Friday, June 24, 2016

1 Week Post-Heavy and LOTS of Pictures!

So a week ago this morning, we were crawling through wet grass and fighting time hack after time hack, well past the half way point of our eventual 25 hour GORUCK Heavy endurance team event in Detroit, MI. I have recovered quite well but I will say different aches did linger a little longer than expected and overall "engine" power to give it all in my CrossFit garage gym really needed more time than I thought it would. I think it was Tuesday when I jumped on the Concept2 Rower for a quick 500m and it nearly gassed me. Today, though, I'm feeling awesome and in fact, have signed up for 3 more GORUCK events this week. Coming up over the July 4th weekend in Cleveland, I was already signed up for the Tough event on Friday night at 9pm but also picked up the Light on Saturday and fun-filled Scavenger on Sunday morning. Bonus? My wife is joining me for the Light for her first event! Looking forward to that big time. Also, GORUCK announced this week that they are giving away 20,000 free event entries to military and first responders. I used that to sign up for the Mogadishu Mile Tough event at the end of September in Cleveland.

So how about some pics? This is a follow up to my AAR (After Action Report) that I wrote regarding the Heavy event last week. I promised to share more photos when they came out so here they are. After you get through those, I have included a recap of last night's Sea/Land Ruck at Molon Labe CrossFit...another great time!

One of my favorite photos of them all. Sunrise on Friday before we got in the water for the Tunnel of Love.

Awaiting ruck inspection by the cadre. Each ruck is inspected to ensure we brought the required items like our ID, $20 in cash for a cab if we drop, headlamp with extra batteries and the required weight. They also weighed them.

Some instruction by Cadre CT prior starting a long period of picnic table PT/overhead presses...continuation of the "Welcome Party"

The "Tunnel of Love." I won't lie. It was awesome and sucked all the same.

Tunnel of Love

During our first time hack and my stint as Team Leader. We beat the hack. The team did AWESOME.

A better view of the litter we had to carry full of heavy sand that I spoke about in my AAR. Of course, led by Old Glory.

Heavy Class #121

As a team, we had (4) 40lb sandbags and (1) 80lb sandbag to carry throughout the event with exception of the final 12 mile ruck. This was one of the 40lb ones.

Mid-80s, blazing sun and Class #121 completing the 12 mile ruck 100% as a team. There was nothing easy about this.

I tried to carry Old Glory as much as I could during the 12 mile ruck. It was a weighted pole and so many were hurting on the team. It was something I could do and drive the pace at the same time.

A good shot at our team in the latter half of that 12 miler.

Mid-Welcome Party getting a drink from the 3L bladder on my back.
So that's it for the Heavy photos. Last night, I got the ruck out again and headed out to Molon Labe CrossFit for a Sea/Land ruck workout. What a fantastic time! There were experienced folks to people who had never done anything like this before. It was great to meet some new friends and sweat a little, too. We started at the box, did some PT then rucked out to the local rec center, carrying Bryan's new 17lb weighted flag pole along with the 25lb team weight for next weekend's events and (3) 60lb sandbags. Once at the rec center and some more PT, we headed into the pool...with our rucks on. Sweet! Here are some photos from the night. I even got in my first buddy carry near the end. I had tried that during the Heavy but failed. That was a nice little confidence boost.  After the ruck, 12 of the 17 who showed up headed out for dinner to carry on the conversation about rucking and whatever else. Looking forward to the next one! (Photo Credit: Jason Shaffer, CF L1 Coach at Molon Labe CrossFit)
Mini-Welcome Party to kick off the evening...and more push-ups towards the Push-Up Challenge! #winning

So one guy sits on your feet then the other does sit-ups...but under the water. That's me in the center top on my way back up. Hint: blow out on the way back up unless you want to gag on pool water.

"Cadre Bryan" imparting wisdom to all and bringing the joy.

Nice view of the Team Flag for next week's festivities around Cleveland

Some upward presses out of the water with rucks on

As if 1701 flutter kicks wasn't enough in Detroit last week! GET SOME!

Blurry shot of my first buddy carry as we returned to the box.
Have a great weekend, all!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

AAR: GORUCK Heavy Class #121

For years, I've been writing "Race Reports" after my marathons and ultra marathons. Today, I "pen" my first "AAR" or After-Action-Report which is essentially the same thing. For many, "rucking" is totally foreign to them and a GORUCK event even more confusing. So real quick for my "regular" readers who are starting from square one:

WHAT IS RUCKING? RUCK•ING [VERB] - “To put weight on your back and go for a walk. More weight or more miles equals more results, more friends and more time together equals more fun.” –GORUCK

GORUCK is a company that was founded by a former special forces guy whose goal was to sell indestructible rucks and photograph people putting them through their paces. What grew from it was a community as people rucked and then official events began forming...but always wearing the rucksack with weight. These events are led by current or former special forces members, e.g. Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Delta Force, etc. The participants, however, can be anyone and many are not veterans even though the events have a very military/patriotic flair to them. These events, in general, fall into one of 3 levels: the Heavy, the Tough, or the Light. The Heavy is 24+ hours, and 40+ miles. The Tough is about half that and the Light is 5-6 hours and has a lighter weight requirement. Guidance from GORUCK says that if you can run a 5K, you can do the Light. This AAR is my recollection of my first ever GORUCK event, the Heavy on June 16/17 in Detroit, MI. Putting all 3 together, the Heavy-Tough-Light, is called the "HTL" and that was my goal going into it all, starting at 6pm Thursday night. The starting time for each event was as follows:

  • Heavy: 6pm Thursday
  • Tough: 9pm Friday
  • Light: 2pm Saturday

I read a few AAR's from others in preps for this and I have participated in a few group rucks in the Cleveland area with the Cleveland Area Rucking Crew (CARC). So, I wasn't going in cold...well, not totally cold, and I have my ultra-running/100 miler experience to call on. Footcare, nutrition, being up well over 24 hours...I have been there before but not under load, only via a 100 mile trail race. A HUGE difference between running a 100 miler or any race and a GORUCK event is individual effort vs. Team. It is all about team in a GORUCK event. It is impossible to finish an event solo. You must figure out how to work together and accomplish the mission. So after reading and knowing how my body has done in the past under stress and no sleep for well over 24 hours, I laid out my gear, along with a full 3L water bladder and 30lb plate and double, triple, quadruple checked my gear and went over my plan in my head. Cash/ID were required items in case we quit and had to call a cab. A headlamp and extra batteries were required. An added requirement was to write down a military mission and be prepared to talk about it. That's the manila card in the middle. We were also required to have the reflective bands on our ruck along with a carabiner. Since I had no patch to go on my ruck, I slapped my American flag on there from my Afghanistan deployment in 2011...seemed very fitting! For fuel, I took four Hammer Gels, three 5hr Energy bottles, half of that bag of jerky, and some M&Ms. I also took some motrin and a baggie with a bunch of Hammer Endurolyte Extremes which are AWESOME. They are essentially 3-in-1 and are very good to help introduce some electrolytes and sodium back into the body when you are losing so much. There was no way I'd be able to keep up with the loss but this would help combat it. Also, I took an extra 3L water bladder (just-in-case mine got broke or even someone else's), a clean dry shirt, an extra pair of socks, BodyGlide, and an extra pair of nip guards. Chafing can end an event FAST! :)

I left for Detroit Thursday morning and arrived early afternoon at a friend's house who is a GORUCK veteran and whose parents live 30min from the start. Much thanks to Bryan and his family for the hospitality! It was enough time to decompress a bit and also get hyped up a bit before leaving. We arrived in plenty of time (like 90min early!) but even then, we weren't the first people there. It is not adviseable to ever be late to a GORUCK event. As 6pm neared, everyone gathered beneath a pavilion as the rain hadn't yet stopped. 6pm arrived and so did our cadre for the Heavy, Cadre Heath and Cadre CT. Before I get into this AAR anymore, I want to put out one disclaimer: I'm not going to give every groovy, dirty, juicy little detail. Some things, in my opinion, are best left out on the trail...or roads...or in the water. They are reserved for those who experienced them and the mystery of these events is also part of the allure. Every cadre certainly has flexibility in what they do and have us do so no two events are exactly the same. Further, how the team actually becomes a team will have direct influence on where the event leads. So it began...

Cadre Heath and CT introduced themselves, took a roll call, went over flag etiquette and inspected our rucks for the required items and weighed them. For me, being well over 150lbs, my weight had to be 30lbs or greater, plus a full water bladder. That made it 37lbs plus those extras I showed you up above. Then began the "Welcome Party" which begins every GORUCK event. It always involves all kinds of physical exercises and really has no limit. For the Heavy, there is an added dimension...a PT test. Officially on the website, it states a 12 mile ruck plus a max push-up effort in 2 minutes plus a max sit-up effort in 2 minutes. We all knew about it but when it would happen was a mystery. So for about 3 1/2 hours, we had all kinds of "fun" and to be perfectly honest, it was during this time I had my first thoughts creep in regarding quitting. Specifically, we were holding our rucks over our heads and told to squat and hold. I just couldn't do it. Ironically, at only a few hours in, that was the one and only time "quitting" got some real estate in my brain. Here are a few photos that were taken during this time, courtesy of Sarah LaBarge. That's me in the red shirt:

Overhead presses. 8 people to a double-sized picnic table. Many, MANY, many of them. 
Old Glory was never far and always led the way when on the move.
The Inchworm...until we did it as a team.
Dips, step-ups, and flutter kicks. Yea, did you know that the birthday of Detroit is the year 1701? None of the 41 of Class #121 will EVER forget that. We found out very quick that we'd be doing 1701 flutter kicks over the course of our 24+ hours. If that sounds like a lot, it is! But, it is far better than what almost happened...1701 burpees...with rucks. No thank you! As night began to set in at some point in the 9 o'clock hour, we prepared to head out of the park. No watches or phones were permitted so time elapsed and remaining was always a best guess only. Prior to leaving, we filled 4 GORUCK bags with 40lb of sand each and 1 bag with 80lbs. These would be carried from this point forward as well as a 50lb team weight. It would be up to the Team Leader (which rotates thoughout the event) to rotate people carrying these items. GORUCK events are also known to include picking up random logs from the woods...or even telephone poles and taking them along for the ride. Remember the "team" concept I told you about? Hopefully, that is making more sense now. Impossible to be an "individual" and be successful in this environment. So the Welcome Party ended (and that's all the detail I'm going to give!) and we headed out...but no PT test. Hmmm....
A few of the local law enforcement
 folks to greet us after some flutter kicks!

The rain had stopped and the skies totally cleared up to reveal a nearly full moon. After spending a short period on the roads, we began miles and miles and miles on either dirt trails or cinder bike-n-hike trails. Getting away from the manmade light of the streets, combined with the illumination from the moon really had headlamps not very necessary at all, with exception of the heavily overgrown areas of the trail that blocked the moonlight. It wasn't more than an hour or so (maybe 2...I'm really not sure!) that we came upon a cider mill and big open parking lot. Lining the parking lot were HUGE telephone pole-looking logs. The first thing I thought was "we're picking those up." Not the case. Little did I know, there was a river flowing nearby and it was time to work off some flutter the water. We split up into 4 teams and went down into the cold water, arms locked, and repped them out. I was in the last group and we got held up for a few minutes due to "something" going on up in the parking lot. Soon, Cadre CT returned to the water to tell us to do the flutter kicks but keep the rep counting (read: chanting) super quiet as we're in a residential neighborhood. Safe to say, the previous groups were NOT silent, in true GORUCK fashion. After finishing, we took our soaked selves up to the parking lot and 6 police cars surrounded us pretty, flashy red/blue lights, just their headlights. I guess things weren't too busy in the area so as to afford us the pleasure of such an audience. We basically picked up our team weights, got back into formation, and got moving. Oh yes, we were also carrying two, very floppy water bladders. They would be used to refill us as needed. We left without incident and never looked back.

As the night progressed, we took our guesses at the time of day and how many hours until First Light. From time to time, we'd take a 5min breather on the trail and gather around Cadre CT. Cadre Heath left us with him for the nighttime ruck and would re-join us at sunrise. During these short breaks, CT would take questions regarding his special forces days, talk about leadership, and also cycle through team leaders. As each team leader (TL) and assistant team leader (ATL) was "fired," we'd hold a short AAR and talk about what went well during the last movement and what could've been better. This was an open and frank discussion to help each other be better and gel as a team. Then, a new TL and ATL was picked and we were off again. The moon was setting so less moonlight provided the assist but prior to sunrise, we found ourselves back on city streets with street lights...and our first time hack. Time hacks are basically this: you have "x" distance to cover and "y" time to get there. Fail and casualties will be assessed. That could be added weight or literally carrying a team member along with their ruck. As we moved along the straight stretch of road to an alleged beach (oh yea, we knew what that meant!), we passed a bank with a clock on it. It was just past 4am. That made sense, too. The skies were getting that first inital lining of light at the horizon. We eventually reached a local metro park that included a lake. At this point, we were in desperate need of water. Our two large bladders were totally empty and most personal bladders dry. It was a priority, for sure. Luckily, there were faucets perfect for filling everyone up. We got a solid 10-15min to do just that, grab a bite to eat and maybe just sit down for a few. At this point, the sun was clearly rising so the 5am hour was upon us...about 11 hours into the Heavy...and Cadre Heath showed up.

Our break time was up and to the beach we went. We didn't go out too far, the water felt awesome, and we got some serious PT in. Ever heard of the Tunnel of Love? You can do just about any PT in the water but this was the PT of choice by Cadre CT before he headed for a nap and Cadre Heath took over. Imagine this...take 41 of us and put us shoulder-to-shoulder facing out...feet just into the water. Now, everyone goes down into pushup position but arches their butt up to a peak. Now, one person at a time crawls through the "Tunnel of Love"...all the way to the other end then gets back up into position to keep the tunnel growing on the other end while it shrinks at the beginning. I scooped a LOT of sand into my pants! (found it in my washing machine last night, actually) Once we were done, we threw a little bit of sand around (literally) and got back up into formation to hear from our cadre. I thought for sure we'd be rolling in that sand but we didn't. What I wanted to do was to go for a swim for 5min and wash all the sand out from INSIDE my clothes! Up on the grass, the TL and ATL were fired yet again and a new one selected...ME.

Quickly, Cadre Heath pulled us aside as he showed us a map on his phone and said "you have 2.28 miles to go to this point on the map. How much time do you need?" I replied with "an hour." He says "Perfect. 40min." Alrighty, then! He told me to brief the team with our objective AND to take the green Army duffle we were carrying and fill it 3/4 full with sand from the beach. Yep...we were taking on a huge, new dead weight that would be carried "litter" style, with 4-6 people at all times. Once filled and ready, we headed on out. As for that navigation, this area was of course, totally new to me. I remembered the best I could from looking at the map on his phone with how to go and major landmarks, like the golf course we were passing. I was allowed one look at the map en route and no more. I used it once and that was definitely the right call as I was about to make a bad decision. Back to that 40min time hack: If we didn't make it, we'd be assessed a casualty every 3 min for going over...a team member to carry. I struggled at first leading the team and rotating out, on the fly, all of the team weights. We had 5 sandbags, a team weight, two water bladders, and 5 people on the litter carrying the monster sandbag. Bryan, who I mentioned earlier, gave me advice on throwing in some bursts of running..or shuffling to get us moving. What I came up with was doing 15sec or 20sec bursts of running without ever stopping and continuing to rotate out everyone smoothly. I was running all over the place, yelling out motivation, making sure no one was about to die, and kept the press ON. It sucked, no doubt. The sun was very much in the sky now and the thermometer was already on the rise. BUT....WE DID IT. We made the time hack and I really don't think Cadre Heath expected us to. We legit did it. Where we found ourselves now was in a wet, grassy field. It was "training" time. Being in spec ops for 23+ years, Cadre Heath has a ton of experience. We did all kinds of training simulating being in a firefight while trying to advance on the enemy. We worked on carrying each other, too. I can't tell you exactly how long we spent training but it was awhile. I can't begin to name all the evolutions, either. I just can't remember what they were called. No matter, though. If you ever get Cadre Heath, maybe you'll find out! :) Before long, it was time to get fired as TL and a new one picked and we headed out again.

This time hack didn't go so well and before we got to the next point, it was mid-morning, the sun was blaring and we took on three casualties. Luckily, we had five ladies on our team so we, of course, used them as casualties as they weighed the least. We filled up water bladders until we ran out after that time hack and played a little "game" of Cadre Heath's. Haha...what a game! (it was a short, little PT session with some childhood humor swirled in to put smiles on everyone's faces) The bad part of it is that one of our own passed out. As someone with vasovagal syncope, I knew what I just saw. Once he woke up, we all gathered around and got him in the shade. He was hard-headed as heck! We forced him to give up his ruck and just walk with us...and to keep hydrating as best he could. The downside to this event is that unlike a race or ultra-marathon where electrolyte drinks are served at aid stations, there is nothing but what you're carrying and anyone who knows much knows that you never put those drinks inside bladders as it ruins them. So, outside of electrolyte tabs and maybe some Hammer Gels, there isn't much to do to keep up with hydration. It really is a losing battle. You just have to be as smart as you can and make the best decision you can at the time and with the information you have. We all carried on as a team.

Let's just say that the "suck" was getting worse now by the moment. The sun was raising the temperature quickly and people's feet were taking a serious beating. No matter how long it had been since leaving the beach, our feet never really dried out due to sweat. Add on the weight of our rucks and the added team weights and we had people with no issues to others with popping blisters making just walking painful. Eventually, we found ourselves on a traditional cinder bike-n-hike trail as we hovered around the early afternoon time, I think. We had some more training on building a litter to carry wounded using tree limbs and a tarp. Cadre Heath also did some training on rappelling. This was a nice time to ground the weights and take care of any issues anyone had. As we loaded up to go again, he told us we had 15min to go ONE mile...with all the weight. You want to talk about coming together as a team?! WHOA! We did...and we crushed it in 14:30. The carrot we were chasing was that if we did it, we could shed all of the sandbags. Now, we had no idea where we were in relation to the end whatsoever.  But, being able to shed hundreds of pounds of sand was awesome.  We did that, got more water, and had nothing but our team weight left. Cadre Heath thought this was also a fantastic time to knock out more flutter kicks so we lined both sides of the trail and did so. After that, it was story time as heard about one of Cadre Heath's experiences in Afghanistan.

At this point, NO ONE had dropped and the Heavy events, per GORUCK, have about a 50% finishing rate. But what's missing from the Heavy? Remember the PT test? We had done plenty of PT, already, but the infamous 12 mile ruck loomed. We had but one final movement...the 12mi ruck. However, instead of it being individual as it often is, we had to finish as a team. With 41 people, we had good to awful in terms of condition...both physical and mental. It was hot and 12 miles is a LONG way to go in our condition. The standard is 3 1/2 hours to cover this distance. Alone, I've covered it twice. Once in 2hrs, 12min and again a few weeks ago in 2:11. This was totally different, though. We'd all been up for well over 24 hours, were beat down, and feet issues plagued many people. Moving quick as a team was going to be hard. The time began and we headed out with only our 50lb team weight and the weighted flag pole, in addition to our rucks. 

Wow, wow, wow....pure guts and teamwork during the next 4 hours. We fought, some shed tears, some carried each other's rucks, but we never quit. The idea of "quit" was certainly looming in many minds but through a few awesome team leaders and others reaching out to those around them, we kept going...and going. Honestly, it seemed like we'd never get there! Here are a few photos from this final movement.

10 miles in, Cadre Heath pulled us aside and stopped the clock. We had started the 12mi on pace to kill the time standard but we fell apart in the last 4 miles. He talked to us, inspired us, but kept it real. He told us what we needed to hear. He was brutally a leader and teacher needs to be. He has led many GORUCK events and has never had a class where no one dropped. With 2 miles to one had...yet. He laid out one final time hack: Cover the last two miles in 30min and it's all over. Out we went....MOTIVATED AS HECK!!! We stuck together, carried other's rucks as necessary and kept throwing running shuffles in there as we could...but left no one behind. Nothing but guts and sweat and pure determination to not quit and finish strong AS A TEAM.

So there we are...arriving back at the start point. We got back into two ranks but guess what? We still owed Detroit 201 flutter kicks so we proudly paid them. 1701 flutter kicks done! With that, Heavy Class #121 was finished and with a 100% completion rate. NO ONE QUIT. The final moments were spent hearing from Cadre CT and Cadre Heath. It was surreal...emotional...incredible.

In most half marathons, marathons, ultra-marathons, etc., you get a medal, a t-shirt, or something like that. With GORUCK, it's all about the patch and "patching" is all that remained. A strong handshake, the patch, and a hug wrapped it all up.

So that's my first GORUCK event and by default, my first Heavy event. But what about the goal of HTL? It was now 7pm or later and the Tough was starting at 9pm and was about a 30min drive away. My situation was this: I hurt...just like many did. My #1 concern was my right foot. It felt like rocks were in there but in reality, two big blisters were forming beneath my skin in my forefoot. It hurt just to walk and this only got worse over those 12 miles. I made the decision to not continue towards the HTL. Cadre Heath talked to us about this before this all began. He made it clear that the HTL is not an event in itself...more of a achievement. He said to finish a Heavy, one should be very proud in that and then assess the situation afterwards and make a decision. There is no shame to not do all 3 events. To quit the Heavy is one thing...or to be med-dropped. To decide to take on the HTL another day is quite another. That was my final decision and even now, I have total peace in that decision. I'll get mine...just not this time around. I had an incredible time, experience, and am stronger through it all. I met some bad@ss people along the way, too. My team of 41...WE DID IT. WE....Detroit Heavy Class #121 did it together!
"Comfort is the enemy of achievement."

I'd like to thank Bryan and his family for the awesome hospitality, Bryan's mentoring all year long as I prepared for this, Cadre CT and Cadre Heath for being awesome human beings and leading us through this, and all of my teammates. A special shout out to a new friend, too...Kevin, who was the one who passed out. Hard headed as ever, he refused to quit. You should be proud, brother! Recover well and I'll see you again!
Myself, Bryan and Kevin
One last shout the "Tenacious Ten"...those who did all 3 events and earned their HTL patch. So incredibly AWESOME!!! Well done!! (yes, those are tutu's...)

I expect to see many, many more photos soon from the Heavy event and will share them on this blog so come on back or subscribe for future updates. In addition, thanks again to Sarah LaBarge and Erik Rambo for capturing all of these photos and sharing them. Much appreciated!

Monday, May 16, 2016

M-Cubed for 5.16.2016

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for May Sixteenth, Two-Thousand Sixteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Yesterday, a Sunday in the middle of May, would normally yield a day of sunshine, a walk in the park, maybe a melting S'mores out back as the weekend came to a close. Not in NE Ohio...we had hail, rain, snow, high winds, sunshine, and a frost warning. If ever there was a day to curl up, hibernate, and come back to life when it was all over, this was it! For those who ran in the Cleveland Marathon yesterday, it was miserable! Forecast is looking good, though, moving forward.

- Just a few weeks ago, SO1 Charles Keating was killed in Iraq. He was a Navy SEAL. "SO1" means he was a Special Operator (SEAL), 1st Class Petty Officer. It's interesting to lose a servicemember in combat in a country where we have no one on the ground doing combat, isn't it??? Food for thought. Petty Officer Keating was laid to rest late last week and ceremonies were held both in NYC and at the home of SEAL training in Coronado. He was also post-humously promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. Here are a few photos, officially released by the Navy. May his family be protected and his death be avenged. 
Memorial Mass Held at St. Patrick's Cathedral

The Navy Recruiting District New York color guard parades the colors to begin a memorial mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City honoring Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Charles Keating IV, of San Diego, May 12. Keating was killed in action in northern Iraq May 3. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Matthew Stroup/released)

SAN DIEGO (May 13, 2016) San Diego residents await the arrival of the funeral procession for Chief Special Warfare Operator Charles Keating IV. The procession made its way from Coronado, Calif. to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Richard A. Miller/Released)
- While Saturday was cold, windy and rainy, I still spent the morning out at Sand Run Metro Park in Akron with the Cleveland Area Rucking Crew. We had a scheduled "Navigation Ruck" planned as well as a picnic. Where most gatherings involve wearing our weighted rucks for miles, carrying logs and a variety of other things and lots of PT, this day was more about education and learning how to read a map and navigate via compass. It was a good time, we still got to play in the woods and get dirty a bit, we rucked a few miles near the end and then enjoyed some grilled goodness and fellowship before heading out with the rest of our weekend. Great time!
We were each given some map coordinates then had to find the spot on the map.

I can't believe I lived for 43 years and never learned how to properly use a compass.

That's us out there, counting paces and doing our best to stay on our heading until the next waypoint. Some water, some prickly bushes, and nothing but a good time.
- It was a pretty great week in the home "box" sweating out some CrossFit. If you didn't read my most recent CrossFit update at the 18 month point, you can read it here. Many thanks to those who stopped by to read it. It ended up gathering the most traffic of any post in the last year! Back mid-week, I woke up and decided it was time for a Hero WOD. There was one I had been looking at and waiting for the right day for it. I woke up Wednesday morning wanting to do (and overdue for them) squats so it was time for "Manion." Manion is in honor of 1Lt Travis Manion who was killed by sniper fire in Iraq. I found the right music, read his story and headed out to do it. Manion is a 7 round couplet of 400m runs and 29 back squats at 135 pounds. While 135lbs is not heavy for a back squat, 203 of them is. My plan was to break them up into 10-10-9 each round with minimal rest which really worked out well. Still, it took me 34:59 to complete it. I loved it, Old Glory stared me down the whole time and anytime I thought "this sucks so bad," I thought of him and his family...and the sacrifice paid. The rest of the week was pretty good with some solid workouts with my wife. As for those squats? I felt them for 3 days! Nothing but good soreness, pain at all. Coming up this week, I'm going to start the week with a beat down called "Filthy Fifty" (check out my Instagram feed for the aftermath later today) and this Saturday is "The Hammy" workout at Dix Stadium in Kent. I'm teaming up with a friend for my first go at this event, an event in honor of Adam Hamilton who died in Afghanistan in May 2011. Below is a photo from Travis Manion's funeral in 2007. He was a Marine officer.

- Did you hear that Prince didn't have a will?!?! Seriously, if you don't have one, get one. We all should have one, especially those with kids! Don't leave it up to your family (or the courts) to figure it all out when you're gone.

- I'm not crafty at all with my hands, I lack the "handyman" skills that many have, but somehow my kids got some of that talent. They're musicians and thanks to my wife's mother, they can make a quilt all by themselves! Just a few days back, my oldest finished one. Now I'm no watcher/fan of "Dr. Who" but if you are, you probably see the influence here. This quilt fits perfectly on her twin bed and she's going to enter it into the competition at the county fair this August. Proud!

- I have a little chuckle for an outgoing quote today for you...but first: It is easy to come up against opposition, get taken advantage of, fall into the trap of being naive once again and just want to call it quits, throw in the towel, and boom...disappear. But what kind of life is that? What kind of legacy will be left? Is that how you/we/I want to live? So instead of sitting on our butts, we need to get moving and whether or not we accept the past (or present), it is what it is. We need to blaze a trail and get moving. Write your own story, know who YOU are, listen to your gut (big weakness of mine!), and GO! Have a great week, everyone!

"You can't make footprints on the sands of time by sitting on your butt...and who wants to make buttprints?"

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

CrossFit Update: 18 Months and Counting

Can you believe it's been since August 2, 2015 since I did an "official" update?! I have written on the topic and in particular, my experience with the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, but not in general about the journey. In case you're just joining for the first time, here's a super fast recap: I'm now a 43 year old guy who ran marathons and ultra marathons for over 17 years, totaling 61 finishes of a marathon or longer. (see them all here) More of those finishes are ultra marathons and include 3 100-mile finishes. (yes, all 100 miles at once!) In November 2014, friends of ours convinced us to give CrossFit a try and we did. "We" being my wife of over 23 years and I. Since then, running tapered WAY off and we've been through 2 CrossFit gyms and now are totally on our own...but that's jumping the gun on the update. As of August 2015, we were still cruising along at our second CrossFit home...

200+ miles per month (left) vs.
Little running + lots of CrossFit (right)
Our first gym wasn't necessarily a bad place, but we were certainly there during a transitional time and never really fit in, no matter how hard we tried. The "community" aspect of CrossFit that we've watched on countless YouTube videos put out by CrossFit HQ told us that the tight community part of CrossFit was out there...we just weren't finding it. For others, though, that place worked great for them and still does today. The #1 downside to leaving in May 2015 was leaving those friends who invited us in the first place. Throwing down with them every morning at 5:30am was awesome and a ton of fun. But, a change had to happen and that change became an easy one when another gym opened up only 2 miles away and actually closer to our home. We started there on June 1, 2015.

The second place was totally different. No classes, an oddity for a CrossFit affiliate, a small membership, top-end equipment and direct coaching, much similar to what you'd expect if you had a personal trainer. With such a small membership, this was possible but the small membership also forced a higher membership fee. We considered it worth it, though, and as the months progressed, we both sky-rocketed in strength and confidence. It was awesome to watch my wife totally come out of her shell. She gained a whole new confidence and muscles she had never seen before were emerging, her jeans were literally falling off and her "ability to generate intensity" (inside joke!) kept increasing. Her infectious smile really made working out even more fun and it rubbed off on fellow gym members. We had a great coach who knew what he was doing and he focused on the foundation first before building from there. Heck, I could hardly squat properly at all when I walked in there due to horrible flexibility so of course, that was the first issue to get addressed. I also lacked a lot of upper body strength. (just look at those photos above) So, I started doing a LOT of pullups, dips, hand stand push ups, push ups, and bench pressing for the first time in my life. Basically, I began building an upper body I never had before and the 1hr class at the first gym really didn't build that much, nor did I get coached like I did here. The improved flexibility and form over time along with greatly increased strength really started to yield results, not just in the mirror and how my clothes fit but how I could perform in workouts. The same was happening to my wife.

One dark cloud, though, continued to hang over my head through both gym experiences. I am super hard on myself and super critical of everything. I am my own worst judge ever. I also wear my emotions on my sleeve. This is often perceived from others to be a sour attitude and a dislike for even being in the gym. That couldn't be further from the truth but that's how I was perceived and there were many days I didn't know if I'd ever walk back in those doors. Sometimes, I took a few days off to cool down and get my head screwed on straight. Unfortunately, my dismay and personal struggle just hurt my wife and her almost-always-happy demeanor. I couldn't fathom leaving the gym and leaving her behind. We've always done this together and no person or place was going to rip us apart. I resolved many times to just suck it up and keep showing up. I loved working out hard, often for 2 hours plus, and the friendships I had made with others at the gym. In March 2016, the CrossFit Games Open arrived and my coach encouraged me to register, a suggestion that still baffles me today. (read my whole 5 week recap here) It was a fun 5 weeks and unlike 2015, my wife did the workouts, too, and surprised the heck out of herself week after week! It was awesome to watch. After the last workout on the last Saturday in March, we had a cookout to celebrate the Open and that's when we found the gym was a week. Jaws hit the floor along with a few tears and after enjoying some awesome food from the grill, we headed on home, not sure what the future would hold.

March 31, 2016
Our heads spun with the "what to do?" question and where to go. The first gym really wasn't an option as it just didn't work out the first time and we had no reason to believe things would be different the second time around. Other than that, no other gym was close enough to home. Unlike cities and towns where there are multiple options within a few miles of each other, we live in the country and simply don't have that convenience. Within a few days, we resolved to bring it all home. We would make a trip to Columbus, OH and the home of Rogue Fitness and drop a "few" bucks and build our own garage gym. Because of the excellent coaching we received over the previous 10 months, we could do it safely. We also had the knowledge of knowing what we needed. As for the daily workouts and "programming," I had all of the workouts for the previous year plus there are many resources and other gyms online that post their daily workouts. IT COULD BE DONE. So, we began researching every last component we needed and planned that trip for the next weekend. In the interim, though, we wanted to finish and finish strong at the gym. We kept on going that whole next week and on March 31st, we said goodbye. On April 1st, we began for the 3rd time at home.

Over that weekend, almost everything needed was acquired except for the bumper plates and the rower. The majority of our garage is filled from gear from Rogue but I did find those horse stall mats off of Craigslist so that saved some money. About a week later, the bumper plates showed up and we could finally get to work like we were used to.

So far, it's going really good but there have been bumps in the road. There is a major convenience to having it all right outside your door but the big word ACCOUNTABILITY is gone. Before, perhaps it was our coach or fellow gym members who were expecting us at the gym that ensured we showed up. There was also the routine of it. Each day of the week is different but we had a rhythm to it all and we did it...and it worked. Now, it's all on us to program the workouts and do them...alone. There's good and bad in everything! Now as we're about 7 weeks into this new routine of ours, we're getting traction under us. Morning vs. evening, together vs. alone, length of time to workout, what to do...all of those questions have been getting answered. We have found we certainly enjoy the time together. It doesn't work 100% of the time but we try. We have found that mornings are certainly better, even if that means sacrificing some sleep. I have also found a few really good sources of programming that I call upon every morning to keep us rolling along and keep it all "constantly varied" and still quite intense. We also focus on many of the foundational strength components that got us where we are today and continue to work on them. Heck, my ring dips are better than EVER right now!

One thing I really appreciate and value these days is the choice over what I do. I am a military man and I take seriously the sacrifices of others to keep us free. There are many Hero WODs within the CrossFit universe and most are attached to a fallen servicemember. They are typically not easy at all and require going to that "dark place" to get through them...vs. quitting. I like to read their short story of their family and when/where/how they died and think about them as I do the workout. I found a channel on iHeart Radio, too, that is heavily patriotic so I turn that on as well. Just this morning, for example, I was due for a heavy squatting day and give my upper body a rest so I did "Manion," named for 1st Lt Travis Manion who was killed by sniper fire on April 29, 2007. Check out my Instagram account for his photo, the details, and the workout. (IG account: RTRSBM)

We also had the privilege of inviting over those friends that invited us all the way back in November 2014 to throw down a few Saturdays ago. I came up with a team workout (Beauty vs. Brawn) since we have limited equipment and it was awesome. GREAT time, lots of work done, and great conversation and fellowship after. We definitely plan on future workouts with them and others, too. We continue, too, to exchange banter and encouragement daily via texts to help motivate each other and celebrate those victories as they come and new personal records. Great friends ARE hard to find but I think we found a few. ;)

A few days ago on "Flex Friday" and
Military Spouse Appreciation Day
Moving forward, we hope to add on a 3rd car garage and move the gym into that. If things go right, I'll hang a climbing rope in there and gymnastic rings to hopefully one day allow that first muscle-up to happen. Everything happens for a reason and I'm for sure thankful that I have the ability to not only build out a home gym but that I get to workout and do it with my bride. I told her yesterday that we need to keep in focus the "why" of why we do this. Are we trying to be compete in the future? Do we have something to prove to someone? The truth is that we'll never "compete" and no one really cares what we do in the gym...or what the scale says...or how our clothes get the idea. We simply want to live life to it's fullest, enjoy each other, be healthy, and work hard in every facet of our life. God made the human body to work. He gave it muscles, a brain, a strong heart and it can do more than we can even imagine. Why waste such a gift? We should strive to be the very best version of us and if that means we can do it with the very person we love more than life itself, it makes it all the sweeter.

(Follow me on Instagram for almost-daily posts of our workouts and more. @RTRSBM)