your functional training is. We fared well and ranked 27/40. Not blowing anyone away but good enough to continue on.

After finishing the crucible ruck march, we took a needed rest to take care of my feet. Even though I bathed in Trail Toes, I missed both ankles, which had two nicely formed blisters ready to be popped. Thankfully, I had packed my Trail Toes blister kit and within short order, I was good to go. Our crucible ruck rank was 30/40. Not great but still in the game.

Obstacle Course

The obstacle course is unique and challenging. Not as challenging as say American Ninja Warrior, but challenging enough that after I had black and blue marks all over my body.

There were a total of seven obstacles, including a refreshing swim. All were challenging and consisted of some sort of jumping, climbing up ropes, hanging from bars, sliding down rings and climbing up walls. Thankfully, all of my functional fitness training paid off and we completed all of them. We ranked 26/38 on this one and felt great to have completed all of them with only one penalty.

Strength

Thankfully, all the Gym Jones, GORUCK, SEALFIT and Dan John workouts paid off big on this. Functional fitness workouts are the best at preparing for these types of events because you just don’t know what you’ll have to do.

This event was about moving a bunch of odd shaped objects up a steep slope and then bring them back down. Some of the objects were just heavy enough that it required both teammates while others were just plain awkward. I’m glad that I have done a bunch of GORUCKs (my teammate as well) because the movements and weights were exactly what a Cadre would throw at you. We ranked 24/38 on this one. After this event, we were feeling strong and upbeat.

Mountaineering

By far, this was the best event we did. There is nothing like the feeling of zip lining across a gorge. The views were spectacular. Even for a novice like me, climbing up the side of a granite rock face was exciting. I can see why people love to rock climb.

We could have done better on this if we had more rock climbing training. The climbing routes were ranked from easy to difficult and we choose the easiest simply because it’s better to complete an event than fail. We ranked 23 on this one with a lot of people tying for 23rd. I guess everyone had the same thoughts we did.

Day Land Navigation

Land navigation was our last event in the competitor field and the one both of us dreaded. We started off strong and generally knew where we were going. What tripped us up was not having the confidence to know that we were at the right point and that our counts were correct. Counts are the number of steps you take for a particular distance. It’s critical that you count correctly or you could be way off.

It turns out that we were close to the point we needed to hit because another team came up on us looking for the same one. They found it and we did not.

This was a real mental downer because we were so close yet could not close the gap. At this point the fatigue and teamwork fell apart. We struggled to loop around and around the place we thought it was to only be more and more frustrated. As darkness came upon us, we had no other choice than to make the walk of shame back to the rally point. That was a real bummer.

It Starts and Ends With Training

If I were to single out one thing that contributed the most to my team not completing Endeavor, it would be training. Everything starts with training. My training plan neglected a few critical aspects of Endeavor that really stacked the odds of success against my team.

Painful Lessons Learned

It’s painful to admit that I was not prepared to take on Endeavor. What will be even more painful is not to learn the lessons from this experience as well as sharing them with others. Endurance athletes tend to just post the successes and those are great to experience but just reading success will not prepare you for success. You have to also understand how things can go wrong and learn from those painful mistakes. Some of my lessons learned are presented below:

  • Select The Proper Footwear: I should have known to use my trail shoes instead of boots but I missed that. For an adventure race, boots are a liability. You need to be nimble and quick. To top it off, I trained little with boots and that cost me.
  • Train with your Teammate: My teammate and I live far apart and that made it hard to train together. We did come together as a team but that was not enough. We needed more training time to work out the kinks in our team dynamics.
  • Always Save Time: We started out at a leisurely pace to get used to the altitude and warm up nagging injuries. That was a mistake. We should have set a brisk pace to start in order to save time. Time is a cruel mistress.
  • Stick with Your Teammate: There were times when both of us were farther away than we should have been. We were still within eyesight and shout-sight but it was clear that as a team, we were in different places. One thing we should have done is connecting a bungee between us so we would always be close. This was another sign that we needed to train more together.
  • Pack Light: As I normally do, I packed way too much. In hindsight, this was also a training issue. The one thing I packed too much of was clothes and of course too many shoes. The packing list for the event was comprehensive and easy to follow. The trick is quantity and quality of the gear. In terms of food, I was happy with what I packed – at least I nailed that.
  • Practice Land Navigation Skills Ruthlessly: Land navigation can be tricky especially if you are tired and frustrated. This was our big flat spot as a team. We needed to practice navigation until it was automatic. The good news is that we did not get lost – we just could not find our point. I guess that’s better than nothing.

Overall, not finishing Endeavor came down to not being properly prepared. We clearly had the strength and drive to get it done – we just lacked the training to keep it all together. Like anything, if you are not properly prepared, anything that goes wrong will and that will make it a lot more challenging to recover from simple mistakes.

The Journey Forward

The Endeavor Team Challenge is the ultimate test of functional fitness. It’s a fantastic event with strong competitors. It’s also a ton of fun. I look forward to training harder for next year’s event and seeing if I have what it takes to finish the Endeavor Team Challenge. If you want to see the final ranks, you can click here

Conquering Kokoro: Post Event Interview

Jon (Left Front) and Jarie (Right Behind Him) learning how to march.

My good friend Troy Angrignon sat down with myself and Jon for a de-brief on our Kokoro 32 experience. Lots of laughs, lots of Scotch, Gin & Tonics with  some great advice on how Jon and I prepared and Conquered Kokoro.

You can listen to the audio below. It’s about an hour and 30 minutes long.

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Transcripts can be downloaded here: kokoro32_interview_transcript.

The picture above is from the Outside Magazines article on our class. The full story is here. The video is stellar. See if you can find Jon and I.

Special thanks to Coach Divine and the entire SEALfit staff for an outstanding event. I would also like to thank Coach Brad over at SEALGrinder PT for helping me train to conquer Kokoro 32.

Conquering Kokoro: The Journey Forward

t-shirts

Kokoro 32 was a life changing event that pushed me and the team to our failure points. Without the help of my team, I would not have made it across the chasm. As with any endurance event, it takes a few days for the lessons to sink it. As I sit in the the Kokoro wing over at Days Inn Encinitas, I can’t help but get emotional as I recall what the last 50+ hours has taught me. Some of those lessons I have attempted to capture below.

Mastery First, Service Second

Coach Divine would stress that it’s important that we develop mastery before we serve others. The reason for this is simple — if you cannot take care of yourself or have the stills to help, then you might not be helping. This may appear selfish but I feel it’s more selfless since it’s important to be prepared to help yourself first and then help others.

Serve Your Team & Your Team Serves You

A recurring theme throughout Kokoro is to be a team player and do what’s right for the team. If you put out for your team, then your team will put out for you. It’s always those that give the most that get the most.

It Can Always Be Worst

There was a few times when I had to tell myself this because I was at the end of my proverbial rope. This mantra is a great way to stop feeling sorry for yourself and focus on the task at hand. Without this mind set, fear, uncertainty and doubt will set in.

Have a Sense of Humor

Humor is a wonderful thing. When used in the right circumstances, it can lift your spirits and the spirits of your team. Finding the humor in a stressful situation also makes the situation that much more tolerable. Humor is also a powerful friend when you are starting to get into a negative mindset.

Stay Focused and Feed the Courage Wolf

Focus is another important aspect that I learned at Kokoro. It’s vital to stay in the moment and not worry about what’s going to happen next. Feeding the courage wolf is another way of saying that you need to maintain a positive attitude even when things might be going south. A positive attitude is difficult in stressful situations. The best thing to do is pause, take a breath and get your head back in the fight.

Thoughts on Kokoro Training & Finishing

In addition to the life lessons above, below are a few thoughts on training and finishing Kokoro based on what worked and what didn’t work for me:

  • Get a Trainer: This was the best thing I did. Brad McLeod over at Seal Grinder PT did a fantastic job formulating a training plan that prepared me for Kokoro.
  • Know Your Why: I cannot stress this enough. Know WHY you want to do Kokoro. Without a solid WHY, you will have a hard time of it.
  • Exceed the Minimums: My biggest training mistake was not shooting to exceed the minimums. I think that my experience would have been more enjoyable if I had.
  • Ruck with Weight: Rucking is a vital part of Kokoro. You can’t just do Crossfit and get through Kokoro. Ruck with weight often.
  • Break In Your Boots: Make sure that your boots fit right and are broken in. My boots were broken in but the fit was not great. That led me to lose my entire left big toenail.
  • Practice Eating Food: Eating is an important part of Kokoro and you must practice eating real food even if you are Paleo. Note that they don’t have Paleo food available.
  • Get Wet & Sandy with Sandbags: I was glad that my GORUCK training has a lot of Cold, Wet and Sandy workouts since you’ll be in the water a lot at Kokoro.
  • Practice Nose Breathing: Coach Divine stressed the practice of nose breathing since it’s the best way to breath. Practice that often because it will help calm you down.
  • Be Present & Smile: Don’t get too ahead of yourself or the evolutions. Remember to smile and enjoy the experience.
  • Bring and Use the Right Equipment: You can never have enough t-shirts or socks. Make sure to change often. I actually brought too much food, which I really did not use. Don’t worry about food — they will feed you plenty.
  • Always Check Your Feet: My biggest mistake was that I did not check my feet often enough. This lead to damaged big toenails on each foot. If I had tightened up my boots more often, I might have prevented my toes from slamming into my shoes on the hike down the hill. Lesson learned.

What’s Next?

I think it’s going to be a while before I subject myself to another beat down as intense as Kokoro. I do want to continue to push myself to get better and my next challenge will be to hit double the Kokoro minimums. I did okay meeting the standards and with some more training, I’m confident I could achieve that goal. It’s vital to continue to push yourself to do better.

If you want to check out some of the photos from Kokoro 32, Bloomberg did a write up.


This post is the final in the series (there are 4 total) about my training and experiences at Kokoro 32 on June 20th – 22nd, 2014. Kokoro Camp is a 48+ hour team endurance event put on by SEALFIT. If you’re interested in taking on the challenge, then you can check it out here.

The first post was Conquering Kokoro: The Courage to Start

The second post was Conquering Kokoro: Front Sight Focus

The third post was Conquering Kokoro: Focus on the Task at Hand

Conquering Kokoro: Focus on the Task at Hand

Photo by Melanie Sliwka

Photo by Melanie Sliwka

Kokoro Camp takes place at SEALFIT headquarters in Encinitas, CA — 25 miles north of San Diego. By car from San Francisco, it takes about 8 hours — plenty of time to think about why the hell I’m doing this.

Sizing Up the Team

I arrived early to find my soon to be teammates hanging out on the corner. Apparently, being early runs in my team’s blood. There was a total of 16 of us from as close as down the street to as far away as Panama. The group was pretty diverse, ranging from 5’2” to 6’3” in height, 18 to 53 years old, and had a variety of backgrounds including military (Navy), Crossfit (including a gym owner), triathlon, and GORUCK.

At this point, it was hard to tell what any of us had in common except that we showed up to see if we could go the distance. It’s funny how people handle nervous energy. Some just walk around, stretch or remain quiet. Others like to talk about what they have done or how they will approach the next 50+ hours. For me, this nervous banter has a calming effect. I love to hear about what people have done, what they have heard about the event and why they showed up.

Keep Calm, Carry On and Know Your Why

As we checked into Kokoro, the nervous energy started to build. You can watch all the videos and hear all the stories about Kokoro, but until you are standing on the SEALFIT grinder, it really does not sink in that your life for the next 50+ hours is not going to be the same.

After check-in, gear stowage, ruck/weapon selection, we got briefed on how things were going to work and what was expected of us. We then set about getting to know our team and the reasons we were about to step off into the crucible of Kokoro. Coach Divine always stresses that your Why needs to be strong or you will not be able to cross the chasm when you hit the point where you want to quit.

You Will Have A Moment. In That Moment, Know Your Why — Coach Divine

Most of the Why’s were pretty straight-forward. Several team members wanted to go into the Special Operations Forces (SOF), some wanted to see if they could actually finish and others wanted to face their demons of not being good enough.

The one that struck me as the most inspiring was from FEER. He wanted to show his son, who was filming the whole thing, what it was like to commit and complete something. Truly inspiring. It just so happens that FEER was also the oldest at 53.

Remember You Paid for This

Most military style fitness programs start off with a welcome party — the first kick in the teeth of what is about to be your life for the next 50+ hours. Kokoro is no exception. Physical Training (PT) in BDU’s, last name stenciled on a t-shirt and boots (the official Kokoro uniform) is what we started out with.

Push-ups, burpees and the ever-present water hose are a constant reminder that you need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. These first few intense hours are where your Why gets put to the test. If you thought this was going to be easy, well, think again. As Coach “Taco” Dan was fond of saying:

Remember, you idiots actually paid for this! — Coach Dan

The Visor of Leadership

It’s a funny thing what people bring to endurance events. Some have their favorite comfort food, some bring lucky socks while others have a special shirt that inspires them. All of these things are usually unnoticeable to most of us but not to Kokoro coaches. They see everything.

The uniform is meant to make all of us look the same. We are one team and being an individual just means you’ll get “special” attention, which is what happened to CORDELL. She decided to wear a visor, which immediately singled her out as a “princess”. I also don’t think the brightly colored nail polish did her any favors. For the rest of the welcome party, the teammate leading us would wear the visor of leadership. The beat down was pretty intense and pushed one of our teammates out quickly.

Double Wet With A Dollop of Sand

No proper welcome party can ever be complete with getting wet and sandy. After getting nice and wet on the grinder, we ran off to the beach to experience some more PT and the Pacific Ocean.

I don’t really have a problem with getting wet and sandy since the cool of the ocean is actually refreshing after doing physical activity. What can get complicated or rather challenging, is when the whole team has to lock arms and stay together against the pounding surf. This is challenging to keep together, especially if you are on the end. Think of it like the tip of a dogs wagging tail — if you’re the tip, you’re getting whipped around pretty good. Unfortunately, this was just too much for one of our teammates and he had to get pulled out for evaluation. One more down.

Forging An Unbeatable Mind

After the beach PT, we made it back to HQ to clean up a bit and change into slick PT gear (t-shirt, shorts and running shoes) for some instruction from Coach Divine on how to build an unbeatable mind. This was a welcomed break from the intensity and a chance to regroup your mind and body.

Coach Divine took us through the basics of his 5 Mountain philosophy and the 4 principles that we will need to practice in order to get through the rest of Kokoro. A lot of what Coach Divine stressed was about controlling your breath and visualizing your end state. This “win in your mind” first is a powerful technique that makes it a lot easier to remain calm and positive when situations get tough.

Another important point was that there will be a moment, which will be the point when you’ll want to give up. When you hit this moment, several things can get you through it.

The first is knowing your why. If your why is strong, it can be enough to get you out of your private pity party and get back into the game.

Pull Yourself Out of the Pity Party — Coach Lance

The second is your mantra. Your mantra needs to be something simple that can snap you out of your negative mindset. My mantra was “Focus on the Task at Hand and Just Don’t Pound Sand.” The third is your team. Your team can really make a difference and every single person at Kokoro 32 needed a team member to pull them through a dark time. More on that later.

Physical Fitness Test

Out of all the events at Kokoro, I feared the PFT most, since if you fail the standards, you’re out. Each of us paired with our swim buddy (mine was MONORE) to start the sequence that went as follows (along with my score):

  • Pull-ups (minimum 10): 10

  • Sit-ups (minimum 50 in 2 minutes): 57

  • Push-ups (minimum 50 in 2 minutes): 51

  • Air Squats (minimum 50 in 2 minutes): 71

  • One Mile Run in Boots and BDU’s (maximum 9:30): 8:25

Overall, I met the minimums and was relieved to have that part over with. I cannot stress enough that it’s important to train to exceed the minimums. There were several points during the camp where having been more prepared would have made my life and the life of my teammates a lot easier. Remember, this is a team event and if you don’t pull your weight or lag behind, your teammates suffer.

Green Highlighter And Aspirin Bottle

After the PT test, we got briefed on what was going to be our night evolution — three separate stations along the beach. We were split into 3 separate teams (I was with Team GOLD) and we set off into the night.

The nights in Encinitas are beautiful. The air temperature is comfortable, the water is still warm and the night allows you to stay focused since you can only really see what’s right in front of you.

Team GOLD’s first evolution was to memorize a series of items and then perform rounds of Cindy. This is harder than it sounds since we only had 30 seconds to memorize everything (there must have been over 20 items) and then 30 minutes to perform as many Cindys as we could. After the Cindy rounds, it was time to reveal each item. Overall, we only missed two — a green highlighter and aspirin bottle.

Broad Jumps Really Suck

Our next evolution was with Coach David. He warmed us up with some stair runs and then it was off to the beach for some ruck throwing broad jumps. I’m really awful at broad jumps and it showed. I ended up finishing dead last and my team had to suffer through with their packs overhead until I was done.

Remember, Kokoro is a team event and you are only done when the team is done. After a brief warming at the beach fire, we were off to our next evolution.

Nothing Focusing the Mind Like Log PT

Our next evolution was Log PT. Earlier, we had learned the basics and now it was time to work as a team. Log PT is extremely humbling. Logs are awkward and you can tell right away if someone is not lifting the load.

Coordination is paramount when lifting a 200+ pound log since real injuries can occur if your whole team in not synchronized. Thankfully, Team GOLD worked well together and we quickly got the hang of it. We got to put our new skills to the test by carrying our log down the street to the T in the road. This was challenging but as a team, we formulated a plan of micro-goals that got us through it.

Murph

After the other teams got back and we completed some of our penalty push-ups, it was time to change and get briefed on our next evolution — Murph.

Murph is named after Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Navy SEAL who lost his life during Operation Red Wings on June 28th, 2005. When Coach Dan read the official CITATION, it was hard to hold back the emotions. Lt. Murphy was someone who made the ultimate sacrifice for his team and now we are honoring that sacrifice.

Murph consists of the following exercises (all with a #20 pound ruck):

  • 1 mile run

  • 100 pull-ups

  • 200 push-ups

  • 300 air-squats

  • 1 mile run

This event is another performance drop event, which means that if you don’t get it done within 75 minutes, they can drop you from the class. Murph becomes even more challenging since this is like hour 24 or 30 and we must have done hundreds of push-ups by this point. Thankfully, our whole team made it through and it was off to the next evolution with a renewed determination to never quit.

Let’s Clean Up the Box

Kokoro Camp has a lot of team competition. I think the most fun was when we had to take every single thing out of the Box, carry it up to look out point and then neatly stack it on the grinder. For this evolution, we were split into two teams — Team Coach Dan and Team Coach Lance.

Now, this may sound like an easy thing but this is Kokoro so it gets a little more complex. As we are competing to move as much equipment up to look out point, the coaches around us are pulling us away to perform “special” movements. These special movements, which I’ll keep secret, really make you have to pay attention to who is giving you the orders. At several points, we all failed.

Carrying awkward equipment can be frustrating but it also gives you a change to rest and regroup — something a lot of us needed to get back in the game. We also learned how to eat as we were moving since lunch consisted of peanut butter bagels and sandwiches — a useful skill when you are hurrying from evolution to evolution.

Breaking Your Competitors Will

After we “cleaned” the box, we were briefed on our next evolution —  a mission to recon a house on top of Mount Palomar. We were separated into Team A and Team B and hopped in the Van to drive out. At this point, we’re 35+ hours into Kokoro 32 and all of us were pretty tired. It was so easy to nod off for a brief moment only to catch yourself and wonder did I fall asleep?

Once we arrived, we fell into our groups for the long hike up the mountain. The terrain was steep and heat of the day was still intense. My team, Team B, was determined to beat Team A to the top. Throughout the Kokoro 32 experience, all the coaches stressed that it pays to be a winner — this was no exception.

As we started off on our journey, Coach Derek, Team B’s coach, told us that none of his teams have ever lost the hike to the top and this team will be no exception. With that inspiration, we promptly hatch a plan to break our competitors will.

The plan consists of having several different speeds as we ascend the mountain. Speed 1 is a slow pace, speed 2 is more of a fast shuffle, speed 3 is a brisk pace and speed 4 is to jog. Our strategy to break team A’s will was to fine the right time to pass them at a speed 4 pace. This accomplishes two things. First, it would shoe them are resolve to win and second, it gets us ahead of them so they have to play catch-up. This is important because as Coach James constantly drilled into our heads:

It’s Better to Keep Up Than to Catch Up. — Coach James

When the time came to make our move, Team B had a fire in our guts. Everyone stepped up and we jogged right past Team A like they were standing still. It felt great and we continued to keep a brisk pace going from speed 2 to speed 3 throughout the whole hike. We beat them to the top and then settled into our mission.

The Woods Are Laughing at Me

Sleep deprivation is a curious thing. On the one hand, your body feels the stress and strain of the physical activity, wanting to rest and on the other hand, your mind is trying to sort out various stimuli that only gets harder and harder as you become more sleep deprived. Trying to think rationally during this time is a constant struggle.

Our mission for the night was to recon a house on top of the hill. This entailed two of us, myself and ISRAELITT, sneaking up on the house and recording the intel. This proved harder for me than I thought.

ISRAELITT and I started off together and quickly found that it’s really easy to make noise in the grass and leaves around our hiding place. One of the coaches told us to stick to the road and get the job done. One complication on getting the job done is that there were coaches out hunting us and we promptly found a few.

ISRAELITT was the bolder of us two and he quickly sprinted off into the night — leaving me in the rear trying to figure out how to not make noise and get closer to the house. At this point, was when things started to get weird. I started to freak out a little bit and heard the woods laughing at me.

I could not go more than 2 feet without hearing a snicker and a rustling that freaked me out. It took me 20 minutes to go 10 feet and then I had to go back to camp to recompose myself. Who knows if it was my mind or the coaches laughing at me? I’m sure it was a little of both.

The Team Gels

Once ISRAELITT and I secured the intel, it was time to head back down the mountain, now as one team. We set out on our journey down the hill. Since ISRALEITT and I were doing recon the whole time, we were still pretty warm. The rest of the team, having setup a perimeter, got to rest and got a little cold. Several teammates were starting to shiver and it was a good thing we started moving.

At this point, we are all moving slowly since it’s dark and we don’t want to trip. Unfortunately, one of us did and we then had to carry them down on a stretcher. This task proved to be a pivotal point for our team.

Carrying a stretcher at night, down a grade, creates all sorts of challenges. Couple this with our need to make quick time, led HOFIUS to recommend we rotate as we go. This proved to be a great idea and we proceeded to rotate front to back, left to right as the water van lit the way. This teamwork allowed us to make great time down the mountain and allowed our injured teammate to recover enough so that they could walk down again.

Of Pirate Ships, Snowmen and Jumpy Houses

Going down a mountainside at night, with little light, plays tricks on a tired mind. Most of us saw weird and strange things including a pirate ship, inflatable snowmen and those children’s jumpy houses. These hallucinations started to make some of us have to double check our sanity. Thankfully, CORDEL and others were there to snap us back to reality and keep all of us focused on getting down the mountain.

One of the most fun situations was when ISRALEITT wandered up to the front of the line, glassy eyed with a huge smile on his face. He kept saying, “the colors are so vivid … Is this what acid is like?” I’m not exactly sure what acid is like but I am sure that whatever he was seeing, it must have been spectacular.

At times, our paced slowed since the fatigue and grueling hike were starting to take their toll. This was when DIETRICH stepped up to inspire us to hurry up. The determination in his voice and the look in his eyes gave the whole team a renewed sense of purpose. We promptly picked up the pace.

As we reached the end of our hike, all of us were tired but in good sprits. The sun was about to rise and we had all made it to day 2. Who knows how much longer we’ll need to go but at least we conquered Palomar Mountain.

The Will To Live Rock

The next evolution was a mission to rescue a downed pilot. We were split into 2 teams, a security team and an assault team. The assault team (my team) set off on the  “will to live run”, which consisted of running up flights of stairs and climbing up on concrete platforms. We did this until we hit a river where we were briefed on our next challenge: wade across the river to pick a “will to live rock.”

The will to live rock selection process consists of picking an appropriately sized rock that represents your will to live. Of course, we all have a strong will to live but there is a balance to strike when it comes to how big the rock should be. If it’s too big, you will not be able to carry it across the river but if it’s too small, then is it really your will to live.

Most of my team picked great rocks and successfully made it across the river. Myself, on the other hand, I failed miserably twice to get my rock across. Most of my failure stemmed from picking the wrong path across the river and not fully using my brain to “work smarter not harder.”

Finally, with a little help from ISRAELITT, my rock and I made it across the river. The next part of the mission was to carry these rocks back to our security team without dropping them to symbolize our commitment to our team and ourselves. Once we arrived, Coach Divine gave us a quick speech on the spirit of Kokoro and all of us with “will to live rocks” arranged them in a K to symbolize our classes Kokoro spirit.

False Peaks, Plateaus and Resolve

The ride back to SEALFIT HQ was a struggle to stay awake. The rule is that every time a coach caught someone asleep, the entire team had to do 10 burpees. I think they caught all of us sleeping on that trip (except for maybe CORDELL. For whatever reason, she was bouncing off the walls). To be fair to us, I don’t think the heat cranked to high and the classical music helped much either.

Our lull of activity soon ended when we pulled up to the beach and promptly started a bear crawl to a nearby sand berm. If any of us had the slightest thought that this was over, that slow bear crawl to the berm quickly removed that idea. I will say that nothing wakes you up more than a dunk in the Pacific Ocean. After about 10 dunks, we formed up to run back to HQ to figure out what our next evolution would be.

As we ran, my thoughts went to when this might end. These are dangerous thoughts because once you sense that the end is in sight, you get false hope. This false hope is what leads peoples to quit so close to the end because their resolve wavered. The thing that snapped me out of this was my mantra and not wanting to let my teammates down if I quit.

That morning there were several plateaus and false peaks that tested each of our resolves. This also happens in life when you think you’re done and then something happens to delay the completion of a task. These moments are extremely frustrating and the ones that survive these delays are the ones that continue to be in the moment and focus on the mission until it really is done.

Gotta Love Log Burpees

Safe and secure back at HQ, we changed into our slicks for some more fun in the sun. Since we had about 450 burpees to make up, Coach Dan took us through the burpees, while the other coaches sprayed us with water, put ice water over our heads and separated us out for some “special” attention.

During this whole time, I kept thinking there is no way Coach Dan is going to make us to 450 burpees.

To my chagrin, Coach Dan would repeatedly tell us that we will do each and everyone and it was up to us if we wanted to work as a team or be individuals.

Being an individual was a lot harder than being a team since a team burpee (e.g. Log burpee) counted as 5 while a normal burpee only counted as one. Clearly, if we could get our act together, the log burpees would be much easier and quicker to drawn down our count. I would say that we started to gel as a team again after about 200 normal burpees and finished our count with precisely executed log burpees (well, at least it felt that way).

Kokoro 32 Secured!

When Coach Divine finally uttered those three simple words, Kokoro 32 secured, most of us were in disbelief. We had made it 55 hours as a team. The rush of excitement and relief was wonderful. To come so far, in such a short period of time, truly felt remarkable. To think that 55 hours ago all of us started out as individuals and now we were a team.

HOOYAH KOKORO 32!

Photo by Coach Mark James

Photo by Coach Mark James


This post is the third in the series (there are 4 total) about my training and experiences at Kokoro 32 on June 20th – 22nd, 2014. Kokoro Camp is a 48+ hour team endurance event put on by SEALFIT. If you’re interested in taking on the challenge, then you can check it out here.

The first post was Conquering Kokoro: The Courage to Start.

The second post was Conquering Kokoro: Front Sight Focus

Conquering Kokoro: Front Sight Focus

workout_cards

Now that I decided to do Kokoro in June, it was time to figure out how to prepare. Kokoro is not just Crossfit on Steroids nor is it a pure endurance event — it’s a blend of the two. This lead me to strongly consider getting a coach. A lot of amateur athletes struggle with whether or not to hire a coach. I thought long and hard about the benefits and what I would actually get out of a coach. For Kokoro, you cannot do it alone and that’s why finding a good coach was on the top of my list.

First Things First

Finding a coach is a delicate balance between someone you get along with, someone that knows your weaknesses and someone that can push you to improve. I also wanted a coach that understood what Kokoro was all about and that led me to Coach Brad over at SealGrinderPT. I first found out about Coach Brad via my friend Troy and even got to interview him for my class The Endurance Habit. I found that he had a great attitude and had the experience to train me the right way for Kokoro. With a coach secured, it was now time to start training.

What the Heck is a WOD?

As most of you know, I’m a triathlete which means I spend most of my training time either swimming, biking or running. When you train for something like Kokoro, that’s not going to fly. You’ll need to do a little more variety. Enter the WOD or Work Out of the Day. I knew a little bit about WOD’s but never fully appreciated them until I started training for Kokoro. Coach Brad’s WOD’s are interesting, challenging and intense. Doing WOD based workouts was a big departure from my traditional workout since WOD’s are not so much time based but activity based although some WOD’s have an As Many Reps as Possible (AMRAP) in a certain time limit. What’s interesting about WOD’s is that they vary so much. One day you’re doing a yoga stretch workout and the next you’re doing Murph. It’s this variety of both movement and intensity that makes WOD workouts effective. I’m confident that all this work will pay off.

The Way of the SEAL Redux

As I mentioned in the last post, Coach Divine’s book The Way of the SEAL, really made an impact on me. One of the points that really stuck with me was having front site focus. This single concept makes doing these different WOD’s much more enjoyable. The concept of front site focus is simple — focus on one and only one thing at a time. When you do this, you can dispatch a task quickly and move on to the next thing. For the Coach Brad’s WODs, front site focus is essential since you can’t get ahead of yourself — you need to just focus on the movement you are doing and that’s it.

Training Journals

One thing that I’m not used to is keeping a training journal. Coach Brad stressed that this journal is an essential part of monitoring your progress and communicating with him. It took me a few weeks to really appreciate this. Normally, I’m used to following a training program and not actually writing down how I did. If you are thinking of training for Kokoro, then I would recommend keeping a training journal. Journals are a great way to capture those moments of frustration, growth and achievement so that you can learn from your experiences.

The Trough of Disillusionment

New skills can be challenging to master. It usually takes me a while to get up to speed on something new. For Kokoro, mastering pull-ups is my nemesis. For a triathlete, pull-ups just don’t make sense. In a single word, they suck! Thankfully, Coach Brad recognized this as my weakness and had adjusted my training to work a lot more on pull-ups along with air squats and push-ups. Training always has its ups and downs but for me, pull-ups were literally kicking my ass and that was my single biggest concern. This is why having a coach makes all the difference in the world. They can look at your progress and objectively give you guidance on what you need to work on.

Over the Hump

After about 4 months of training, I finally felt comfortable with the Kokoro standards. This was a major boost to my ego and self-esteem. I can’t begin to tell you how great it feels to see progress on something that freaks you out. I’m thankful that all the hard work is starting to pay off. Making progress feels great. The next big focus is to stay healthy so that when I show up to Kokoro Camp, I’m at my best. Thankfully, Coach Brad is big on rest and recovery days which means that I’ll be at my peak when the big day comes.

Ready for Kokoro?

I ask myself this question everyday. I don’t think you’ll ever know if you are truly ready for something unless you step up and try. I feel that this whole journey is about getting out of my comfort zone to do something that scares the hell out of me. By taking a risk, you truly figure out what you can accomplish. Am I ready for Kokoro? I guess I’ll just have to show up and find out.


This post is the second in the series (there are 4 total) about my training and experiences at Kokoro 32 on June 20th – 22nd, 2014. Kokoro Camp is a 48+ hour team endurance event put on by SEALFIT. If you’re interested in taking on the challenge, then you can check it out here.

The first post was Conquering Kokoro: The Courage to Start.

Another couple of posts you might be interested in is how Ben Greenfield of BenGreenfieldFitness.com prepared for Kokoro.

Part 1 talks about gear and training.

Part 2 is his experience with SEALFit Academy.

Conquering Kokoro: The Courage to Start

meMn720

I thought long and hard about my next impossible challenge since whatever I do next has to be at least as hard as what I have done before. In looking for my next challenge, I thought about the following:

  • Over 24 hours

  • Supportive team environment

  • Takes me out of my training and competition comfort zone

  • Explores my mental toughness

What I came up with was SEALFIT’s Kokoro Camp. What lead me to Kokoro Camp was my friend Troy who is heavily into SEALFIT and the Quantified Self.

Kokoro Camp is a 48+ hour team endurance event that is designed to “Meet Yourself for the First Time”. It’s run by a coaching staff of SEALs with over 125 cumulative years of Special Warfare experience along with a wide variety of coaches from cross-fit and professional athletics.

Kokoro is meant to push you past your limits so that you can truly know what you are capable of. It follows Coach Divine’s philosophy that you can achieve 20x more that you think you can.

The Way of the SEAL

What really cemented that Kokoro Camp was my next big challenge was not only my friend Troy (and later my friend Jon doing it as well) but reading Coach Divine’s The Way of the SEAL.

The Way of the SEAL is an excellent book on how to become a better person and a better leader. His words about building your stand, defining your values, discovering your passion and uncovering your purpose really hit home. It’s from these building blocks that I started to win in my mind and map out a path to Kokoro.

One of the most important aspects of Kokoro Camp is to understand why you want to do it. Exploring my why took me to a whole different level of thinking. This exploration further cemented my resolve to train as hard as I can for Kokoro.

My Why

Initially, it was a challenge to formulate why I want to subject myself to 50+ hours of physical and mental stress. After much reflection, my why started to gel. Here is what I came up with:

I’m an entrepreneur and that requires a tremendous amount of resolve and patience. I want to be a better leader and entrepreneur by pushing myself to stay committed to a course of action. Often, I struggle to stay focused and finish the task at hand. I feel that finishing Kokoro will allow me to manage that process better.

How I’m Training

I have to change my training methods to prepare for Kokoro. Most of the changes will be in adding more body weight and Crossfit WOD type workouts. I’m seriously considering getting a coach because I’m going to need a lot of help with any kind of Crossfit WOD type workout.

Another aspect of my training will be mental. It’s going to be a challenge to stay up for 48+ hours and still have a positive attitude. Most of my mental training will be centered around breathing and mediation along with some exhaustion workouts thrown in.

Training Challenges

It’s no surprise that the hardest thing for me will be the pull-ups and the push-ups. If you recall my last Impossible Challenge, I combined the BUD/S and Selection minimums and went to work. From those numbers, it was clear that I had my work cut out for me.

Standards

The Kokoro standards are widely published and are as follows:

  • 50 push-ups in 2 minutes

  • 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes

  • 50 air squats in 2 minutes

  • 10 dead hang pull-ups. No time limit

  • 1 mile run in under 9:30 with boots and BDU’s

  • #20 Murph in 75 minutes

The biggest challenge for me has always been push-ups and pull-ups. Those two, along with Murph, will be the focus of my training. I’ll also ruck with weight and get some runs in when I can. Kokoro Camp is about overall fitness so you can’t really skimp on any one thing.

Embracing the Suck on Steroids

GRT’s always try and Embrace the Suck. It’s in the nature of doing a GORUCK Challenge that the suck will come and it will come hard. Kokoro looks like the suck on Steroids. It’s going to be challenging and every bit of physical and mental toughness will need to be applied to it. I’m excited for the challenge.


This post is the first in the series (there are 4 total) about my training and experiences at Kokoro 32 on June 20th – 22nd, 2014. Kokoro Camp is a 48+ hour team endurance event put on by SEALFIT. If you’re interested in taking on the challenge, then you can check it out here.

Babes in the Woods: GORUCK Custom Lake Tahoe Navigator

Photo by Bryan Calo

Photo by Bryan Calo

If I could list a single thing that I learned from GORUCK Custom Lake Tahoe Navigator it would be this — it’s easier than you think to get lost in the woods.

GORUCK Navigator is a four day land navigation and survival training experience that teaches you the basics of handling yourself in the wilderness including a culex (culmination exercise) to test your skills. It’s vastly different than a normal GORUCK Challenge because it leans more towards skill development and mastery instead of let’s do 1,000 8-count body builders while sitting in your favorite ocean. Now, find a pole!

The venue was picturesque Homewood Ski Resort and Sugar Pine Point Campground in beautiful Lake Tahoe, CA from May 14th-18th, 2014.

Attention to Detail

GORUCK is one company that really listens to its customers. Past Navigators (as best I can tell only three others have been held — see here for an ARR (After Action Review) from Nav 002) had some anecdotal rumblings of being kinda random and not having a real blueprint. This navigator was none of that. It was well planned, wonderfully communicated and precisely executed right down to the excellent meals prepared by Chef Grant, the flow of the program by lead Cadre Joel, rock star photography by Tosh (who got patched for shadowing Team Orange) and the professionalism and deep knowledge of all the Cadre. Thanks for your service and putting on a fantastic event.

Everyone Needs a Den Mother

A special thanks needs to be extended to den mother Laurie who took on the challenge of setting up this event over a year ago. Without her tireless efforts, infinite patience and true care for whose who participated, this event would never have happened. Thanks Laurie for spearheading one of the most fun and well organized events I have ever attended.

Event Schedule

The Custom Lake Tahoe Navigator was a 4-day course (with an optional Firearms Day) that adhered to the following schedule:

  • Day 0 (Optional): Firearms Day.

  • Day 1: Navigation Classes. Map and compass skills plus a ~4km hike

  • Day 2: Skills Classes. First aid, basic survival, finding water and shelter building.

  • Day 3+: Skills Practice + Culex. Time to ask any Cadre questions and practice followed by a practical test of all the skills learned. Lasted well into the morning of day 4, especially if you were Team White. They got “owned” by the night.

  • Day 4: Brunch & Beer: Camp breakdown and After Action Reviews (AARs).

Each day had several lectures followed by the opportunity to practice the taught skills. Overall, the material was fantastic and the lectures were engaging even for those who might have been hungover from the night before and fell asleep during class. You know who you are.

One recurring theme that I heard from participants was that there was no handouts of the excellent material (Cadre Big Chris did offer to email it around) or field manual to keep with you (according to Cadre Joel, this is in the works). That might have helped most of us un-fuck ourselves when we got lost. Well, maybe not.

Go Shoot an Azimuth. A What?

The first course was land navigation using a compass and map. Cadre Joel did a stellar job getting us up to speed on reading maps and shooting azimuths. One of the hardest things to figure out is how the contour lines on a map translate to real terrain. This is a critical skill to master since it can really help plan a route that avoids thick brush and steep elevation climbs. Remember this point, it comes up later.

Along with terrain feature recognition, we got to practice looking up grid coordinates and correcting for declination, which is the degree difference between the map and the compass. All of this is important to remember when in the field since it’s these small errors that build up to big errors. nav_map

Let’s Try Not to Kill the Patient

No course on surviving in the wilderness is complete without a class on basic first aid. Cadre Dakotah and Cadre Bert did a masterful job of giving us the basics of how to treat common first aid issues (before attempting any type of first aid, make sure you get the proper training).

Basic wilderness first aid boils down to the handy acronym SMARCH which is used to assess a patient in the field. SMARCH stands for:

  • Situation: Is it safe to help. The only thing worst than one patent is two patients.

  • Massive hemorrhaging: Stop the bleeding quickly since lack of blood leads to all sorts of nasty things.

  • Airway: Check that the patients airway is clear before trying to see if they are breathing.

  • Respiration: Check the patients breathing rate and depth.

  • Circulation: Check the patients pulse.

  • Hypothermia: Check the patient for hypothermia by looking for shivering and blue lips. Blood loss can make you hypothermic even if it’s 100 degrees outside.

Each part of SMARCH has specific treatment techniques that are applied to stabilize the patient. A recurring theme was prevention since it’s 1,000 times better to prevent an injury than it is to treat one in the field. Being prepared was also stressed since it’s what you have with you and your training that takes over during a stressful situation.

What the Heck is a Swiss Seat?

Cadre Chris and Danny taught probably the most challenging and fun part of the whole weekend — knot tying and rope bridge construction. For the culex, we had to learn three basic knots (figure 8, alpine butterfly and bowline) along with two others (square and half-hitch) to construct a rope bridge across an obstacle.

These particular skills are critical to get right since it’s a major safety issue if your rope bridge falls apart as you traverse a 100 ft crevasse or you fall out of your Swiss Seat (which looks dam sexy if cinched with the proper force and determination as Dan and Amy can attest too).

Photo By Chris Way

Photo By Chris Way

The rope bridge crossing was an absolute blast and probably the single coolest thing we did during the whole weekend except for maybe seeing bears and Lake Tahoe at night.

Cadre Manzanita

Out of all the Cadre at Navigator, no single one inflicted as much pain, suffering and learning than Cadre Manzanita pictured below. This stuff is nasty and can really ruin your whole day. Manzanita is the reason why you need to fully understand your sectional maps and what the lines and shading means. This knowledge can help you work smarter not harder. Climbing up through dense brush is not working smart at all, it’s the ultimate in working harder and costs time and energy, which Team Yellow learned the hard way. ManzanitaShrubBranches_wb

Making it Home to Fort Living Room

Cadre Hawke and Cadre Big Chris took us through the basics of survival with death by a thousand Power Point slides. Honestly, it was not that bad since both Cadre Hawke and Cadre Big Chris were engaging, funny and told awesome stories based on real world experiences.

Cadre Hawke’s approach to survival is a mix of common sense, be prepared and do what the locals do. Everything he taught us just made sense. He even debunked some common myths such as you can’t drink seawater (you can if it’s diluted) and you can drink urine to a point (urine is sterile but you need to worry about the ureic acid concentration). We also learned that it’s best to always carry a mini-lighter in your pocket, have a fixed blade survival knife, the meat left after you shake a carcass is good and anything over 12-inches is just a waste. The field part of the survival class had us look at different kinds of shelters and how to build a solar still. Everyone enjoyed this part because we got to get out of the classroom and into the field.

Shelter construction techniques vary widely but the principle message was that a shelter needs to protect you from the elements you are in. If it’s windy, you would build it one way as opposed to if it was raining. A shelter also needs to be close enough to your fire so that you can reach over and stoke it but not too close that you set your shelter on fire. All common sense but good to have reinforced.

Construction of our solar still was a lot of fun. The basic idea is that you dig a hole, throw in a bunch of green vegetation in, place a cup in the center, put a plastic bag over it and wait for the sun to evaporate the water from the vegetation. This evaporated water then collects on the plastic bag and drips into your cup. We never did confirm that it collected any water but I’m sure we got some.

Photo by Alvin Louie

Photo by Alvin Louie

Aha. Look what I’ve created. I have made FIRE

Primitive man must have felt the same joy that my fire team felt when our magnesium shaving drenched pathetic attempt at a birds nest engulfed in flames. And I’m also sure that during their version of a touchdown dance they promptly blew the fire out just like we did.

Starting fire by means other than a match or lighter is thrilling. It’s also an extremely valuable survival skill since fire can warm you up, signal your location and generally improve your morale. Cadre Joel gave us some great advice about always looking for materials to start a fire. He told us to always try to gather up dry moss, birds nests, small sticks and anything that can easily be set ablaze. Another important thing was to over do it on the magnesium shavings — you can never have too much of that. During our culex, our team found a functional lighter that we got to use to start our end of culex fire. It pays to have your head on a swivel and to be always looking at your surroundings.

Photo by Capt. Paige Bowie

Photo by Capt. Paige Bowie

Babes In the Woods

The range of skill sets and experiences of the participates (60 total) ranged from “I hike in my city park” to “I volunteer for mountain search and rescue.” Of course, all were GRT’s which meant we were used to rucking 12+ hours while hungover.

Even though everyone came from different backgrounds, we all felt like babes in the woods when it came to the culex. Human nature is fascinating especially when you have a bunch of GRT’s who are used to action. When a person or group is under stress, a lot of strange things happen. Logic and reason fly out the window and the “gotta get there” mentality takes over. Out of all the potential hazards in the wilderness, the one that posses the most risk to you is you! The reason for this is simple. We tend to over inflate our abilities, rely on “this feels like the right way” and get fixated on easy to do tasks. If you can control that, you’re a lot better off.

Learning by Failing Safe

The method of teaching at navigator was to fill our head with a lot of information and skills and then send us out in the wilderness to fail safe. This may seem cruel or even counterintuitive to most people but as Team Yellow’s Cadre Chris Way put it, “you have to experience getting lost in the woods before you appreciate how easy it is and how hard it is to get un-lost.” This is spot on. I could tell you a 1,000 times what to do when you are lost in the woods but until you are tired, hungry, stressed, second-guessing yourself, melting down, bickering with teammates and in the dark, it will never fully register.

Even though you must experience this for yourself to appreciate it (I highly recommend you sign up for one if you are interested), here are some of the lessons Team Yellow (and most other teams) learned by failing safe:

  • Trust your equipment over yourself: Your equipment will not lie but you will lie to yourself.

  • Humans make mistakes: Never assume that something is correct on a map. Double and triple confirm.

  • Verify your assumptions and be data driven: Don’t just assume something is correct. Look at the data you have collected and adjust your thinking if that’s what the data says.

  • Altitude is your friend: Get as high as you can so you can see the terrain.

  • Remain calm: Being calm will allow you to make better decisions and will reduce the anxiety level of the people around you.

  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of your team: Give tasks to people that cater to their skills especially during stressful situations.

  • Have a plan and a backup plan: Always have a plan when you enter the woods as well as a backup plan if things go wrong.

  • Follow the terrain contour not just the straight line path: Don’t hard charge up a hill because it’s a straight line path. That will just tire you out.

  • Map bearing and compass bearing are different: Your map is what you are walking on. Your compass is wrong and needs to be adjusted.

  • At night, constantly check your location: The night makes navigation extremely hard. You can drift a lot easier with no frames of reference.

This may seem like common sense to most of you (frankly it is) but when you are in a survival situation, common sense is not so common and our experiences and training (or lack thereof) take over quickly.

Team “Just Go South”

My team, Team Yellow, learned the above lessons the hard way. We were doing great right until it got dark. Once the sun dipped down below the horizon, our pace slowed, we got disoriented and we started to make simple mistakes. One mistake was not properly correcting for declination (e.g. The different between the map and the compass). Our mantra was to “just go south” when we really need to subtract the declination and go more south-east.

Another simple mistake was that we never picked a close by landmark to navigate too. This meant that as we zigged and zagged around obstacles, we just kept a southerly bearing, which is kinda like walking while drunk. We may have been going “south” but we more like drifting south-west, then south, then south-east and back again.

All of this added up to Team Yellow getting lost and hacking our way through Manzanita grove after Manzanita grove. At one point, we crested a hill with a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe, which as Cadre Chris put it,“”Well, you can still see the lake so you aren’t THAT hopelessly fucked.” Yes, it’s always good to know that it can always get worse.

Photo by Chris Way

Photo by Chris Way

A Deep Sense of Camaraderie and Respect for Nature

For me and a lot of my fellow participates, the whole navigator experience boiled down to being in nature with a bunch of great people that are as weird as you are. From the pre-nav birthday BBQ (hosted by Dan and Amy) for Amy and Cynthia, seeing bears above Quail Lake, Rebecca “One Pole” trying to set up her tent, the tragic news of fellow GRT Jeff Proietti’s passing, Rocco’s insistence on hydrating, the funny and touching moment when John helped Laurie wash her hair and rockstar photographer Tosh barking out “I need 4 people to move this table in 10 seconds. Hurry up!”

Everyone I talked to about their navigator experience felt it was wonderful and they learned a lot about themselves and others. The lessons learned go far beyond how to survive in the wilderness because anytime you get a bunch of good people together, you share priceless moments that no social media feed, picture, tweet or blog post can reproduce. As Cadre Bert says, GORUCK makes Facebook friends real friends. It’s these bonding experiences that allows us to grow towards being the best people we can be. For that, we should all be eternally grateful.

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

 

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

 

Impossible Goal Achieved: Finished Diablo Trails 50k

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On April 20th, 2013, I completed my latest impossible goal — a 50k ultra-marathon.

I did it in 7:32:36 — not exactly blazing fast (it’s about 15 minute per mile) but my goal was not to set a record but to simply finish.

Of course, I had to choose one of the hardest ones out there — the Diablo Trails 50k that benefits Save Mount Diablo.

Save Mount Diablo’s mission is to preserve the wilderness around Mount Diablo so that generation after generation can enjoy it’s beauty. They have been doing this since 1971. I’m glad they are preserving this beautiful place because the picture below is the view from one of the breathtaking vistas.

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A 50k That Feels Like 50 Miles

A 50k is exactly 31.0686 miles but if you’re doing the Diablo Trails 50k, those 31.0686 miles feel like 50.

The reason is simple — hills, hills and more hills.

My calves started to burn early and it only got worst. Lung wise, I faired pretty well but my legs were screaming for mercy which resulted in a combination of light jogging and walking — thus the 15 minute pace.

Mount Diablo is a Devil of a Course

I’m going to sound a little like my dad (who used to tell me he would walk to school, in the snow, both ways up hill), when I say that the Diablo Trails 50k is literally all up hill.

The elevation gain is well over 7,500 feet with a lot of single track trails through meadows, along ridges, tree lined valleys and cow pastures.

The natural beauty of Mount Diablo makes it worth the pain and suffering.

Well, I would not really call in pain and suffering per se rather just embracing the suck and getting the job done!

Train to Finish Not to Set Any Records

My training schedule was not that crazy. I really did not do anything different than what normally do for a Tri or a Goruck except I did a lot more long runs.

What I mean by long runs is anything over 2.5 hours. I typically train for time and not distance since that makes scheduling my world a whole lot easier.

I feel that trail running is the ultimate type of running. You just never know what will be around the next turn, up the next hill, down the next valley or the obstacles you might have to cross (a couple of times, we actually had to hop some locked gates and ran into the occasional cow that was curious about what was going on).

One counter intuitive training method I would do is to go for a ruck.

Rucking is putting on a ruck sack full of bricks and hiking around. It’s really good for both cardio and leg strength as well as getting used to being uncomfortable.

Romans Must Have Had Pretty Toes

As most of you know, I run Roman Style (e.g. In Teva sandals). Running in sandals allows my feet to breath, swell and stay cool while I run. I have been running Roman for the better part of 2 years and it’s worked out well for me.

One of the upsides for running in sandals is that you don’t get the black and blue toenails that pretty much every endurance athlete seems to get.

Black and blue toenails (and the eventual complete loss of them) occurs because when your feet swell, they bump up against the front of your shoes. This bumping literally smashes your toenails so that they start to fill with blood.

Eventually, the toenail lifts off and falls off. It’s ugly and painful.

With sandals, no bumping or grinding against your shoes, so no ugly toes.

So every time some passes me (or I pass them), they usually say:

1) Wow, I can’t believe you are running in sandals and 2) Man, your toes look so pretty :).

Race Assessment

I came into the Diablo Trails 50k knowing that I was not fully prepared to run fast. My whole goal was to finish and not get hurt which I accomplished.

The hill runs I did to train were great and more of that would definitely improve my time.

More distance (the longest run I did was something like 15 miles) would also help out a lot.

Nutrition and hydration were critical to finishing. I must have consumed like 8 liters of fluids (the temperature topped out at 85 F) and ate something at every rest stop (Payday’s are my new go to energy food. Salty, sugarery and pure bliss).

For my next 50k (or longer distance), I’ll definitely get more miles in but I think I’ll also do some speed work as well. I experimented with that his time and it seemed to help getting up the hills.

In summary, this is what I learned from my first 50k:

  • Hydrate early and often

  • Eat even when you don’t feel like it

  • Train on the trails if it’s a trail run

  • Stop at every rest stop

  • Smile, wave and chat with other runners

  • Enjoy the view

What’s Next?

I have not yet decided what’s next for me. Maybe another 50k on some flat terrain or maybe a Goruck Heavy. Whatever it is, my training approach will be exactly the same — cross train, remember to eat and drink, embrace the suck and always have fun!