Remembering The Fallen: Mogadishu Mile GRC 2094

I was excited to try this event, as it had a reputation for being a notch above the standard GORUCK Tough level of difficulty, and because I love the historical/memorial nature of the event. It absolutely did not disappoint.

Reviewing everyone’s gear found two people who did not have everything on the packing list. To pay for this, the team had to do two laps up and down the stairs of a parking structure next to our start point.


We came down from the second lap and crammed everyone into the space at the bottom of the stairs, to find that we had missed our time hack. We were given a second chance, 2 laps, no breaks in formation, 10 minutes, with the understanding that if we failed we would spend several hours doing nothing but stairs.

We made it in 8:30.

We were then given our first movement instructions and time hack and moved out.


We got to the park that was our destination, found that we missed the time hack, and someone had left behind a piece of gear, both of which we would be punished for.

Into the nearby duck pond for 50 squats in chest-deep water…


And 30 overhead levers with our waterlogged rucks.


Out of the water, form up, and have a talk with the Cadre explaining the background of the situation in Somalia that lead to the US going in. Civil war, famine, UN food shipments. What do food shipments mean at a GORUCK event? That’s right, supply carry. Only people with something else to carry get to wear their rucks, everyone else must carry them with their hands or forearms (ruck cannot go higher than your elbows). Destination, time hack, move out.

That carry sucked. Crossing both arms helped a bit, and at some point I got one of the water jugs to carry so I could wear my ruck again. We reached our destination, missed our time hack, and were punished with 60 four-count flutter kicks. Cadre made it clear to us that time hacks would be enforced, and the pattern we were noticing of penalties getting worse would continue.


We then formed a half-circle around Cadre as he told us the next segment of the Mogadishu story, the UN involvement, the US coming in, communication failures, the start of the raid that would lead to the battle.

New team leads, new destination, move out. There is a point in every event where memories start to get fuzzy, and that happened about here on this one. The following is absolutely incomplete and may be out of order.

We had a navigation failure and went past one of our objectives, and did bounding rushing drills to get back to it. Alternately yelling out “I’m up, he sees me, I’m down” when moving and “Die m—–f—er die!” when not. (Apparently the second phrase is used to track the length of a machine gun burst.)

We filled the water jugs to add to our weight to carry, and topped off the water we were drinking from them throughout the night. Lightening the jugs was an additional motivation to stay hydrated.

We stopped at several points for Cadre to tell us more of the story and what we could learn from it. Shortly after the story of the firefight, we formed up for a PT test that would determine how many casualties we would have on the next movement. Why do a PT test several hours in? Because no one cares what you can do when you are fresh and at your best. Those soldiers 11 hours into the fight were not fresh, and still had to deliver.


I surprised myself by completing the 42 required pushups. 7 people were unable to, and Cadre offered to erase that if 7 of us could do it again. My first thought was to let the fitter members of the team do it, but when I saw only 4 step forward I stepped up. It was not as fast and not as pretty the second time around, but I made 42 again.

Situp test didn’t go as well. 14 failed (including me) and of the 14 that retested, 11 made it. A debt of 3 failures remained, so 3 casualties. We went off, swapping out as needed with 3 people under each casualty. This turned out to be too slow, and we got 70 eight-count body builders as a result.

We were given a memory test, to memorize all of this:


I happened to be the one called to recite all that was there, and I nailed it.

On one of our later movements, I tripped and fell and bloodied my chin. (It would later require 7 stitches.) One of the team broke out some tape and gauze, patched it up as well as he could, and we were back moving. Even with my fall, we made that time hack.


Distraction drill- Everyone on the team waiting in an uncomfortable position, while two volunteers must follow simple instructions. While we were working as a team enough to never have to wait for a volunteer, we forgot stupid, basic things in the rush to get everyone into a more comfortable condition. It took us a few go-rounds, but we finally got it. Cadre explained to us how this was minor compared to the confusion and pressure on the ground in Mogadishu, and that we should learn from this. This bit is what probably sticks in my head the most from a learning perspective.

We moved back to our start point and stood at attention for the reading of the Medal of Honor citations of Shughart and Gordon (which nearly brought me to tears, these two exemplify so much that should be emulated). It intentionally looked like the endex… and then two new team leads were called for.

New mission: a blackhawk has crashed in a park half a mile from here. There are wounded, we need to go get them. Move out.

We made our time hack getting there, and Cadre explained our final movement. Start with 5 casualties. The cadre will follow behind, moving at a set pace, looking a bit like this:


If they catch up to the last person, we take another casualty. If you keep it together and stay moving, 5 casualties are all you will have. If someone steps on their shoelaces, things can go to crap quickly.

At first we had a set group of people on each casualty, and because I was injured they put me carrying one of the rucks taken from the casualties. We had some slow changes and gained a couple more casualties, and the system started to break down, so I handed off the ruck and started grabbing people whenever I could. (Even arguing with a few who didn’t want me to carry because I was hurt or because they thought I would trip again.) It is funny that when someone tells you that you are hurt so you don’t have to do the heavy lifting, you usually say thank you and go about your day. In a movement like this, when someone told me I couldn’t carry, my brain’s first response was, “Listen, f—er, I got this.

We made our way to our endex, appropriately enough at a stadium, and formed up. Cadre gave us a short talk and read off the names of the 18 men who died that day. In their honor, we did 18 pushups. I’m pretty sure we all made them as close to perfect as we possibly could.


I think the bloody Santa Clause may be the best patching photo I have ever gotten:


Then I headed off to get a quick shower and find a doctor to stitch up my chin.

This was an awesome event. I learned a lot about the historical events of Mogadishu, and even more about how to push to be a better teammate. Can’t wait to do it again.

3 Races in 4 weeks: Muddy Vike, Rugged Maniac, and Step Up For Heroes

I got a little behind on my blog posts, so I wanted to do a quick recap of the last month. All of the events were the smaller races that are more fun than brutal, and thus much tougher for me to write about, so descriptions will be much more brief than usual.

Muddy Vike

This is the local mud run in Sioux Falls. My son came along and ran it with me. Good use of terrain and permanent obstacles, fun and not overly difficult, great race for bringing in new racers.

Rugged Maniac MN

I had heard this race brand had stepped up their game, so I was curious to see what they would bring. I found that they massively stepped things up from the last time I ran one, but they stepped it up less in the way of a brutal military obstacle course, and more in the way of an epic playground. Some basic obstacles, wire crawl, walls, A frame:race_2257_photo_43883367.jpg

And some more playful ideas, like the trampolines that bounce you onto a cargo net wall and a warped wall that brings you to an awesome water slide:race_2257_photo_43889704.jpg

While the obstacles were mostly fun, the ski hills were all business. This was a tough race from a terrain perspective.

Step Up for Heroes

Sioux Falls has an annual 9/11 memorial stair climb, and this year I saw they had added a challenge course. No information on what this course would entail, but my son and I signed up and showed up. It can’t be that hard, can it?

As it turned out, the idea behind the challenge course was simple, but much tougher than expected.

14372282_1053770758076060_5392962524391020513_o.jpgCarry a 50# sandbag up and down the bleacher stairs three times, complete a challenge on the football field, carry the sandbag up and down the stairs 3 more times, repeat for each of the 6 challenges on the field, and finish with 3 more stair laps with the sandbag. Field challenges were all across the football field (160 feet). Weighted challenges you had to bring the weight back, unweighted challenges you did 160′ and then just ran back.

Challenges were:

Bucket carry

Farmer carry with two sandbags


Burpee frog hops


Bear crawls


Walking lunges


By the second set of stair climbs, by quads were vibrating. Nothing to do but keep moving. Encouragement from the crowd and the volunteers was great.

I was proud of Josh. He pushed hard, picking up the sandbag when he was told he could continue unweighted, keeping correct exercise form when most people would fudge it to save time and effort. The emcee noticed him and announced his name over the loudspeakers, and for awhile the entire stadium was cheering for him.

We finished in roughly an hour. As the youngest finisher, Josh got an honorable mention at the awards ceremony. I joked that he won his age group, and we asked a fellow racer to take a picture showing how we both felt:



Through the Glass: Ultimate Suck Volunteer 2016

So while you’re outside looking in
Describing what you see
Remember what you’re staring at is me~ Stone Sour

After I DNFed at this event last year, I made it a point to come back as a volunteer this year. I gave the excuse that I wanted to take notes and get a clearer picture of what I was training for to be better able to train for it, and it was indeed useful for that. The bigger reason was that I feared this would become one of those “maybe some day” events, the ones that you keep pushing off because you don’t quite feel ready yet. Making it a point to be there, even if I am not competing, makes it harder to push off. (And true to form I am signed up to give the 12 hour a go next year.)

What I didn’t expect was exactly how odd it felt to be there, watching, directing, encouraging, taking notes, but not pushing through the pain with everyone else.

The rest of this post will be random observances and notes. As I went 48 hours with maybe 4 hours of sleep (between the drive and the event itself), random is about all I can do.

The people you meet there are incredible. I have never met more caring, encouraging people, pushing you far enough to get stronger without pushing you to breaking.

There are times that you can physically see someone’s emotional state. The uncertainty when someone realizes they are back of the pack and wonder if they really belong here (perhaps I picked up on that one because I’ve been there so often myself). The stoic determination to keep going when you are hallucinating from cold and lack of sleep. The caring tenderness when looking after an injured competitor. The pure joy when the athlete that you weren’t quite sure would make it through, does.

Lots of feats of strength and endurance that you are unlikely to see anywhere else. Ruck an unknown distance through a creek bed, stopping at several checkpoints to do sets of 100 of various calisthenics, do rope climbs and log flips, ruck back to throw weighted kegs and ball-and-chain over a 9′ bar, burpees, caber toss, get 15 minutes to look after yourself and your gear, then head out to do more. In one case continuing on for 30 hours after breaking a finger and fixing it with duct tape.


After seeing the river movement toward the end, I understand why the official description of this event includes a reference to Deliverance. Swimming down a swift-flowing river in the dark for 2 hours, to immediately run 10 miles back to your start point, over a lot of ground not intended for human travel.

Reminder to make sure your pack is up to the rigors of this type of use. I saw a few athletes with light-duty packs getting absolutely destroyed by their gear.

Notes to self for volunteering:

Bring a small rucksack, dry bags, headlamp, and hydration bladder next time. You may end up manning a checkpoint for 4 hours at a time, and it is really easy to lose your water bottle while accompanying athletes through chest-high water. Also bring bug spray, as this area has some breed of giant mutant mosquito.

Breakfast after (for both athletes and volunteers) is beyond awesome.


This is one of the events that I think truly forces you to find the edge of your abilities and find out who you really are. And I will be back next year to dig a little deeper and see what else I can find.


Fill, Flow and Go: GRC 2041 and GRL 1264


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:


And sugar cookies on the beach.


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.


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.


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).


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


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.


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


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.


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…


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.



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.


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.


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!”


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.)


And he made it look good:


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?”


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.


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:



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