Today’s the day, friends. 24 hours, 40+ miles, with logs, sandbags, PT beatdowns, and surf torture along the way.
Wherever you are today, get after it! Hammer along with me and (I’m completely serious about this), please remember my team and me in your thoughts and prayers. I may be Buddhist, but I’m not choosy about where I get my numinous intercession.
One school of thought says, “If you lack skill in some athletic event, you can compensate for a lot of your suckage by being strong and brute-forcing it. Therefore, make strength your top conditioning priority.” I have reservations about that, about which I’ll post, but in this particular event, being strong saved me.
Had this been a pure endurance sport—an ultra-marathon or Ironman—I would have gassed out and they could have put my corpse on a Viking ship, set it on fire, and pushed it out to sea. But rucking contains enough of a strength element that it rewards an background in iron sports, and by incredible luck this night’s challenge happened to involve tons and tons of lifting. For almost the entire night, you were humping a sandbag, “suitcase carrying” something, or pressing it overhead. Thank heaven, that’s my wheelhouse.
It was like the gods taking pity and throwing you a bone. Imagine you’re on this evil game show where the wheel of fortune is full of nightmarish possibilities like “Hypothermia,” “Slow Death By Cardio,” “You Should Have Jogged More,” “You’re the Weak Sister,” and “How About More Hypothermia!” but then the wheel stops at “Exactly the Stuff That YOU Do.” Yessir, I won the lottery. And as long as we were bear-walking backwards up hills, we were warm and dry.
The infamous “surf torture” was really fun for a short while. It was neat to find out firsthand why it’s so hard. (The answer is that when the waves recede, they pull the sand out from beneath you. Everyone starts tumbling and getting sucked out of line, so when the next wave hits, it’s not hitting a solid wall of linked arms but scattered human flotsam and you go under.)
But it turns out that exposure to cold is terrible and demoralizing. One moment I was charging along, feeling “strong like bull,” wet and tired but still smiling, but then in the next moment I fell apart into a shivering wreck. After that, I couldn’t be far enough from the water for my liking. I think the precise word for what I felt is “horror,” a bristling, shrinking fear and aversion that mewls “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”
Yet another surprise was that, later when we *were* sent back into the water, I was able compartmentalize the horror and jump in anyway. More exactly, I was “mindful” of the horror but distant from it, like the difference between watching an NBA game from the very edge of the court, where the players are so close that you feel the floorboard thundering underneath you, and watching the same game from up in the rafters. Same game, less drama.
“ἢ τὰν ἢ ἐπὶ τᾶς” –Spartan moms in a time before enlightened parenting
I am ready to ruck! I’ve trained for weeks, obsessed minutely over man-toys Vitally Important Equipment Choices,™ and I just managed to give myself a second-degree burn with a piece of paracord that caught on fire. (Don’t ask.) But now I’m ready!
The event isn’t a race where participants compete against each other but a quasi-military model where we’re all on the same team and the fun is to carry out ludicrous challenges dreamed up by the race director. (E.g. “Next, jump in the water and then schlep your backpacks, a sandbag, and this telephone pole to the top of that hill. You have 30 minutes. Go.”)
I’m intensely curious about who shows up to such an event. I’m guessing it will be one part military types, one part mountaineers, and two parts people like me, hyperactive desk workers who did Tough Mudders and then asked, “Now what?”
Anthropologically, I wonder where these people will come from. These events are culturally very Red: run by ex-soldiers with commemorations of deceased service members, flag-centered ritualism, and plenty of American civic religion. And yet they are holding this particular event in San Francisco, the Vatican City of Blue America. I love juxtapositions like this and wonder whether I will meet a lot of other category-straddling Purple weirdos like me.
Gear is laid out all over the living room floor and I’m about to scrunch it into the pack like Tetris pieces. From toe to head we have: hiking boots with mesh sides (Moab Ventilators) to drain water; East German army socks and Fox River sock liners; yoga shorts that make me look like a pole dancer; tough Flecktarn shirt with huge pockets; Swedish surplus rucksack that was supposed to be a birthday present for Michelle Skadisdottir (sorry, dude!) that I pimped out and filled with the regulation 30# of weights; British surplus windbreaker; boonie hat (because the logs scrape your ears) with a headlamp; and pocket knife, Ibuprofen, and duct tape (because Macgyver).
At last, my beautiful, homely boots are resoled. I doubt whether I’ll outlive these tough old oaks (but I’ll do my best).
Our town’s cobbler is a master craftsman and a study in paradox: a stone-cold, tie-dyed hippie, he also has in him something of a Teddy Roosevelt or Friedrich Nietzsche, condemning successive generations’ preference for softer and softer shoe soles as a contemptible slackening of moral fiber.
D-Zazzle and other boot fetishists, they’re the Bundeswehr’s KS2000, manufactured by I know not whom and now superseded. They came to me with glued soles (another symptom of the human spirit’s enfeeblement, says the cobbler) but now are Goodyear welted. Considering what tanks they are, I think they’re pretty light at 1.5kg each and, if flooded, they drain amazingly well. I may or may not be able to wait til morning to take them out for a spin.
Mud run tomorrow. Behold the Backpack of Bricks (BoB)! I’m defining success as the team (Jason and Michelle Skadisdottir) finishing intact *with* me schlepping the BoB the whole way by any means necessary. (OK, any means that doesn’t involve a golf cart.) In case of Catastrophic Backpack Failure (CBF), the bricks must still get across the finish line.
The BoB doesn’t *have* to cross the obstacles—there’s NFW I’m swimming the pond with it—so I’m allowed to park it and run back for it. But I’ll award myself extra Awesome Points in my own mind (which is already a pretty grandiose place) for every wall/slime pipe/whatever I can cross with the BoB on my back. OORAH!! Wish us luck, Chico!
(BTW, there will be steaks afterward, place and time TBD. Text/FB me if you’d like to join us.)
A wise man once told me, “There’s magic in loaded carries.” I did what I always do with really great advice: I ignored it as long as possible. But 2018 is shaping up as Jason’s Year of Loaded Carries.
Today’s game was to hump Vanya the 32kg Bell and the Backpack of Bricks up the ridge and back without letting either one touch the ground.
This was stupid but sublime. Stupid because even though I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to take off my pack, I still carried my water in there, making for a thirsty trek and proving that it’s not just my backpack that is full of bricks. But adding the backpack of bricks was transcendent: it’s only 30 lbs., but it pulls you off your already-weird axis, at a different angle from the kettlebell.
Strangely, the weighted carries have improved my yoga. They share a lot of commonalities. Yoga teaches you to recruit the 1,001 tiny, unglamorous muscles of the trunk and pelvis in any combination, and then you give them prolonged on-the-job-training by carrying heavy things over broken terrain. In both cases, if you are going to last 90 minutes without crumpling, you need to use them judiciously, resting some and relying on others in alternation.
In both cases, you have to “let the breath lead you.” That sounds metaphysical, but I mean something very mundane: If you are going to last an hour, you have to relax under the load enough to subsist on rich, deep nose breathing. You can last indefinitely that way. But the clock starts ticking on your stamina as soon as you start breathing roughly through your mouth. Your body stiffens up as your muscular tension rises, and you’ll be able to put on a burst of speed or power, but only for minutes or seconds before you have to stop and recover.
Today’s game was to push the Wheelbarrow of Weights up the Rock of Faeries.
Where the incline was gentle, it was pleasant and felt like a funky front squat. But when the path got steep and rocky, the wheelbarrow would pound to a stop on outcroppings and have be manhandled over them (or “personhandled,” if you prefer). This caused one case of Sudden Retrograde Ejection (SRE), which the athlete survived smiling but was careful not to repeat.