Fill, Flow and Go: GRC 2041 and GRL 1264

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I was a little apprehensive starting this event, as I hadn’t done as well as I had hoped on my last event. Found the start point, checked in with my new teammates, said hello to the Cadre, and waited for the fun to start. The start point was on a small beach, so predictably within a few minutes we were doing bottom samples in the water:

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And sugar cookies on the beach.

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As an aside, I have to wonder what people looking on think when they see a group of adults lying at the water’s edge, pelting each other with handfuls of sand and yelling “Sand storm!”

We were then given a 5 minute time hack to fill the 120#, 80#, and two 60# sandbags.

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Team leaders assigned, given a destination and a time hack, we formed up and moved out. When someone on the weights needed assistance, they called out for support and one of the rest of us would step up to take it for however long we could (although it took a little while to get everyone in step and working together.)

We fell behind pace on our first movement, and got some PT while Cadre reinforced the importance of teamwork and initiative.

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The same points would be reinforced a lot that night. Take initiative, if you see something that needs done, step up and do it. Take care of your teammates when they need help. Fill in wherever you are needed. Be like water, fill, flow, and go.

We got our act together for the rest of that movement and made our time hack. New team leads, new destination, move out… and almost immediately screw up and end up stopped in the middle of a road. 5 casualties were assigned, most of them big guys who we had to team carry. Between casualties and sandbags, we didn’t have anyone to change out.

After awhile of this, Cadre had us put the casualties down and brought in several of the team who worked in medical jobs to perform triage. This person has this injury, how do you fix it, can they be moved, etc. Our medics performed well enough on this to get two or three of the casualties healed, which gave us enough people to switch out carriers and keep us moving on pace.

From this point forward in this post, I am not going to make any attempt to keep events in order. We were all pushing hard, and it tends to make my memory go a little fuzzy.

We started on paved bike trails, spent some time on railroad tracks, crossed some really cool railroad trestle bridges, covered a lot of very muddy trails through the woods, and ended up back on concrete for the end of the challenge.

Three rucks broke down during the night. One we were able to jerry-rig and get back in action, one we distributed the bricks between several people, and one ended up replaced with a handbag. More on that later.

I was continually frustrated that I seemed not to be able to carry the sandbags or casualties as far as the other members of the team, but I stepped up and helped as much as I could.

As we came to an open field Cadre told us about a time in Afghanistan when he and his unit were under heavy fire with no cover, and used team buddy rushes to get to cover. He then told us to use the same technique to get our team across the field, and how well we did this would decide how many casualties we would leave with. People with sandbags were designated “machine gun teams,” meaning yes, you have to carry that with you through the rushing drills.

Alpha team, Set! Alpha team, GO! I’m up, he sees me, I’m down.

Bravo team, Set! Bravo team, go! I’m up, he sees me, I’m down.

About the third time through, the team on the 120 called for support, so I and another teammate went to them and took it over rather than bounding ahead. Rushing drills hauling that thing with you are a bitch. After about 2 rushes we called out for support, but no one heard us, so we did our best and carried it through to the end.

We did well enough to be given no casualties and to get a few minutes rest. At rest breaks throughout the night, Cadre would tell us stories from his deployments that brought home what he wanted to teach us. Two in particular deserve mention here:

Somewhere in Afghanistan, a US base was preparing for a coming attack. The enemy was coming with nearly every Soviet-made weapons system in use, RPKs, DShK heavy machine guns, recoilless rifles, all of it. The Battalion Commander, a Lt Colonel, was down with his men, using his bare hands to fill sandbags so that they would have enough to reinforce all the fighting positions against whatever the Taliban could throw at them. He could have simply ordered it done by his subordinates, but he chose to lead by example, doing everything he expected the men under him to do. Because no one is above teamwork.

The second story is about Cadre Cleave’s squadmate, the virgin who proved zombies are real. You can’t get that story from this post, you need to talk to Cadre at about 3 in the morning.

Several miles later, we ended up assembled in another dark open field. Cadre said that we hadn’t gotten much of a welcome party, so we were doing the deck of cards workout now.

Go through an entire deck of 54 cards, doing the number shown on the card of the exercise assigned to the suit. Spades are thrusters, hearts are 4-count flutter kicks, clubs are overhead lunges, diamonds are 8-count bodybuilders, aces are 15, face cards are 10, and jokers are a sprint with the ruck. We were given 50 minutes to make this happen.

It sucked, it sucked a lot, but we got through it. We decided to shuffle the deck, losing a little time in transitions between exercises and a little time by arguing over how to do this. Our final time was 52:30. We would not find out the significance of missing the time hack until a few hours later.

More miles rucked, stopped at a gas station to refill on water, and did the name game, where one person has to be able to name all the rest of the class. Our contender was able to name us all, we got no PT. A few minutes later, we are given new team leads, new time hack, new destination, and quickly made our way to a grassy hill next to the river.13895425_126247927820628_4901148327856221910_n.jpg

We then repeated the deck of cards, trying to beat the previous time. We went about it in a more organized manner this time, but it still sucked. We went from the top down, cycling through the exercises in order. When we got under 10, we did two cards of each at a time (i.e. do 17 reps, knock out 9 and 8 together).

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The guy whose ruck had to be replaced with a handbag probably had the worst of it, but kept going without the slightest complaint.

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We saved the two joker sprints to the end. I did my best, but I ended up next to last, well behind the group. As I turned around on the second lap, I saw two guys coming back. They took the rucksacks from the two of us at the rear so that we could finish faster.

Back in formation. Finish time: 43:30.

Cadre then called on us to step up and talk to the class about what the flag meant to each of us. I lack the command of the language to fully convey what was said, but several of them were very touching.

This (intentionally) looked very much like the prelude to getting our patches and being done, but we still had one movement left, back to the start point. We were given a tight time hack and told to treat it like a movement to contact, no lollygagging, no screwing around.

By this time we were working well as a team and we made great time. Crossing guards appeared whenever we needed to cross a street, sandbag handoffs were quick and on the move. I went under one of the heavy sandbags near the end, hoping to push through to finish with it. I couldn’t quite make it, called out for support and teammates came up to take it. The woman next to me in formation saw me wavering, grabbed my arm, and pulled me along until we hit the end point.

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Time hack made, patched, time for a shower and a quick nap before the hotel wants their room back.

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Showed up for the light feeling that all in all I was as ready as could be expected, fed, hydrated, got a little rest and my feet were in okay condition. Down side was we were not told to empty the sandbags after the Tough, so they would likely still be with us.

Formed up, met the new team, got instructions from Cadre, and moved out.

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We stopped at a park and did  human tank tracks, basically doing front rolls while holding hands elephant-walk-style. It took us awhile to get the hang of, and I accidentally kicked the guy behind me in the head before I figured it out.

Next movement with all the sandbags and one casualty, heading to a lake with a boat ramp. I wonder what could be coming next…

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Dialog for the hydrologic survey of the duck pond:

“How deep is it?”

“About two feet!”

“What is the bottom composed of?”

“Mud and duck dookie!”

Roll to the left, do it again.

Movement back to the start point. I was starting to drag a bit, hesitating more than I like to admit when the call went up to take the heavy bags. Cadre critiqued us on making sure that we changed everything out at once so that we wouldn’t stop so often. We were a little behind pace, and jogged/shuffled the last half mile or so to the end point, making it right on time.

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I could tell I was fading at the end, but one of the Light participants noted that he couldn’t look around the group and tell who had done the Tough, as we were putting out on par with the people who came in fresh. Maybe it didn’t show on the outside.

 

 

“Send It.”- Tough Mudder Twin Cities 2016

This was my third Tough Mudder. While I was disappointed with the first, they more than made up for it on the second, and I was excited to see what they would put me through this year.

Note: If I felt a particular obstacle needed a picture and I couldn’t find one of me, I stole a photo from TM’s Facebook page that I felt duplicated my experience.

We assembled in the warm-up area, the MC put us through some calisthenics, and we took off, thinking that TM had dropped the usual practice of making you go over a wall to get to the starting line. Nope, they just moved the wall a bit further out.

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As usual, we got an awesome pep talk from the MC, followed by a speech from an officer of the local Army Reserve. 13767157_10154307852527790_7631598013526823368_o.jpg

He told us that one of the people that inspires him would be on the course somewhere after the mud crawl, one of his sargents who had lost most of his hand but still found ways to adapt and do his duties. We were encouraged to give him a muddy hug when we found him.

We were then sent off, high-fiving the troops as we went.

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First obstacle was the Kiss of Mud, a low crawl under barbed wire through some seriously sloppy mud. Next were the Berlin Walls. I helped others over and made it over the first one unassisted (using the edge of the wall and diagonal supports) and gave and got some assistance over the second.race_1862_photo_39389847.jpg

Shortly after we came across a group of soldiers.

“I hear someone out here needs a hug?”

*Soldier points* “That guy!”

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When I got to the Electric Eel, a woman out in the middle was freaking out, screaming, ignoring any calls of encouragement or advice on how to get through it, to the point that the volunteers killed the electricity to get her out. While I will do electrified obstacles without complaint, I’m not waiting around for them, so I went through while the power was off.

I think it is good to face things that scare you, and I accidentally did so on the next obstacle, Shawshanked. I just saw that we had to go through tubes, and did not look ahead to see that the tubes delivered you 6′ above 6′ deep water, turned the opposite way of how I wanted to enter the water. I had a life vest in my pack, but by the time I realized it might be useful I couldn’t maneuver enough to get it on. Okay, no way back, let’s do this:

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I left the tube and hit the water desperately trying to turn face-down so I can clear my nostrils and dog-paddle. I felt my hands touch the bottom of the pit, swam out, and was lucky enough to have someone find my headband and get it back to me.

Mud Mile next, teamless teamwork, push the guy in front of you and pull up the one behind, get out of the mud pit then go into the next one. I don’t think I saw anyone accept the help up and then go on, they all turned back to help the rest.

Next obstacle was the peg-board climb, with newbie and Legionnaire options. I tried and failed the hard one, then went back and completed the easier one.

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Arctic Enema has changed. You now slide in on a steep slope, under chain-link fence, making it impossible to stand up and steady yourself before you have to go under the water. Seemingly minor change that made it a lot tougher for me.

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The log carry was when I could feel my training pay off. It is always a good feeling when you hand off the log you carried (solo) to a team rather than an individual. It seemed light compared to sandbag work that I’ve been doing.

I came to Everest, went to the side to drop my pack, and found a group on top of the wall that were ready to assist. One of them made eye contact and called out, “Send it.”

Sprint for all I’m worth, make it to their hands, and between the three of us we are able to get me over. There was a sign calling for all Legionnaires to help at least three newbies before moving on. I made it a point to make that 4 or 5.

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Particular phrases or images often stick in your head from events, that just seem to sum up the experience. “Send it” just seemed to crystallize what we were all doing out here. You know what you need to do, we’ve got your back, let’s do this.

The next was possibly the most fun obstacle I have ever experienced, called the Block Ness Monster, a floating block that would turn toward you if you tried to climb on top of it, and had to be turned by your fellow Mudders on either side while you are rotated over the top.

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Hero carry next. I was odd man out when I arrived, so one of the volunteers graciously stepped in.

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Pyramid Scheme is one of the most teamwork-reliant obstacles I have ever come across. Take Spartan’s slick wall, make it about a third again taller, out of a slicker sheathing, and take away the ropes. We built human ladders, human chains, pushed, pulled till we found a way to get up and over. I took off my pack to give me a little better reach, and found that having something for both of us to grip on made pulling them up much easier.

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Birth Canal is a low crawl under tarps weighted down with water. I took the lane closer to the supports, which made it a little easier.

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Next was a tall reverse wall. The easiest way we found to do this was to have two on top each take a hand of the person below, person below does what they can with feet on the wall.

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I skipped two obstacles here. Funky Monkey I knew I did not have the grip strength left for. I had talked myself into King of the Swingers, went to get my flotation vest out of the pack, and found the zippers too solidly mudded to get it open. I wasn’t comfortable with the float in the pack, so I said “next year” and went on.

Running on through hay fields, over hay bales, through Rain Man (going through water under a chain-link fence, with a hose pouring on you from above) and we made it to the final obstacle/finish line. I elected not to go the electric shock route, and went for Frequent Flyer’s Club, jumping off a platform, trying to hit the bell with your headband color, and landing on an inflatable below.

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I was extremely pleased with the event, but would have liked to do a couple things differently. Promises to myself for next year:

Sort out your swimming/floating situation. You are going off that platform next year.

The Army Reserves were running a fitness challenge at the festival area. I didn’t see it until after I was done and for various reasons didn’t step up for it. If it is there next time, I’m making it a point to do it.

 

The Devil in the Details: DWD Devil’s Lake 50(ish)K

A group of my friends decided, shortly after the race was over last year, to commit to their first 50K this year at Devil’s Lake. Some just looking for a new challenge, one celebrating his recovery from cancer, and a few of us just along for the ride.

The course started out relatively flat, but the big hills that I remembered from last year started around 5 miles in. I stopped to get out the trekking poles, and was surprised at how much easier they made the uphills.

Several portions of the course were out-and back paths, which was nice because it allowed you to check in with people ahead of and behind you, check how they are doing, share food and meds if needed, etc. The proof that you had made it was to tear a page from a book that was posted there and return it to the last aide station.

Came to the 10 mile drop bag point and checked my feet. No issues, so I changed socks and went on. We came back to the drop bags 3 miles later, and it didn’t seem to make sense to tend to my feet again, so I just stuck a change of socks in my hydration pack to change out somewhere around mile 20.

Around mile 16 I caught up with a friend who had fallen and injured her hand around mile 5. It was now swelling and discolored to the point that we couldn’t deny it needed checked out. I walked with her and chatted to the aide station around mile 18, where she dropped from the race and checked in with the course medics.

The out and back that was the next 5 miles was some seriously brutal terrain. Stopped to check my feet at the turnaround point, and was surprised to see that at 20ish miles I had no blisters. Back up the hills to the aid station, stopped to share some ibuprofen with a friend along the way. The volunteer who checked my number gave me a glass of ice, which was about the most awesome thing ever at that moment. I actually lost some time through the next few miles, not moving as fast as I could have because I didn’t want to drop my ice. Its strange what will make you happy when you are past the 20 mile mark.

About this time, a few miles ahead, something was happening that I wouldn’t understand for the next few days.The course had been revised from the year before, and no one considered that the sweeper pulling the markings after the last 50 miler was also pulling the last 6 miles of the 50K course. Five runners, myself included, were pulled because the rest of their course was no longer there. (I emailed the race director when I got home, found out that the oversight had been corrected later in the day, and runners will be alerted to this time hack for future races. The five of us who were pulled have been offered our entry fees back due to not being able to finish.)

When they gave me the news, I was able to keep from directing anger at the volunteers. I didn’t understand (yet) why I could be pulled with 6 miles to go and 5 hours of the 50M course time left. I simply asked for the time (1:58 PM) and mileage (around 25 miles), then went across the road to collect my post-race food and beer.

Then I did what any Rucktard would do in this case: I refilled my hydration bladder, condensed everything I had brought into the rucksack that I used for my drop bag, and ruck marched the four miles from the race site to the camp where we were staying for the weekend. I was dead set on an ultramarathon this weekend, and 25 miles wasn’t going to cut it. 29 miles total was not the 50K I was hoping for, but it is past marathon distance, so I’ll take it.

Takeaways from this:

Foot care protocol is improving. After 29 miles, I came off with one small blister and one beat-up toenail. Much better than previous events.

Trekking poles are awesome. Can’t wait to see how they do at the Hitchcock this year.

Along the hike back to camp, I also noticed mile markers that may indicate a longer-term challenge:13645289_10209312408034476_8303004503989289543_n.jpg13680613_10209312408994500_9101178927206203241_n.jpg

It turns out there is a patch for completing all of it by foot. Stay tuned for details on that.

Sons of Sparta: MN Spartan Sprint 2016

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When asked if he wanted to run the kid’s Spartan course again, my son Josh expressed little enthusiasm. “I don’t know, I’ve done it already. If I could run the adult course, maybe…”

He may or may not have been of age on race day, but his paperwork showed that he was and no one questioned it. We set him up with some of my spare gear, explained to him that there would be obstacles that he would need coached or assisted through, and made it clear that we were going for a good time and a finish, not doing anything crazy to push for a faster time. It turned into a cool perspective, seeing something like this through new eyes.

Time for our wave came. I encouraged him to get to the front of the corral (the energy up there is something I can still feel from my first race) and told him we would move to the side as soon as we were moving to make sure we were not in the way.

Pre-race speech, fist-bumping our fellow racers, yelling “I AM A SPARTAN,” and we were off, up a steep hill. We slowed to a walk before reaching the top, but kept a steady walking pace at least. I could tell he was doubting his decision to upgrade to the adult course by the top of it, but he kept moving.

First obstacle was a pair of 6′ walls. I moved forward to assist some other racers that were having trouble, and he could see the process, so we had no trouble getting him over.

More hilly trails. At a few points they had turned on the snow-making equipment to help cool us off, and to make the trails muddy and slippery. We came to the over-under-through, 2/3 of which he could do without help. I ran just a bit ahead and could see the water/ mud pits coming up, so I called back that Spartan was giving us a chance to cool down. He smiled and picked up the pace to get there. He made it through the rolling mud portion with only a few comments of how wet shoes feel weird, but seemed less sure of himself at the dunk wall. I explained the process, had him take off the pack so that it wouldn’t snag, and went through first. (A few other newbie racers also appreciated the demonstration.)

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And he made it look good:

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Money bars were right after, which we both failed and knocked out our burpees together. Cargo net was next, which I instructed him to do one leg at a time, while I flipped over the top to show him the other option. (“Doesn’t make it much faster, but its fun and it looks cool. You need to be able to do pullups before you try that one.”)

Back uphill, taking a quick breather whenever either of us said we needed it. In particular I remember, when the hill got steeper and we entered a woodline, a racer passing us checked in that we were okay, and made a comment to me of, “I’d ask his age, but he qualifies as a man taking this one on.”

Tarzan-swinging on trees to get up the hill, constant reminders to keep hydrating (it was in the high 80s or low 90s at this point), up and over more walls, making sure that he saw how to get others over. I could tell that he had never thought about an obstacle like the reverse wall, but made it over with help after seeing it done a few times. The barbed wire crawl was one of those things that looks awesome until you are in the middle of it…

This crawl was admittedly pretty nasty. Slick mud, small gravel at the start and big rocks toward the end. I made it through well ahead of him, and walked back along the side to take his pack and encourage him along. I was proud of him, you could tell from his face that this was no fun no more and he just wanted out, but he kept going.

Just after the mud crawl: “I can’t even tell what color these shorts used to be!”

“Now do you understand why we wouldn’t let you wear a new shirt?”

“Yeah…”

I pulled him aside to give him a quick tutorial on how not to face-plant on the slick wall, then went up first to help him over the top. He got about halfway up, slipped back down, and I decided to try another way. He held on to the rope, and I pulled it hand-over-hand to get him up. Hadn’t thought of this before, but it worked.

Atlas Carry was next. Josh decided that his weight-bearing ability was not up to snuff, and he would just get started on his burpees. I completed the obstacle and then knocked out the last 4 or 5 burpees with him.

We then both completed the Z wall by way of broad interpretation of the rules. There were a few points where I was holding him off the ground until he could sort out his footholds, and I used the top of the wall a few times to get through.

More trail running. I asked the volunteer if Josh could do the ladies version due to body size. Volunteer took a quick look at him, snickered and nodded.

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Drop the sandbags, quick shuffle through the woods, and came to the next obstacle, which was a beam set at about chest height. I got down on all fours so that Josh and a few other racers could use my back as a step. One of the ladies that I had helped over looked back and asked, “Does Dad need help over?” Not sure yet, I took a step back and was able to jump just high enough to swing my legs over. She smiled and said, “Got it. Dad is awesome!”

Some welcome downhill running, and we hit the Hercules Hoist. I did it first to explain what will and will not get you rope burn, then had him try the ladies’ weight. I stepped in to steady it when he needed to re-grip, but he fought through and did all the actual lifting.

The bucket carry here was brutal even a little more than most. He did the female weight, but that was still more than half his body weight, and the hill was the steepest I have seen outside of Vermont. We would push as far as we could, set it down, rest, hydrate, and do it again. I got mine to the top, went back down to help/coach Josh up, and for some reason decided to go back down again to help a newbie tag-team his bucket up to the top.

Downhill was easier, but the bucket is still clumsy and heavy. There was a steep uphill immediately after that we went up really slowly, Josh deciding to crawl part of it.

Next was what is probably my favorite obstacle of this race. A steep sloped wall about 7 feet high, with a ladder-type frame above it. I helped a few racers up it, then surprised myself by completing it unassisted.

The Rig was next, which we both failed. Heat and maybe a little dehydration was getting to us, so when we started getting light-headed when coming up from a burpee, we decided that was enough. I think we completed about 20?

We were overjoyed to find the 5 mile marker just after that. As we were running down a hill, we could hear the festival area, and they started playing “Carry On My Wayward Son,” which I couldn’t help but find appropriate. Spear throw, burpees, rope climb. The rope is usually hit-or-miss for me, as if I can keep the rope where I need it, I’m fine, but if it moves I’m usually in trouble. This time I remember stopping in the middle of the climb, okay untangle it, okay reset it, okay back in action, and was able to complete it. When I was done Josh had 22 burpees to go, so we each knocked out 11.

We formed up to do the fire jump together…

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Josh got cold feet for a minute, but recovered to finish strong:

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And now we both start training for next year. After ice cream, ice cream first…

KGB and/or Cadre: GORUCK Red Dawn

A friend found a custom challenge that we both thought we couldn’t miss: Based on the movie Red Dawn, custom packing list involving climbing gear and potato guns, very little info on exactly what would happen after we got there. I jumped on it.

Several months of gathering information and determining team and squad leaders. Ordering gear from tubular nylon webbing to training knives and paintball masks. Re-learning how to tie a Swiss-seat rappelling harness.

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Dress code was civilian 1980s attire. So I came up with the most awesome 80s MERICA outfit I could come up with:

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Finally made it to the start point at 4 in the morning, found our teams, and waited for instructions.

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When our instructions came, they were not what we expected:

The KGB knows we are here. They will be here shortly, they are going to kick our asses and move us to a detention camp. The Wolverines have a rescue team coming for us, who plan to cause enough of a diversion for us to escape. Do not talk to the KGB agents, do not give them anything to work with.

KGB agents showed up, and the welcome party was on. Low crawls off the deck we had assembled on, then backward low crawls back on it.

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We were formed up into two lines, ruck on your front, hands through the belt of the man in front of you. We were ordered to move out, and came to our detention camp about a mile down the road.

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Once there, we had to face a barn wall as we were divided into groups.

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One of the first distinctions was anyone with an American flag on any of their clothing, so I was in for the first round of interrogation. Yelled questions of where are the weapons, where is your base, what is your next target, while enjoying several ways of experiencing discomfort. Spreading cold mud on our faces/bodies:

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Headstands and body drags through the mud:

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Pouring water in our faces (not quite water boarding, but close enough for me).

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And various exercises with the Stone of Truth.

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A teammate made a snarky remark to Cadre Mikhail, and Mikhail made a point of making my PT harder in response. The guy was very apologetic when he realized how this was going, and asked if I was okay. I muttered out “Easy day, all day,” and kept going.

Shortly thereafter Cadre Danny Boy called the two of us aside for a discussion, to make sure we understood what the point of this was. The name of the game is to buy yourself time. If you come off as the tough guy or the wise ass, breaking you becomes a personal challenge, and buying time gets much harder.

By the end of the discussion the wet clothes and the breeze were getting to me and I was starting to shiver. “Okay, go tell Cadre Mikhail that you are cold and need to do exercises!”

Next thing I know we are doing continuous jumping jacks and burpees in a shed.

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In among this, groups were sent off to review the required gear and do more familiar welcome party PT.

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We were then all called to form up where we had been brought in, take all the gear out of the ruck, get it back in in under 30 seconds, rucks over your head.

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“WOLVERINES!!”

We all hear the call and run like hell into the woods. We stopped after a few minutes of running to re-form teams and get our next set of instructions. KGB will be following us, and there will be casualties if they catch us. We were given a destination to get to and moved out.

We reached the destination (a small lake called Dude’s Fishing Hole) and were ordered into the water to clean up. Holy crap that was cold.

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From this point forward, our KGB agents were American Cadre, teaching us rather than chasing us. We climbed to a high peak overlooking the fishing hole…

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To capture this epic shot:

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Then the teaching portion began. Short classes in land navigation, knife fighting, and rappelling.

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We then moved out for a paintball battle. I decided to sit out the fight and passed my gun off to another. It turned out to be a good decision, as he charged the enemy valiantly, only to find that his gun had been given to me and then to him with no CO2 cartridges.

All that was left then was the long, steep trudge back to the end point (same location as detention camp).

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And one heck of a welcome when we made it there.

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Next day was the Scavenger, in which we had to find a way to achieve various odd tasks and get photos of them. Serving someone in a restaurant, bonus for wearing part of the uniform:

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Getting everyone in a taxi, bonus if teammate is in the driver seat:

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Can’t believe I got away with that one.

Ambushing other teams with water balloons or silly string:

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This event was an epic time. I can only hope someone is crazy enough to put together something like this again.

 

 

One More Round: Battlefrog BFX Twin Cities 2016

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I decided to jump in at the deep end and went for the BFX (multiple lap) option for my first Battlefrog race, just wanting to see how I would do and how far I could go.

About 3 weeks before race day, Battlefrog announced new rules requiring every obstacle be completed, with the caveats that there would be easier versions of all obstacles and some obstacles would have an alternate penalty. Any racer failing to complete the easiest version or the penalty would be allowed to finish the lap they were on, but would have their band taken and not permitted to start any more laps. I was more than a little angry at the change, as running a race without missing at least one obstacle is rare for me, and I paid to keep going all day. More on this later.

Race day:

We were called up for a pre-race briefing and told to arrange ourselves in ranks and columns. We were given our instructions while doing pushups with each racer’s feet on the shoulder of the person behind them.

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At the end, the race official (identified only as Beard) ordered us to hold the up position and laid our BFX bands on our backs before dismissing us.

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A few minutes to warm up and assemble at the start line, a rousing speech from the incomparable Coach Pain, and we were off.

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I have trouble telling what happened there in order, as the repeated laps all get jumbled in my mind, so I will tell these in the most coherent order I can. If I did not have a picture featuring myself, I stole a picture of the obstacle from Battlefrog’s FB page.

Lap One- Hit all obstacles, hit drop bin for quick food and drink, and back out.

Lap 2- Completed all, rope-burned my hands coming down from the rope wall. Drop bin, nutrition shake, tend to feet, back at it.

Lap 3- Broke my hydration bladder going over the reverse wall, ditched it at the next water station. Recruited two guys to hold my feet and slow my descent coming down from the rope wall. At this point I knew I couldn’t do the rope wall again, as I barely made it up this time. So I had a decision to make: take 3 laps with the band intact, or go for another and lose the band. I finished well before the time limit and went back out. The band is only good for bragging rights. Going at it again helps make me better.

Lap 4: Completed all obstacles except the rope wall. I was a touch irritated that no penalty loop had been provided, as it was easily 4 times harder than the novice level at the rope climb, which did have a penalty loop. (Literally you had to perform the same motion as the rope climb, 4 times to get to the top of the wall.) When I got there, there was no one to help (only racer in sight was half my size and on her first-ever race) and the volunteer who had been there on previous laps was gone.

Screw it, this should have had a penalty lap, so I am giving it one. I elected to take the elite loop at the jerry can carry (much longer and steeper than the novice loop) and call it even.

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That carry sucked worlds away more than any penalty loop they would have given.

Obstacles:

8′ wall, novice and intermediate levels had blocks.

60 degrees was a steel reverse ladder. I hit intermediate 2 laps and novice the last 2.

Rope wall: covered above. Helped out an open wave runner with her 8-counts on lap 3 and coached a newbie over on lap 4.

Inverted wall- made it over unassisted once, needed help the rest of the time.

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Jerry can carry- novice loop was short and relatively flat, elite loop was evil.

Ladder wall- Novice was a few feet shorter, no noticeable difference between elite and intermediate.

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Church web was a web of ropes strung through one of the forts on site (the grounds are also used for paintball). The hill immediately after may have been the toughest part of the course.

The most fun obstacle, without a doubt, was the Hooyah water slide. I had to wrap a foot around the corner and use the holes in the steel framing to get up, but getting down was much easier.

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Mud mounds were tills and trenches of dry dirt. I joked that, coming right after the Hooyah, they expected us to make our own mud.

Normandy jacks are basically a barbless barbed wire crawl. Laps 2 and 3 I log-rolled through it, but by lap 4 the wires were hanging low and it turned into a roll-sideways shuffle- roll a bit more, crawl out.

Ramp wall- Novice has more blocks. I often put my foot on the top block if open wave racers needed another step.

Platnum rig, or as I called it, Penalty loop. Walking a marked loop with a wreck bag and a jerry can.

Confidence climb was a vertical ladder made out of structural steel tubing. Distance between rungs was constant, where most confidence climbs get wider as you near the top. I hit the elite level all 4 laps.

Wreck bag carry- Without a doubt my strongest obstacle.

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Over under through- On lap 3 or 4, I came to this as some ladies who did not understand that the through part had been set up first, were going over the top board. So of course I had to go over the top as well. I also found that I could do a forward roll under the under wall and save a little time getting up.

Rope climb- This did not deserve a penalty loop. Novice level was get your feet on the knot, stand up, and hit the bell. I was able to assist two ladies by either holding the knot in place or having someone else do that and using my body as a step to get her closer to it.

The tire drag marked on the map was actually a pallet carry. If you have ever worked in a factory, you know this well.

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Cargo net- I wanted to try a flip over the top, but found it a little too steep for that.

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Shortly after the cargo net was the split between repeating loops and the last stretch to the finish line. Last lap, last obstacle was the wedge wall (what Spartan calls the Traverse wall). Novice level had mostly complete foot board, others had less.

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Completed that and the last sprint to the finish line:

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People had noticed the name on the back of my jersey, and hearing the cheers of “Monk of the Mud” was awesome.

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This was a great race, a lot of fun, and a serious challenge to try to get more laps in.

My notes on the new “mandatory obstacle completion” rules, having been through it:

They need to be careful that the hardest obstacles get penalty loops. At this race, the rig was absolutely correct to have one, the rope climb was very debatable, and the rope wall needed one. I assume they will get this down to a science within the year.

The penalty loops are a more effective penalty than 8-counts (in that they are slower), but all of the shouting that they are more fair, or “an extra 800 yards is the same for everyone!” is false. The penalties here were weighted carries over flat ground, which I excel at, but I saw several competitors, who were of more of a runner’s build, being absolutely crushed by the weight involved. That being said, it is an improvement, as long as they can get it where it is needed.

Push Through the Pain: GRC 1898

I want to start this post off by saying that this Challenge in particular is difficult for me to put into words. Every challenge is different and difficult in its own way, and most give you a few things that you think you can’t do. The biggest challenge of this one was pushing through when every part of you wants to quit.

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We found the start point, chatted with old and new friends, and managed to get into rough formation before the two Cadre arrived. Welcome party was reasonably straightforward, calisthenics, bear crawls, and being reminded of the importance of following commands quickly. Interesting new feature was a skull drag, keeping the body as low as possible and crawling while dragging the ruck.

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We then were assigned team leaders, given extra gear to carry (two 80-100 pound sandbags and Cadre Rage’s swim fins), given a location to reach and a time hack, and we were off.

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We made the destination within the time limit, were given a short break while our team leads got instruction from Cadre, and off moving again. I tried to take a turn under the sandbags, but found that I could not keep pace with the rest of the team while carrying it, and had to switch out.

Shortly thereafter one of the team left formation without a buddy and became a casualty.

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And soon we gained a log and telephone pole that would be our constant companions for the next several hours.

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These set a new standard for brutal carries. For the first hour or so (?) I was up front switching out under the casualty and team weights. The short-but-stout log was being carried by a group of guys much taller than me, so I didn’t have a chance to cycle in. At some point we got the call to hold up because the group with the telephone pole had gotten too far behind. I grabbed a teammate and went back to see if I could help.

I arrived just as Cadre was explaining to the group that carriers need to be roughly in order of their height, or the weight crushes the tall people. We started calling out our heights to see where we fit in, got the pole up and moving. It went well for awhile, but then problems started to crop up of needing to go back under as soon as you had gotten out or of no one coming when you called for a replacement. Every few minutes we got the call of ” 1, 2, 3 UP!!” to try to get the pole back up to shoulder height, as it kept crushing us beneath it.

We got the order to put the log down, take 5 minutes, and get something to eat. Then back up and more of the same.

On previous challenges, it was common to adjust your height under the log by sort of getting under it and jamming your pack against it. When I tried that here, someone behind me pointed out that we might well lose control of the log and not be able to get me out in time, so I went back to putting a shoulder under it and adjusting as best I could.

We hit a point where the “123 UP!” was becoming continuous, and the damn thing just wouldn’t stay up. For the first time in any of the challenges I have done, we put the log down without orders. We had given all we could, and trying to carry it further would lead to us dropping it and the chance of someone getting hurt.

We stood there a few moments, staring at the log and wondering what we could do from here. Cadre looked us over, saw that we had given all we could, and told us to kick the pole into the ditch and catch up with the group ahead of us.

At the next stop the remaining log broke in two, so we again had two teams carrying. The new team lead told me to basically manage one of the teams, getting replacements for them when needed and making sure we roughly stayed with the group.

We finally were permitted to get rid of these logs as well, and moved on to our next point with only the weights we had started out with. It was about this point that the pace the Cadre required started to wear down on me and a few of the others. We ended up marching down the side of the interstate, and it was all I could do to keep moving.

When we finally got off the interstate, we formed up and rested for a few minutes. Cadre talked to us, explained that he knew we were tired, knew we were sore, but what really matters is pushing on from this point.

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Continue marching a few more miles, and we are told to take off and pack up our “snivel gear,” meaning gloves and jackets.

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Most of us knew what that meant: it was maybe a degree above freezing, and we were fixing to get wet.

We moved on, went through or over a fence to a little beach by the lake, and formed up for instructions.

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We were divided into two groups, and had to nominate one of the group to learn everyone’s name. Success meant staying dry, failure meant going out to rib-height, going completely under the water, and sugar-cookies on the beach.

We made a good go at it, but yeah, we failed.

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We got our gear back on and moved out. My leg muscles were locking up from the cold, and I was hobbling along. Cadre ordered those of us who were limping to go to the front of the line to set the pace, so I went with them. I had to fall out to fix my shoe awhile later, so I ended up back somewhere in the middle of the line.

My muscles warmed a bit from the movement, and the pace of the group was doable at this point. When calls came from the front of the line to get people to take 30-second cycles under the sandbags, I thought what the hell, I’ll give it a try. Flaw in my reasoning was that while I could keep up with the group at this point, I could not move fast enough to move up in formation to where the weights were. The moment when I realized this may have been the lowest point of the entire challenge.

We failed to get everyone across an intersection before the signal changed, and those left on the other side became casualties. I took a ruck from one of them, but I didn’t have enough left to buddy carry (at least not at any kind of pace).

We made it back to our start point and formed up for Cadre to speak.

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The detail that sticks out for me was when he asked who had considered quitting, and I raised my hand along with maybe a quarter of the class. He thanked us for having the moral courage to admit that we had come close to giving up. But 72 teammates, 12-1/2 hours, 19-20 miles, no one dropped out.

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I had intended to also do the Light that started a few hours later, but my body was too beaten up. I dropped by to deliver the team weight and flag and watched the welcome party, but did not complete it with them.

Points for me to work on from this:

I’m still too slow, and in particular I am too slow under load. Need to work on this.

Need to prep my gear further in advance. Some of my problems along the way could have been fixed by rigging my gear differently, and some of the gear that I brought didn’t work as expected.

I took a few days after this to relax and reflect, then back to training. I have more of these in the coming months, and while I was not the burden on the team that I feared being, I was also not the asset to the team that I want to be.

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