BAR: Thursday January 15th, 2015
AAR: Friday January 23rd, 2015
Preface: This post is intended for both friends/family who don’t actively participate in Endurance events and peers who may benefit from the review (specifically from lessons learned on gear selection and moving with a large group vs. racing against others).
Below is my Before Action Review (“BAR”) for the (then) upcoming Extremus Winter Trek in VT. BAR is a concept I created as a channel to post BEFORE an event leading up to the (After Action Review (“AAR”)) , to compare my expectations with reality. The BAR will note my expectations of difficulty of several key categories and what I did to prepare for them, i.e. my process. The AAR will provide the opportunity to see how horribly off I was on most things.
WHO: Myself and a group of ~38 other teammates + volunteers
WHAT: “Extremus” http://www.endurancesociety.org/extremus/
“Refresh your courage, test your fortitude, and join us on a long-distance, point-to-point winter trek through the harshest weather and toughest mountains Vermont has to offer.”
WHERE: The Long Trail, Mount Mansfield VT
WHEN: Saturday 01-17-2015 , 3 am departure, shuttle from Blueberry Inn to Mount Mansfield
I tagged 2015 as the year I cared less about formally “Finishing” endurance events and more about learning while I did them. In 2014 there was lots of “activity” around the future of Death Races (and Peak races in general). There was a split in leadership and from that the Endurance Society was born. I don’t trust internet buzz and rumors, but I certainly do trust close friends. In short- my decision to skip the 2015 Winter Death Race and join the Endurance Society for their inaugural event was a no brainer. The journey was planned, and I left NYC Friday with my pals Jason S., Steve B., Olof D., and Caitlin A. They would all do a fantastic job, as I would soon find out….
It’s very important that I note something before I begin the BAR/AAR. The utmost respect goes to Jane C. (where is my cotton candy?) and all the Volunteers who braved the harsh conditions to meet us and take care of us, the Endurance Society founders (Andy Weinberg and Jack Cary) who meticulously planned for everything possible, and the team leaders and trail finders who demonstrated exactly why they were chosen for those roles. The effort, skill and leadership of a FRONT team on a trek like this does not compare to leading a team with a trail defined for them (I was tasked to lead the last team (Team 5) in the group, which really amounted to keeping the team together, motivated, and on the broken in trail). Major kudos to Olof, Lance, Jordan, Dave, Andy and Jack for your tireless effort and leadership during this event.
Photos below credit to Dario Cantatore- Thank you!
Based on my previous experiences and expectations, here is my BAR/AAR for Extremus 2015: my expectations on a scale of 1-10 (1=least challenging, 10=most challenging) and my preparation process for categories I think are important.
This is interesting to predict. I know my legs are capable of traveling 50 miles in harsh conditions, and I successfully completed the Peak races snowshoe marathon in 2014, but this is a different animal. My guess is the group size and lack of a warm shelter for the entire duration of the event will play a big role in finishing. I am still confident a good percentage of us will finish.
Actual: Did Not Finish (DNF)
Sure enough, group size played a major role in the outcome of our trek. This was a TEAM event, not a race. In order for the team to finish, our pace needed to be fast enough to ensure we were at pre-planned checkpoints at the correct times. We were unable to keep a reasonable pace, partially due to general pacing, but also due to unexpected challenges with locating trail blazes in the dead of night on a portion of unexplored trail. The quickest way to frostbite and danger in these types of conditions is to stop moving. Unfortunately, it was happening. Often. I want to go back and highlight the tremendous job the trail finders and leaders did. They worked like MANIACS trying to find our way. Climbing dangerous sections of mountain, clearing snow, reviewing maps and GPS coordinates, and doing their best to keep cool knowing a team of 25+ was waiting with hypothermic conditions looming and a relentless wind blowing near the summit of our second leg. This was clearly the toughest part of the entire event- the frustration of dealing with growing safety concerns and realization that finishing the entire planned trek at our current pace (now 24+ hours in) meant we finished Tuesday. A decision was made to take an emergency evac route down a ski trail and meet the van of volunteers several miles down the mountain. At that time, plenty of folks had enough gas in the tank to continue on, but safety concerns loomed. A decision was made to return to the ski center starting point, and for those who wanted to, a shorter hike to “Camels Hump” would take place the next morning. Some folks continued on the next morning, while others calculated the time difference of leaving that morning vs. after the hike and decided to pass on the last leg.
I am most familiar with this portion of preparation. 50 miles in any conditions is no small task, let alone scaling mountains with a full pack of gear in snowshoes. Lunges, step ups, and rucking in snowy terrain are crucial to my preparation. Unfortunately for NYC folks, there is almost no snow to date. The “8” rating is mostly for the second half of the trek, when legs would be tired climbing up steep inclines with weight.
Although there was plenty of incline and lots of snowshoeing, the group pacing and frequent stopping meant less intense effort. I only barely broke a sweat a couple times during the trek. *This is obviously partially due to extreme cold, but even in those conditions I have been full on sweating when working hard enough.
Same as above, but a lower score because again with a group the pace could be slower and stops more frequent.
Cardio requirements were even less than expected. For 75-80% of our trek, I was casually enjoying the atmosphere and surroundings vs. dealing with a racing heart rate. *Note: Some of the ascents certainly got my pulse up, that is for sure.
Mental Toughness: “7”
I predict mental toughness to be required for patience when in a group format, and dealing with the extreme cold over such a long distance.
The team setting and trail finding made this even harder than expected. Again, pacing issues and remaining calm/cool/collected when not moving can really wear you down quickly. If you plan to make the full trek in 2016, be prepared.
Packing/Gear Complexity: “8”
To me, this is an 8. It’s tricky to plan my food choices, extra clothing, water insulation, footwear, and figure out how to properly attach snowshoes to my setup and I have not been in this environment before.
I kept this at an 8. Luckily, we stopped at EMS beforehand and I grabbed insulated covers for my nalgene bottles, as my bladder tricks failed.
Gear Must Haves:
1. Insulated Sleeves for your Nalgene Bottles
2. A face protector (neck gaiter/turtle fur) that can easily be slipped up and down (your own breath is a magical face warmer
3. Handwarmers- extras to use in nalgene sleeves, inside gloves, at the top of your bladder mouthpiece (if you are like Ted and want to actually use your bladder for more than 20 mins), or to give a friend in need
4. A hood or full face protector that you can BREATHE in at the top of summits or in high wind. I realized at one summit I could not breathe in mine (minor issue)
5. Trekking poles that were meant for winter (I tried to use modified summer poles and one snapped 30 minutes in)
6. Food you can stuff in pockets and is broken up into bite sized pieces (test your food by freezing some and eating prior to event
7. Downloaded (offline) maps that can be actively viewed on your phone without service (Great tip from Olof)
8. Bring a camera that works in this cold weather- don’t miss out on memories!
9. Water/Wind resistant gaiters, pants and shells (trust me, you don’t want to be wet)
10. Snowshoes you TESTED before the event. You don’t need to train in them, but you better be confident they wont be falling off your feet
With such an incredible group of people, I expect nothing but the best outcome from this event. To finish the 50 miles will certainly take a bit of luck, a lot of perseverance, and attention to gear/food/nutrition/hydration. Being tagged as a Team leader is stressing me out a bit beforehand, especially knowing that other peoples safety is now a bigger concern.
Being a team leader in a following group was much easier than expected, again thanks to the front team blazing the way. The group setting proved very trying and I had to be as patient as possible and accept that we had to move as a team, even if that meant slowly and steadily. This was an awesome experience. If you get a chance to join an event like this with such talented and inspirational people, you don’t pass it up. If you can’t deal with temperature control in sub zero temps and the pain associated with freezing toes/fingers/everything else- this is not the event for you. To me, this was less about pure physical effort and more about surviving harsh elements as a team, and not breaking down when things went wrong. I’m looking forward to Extremus 2016.
Extremus 2015 HIGHLIGHTS and PHOTOS:
BAR: Wednesday June 25th
AAR: Wednesday July 2nd
Preface: This post is directed towards friends and family who have not participated in or witnessed a Death Race firsthand. It does not provide a play by play timeline of events, but rather highlights and key “life lessons” learned before, during and after.
Below is my Before Action Review (“BAR”) for the upcoming Summer Death Race in Pittsfield, VT. BAR is a concept I created as a channel to post BEFORE an event leading up to the (After Action Review (“AAR”)) , to compare my expectations with reality. The BAR will note my expectations of difficulty of several key categories and what I did to prepare for them, i.e. my process. The AAR will provide the opportunity to see how horribly off I was on most things.
Summer Death Race – http://www.peak.com/death-races/summer-death-race/ “This is the ULTIMATE challenge. The Death Race is designed to present you with the totally unexpected, the totally insane, and take you out of your comfort zone. This race is a 48+ hour event that is created to break you physically, mentally, and emotionally. All of you will enter, 90% of you won’t finish. Only consider this race if you have lived a full life to date.”
Mission: Timothy Midgley and Flo Barnes-Zurkinden have teamed up to raise money directly for In My Father’s Kitchen (IMFK) by having our donors pledge a small hourly amount for our participation in the 2014 Summer Death Race on June 27th. All donations will be collected after the race has finished or we quit, whichever comes first.
Based on my experiences and fellow Death Racer posts, here is my BAR for SDR 2014: my expectations on a scale of 1-10 (1=least challenging, 10=most challenging) and my preparation process.
**UPDATE**- WE RAISED OVER $3500 IN PLEDGES TO IMFK.org! FINAL RACE TIME WAS 65 HOURS AND CHANGE!! “RACE WITH PURPOSE”!**
Finishing: “9.5” I foresee four main reasons I would not finish this event: 1. Keeping up with the physical demands and time hacks required to remain in the race 2. Failing miserably on the mental and/or orienteering challenges 3. Breaking down after being sleep deprived over 48 hours 4. My right IT band failing me (it has been a major issue for me 2 months prior)
Actual: “9.4” I was able to maintain a high level of physical performance during this event. My biggest fears were exposed during mental challenges and those tasks that required laser focus to complete. I am not the best “MacGyver” out there. My amazing crew YooSun and pure hustle got me through all of them.
Strength/Endurance: “8” Thanks to GoRuck I have a good rucking background, and if we are faced with long distance hikes carrying heavy weight, I will be in my comfort zone. Straight “PT” is still a weakness of mine, but I will hopefully survive that and remain in the middle of the pack.
Actual: “8” Aside from the heavy rock drag at the start and 80lb concrete haul up the ravine at the end, pure strength was not a major requirement. Endurance was- the ability to sustain fast paced movements with gear, finish burpees, and keep your body injury free over 65 hours is a formidable challenge.
Cardio: “9” Mountains. Elevation. Time hacks. Trail running. Bring your cardio A-Game or go home.
Actual: “9” If you want to earn a Death Race skull- you better plan on your heart rate being through the roof for 80% of your 65 hour journey. When you are told that the last 5 people to arrive at check-in are out of the race – “Sh*t gets real”- quick.
Mental Toughness: “9.5” Scary feeling not knowing how long a race will continue. What will my body succumb to first? How will I function after being awake (and physically drained) for over 48 hours? What exactly will I need to suffer through to finish this race? Are people really cheating? Or are those racers planted on the course to frustrate me?
Actual “9.5” The hardest part of the entire race was after 48 hours when we hit the Borden farm. I got a sense of panic that something along the way was going to break me. Water submersion up to our necks, rolling in (what was claimed to be poison oak) endlessly, racing upstream in a flowing river full of uneven and slippery rocks, crawling on your knees until they are bloody and bruised- how much can you take? Glad I survived.
Packing/Gear Complexity: “9” Complicated. I have no idea what I will need and if overpacking will cost me a finish (due to excessive weight). Axe? Bucket? Extra clothes? Shoes? Nutrition? Take your best guess and roll with it.
Actual: “8” Most extras were not necessary, however those who did not bring a bucket were punished with 1500 burpees along the way. See my highlight on this below.
BAR Summary: I’ve had major issues with my IT band for over 2 months prior to this race. I’ve stopped running altogether in fear that my knee will get worse. I’ve done my research on orienteering and the other required tasks. I will have to rely on my previous experience and training and not worry about getting extra work in that may damage my IT band further.
AAR Summary: It was an absolute eye opener how easily you can relate a Death race with the real world. Some will do anything to earn a skull, others will HELP anyone in any situation, even if it means losing time. This was a fabulous experience that I would trade for nothing. My crew YooSun performed flawlessly and was there for me every minute of the way. I owe her BIG! My dear friends Jason Spare and David Kim did exactly what I knew they would do- race with honor and dignity, help others along the way, and FINISH the RACE. Chris Stokes and Kristy Lynn had just met me and treated me like family- thank you. My sister Theresa drove all the way from Syracuse 48 hours in, providing me with a moral boost and confirmation that I must finish. Like in real life, our relationships with people say tons about our attitudes in life. The “Elite” fueled me in this way. Some were incredibly supportive of everyone’s desire to succeed, taking the extra couple seconds to motivate each other and others were not quite as “cordial”. I experienced both – those I shared smiles and laughs with and those who did not speak to me, or brushed me off (including post race). Both kinds of people brought me energy and resolve to continue on. Like in real life, we have both. It’s our choice to be one or the other and grow from our relationships with either. Thank you for that. As a side, if you are an Elite racer and make a public post after the race about how “You didn’t race to win” (after not winning)- you should reevaluate the insecurities that reveals, and consider what that means to the 250+ other racers. Just a suggestion. This race will show you the good, the bad, and the ugly- how you deal with it is part of the game.
SDR CHALLENGE HIGHLIGHTS and PHOTOS:
“The ORANGE BUCKET” My bucket story will remain burned into my memory for a long time. Prior to the event I heavily debated whether or not to carry a bucket throughout the race. It’s well known that racers have needed a 5 gallon orange bucket in the past, and used it to carry heavy loads up the mountain. It was not required this year. I opted to go with an REI collapsible orange bucket- the only loss here would be protection of my legs if it was filled with rocks, or the handles breaking if too heavy. I took my chances. To make a long story short- I used my bucket successfully for a key task during the race. We reached a summit and were told to approach Don Devaney one by one for instructions. “You were given a log. Now present me with something to hold my cup”. I noticed everyone was busy hollowing out their log pieces, the idea being to use it for a cupholder. I decided to try my luck and balance the collapsible bucket on top of the log. It worked!! my next task was to bring Don fresh water. Easy- run down the hill and fill my bucket, return, and I was done. BUCKET SUCCESS! Wait. There is more. I raced back to the farm to chaos, everyone needed to hand sew an outfit out of their buckskin pieces, and push a porcupine needle directly through the center of our log piece without cracking the wood. I got these tasks done, and got up to begin racing away to the next task (we were told anyone not gone within 5 minutes had 500 burpees to do). YooSun (my crew member) yelled to me- hey- Don’t you want your orange bucket? “No- I’m fine for now, I need to get out of here”. Fast forward to the end of our hike- It was a requirement to fill a bucket with 5 gallons of water- it had to be a real bucket with handles. He was accepting the one I left back at the farm. If you did not have one- the penalty was 1500 burpees. I sat down crushed. All I could do was laugh, and listen to all the complaints and chaos this caused around. Attention to detail- I failed big time.
“The TEST” Arguably the toughest mental challenge of the race. We were told we had to answer a 26 question test about famous explorers, and if we handed it in and did not get a 100% score, we were OUT of the race. We were allowed to ask questions, however before asking a question you had to complete a “relaxation challenge” then wait in line. This was brilliant. The relaxation techniques included holding a one arm side plank for 10 minutes, and other various balance and yoga poses that were far from relaxing. I estimated that I could brute force get a 100% on the test if I repeated this cycle approximately 50 times. Estimated completion- 10 hours. People dropped, gear chaos ensued, and starvation kicked in (you could not eat, speak, or sit down the entire time). In the end, we were told to hand in our tests and they would be graded- it was time to race back to the farm.
“20 minute rest in the woods” This was absolutely brilliant. After building a massive wall of large rocks along the river bed, we were told we had earned a rest. We needed to find a comfortable position in the woods to relax in for 20 minutes. The only catch? You cannot fall asleep, or move a muscle- or you were OUT. My stomach felt uneasy. I found a position and opted NOT to lay down fully- knowing I would surely pass out (we hadn’t slept in over 50 hours at this point). I was able to watch the race directors point, laugh, and take note at everyone falling asleep or moving even the slightest bit. Were they really out of the race?? Only time would tell. My eyes were crossing and my focus was weaning. On top of that, I had a bug crawling on my right ear, and a large ant crawling on my bare feet (which were exposed to “dry out”). At one point my neck jerked approximately one inch as I almost passed out and I saw Johnny staring at me (trying to determine if he saw it or not). After 20 minutes, he quietly announced that we must stand up without waking up the other racers, and that the last 5 back to the Borden farm were OUT. Keep in mind, the only path way directly up river over uneven, slippery rocks. Chaos ensued. Racers were falling, I could hear cries of desperation as people struggled to find safe footing and keep up with the leaders. I saw the best and worst of people. Amy Palmiero Winters (an absolutely AMAZING racer I had the honor of hiking with for many hours during the race) had fallen and her prosthetic leg was falling off. I had a split second decision to make- I chose to stop and move back towards her to help- to be honest here- she had three others helping her up, and looked to be ok- so I did race on. I felt good with just that simple pause and turn back- as others seemed to care less and ruthlessly stomped past. I made it back to Borden, and was still in the race.
Good Livin’ consists of family and friends who support each other’s daily life balance “DIEM” – Do. I. Eat. Move. through various group challenges and events.. We are excited to partner with In My Father’s Kitchen to host our 1st annual 5k Run/Walk in memory of John “Big” Midgley and his brother Robert “RB” Midgley.
You can download the Full Race Packet here: 1st Annual-YNI-5k-04-13-2014
1st Annual “You’re Not Invisible” 5k Walk/Run
In memory of John “Big” Midgley and his brother Robert “RB” Midgley.
All proceeds go directly to In My Father’s Kitchen (IMFK), a registered 501(c)(3) organization.
IMFK feeds the hungry naturally and spiritually through food distribution and supplying basic necessities.
Hosts: In My Father’s Kitchen (IMFK) and GoodLivin.org
When: Sunday, April 13th
7:45 AM Sign-in and Registration
8:30 AM- Run/Walk starts
Where: Onondaga Lake Park- East Shore Trail (Willow Bay)
106 Lake Dr., Liverpool, NY 13088
- Click the “Donate” button at the bottom
- Enter $25.00 (per person) in the Express Donation box
- Fill out the form and be sure to enter T-shirt size in the “Message to In My Father’s Kitchen” box
Registered participants receive a T-shirt (design work donated by Face First Creative) and a lunch ticket for Heid’s of Liverpool (Hot Dog/Chips/Drink).
Note: VIRTUAL racers who can’t be in Syracuse on April 13th can register and will have their T-shirt shipped to them. Shipping costs are covered in place of the lunch ticket.
Directions to Willow Bay in Onondaga Park:
FROM NYS THRUWAY(I90):
Exit 39, to I690E to John Glenn Blvd exit.
Right at first traffic light onto Long Branch Rd.
Willow Bay is on the right after the bridge
FROM VILLAGE OF LIVERPOOL:
Rte 370W, Left on Long Branch Rd.
Willow Bay is on the left before the bridge
A detailed map of the park can be found here:
Please join us after race at Bridge Street Tavern Sunday at 12pm.
All ages welcome, volleyball on site!
Address: 109 Bridge St, Syracuse, NY 13209 Phone:(315) 488-0936
One of my 2014 goals is to try and channel some of my hyper active daydreaming into social good. My experience with both startups and endurance events (such as GORUCK challenges and Spartan races) has connected me with some of the most passionate and hard working people around. Many personality traits of those active in each realm run in parallel: Resilient, Decisive, and Fearless to name a few. With these comes great responsibility, especially when fundraising efforts are involved- one wrong move and your good intentions will be perceived as self fulfilling “wins” and not as genuine charitable help others. I am fortunate enough to have several friends who own successful 501(c)(3) organizations, and along with numerous family and friends- their feedback in all of this was crucial. Thank you!
I had three goals when creating the guidelines:
1. Outline a clear path of action for any future charity/fundraising effort that can be shared and referenced by both the requester and the donor
2. Demonstrate the difference between a direct cause campaign vs. one with self/business gain (not necessarily a bad thing)
3. Set higher standards for myself when fundraising (I discovered plenty of ways to improve my own campaigns while creating this)
What prompted this?
The launch of endless crowdsourced fundraising platforms has opened a world of near “instant gratification” when trying to help yourself or others. Even those with the best intentions can launch a campaign that loses focus on the cause at hand, and even worse- leaves them with a reputation of one simply looking for others to pay for extracurricular activities (or in some cases basic everyday expenses). Couple that with a social newsfeed of you enjoying dinners out, traveling, and/or buying yourself a new wardrobe, and “Houston, We’ve got a problem”.
Before we get to the guidelines, let’s be clear on (at least for our purposes here) the definition of “Proceeds”.
I refer to proceeds as ALL of the money or goods brought in, not the NET (money or goods brought in after product costs, salaries, or other expenses). If you have to pay for a person (designer, developer, or yourself), pay for a product (t-shirt, patch, medal) or anything else associated with your campaign before paying the cause, you must use Path 1. As mentioned above, this is not necessarily a negative path- however, the guidelines do differ slightly and donors should be aware that ALL proceeds did not go directly to the cause.
Use the boxes below to help you select a path, then go to the chart and follow the steps for that path.
If you prefer a higher resolution PDF of the guidelines, go HERE.
Every fundraising effort is not a race. Some require patience and a well thought out strategy before execution. If you really do just want help with some of the expenses associated with endurance events- be clear about it, and perhaps offer something unique in return to your donors. Follow the guidelines above when creating your campaign, and share with others who may want a reference and guide to follow when creating theirs. As a donor- check to see if the campaign you are considering helping has followed these guidelines. For further inspiration- watch the Ted Talk below, fascinating insight into walls we should be crumbling to stop the roadblocks charity organizations are faced with every day.
BAR: Wednesday April 16
AAR: Sunday April 20
Preface: I’ll try to make this post useful for both those who have no idea what GORUCK events are (most likely the majority of my audience) and those who are already GRT (“Go-Ruck-Tough”).
Below is my Before Action Review (“BAR”) for the upcoming GORUCK HCL in Albany, NY. I decided to make up the term as a way to post BEFORE an event as well as after (After Action Review (“AAR”)) to compare my expectations with reality. The BAR will note my expectations of difficulty of several key categories and what I did to prepare for them, i.e. my process. The AAR will provide the opportunity to see how horribly off I was on most things.
go·ruck [verb go + verb ruck] noun: ruck is short for rucksack (aka backpack), it’s also averb: to ruck is to move with a rucksack and implies action, energy, and purpose.
Based on their own experiences in Special Forces, GORUCK cadre lead team-building endurance events throughout the year all over the country, bridging the gap between military and civilian life. Note: These events are not races and they are not individual events (aside from Selection). The goal is to survive these events until the end, as a team.
There are four core levels of events, each intensifying in both length and effort required to complete. Here is the breakdown:
GORUCK Light: 4-5 hours, 7-10 miles, 99% pass rate
GORUCK Challenge: 8-10 hours, 15-20 miles, 94% pass rate
GORUCK Heavy: 24+ hours, 40+miles, 50% pass rate
GORUCK Selection: 48+ hours, 80+ miles, <10% pass rate
To date, I have completed three GORUCK Challenges. But this BAR is for their newest event – HCL.
“HCL” is a Heavy + Challenge + Light, back to back to back with minimal down time between (~3-5 hours). That’s at least 36hrs of event action with at most 10 hrs recovery in between. The first HCL (“HCL 001”) took place in Seattle, WA last month. I believe 56 started and 12 (now known as the “Dirty Dozen”) finished all three events. Interestingly, the 12 that made it thru the Heavy and showed up to the Challenge portion after the 5hr recovery all finished. Tomorrow, Albany, NY will be HCL 002.
Based on my experiences and fellow GRT’s posts, here is my BAR for HCL 002: my expectations on a scale of 1-10 (1=least challenging, 10=most challenging) and my preparation process.
I see two reasons I would not finish this event: 1. my back locking up beyond recovery during or after the Heavy and 2. being med dropped from going hypothermic. The latter is dependent on how cold the nights are and how often we get into water.
Despite the fact that you don’t actually know details of where you will go, what type of physical challenges you will be tasked with, or how long the event will last, there is a general understanding that you will carry heavy sh*t for a very long distance and be subjected to numerous “smoke sessions” and water submersions along your journey. Smoke sessions are exactly what it sounds like – sessions of PT to smoke you. For comparison sake, I would give a triathlon a “2” in this category and a Spartan Death Race a “9.5”.
Cold water turned out to be a major factor early on in the Heavy. One thing I did not account for: intense cramping while in the water and after exiting. My calves started to twitch and lock up in the last 30 minutes of the initial 12 mile ruck. After the ruck, we were directed into icy lake water, where both of my feet went directly into thick, deep mud and my calves completely locked leaving me writhing in pain and trying to survive. After exiting, my legs would simply not work. This was by far the darkest moment of the HCL for me. It wasn’t until 60 minutes or so after this that I was able to function normally, and I believe my calves were affected the remainder of the HCL.
This will be one of my biggest challenges for HCL and this is when, at least in my own head, weaknesses will be exposed. How I deal with them will determine my success. To prep for this element and to get used to a variety of movements under the added stress of a weighted ruck, I worked on my core strength by doing various workout routines (including actual fitness classes) with added weight . I completed the GORUCK Selection PT Test several times (2 min max push up, 2 min max sit up, 5 mile run in <40 mins and 12 mile ruck in < 3.5 hours). I attended a few “SLT” classes (Strenthen/Lengthen/Tone pilates style on a Megaformer) with and without added weight. *Luckily meh lady is an instructor so I can get away with that type of nonsense in the studio* In addition, 1-2 rucks per week of various distances – pretty standard there.
I underestimated the endurance required, mainly in the heavy portion. The rep count was extremely high (ex: Instead of 20 overhead seated ruck presses, we were tasked with 400). The biggest issue with rep counts this high (for me at least) is again cramping.
Strong cardio is of course required to complete an event of such long duration and distance. However, this event is mostly a slow and steady grind. Pure speed and cardio endurance is not the most crucial factor in completing it.
Fortunately, I came into the event with some running experience. There were several forced runs (with ruck) on various terrain and inclines during the HCL. Running on your own and knowing you can break or adjust pace when needed if vastly different from being led on a run and told you MUST not fall behind. Come prepared.
Mental Toughness: “8.5”
Luckily I refined my mentals this year with two tough events – the Spartan Winter Death Race and the Peak Races Snowshoe Marathon. I’ll have my BAR and AAR posts for those events shortly after the HCL. Mental prep for this event was not specific – it mostly involved staying focused on my training and realizing that I would need to keep going regardless of the pain and exhaustion that will surely set in early on and continue for over 48 hours. Long rucks (I finished one 18 miler during training) around NYC will do a decent job of testing your mental toughness and willpower.
I’m increasing this number a bit as the naps during each event proved extremely difficult to recover from. If you plan to rest at all (which I think you should)- be prepared to face serious demons when waking up knowing you need to show back up for more Good Livin.
Packing/Gear Complexity: “7”
The packing and gear selection is fairly complicated but thanks to the community ideas were readily available to pick apart and customize for my own needs. I ended up packing my ruck with lead (to meet mandatory weight), a change of socks and gloves, basic survival tools (foot care kit, strapping and biners, headlamp, etc.) and nutrition/hydration. KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.
I could have kept my packing and gear selection even simpler (who doesn’t say that?) and still finished. This event required only the basics mentioned above and I would not adjust my setup for a future HCL.
I’ve trained physically hard for this particular event. I’ve prepared my gear and tested it out thoroughly. I “Got my Mind Right” at the barber shop in Albany – something always seems to relax and focus me in the chair. And successful completion of my first marathon, the Spartan Winter Death Race and the Peak Races Snowshoe Marathon have molded my mental toughness and the “don’t quit factor”. This was my process and on April 17th at 5pm ET it will be go time.
I knew GORUCK was going to bring the heat for HCL and they over delivered. The Cadre (Logan, Paul, and Machin) ran a flawless event and I’m proud to have finished under their leadership. The ruck pace was very fast, there was plenty of running. Cold water is always going to suck- but it REALLY sucks when you cramp up like a pretzel in it and need to keep moving when you get out. There are few chances to hide in a Heavy- don’t plan on trying to “reserve” gas in your tank as you will need to put out the entire time. For many stretches, to move the required weight each team member had to double and triple their ruck weight while buddy carrying casualties. You will need to push yourself to the end, and when you get to the end you’ll need to do 150 more reps. Once you finish that cycle- prepare for the same cycle 25 more times with different sets of PT. The Challenge and the Light were no walk in the park- they may get less stressful but you will get smoked on several occasions and still need to perform to earn that HCL patch. It was a honor to complete GORUCK HCL with a strong group of 9 others I will remember forever.
If you can sleep- do it. But be prepared for the toughest wake up call you will ever receive when it’s go time for the next event.
Practice rucking at a sub 13 minute pace and notice how fast that TRULY is. Be prepared to start your Heavy with 12 miles at that pace.
Know what nutrition and gear you want in your Ruck and have it ready and WRITTEN down ahead of time.
You may be miserable on your way to the next leg of the HCL, but once your blood gets flowing you will be thankful you showed.
Respect your Cadre and always be prepared to move quickly.