Cowtown Marathon

Yesterday, I ran the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, Texas. It was actually the Cowtown Ultra Marathon - a 31-mile race. In the world of ultra marathons, 31 miles is the shortest distance to still be considered an “ultra.”

I signed up on a whim about a month before the race. It was late January, and I saw on the website for the Cowtown Marathon that the race was February 28th. To myself I said, “You know what? I can do a marathon by then.” I had not really been running much, but I figured I can power through it.

I’d been doing a lot of lifting, not a lot of running. But I figured within the 31 days or so I had to train, realistically, that only gives me two to three weeks of hard training. But I’m pretty mentally tough. I can do it. I faced 12-hour challenges. I’ve done 24-hour challenges. I can survive what’s going to be anywhere from a four to a six-hour ultra marathon.

The days leading up to the race, I wasn’t particularly nervous, nor on the day of the race. It was just kind of another day for me. Not a big deal at all, I just know it was going to be a hard day. It was going to be a challenge, but as long as I kept my feet moving, I will survive it, and I had to complete the course within 7.5 hours. As long as I did that, I’d be in pretty good shape. So there was very little for me to worry about, and so I didn’t worry too much.

About 20 minutes before the race, I was going to go pee, but all the available bathrooms had gigantic lines. The 10-minute warning, it became apparent that the line for the porter potty was still too long. The 5-minute warning, it became clear that I was not going to make it into and out of a porter potty before the race started. So I went up to my corral and peed all over my leg and just let it whiz after the national anthem because I would never pee during the song.

The race started, I turned on my Strava, I turned on a great audio book called Living with a SEAL by Jesse Itzler. I listened to that during the race...the story was so good that around 4 hours into the race I felt as id I’d barely been running. I was pushing probably 8:20 splits for the first 20 miles or so. A breeze of a pace, barely breaking a sweat.

I could feel my legs cramping pretty badly by around mile 21, and I knew that I was going to struggle finishing the last bit of the race. It’s an interesting feeling when you’re 21 miles in, and you know you still have another 10 miles to go and your legs are cramping. They feel like bricks, and people are dropping like flies all around you. Also this is by far the loneliest part of the race. No pacers, no groups around you. Just you, your thoughts and a body in pain.

Ultimately, I knew that one way or another, I was going to finish. I knew it was going to hurt, and I knew I didn’t have any permanent injuries. I knew my legs were getting tight. I knew that they were in pain. I knew I was cramping, and I knew I was going to be sore when the race was over. And I knew my stomach actually wasn’t doing very well.

I didn’t do a good job of practicing my fueling during a race, so I was a little bit underprepared, not when it necessarily came to the running, which I was a little underprepared, but that was just due to the time in between when I signed up and when the race actually occurred. [Note to self: Sugary treats are good for about an hour. Bring real food.]

After the race – anyways, I ended up pretty much walking from somewhere around mile 21 to a mile 31, which of course added a substantial amount of time to my completion time. But I got through it in around 5 hours 35 minutes. Not sure of the exact time quite yet, but I got it done, completed the race. It was a few hours of pain. It ended. Came home, took a nap, fueled up, and went to bed.

But all in, it was a nice, hard day. I accomplished something.

I have no qualms about doing it again next weekend if I had to or two or three days from now. I just need to focus a little bit more on some yoga and some stretching stuff, which has always been a weakness of mine. It could have always been worse. It could have been a lot harder, and just glad I did it.

GORUCK Challenge 1637 - Goshen, VT AAR

September 4, 2015
I have a GORUCK Challenge tonight. I haven’t done one in over a year, when I completed a Heavy, Light, Scavenger and Firearms Day in a weekend. That said, I am fitter, stronger, harder than I ever have been. I will complete it. I will not fail. I will not quit.

September 5, 2015
I was pretty nervous getting started. I hadn’t felt that nervous feeling in a while. In fact, the thought of quitting kept going through my head before getting started.  Out in the middle of nowhere of Goshen, VT, getting beat down, a 12+ hour day and many miles to go…all of it seemed scary.

About 10 minutes before starting, the class was doing its final preparations. It looked like we’d have a small class of around 7 people in Goshen. Then, a rag tag group of 6 young guys, no age greater than about 20 years old, showed up in mismatched shorts, and crazy Walmart t-shirts, and a mix of 5.11 gear and army-issued Alice packs. They had never done a GORUCK event before. 

The original 7 of us, all GORUCK veterans, were nervous. These guys did not look like they were ready for a Challenge.  Until…until they told us they were all future officers of the Army, Marine Corps and Navy. They were students at Norwich University, and rucking was a way of life for them. They were fired up, squared away, and came just to have a change of scenery.

We were warned this would be a very different GORUCK event. We would be moving very long distances, quickly, in darkness, up a mountain, in pretty rugged terrain.

Most of the Tough all you could do was put one step in front of the other on as we climbed our way up a 3,300 foot mountain in near total darkness. I was in my element - I do this on a regular basis on even rougher terrain in the mountains of New Hampshire. I served as team leader for a long, multi-hour movement up the mountain.  You always learn little leadership lessons as team leader.  Leaving no man behind, how to approach different situations, and not rushing to failure. The art of the tactical pause.

We hiked all night to the top of the mountain. We reached a beautiful view from the top of a ski lift, as the intense red sunrise crested over the dew-filled mountains. All we could see is a pillow of clouds covering the homes below. It was unreal. 
We descended the side of a ski slope rapidly. We saw a black bear. It appeared and left us along within seconds, but seeing a bear in the wild is exhilarating.  Cadre Bill, upon seeing the bear, got into a knife fighting stance from muscle memory. He is a well-trained warrior. 

We rucked, did a few challenges and rucked some more and made it home. In short, we had an awesome class - one of the best that we possibly could have. The challenge was very difficult, but I was in my element. I left satisfied, and really happy. Happy, because despite feeling like shit, I had more energy left in the tank and could have done another 12 hours.  I would not want to…but I could. My mental and physical strength was there.  Cadre Bill and Challenge Class 1637, thank you.

GORUCK FAD H[C]LS aka A Long Weekend

 

After Action Review following the pictures.

Tuesday, August 26, 16:20
I am going to embark on a GORUCK Heavy week.  As of tomorrow, I will complete GORUCK Firearms Day (FAD). 

Then, on Thursday, the fun starts. On Thursday afternoon, at 17:00, I will commence my GORUCK Heavy, which will last at least 24 hours and will cover at least 40 miles. Immediately following that, I will complete a GORUCK Challenge, which is another 12+ hours and 15+ miles. And following that, I will complete a GORUCK Light, which is 4+ Hours and 7-10 miles. Emphasis on the “+”.

Describing what I am about to do to anyone is nearly impossible. It will unquestionably be the hardest few days I have ever had in my life. The GORUCK Challenge I completed just two months ago was the hardest event I have ever completed And in just another day or so, I am going to quadruple it. More or less. 

I have the same feeling I would have if I was being sent to death row. My fate is sealed, so I am at peace. I have no worries. I know what I am about to complete is going to be painful and hard - a beatdown for my body. And yet, I have no worries.  Completing my mission is simple: I will not quit. That’s it. That’s my strategy. Things will hurt, things may bleed, but I will not quit. And I know that I will pass out before I die.

I can’t say I’m excited, because I’m not. I am going to suffer.  I will borrow the words from two great men. The first, David Goggins, which is currently on my “Last Mile” page: 

"How do you grow as a person by doing fun things? You grow by testing yourself, by testing your mind to go where it doesn't want to go. If you take the easy road, you get easy results. You don't expect anything out of yourself. If you take the hard road, and you make yourself get through it, you will expect more out of your everyday life. If you don't achieve and let people keep you down, you will stay down. Not me... I choose to get back up. I choose to look the unwanted in the face. I choose to go after the unwanted with a smile. I choose to suffer. And from suffering I grow.” - David Goggins

And from Thom Shea, another Navy SEAL, in his book Unbreakable:

“When you pick your path in life, you will have times when you mentally, physically, and emotionally hit exhaustion. There is no way around hitting it, and there is no way out of this rite of passage. I can safely say you will clearly hit it when you are committed to whatever you are doing. You might be the best at your profession, or just progressing your way up. Yet, you will hit this wall…

The solution lies within you. Don’t run and don’t hide from the pain, the feat, or the exhaustion.  Recognize you have created this path for yourself, and you need to be there. Those around you, too, need to be there as well. If you run and hide, they will, too. Or they will be forced to go without you. The loss may be enough to kill the whole effort. You count…'Do not fear dying. It only makes you weak.’…

I call this the language of ‘Committed Unattachment.’ In this language and way of being, you are fully committed to your goal and unattached to your emotions, pains, the whims of others, or even the occasional failure.  Distractions don’t throw you off, rather don’t throw off your Internal Dialogue.  Mastering Internal Dialogue is your unbreakable life.”

During the event, my goal  is simple: I will be an excellent individual.  I will be the best teammate, helping everyone I can, when I can. I will not quit. We will not quit.

Wednesday, August 27, 21:03
I completed GORUCK Firearms Day (FAD).  It was awesome.  It was crazy, because when  I first arrived, I met a man named “Jason.” Of course, I sheepishly asked…”McCarthy?”  He replied yes.  I was in awe that he was even there. The average Hollywood celebrity means absolutely nothing to me. But meeting a great soldier and entrepreneur - I was starstruck.  He’s humble as can be.  But I digress.

I met the other instructors - The Machine (Israeli SF), Garrett (US Army SF) and Mocha Mike (US Army SF / Ranger), and they helped get us squared away.  Just a brief bit of background - I have some comfort with my Glock 22 that I own, but I just learned to shoot a few months ago. So I am not particularly good and I know I have a lot to learn. 

We started, as any firearms course does, with basics. Gun functioning, etc. We started with basic dry firing drills, basic live fire drills, and continually working our way up to shooting and moving, gun malfunctions, buddy drills, etc. After 9 hours and about 325 rounds fired, I felt like my knowledge, on a scale of 1-10, went from a 2 to an 8.  It does not mean my skills are that high yet, but my confidence is higher and I feel like the rest is mastering the fundamentals, as well as learning additional techniques.

Awesome day. I left much more competent and confident, tired, and wishing I could do that every day. Now, though, I have refueled, rehydrated, and am preparing for the HCLS.

Saturday, August 30, 07:32
I completed Heavy 045 yesterday.  And now, as I  write this, I just finished 12 hours of sleep, a big breakfast, and just enough time to process some of what went on yesterday. My body is in pain just about everywhere - my hands are scraped, my legs are chafed, my feet have a few hotspots, and my shoulders…don’t get me started on my shoulders.  And yet… and yet, I just completed the toughest 24 hours of my life.

I had the pleasure of hanging out at HQ a bit beforehand, relaxing and just chatting with a few members of the GORUCK Team.  Then the time came. At 17:00, we were all in formation. Our rucks were weighed.  Then, the PT test. 

This is my first “tip” for participating in a GORUCK Heavy: 

SHL TIP #1 If you’re not in decent enough shape to pass the PT test, don’t sign up for a Heavy.  Many of the people who struggled during the PT test struggled during most of the event.  I wish they had just quit. 

PT test over, we had our first team leader assigned and then moved to the beach for our 12 mile timed ruck. The ruck was to be completed in 3.5 hours, in silence, on Jacksonville Beach. The sun was setting as we began the ruck.  It was by far the most peaceful part of the day for me. We headed south down the beach. To the east, the ocean. To the west, some of Jacksonville’s most beautiful homes. 

During our ruck, we lost our first team member to a seizure. It was a bit surreal. It was dark, and people jumped into action quickly. We had to clandestinely cross very expensive private property in the middle of the night to figure out exactly where we were and get the ambulance in the proper spot.

It felt like it took 20-30 minutes before we got back to the ruck.  I remember at some point making a water stop before continuing on the ruck. It was 90+ degrees when we started, probably low eighties / high seventies during the ruck, and the ocean was just 10 feet away.  All I could think of was how good it would feel to just take a nice dip in the water. But that pleasantness would not come for a long while. Eventually, definitely more than 3.5 hours later, it was over. (I also think it was more than 12 miles, but I could never prove it.)

Then the fun began. Our welcome party, if you will.  I take intense pleasure in getting beat down, much more so than rucking.  I love the beatdowns -  it’s like going to the gym with Special Forces guys.  They’ll smoke you until they get bored, do it again, then it’s over and you’re just that much stronger. Finally, a smokeshow, I remember thinking.  Cadre Mocha Mike was there waiting for us. I had met him the previous day at FAD. In terms of the few Cadre I have met, I respect him the most. He just has something about him - he’s one of those guys I just like. Simultaneously the meanest motherF and nicest guy I know. He actually reminds me of my dad in that way.

But I digress.  Cadre Mocha Mike informed us we had received the worst 12 mile ruck time in the history of GORUCK.  I actually think he was probably correct. We were in some shady parking lot, and all I remember is getting beat down in the dark. Over and over. Lots of bear crawls. Amongst other things.  All I remember is the flesh on my hands tearing apart despite wearing gloves. My hands would be in pain for the next 20+ hours, and there was not much I could do about it. I remember our team’s frustrations. The first people losing some of their mental strength.  Someone quitting shortly thereafter.  Me? I was loving it.

I don’t remember exactly what happened next. I remember more rucking and more beatdowns throughout the night.  I remember those who had done Heavies before saying that this was the worst one by far. I remember seeing many miserable faces. 

I know that at some point during the night, I was selected team leader by the Cadre.  The good, first;  after my leadership term was up, and after the Heavy, I received a lot of positive feedback from both the Cadre and my team about my term as leader. That’s the good. The bad: I fucked our team a few times with my leadership decisions, which really, really sucks. My first decision: estimating how much time we would need to make a 3 mile ruck with a lot of sandbags on sand.  I guessed 55 minutes, thinking an 18 minute pace really wouldn’t be too tough. Cadre Jesse all but laughed in my face, and “encouraged” me to pick a higher number. I did: 1 hour 20 minutes, and off we went. 

You learn a lot about being team leader with a group of almost 50. You need very good systems to ensure people move in formation, that weight is shifted around frequently, and we move in the most efficient manner possible.  One of the girls in our class provided an excellent suggestion for moving weight around, but I fucked up the implementation of the system. We also missed our time hack due to breaks and such.  If I had to give myself a rating, it would be a C+, which is a failure. A- rounds down in the GORUCK world.

We eventually got to our next point, which is where another beatdown commenced. The Machine and Cadre Garret delivered us some fun. One team member quit.  But my proudest moment of the day came here.

One of the guys in the group who had done some Heavies said this sucked the most of any GORUCK event he had done, and he told the Cadre he was going to quit. I remembered one piece of advice I had heard from a SEAL, which is never to quit at night: once the sun comes up, everything is OK again.  So, I had a chat with my teammate and soon-to-be friend, and I told him exactly that. Something like, “Hey, this sucks. I know. You know.  But whatever happens, you are not allowed to quit at night. If  the sun comes up  and you feel the same way, then so be it. But just make it through the night.” 

The sun came up. And I couldn’t have had a bigger smile on my face when he received his patch later that evening.

But there  were a lot more beatdowns and rucking during the night. It was anything but pleasant, and it felt like it would never end. Our team, quite simply, did not work together very well.  There was a very combative energy. We knew it. The Cadre knew it. We were punished for it. Repeatedly.

I remember seeing the sun rise. Lights turning on in the houses. Some people fishing, others preparing for a day at the beach. I was carrying a 45 pound ruck and another 40# sandbag, having been rucking and getting smoked by former SF for the past 12 hours. What else could be better?

Most of what happens after this is pretty fuzzy.  I remember rucking along the beach and seeing three very muscular dudes in the distance.  I remember thinking it was strange that three big guys would be up so early on a Friday morning.  It wasn’t any three dudes: it was Cadre Aaron, Cadre Jesse and another Cadre (it all blurs together at this point). Time for Beach PT. Not pleasant. 

I think some more rucking. Some getting into the water.  Lots of complaining, and still what my father would say, “piss poor” teamwork. 

SHL TIP #2: Don’t fucking complain. Work as a team, complete the task as efficiently as possible. Life will be much easier in GORUCK. Otherwise you’ll just keep suffering.

Lots of people on the beach.  The Cadre found the craziest tree log I have ever seen. It had been uprooted and looked just like something out of a horror film. Naturally, we carried it. At one point, through a few feet of ocean water. Dangerous, and also unpleasant. Lots of stares from bystanders.  

I remember we did 50 thrusters to earn the opportunity to stop carrying the tree. Easy sell. 

At some point, probably before the tree, someone had to do a “half gallon challenge” - drink a half gallon of milk in under 5 minutes, so we could get rid of 2/3rds of our sandbags.  Our teammate succeeded. We were happy. 

I felt the shittiest during this part of the day. I was never going to quit, but I was a borderline useless teammate. I carried my ruck and occasionally a light sandbag. I thought I would pass out. Well, I knew I wouldn’t pass out, but I was hoping I would. I had never felt that bad, and it was getting into my head. Everything was hurting. Everything. 

I remember we crossed over to “the pier.”  We were given our first mission. Three giant rocks were a pilot and co-pilot, as well as equipment. The lightest rock was about 175#. The heaviest rock was about 300#.  We had a few pieces of rope, and we had to figure out how to move the rocks an unknown distance and direction. We had in total around 20-30 minutes to work as teams and get the idea executed.  We did, although it was not pleasant. We carried the rocks maybe a half mile on some back streets near the beach. Rock carrying aside, you really appreciate concrete after being on sand all day.

More complaining ensued. Discord amongst the team. Some folks grey  manned it as we carried heavy rocks. Finally made it to the objective, which was a pretty shitty undeveloped lot next to a restaurant. We received new orders from there, and we were supposed to move again. Unable to form up in time, we had to do several rounds of pushups in fire ant infested grass. Not pleasant, but apparently forming two lines is a very difficult task. 

We carried the rocks again, this time to the beach under the pier. It took waaaay too long to get about 100 meters. More complaining.  Under the pier, we got another stern talking to, and moved over to the water to get wet. After that, we did buddy drags, wheelbarrow, and other hard yet sort of fun beach exercises. Mostly, though, it was just miserable.  We were 24 hours in or so at this point, and the punishment, which was all due to poor teamwork, would not stop.

Even though we knew the 24 hours were up, we had not finished moving our rocks, so we were anticipating more punishment.  We got about knee deep in the water to form a tunnel of love. I was the first person through, and once a wave came, you simply couldn’t  breathe because the water was pretty deep. They moved us closer to the beach so no one would drown.

At the end of the tunnel, the light. The Cadre Mocha Mike with our Heavy patch.

Some reflections on the Heavy, starting with my top 3 tips:
-If you’re not fucking in decent enough shape to pass the PT test, don’t fucking sign up for a Heavy. It’s not easy.
-Don’t fucking complain. Work as a team, complete the task as efficiently as possible. Life will be much easier in GORUCK. Otherwise you’ll just keep suffering.
-Prepare mentally. It’s going to hurt either way, so make it fun. Worst case scenario, you’ll pass out.

Most importantly, though, is that we are capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for.  When you enter a 24 hour suckfest like the Heavy , don’t limit yourself to what you think you can do. Just do. It’s that simple. Don’t think “Well, I’ve only done one challenge before, and this is 2x as long.” Don’t think you can only carry Y amount of weight over Z distance. Just take each evolution one step at a time. Don’t worry about what has passed, or what you might have to do next. Just do that moment, and you’ll get through it. Thrive through it. And with a smile on your face.

Sunday, August 31, 18:27
At this point, I have finished my GORUCK weekend.

The Challenge. I skipped the challenge.  Meaning, I failed.  As Cadre Mocha Mike said, the time most people quit during Ranger school is the moment they have to re-lace up their boots and go out again. My story is quite simple. After the Heavy, I had bloody chafing all over my inner thighs. I had never chafed before and had nothing to fix it. And the palms of my hands were bleeding and and becoming painfully pussed. That, and having completed my main mission of the Heavy, I took an 11 hour nap. Excuses, excuses, excuses. I should have just done it.

Do I regret not doing the challenge? A little. But I learned some valuable lessons - I’ll do another HCL / HCLS one day.

The Light. I did make it to the Light. I don’t have a long AAR to write, because from my understanding, it was very different from most Lights. It was a pirate themed party and we searched for treasure.  There was some relatively easy beach PT, and lots of Zodiac fun in the ocean. The highlight - our team won the treasure hunt.

The best part, actually, was after the Light. I’m not sure what time the Light ended, but as the evening waned down, drinking with the Cadre for several hours was awesome. Not having a watch, I was at HQ drinking until almost midnight.  

SHL TIP# 4 - If you have the opportunity to talk to Cadre when they are not beating you down, DO IT. The Cadre are some of the most inspiring people I have ever met. It is an honor just breathing the same air as them.

The Scavenger. At this point, I have few words to write.  We had a fun team comprised of HCLS / HLS-ers.  We drank a lot. Bribed people. Dressed silly. Drank more. Had some fun. 

Endex.

To the GORUCK Community: It has been an honor and a pleasure joining the community this past weekend. It was only my second event, and I was in awe after the first one.  Jason McCarthy wrote, "We have two grades, A and F and A- rounds down. Excellence is the standard and please hold us to it.”  Well Jason, you received an A. And I’m a tough grader.

To the Cadre: If I died tomorrow, I would die with a smile on my face just knowing you all exist. Words cannot express how grateful I am to have interacted with you this weekend. 

See you all again soon.

One Team, One Fight. GORUCK Challenge.

After Action Review follows the pictures.

Friday 6/20/14 @ 16:30 - Portland, Maine
I am about to embark on a Goruck Challenge in 4.5 hours. I feel intensely calm. I am physically in the best overall shape I have ever been.  

I don’t know much of anything that will come starting at 9:00pm and will last until the next morning. That, for some, may be a scary thought, but why be afraid of the unknown?  I will take whatever is thrown at me one evolution at a time. My ruck is packed. The starting line is close.

I have been mentally and physically preparing for this day for months now. While I am physically strong, it is my mental control that will guide me.  I expect things to be tough, in fact it will be the toughest training I have ever completed.  But that’s all it is - tough. I will not quit. I will be an example for the team, always helping out when I can. I will not fail.

Saturday 6/21/14 @ 19:33 
I completed the Goruck Challenge. Some of the beginning beach work was tough. In fact, I held back a bit at the beginning, which I should not have.  I lost mental control the first hour in. But once I got my groove, all I can say is it was mostly smooth sailing.  By smooth sailing I mean the hardest 13.5 hours of my life.  We were cold, wet and sandy within the first 30 minutes, and continued that way until the end.

Log carries, buddy carries, team weights, extra rucks, bear crawls, log  pt and 21 miles of rucking until you can’t feel your shoulders, legs or feet.  All said, I enjoyed it, and had a smile on my face  My physical - and more importantly mental - training has paid off. I still have a long way to go. Up the training, up the events, up the toughness.  

My body feels like hell and a half. But I earned it. 

One Day Later
The Goruck Challenge was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have completed.  Much harder than a marathon, by orders of magnitude.  I couldn’t be happier.  It’s weird. All I can think of is…what’s the next hardest thing I can do? Easy day.

There were some particularly interesting things to me about the Goruck Challenge:

It is a team event.  You start as an individual, but they beat that mode of thinking out of you pretty dang quickly.  You become a team real fast - it lowers the suck factor, as they say.  While most people showed up in pretty excellent physical shape, people’s mental weaknesses become very apparent as things got difficult.  Conversely, some team members showed such a presence of mind during the toughest moments it was inspiring. Me? I won’t consider myself the toughest person out there, but I sure as hell had a big smile on my face pretty much the whole day.  I told bad jokes, sang bad songs (Katy Perry, Lion King, Sesame Street, Eminem), just whatever I could to keep my mind off the unpleasantness. I mean, the suck is inevitable, so why not have some fun with it?  All pain melts away when the class is chanting Go Ruck or One Team, One Fight at god knows what hour in the morning while buddy carrying through downtown Portland.

  • I peed on myself more times than I can count. At a certain point, it doesn’t matter. My hands were sandy, I was cold and wet…so peeing on myself was simply easier and more warming than trying to hold my shriveled and sandy member.  
  • I have years it said many times, but you you are capable of much more than you think you are. I carried more and more weight, offered every opportunity I could to help with a team weight, buddy carry, hold the log, etc. Not because I am special, but because after a while, I realized my shoulders weren’t falling off my bod, and my legs still worked.  Limits are learned.
  • Cadre Brad is a boss. I couldn’t have asked for a better intro to GORUCK.
  • If I had to plan it all again, I probably would have made a few changes.  I would have worn my lightweight combat boots - less sand in the shoes. I would have practiced rucking with more weight - the minimum ruck weight is your pack - usually a lot more than that. I would have done more PT with the ruck. Bear crawls, flutter kicks, etc are much harder with a ruck. 

All in all, the Challenge is done. Next up - Goruck Heavy…or better yet, an HCL. Cant wait.  Thanks class 1069. 

I hate the water, but I am an Open Water Scuba Diver.

I am terribly uncomfortable in the water. I am a bad swimmer. I don't float particularly well. I haven't lived on a coastal area in my life (NYC does not count). I am nervous on boats, nervous on the beach, nervous flying over water, nervous in pools.

One of the most inspirational humans to me, David Goggins, says:

"You grow by testing yourself, by testing your mind to go where it doesn't want to go. If you take the easy road, you get easy results. You don't expect anything out of yourself. If you take the hard road, and you make yourself get through it, you will expect more out of your everyday life. If you don't achieve and let people keep you down, you will stay down. Not me... I choose to get back up. I choose to look the unwanted in the face. I choose to go after the unwanted with a smile. I choose to suffer. And from suffering I grow."

I agree. And even though I do not like the water, I want to be good in it and at it. So I booked a week long trip to Malta, in order to become an Open Water Diver. This means becoming scuba certified for dives down to 18 meters/60 feet. 

The OWD certification is not hard, per se, but not easy either. Most of the scuba learning is how to handle everything that can go wrong while diving. Which is actually very stressful, particularly for someone who is not great in the water, and well, hates it.

Much of the training involves mask problems, buoyancy issues, handling faulty equipment, etc - all while deep underwater. What happens it you run out of air?  What if you cannot equalize the pressure in your head? Can you take off all your equipment while underwater and put it back on again?  It's not fun. Nonetheless, I did it. I was not great, but I did it. Passed the tests, the stress, didn't panic, and even had a little fun down under the sea in Malta. 

This represented a big step in my quest to conquering water. I will next like to improve my comfort on the surface, becoming a better swimmer, drown-proofing myself, and eventually getting to the level I could do a triathlon.  That may take a while, but I will do it.  In fact, I'll probably hate every minute of it, but sometimes "I choose to suffer. And from suffering I grow."

Rough Creek [Ultra]Marathon

Thoughts following the pictures.

Again, I failed.  I attempted the Glen Rose, Rough Creek Lodge 40 miler.  I ended my journey 27 miles in.  I think I could have walked the last 13 miles, but it would have taken another 4 hours or so and I needed to meet someone in Dallas.  The course was very difficult, but fun nonetheless. 

I completed the marathon distance in 5:17:35, in line with the second-place woman. I would have been 11th or 12th overall.  Would have.  I signed up for, and fully intended to complete the 40 mile distance. Cramps, cuts, bleeding, pain, falling and more later I knew the end would take much longer than I had budgeted.  The course, as I mentioned before, had a four-mile stretch that I could only walk on.  By walk, I mean slide down some of the hills and dig my hands into the rock to climb up.  It was tough.  Good, but tough.  A new experience for me.  I wish I had more thoughts about the race, but I don’t.  It was long and hard (insert that’s what she said joke) but that’s about it.  I’ve never been this sore.

But, as always, look forward to the next one.

Marine Corps Marathon - Washington, D.C.

Completed in 3:27:05. Commentary following the pictures.

Friday, October 28, 2:55 pm
I am currently on the train to D.C., less than 48 hours until my Marathon.  And of course, right now I am in Wilmington, Delaware. Just five months ago I attempted to complete the marathon in this city.  I failed. Now is not the time to recount those failures. But I find it so fitting that I must venture through this very city yet again on the road to Washington D.C.  

Saturday, October 29, 2:50 pm
I'm currently in a car driving around in the snow. I figure now would be an appropriate time to reflect on the marathon tomorrow.  I am ready for it to be done, am ready to get on with my life.  The race does not worry me. It is going to be a long, cold morning.  I will simply will myself to complete it. No tricks, no games. I will simply run 26.2 miles as fast as I can. That simple.

Sunday, October 30, 4:05 am
It is marathon morning. Four hours from now I will be running in a cold Washington D.C. 26.2 miles – it’s such an arbitrary distance. Nonetheless, it is what we call a marathon. A long run.  It will hurt. So what. About 3 hours 20 minutes later, it will be over. And I will be a runner.

3:07 pm
It is over. Mission complete. 26.2 miles done.  My time sucked, but given he conditions I'll take it. 10 miles in I was flying, until I felt a sharp pain shoot up from my right knee. It was bad enough for me to stop. I have never felt something like that while running. Oh well.  Then, another mile later, I felt a sharp pain in my left knee.  Mind you, I have another 15 miles to go...almost two hours. And every step was going to be incredibly painful.  

I had a decision to make: drop out, or run through it. I came with a mission, and I wasn't leaving without completing it. Another few miles, my feet began to hurt, badly. My shoe was too tight.  I screwed up tying it at the beginning because by the time the race started, it was so cold I couldn’t feel my feet.

Yet I kept going. Sometimes running, sometimes shuffling. 23 miles. 24 miles. Almost there, but the pain intensified.  25 miles. Then, there it was, 26 miles.  I cried I was so happy. But I still had to get there.

26 miles done. .2 left...almost straight uphill.  Shuffle some more. Can barely stand. The pain is worse now it's over. My body temperature collapses. Yet, I am done.

Other anecdotes
The Bridge (Miles 20 and 21)
A true gut check. It was unquestionably the toughest part of the marathon. While it was flat, it was completely deserted.  Everyone around you is in pain. Walking, cramping, dropped out.  There was no one there. No marines, no spectators. Just me and my pain. Alone. Step after step. Cold, pain, alone, unforgiving.  

After the Finish
The end of the race may have been the worst part of the whole experience.  You cross the finish line, and all the pain you've been holding back floods your body.  Your body temperature drops, and your muscles cramp. You shiver, you’re thirsty and hungry, but it is hard to try to eat and drink. People say congratulations, and you thank them to be polite. But you feel empty. You leave a piece of you soul out there, never to return.  

5:41pm
I am sitting on the train headed home. What do I know?  First, that was unquestionably the hardest workout I have ever had.  And I can't wait until I am in good enough shape to do it again.

Second, there is no doubt I'll complete some ultra-marathons.  The more the merrier.

My First Marathon: 8th Annual Christiana Care Delaware Marathon

I have included the dates I wrote everything. I am going to present it all in one large post.  Here it goes:

5/12/2011
I am a few days away from my first marathon.  At this very moment, I am just ready to get it over with. I have no worries about the race.  I will finish.  In fact, let it be known that I will finish the race or die first.  My target time is 3 hours 20 minutes.  I have no doubt I will complete the time, solely because I am mentally far tougher than I was a few months ago. And I will continue to get stronger mentally.  I wish I could run the marathon tomorrow.

5/14 - Morning
In a little over 24 hours from now, I will have completed my first marathon.  That’s right, finished it.  Very encouraging.  

One of the best parts about running a marathon, well, running in general is that I get to eat lots of carbs. I am eating my day-before-the-race breakfast at this little place in Downtown Wilmington called Libby’s - it is an old, delicious, southern-food diner.

I ate eggs, pancakes, turkey sausage, and hash browns.  Perfect.  One of those meals where I could go home and pass out afterward for the rest of the day.  

5/14 - Evening
Just ate some veggie pizza. Nowhere on the level of even the worst NYC pizza, but such is life.

5/15
It is 4:15am on marathon morning. I have been up since 3:30am.  I am pumped, ready to go.  I can’t wait until 7am.  By 10:30am, I will have solidified my status as a runner.  

Running is a way of life.  Race mornings are among my favorite.  Obscenely early wake ups, careful pre-race preparation, warming up, and eventually the start.  Once you start racing, each step is a reflection of the all of the work you put in.  It wont be easy.  In fact, it will probably be quite painful. But I will complete it.

5/16
Yesterday, I ran in the Delaware Marathon.  Physically, I pushed myself harder than I ever have for any activity.  My feet burned. My legs cramped. My body was in total pain.  And I received the three worst letters in running: DNF.

What happened:  At mile 23 my muscles cramped so much that I could not move.  I failed my mission. I went to the hospital for dehydration. DNF.

How do I feel?
Physically, I feel like hell.  Every muscle in my body hurts. It hurts to walk. It hurts to sit. My left foot feels broken, but only time will tell. I had some abnormalities from my blood work, and I will go to a doctor just to make sure I’m ok.

Mentally.  That is a tough one.  I am devastated I did not finish.  From miles 18-23 my feet burned and my legs cramped.  I was running through more pain that I have ever experienced in my life.  I wish I could more eloquently describe it. I wash pushing my body harder and faster than I have had before, and the only thing getting me through was the sheer determination to finish. That’s it.

Now the positive news.  I can’t wait to do this again.  I am itching to get out there and run.  Even if I know that next marathon I will end up in the hospital again, and feel twice as bad as I do now, I will cross that finish line.

A special shout out:
I ran the whole marathon until DNF with a great man named Jack Ryle.  Funny how running you can make friends.  Your company was appreciated, and you helped me get through as far as I did.  Also Jack’s friend Andy.  I don’t know who you are, but someday I hope we meet again.  That you so much for hanging out with me until the paramedics came.  I really, really appreciate it.

5/22 - One Week Anniversary 
Today marks one week of recovery from the marathon. I have done some very light jogging, biking and lifting since the race ended a week ago.  I am still in a lot of pain, particularly my left hip and left foot, but it gets better by the day.  At the same time last week, I was being transported to a hospital.

I have had a lot of time to think since the race.  It eats me up that I failed.  I keep replaying what I would have done differently, and there’s not much I would have changed about that day.

I am ready race again.  By the time the next race happens (I’m thinking Yonkers Marathon in September) I will be a fit machine, and a better hydrated one.  I will be training all summer with a hydration pack.  I am going to run fewer days a week and focus on lifting and spinning classes. Maybe I’ll spring for a bike, but I haven’t decided yet. 

All the hard training for the race was essential, but the rest of my body got weak.  My upper body strength is not what it used to be. I want to do a few various runs during the week and at least 18 miles every weekend. Seems like a reasonable plan.  Well, even if it’s not you can’t stop me.  See you in the park. 

5/22 - On Tapering
For my first Marathon, I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate marathon training plan.  Part of the plan recommends a 20 miler 3 weeks before the marathon, followed by a 12 miler two weeks before and an 8 miler the weekend before. More importantly, your mileage leading up to the marathon is significantly reduced. 

As you know, I did not finish my first marathon. But that was due to dehydration.  The plan itself was good.  Despite my pain, running was the 23 miles was not particularly difficult from a fitness standpoint.  It hurt like hell, but I have little doubt I would have made it three more miles if I were properly hydrated.

The three weeks of tapering was the most difficult part. You feel like you are losing your fitness, and their came a point where I didn’t care about running anymore.  It became a burden.  I loved the long runs – I don’t know what it is about them, but they were great.  But the waiting, the countdown, the weeks of rest instead of pushing yourself – those were the worst.  Dehydration aside, I was completely prepared for the race physically.

I do think I will taper only two weeks next time. Three weeks was too many.