Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Veteran's Day Week Challenge!

Veteran's Day Week of Honor workouts. In honor of these heroes and their brothers I offer a week of honor. If not for you how about for them? 

Start of with the classic: "Murph"

Day 2: "Winters"

"Winters" Named after Lancaster native and of "Band of Brother" fame Maj. Dick Winters. 

4 rounds in weighted vest: 
800m run
21 burpees
10 pull ups
5 handstand push-ups 

Day3: "Zembiac" aka the Lion of Fallujah. "
"Be a man of principle. Fight for what you believe in. Keep your word. Live with integrity. Be brave. Believe in something bigger than yourself. Serve your country. Teach. Mentor. Give something back to society. Lead from the front. Conquer your fears. Be a good friend. Be humble and be self-confident. Appreciate your friends and family. Be a leader and not a follower. Be valorous on the field of battle. And take responsibility for your actions. Never forget those that were killed. And never let rest those that killed them."
5 rounds
11 Back squats 185lbs
7 strict burpee pull-ups
400m run

Day 4: "Eric"

Eric Jones Was killed in Afghanistan 2009. He was the best friend of my my good friend and college roommate. He is the in inspiration for CFC. We have successfully raised over $5,700 in his name. 

10 rounds for time:
50 jump rope double unders (150 single unders) 
25 abmat sit ups
10 Santanasties* 20 lb ball

*= jumping burpee ball slam begin with a wall ball on the floor. Pick it up to overhead in any fashion you see fit, at the top, jump and bring the ball down to the ground in a slam ball motion. Perform a burpee with hands on the ball (no jump required)and repeat.

And dare I utter the word that carries such fear: KALSU!!!!!!!!!!!

Day 5: "Kalsu"

Every minute on the minute perform 5 burpees, then use the rest of the min to perform as many 135lbs thrusters as possible. Repeat until 100 thrusters are rep'd. 

James Robert "Bob" Kalsu (April 13, 1945 – July 21, 1970) was an All-American tackle at the University of Oklahoma and an eighth-round draft pick by the Buffalo Billsof the American Football League in 1968.
Kalsu was a starting guard in 1968. He played the entire season and was the Bills' team rookie-of-the-year.[1] Following the 1968 season, to satisfy his Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) obligation, he entered the Army as a Second Lieutenant and arrived in Vietnam in November 1969 as part of the 101st Airborne Division. He was killed in action on July 21, 1970 when his unit came under enemy mortar fire at FSB Ripcord near theA Shau Valley.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Woeful neglect

I've been in neglect of this blog. There it is. I'm sorry. It's not for lack of reason other then priority. It's not to say we haven't been doing things here at CFC. In fact in the past month we've raised over $500! Keep up the great work. 

Please stay tuned through these absences via the Facebook page. There's only so much time in a day and my little one, wife and work take precedent.  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Crossfit vs. crossfit

So my former Crossfit Gym-mate and  FB friend Dennis O'Donnell wrote his opinion on the topic of the Trademark that is CrossFit and why he thinks it has and will continue more so to become part of the vernacular, thus making the trademark invalid. Example: "What are you doing for a workout today?", "Oh, I'm gonna do some crossfit." Does this mean you are going to a CrossFit gym and WODing or simply doing a crossfit-gym-like workout at the park?  You can find that here and I highly recommend you read this first. It was responded to by a Russell Berger, of CrossFit Higher ups in quick fashion and what seemed to be an immediate knee-jerk reaction to a google alert about ignorance of the term CrossFit. Google him and you'll notice his process of telling people why they are wrong about Crossfit, which is not necessarily a wrong thing to do in his case although some may not like it.

Let's put things in perspective. I don't have an agenda. This is my reflection as a former consumer and current alumnus for lack of a better word of the brand. I'm an outside observer at this point that was at one point emerged in CrossFit. That being said, I like CrossFit. It has done amazing things to get people, myself included, motivated about fitness and actually achieve much higher goals then they ever could have over many areas of fitness they would never have touched. I'm much higher on the fitness learning curve of fitness because of it. I just watched the Games with great enthusiasm. I support the gyms/ some trainers in my area, CrossFit or not.  I write this as an "owner" (and I say that because I own my house) of a personal garage gym that started as a bit of a joke: CF Chickentown (which stands for Cross-training Fitness Chickentown) I don't train anyone. I make no representation to do CrossFit or crossfit-like workouts. In fact it's where I park my car at night. It's literally my garage. There are no members. I charge no fee when friends come to workout. I use it as a means to stay involved in the fitness community in my area. This local community is not exclusive to but does contain some CrossFit gym members. This allows me to have some fitness fun and most importantly raise a crap ton of money for wounded and transitioning veterans. Do I make money on this effort? Absolutely not. I would say if anything my stupid little tongue-in-cheek creation would be officially classified as an anti-profit operation to my income statement.

But I digress back to the question; CrossFit vs. crossfit. While I think Dennis makes great points, in the long run I'm gonna have to disagree with him on this. CrossFit is a brand. The name has value. It has brought 10,000 gyms to open up under its auspices. The fact that people simply call crossfit-like workouts CrossFit can and has been argued as have many other trademark issues in the past. I'll go back to a classic marketing 101 case. Rollerblade vs. in-line skating.  Rollerblade was not the first player to the market for inline skates, they were however by far the best at getting it out there. They exploded over a few years. The argument was,  are you Rollerblading or in-line skating on Rollerblade brand skates?  To this day Rollerblade is a defensible trademark. I don't think its much different here. Are you crossfitting or functionally working out with constantly varied movements across many modal domains, in a CrossFit Gym? If you are in a CrossFit gym, yes, you are CrossFitting. If outside a CrossFit branded gym technically no. That won't stop people from saying they are doing crossfit outside of the system. Especially since Rollerblading and In-line skating on Rollerblades is much more succinct then the CrossFit vs. CVM example above.  There are many examples of this. Kleenex is another simplified standout. Do you need a Kleenex or a Kleenex brand tissue? Kleenex, a widely used term for facial tissue is still a major brand. As long as it's not used to your personal benefit outside of the system you're good. It's free advertising for them. No one can blame them for defending something they built. Its a tight line to walk.

The other discussion I see revolves around  the availably of the brand. As in when there is an event that is not a CrossFit sanctioned event but the workouts performed could and are the same that are done in CrossFit gyms everyday. It seems CrossFit keeps the brand very close to heart. I'm not, nor have I researched a sanctioning method for an event. It could exist. I don't know. Are you technically having a CrossFit competition if HQ didn't approve of it? No, you are not. I liken this to any other event. My rugby team has held a tournament every year for 40 years. We as a team are part of the USA Rugby Umbrella because we register as a team, individual players and coaches.  But because we don't comply with the quite honestly unenforceable regulations they require we don't have a USA RUGBY sanctioned event, but we still do play rugby and a lot of it. My point, brand can carry clout which is worth something. Value in name points to a brand.  

Now there are several issues I do have with the CrossFit brand itself. Most of these I'll leave to myself as my humble opinion is not a tenable position to those entrenched in the brand and quite frankly I don't want to have the argument. Also I don't preach against something that in it's totallity is in fact doing good.  Simply, I'm an established financial advisor not a pro trainer and wouldn't expect my CrossFit coach to answer how to road map a retirement income plan. I will say however that responses from higher -ups in the CrossFit community i.e. Dennis' blog post seem extreme but then again I can't blame them for defending their brand. Regardless of this fact it still does wreak of douchbaggery to some. It's the all powerful "Universal Catholic Church" and the Reformation all over again.  Not to invoke too much parallelism because there is an obvious difference in scope of the two arguments, but when you build a powerful brand, there will be a Martin Luther, John Calvin and Henry the VIII who come along and take away from that brand and create there own, i.e Protestantism.  It's still leaves your brand perfectly viable and popular but not without the need to defend it to the death. Now attacking people who are believers in the system who might have a few issues with the it, claiming that they are ignorant of the system is probably not the popular way to go. It could backfire and cause more people to stray.  It does however show the narrow line that must be walked when your brand is under attack.  Frankly should an admirable trait in a capitalistic society. It's how this whole thing works.

Having both sides of the equation is why this is a great country. You can buy in 100%,  criticize but accept it, try to change it, leave it or attack it. If you build something you better defend it because someone will probably come up with something good enough to market that seems better what you have. It's not a matter of, "Is CrossFit good or bad," and "What other thing is good or bad or better." It is, "Does CrossFit have a right to it's name as a brand." I'd say unequivocally so. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Red, White and Blue Nachos: Lobstah Style!

Let's start off with the disclaimer: This is not healthy. Not at all. It is anti-healthy. It is simply awesome and it is patriotic. Enjoy the 4th with a show of freedom through American opulence on a plate.

Blue Corn Tortillas

7 oz Lobster claw meat thawed, chopped couresly into chunks

Cheese Sauce
1.5 cups of milk 2% or higher
1 tbs AP flour (use 2 tbs if you don't have the next two items)
1/8 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/8 tsp guar gum
 - These are two thickeners that I feel give a little better consistencythen just flour
1.5 cups of shredded Monterrey jack cheese
1 tbs butter
1 tbs romano cheese (Parmesan can substitute)

In a sauce pan over medium heat melt butter, wisk in flour to combine. Cook forabout about a minute wisk in the milk.
When Flour has combined with milk, (no lumps), wisk in in the two gums. wisking every 30 or so to make sure it's not burning on the bottom of the pan, Bring milk up to a low boil. As soon as it is boiling, turn off heat and remove from burner. Slowly add in little bits of the Monterrey jack and romano cheese. As they melt add more until all of it is fully incorporated.
Using 1/3 of lobster, mince it further into small pieces. mix into sauce. Set aside to cool.

1/4 cup diced peppadew peppers
1/2 cup diced Fresno peppers (or red bell for less heat)
1 small white onion diced
1/4 cup canned diced tomato
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 (pinch) tsp salt

Combine all and set aside.

While the sauce can be used right now, it's best if the lobster and sauce get to know each other overnight.

Warm sauce gently in a pot or medium setting on a microwave, stirring often.

Layer tortilla chips, pour sauce over chip evenly, put salsa on top and distribute lobster evenly.

Monday, June 23, 2014

GORUCK Challenge Lehigh Valley AAR (after action report), ***this is a "spoiler" for GORUCK Challenge Events***

8:15 PM, Bethlehem, PA, On a beautiful June night, low 70s low humidity. 31 people, many of whom have never met, congregated at the start point, the parking lot across from the start point or what is more commonly known as the "Celticfest field" in the city's historic district.

With our rucks packed down with bricks, around 40lbs each, our team weight, a 31lb I-beam, a weight for the fallen, another 30lb I-beam, an American flag the has flown in Afghanistan and over the Capitol Building and a GORUCK Tough flag. We were immediately under the watchful eye of the Bethlehem Police who were interested in our activity. Upon learning what we we doing it seemed as if we became of bit of entertainment for the current on duty officers as we got multiple visits including the horse mounted division throughout of initial "Welcome Party" with little more then a chant over the loud speaker of one of the officers, "GORUCK!"

A light meet and greet continued into the twilight of the late sunset on the eve of the Summer solstice. At around 9PM, our start time, one of the shadows (volunteer photographers) noticed our Cadre, Cadre Matt, standing in the field in the distance opposite the lot in the field. We all grabbed our gear and moved over to him. We were given our introduction. The Cadre let us know what to expect. The statements, "I know you've read a lot online about this event... It gets much worse..." and"All it takes is all you got." being the definitive standouts. Matt told us about himself, a Recon Marine who has had multiple tours in Iraq and and a round in Afghanistan. He told us he would be adding in his own interjections of things you don't hear on the news and would be trying to bridge the gap between the military and civilian aspects of the most recent wars. He had us go around and introduce ourselves and state why we were here. A very interesting exercise. A gear check was conducted to make sure we had enough weight and water. Our instructions of never putting your rucks down unless told, the team weights and flags to move with us on every movement were put down. The buddy system was emphasized and would be strictly enforced regardless of what you had to. If one goes, two go. Then the good livin' began...

As the last remainder of light departed into the darkness of night, a nasty welcome party was conducted for over an hour and a half.  The 100 yard long field was fully utilized. Our activities consisted  of a back-and-forth on the field; ruck weighted lunges, push ups, 100 yard low crawls, bear crawls,
inch worms, elephant crawls, monkey f*ckers, flutter kicks, ruck 
thrusters, and more. This included moving the team weights and flags with us as we went. I think this worried a few as to the severity of the event as this was no joke of a workout. A little "break" of ten minutes was given to learn everyone's name under threat of more weighted pushups on some already pretty smoked triceps. We failed once, figured out a system and succeeded on our second go around.

Then came the stairs. The Hill to Hill bridge stairs consisting of two long flights of stairs which gained about 60-70 ft leading onto the bridge deck above was used for ruck weighted sprints, bear crawls and crab walks. After, we were again led to the middle of field. Our first "physical fun" time was handed down. Cadre made us line up in two ranks facing each other. We were to lay down alternating head/toe with the opposite rank. We had to "crowd surf" each member from the one end as they place their pack on their stomach and laid back onto the column, only to be crowd surfed to the other end. This was interesting as the different weights and other physical attributes were passed over the column and many a comment was made creating many smiles.

We were formed up and read our orders for the evening. While much of it which was notably lost in Marine/military nomenclature, I think we all got the point. Our movements would be in the spirit of actual missions to create purpose behind our action, even though we would obviously not be in danger at any point.
We are to act as a unit being deployed to assist a local force with their efforts against an unwanted aggressor. We were to train for preinsertion, (the welcome party we just experienced) then assist the group to help them drive out the enemy. Our first mission was to deliver building materials and ammunition to help rebuild a foot bridge that will assist the local military contingent to resupply their forces. We'd move 4.3 mis to deliver these materials to a destroyed bridge down to the west on the D&L trail and had 1 hr and 40 mins to get there. This meant, coupons...

Cadre Matt introduced us to our initial coupons, a couple of 15lb ammo cans. After a quick water fill via the hose outside the Wooden Match restaurant, we were led over to collect our building materials across the street. This ended up being 4,  8ft Rail road ties. With teams of three to four these were picked up and included with all the other items we were already carrying including our rucks.

Now around somewhere around 11:30, we began moving down the pitch black trail with our headlamps on and with the Lehigh Canal on one side, the Lehigh River on the other and the sounds of trains moving slowly past us to our right in the rails yards. Rotating on the railroad ties as the carriers got tired. There were more then a few stops to realign ourselves and get the right personnel under the rails. We worked to keep the team together as some rails fell behind at times. It was our first lesson in teamwork and staying together. As we moved on in the darkness, stopping from time to time the distance became noticeable. It was hard to gauge how far we'd gone but it fell like a long way. It was kind of like walking in a tunnel. There were few visual targets to differentiate your surroundings. The rail's square corners started digging in and you could really start to feel the weight. Then we heard Cadre's alarm go off. He stopped us at what seemed to be a parking area along the trail and reminded us with a nasty set of flutter kicks and other PT, that making time hacks was critical. He also told us we were only .2 miles short of the objective. Probably one of the stops we made to regroup had made the difference. We picked up our "building materials" and delivered them to a parking area under a bridge crossing the Lehigh and received our next orders.

We were to test the river bottom so that we could be sure that the construction would hold the bridge, aka a reason to put us in the water. In the darkness headlamps shining about, we proceeded down a pretty steep hill through some tall grass to the 20ft high river embankment. shuffled down the steep embankment to the waters edge and given orders on how we would proceed into the water. One by one we all trekked out into the pretty cool but not freezing Lehigh River behind a small curved breakwater in the river. It was cold enough to make you notice, as it was almost waste deep. The cadre had us do some squats and thrusters, dipping our rucks in the water on each rep. Then before we were ordered to low crawl it out of the water and up the embankment to the parking area we were made to fully submerge ourselves into the tasty Lehigh River water just down river from Allentown's treatment plant. Once we were all back up the hill, we stopped so the Cadre could address us with some stories about certain experiences that I'll leave for those that attended the event as I feel that these insights are a special part of the experience and sometimes mean a little less when outside the suckzone that is the GORUCK Challenge. A little breeze had kicked up in the 57 degree air, enough to make you feel a little cold, but more then enough that there were a few showing a little shake. We were given our next task...

Our next task was to deliver medical supplies to our sister unit 4 miles away who were just put under attack. We had to get to their fall back position (Salisbury High School). We'd cross the Hamilton St. Bridge and head South. Additional orders were that we could only carry our rucks by the top handle in a farmers walk fashion. This sucked. 40lb alternating one arm farmers walk for 4 miles. Yuck. Approaching mile 3, everyone was feeling their grip start to give. We did get a short break to reload water as we passed a watering location. The last mile was pretty bad as some hills got thrown into the mix, but we made it to the rendezvous with time to spare as the sun was just coming up over the horizon. It was nice to be in the light. It gave a sense that we were making progress. The cadre addressed us again with more stories that made the suck go away when you put the event in perspective as he did.  Google "Major Douglas Alexander Zembiec" for a bit more on what was said. 

Next we were to head to Laubach Park to assist our local companion unit as they had made contact with enemy forces and needed assistance.  Off we went up a hill and over to the park over a couple miles to we set up under a goal post of a football field as Cadre disappeared with a few team members into a wooded area with a pavilion. As they returned we could see they were carrying three large 3-4ft cuts of telephone pole. Our mission was to deliver artillery ammunition to our companion unit. This was simulated via a relay race consisting of carrying the log around the opposite goal post and back. We were split into three teams and competed. A nice little cardio session on top of the anaerobic hell we've been enduring.  After the competition we were given our next assignment.

We were to proceed to the enemy fuel depot and destroy it. This happened to be the Hess station at rt 378 and Black River rd. Another wrench in the mix was we had to carry our bags in a purse carry fashion on our forearms. Half would have to do it until the Cadre told us to switch then the other half would do it. A true bicep smashing. This was a slow trudge up and down some nasty hills, it felt like were were lost but we weren't, just lost in the hope we were close to the objective. We finally came upon that objective and the cadre informed us that we had made it by a small 26 second margin. There were some celebratory yells and the sense of accomplishment after what seems to be a long hike. As we sat there getting a quick rest, all the while under the stare of the impending reality of what we still had to do. South Mountain was between us and home, we had to go over it someway. We were given a small break to regroup, then came the next set of orders.

We were to proceed to the Slovak Cemetary on Williams street on the opposite end of South Mountain to pick up a person of interest about 4 miles away. We had a tight time hack, there would be no quirks, just us, our rucks and the team weights,but we had to MOVE. Off we went down Blackriver Rd up Bingen Rd. and into the open fields of Lehigh's Goodman Campus.  At this point it seemed we hit a bit of a morale low. The toll of the mileage started to pile on our team as we were unknowingly about 18-19mi in. Injuries became more apparent. Some needed to be carried or supported a bit, others just needed to be talked to, maybe with a joke, just to keep there minds right. We proceeded past Lehigh's football stadium out to College Dr. and up the side of South Mountain on one last horrible uphil push to the Cemetery. Upon arriving we were given a little break to get ourselves together. Then Cadre Matt told us the story of Sgt. Walter Geldon, who was a steel worker at the Bethlehem Steel that was gunned down on Omaha Beach on D-day  June 6th,1944, his wedding anniversary. His body was moved back to Bethlehem after his wife died and was buried next to her in the the cemetery by which we sat. A pretty real moment for the event. 

The Last Push. 
We new it was getting late and we were well past 12 hours. Cadre Matt gave us orders to proceed back to the start point passing the blast furnaces and across the Fehy Bridge.  This seemed to go on forever. Down the hill we went and onto 4th st down daly ave and onto 3rd st. past the blast furnaces of the former Bethlehem Steel. It's seemed like the slowest movement of the day as it probably was. We had people barely able to walk and there was no way we were letting them drop at this point. We trudged on, some took on packs of the struggling or injured as needed. We eventually got to the bridge for the last uphill of the bridge span. Across we went and after reaching the opposite side we turned left toward the start point down Lehigh St. Once we got across, about 1/3 of a mile left to the start point, there it was..."STOP! You, you, you and you. You are casualties." barked Cadre Matt. That meant buddy carries. A little F you to finish the event. No one really blinked. We were too close. Up the casualties went onto 4 GORUCK Veterans shoulders and they were moved forward with a few stops every 100ft or so.  We got to the start point passing a motorcycle group across the street who ended up being some thankful veterans, all of who were paying close attention to what we were doing adding to awesomeness of the inevitable finish.  We were told to form up. "Front lean rest!" (push up position). 10 or 15 more, I can't remember, "Down, UP!, Down, UP!..." just to add icing on the cake.  "On your feet!" Cadre Matt gave us some closing words which again I'll leave for your own experience as it can't have the same effect outside of just having finished this. He called the GORUCK Challenge "veterans" over and told them he likes to have them give the new GRC finishers their patch. This was a pretty cool moment as the patches were handed out. Emotions ran high. Joy, relief, pride, it's tough to explain.

The Cadre had us gather around and he said he normally gives one last talk but a member of our group had asked to. John from our group went up and called his girlfriend Michelle over, who had just completed the Challenge. He dug around in his bag, said a few words after collecting himself form the emotion of the moment. This included, "I would carry you around the world if I had to." then he asked her to marry him. All but the few that knew this was going to happen were shocked and there was more then one tear shed in excitement by the group. A great ending to a great event. One for the books.

Off to the Wooden Match cigar bar across the street for some much need fuel and ACRT, (Advanced Cellular Recovery Technology) aka.... Beer.

A new team was formed. I don't think it could have gone much better. This was the essence of the GORUCK Challenge.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What a Crazy Month!

Been a while since I've been on here but for some pretty good reasons. On the eve of the culminating event, the GORUCK Challenge Lehigh Valley, I felt to reflect on the last month.  The past month has been a very rewarding set of experiences for me and full of the dichotomous corners of life. While my physical training schedule was limited in certain respects due to lack time, I was able to make them count as I trained in some other facets of my being.

One month 2 weeks out: Starting in May the weekends filled up quickly. The Heroes in Transition Annual Gala was held. This is such a great night. In the high rent district of NYC at the Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking Central Park the event kicked off. They had some of  the Patriot Rovers service dogs there one of the NY Giants and multiple service individuals. The formal part of the event kicked of with showing us some of the things and some of the people who have been helped via HIT.   Including some of the heroism that these individual,s who now need help, have displayed. CFC was able to contribute $5,000 to HIT this year. That's thanks to all the supporters who bought CFC apparel over the year. Got two workouts in and a short ruck this week, niot great but worthwhile.

One month to GRCLV: Another charity ball  for a local hospital to follow that weekend. That was more like an ass kissing festival to be honest, but it went to a good cause. I started to fell the pressure of some of the events to come as time became tighter and tighter. Diet was pretty much out the window at this point and I was getting 1-2 workouts in a week.

4 weeks to GRCLV: I was part of a wedding and got to see a friend get Married to his long time Girlfriend on a beautiful day in May. I helping out with the bestman's speech which involved an actual antique Ball and Chain. I'd call this a blow up weekend diet and training wise. Little restraint was taken into account.

3 weeks to GRCLV:  With a weekend off and Facing the reality that I only had three weeks left I started to panic a bit about the shape I was actually in. A short ruck with some of the other participants helped with that a bit is I felt better, even if it was only mentally that I wasn't an piece of physical crap.

2 weeks to GRCLV: Then came the 41st Annual Lehigh Valley Rugby Tournament, a particularly important event for me and the Club as it is the majopr fundraiser for the year for LVRFC. As president I feel I need to take a lot of the weight  on my shoulders to make this Tradition a great tournament. With a lot of help from a select few of club members and after a mediocre year last year due to circumstances beyond our control, we ended up having the largest tournament in club history. 38 teams (28 men/ 10 women) from all over the Mid-Atlantic played 77 matches on four fields of action. It all went flawlessly. This is no easy task, and it gave me a great sense of accomplishment that everyone had such a great time. Again not a weekend for working out. I was exhausted mentally and physically from the planning and setup and breakdown of the tournament. It was all worth it in the end.

1 week to GRCLV: The next week came my turn to Host my wine groups "Ladies Night". I've always loved wine and food and I've been apart of this very unpretentious group for 7-8 years now. Twice a year we hold "Ladies Night" which aside from our regular, men only monthly meetings, is more of a party where you can bring your wives and/or significant others. I held it under the banquet tent at the Clubhouse Grill at the Bethlehem Municipal golf course. Work with Chef Matt on a menu I paired some wines and collectively put together a great "Summer Cookout" themed wine dinner.  With a week to go, another GRCLV member was planning a monster ruck of 17+ mis with hills, water crossings stadium stair running etc.   I decided to take him up on it the morning of "Ladies Night" While a bit fatigued I'm very glad I did it. I really felt good about how I felt and that I was able to accomplish it.

1 day to GRCLV: I'm sitting here writing, feeling good, got a few workouts in and now in rest /hydrate mode. I feel more then ready for Tomorrow night. The group seems excited as the Facebook traffic has picked up on the page with excited comments and questions from some of the nervous folk who haven't done this before.

I look back now at the last Month and at all the time when I was stressed, angry, tired, etc and it all seems so petty. It could always be worse. In those cases it was mostly for fun anyway. First world problems are a good thing to have, but only if you don't act as if they are third world problems. I'm sure I will feel this sentiment even more so after the event tomorrow night as these events have that effect about what problems are. Perspective is everything. I'm glad I took the time to do this today even if no one ends up reading it. Becoming a better American takes practice and sometimes a reset is in order.

If you see 30 weirdos running around Bethlehem with Bricks in a bag and carrying logs and I-beams that's us tomorrow night. See you on the other side with a recap of the event.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Summit Project: My Letter to the Family of Joel A. House

As part of the GORUCK Heavy Boston we did two weeks ago, we had to carry a team weight of 50lbs throughout the event. We carried 50lb of stones from the Summit Project. Per their website:

"The Summit Project ... is a living memorial that pays tribute to the fallen service members from Maine who have died in the line of duty since September 11, 2001. 
The surviving families of our fallen Maine heroes have made this project viable.  Not only have they shared the stories of their loved ones’ character, integrity and service, they have also unearthed and donated a special memorial stone that uniquely represents their fallen family member. We’ve engraved those stones with their names. They will be carried on Hikes and mountain climbs.... We will carry their stones during the hike, but we will carry their stories for a lifetime —  making the Summit Project a living memorial."
Part of carrying the SP's stones is the requirement that you write a letter to the families of the Heroes stones which you carry after the event. While it wasn't the easiest thing to do, I'm glad that I did this as it made me reflect on what I just did and why I did it and really what that meant to me. I chose the Stone of Sgt. Joel A. House, Lee, ME.   

The House Family
Lee, ME 04455 

To The House Family, 
My name is Brett Biggs, you do not know me, nor should you know anything about me from any past interactions. Our paths, however, have now crossed under a common thread, your son Joel.
I recently took part in an event, The GORUCK Heavy in Boston on March 14th-15th. Our team had the Honor of carrying his memorial stone via the Summit Project amongst the other 50lbs of stones inscribed with more of Maine’s finest on them. Before the event, individual team members took ownership of a stone. Your son and I were paired by fait as I choose the first name on the list and it happened to be his. For reasons expressed herein, this is the last time you will read the use of the singular and not the plural to refer to our actions. 
To give you background on our event, it was a 24 hour endurance challenge. It is inspired by Special Forces training and taught by Special Forces individuals, in our case two seasoned Green Berets. While for it’s participants it is a physical and mental challenge, the main theme of this event is to be the “Ultimate Team Event” and to “Build Better Americans”. This is done through enduring physical and mental challenges that push your team past it’s comfortability zone and up against and sometimes through it’s collective mental and physical limits. You are forced to look beyond yourself and rely on your team to get through it.  It is only at this point that you are able to do more as one team then you can accomplish as a group of individuals. Not everyone makes it through. In fact we lost 9 team members out of 33 throughout the event. 
While this event is a military inspired challenge, as it is based off of the training experiences of active special forces members, no team member, many of which are ex-military, would claim this to be an experience equivalent to what our servicemen, go through on a daily basis. However, for the non-military team members, this event has an added aspect which we can only hope more Americans would experience. It offers a glance into the window over a relatively short period of time of what our servicemen go through physically and mentally. It is 24+ hours of getting uncomfortable, tired, dirty, cold and mentally beat down. All the things most Americans try to void their lives of. The major difference is we paid to do this in a safe environment and get to go home afterwards. This small taste of the world that your son volunteered himself to, gives a much deeper respect for their sacrifices for our freedoms. To even get a glimpse, no matter how small and toned down, is an eye opening experience.
The inspiration of the stones from the Summit Project brought so much more to that particular aspect of our experience. Just as your son did not know any of us, we did not know him. He volunteered to carry the burden of Freedom on his back for us and our families, no questions asked. The very least we could do is to carry his memory on our backs using his sacrifice as a inspiration for the short time that we did to accomplish something that was greater then anyone of us could have done alone. 
We want you to know that together in the good company of the other stones, your son’s life touched 33 people in many ways in that 24 hours. In whichever way that was, even for those that dropped out, there were better Americans built that day. Something was taught and learned by the weight which we carried together. When people learn to get outside themselves and do right by others, it is quite a feeling that is tough to describe. It is more then charity, it is becoming a stakeholder in the betterment others even if it is at your own expense. This becomes contagious and spreads. By your son’s example, his legacy will live on because of this. The Summit Project will continue to inspire others to do and be better in the name of the fallen in the things they do on a daily basis. 
GORUCKs products have a lifetime warranty on them. Any ruck sack no matter how good, if it is used as intended, it will sometimes get ripped or torn. Rather then throwing it out, when this happens we send our rucks to GORUCK’s SCARS program. It gets repaired and it returned usable as new but with stitches and patches where the damage occurred.  This is something that it to a certain extent desired to have on your ruck. It shows that you went through some serious stuff to get them. It makes the ruck better. 
We are all inundated on a daily basis with news of individuals killing, stealing etc. It’s easy to focus on these tears and rips in our society rather then what still good about it. If we don’t look around to see what is still good amongst all these wounds in society, we forget that the fabric of good can be restitched/patched into something even better. The sewers that do this are people like your son. When you see those few and far between benevolent acts where people think outside themselves and act for others, know that your son Joel along with his many “teammates” has had part in that. May we all focus more on people like Joel and less on the darker side of society. That is why it was such and honor for us to carry his memory with us.  

On behalf of GORUCK Heavy Class 028,

Brett R. Biggs 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Back at It

Now that the Goruck heavy is complete and recovery is over. I'm back to my in-season workouts. Get to do less "pack mule" training. Which is a relief. Rugby playoffs are still ahead. Gotta get he stamina up so I can play 80mins if needed. Workout one:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

GORUCK St. Paddy's Day Heavy Boston 3/14/14 AAR (After Action Report)

An AAR is a term the GORUCK Community borrowed form the Military as a recap of their experiences throughout the event. Here is mine of the GORUCK Heavy (GRH) Boston that I went through last weekend. The GRH is a 24+ hour Special Forces inspired team building endurance challenge, led by Special Forces individuals. In our case it was Cadre Dan and Cadre Logan, two well seasoned Green Berets.
Cadre Dan
 Cadre Logan 

I spent the day Friday resting and prepping my gear. Left my hotel at 4PM, Rucksack filled with 43lbs of bricks water and other equipment and hopped on the "T" Redline (subway) to the end of the line which was Alewife station in Cambridge, MA.  Got off the train and made my way over to the start point a little after 5PM with time to spare. It was about 35 degrees pretty chilly wind, about 15-20 mph.  As I walked up to what appeared to be a few other weirdos with rucksacks. Immediately a very enthusiastic 18 year old, 120lb string bean of a kid runs up to me and Says, "Hi!, My Name is Torin!" a bit confused I replied in the same manner. "Are you with the GORUCK Event?" he asked I said that I was. As we walked over to another person there we began to talk and Torin revealed that this was his first GORUCK Event. Flabbergasted the two of us were thinking that this kid is in some deep Sh*t. To go straight to a Heavy looking like you couldn't lift your own arms is not your normal path to completing a Heavy. As more of the team flowed in, 33 in all, there was more of the same. No one thought this poor kid would last the first hour. Boy did he prove us wrong.

6 PM rolled around, we were starting to get a bit cold just standing in the wind for an hour and were ready to get going. We were formed up in two ranks for roll call. After roll call, per GRH SOP 2.0 (Standard Operating Procedure) The event is to start with a PT Test. This is meant to show the Cadre what they are dealing with as well as weed out people who have no business being there. i.e. if you can't do 10 push ups you probably can't carry a 40+ lb ruck sack for 24hrs let alone a bunch of other crap. The test includes the Army PT Test items of 2mins of push ups, 2 mins of sit ups. Then it is followed by what is described as a 12mi Ruck March in under 3.5 hours. That's about 3.75mph.

We took turns doing our PT Situps and Push ups. It felt good to start moving and get warm. Then it was time for the 12mi Ruck March. Having read other AARs from the other 2, Heavy 2.0 events, this hadn't seemed to be a simple "go out and Ruck 12mis in under 3.5 hours".   Ours was no different. It was fast and was more like 15mis. Being that we weren't in a closed environment i.e. Fort Bragg heavy a few weeks ago, we couldn't just be set out and asked to return. So, this would be a team effort. Cadre Logan would set the pace and we'd ruck in two ranks with our American Flag and Jolly Rodger flag that Logan brought, plus our 50lb Team Weight.

A small aside, the team weight is carried in each GORUCK Event. It is different and should have some kind of meaning. Ours was a GR 50lb Sand Bag filled with stones there were inscribed with the names of soldiers that had given everything in the name of freedom. They were from the Summit Project. For more info check out the Summit project's website.

Ruck March- 15.25mi (All distances are estimates)

We started off in the dark toward what would be the Minuteman Trail (aka Paul Revere's route) with some small departures. It was for the most part a two lane bike trail with snow on both sides. An added bonus was the black ice that would pop up now and again. Cadre Logan was moving at a fast clip. Later we learned that he was at a 15min/mi pace with some spurts even quicker. We were moving just shy of running. This was the only time during the event we (or at least I) was actually warm. We rucked all the way up to Lexington Green, the site of the first shots of the Revolutionary War. It was at this point we were stopped and made to form up.

We were given our first speech on being a Team and patriotism and then were then made to turn around to see a fellow teammate finally catching up to the group. I thought this would be Torin, (now dubbed "Warbaby" by the group) but I looked off to my side and there he was smiling away. Needless to say, the lack of team mentality did not make the Cadre happy. We were made to do PT in the Common on the mostly snow covered ground. After the learning lesson it was time to return. On the way back with team on our mind we did our best to keep up with Cadre Logan and fell behind several times. We were forced to catch up doing lunges and bear crawls.

Then came the first casualty. The individual who was struggling on the way up was also struggling and holding up the group. He was gassed. He was asked by the Cadre if he wanted to continue. His decision was not to. 1 down, 32 Standing. Again Warbaby was there with a big shit eatin' grin.

The Team continued on, eventually stopping to have our rucks weighed with what Cadre Dan called, "Kazakhstan's finest Chinese hanging hand scale." The standard for the event was 35lb dry, (no water bladder). We all made it albeit close in some cases. I think one ruck was 35.1lbs.

We continued on, there were more stragglers but they were able to fight through. All made it back to the start point. Roll call was taken. It was at this point we realized 4 more had absconded to the shadows and decided to not continue. 5 Down, 28 standing.

The Coupons:
The team was then introduced our coupons. Coupons are things you need to carry throughout the rest of event. They are normally heavy and awkward. In our case the Cadre decide to give us 14 filled 5 gal water cans (42lb each), A Bag for the fallen which was a 35 lb GR0 Ruck, Another equipment bag with more empty sand bags, body slings and other crap at about 25lbs and our food bag. Yes, we were releaved of our food at this point and it was put in one bag which we had to carry (45lbs). With Rucks were looking at about 1,500lbs of crap.

The First Movement: Bunker Hill - 4.85mi

Now a bit sweaty and getting a bit cold standing in the ever-present wind, the 28 remaining set off with our coupons to Bunkerhill. I think we had 2 hours. The trip went about as expected. Kinda slow while we got used to the new coupons we were learning to carry efficiently. After one final push up Bunkerhill to the memorial at the top, we were called to the base of the monument. At this point we were informed that we had not made it in time and the demons got to two more of our teammates. They had notified Cadre they were not continuing. 7 down, 26 Standing. Again Warbaby (Torin) there smiling away....

While we were not made to reenact the Battle, we were made to proceed up and down the very wet grassy hill for a 30+ min Sh*t kicking. Low crawls, bear crawls, poleless stretcher carries. We were formed up and given our next movement.

Movement 3 - South to the Harbor 4mi

This was slow, I don't know why but it just kept going. A long slow, cold trudge, coupons crushing us in our moist clothes, still being blown by the wind in the 35 degree temps. As the light from the sun just started to come over the horizon, the Team was brought onto the beach, Rucks were dropped at the top. The Cadre told the team leaders to take the empty 80lb sand bags from the kit bag we had and to go fill them. While they worked on what surely would be another coupon we went half way down in two ranks. We performed sand PT including Push-ups, Flutters kicks running in place and rolls to the left and right as Cadre demanded. I don't remember the exact timing but Cadre Dan gave a talk on DFQ ( don't f*cking Quit) a GORUCK mantra widely used. He told us that we needed to live that not just say it. To own that statement. Again repeating the PT activities we marched one step at a time toward the water.
Before entering we had two more quit. The site of the water got them. 9 down, 24 Standing. Warbaby was again not one of them. We were put in up to our thighs in the 38 degree water several times having to do squats up to our waste and push ups at the water shore break. Back out in the sand and back in the drink for an extended period. Thoroughly cold and wet we were given 10 mins to eat until given out next movement. 

Movement 4: Boston Common 3mi

Now 35degrees and lightly raining, the team started to click. Although now even colder, wetter and with new 80lb coupons, we moved well. Finally comfortable moving the weight. We hauled and made the Time hack to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on top of a small hill at the back of the park.

We were formed up at the base and given a talk for a moment, the subject matter I cannot remember. It was then that The the GORUCK Challenge group that was going on at the same time showed up carrying a full keg of beer as their team weight.  We were made to compete against them in a series of  very muddy hill exercises including low crawls, crab walks, burpees and some other fun muddy things.  We kicked there ass on each one. :) After the PT session we heard a loud cheer from the Challenge group and saw the Endex (finish) of the Challenge. I don't know if this was inspirational or not. It kinda seemed indifferent. Onto the next.

Movement 5: Charles River Run 5.5mi

The Team was to move up the Charles River to a park of which I'm not sure of the name. As we left the park the sun finally came out and gave us a little warmth FINALLY. We headed up a bike path along the still frozen River. There was an icy wind coming off the river but the sun compensated for this. Then it got real.

Cadre Logan found a small 20 ft wide inlet off the river in-between an out cropping of land and just under a bridge. It was one of the only areas that wasn't frozen over. He was not beating around the bush with this. We were told that we would link arms proceed into the water with rucks on to thigh deep, sit down in the 34 degree water and lean back to submerge out heads completely. Without hesitation the group preformed the task that was set for them. It was shocking. Your breadth was gone and I know at least in my perspective, I was just short of panicking.  We had to get one of our teammates "Back in order" afterwards but were able to do so and all continued. We continued on and over a bridge to the other side of the river. This was by far the coldest part. The icy wind off the frozen river buffeted our freezing cold wet clothing. Upon reaching the other side we probably made a mistake and stopped near the river. Again the constant wind crushed us as we stood. 3 people were overcome with hypothermia at this point. You saw the light switch shut off. One couldn't figure out how to use his hands to open a bag. Another was shaking like I have never seen. This was unfortunately Warbaby. First time I didn't see him smile the whole time. The team stepped in. We got dry layers on them, huddled and deployed Mylar blankets as under layers. After about 20mins or so everyone was back in moving order and off we went along the river.

At one point before we got to the objective there was a park with pull up bars. Cadre Logan made a deal that if we could collectively do 58 ruck-on pull ups we could dump our 14 water cans. Wouldn't you know I think we got 59.

Now under lighter weight we made the way to the objective and were given 10 mins to eat.

Movement 6: Back Home to the Start point 1.5mi

The team began to move back to the start point. The "end" had to be within reach now. Soon after departure we realize something was not right. As we rounded a curve we noticed that there were a few members missing. The team moved back to find the Cadre with three of our teammates. He told us they were now casualties. That meant time to buddy carry. Now everyone was loaded up with something as the 6-7 people capable of buddy carries took turns. Every so often we'd screw up somehow and pick up another casualty. We ended up with 6 in all. This was a long slow few mis. We had to stop every 100-150ft or so to give the buddy carriers a break. This probable took 2.5 hours. We made it to the park, go in to find Logan on a bench. He tells us to move the coupon to the Softball field across from where he was.

As soon as we set foot throughout the left field fence we could tell this was a quagmire. Probably snow covered until a few days ago this was ankle deep mud. The Cadre broke up the team into 2 and put us through 5 relay races in the muck with penalties for the losers.
After about and hour we lunged our way out to the bench Cadre Logan had been sitting on just outside the field. This was at the base of a small grass reed covered hill. We made "sniper trials" low crawling through the reeds to the top. At the top was small asphalt circle with some sitting stones around it at the precipice of a much longer hill (about 100 yards) that bottomed out to a swap.

We stopped for a bit to go over our team weight and the names and profile of the Soldier that were inscribed on the rocks in the sandbag we'd carried for what was about 22 hours. This was an emotional part of the event. 

Post review of the team weight Cadre Dan and Logan regaled us with stories of Green Beret School and the dreaded "Hill" that was used anytime there was an F'up. Up and down they'd go, and thus so should we. Under the threat of begin put into the swamp we went down, we went up, We crawled down we crawled up. We were made to one step towards the swamp right to the edge several times. 

Up, Down, Up, Down. Stretcher sling carries, 80lb sand bag crawls. It was a while on that hill. On the final Crawl the Cadre grabbed the 80lb sand bags and dumped it's contents on us. We didn't have to carry them any more. 

Movement 7: Final Ruck

The Cadre had us move the Coupons back to the start point , clean them up and place them into the vehicles they brought. We formed up exactly where we had started. As the sun started to become pretty low in the sky but without twilight yet setting in, Cadre Logan then began to read the Ruck March Standard that he had read prior during the original PT Test. This time it was 8 mis. We'd walk at staggered intervals at a slower pace and not talk. A crushing revelation to some, just another 8mi to others. I don't think anyone would have let any other member quit right then. We were set off  into the park on the trail led around the "Hill" and back to the start point over about .5mis. 

Upon reaching the Start point we were given a speech that I will leave the contents to those that finish " Heavy". It's very hard to describe that feeling and the words mean so much more. Our patches were given with a hand shake and ACRT (Advanced Cellular Recovery Technology) aka Beer and bourbon, were broken out. Amongst those still standing, Warbaby. That little son'bitch to say the least surprised us all. It was an honor to go through this with him and every other member of the team. It is something that I will never forget. 24 Hours, 37mis(per the Cadre) and a crap ton of weight. Good Livin' for sure.