Mediocrity vs Nothingness: Response to “The Slowest Generation”

I ran a local half-marathon on Saturday. I was impressed with myself. I ran a personal best for this distance, taking 25 minutes off of my previous time. I would like to say that I worked as hard as anyone on the course for my finisher’s medal.

But I didn’t.

There were quite a few on the course working much harder than me for the same prize. I started passing them where the 10K course rejoined the half-marathon course. Sweating, panting, struggling to keep putting one foot ahead of the other. Many of them overweight, more than a few wearing “Biggest Loser” or “Ft. Wayne’s Smallest Winner” T shirts. Wanting to say the hell with it and go home, but wanting the accomplishment more. Human spirit overcoming adversity, personified.

And there are those out there who would say that I, and all those slower than me, should have stayed home, simply because what I did in 3 hours could have been done by a decent runner in under 2.

I can only respond to that with, “Dude. Seriously. Screw off.”

I came across an article called “The Slowest Generation” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324807704579085084130007974.html) complaining that many races are becoming “parades” due to lack of competitiveness among younger runners.

Wrong. We are very competitive. We just don’t compete with YOU. We compete with who we were yesterday.

UvU

Past the first 10 finishers, very few really give a damn what your precise rank among race finishers is. Most people simply go by comparing their own time to the winners time. Quite a few more go by how they did today against their time on a similar course or the same course last year.

The article notes that average times are getting slower, but somehow misses the massive increase in numbers of participants over the same time frame. These new runners are not the elites that ran track all through high school and never slowed down. They are your couch-to-5K people. People who were told they couldn’t do it and it took them to the age of 25 or 30 to stop listening. People like me.

Yes, we may well be mediocre athletes. But mediocre is the stepping stone between nothing and something, the first step on the road to greatness. I would rather be a mediocre athlete in the eyes of the elite than to not be an athlete at all.

If un-timed 5Ks while being pelted with colored cornstarch is what it takes to take someone from not an athlete to at least an athlete of some sort, awesome. If you need to push yourself against the best to know who you are as an athlete, cool. They have races for that, too. I have tried and failed to qualify for a number of them. And in most cases they don’t care what your rank in the pack was at your last race. You have either a set time to complete the course, or you must finish in less than double the winner’s time.

It must also be considered that there are ways to push yourself that do not involve going faster than everyone else. Can you complete the course in a weight vest? We had two soldiers complete Saturday’s half in 50-pound rucksacks. I know one man who bear-crawled a 5k for charity.

Being an athlete is not about ability. It is about force of will and pushing yourself to be better every day. It is about stepping up to a challenge that you don’t know if you can handle, spitting in its face, kicking its ass, and then looking for a tougher one. Which I will continue to do. Perhaps at a parade-ground pace, but crushing challenges that I would miss if “faster” were my only goal.

I am

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Ruckin’ Cornfed Style: GORUCK Light 071

The team I am part of includes a wide range of athletes, ultra runners, GORUCK Toughs, Crossfitters, a little bit of everything, as well as newbes in all of these categories. Seeing that we had more than a few newbies curious about GORUCK challenges, the team put together a custom GORUCK light. I was instantly on board.

Got to the start point, helped some of the newer rucktards square away their equipment, and met our Cadre.

Cadre Mike quickly explained that Lights are fun and he had no intention of crushing anyone’s soul today. We then moved down to the surf of the lake and started the welcome party.

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This was my first exposure to the infamous Tunnel of Love- everyone holds down-dog pose side by side, forming a tunnel underneath that everyone must, one at a time crawl through. Which really sucks when dealing with weighted rucksacks.

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We got through the welcome party, were assigned two group leaders, and given our first assignment: 30 minutes to reach a certain boardwalk a distance up the beach. Just as we are prepping to move out, we hear, “Oh, by the way, who are the two who were late? Yes, you two are casualties.”

Anyone designated a casualty has to be carried by the rest of the team. We took their rucks and started working out who would carry whom. One of the late arrivals was exactly who we would have chosen (and who we continued choosing for buddy carry for the rest of the day). The other was a big lanky firefighter who we quickly changed from one man to two man to four man carries.

We made our time hack, but one of the team had left a piece of gear behind. Leading to:

 

1175677_10200206905603247_515070207_n.jpg945998_10200206867722300_469989078_n.jpgWe had to start in low pushup position in a pond and low crawl to a boat trailer parked nearby.

New team leaders, new place to go.

At our next stopping point, everyone’s favorite part of GORUCK. *Sing along.* It’s LOG, LOG, its big,its heavy, its wood…

994899_10200206831881404_854787337_n.jpg555518_10200206832481419_579739594_n.jpgI was surprised that some motorists seemed to know what was going on and yelled encouragement. We also had to reroute the log carry around a triathlon that somehow was scheduled at the same time and place.

We got the log to the beach and broke into groups doing various forms of PT on the beach and in the surf.1098383_10200206849401842_744227449_n.jpg1173713_10200206882482669_1670767598_n.jpg1150948_10200206835921505_778110226_n.jpg1174802_10200206888522820_1660230328_n.jpg

 

 

We then carried the log off the beach and Cadre announced that we were done.

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It was a good time, a decent challenge, and a good way to expose some of the team to other types of events that are out there. And I made my goal of not slowing down the team.

 

Push it real good- the 100×100 Challenge

This is a self-challenge that I found on Facebook and was immediately intrigued by. 100 pushups a day for 100 days, totaling 10,000 pushups. No rest days. Post on the FB page every day when you get them done. If you make it to 100 days you are eligible to buy the T shirt. If you fail you get a poster of kittens.

Tshirt of glory. I’m in. They requested before and after photos to show the change in physique. OK, what the hell.

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The 100 pushups is the easy part. 10×10, 4×25, whatever, anyone can do it. The unrelenting 100 days was the difficulty. Stopping during long road trips to knock out a set next to the gas pump. Getting home from a late work night with 50 left to do. Doing them on the hood of my car because it was the only clean surface I could find. More sets than I want to admit behind my desk, hoping the boss didn’t walk in.

The day of the Spartan Beast in Ottawa took care of itself, as the 100 pushups were contained in the 150 burpees required by the course. The day after, making it home at 1 pm on 2 hours of sleep and going straight to work, may have been the most difficult day of the challenge. But I got them done.

The FB page (https://www.facebook.com/100x100challenge) was great encouragement, posting inspiration and a place to share noteworthy accomplishments or places you got your pushups in. I contributed a shot from the CFS GORUCK Light. The team doing divebomber pushups in the surf of Lake Michigan.

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I originally went into it with a midnight time hack to get them done. I had to adjust toward the end to noon the day after, as there were a few instances of falling asleep before I even got my shoes off, waking up thinking,”S***, I have back pushups to do!”

It was a tougher challenge than it looks like from the outside. I finished a few days ago, and posted my after photo:

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Finding that I liked the challenge and that even days where you feel you have accomplished nothing feel better when you have at least gotten your pushups done, I am going in for another 100×100. Choosing my least favorite GRC exercise, 100 days of 4-count flutter kicks to be followed by 100 days of Hello Dollies. I think this could be a great way to cycle through my weakest exercises and force myself to get stronger at them.

Got your back, Brother: GRT Run for a Million

 I have completed a number of virtual runs (races where runners are not in the same place and may not be running at the same time) lately. As the atmosphere is basically that I do my usual runs, maybe a little extra, all the runners encourage each other via Facebook, and someone mails me the finisher’s medal, I didn’t see them as worthy of a blog post.

A few days in to the Green Beret Foundation Run for A Million, during the car ride home from a seminar in St. Louis, I saw this post on the Facebook group (all named removed for privacy reasons):

“So, I’m not sure if I should write this. But here goes: I planned to ruck a marathon with 50 lbs tomorrow, but I am sitting bedside as my Mother is dying. I can’t right now. I’m wondering if 26 people could walk an extra mile as I don’t want these miles to go undone. Maybe there will be time next weekend, but, I just don’t know. If so, I will ruck it then.”

I quickly commented “will ruck it as soon as I get home.” The other comments pretty much sum up the GRT community: perhaps a little rough around the edges, but will have your back when you need it.

“I am so sorry to hear about you Mother. I will do an extra mile. If others are unable, I can do the extra 26.2. Stay with your Mom.”

“Strength to you brother. You focus on your mother. We’ll focus on your miles.”

“Take care of your best girl. I’m in for an extra mile.”

“Is this covered? I have a couple operators here in bumfuck WV who I’m sure can take up any leftovers.”

“Any left over mileage I can cover it! I don’t care how much”

I got home, dumped my travel gear out of my ruck and loaded it with all 10 of my rucking bricks. I will be the first to say that I was tired as hell and had no desire to ruck anywhere, but it needed to be done. Turn on GPS tracking, half a mile down the road and back, drop the ruck and go to bed next to all the travel gear I just dumped.

I went to comment that my part was complete, and saw this:”Thank you all so very much. She passed away earlier this morning. Your actions today have meant a lot to me and my family.”

And the donated miles kept coming. Lots of us did a mile or two, a few more, up to one who rucked 31 miles. This response soon followed:

“I have to say, I am blown away. I had to turn off my 3 g because my Facebook notification kept beeping, all day.What you have done for me is simple. You gave me the strength to be there for my family. I was able to have a very hard talk with my Dad, and handle much of the days responsibilities. I was able to have a very difficult and private conversation with my Mother. I was able to pack up my Mother’s hospital room. I was able to meet with the cemetery staff and funeral director. I was able to be there for my wife. The sympathy you demonstrated by walking for me and my Mother was profound. I have to pay this forward. From the deepest place I know, thank you.”

I replied, “Humans are angels with a single wing. We only fly by embracing each other. I think I speak for all of us when I say the honor truly is ours.”

 Miles and supportive comments kept pouring in:
“Yesterday a man posted asking if people could donate an extra mile or two for him because he needed to be with his family in an hour of need, was no longer going to be able to participate and didn’t want his miles to go un-run for the cause. Just a little over 24 hours later, people have donated 123.93 miles. Extra miles they didn’t have to run or ruck, but they did. And they did it to show their support for someone that they may have never even met. Amazing!  I’m so proud to be a part of‪#‎runfor1m‬!”
“This was my thought process for me & my alter-ego that I wanted to share with the group:
Today is a recovery day/”so what” + I don’t have my running sneakers/”who cares” + I forgot my iPod/”get over it” all which resulted in me running my fastest splits in a long time and I was speechless when it was done at how well I felt physically, but dropping 5 miles in the bucket for Jason has left me feeling grateful to be involved in this event and surrounded by so many positive and inspiring folks. I think this is really what this event is all about”
“Each of you finished your run, or still have miles to complete. You are amazing. Many of you likely aren’t Green Berets, yet you are putting your heart and soul into this event.  I don’t know a finer group of people. You raise money for an awesome foundation, yet find a moment to provide strength to someone in need.  You don’t need to keep giving my family miles, you have given me and my family a lot of love and hard work, thank you. Give them to whomever you feel deserves it. I still need to find a way to properly thank each of you. You deserve it. If you still have miles to complete: when your feet hurt so bad, and you are losing your mind, take your strength from me. You helped me, I need to help you.  Know that I am indebted to each of you. Thank you.”

The total of donated miles came to just shy of 200 miles, nearly two of the full 100.2 mile challenge. The man who had made the initial request rucked the last 6-7 miles to make it 200.4 miles in honor of his mother.

What impresses me most about this is how few of the people involved actually knew each other, beyond a name on a computer screen. But he called out for support and all of us answered. THIS is what we are all working toward.