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A Marauder's Story

16 Posts tagged with the forerunner tag

The Goruck Challenge

Posted by Superfiend May 5, 2011

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Goruck Challenge:


It will take me some time to fully process the breadth of this accomplishment. I am now the proud owner of a well-earned GR2 bag and a TAC hat with the widely-sought-after Goruck Tough patch.


Peter and I had been spending time together in preparation for the event. Spending Friday waiting for the hour to come was excruciating. We passed the time and then eventually got to organize our materials. Here is a look at what I brought:


I was fortunate enough to be allowed to record the data from the challenge, and I will go into some detail about it as I describe the experience. There was a short period where I lost the GPS signal, which I would attribute to the frequent switching of rucks during the run. For the most part the data came out really well. The most impressive piece, in my opinion, is the route as represented by the GPS markers.

4-30-11 Goruck Map jp.jpg

That imposing red line represents almost all of our cadre’s movement over the course of the morning.


Rucking Of Where Everybody Knows Your Name, But No One Cares

The event began in earnest at the ruckoff which took place at Cheers on Beacon Street. We were fortunate to have the entire back room reserved for us, and people filed in as the night progressed. The first few were nervous enough before two towering figures strode into the room. An awed hush came over the group as we realized their TAC hats were adorned with already worn-in Goruck Tough patches. They introduced themselves and soon became the topic of the majority of the conversations. We sat and talked about our apprehensions, anxieties, experiences and hopes. It was a good bonding experience, outside of the obligatory name-game about which most people, save Sarah – our motivational “mouth-made-for-pain” Goruck girl – seemed relatively ambivalent.


The ruckoff lasted from 9pm to around 12:45am Saturday morning. There were 20 of us before 12:30am, and then the final ten showed up as a group. We rallied and brought our things out to the sidewalk to await Jason and Brian. They arrived before long, pulling up in their jet-black Escalade and strutting down the sidewalk like bosses. Handshakes were exchanged briefly and sporadically before we were organized and the lectures began. Our bricks were to be inspected and everyone was to be given a GR bag.


I was thankful to have some friends join me for the beginning of the event who were willing to tote my discarded things home for me. I cleared out the unnecessary things from my standard backpack and soon thereafter began the transfer into my stiff new GR2. In a moment of panic I realized that I had forgotten to take my hydration pack out of my other bag and put it in my GR2. Luckily my friends hadn’t left and I retrieved it from them.


Our group weight was provided by Rod Butler’s saint of a wife who found it in her heart to bake us 25lbs of cookies. There were 30 individual Ziploc bags of cookies to be distributed to the cadre.


Soon everyone had their bags packed and we went through the logistics of signing the waivers. Jason ran through some basic, sparse details about the ideology of the challenge. He hesitated, looked around, screwed up his face, and went to the back of the truck muttering something about another ruck. He pulled out a GR2 and began loading it with some horrific slabs of what looked like lead. After fiddling with it for a moment he stood up, looked it over, asked out loud “Hm, is that heavy enough?” Silence. He looked at the group, raised his eyebrows and playfully said “Nope.” Some more slabs were added to the bag that would become known as “The Bítch”. Our group lined up along the sidewalk and Jason placed The Bítch in front of us. He said simply “29 rucks, 29 guys”. We all looked around stupidly. His eyes narrowed. “I see 30 rucks. We’re leaving with 29 rucks and 29 guys. Get it together!” His tone was sterner and perhaps even angrier than an exclamation point can express. We slowly converged on the bag and began emptying one of the borrowed bags to distribute its contents among us. The Bítch was born and saddled. It quickly became clear that Jason would be accompanying us instead of Brian, as I had originally been told.


I will not deign to describe Jason for those of you who don’t know him. Very simply, it comes as no surprise that his personality spawned something as profoundly progressive as the Goruck Challenge. I greatly appreciated his leadership and dedication to our team cohesion.

Unceremoniously, we began. The run commenced with a light jog into the Commons.


Figure Eight That Shít Out – Your System Sucks

We traipsed along through the Commons with no recognizably consistent pace, no formation and no regard for Jason’s various instructions. He would occasionally shout “Go!” to which we would either respond with awkward silence or someone would shout “Ruck!?” Jason was unforgiving in realizing that we had no idea how to organize ourselves into a reasonable line. We also had no idea what the “Go” command meant. He stopped us in front of the water and berated the group for being incompetent. We were facing him with our backs to the water and he told us to take a step backward. Everyone stepped to the ledge of the pond. He said “Take a BIG step” with a twinge of contempt in his yet untrusting voice. In the water we went. He went on to explain what we were going to do for some indeterminate period of time.


Jason described this portion as “Doing figure-eights”, which puzzled everyone. The nature of this devilishly clever exercise would soon become uncomfortably familiar. There is a footbridge across the pond in the center of the Commons. We were to form a two-by-two line and do bear crawls along the bridge until we reached the stairs at the end which lead down to the lower level. We would descend one flight of stairs, crawl under the bridge, ascend the other set of stairs, and then go back across the bridge to repeat the pattern at the other end; hence the 8-shaped portion on the GPS readout. At the beginning of this exercise we were instructed to perform all movement as bear crawls. It was explained that there were snipers around and that no one, unless called upon, should stand.


We were finally told what the “Go” command meant: each time he calls this out, two of us from the back are to move to the front of the line. The partners are meant to remain the same. Jason left it to us to figure out how to best coordinate this movement and it took our group an inordinately long time to come to a consensus which, at first, was a resounding failure. It was demoralizing and we paid for it with the skin of our hands and knees as we scrambled along on loose gravel and shards of glass from broken beer bottles. Our pace was inconsistent at first, but we were able to reduce it to something more accurately resembling a crawl, which serves to make the movement more difficult.


Eventually Jason decided that the crab-walk would be better suited for moving down the sets of stairs than the bear crawl. This was such a relief. If you’ve never tried a bear crawl, do it now. Look it up if you don’t know what it is and have no imagination. Now that you realize how that might feel on flat ground with no weight, just try to go up and down a set of stairs. Yes. Now imagine doing that fifteen times with a backpack full of bricks, pond water and any assortment of what Jason calls “useless bullshít” (food, for example).


I estimate from following the GPS markers that we went up and down those stairs at least fifteen times. At our pace, and with frequent setbacks, it took us about two hours to get our team to a point where Jason deemed us worthy of a dip. We lined up in front of the water again and locked arms. Suddenly we were on our backs in the water and were being told to flutter kick. I lost my mind and started yelling like a madman. I was euphoric. We kicked our way through the water from one end of the bridge to the other and then did about another half an hour of bear crawls on the stairs. I experienced a wonderfully grounded moment when I was waiting in the bear crawl pose. The pond water was dripping heavily from my GR2 into my face and it felt amazing. We continued the exercise for some time. Our pace and formation tightened and we eventually graduated to running. We were briefly praised by Jason saying that the Baltimore groups had taken three hours to organize themselves in this way, and that we had done better. We had no way to know if this was true, but it sure was reinforcing in the moment.


We began a shuffle-like trot around the pond, still straining to maintain a two-by-two formation. Jason began belting out his “Go!” commands, but we weren’t getting it. He stopped us and we were told that we were no longer allowed to talk while running. He was not happy and would give us some short period of time (ranging from 30 seconds to two minutes) to devise a system for our Indian Sprints (here again the idea that the back runners run up to the front on each “Go”). We spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide on a system and ended up failing again. We were punished with doing pushups and flutter kicks in the rocky dirt while Jason told us how “silly” it was. The flutter kicks absolutely killed my right Sartorius, but I did not stop. We were given another chance to find a working plan while listening to the faraway shouts of Jason exclaiming how much our system sucks.


While running, Jason would often shout two or three “Go” commands, so we had to devise a way for the people in the back of the line to know whether they were meant to run without looking around or talking. It took us a few tries before we decided on a shoulder/ruck-slapping method which seemed to do a passable job. A slap on the shoulder meant you run, a slap on the ruck meant you are now the last man in line. This was shaky at best, but we made it through. This method evolved with us throughout the morning, eventually becoming an effective method of counting off running placements. Without this basic skill we never would have been able to complete the various challenges to come.


Bounding for Breakfast

We ran around two full laps around the pond with general success at the Indian Run order which allowed us to graduate to the actual run itself. We left the commons and crossed over onto a footbridge leading to Storrow Dr on the Charles. We made our way into a little park and we were about to practice an exercise called Bounding.


We split off into four groups and were numbered. Groups 1/3 and 2/4 were paired, and were to run together and drop to the ground on command. The exercise was actually quite fun. Peter was in my group and was carrying The Bítch at the time. This made getting up considerably more difficult for him, and he was liable to topple over from the sheer weight of the pack. We were just beginning to enjoy ourselves when we were interrupted by a police cruiser which was prowling the park. They explained that the park is closed at night because there are “weirdoes” out at night. We grumbled our compliance and ran back across the footbridge onto Beacon Street. Jason nominated a navigator and we were off to see Fenway Park.


Fumbling through Fenway – Coupon Commencement

We went down along Arlington Street and someone asked to switch out The Bítch. I volunteered because I was feeling light and strong. Those feelings quickly dissipated with all that extra weight on my back. I still maintained my pace, and had only slightly more difficulty with the sprints. We turned onto Newbury Street and continued the length of it, enjoying the breadth of the deserted road as a nice contrast to a narrow sidewalk. We ran the length of Newbury and turned out onto Comm Ave. I handed The Bítch off and we briefly stopped under the Charlesgate Bridge for bladder relief and some refueling. We followed Comm Ave to Brookline Ave and Fenway was finally in sight at around 4:45am. We reached Lansdowne Street and Jason explained that we were going to do laps around the park. He also mentioned, in an off-hand unconcerned kind of way, that we were to begin our buddy-carries.


I don’t remember the exact ratio, but Jason chose a fraction of the group to be carried. I believe we began with six carriers. We took some time to determine who was the lightest and to exchange our rucks. It soon became clear that many of us didn’t know how to carry another person with any efficient technique. Jason told us to work it out, and one guy stepped up to explain the Fireman’s carry. We adopted this technique and worked our way around the park for the first time. I took turns with Peter, carrying him first. Some carriers were handing off their rucks to the others, while some preferred to leave theirs on to act as a sort of “shelf” on which the carried buddy could rest. We reached the other side of the park and I was no longer carrying or being carried. Jason spotted a burlap sack with one end wrapped in duct tape. He pointed at it and said “There’s our first coupon. Somebody grab it.” With a faint understanding of the coupon system from my obsessing over past Goruck pictures, I shouldered the bag and continued along. Coupons are essentially any object added to the group which comprises extra burden, typically chosen as a punishment but occasionally the result of Jason’s aimless whim. We went around the park once more and then rested from 5:12am to 5:18. We left the street corner and started to run again when Jason suddenly realized that we no longer had the sandbag coupon. Fortunately for us he brought this to our attention so early. We turned around, reclaimed the bag, and began again.


We stopped at a corner at 5:26 to check on Rod since his stride was locking up. Jason determined that he was carrying too much weight, so we took some bricks out of his ruck. Rod was not happy and one could easily tell from his frustrated sighs (which sounded suspiciously like the word “shít”), that he was even ashamed of himself. Not one person reproached him, and we were all very supportive. I gave him a high-sodium stroopwafel which I hoped would help loosen his cramp.


Muck, Mire and Mental Grit – Lifting Logs from the Fire Pit

We worked our way along Ipswich Road to some strange, muddy garden which is located behind the Charlesgate Bridge. By this point our team was bonding quite well. The shrill cries of Sarah, our inspirational Goruck diva, were profoundly inspirational. We trudged through the gardens, some of us still making a bizarre effort to avoid mud by balancing along haphazardly-placed boards, eventually making our way out to more water. Jason stopped us at the water and by this time he didn’t have to say anything for us to realize what he expected us to do. Brian, one of our group’s largest members and a Goruck veteran, took it upon himself to tackle the water first. This became one of the few instances during the run when his size became a hindrance to our group.


Brian was suddenly sucked into the water, knee-deep, in mud. The two guys following him were sucked in as well. Jason was standing at the rear of the group, idly surveying the area and remaining generally ignorant to the developments at the front. Suddenly he took an active interest and balked “Hey what the f*ck is going on up there? Why aren’t we moving?” Weak cries for mercy leaked from the front “We’re stuck in the mud-”, Jason interrupts, aloof and dismissive, “Well yeah-”, the stuck members and those pulling them out respond “-up to our knees…” Jason’s expression, for the first time, showed surprise. He expected us to simply slosh through the water. About face. With our larger, more ambitious members out of the mud, we stood around awaiting our next task. Jason indicated a wood pile.


We started picking it apart. Not knowing what we were expected to do, I pulled a thick branch off the pile. Jason barked “That is a disgrace to every class that has come before you.” I hastily tossed it back, ashamed and confused. It soon became clear that we were trying to find one of the legendary logs to be carried by our group. As we searched Jason expressed his lament at not being able to find a log during his scouting of the route. As if by magic we produced two horrific misshapen trunks from the pile. These awful arboreal antiques were scarred by fungus, decomposition and burns. Both touted significant weight from being waterlogged and dense. Their shape was as conceivably far from portable as they might have been; replete with jagged edges, bumps in inappropriate places, uneven weight distribution and flaky patches which provided the occasional ejection of ashes into the faces of the carriers. They were lovely and nothing made Jason happier than to see us shoulder them. He sounded like Donald Trump in his speech about the President’s birth certificate, “I’m so proud of myself. I was so upset earlier, like, I didn’t think we were going to have a log for these classes. It would have been the only Goruck class to not have a log and then BAM! there they were. I am so good.” He also was sure to mention that he was proud that we had thwarted a few “drug deals”, this judged by the number of shady characters hanging around in the gardens in the wee hours of the morning. One guy picked up a thick, awkward waterlogged stump, one picked up a large ball of cement, and another grabbed a sapling with its ball of earth clumped around the roots.



And so began the log saga. We carried those things for an hour and a half – over a total distance of approximately 1.5 miles according to my Forerunner. It felt a hell of a lot longer and farther than that.


We toted them from the park back into actual civilization. By this time the sun was up and people were out and about. We received plenty of dazzled stares and we took the opportunity to crack jokes. The streets began to refill with cars and the sounds of the city began to dwarf our grunts – “bítch noises”, according to Jason.


We worked our way along Massachusetts Ave, and faced the long bridge across the Charles. We picked up another coupon along the way, a Rock Band guitar controller, which although initially humorous was more of a logistical concern than anything. By the end of the challenge there was a general consensus to want to smash it. The view from the bridge was incredible and I took a few selfish peeks away from the group to savor the moment. The sunrise was just what I had hoped it would be, and it did indeed have the rejuvenating effect I expected. Jason furiously snapped some photos and teased us about being done when we reached the other side of the river.


When we made it to the other side it became clear that we were done with the logs. To say that we were happy to see them go would be a severe understatement. Despite our contempt we were considerably ginger about placing them on the ground to be handed off to the following cadres. It was almost 7am at this point, but our best guesses relied on judging by the sun’s position. We briefly rested before tackling our next undertaking.


Brian’s Brainchild and The Bítch – The Handoff from Hell

Jason took some time after the logs to explain what we were meant to do. “Your shoulder straps no longer exist. You will continue to do Indian Runs, but the rucks have to stay with their owner. Figure it out.” Renewed puzzlement. We stood bewildered for a moment before rallying and deciding to continue with our current system which had proven successful. So it began. We ran along the Charles, handing off the rucks to the person in front of us as we ran. Most of the handoffs were done by the top handle while the GR2s usually required cradling in both arms, especially The Bítch.


I’m going to take a minute to note that the right line, my side, was stuck with The Bítch for the ENTIRETY of this task. I assign no blame for this development; this is simply a digressional gripe.


It seemed like we endeavored to simply pass the rucks towards the front of the line at a steady rate regardless of when Jason was calling out “Go”. Peter was behind me and we generally kept a good rhythm, but there were a few instances where I simply neglected to turn and accept the ruck. This happened quite often. The rucks tended to bunch up, and it seemed like this happened for an especially long time when I was running while cradling The Bítch in my arms. Lovely. It helped that by this point Jason felt good enough about our group to be singing the refrain of an LL Cool J song at us. This chant of “Doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well” became something of a credo by morning’s end.


In my opinion we did really well with this exercise, and before we knew it we were on the banks of the Charles for a group photo. There was a short break on the steps of a Boston University Rowing Gym which we invaded for water and bathrooms much to the dismay of the hoity-toities inside. We were eventually locked out so we resorted to shamelessly pissing on their building. One guy was sent home by Jason. He had apparently injured himself and was not allowed to continue.


We continued the handoffs until we reached the John Weeks Bridge. Jason announced, much to our relief, that we were done with that portion. We stood in our two-by-two formation and he asked us how much we liked the shoulder straps on our Gorucks, to which we enthusiastically shouted our approval.

Jason floated alongside the group in long strides as we shuffled beside the Charles. He turned to us and said, “Hey why don’t we try something different?” We perked up because his tone sounded so positive and hopeful. He paused briefly to be sure that he had everyone’s attention. “How about Indian Runs? Go go go!”


He teased us some more about being done with the whole challenge, and quickly hit us with another exercise.


Shítty Silhouettes – Hahvahd Yahd

We stopped briefly and Jason asked for four of our biggest guys to step forward. It was eventually decided and Jason had them lie on the ground. He had one of our cadre members explain what we were meant to do. Essentially we had to drag the body of this large individual across the ground on Jason’s command. It did not work very well for us and the extent of our “large individual” (Brian)’s discomfort quickly became clear. After seeing the relative failure of this exercise, and judging the ground to be “shítty”, i.e. rife with sharp rocks, we left to continue our run.


We ran down John F. Kennedy Street towards Harvard, now in our standard two-by-two formation which actually felt like a relief. We made our way onto the campus itself while snide comments about the students being stuck-up nerds rung out contemptuously. We snaked through some small footpaths on the quadrangle before stopping on the steps of what I believe was their library. Jason pointed out a serpentine path along the steps and we ran up and down them. We stopped at the bottom and he allowed us a minute to rehydrate and refuel with our “lickies and chewies”, while warning us ominously about the danger of stopping at this point as it relates to muscle cramps. We left Harvard and made our way back onto the streets, crossing onto Massachusetts Ave. We stayed on this street for a long time, continuing our Indian Runs up the sidewalks while deftly avoiding parked bikes, benches and pedestrians. We stopped at a McDonalds to refill out hydration bladders. Another member was added to the “watch list”; his stride was shot. Both he and Rod now looked like they were wrestling an octopus on a conveyor belt but their determination inspired us. The break at McDonalds was too long and I felt bad for the first time during the challenge. Before too long we were off again, and our group pace leveled itself out.


We were 8.5 hours into the Challenge when Jason explained that “this isn’t the Harvard tour, is it? It’s the Boston tour, and we haven’t even seen the city. Let’s go do that.” And so we did.


Bawstin’s Brains, Bridges and Bottlenecks – Downtown Cadences and Faneuil “High-Knees” Hall

As we passed MIT the group’s snide comments about nerds were significantly more pronounced. We passed their edgy architecture and made our way out to the streets off-campus. We took the Longfellow Bridge back across the Charles and made our way towards the Commons again. This lead us into the heart of the city where our raucous cries of “TWO!”, “SEVEN!” and “GO!”, “RUCK!” were followed by supremely enjoyable echoes against the steel monoliths that surrounded our cadre. At one point we were running out of things to shout without feeling redundant and Pete broke into his own cadence – one with which I was familiar from our training run around Fresh Pond.


“My Grandmamma was Ninety-One! She did Goruck just for fun! My Grandmamma was Ninety-Two! She did Goruck better than you! Ninety-Three – better than me. Ninety-Four – out the door. Five – to stay alive. Six – just for kicks. Seven – up to heaven. Eight – at the pearly gates. Nine – doin’ Goruck, doin’ fine.”


Glorious. The cadre loved it, and it had a wonderful rallying effect on us all.


We stopped briefly at Faneuil Hall and some people needed to use the bathrooms. Jason decided that this was a good reason to make us do high-knees which hurt like hell. I remember wondering how long it could possibly take to use the damn bathroom, but I’m sure the pain in my Sartorius over exaggerated the amount of time that we were actually standing there jumping up and down. Some people were reduced to standing in place and slowly lifting one knee, then putting their foot down, and then slowly lifting the other. Some didn’t do it at all. We were definitely hurting by then. I took a moment to remove my shoes and clear the little rocks out of my socks which were doing a number on my feet. It felt so much better to have my shoes clear of the rocks, and the people who were using the bathroom did eventually come back out.


The Freedom Trail – That Green Piece of Shít

We converged on the Freedom Trail and followed it all the way out to Paul Revere’s House – another false end-point of the Challenge.

The path led out from the North End to some smaller streets which eventually became cobblestones. We did a decent amount of buddy carries on these smaller streets, and the ratio was increasing with each iteration. We were punished on more than one occasion for not securing more carriers by increasing the ratio.


Jason stopped us at the bottom of the hill which leads up to Paul Revere’s house and berated us on our organization into the buddy carries. We were forced to remain in the push-up position while he reprimanded us, and we organized ourselves into more groups. I decided that I wanted to carry someone for this portion – someone significantly larger than me. I told a guy near me, who is probably 30 pounds heavier than me, that I wanted to carry him up the hill. He seemed incredulous at first because he was one of the largest guys in our group and he had been shouldering a lot of the burdens throughout the Challenge. I explained that this was precisely why I wanted to carry him and he complied. We finally got our group ratio right, and I led the group with the guy piggybacking me. Jason walked along beside us and I looked up the hill and asked, “We’re going up to that green piece of shít, right?”

He laughed and said “It could be the most beautiful house in the world, but right now…”

“Yup, it’s just a piece of shít.” I replied.


I was moving fast and my buddy’s words of caution about the cobblestones filled my ears, but I heard nothing until he told me that I had passed the house. I had my sights set on the top of the small cobblestone hill, but it turned out that Paul Revere’s House was a small grey house on the right hand side and I had indeed passed it by about ten feet. I let the guy get off my back and I looked down at the rest of the group as they made their way up the hill. We regrouped on the sidewalk and Jason continued to tease us.


“We’re all done, right? That’s the end, right?”


I caught myself thinking, “Shít, I hope not.”


Finish Strong – Bunker Hill and The Navy Yard

We continued to follow the Freedom Trial as it led us across the Charlestown Bridge towards Bunker Hill. The Indian Runs continued.

It became clear to me that as we weakened as individuals, the team became stronger. This is the basis for the cadre’s evolution.

Sarah continued to root us on though her voice was strained and fading. Our two weakest members set the pace for the group by running in front. Most of us were out of water.


We made it to the other side of the Charles and snaked our way to Winthrop Street which leads up a small incline to Bunker Hill. We were rallied, and our pace quickened almost imperceptibly. We regrouped again at the base of the hill and made our way up together.




We stopped at the top of the hill for a group picture and some preemptive celebrations.


We were not quite done. After some milling around we shouldered our rucks once again and headed downhill towards the Naval Yard.

It soon became clear to the entire class that our end point would be the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned vessel in the Navy, having been named by George Washington.


The cadre emerged onto the Yard at just before noon. Jason explained that in order to complete the Challenge we had to “finish strong”. This meant a full 50/50 ratio, everyone is either being carried or carrying someone. During past buddy carries we were able to hand our rucks off to others to reduce the weight. Now we were contending with multiple coupons, the full weight of all of our rucks, and a buddy carry. We picked up our buddies and some strange noise disseminated from the Yard. The din grew louder and I lifted my head to see that the tourists were all cheering for us. I looked at the cadre and we all shared the same desperate goofy smile. There is no eloquent way to describe the simple pride we experienced as one.


Our group seemed ready and we made our move for the finish – the vessel as she sat in the harbor. Just as I found a rhythm Jason cried out for us to stop. I turned to see one of our injured lying on the ground with Sarah kneeling at his side. We regrouped and he insisted on carrying her to the end. We let him, but stayed close. I readjusted my two rucks, re-shouldered my buddy, and we were off again. One-by-one we reached the gate in front of the USS Constitution and the finishers before me let the carried buddy back down to Earth. I soon followed suit and was finally allowed to revel in the culmination of our evolution.


I estimate our total time to be 11 hours over a distance of approximately 18 miles (distance calculated by the GPS trackers and filling in the gaps with a path marker tool).


Initial Reaction

My pride for the group’s performance is still burgeoning and it serves as a consistent reminder of our accomplishment. The lessons of unity and trust are undeniably salient and serve as the fundaments for the Challenge’s very philosophy.


I’ll take a moment to briefly describe my impression of the Challenge as I realize – with pride – that my language to this point has been very collectivistic.

I felt strong throughout the event and didn’t realize just how focused I was until I allowed myself to relax. My concentration was set at a firm 100% from the moment we stepped into the Commons to the moment I put my buddy down in the Yard. I experienced one mental lapse after the event (briefly forgetting Brian’s name), but only for a moment. Admittedly it only deteriorated from there until I was truly able to rest, but I find this development remarkable.


My voice was absolutely destroyed from all the yelling we did. I didn’t realize how much I had been yelling until the event was over. Three days later I still sounded like some contemptible septuagenarian harridan who has been chain-smoking since her teens.


My shoulders were severely sore for two days after the challenge. I attribute this mostly to shouldering the logs and simply the prolonged support of the ruck itself. Two days after the Challenge my right bicep and forearm were sore from the handoffs.


Otherwise I experienced no issues. My ankle held up with no concerns. Even my left knee, which would sometimes be tender after a longer run, showed no signs of fatigue. I found that I was very well prepared for the Challenge as a whole – mentally and physically.


Jason made it clear that he is very consistent in “underpromising” and “overdelivering”. We received far more as a group than I could have imagined, and it has instilled in me the thirst for more. I will be signing up for future Challenges. It is humbling to realize just to what extent this achievement is collective, as compared to something distinctly individual like a mind-numbing road race or competitive mud run.


I have attributed my athletic endeavors over the past months to a desire to find my limits. This experience has helped me to realize how much more might be accomplished as a team. I was deeply honored to be a part of this shared evolution.




**Photos courtesy of my friends Whitney and Gopi; and Jason's shots of the Challenge.

3,365 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: running, weight, endurance, challenge, pt, bear, heart, gps, garmin, green, heart_rate, buddy, forerunner, tough, go, carry, goruck, weighted, ruck, crawl, carries, beret

Shfifty Shfive

Posted by Superfiend Apr 28, 2011

I have been tapering down my training in preparation for Goruck in addition to carb-loading. My training has been reduced to 50 pushups and 100 lunges every day and nothing more. My diet remains consistent and I generally feel good. My right ankle worries me a bit, but it seemed to hold up fine during the mock run.


Pete will be joining me tonight for some high-intensity hill sprints on Summit Ave so we can wipe out our glycogen stores. Everyone is extremely enthusiastic about taking on the Challenge. I was pleased to have recently experienced the familiar, unnamable dread of the forthcoming event.


I've calculated my resting heart rate as well. It came out to an average of 53bpm. I'll be conducting some more thorough observations so I can have a more accurate estimate, but that's a pretty good baseline regardless.


I went out for a trail run with my brother on the trails of Pennsylvania over the holiday weekend. I ran in my TrekSports and enjoyed it considerably more than running in them on pavement. The run was short, as you'll see, but definitely well-deserved. We ate way too much over that weekend.


4-23-11 trail run map.png


4-23-11 chart.png


I am ready for the Challenge.

489 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, trail, trail-running, heart, gps, garmin, heart_rate, forerunner, resting

Mock Goruck Run

Posted by Superfiend Apr 20, 2011

Christian and I finally got together for some training, and it was glorious. We had wanted to organize what I called a "Mock Goruck run" which endeavors to approximate the conditions of the challenge - this based solely on deduction from the videos, pictures and blogs I've seen.


We agreed to meet at 8pm and to run from Union Square (42.358716,-71.146485) and run out to Castle Island (42.338213,-71.012793). Google Maps estimates it to be a bit less than 8 miles walking distance. We made it 12.






Note the Tough Mudder headband.



I was toting my four recently-acquired bricks, a hydration bladder full of delicious nuun-enhanced water, my camera, and an assortment of endurance foods. I'd put the weight at around 30lbs.


Here are the resultant data from the jaunt. I elected to display Speed instead of Pace, because it shows the impact of our sporadic sprints more distinctly:

4-15-11 mock goruck chart.png

The spike in my heart rate at the beginning was caused by an unplanned throwdown with an errant Pterodactyl.


The first dip is me waiting for Christian to show up, and the following generally represent stops for PT, jumping in the Charles and, finally, the brief break we took to soak in the glory of Castle Island on the water. Our average pace was about 12 minutes/mile, an estimate from averaging the paces from each individual run portion (1.53mi, 2.73mi, 2.02mi...).


Here is an overhead view of the run courtesy of Google Earth:



The overall distance of the run is impressive considering the fact that my previous unweighted distance record is just over 13 miles. I generally train alone, and the addition of a supportive buddy (who is just as - if not crazier - than me) was extremely helpful. The run was really enjoyable overall.


We stopped along the way to get our shoes soaked in the water of the Charles to make ourselves uncomfortable.


I am actually looking forward to being completely soaked before the run.


Our PT consisted of decline pushups, Spiderman pushups (declined as well), lunges, bear crawls through parks, flutter kicks, glute lifts, pullups on girders, handstands, cartwheels and juggling bowling pins in our teeth.


Exhibit A: Antics.


We made it out to the water and took a break of just under ten minutes to savor the achievement and snarf down some Clif Shot Bloks.



We were both feeling it in our knees, and had a similar tenderness in the right Sartorius, so we eased back into a shuffle for the run back into town.


The way back was dark and lovely. I experienced unadulterated hatred for one particular street which I hope never to see again. We made it through with few walking breaks until we were within bus range. Christian mentioned the possibility of taking a bus to one of the T stops. Silence. We shuffled past a bus stop, and then another. There was a beautiful, tacit agreement that we were not going to take a damn bus.


We made our way finally back to Park Street, our "finish line". We let out brutal war cries and loaded our spent bodies onto the trains home.


The ordeal was extremely motivating for me. I was strong, light, and had a great time punishing my lower body. Christian and I agreed that towards the end of the run we weren't winded, but our muscles were simply spent. My glutes were torched and my ankle began to gripe under the strain. I had no desire to stop, but I had to listen to my body to make sure I didn't get myself hurt.


I took away a great sense of accomplishment from this run; I feel ready. I felt the effect of having a buddy, and I can only venture a guess that this support is proportionately multiplied in a group. I am honored to have the opportunity to participate in the Challenge, and I am mentally prepared to give it my all.


I am still running almost every day, shorter runs (2-3 miles) with my Vibram TrekSports, longer runs (6-8 miles) with the New Balance 890s. My training will taper down soon, and I'll be stuffing myself with carbs as I did for Tough Mudder. Pete will be coming down to train on the 28th (high-intensity hill sprints), we'll be rucking off on Friday night at Cheers, and then it's on to the Challenge itself.

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The culmination of this blog has been reached: I completed Tough Mudder PA.


As I might have mentioned before, the scope of my training has been eclipsed by the Goruck Challenge. As such, Tough Mudder was simply a lighthearted romp through the muck and mire. I also had the distinct pleasure of running the event with Colin, who was the only member of the original team to join me.


It took some logistic string-pulling to get my Forerunner watch to the event, but I am fortunate to have parents who can perform such miracles. My more extended family was present as well, and they provided great support.



I chose to use Elevation instead of Pace for the second graphed variable since the pace was so erratic as a result of inconsistent runners on the trails or chokepoints at the obstacles. Here are the data with the red line representing Heart Rate and the green line Elevation:


4-10-11 TM chart.png


As you might imagine, the event was not a straight run-through of 10.5 miles. The longest uninterrupted stretch of running would only amount to about 3 miles and most of the participants were walking up the hills.


If you're looking for training advice for this kind of event, here are a few main factors to consider:


Leg Strength: You want to be strong, but not bulky. Try bodyweight squats, single-leg squats (assisted, standard or weighted) and lunges. High repetition sets, fast.


Glutes: (to keep you stable) Glute Lift. If you're strong enough, do these with one leg held straight out, thighs parallel, toes of the straight leg pointing away from you. High repetition sets, slow.


Core: (more stability) Leg Lifts and Iron Bridge (Plank hold). High repetition sets for leg lifts. Work up to holding the plank for as long as possible (1 minute would be a good goal) and when you can't hold it any more, do crossovers with your legs - bring a knee up to your chest and back to pushup position about ten times, then do the other leg.


Upper Body: I didn't find this aspect to be too terribly important for this event. Grip strength will be important for the Funky Monkey, and you'll need a decent amount of strength to get over the nets and Berlin Walls, but you're going to be surrounded by people who are more than happy to toss your muddy behind over the obstacles. If you're strong enough to do 25 consecutive pushups I'd say you're prepared.


Cardiovascular Endurance: I'd recommend less street running in favor of trail running if possible. Using a jump rope is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular endurance in a short time. It has been estimated that the same amount of calories can be burned in 15 minutes of jumping rope versus 30 minutes of running on flat ground.


The event, as a whole, is tough - don't kid yourself. You will need to prepare mentally as well as physically. Running with a team or just a buddy is a great way to keep a reasonable pace and to maintain a good attitude.


Walk up the hills, jog down them. Unless you're competing for a qualifying time, your time doesn't matter. Getting hurt does matter. Not finishing does matter. If you signed up for this, you owe it to yourself to finish.


If you would like more specific advice about how to prepare, what to wear, or any other such questions, feel free to contact me.


The Tough Mudder site does a decent job of approximating the course outline, but the order and placement of the obstacles is not entirely accurate. Here is my Forerunner's impression of our path for the entire run:

4-10-11 TM map.jpg



The Maurauder's Wave

We were late for our wave, but it doesn't seem to matter. We donned our costumes, had our bib numbers scrawled on our skin with indelible marker, and eventually made our way to the starting line.



After purposefully butchering the Pledge we were off. I couldn't help but splash around in the mud at the bottom of the first hill near the spectators; I was euphoric.



And then into the smoke-bombed incline.



I let Colin set the pace and complacently followed him for most of the run. He was powering up the hills which wore him out early on, but he hit his stride once we reached some of the downhill portions.


We ran up and down the hills and had to deal briefly with a series of dirt mounds with nets on them. After navigating these and the slippery snow, we eventually came down a main stretch called Kodiak. There was an obstacle called Greased Lightning towards the bottom of the hill. We dove in headfirst and had the pleasure of the initial soaking to deal with for the remainder of the run.



We then made our way up Sasquatch, one of Bear Creek's steepest slopes. I had no trouble with it, and encouraged the other participants as I made my way up. By this point I had heard exclamations of "arrrr" from various people as a sort of speciously clever recognition of the fact that we looked like pirates. We conquered other various obstacles at the top of the hill, namely the Boa Constrictor which I particularly enjoyed. There were two large black tubes which slanted down into a pool of cold, muddy water. By the time you've crawled to the end of the first tube you're chin-deep in the water. It was glorious.


The trail led to the Berlin Walls, which were awesome. I resolved to not use the footholds on the wall, and to attempt the walls on my own. I was surprised to find that I had difficulty with the first wall, but I did eventually get over. The following walls were much easier, and I just enjoyed the obstacle as a whole. Helping people get over is very satisfying, as well.


We turned back around and made our way across the top of the hill and headed South to a long, winding trail. The descent was pleasant, and we maintained a great pace while snaking through the trees and other participants.


We made our way back into the parking lot of the resort, and met with a large tub of red liquid and some confused-looking girls handing out Habanero Peppers. It wasn't made clear whether we were supposed to eat them or just chew them up and spit them out. Considering how tough I am, guess what I did. I leapt into the red liquid which felt no different than water (I'm honestly not sure what the point of that was), and charged on along a slippery hill on the outer rim of the pond.


We worked our way back up the hill underneath The Devil's Beard which is just a large cargo net. We went back down the hill again and were met with some weird iron fences with thick black bars over which we were meant to climb. I met up again with my family as we waited in the considerably long line for the Walk The Plank obstacle. We finally were able to climb up to the top of the platforms and leap into the freezing water below:


All the cold showers I had taken could not have prepared me for that water. I had no trouble swimming, but it was horribly cold. What made matters worse was the panicky people surrounding me; I felt like I might be pulled under at any moment. Flashback to my lifeguard training. You'll notice the distinct dip in my heart rate around 1:20 into the run. I think this corresponds to the dive.


Colin and I managed to crawl out of the pond and took a short rest at a water station before charging ahead. We were met with two more water-based obstacles: one which looked like it was meant to be Twinkle Toes, but ended up being channels with a series of three wooden walls that went below the surface of the water to varying depths. Colin and I each chose a channel and I was not pleasantly surprised to find that the middle wall was about three feet from the bottom of the pond.


Immediately after this weird water wall challenge we were lining up for the Ball Shrinker. Usually a Mudder will try to shimmy along the rope with their feet while holding the suspended rope above. A boisterous military-man was caustically advising us to simply pull ourselves through the water with the lower rope and "save [our] shoulders for the other obstacles". We complied, but I felt slightly cheated. I went first and was almost coming to enjoy the stinging chill of the water on my genitals when a frantic semi-Asian man began to overtake Colin, shouting something about needing to go faster. Delightful.


We survived the anxious Asian's onslaught and trudged along into a system of trails on the opposite end of the resort. With the notable exception of my teeth chattering at a rate ferocious enough to irregularize my breathing rhythm, I found the run to be quite enjoyable. We serpentined through the trees and up some minor hills. There were some narrower portions and we would occasionally be stuck behind a slower runner, but for the most part we maintained a good pace and overtook a good number of other participants. We made our way along the 3.5-4 mile path around the backside of the mountain, eventually coming back up onto the ski slopes.


The Mud Mile affronted us. It was essentially a stretch of muddy-water-filled trenches. This, normally, would be a manageable thing. The catch was that since the water is so murky one can't get a sense of their footing. This becomes especially problematic when large rocks adorn the bottom of the pools of indeterminate depth. We were forced to make our way carefully through the pools and jog between them. Towards the end of the Mud Mile we were made to go through a long trench of knee-deep water with horizontal logs lying above the water's surface. We were supposed to go under them. I went into a frenzy, splashed Colin and then took off on my own. I sloshed through the water, sending it everywhere and roaring like a maniac. I held my foam hat on my head as I ducked into the water and under the poles, and then charged forth to the next one. It was bestial.



After the Mud Mile we glided downhill to the Monkey Bars to find that they were not being used. The participants were walking around the outside of the obstacle, and there were a number of officials looking concerned. It seems someone had broken his leg the day before, and they were shutting down the obstacle. We were indignant, but didn't want to wait around to see if it would reopen, so we continued on.


The next downhill portion contained the Kiss Of Mud obstacle which is a section of rocks and water where a participant is meant to crawl under barbed wire. I was forced to go slow because of the person I was following, and dragging my chest on the rocky ground was decidedly uncomfortable, but I got through with no significant difficulty.


We reached the bottom of the hill and were made to run through a gauntlet of burning hay bales which caused great white billows of smoke to obscure the path ahead.


We made our way back up another hill and eventually passed the parallel path that led to the Funky Monkey. Since we were walking anyway I decided to go see if the obstacle was opened again, and it was. We talked ourselves into waiting to do it, and the wait wasn't too bad. As we waited I removed my gloves, thinking my bare skin would afford me better grip. This might have been a mistake, but there's no way for me to know. Colin had just as much difficulty as I, although he wore his gloves. We both made it to about halfway across before slipping off into the black tarp below.


With the Funky Monkey at least attempted we rejoined the proper course path. We went up another small hill, and then back down to the bottom to find the Hold Your Wood portion of the run. Another participant handed me the one he had been carrying, a large but not terribly heavy piece. I shouldered it and started walking up the hill. I paused, looked back at the pile with a devious smile, and grabbed another log with my left hand. Colin said something like "Oh, ok. Guess we're doing two, then." He grabbed a second log and we made our way slowly up the hill. By the time I reached the top I was feeling the weight mostly in my shoulders and triceps. The downhill portion was much easier but it took me a decent amount of reorganization to keep from dropping the logs.


The next three hills contained the cargo nets, the Mystery Obstacle and then finally Electroshock Therapy and the finish.


The cargo nets were manageable. What made them difficult was the instability from other participants clumsily flailing around on the ropes. Colin and I stayed behind a while after making it to the other side to hold it steady for some others.


The Mystery Obstacle is a large wooden structure with slopes on either end of a high platform. The front side is covered in a thick plastic which makes it quite difficult to complete this obstacle without help. Everyone was helping everyone else, though, so it was simply a fun way to bond with the people around you. You then slide down the other side, and head back downhill. At the bottom of this hill they have some high hay bales set up to be vaulted. After we made it through those it was back uphill again for the final obstacle, Electroshock.


I was really excited about this particular obstacle because of the pictures and videos I had seen. The collective unconscious of the participants entertained some unnamable dread about it, which made me want it even more. Colin and I lined up at the top of a small hill in front of the obstacle and waited for the others to go through. We looked at each other, nodded, and ran screaming through the wires. I was shocked but Colin wasn't. The surge went from my elbow to my tailbone and felt like a deep static shock. I can see how it might cause a participant to drop to the ground, though.


We crossed the finish line roaring like wild animals and claimed our shirts and headbands. I choked down a beer and corralled with my family and friends.


The aftermath was mild. I had some tightness in my right Sartorius muscle which caused discomfort in my groin, but nothing serious. My shoulders were sore, likely from the Hold Your Wood obstacle, but it went away with some stretching and rest.


The event, overall, was extremely enjoyable. It is something meant to be shared, and to complete something like this with a team or even a partner is supremely rewarding.


Next up: Goruck Challenge, then another Mudder in early May.



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Bigfoot e i suoi amici

Posted by Superfiend Apr 6, 2011

5-mile weighted run today with a friend. I put the 25lb vest in my backpack, so I thought I was running with 25lbs. I just weighed the backpack with the vest in it, and it came to about 32lbs. This is great news, and makes me feel a lot more confident about my joint and muscle strength under stress. I'm looking forward to seeing how the run feels with bricks instead of the vest.


My friend's usual pace (~11 minute mile) is a lot slower than mine (unweighted ~7:45-8, weighted ~9-10), so it was good to have her to keep me consistent. Here are the data:

4-6-11 chart.png

The distance was fine. I actually pushed her a bit, but it ended up being a great run. I kept my head in it, and felt strong. My left ankle only briefly felt weak, but loosened up after running it for another mile. We did some small hills, and I would occasionally throw in a faster pace, but nothing too serious. I'm tapering my runs down a bit since Tough Mudder approaches.


Confidence is high.



Tough Mudder PA - 4 days

Goruck Challenge  - 23 days

Tough Mudder VT - 30 days

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Posted by Superfiend Apr 4, 2011

My knees are still a bit sore from my 13-mile run, but I was plenty strong enough to tackle a hilly trail run this morning.


I went back out to Blue Hills, which was a major traininng location for me as I was preparing for the Shawnee Peak Challenge and Ruckus Boston. I ran in shorts and a sleeveless moisture-wicking athletic shirt, so I was chilly at first. I chose the outfit deliberately because I wanted to make the run more challenging. I knew that I would feel a lot stronger on the trails as compared to last semester, but the difference was striking.


Here's the chart of the run data:

4-4-11 chart.png

The spikes in heart rate are caused by me running up very steep hills to the summits along the trails. This Google Earth image of the run does a great job of illustrating my path and my ascent:

4-4-11 earth.png

I ran along the bottom red line to the end of the trail, at the Museum. I turned around and made a loop above the parking lot which included a nice little hill, hence the first spike. I then continued along on previously unexplored trails until I came to an imposing gradient to my right, and followed it with an adventurous spirit. I passed about two turnoffs onto huge, rocky hills before I finally broke down and took to running up one of them. The one I chose just happened to be the steepest, highest trail in the park.


You can see my total ascent value in the chart. I think the path from the bottom of the hill to the top ascends about 250 feet along a distance of about a half mile. It was brutal and I didn't run the whole way. I think my stopping was mostly related to the terrain and not so much my stamina, but I distinctly remember at least one instance where I was pushing myself too hard and had to slow down. In any case, I was considerably stronger today than I have ever been on trail hills.


I'm honestly not concerned about the event; I feel like Goruck has totally eclipsed Tough Mudder for me in terms of motivation and my general anxiety about preparedness.


I've begun a carb-loading pattern in my diet in an effort to store energy for Sunday. My goal for carb intake right now is 50%, which I'll raise to around 70% by Thursday, followed of course by a large carb-filled dinner the night before the event. I read and hear contradicting things about when the pre-event high intensity exercise should be performed (either the day before, or two days before). I'll probably do some intense hill sprints two days before the event and take Saturday off as rest.

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Posted by Superfiend Apr 2, 2011

Today I had the best run of my life thus far.


The day started out in a mundane way. I had no plans to run since I am waiting on a buddy to go on a weighted jaunt with me some time soon. I mulled around the apartment for a while, eventually putting on a movie recommended to me by my trainer, "Running The Sahara". The movie is basically about three ultra-marathon runners who decide to literally run across the entire Sahara Desert, from the West Coast of Africa to the Red Sea. Needless to say it was inspirational. I began preparations for a weighted run, but decided at the last minute to go for long-distance, unweighted.


Here are the data to provide a basic understanding of what I accomplished:

4-2-11 chart.png

Yes. 13.22 miles. This is almost TWO TIMES the distance of my previous personal record (6.73 miles).


It was quite a journey. Take notice of the changes in elevation as well; this is mostly a result of me following my trainer's request of trying out Summit Avenue. I also ran the entire path; no stopping, no breaks, no PT, just straight mind-numbing running the whole way with a few sprints interspersed to keep things interesting. I ran it with my New Balance 890s, which performed famously. The spikes in my pace are, for the most part and as usual, me having to stop at intersections. The trend in my heart rate fascinates me.


Here is an overhead view of the run:

4-2-11 map full.png

I think the best way to make sense of this messy red squiggle is to explain each phase of the run. I'll further complicate things by adding a bunch of poorly-drawn convoluted arrows in an attempt to illustrate my path:

4-2-11 map arrowed.jpg

I began at the green dot and ran down to Beacon Street. I ran two sprints along the way, holding a consistently fast speed for a few seconds, then I would slow to my normal pace. I followed Beacon until the intersection with Summit Avenue which stands diagonally from Beacon with its imposing gradient. Here's what it looks like from the bottom:

Summit Ave.jpg

The incline only lasts about a half mile, but it's nasty and I loved it. This leg of the run is responsible for the spike in my heart rate at 15 minutes in. There is a small park at the top of the hill, and the downhill portion was pleasant. About halfway along the downhill portion I suddenly turned and sprinted back uphill for about five seconds, then turned again and finished the hill. I'm pretty sure I only thought to do this because some people were watching me run.


I turned off of Summit Ave onto Commonwealth and followed it for a long while. I was feeling great at this point and had no interest in stopping any time soon. I had not decided the path of my run or the distance before leaving, my only plan was to run Summit Ave. Having done that and still feeling strong, I followed Comm Ave until I reached Boston University's campus. I noticed the water on my left as I ran along Comm Ave and decided it might be nicer to be out there, and that this could be my opportunity to turn around. I was sure to make a mental note that though I was turning around that this in no way meant I was preparing to end my run. This was 2.3 miles from the Summit Ave junction with Comm Ave, and about 5.5 miles into the run, which I didn't know at the time. At this point I also decided that I would pay no further attention to my watch to learn how far I had gone; I would leave that until later when I felt like I might be approaching ten miles which slowly developed into a more solid goal as I progressed.


I ran along the Charles on a path called Storrow Drive. It was at this point that a headwind picked up that would fight me for the rest of my run. I continued along Storrow Dr until I reached the Boston University Bridge where I ran into a roadblock. My only option was to take a flight of stairs up to the bridge and work my way back down Comm Ave, so I did. I was apprehensive about the stairs, but they didn't seem to faze me. I ran back along Comm Ave, passing Boston University's campus again with the headwind stronger than ever. I continued onto Brighton Ave, about a mile from the BU Bridge. Brighton Ave kept me relatively engaged, and I broke out my Clif Shot gummies and did my best to eat one. They taste good, and it felt like it was the right thing to be eating for this sort of exercise (being already over 6.5 miles into the run). I choked it down and chased it with some nuun-enhanced water from my hydration pack (I am so thankful to have both of these things), and charged ahead.


The path became more familiar once I reached Harvard Ave since I used to do weighted runs in the area. I turned off Brighton Ave onto Cambridge Street and followed it to a familiar intersection. I continued along, feeling strong, until I icame to a road called Winship which leads to my apartment. I decided to look at my watch to see how far I had gone, and it would have read just over eight miles which was already about a mile and a half farther than my previous personal record. With the goal of ten miles firmly planted in my mind, I resolved to run up Winship, down Chestnut Hill Ave, and then run to Boston College's campus and back which would certainly have me finishing with at least ten total miles. And so I did. I continued along, my pace now a bit slower than normal (you'll notice the slight slowing of my pace as I run the entire distance which I find just as fascinating as the inverse trend of my heart rate). I made it down to Boston College's campus, and turned around to come back up Comm Ave again, towards home. Then something amazing happened.


I decided at one point to run a hard sprint through an intersection, and it felt fine. Good, even. This was, ironically, ten miles into the run. As I was coming down from the sprint I had a curious realization. I didn't want to stop. I was overcome with euphoria and involuntarily a big dopey smile came across my face. I mentally agreed with this wild notion, as if it had been proposed to me by someone else. Somewhere, I believe, I was competing with the fact that my friend Pete recently completed a half-marathon (typically just over 13 miles). My thoughts went to how I might extend the run and there it was: the reservoir. I was quite familiar with it from before, and it was along the way.


I turned off Comm Ave, and made my way down to the windswept path around the ol' Res. The reservoir's path is about 1.5 miles around and I ran it at a good pace. I was kept interested in the run by the other runners, people walking along the path, and various other things. I made it back to the entrance of the reservoir, and made my way up Chestnut Hill Ave, meaning to end the run and call it a day. Then, again, something amazing happened.


A ridiculous song came on my iPod which repeats the phrase "don't stop". This song has served me quite well on numerous occasions in helping me persevere through a difficult run, especially the trail-running I was doing last semester. I laughed out loud at the song, and its outlandish suggestion that I continue running. But I began to consider, am I really tired? Do I really want to stop?






So I ran some more, resolving to attain half-marathon distance. The skies became cloudy as I passed my apartment. I begged for rain and it came to me. I looped around and as I was making my way back up to my apartment, in the final leg of the run, it began to rain on me. A sweet, chilling, heavy rain that seemed to wash away my fatigue. It was glorious. I broke the 13-mile barrier and slowed to an enthusiastic walk, smiling to myself. I barely made it up the steps in my apartment building, and allowed myself a few minutes of peace before running out on an errand.


I burned at least 1670 calories on this run, so I've been eating A LOT today. I actually need to go grocery shopping tomorrow because I basically ate all the rest of my food.


I am supremely pleased with the run, my performance, and the record itself. I won't shoot for anything longer than this for some time, but it was INCREDIBLY reinforcing to know that I can do this. Today's run represents the strongest mental resolve I have ever experienced, and it's fantastically motivating.


I'm going to crush Tough Mudder and I will complete the Goruck Challenge. I have no further doubts.

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Ce fleuve qui nous charrie

Posted by Superfiend Mar 23, 2011

Some changes are being made in my preparation.


Firstly I've begun consulting a professional for advice on my running technique and training tips for Goruck. Hi Sarah! I'm confident that this will greatly reduce my risk of injury and most importantly keep my head in the game during the run. Technique is a big focus for me as well, but as my trainer pointed out, with the weight I'll be carrying I won't be able to worry too much if at all about maintaining perfect form.


I buckled, finally, and got another pair of shoes to be used in training and for the event itself. They are New Balance 890s and I knew I wanted them the moment I took them for a jog outside the store. The fact that they are neutral will help me develop my own sense of my form and not over-influence me in one direction. The weight of the shoe makes a huge difference as well. I was used to trudging along in my RocLites by inov8 which weigh in at 312 grams, or about 11 ounces. The 890s are 9.7 ounces which doesn't seem like a big difference, but it's definitely noticeable. The New Balance website does a good job of illustrating the difference a few ounces can make in the long run--pun very much intended. So my old RocLites will be set aside for trail running and my 890s take the forefront. The only thing left to do is see how they perform in the rain and submersion to judge water-retention, and then to finally break them in after another 15 miles or so.


Speaking of mileage, here are the data from today's run:

3-23-11 chart.png

My heart rate was generally under control and I felt light and strong for the majority of the run. I wasn't experiencing cardiovascular exhaustion by the end of the run, my desire to stop came mostly from muscle soreness. I did buy a foam roller from the running store as well, so I'll be using that often.


Tomorrow will be a light calisthenic/recovery day then I expect I'll do a light run (4-5 miles) on Friday. My trainer suggested I do 4-5 mile runs on Monday and Friday, and a longer run on Wednesday (6-7 miles) and then progressively increase the Wednesday mileage to a point while keeping the Monday/Friday distance the same. I'm still planning on a weighted run on the weekend, but I might substitute that for some weighted lunges around the block since that seems to be particularly important.

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Posted by Superfiend Mar 20, 2011

Technique, technique, technique. I'm focused on improving my running form now, specifically in minimizing my tendency to heel-strike. I've been reading articles, watching videos with slow-motion analyses of the form, and just generally learning what I can about the theory.


I resolved to tailor my run today into something hinging on proper form instead of brute distance or weight. I went out with my hydration pack and my Vibram TrekSports so I felt light. I've run with my Five Fingers before, but never at quite the distance I did today; my previous bouts were short-distance (~1 mile) on the indoor track at school.


Here are the data from the run:

3-20-11 chart.png

Lap 1 was the first half of the run, Lap 2 my trip back, and Lap 3 was my walking and stretching after the run. I maintained what I believe to be proper form for about 3/4 of the run, but ended up finishing the route still running, but with poorer form.


As I said, distance wasn't my main focus here, and I did stop occasionally - as you can see from the spikes in Pace - to stretch or get a feel for how my calves were holding up. This particular muscle group troubles me as I am running this way. I consciously critique and adjust my form as I run, trying with each step to land on the ideal and seemingly imaginary "midfoot" and roll into the toes. This seems to put undue strain on my calves. This might just be a result of my muscles not being used to this kind of movement.


In addition to the foot placement I am also meant to make a pedaling movement with my legs as if on a bike while bringing my heels up to my backside after each stride. It's a complicated motion and I found myself thinking while I was running: "I wish my track coach had done some work with the team to establish proper running form". Admittedly, as I was a pole-vaulter, I didn't do much running then and the running I did was all toe-striking long fast strides anyway. Still, I think any athlete whose sport involves running would benefit enormously from developing proper running form early on.


I'm looking into a Personal Trainer who might help me to correct my form. Strength training is still taking the back seat, and might have to remain there until after Goruck. The coming weeks will see TrekSport runs focusing on form, long unweighted runs focusing on endurance and distance, and long weighted runs focusing on mental grit and stamina.


Event Countdown

Tough Mudder PA:          21 days


Goruck:                        41 days


Tough Mudder VT:          49 days

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Posted by Superfiend Mar 18, 2011

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I've been taking cues from Ben O'Grady and incorporating a lot more running into my weekly routine. My strength training is almost nonexistent at this point, but it's entirely justified considering my current running ability and the intensity of the event for which I am preparing.


I have a bunch of data to share, and I'm pretty proud of my progress.


I've been going out for longer un-weighted runs simply to get a feel for the distance and I think it's paying off. Here is my run from this past Monday:

3-14-11 chart.png

These data represent a run from my apartment to Jamaica Pond. I scouted the run on Google Maps before heading down there, and just made my way out. I didn't take exactly the route I planned in arriving to the Pond, but did eventually make it there. I felt light and strong for most of the run, and was just enjoying the exploration aspect of a new path. The Pond itself is about 2.6 miles from my apartment, and then about 1.5 miles around. I ran around the Pond, then made my way back up to my starting point with no walking breaks. I maintained a reasonably consistent pace with the exception of a few hiccups. 6.48 miles was also a distance record for me at the time, and I was quite happy about that.


Wednesday I went out and forged a new path north of my apartment, crossing the Charles. Here are the data from that run:

3-16-11 chart.png

New distance record again! Almost seven miles now. This particular run felt more like an adventure than a workout. Rain was coming down hard that morning, and I was running muddy cracked-gravel paths along the banks of the Charles. I got a little turned around after finally finding a place to turn back towards my apartment, but my Forerunner has a Navigation feature that showed me an overhead view of my position relative to my starting point which helped me orient myself. From there it was simple to get home. No walking breaks this time, either. I do so enjoy running in the rain. My heart rate was significantly more controlled during this run, which is curious because I didn't feel particularly stable throughout. I ended feeling wiped out, but very accomplished.


And, finally, the data from this morning's run. Following Ben's advice I forewent my weight vest in favor of running with the weight in a backpack as we'll actually be doing in the challenge. Seems logical. I couldn't have known just how radically different it is.


Firstly, I was carrying more weight than the vest alone; the backpack itself containing the 20lb vest in addition to my hydration bladder in its own pack. I'd say I was carrying around 25 lbs.


As Ben mentioned, the weight sits completely differently on your body. Running with a vest - as it's evenly distributed weight over your torso and allows you to activate your spine in keeping a turning rhythm - feels easy compared to this. The backpack is not only heavy on the shoulders and compressing your back, but severely restricts movement of your torso when running. In addition to the restriction of movement the weight is concentrated behind you, rendering heelstriking a significantly more detrimental practice.


My backpack isn't built for this kind of use, either, so I was consistently adjusting straps and fiddling with zippers and the hydration tube while running. Not fun. My freaking iPod headphone cord was unruly, too, and wouldn't stay attached to my hip so I had to feel it tugging on my ears with every step. This latter concern, however, was easy enough to ignore considering the circumstances.


Here are the data from this morning's weighted pack run:

3-18-11 chart.png

It was a spirit-crusher, but I survived. The mental game was intense and likely responsible for the majority of my inconsistency and the relatively short distance of the run. I'll be doing much more of this in the future.


I felt what I consider to be legitimate and unadulterated doubt in my ability to succeed at Goruck as a result of this run; hence "spirit-crusher". I need more of this, if only to prove to myself that I can get stronger and dismantle that ego barrier. Something that stands out is my outrageously high heart rate, especially during the middle portion of the run. My Forerunner was going crazy, warning me to chill out, and at the time I was not entirely resistant to the idea of slowing my pace. I did some walking during this run, but I never stopped. The peak around 23', and again at 35' represent walking or waiting at a traffic light. The huge plateau in my pace at the end is a period of time after I had finished running and was talking to a friend on the sidewalk as I was going back to my apartment.


I'm going to do A LOT more of this. Maybe 2 or 3 times a week, saving a long distance un-weighted run for the weekend. I think flipping the current setup would be the best way for me to get used to this style of running in a short time. I believe it's also worth noting that this was a solo run; I feel like had I been running with Pete or someone else who was also wearing a weighted pack it would have been much easier to persevere. Hopefully I'll get some of that in the next week or so.


I'm cautiously optimistic, but still very motivated.

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Posted by Superfiend Mar 2, 2011

I was planning on doing my normal routine to the gym on the 23rd, but I ended up just running instead. It was a great feeling to abandon my plan and run for so long. I think it's a distance record for me. I know I have a lot of improving to do in my distance running, but this run felt awesome, and by no means was I at the point of exhaustion when I finished. Here are the data from the Forerunner:


The path was interesting, too, because I found another small pond below the reservoir. I ran down and around it, then I made my way back uphill to the reservoir and ran around that as well. Something that stands out is my very consistent pace, with the exception of a few stalls. I'm not entirely sure what they are, except for the spike around 40' where I think I was adjusting my iPod. Overall I think this is a great pace and I'll strive to maintain it.


I've resolved to change my weekly schedule and incorportate a lot more running at the expense of the strength training. The lifting routines have been going much better lately, and I'm getting a lot stronger, but I think I would do well to prepare for more intense, longer runs.


I'll likely run Monday, Wednesday and Friday with strength training on Tuesday and Thursday, then a long weighted buddy run on the weekend with one day of rest. I'll also be changing my runs from weighted with the vest to weighted with a backpack at the suggestion of someone who had previously completed the Goruck Challenge (See Ben O'Grady's Review).

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Odiorne Point State Park

Posted by Superfiend Mar 2, 2011

Peter and I had an interesting romp through this park on Saturday. I went weighted with the vest at 20lbs and Peter ran with his belt, although I'm not sure how much weight he used. Pete suggested we meet at a place called the Odiorne Point State Park. I arrived after fiddling with a recalcitrant GPS, we saddled up, and went out into the unknown "trails" of the park. Here's a satellite image of the path courtesy of my Forerunner's data and Google Earth.

2-19-11 map.png

There weren't really trails out there, but we did a lot of running on the beach, jumping from rocks, and in the deep snow. We would randomly stop and pick up heavy driftwood or rocks and carry them for a while. At two different points we carried heavy logs switching shoulders and holding it up above our heads. We picked paths somewhat at random which led to some turning around but also allowed us to discover some cool opportunities to do PT in the woods.


It was a great run for me overall. I felt strong and solid. Pete was having trouble with the constant stress on the ankles from the sand, rock and snow running.


Here's the basic data from the run. It was not feasible to keep a steady pace during the run, but we did very little walking.


2-19-11 simple chart.png

496 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, weight, snow, trail, endurance, trail-running, heart, gps, garmin, heart_rate, forerunner, tough, goruck, weighted, weight_vest

Fresh Pond

Posted by Superfiend Feb 13, 2011

I went for a run with my friend Peter around Fresh Pond today and it was wonderful. The pond is almost 2.5 miles around. I ran it with my weight vest at 20lbs.


Here are the data from my Forerunner. Breakdown after the jump:



Lap 1 was the first run around the pond. We maintained a good pace and my heart rate stayed under control.


Lap 2 was our break for pushups, flutter kicks and leg raises in the parking lot. I was still feeling fresh and strong when we finished this part.


Lap 3 was our second time around the pond. This one got to me. As we were running along, about a half mile into the run, I stopped and grabbed a thick branch from a snow bank and shouldered it. It could have only weighed five pounds at the most but it made a surprising difference; probably mostly a mental difference. I carried it for about a quarter of a mile or so and handed it off to Peter and we took turns. By the time I reached the mile mark I started to really feel it and actually said: "I'm running out of steam". Peter was relentless and encouaged me. I pushed through it and let him carry the log a bit longer than I should have to catch my breath. My heart rate peaked at around 190bpm with a shockingly high average of 181bpm. I'm going to have to work on this. To my credit, I didn't stop. I took the log back at 1.2 miles then we started cadence chanting around 1.4 miles in which helped me take my mind off the run. I gave the log back at around 1.5 miles and let Pete carry it to the end. I ran all the way to the end of the trail where we recovered and walked out to our cars to enjoy the sweetest pear I've ever had.


Lap 4 is just the walk to our cars.



I feel good despite my apprehension about my stinging shin muscle on my right leg. I thought it might be a precursor to the old familiar shin splints, but it seems fine for now. I'm glad I went out, and it made it far easier to run with a partner. I'm really looking forward to making a routine of this run and I know that it's great training for the upcoming events.

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This morning's run followed the same path as my last weighted run.


The data from the Forerunner are a bit botched since for some reason it took forever to find a GPS signal. I still have the heart rate information, though, which is somewhat more stable than last time. This is with the 20lb weight vest:




Unfortunately my pace wasn't tracked until about 11 minutes into my run since it took so long to find a satellite signal, which threw off the averages.


The spikes in my pace around 14, 15 and 16 minutes are when I was forced to wait at intersections or behind someone walking slowly on the sidewalk.


My heart rate was more consistent this time, as was my pace overall. I ran the whole path (3.5 miles) with no walking rests. I felt loose and strong throughout the whole run. It was a good mental day so I was in the zone. I felt tight and sore when I stopped for my cool-down walk to my apartment but it went away with some stretching.


The runs are going really well so I'll likely change the routine soon, maybe within the next two weeks. Instead of adding weight, which I thought I would do originally, I think I'll just increase the distance and focus on keeping a consistent pace.


In other news: I've officially registered for Goruck Boston! It's really exciting, and gives me great motivation for my workouts. I'll eventually register for Tough Mudder Vermont, likely this coming week. I'll still be running Tough Mudder PA on April 10th with my friend.


Overall my training is going really well and I feel great.

529 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, weight, endurance, heart, rate, mud, gps, garmin, heart_rate, forerunner, pace, tough, tough-mudder, mudder, goruck, weighted, weight_vest

Lluvia de meteoros

Posted by Superfiend Feb 2, 2011

My run this morning was phenomenal. I tracked it with my Forerunner 305 and the data came out reasonably well.


To summarize I ran 3.5 miles in 36 minutes while wearing the weight vest loaded with 20lbs. It is worth mentioning that I ran in icy rain, there are a few feet of snow on the ground, and puddles at the crosswalks that are well into shin-height depth. Glorious.


Something I noticed from the chart is that my heart rate spikes up into Zone 5 and stays there for almost the entirety of my run. This is obviously not preferrable. It must be directly related to my pace, so there's something to work at which I never would have known otherwise. My pace stays very consistent at around a 10-minute mile.


I divided the sections of my run by Laps on the Forerunner.




Lap 1 was a straight run from the apartment.


Lap 2 was a brief walking break.


Lap 3 was a section of pushups in the snow. 4 sets of 5.


Lap 4 was a short walk before I decided to run again.


Lap 5 was a brutal stretch of running where I was verbally chanting to pull myself through the last leg. It was horrendous and I loved it.


Lap 6 was a short cool-down walk from the nearby fire station to my apartment. I stepped in a giant puddle of icy water and it totally filled my shoes. Until that point my feet were kept relatively dry by my inov8s. I love those shoes.


Overall I consider the run a great success. It blows away my previous performances, even in terms of Shawnee and Ruckus. I estimate both events to be around three miles in length. I ran Shawnee in 30:10 and Ruckus in 29:34. Today I ran farther, with weight, and in horrible weather and despite it all, faster in terms of my pace. It's also worth mentioning that this morning's run was completed in absence of any competition. Very reinforcing.

521 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, weight, snow, water, endurance, rain, heart, rate, gps, ice, garmin, heart_rate, forerunner, goruck, weighted, weight_vest
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