Fighting Demons in Hell: Midwest Suck 2019

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This year’s Midwest Suck was held just outside of the town of Hell, Michigan. It was a great venue, and gave me a rare opportunity to tell friends that I would see them in Hell. It is also noted as being the most common location for sightings of the elusive Michigan Dogman. More on him later.

The event started with a trail run to spread out the pack, then went straight into the Mogadishu Mile workout. While keeping in constant contact with a 50# sandbag, 19 ground-to-overhead, 19 squats, 19 pushups with the right hand on the bag, 19 with the left, then pick up the bag and carry it for 1/4 mile (we went down the trail to a particular sign post and back), then repeat this process three more times.

By the time I got to the end of this, the heat was getting to me, I was consciously having to slow down to not feel nauseous, and the bugs had come out in force. All of this made me really happy when I found out the next task was in the water.

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100 swim burpees, then a swim around the buoys that you can see in the background of the picture. Coming into it overheated, the water was delightful, and I knocked out the swim and reported for my next task.

Grab two empty buckets and hydration pack, go across the parking lot to a hand-operated water pump, fill them up and take them down the trail until you find a volunteer. The volunteer at the pump told us it would be a grind, not a sprint, and to pace ourselves accordingly.

By this point I was very near to the back of the pack, which always messes with my head, particularly on lonely dark trails where you can’t see anyone or anything around you. This is the stretch where I may have seen the Dogman, or possibly just a big raccoon. I had a short conversation with the eyes reflecting my headlamp, then hoped whatever it was was friendly and kept moving down the trail.

My mental state got better when I got to where I could see people in front of me, and I realized that I was gaining on people on the bucket carry. This has always been my weak event, and catching up with someone here had never happened before.

I reached the checkpoint at a fence across the trail, dumped the buckets, and carried them back to the start point empty. When I got back I was alerted that I was coming in close on time hacks and needed to step it up. Next task was a strongman circuit.

On the beach they had set out three rocks of varying sizes. Throw the small one over your shoulder, pick up the medium one to chest level, pick up the big one above knee level, and repeat that three times. I hulk-smashed my way through this one. I tend to be critical of my performance, but I was really happy with how I did on this.

Next was to repeat the trail run loop we ran at the start, to be completed in 45 minutes or less. I kept up a solid pace, checked back in thinking I had smashed the time hack, to find I had just barely made it.

Next was the Gut Check Murph. Ruck with 50# sandbag, 100 overhead press, put the ruck on, 200 pushups, then 300 box squats (in the ruck, using a bucket as the box). I expected the upper body portion to be the worst, but it turned out to be the squats. Without taking the time to take off the ruck (which no one was willing to do), there really is no way to take a rest break. If you rest standing you still have the weight on your shoulders, and if you try to rest seated you have to lock in your core muscles to stay in a seated position with the ruck pulling you backward.

Made it through that and proceeded to the Heavy Hump. 1 sandbag in the ruck, follow trail markings until they lead you back. Advertised as 6 miles but felt like a lot more.

This is where I started to let my personal demons get to me. Telling myself that I didn’t deserve to be here and starting to hope that I wouldn’t make this time hack. Then I made the time hack, told my brain to shut up, and moved on to the next task.

Bodyweight PT cycle- 100 decline situps (head downhill), 100 stepups on the seat of a picnic table, 100 tricep dips, and 100 lunges. I managed to complete this before a few racers who had passed me on the heavy hump and moved on to the next task.

Fill a bucket of water from the lake, carry it to the water pump and back without spilling too much (if you don’t return with enough, about 3″ down from the top of the bucket, then you have to do it again). You must carry the entire distance bear hug style, which turns out to be the most awkward possible way to carry a bucket. Since the turnaround point was a water pump and the instructions had been vague (we were only told to “return with enough water”) we topped off to make sure we had enough and were extra careful on the return trip.

Next movement: Both sandbags, both buckets clipped to the ruck, axe, and life jacket (literally all the required gear) need loaded up and carried up this trail. In my case, I was close enough to time hacks that I had all of 6 minutes to prep my gear and be ready to move out.

As can be expected, the resulting packing job was a horrendous gypsy camp that was stupidly uncomfortable to carry. Part of me wanted to stop and repack it more efficiently once I was on the trail, but I knew I was short on time and carrying 130 pounds of gear is going to suck no matter how you do it, so I just left it and kept trudging on.

After some distance we were allowed to drop one sandbag and continue on with the rest. An indeterminate amount of time and distance later, we were met by volunteers who instructed us to drop everything but the life vest and continue down the hill.

Get to the bottom, swim across the lake and back, back up the hill to where you left your gear. Once there, grab your axe and chop wood (cutting a notch into a log until the volunteer said it was deep enough). Then load up and get all your gear back to base camp.

It was not actually said that we would be done at the end of this march, but several of us assumed that it would be, and I let that idea get a little too much into my head. I kept telling myself just a little more, almost home, the pain will stop soon. Then I got there and it wasn’t over. My mind really wasn’t in the right place at this point, and I had been telling myself that I would quit if this wasn’t the end. For reasons that I still don’t understand, I got there, it wasn’t the end, and I just picked up my sandbag and kept moving.

The next movement was the same route as the water bucket carry the night before. Carry one sandbag and one bucket, return unloaded, repeat with the other sandbag and bucket, then continue down the road until met. There was minimal enthusiasm at this point, we were all pretty well beaten down. As I was returning for the second sandbag, one of the other racers told me that instructions had been changed and we were to proceed down the road from wherever we were now.

It turns out that moving down the road was to bring us into the town of Hell to have an awesome location for the finish line. We had to do 666 feet of burpee frog jumps and then a sprint to the Gates of Hell.

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I made it. Just barely, but I made it. And I realized that my biggest problem is how my mind responds when I know I am just barely making it. Notes for next time:

I need to accept that I am going to be barely making it for awhile yet. These events are tough, and while I’m better than I used to be I’m still not any example of peak performance. This is where I’m at, and I need to be okay with that.

My strength training seems to be on the right track. My speed training needs some work. There was a period of several hours where other racers would pass me on a run/ruck task, I would complete a strength task fast enough to move back ahead of them, and they would pass me again on the next movement. These events cover too much distance for speed over ground to be my weak point.

Adjusting training, getting my head back in the game, and preparing for the 36 hour.61843419_10218024349467567_3925440898401304576_o.jpg

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