April 25, 2017

Start Breaking Bad Habits Now With Help From The Habit Project

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 6.06.30 AM

All of us have bad habits (including me) we want to break or better yet, good habits we want to start. The hardest part about breaking bad or starting new habits is overcoming the inertia of starting. Thankfully, professional triathlete Sarah Piampiano has created a great site called TheHabitProject.net that gives you weekly tips, tools and support to get going down the path to better habits.

Start Where You Are

Sarah’s story is not unlike most of us. She had several bad habits including smoking 2 packs of Marlboro lights a day and working 90+ hour weeks in the financial industry. Sarah’s transformation came about on a dare and that dare significantly changed her life. The big idea that Sarah’s new site puts forth is that the transformative weekly challenges are simple for anyone to start. These challenges are further broken down into three sections: fitness, nutrition and life balance. These sections make sticking with the program simple and fun.

Contributors That Inspire, Challenges that Motivate

Sarah has assembled a fantastic mix of people to help chart your journey to better habits. From professional coach Matt Dixon of Purple Patch Fitness to Zoe Keller from OneBeetWellness, the list of contributors grows weekly and all have a wealth of experience and down to earth insights that make the challenges fun and informative. It’s also inspirational to read how these experts inspire, coach and mentor clients to achieve the outstanding results.

Accountability Encourages Follow Through

As most of us know, when in comes to training and life in general, having someone that you are accountable too leads to better results. Accountability enables us to have more skin in the game and also builds a support network that is vital to keep us on track. Through accountability and encouragement, we can develop habits that will stick with us for a lifetime. Sarah’s site is meant to not only give you advice but also keep you accountable by building a virtual support network to encourage you through tough times.

Nice Steady Pace

A steady pace is vital to creating better habits. Even better would be to stack habits so that you can reinforce little habits that build into big habits. The Habit Project takes the same approach with their weekly challenges centered around Sarah’s mantras. Each week has at least 3 ways to build skills and habits. The best thing is that it’s easy to jump right in even if you are just starting out.

What Habit Do You Want to Change?

Change begins by first, wanting to change and second, doing something about it. Starting to break bad habits and create new ones can be scary but once you start on the path to building better habits, you’ll start to quickly see a big difference. Check out  The Habit Project and start building better habits today!

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: 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.

The Search for Big Hungry — GORUCK Beached 004

beached5

A Guest Post by Matt Hammonds

What is Beached?

Beached is a 3-day submersion into the world of special amphibious operations taught by current and former Special Operations soldiers (GORUCK Cadre). You and your team will learn amphibious skills based on actual special operations and training exercises conducted by the GORUCK Cadre in their careers. Whether you are a professional diver or an inexperienced swimmer, your Cadre will ensure that you walk away with new skills and the ability to thrive in an amphibious environment. Beached does not make you into a special operator; however you will emerge with greater skills and appreciation for the underwater world of Special Operations.

More Than Just Getting Wet

I can tell you right now, the description does it no justice in preparing you for the amount of fun you are about to experience. If you have never done one of GORUCK’s expedition events, then you are truly missing out on an epic adventure. I can tell you that if you think it’s going to be days in the sun drinking beers and eating hot dogs then you are in for surprise. GORUCK has recently put a lot of effort into revamping their expeditions: Ascent, Navigator, Beached, and Trek.

During my time at Beached, I was able to have some lengthy discussions with the folks that are in charge of making these happen. They want these events to be something truly special. They want people to really get their money’s worth and feel these should be top notch events. I am familiar with some of the expeditions (formerly called Capstones) that have been put on before. I can say that starting with the Navigator expeditions that just took place in May as well; these expeditions are far superior to ones of years past. This is not meant to bash any of the prior events in any way. But with all of the trial and error with these events over the years, they have really transformed into something special.

It Pays to Arrive Early

I actually flew into Jacksonville the day prior to the start of the event. It was recommended to arrive the day prior to allow time to travel to the team house in Neptune Beach and set up your sleeping arrangements at base camp. I am glad I followed that advice because when I arrived, there were about ten other tents already pitched. I was lucky to grab the last real spot available. It was about to get crowded real quick.

The morning started off with a nice cooked breakfast. One of the big changes to the expeditions was having someone there to prepare high quality meals. Grant worked real hard to ensure we were fed with “high quality, good calories”. You work up a serious appetite swimming around in the ocean and lugging those Zodiac boats around. Grant always made sure food was ready when we came in and that the table was always stocked with the means to prepare you a snack.

From here the first day is a full day of activities well into evening. It started with introductions from the cadre with some back story about their military careers. For those of you in the GORUCK community, the cadres were: Big Daddy, Michael, Geoff, Chase, Joel, Garrett, Rick and Grant handling everyone’s food needs. As you can see, there were plenty of guys on hand to share their experience in every aspect of the course.

Keep Away from Big Hungry

Big Daddy went on to brief everyone on rough timeline of events. He shared a truly tragic story of a recent dry land drowning fatality. If you aren’t familiar with dry land drowning, I suggest looking it up. I was unaware of just how easy it is for someone to succumb to it. This led into our safety brief for the course and the importance of being a buddy team. Throughout the course the only real safety issues we faced were jellyfish stings, dehydration, and scared people thinking Big Hungry was going to chomp them in the ocean. I will say, we had a great time making jokes about Big Hungry lurking under the water waiting to eat one of us. Some people didn’t find the humor though.

We received classes on:

  • How to properly kick in the water with fins to maximize our power
  • How to perform buddy rescues in the water
  • How to wear our scout swimmer vests and the safety features included
  • How to perform an inspection of ourselves and our swim buddy prior to entering the water

We headed down to beach and were informed that we would be doing a 1000m open ocean swim with our swim buddy. We were instructed to swim out to a buoy, back in to surf zone, then back to the buoy where we were to show proficiency treading water and doing buddy rescues, and finally back in to shore. I can tell you now; if you are thinking about doing Beached you better start doing your flutter kicks and get some swim time in. It’s tougher than you think because you are getting pushed one direction by the current at the same time you are trying to hit your target so it makes for more work. I actually enjoyed the swims because the water felt so nice even early in the morning.

The day continued with a class on the Zodiac boats we would be using for the next few days. These boats weigh about 325lbs. without the motor. Think it was about 425-450lbs. with. We would be carrying these bad boys around for the next few days. They were not fun getting them up and over the sand dune at the start and end of each day. We learned about how to assemble them as well as positioning inside them. It was time to get wet again. We split up into boat crews that we would remain in for the remainder of the course.

Techniques to Flip Over a Perfectly Good Zodiac

We took them out on the ocean and learned a technique called “broaching”. This is the act of flipping your boat back over if for some reason you have been capsized in the surf. It entails climbing on top, grabbing the broaching line, leaning way back as one of your boat crew pushes the boat up. The combined weight of the boat crew leaning back will flip the boat back upright. We practiced this many times until we were able to do it easily. Part of being a boat crew is the ability to work together as a team. You have to be able to be in sync while paddling to maximize your power in the water. We had a friendly competition to see just how well the boat crews could work together. We were instructed to paddle our boats out to the buoy and back, broach the boat upside down, then broach it back upright and continue to paddle to shore. It was a fun way to implement the things we had learned to this point.

We headed in for a great lunch of big chicken breasts and veggies. I couldn’t believe how hungry I was. While tearing into that chicken, I thought about everything we had done so far. When you decide to head out to Beached, be prepared to put in some work. It was nice to be out there getting it on and having the ability to cool off in the ocean at the same time.

Practicing Speed Casting

After lunch came high speed casting. This was serious fun. Casting is putting the swimmers on the boat into the water quickly so you can deploy your whole boat crew in the matter of seconds. You start out by hugging one of the upper inflated sides of the zodiac. As you are cruising along the driver will yell “go” and you will push yourself up and out from the side of the boat. This action is to clear you away from the propeller in the back. In the process you actually can skip on the water for an added sensation. We practiced retrieving the swimmers from the water without stopping the boat. We did these two things a few more times until we got it down because we were instructed that we would be doing this at night as well.

After dinner we started our evening with a 1000m night swim just as we had in the morning. The Big Hungry jokes were in full effect and some people really weren’t pleased with heading out for an open ocean swim. I was proud to see so many push past their fears and get the job done. It was really cool to see all of the lights from that far out in total darkness. Little did we know that we would be going even farther the next night and Big Hungry hadn’t been fed yet.

After completing the swim we went into nighttime casting and recovery. If you thought it was fun during the day it was even more fun at night. Nighttime broaching was a blast as well. All of these events were so much fun at night under a clear sky with the beach lights so far inland.

Day one was over and it was a full day. We lugged the boats back over the dune and were able to clean up. Then it was time to relax and get to know everyone else over some beers. That was a nice end to an amazing day of ocean fun.

Respect the Neighbors

Day two began with breakfast and followed shortly by a 2000m swim by boat crew. For anyone that has never swam that far, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Since we were doing it as a boat crew we were able to chat and laugh along the way which made the time go by. Again it felt nice to hop in the ocean first thing in the morning to get the day started.

We were given a class on the different parts of the ocean and beach in relation to combat swimmers. Then we went into a class and presentation of scout swimmers approaching from the water to conduct a beach recon. We were told to pay close attention as we would be utilizing this on our “mission”.

The day took a crazy turn and we were instructed to pack up all of our things out of the back yard. We were informed that the police had been called on us due to some knuckle heads GRT’s using the neighbors outdoor shower the night prior. Should the police have been called, no. Should they have been messing with something that wasn’t theirs, no. So we were instructed by the police that we could not be outside any longer. Big Daddy never skipped a beat; he informed us that due to our mission we would have been out all night anyways so it really wasn’t a big deal in the whole scheme of things. We moved all of our operations inside for the rest of the day which consisted of  classes on survival and how to waterproof your gear. We were shown how to make our bags float even with our gear inside. Again, this would come in to play later. Learned about nautical maps and then were instructed about the night’s mission.

Stepping Off Into the Deep Blue

We were briefed on the overall mission and then each of the boat crews leaders were briefed on each boat crews separate mission that would contribute the overall mission success. We went into mission planning, gear prep, dinner, and leader back briefs on our individual plans to the cadre. I’m not going to go into anything that happens during the mission except that it uses everything you have learned so far and then some. The next twelve hours are a blast.

The next instructions we were given was to prepare our swim gear and to waterproof a bag with a change of civilian clothes for a follow on mission. We were instructed to paddle our boats from the team house down to Jacksonville Beach pier and then come ashore. That was a nice little paddle to the pier and riding the boats onto a beach full of onlookers wondering what was going on. Our next task would be to swim out past the end of the pier until the cadre told us to stop. This time it was like a 2000m swim as a class. Here we are all thirty-six of us, arms locked entering the surf zone and then swimming all the way out and back. It was pretty cool to see the look on everyone’s faces when we all came walking out of the ocean.

Each boat team was handed their mission instructions and went their separate ways. I’m not going to give any of that away either, but it was a cool way to end it all.

beached6

GORUCK has really put a lot of time and effort in planning these events so people can walk away and feel like they have done something special. As I sit here thinking about those days and writing this, all I can think about is the conversation I had with Big Daddy at the endex party about how he has even more ideas to make Beached even cooler. I can tell you that if he makes those ideas a reality, then Beached 006 will blow mine out of the water.

Photos Courtesy of : M. Beacon, K. Johnson, B.D.

Heavy 2.0 — Ed’s Valentine’s Day Massacre

ed_keg

A Guest Post by Ed Shelton

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

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

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

About Me

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

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

The Calm Before the Storm

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

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

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

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

Meeting the Standard

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

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

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

On a Scale of 1 to 10

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

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

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

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

Hurry Up, Hurry Up, Hurry Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smoke Session

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

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

Mr. Sandman Bring Me a …

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

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

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

Conquering The Night

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

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

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

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

No One Left Behind

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

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

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

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

Take Care of Your Feet Forrest

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

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

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

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

Tunnel of Love 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

PT Standard Redux

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

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

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

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

Finishing as a Team

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

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

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

Heavy 26 Team Photo

Heavy 26 Team Photo courtesy of Abi Rittenhouse Wilson

My final thoughts on Heavy 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

Get yourself mentally ready

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

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

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

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

IMG_3717

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

Freak Frogman Workout Assessment

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

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

Mixing It Up Makes Training Interesting

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

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

30 Day Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 5 Mile Run: 38:13 (met)

  • 12 Mile Ruck: 3:24:34 (met)

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

Know the Why

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

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

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

Am I Ready for BUD/S or Selection?

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

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

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

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

Moving Forward

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

Impossible Challenge — Freak Frogman Plus Selection Part 1: Baseline

selection_shirt_back

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

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

BUD/S & Selection Minimum Requirements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Challenge

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

My Baseline

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

  • Weight: 184 pounds

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

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

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

  • Pull-ups: 4 <= Fell short by 4

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

 

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

The Pretty Definitive Guide to Toughing Up Your Feet

jarie_feet

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

 

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

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

Feet take a lot of punishment.

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

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

1% Inspiration and 99% Perspiration

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

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

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

These Feet Were Made for Walking and Running and Jumping

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

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

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

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

Stress and Strain is a Good Thing

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

Feet are no different.

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

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

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

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

The Pretty Definitive Guide to Tougher Feet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know Yourself by Knowing Your Feet

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

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

Exploring Further

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

Impossible Goal Achieved: Finished Diablo Trails 50k

diablo_50k_after_race

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.

IMG_2531

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!