“My Seal Fit Experience-The Best I Could Remember Within The Cloud Of Fatigue”
Arrival – As I drove up I could see two other guys dressed in BDU and white T-shirt with black letters stenciled on them….I must be in the right place. There was a part of me that was hoping this wasn’t going to happen, I could just go back to my hotel and relax….not really, but kind of. I park the rental car, get out, grab my ruck, and head over to introduce myself. They were both from Canada and were having second thoughts as well. Co workers who wanted to challenge themselves and one of them was also training for an ultra, so this would be good prepping he figured. As we continued to talk there were others that filtered in and introductions were made. I think we all could tell there was an uneasiness and nervousness we all had. I think we all thought this sounded good from afar, but now that we were here….maybe not such a good idea. After some time a van pulls up and out jumps a staff member and a coach. The staff member comes over and we proceed to get all the proper paperwork signed. There were a few questions asked, but the answers were vague…..leaving a lot to the imagination. I started stretching a little, in hopes of being somewhat prepared for what was to follow…
“Put your rucks on….time to run!” Coach James calmly said. We start out our run which was about 1.5 miles to the “Fun Campsite”. As we were running down the road through other campsites, I could hear the music and other campers having a great time….maybe the “catcalling” from an intoxicated woman yelling “hey boys” as we ran by confirmed this. I’d be lying if I wasn’t thinking ‘oh how I’d love to switch places with them right now!’ As we approached the torture zone, I could see 5 wet, muddy, shivering guys huddled together for warmth on the left side of camp. Coach James filled us in on these guys and they were the 5 guys that were remaining (from a total of 9) of the Kokoro Class – 50 straight hours of SealFit. They had already been going for 18 hours…..truly humbling to see these guys in their physical & mental state, they looked like they had been through hell for sure. These guys were true animals, mad respect to them! Would I be able to make it through? How tough was this really going to be? Had I trained enough? Those were the questions that were going through my mind and we would soon find out.
There were a few simple things Coach informed that would make our life easier throughout this experience; address the coaches as “Coach” not “sir”, NO hands on hips, NO arms crossed, and NO hunched over. I’m sure there were more, but I do not recall the others at this time….these are the ones I remember. So if the coaches saw us doing any of these he would put us in “the book”.What is the book you ask? For every time our name is in the book, we will have to pay with 20 burpees at the end. Ugh…does not sound like fun! It was my goal to not get my name in the book!
“PST Minimum Requirements”
We were now instructed to line up in 2 rows of 5. As we were standing there, I could hear the coaches were barking orders at the Kokora Class while spraying water in there face, looked like pure misery. The coaches filtered through our 2 rows of 5 making comments and testing us mentally I would guess. Some of the things said to other teammate were, “Is that your daughters backpack?” or“Don’t you know how to stencil your name?” or “Are those Dockers?” just a few I recalled. Then it was my turn, “Baumgard? Really…..Your just going to be BUM for now!”. I have heard this one from the time I was in grade school, so wasn’t too bad and if this was all they had on me, I was fine! Sticks and stones. Coach Mark Divine made his way through the line, talking and briefly getting to know each of us, was great to meet him in person and grateful for his vision for Sealfit, at least that was what I was thinking as my opinion would vary throughout the night. (Mark Divine you’d be happy to hear my current option is back to grateful for your SEALFIT Program!)
Now it was time to see if we all trained appropriately and if we would be up what they had in store for us! Our coaches went through the PST (Physical Screening Test) minimum requirements they had for SEALFIT and they are as follows:
(Recommended PST Goals for SEALFIT):
• 40 push ups (30 for women) in 2 minutes, 40 sit-ups in 2 minutes and 40 air squats in 2 minutes – (2 minutes rest between each movement)
• 8 dead hang pull-ups for men, 4 for women, no time limit
• 1 mile run in boots and utility pants – 9.5 minutes
• Murph: 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 air squats, 1 mile run – (No Weight) – 75 minute time limit)
We were assigned a “swim buddy” who would be counting our reps for us as we go through each exercise and also the coaches mentioned we were NOT to be without our/a swim buddy no matter where we went…..water – take your swim buddy, going to the “head” (bathroom) – take your swim buddy. Half of the group got into the push up position and the others (counters) laid on the ground with their fist below our chest. I would be the one in our group doing the push ups first….lets get this started! The coach began his count down and then started the watch. I came out of the gate at a pretty good pace, maybe too good of a pace. I believe at the 1 minute mark, I was at 50 pushups….my chest and arms were feeling it already. I can’t believe I still had another minute to go, my pace definitely slowed way down….resting at the top when I could. My partner yelled words of encouragement and I slowlysqueaked out few more as coach counted down….5…4….3…2….1…STOP! Oy…I dropped to my knees and sat up, I definitely had a good pump going. I ended up finishing with a total of 84 push ups. I felt good with my total as I had more than doubled the minimum. Next I counted for my partner, he to was right there with 84. Once everyone reported our totals to the coach to write on the board, it was time to do sit ups. To completely honest,I haven’t done a sit up in months, maybe over a year! I have switched my core workouts to all standing up, as I don’t necessarily believe in putting stress on my spine….so these should be fun. I sat down in the mud and laid back on the “extremely” rocky ground….or at least it felt like it! My swim buddy sat on my feet and the coach counted down….ready go! There again, I came out of the gate little too fast…hitting a wall around minute 1:00 with 40 reps. Those last 20 reps were a struggle, my abs were killing me. It took everything I had to get the last ‘full’ reps up…..”And Stop” coach yelled! Oh wow, my back was not used to those, thank god it was my swim buddy’s turn now. I sat on his feet and once the clock started, so did my counting. You could definitely tell he had done these within the last week as he was cranking them out. After we recorded the totals, my total was 60 setups,it was time for the pull ups. I have always wanted to be able to crank out 25-30, but I can assure you this was not the night. I found a open bar and watched as the coaches demonstrated the “dead hang” or “full extension” pull up….no swinging or kipping allowed tonight. There was no time limit with these, it was as many as you could do. I started out and felt pretty good, but I have to admit doing them in BDU’s and hiking boots had a different feeling to it. I got 10 done and started to feel the fatigue. I continued on and got to 13….all the way down I dropped. I just hung there, wondering if I had enough in the tank for one more. I visualized pulling my elbows down to the ground….finally I got one more….14. That was it, I was done! Oy…I definitely need to work on those! I dropped off the bar and my feet hit the ground and I began shaking our my arms out to try and get some blood back them. I wasn’t real happy with the number, but it is what it is and I new I didn’t want to struggle with a couple more and fatigue myself as the night was still early. The next group jumped up and did theirs…..some did great, others not so great, but I think I can speak with everyone and we all were happy to have them over.
Next up the mile run. “Baumgard what are you shooting for” yelled one of the coaches, “I’m not sure….8:00 minutes” I replied. I wasn’t sure what to expect after completing the other challenges and also being wet, dressed in BDUs and boots. I figured it would add little “extra” resistance to my run. “How about 6:00 minutes” he replied, apparently he didn’t like my conservative time of 8:00 minutes. As we lined up on the line to start, our circle driveway “running path” was lit by chem lites every 30-40 feet or so. We had to do 8 laps, so it was a fairly smaller loop around the campground area. Ready…Set….Go and we were off! I clearly remember those first couple of steps…..hell the first couple of laps were hard! My body was tight and my feet hit the asphalt with a thud every step, I could definitely the feel boots and BDUs. Once I started rounding the first corner, things got a lot better, blood started flowing and my muscles warmed up. I was in the front of pack, maybe be third I think as we were going into the second to the last lap. As I passed the starting/finishing line, I heard coach yell, “Pick it up BAUMGARD”, so doing what I was told tried to increase my stride a little more. My teammate who was at one point leading, now was running along our last placed teammate, therefore allowing me to move up into second position. Last lap, I could feel my legs getting tired and body starting to fatigue, I backed off my pace a little as I figured there are alot of hours left in this event so I should conserve a little. As I made the last turn, I could see the finish line in sight and figured now was the time to start with a little kick. I crossed the line and heard time of 6:59 shouted out. I slowly headed off the road to catch my breath, putting my hands on my hips in hopes of helping with a quicker recovery, then I heard “BAUMGARD your in my book”! Ugh….I totally forgot, looks like I’m paying with burpees later.While recovering I was yelling words of encouragement to the rest of the team, as was everyone who had finished. The very last team member crossed the line and we all had completed the mile run….thank god that was over! Coach called out my teammate who was leading and then he dropped back to run with our last place team member, “Why did you not do your best?”, my teammate told him he wanted to run with the last place guy and encourage him. Coach then made it apparent, this was an “Individual” event and he needed to perform his best. Learning moment for all of us, there are times to help your teammates and other times to focus on your best.
“Push-ups, burpees, bear crawling, ice bath, hose spraying (mostly in face) for about hours, but realistically 45mins”
After everyone caught their breath from the mile run, we were instructed to get back in line….2 rows of 5. As we quickly found our spots, Coach yelled “Ground” so we hit the ground, then “Back” so we flipped on our backs, “Push Up” then we got into push up position…..this went on for quite awhile, he would yell and we would do it. It gets better, the other coach was spraying us with the hose while we were doing all these as well. I have to say, it seemed like he always was able to get a pretty good shot at my face. In fact it felt like I was the only one getting sprayed, but knew we were all enjoying it. “Push up position”, we would all get into push up position then “Down….Up….1” until we did 10 strict pushups. There were the other coaches walking around making sure we ALL had good form. So of guys didn’t have good form….so guess what? Yep…10 more! “Burpees…..ready?” and we were all doing burpees…..10! After awhile I became somewhat oblivious to the exercises and was just listening to the commands and performing the movements. I then heard, “BAUMGARD bear crawl over to the ice bath”! Oh boy I could hardly wait…oh I am just kidding. The ice bath was probably the thing I was looking forward to the least. I bear crawled over towards the ice bath through the mud. Once there I was instructed to gently go up one side, head first into the ice bath, slowly along the bottom, then head first out the other end. Simple….right? “DON’T SPILL ANY OF MY WATER, YOU SPILL MY WATER YOUR DOING IT AGAIN!” coach yelled. Way to take the fun out of this. I slid up the outside, over edge and head first into the ice bath……HOLY SHIT that was cold it took my breath away. I tried to slowly move along the bottom and up the other side,the whole time “DON’T SPILL MY WATER” ringing in my ears. Up and over the other side like a snake….maybe more like a walrus. I then landed on the ground in bear crawl mode, waiting to hear if I spilled any water. “GET BACK IN LINE BAUMGARD”. I crawled back, trying to go around everyone and back to my spot while getting sprayed in the face, “BAUMGARD WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHERE ARE YOU GOING”?I replied, “Back to my spot coach”. “GET IN LINE RIGHT HERE” so I did, no question asked. We rolled around in the mud and water for another couple of hours…well maybe more like 30mins, but it felt like hours. “EVERYONE UP”. We were done for now.
Each of us was commanded to grab gallon water jug, chem light (attach to back belt loop), empty burlap “sand bag”, MRE (Meal Ready Eat), and protein bar. The time allotted was only 7mins! Once all the items were gathered, back in line, only to be told it’s time to load up in two vans. Now it was time to travel to next “activity”. I figured they’d be dropping us off for a night run up the road with maybe some sand bag carrying. We just kept driving. I could see the clock on radio which read 10:45pm. As we continued down the road, I started noticing we were heading towards the beach. This was a “love/hate” destination for me, all the images/movies I remember were Navy Seals training on the beach with the surf pounding their bodies, but to be doing it first hand? The clock just kept ticking by….11:00….11:30. One thing that came to mind was, this part was easy…riding in a warm van and however long it takes us, it will take us that long to get back…bonus! 11:44 and we arrive at the beach. We unloaded from the bus and as we joined the other half of our group they were shivering uncontrollably. Come to find out, they had no heat….wet from before and a cold ride hour long ride down to the beach. I was so glad I was in the warm van. We huddled in a group to try and warm them up. I recall our first vision of the Kokora group was them huddling for warmth, now it was our turn to huddle and conserve body heat. Going to be a long night….let the fun begin!
I knew it was inevitable that we were going to get wet….the question was when? We put our rucks on our backs and marched down towards the beach in two lines. Once there we were instructed to line up in a single file line facing the surf and take off our rucks, placing in front of us with straps facing towards us. “Let’s get wet” our coach commanded and we all went running into the ocean some more excited than others. I new I needed to get completely wet, so waded out about mid thigh deep water and waited until a wave came then dove under….definitely took my breathe away! Once I regained my footing, I was racing back up to the beach to find my place in line behind my ruck. The coaches then went down the line inspecting everyone, making sure we all completed that task correctly. Sadly there was one teammate that was not completely wet, so we were all instructed to “hit the surf” again…..here we go again. This would be the beginning of many trips to and from the surf throughout the following 5-6 hours, too many to count.
Oh these were brutal…..not as “sweet” as they sound! Coach said it was time to make sugar cookies, “You know what those are?” he asked, “It’s when you run down to ocean, get completely wet, run back and roll around in the sand, adding the sugar”. “Ready….Go!” he yelled. We all ran down to the ocean, jumped in…I was making sure to completely submerge my body. Once I was soaked, I ran back to the dry sand and proceeded to make snow angels in the sand, also grabbing hand fulls of sand to cover my body. Next flipped over to get the front, making sure to cover my face! All finished and sprinted back to the line for inspection. Coach started at the end and moved down the line making sure we were all good, he stopped at one of team members, “turn around”. He preceded to let us know, he didn’t want “Walmart” sugar cookies…he wanted LOTS of sugar! Back down to the surf we all went and lets try this again. “Help your swim buddy out”, yelled our coach. We all began hysterically covering each other with sand, looking like we were back in a preschool sandbox…but with more physical implications. Back up to the line we ran, inspection done….all passed!
“Sand bags – Press – Stairs”
Once back in line, we were instructed to fill the empty burlap sand bag 1/3 of the way with sand and would be inspected. There were a few team members who were a little light and had to add more sand. I cautioned on the filling on the fuller side of sand. Figured it would save me from maybe another trip to the ocean. Our coach inspected each sand bag, instructing those that were “lite” to have add more sand to theirs and giving the others whose bagseemed little heavy an eyebrow raise along with “Are you sure?”. All bags were finally filled to the specifications of our coaches and we were then told to hold above our head in a press. We all did this and some of my teammates where having some issues with the long press….I personally felt the burn in my shoulders, but still held my own. Coach called up one of my teammates to the front and asked, “How long should we all hold them for?” My teammate said “3 minutes Coach” and the coach was happy with the time apparently, as he ordered everyone in line and he would start the clock. “3….2….1….press!” We all started out strong, pressing the sand bags overhead like they were pillows, ok maybe not pillows but manageable. As time progressed the shoulder burn started and the once straight arms began to weaken and bend. “Half way there” coach said. Only halfway there, holy shit! This is where I began to start my nasal breathing and chanting my mantra, “Embrace the Suck” in my head. I do believe I also closed my eyes for a bit. 30 seconds left….my shoulders were burning, but I got this. I could see out of corner of my eye some of my teammates’ sand bags where almost on top of their head and faces grimacing with pain. 5….4….3….2….1….Done! Sandbags dropped down like they were small cars, hitting the beach with force. We were all able to breathe and catch our breath, felt good to shake our arms out and get the blood back into our arms and hands. “Sand bags up” coach commanded. Seriously? Holy shit….again? Yep….sandbags up, let the pressing begin! This round was a lot tougher, my shoulders started burning sooner and so did my teammates. In my mind there was no way I was going to make it this time, my shoulders were smoked! I just kept my arms locked out and began to externally rotate my elbows outward, hoping this would help to keep my arms straight and lessen the pain, in my mind it seemed to work. “Minute left” shouted the coach. This is where my eyes closed again and my mantra started, “Embrace the Suck!” was repeated over and over again in my head! It seemed like eternity, then I heard “5…..4…..3…2…..1…..Sand bags down”. If you thought the first time was loud, this time those sand bags hit the beach with a booming sound, guessing majority of us dropped from the highest point we had them at. Getting rid of them ASAP! Done…..at least I hoped! This was yet another time I thought I was physically and emotional done, but was pushed beyond my limits by having to do it again.
After a few minutes rest, we were then told to put our sand bags in our rucks. This was a tight fit as we had our gallon jug of water still fairly full and MRE (Meal Ready Eat – our gourmet dinner for later), only two items but that sand bag was heavy and not alot of give with the shape. I finally got everything stuffed in and zipped up, it was tight but done! My teammate next to me had asked for my help zipping it up, it was tight….reason is there was already another sand bag in there. He was part of the Kokora group of 5 that we joined up with. Coach saw our struggle and informed everyone there should only be one sand bag in each ruck, leaving the 5 extras lined up in front. As we all seemed to get this task accomplished, there was a little hint we had knowing we might not like what was in store for us!
“Rucks On” shouted the coach “Everyone will go to the top of those stairs and back down”. As we all peered in the direction of the stairs, there seemed to be a lot of flights….but I was up for the challenge! The coach drew a line in the sand and we all stepped up to the line, some more willing and others just stumbling up to it, not sure what they signed up for. Ready, Set, Go….and the coach started the stop watch while running ahead of us.We all raced toward the stairs, some faster than others. I was feeling pretty good and was able to be near the lead. Once my feet went from the softer sand to the hard wood stairs it was quite a little shock for my muscles, definitely changed my gait as I felt how stiff I was. Up the stairs, turn, up the stairs, turn, up the stairs, turn……long straight stretch with stairs, turn, up the stairs, turn, up the stairs, turn, up the stairs….. I’m not exactly how many flights there were but felt like 20-25! The reality was there were only roughly 10 flights, but still felt like ALOT more! I reached the top and made the turn, now back down the right side. As I was heading down, I was passing my fellow teammates seeing the pain and agony in some of their faces. “Good job guys, keep it up” I yelled as I descended the stairs. Down, turn….down, turn…..down turn…..until I reached the bottom and jumped onto the sand…Ugh! The little jump off the ramp jolted my cold, wet muscles enough to cause a little pause before stretching out and running to cross the line. Once I crossed the line I immediately was back in line, waiting for my teammates and catching my breath. I had finished first and was happy with it. I felt like I could run quite a bit if I had too, depending on the night I might have too. My other teammates made it down and back into line. “Ok…again, this time faster” coach yelled. We all toed the line and waited for the the command. “3…2…1…Go!” shouted the coach and we were up the stairs again. This is were you could definitely see those who had done some running and those who had not. I turned the corner at the top and back down, shouting words of encouragement as I passed my teammates. Few more steps, then little jump down to the sand and short sprint to the line…..first again, I was happy with it and felt good. Again I waited for the others and they filed down the stairs and back into line. We were all lined up and coach said, “Again…..faster this time”! Again…seriously? We did it again….up the stairs, lots of words of encouragement, “Come on guys, we have this!” we all yelled. Down the stairs, onto the beach, and over to our rucks we went. There were a few guys towards the back who were struggling but hoping they were going fast enough. The crossed the line and made their way back to the line, standing in front of their ruck. We all waited….were we fast enough? The coach yelled, “Good Job…grab a drink”. I was glad to hear that, as others were to I’m sure.
“Lying in the surf”
After a short rest and water break, our coaches instructed us back in a straight line. We quickly stood in a straight line standing in front of our rucks. Wonder what could be next?
“Tighten up your line, shoulder to shoulder…now link arms!” coach commanded! We linked arms. “Start marching forward”. We marched towards the water and kept marching until the water was about 16” deep. “STOP, now lie on your back”. We all tried to lie on our backs with arms linked….oh what a rodeo that was! Our coaches yelled, “you can unlink your arms to get down”! Oh so much easier. As we layed down and linked arms that water sure was cold. The tide went out and there for a short minute I was thinking how nice and relaxing it was on the enjoying the stars, calm before the storm. CRASH! The wave crashed over my head, completely taking my breathe away. Salt water in my nose, eyes, mouth, and ears. I lifted my head up to get a fresh breath, “heads back” was shouted from the shore. My head went back, as the wave receded it got me again…immersing my body again! We laid there for what seemed like eternity, but realistically only about three waves crashed us. “On your feet, about face, march forward”. Back to the safety of dry land, soaked looking like a drowned rats and feeling like I just got hit by a submarine! As I stood in line, I could feel the weight of extra sand in my pockets….oh I wish I had zipper closures on those BDUs! When the coaches weren’t looking, I was pulling handfuls of sand our of my pockets and dropping discreetly beside me. I was hoping they wouldn’t see, as I did not want to have to do over again! “Alright…link arms, back into the surf” coach yelled and we all proceeded to do this again….good stuff. The second time was a little better, only because I was already soaked and new what to expect for the most part. It was still not a normal feeling to have your head below the surf and waves moving you without your control. This went on for a total of 4 different trips to the surf, lying with heads back and using the ocean as our own personal “netty pot”. Needless to say, I was done with this…finally we got back and were on to the next exercise.
“Swim Buddy Relay Race”
“Everyone line in….shortest to tallest” coach yelled. We all started moving into this order, making sure we were doing it quickly. “Driver to the Front” yelled the coach, “Make sure we have everyone tallest to shortest in a straight line”! As we all started moving to our respective spots, I found I was located in roughly the middle….four teammates shorter and six taller than me. As we are standing there in our straight line, the coaches are going down the line pairing us up with our new “Swim Buddy”. Turns out I’m partnered with my teammate Bushnell, who is standing just to my left. Now that we are all paired up, our coaches tell us to stand in a straight line from beach to surf. We all hustle to what we think is the correct position, about half of us get it right….our coach let us know, “Pay attention to details…ALWAYS! Now lined up”, our coach says, “you are going to be doing a piggy back relay race with your swim buddy, one guy will jump on the others back, run down to those rocks, switch positions and back”. As I’m I looking down to the rocks and then at my partner, I muttered “Holy Shit…..Bushell, how much are you weighing in at, 225?” He half laughing murmured back, “Only 215”. Bushnell was about 6’0 and a solid 215lbs. You could tell he worked out 5/6 days a week at the gym. He asked me my weight and I responded, “175-180”. We both talked strategy and I moved us closer to the surf, hoping the harder wet packed sand would be to our advantage…..but also hoping we didn’t get a into “high tide” or another big wave to cause this to be worse than it was. Bushnell was going to carry me first, then I would be carrying him on the return trip. As we lined up waiting for our coach to start us, I have to say I was not to sure how coming back with Bushnell on my back was going to go. “Ready….Set….Go!” our coach yelled. I jumped on Bushnell back and he raced down towards the rocks at a brisk pace. I tried to do all I could with making my body rigid as to not cause any “energy leaks” if you will. He didn’t need me flopping around like a fish on his back. We ended up making it to the rocks first and I jumped down and prepared for the haul back. Bushnell jumped on my back and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I continued our pace, making sure I kept my toes up as I did not want to faceplant with 215lbs behind me. We closed in on the starting/finishing line and were in the lead…this was looking good! Just a few more steps and we have this….Done! We end up crossing the line first! Let me tell you that was a good feeling. What even felt better was when the coach told us to have a seat in the “winners circle” while the others lined up for the next relay. I was so glad we finished first as the next relays sucked. The next relay was the “wheel barrel” race…ugh! I felt sorry for my other teammates, there were some headers into the sand due to arm fatigue. Two more groups made it to the winners circle with us. The final relay race was the “crab race”. Remember the crab walk as a kid? Well add the wet BDU and boots, some sand, and the crashing waves and you have “Sealfit crab walk”. This was a tough race for a few teammates and we shouted words of encouragement for those people. Finally the last one made it over the line, it was a brutal race.
“MRE – DINNER”
Now it was time for a steak dinner…..I wish, how about an MRE. From Wikipedia – The Meal, Ready-to-Eat – commonly known as the MRE – is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging bought by the Department of Defense for its service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available. While MREs should be kept cool, they do not need to be refrigerated. This was not my first dinner date with an MRE, I have had a few when I worked with the forest service fighting fires back in my early 20’s. I knew about the green peanut butter and the super thin crunchy crackers, and if you were lucky there was a dessert! As we sat down to eat and let our bodies rest, we congregated into 3 groupings. Kokora group was together, sitting in front of each other with arms around the person in front of them to keep warm. These guys were almost a day and half ahead of us, these guys were truly animals and again my hat was off to them. Although it was evident they were beat, fatigued, and definitely were ready for a little time to fuel and rest. Our team had broken into two different groups. The group I was in, we decide to all sit in a circle with our backs towards each other for warmth and stability. Our bodies were tired. I fumbled through my ruck and found my MRE it was a little sandy but will work. My hands were so cold, it took me little time to open….I felt like a little kid opening a child proof bill bottle. I finally got the weather proof bag open and started rifling through the contents and pulling our my prizes. I went straight for my “crackers”, I use this term lightly. There definitely was alot of “cracker” with each bite…..little dry, ok…alot dry but I was eating for fuel! To my delight I found an envelop of orange flavored electrolytes and quickly dumped into my gallon jug of water. Oh that tasted good! What would my main coarse be? Yep, you guessed it….beef stroganoff! Mmmm……can’t wait. If I remember correctly, I had about 6 bites….was very salty, but I was eating for fuel so the sodium was good at this time. Everyone was fairly quiet, just trying to open their meals with frozen fingers and read the labels in the dark. There was some trading going on, but overall I believe we were all in the same boat…..visualizing what our next BIG meal would be after this was all over! One last food group to enjoy…..dessert! I found my “brownie packet” which was all powder. I was able to borrow some water from my teammate Trainer, as I did not want an orange flavored brownie. To be honest I’m not sure it would have made a difference in the taste. I have two words to describe this wonderful treat….sweet glue! After about 3 bites I was done, ready to wrap this meal up! Oh wait…..whats this, a wet nap! Yep….the best of all. I know this seemed like “throwing lawn chairs off the Titanic” but this little wet nap saved my eyes. I can’t believe the amount of sand I had in my eyes. Now with fresh eyes and a belly “half-full” I was ready to go! “Lets wrap it up, pick up all you trash” coach yelled.
“Sand bag ruck”
“Everyone up….Line up!” shouted our coach. Standing in line I felt good, as much as that “lunch break” sucked…it did my body good. “Who wants to exchange their sandbag for one of these?” coach asked. No-one spoke up, I guess we were all good with the size/weight of our own sand bag. “Form two lines and we will ruck our sand bags down to the point of rocks and back”. I looked towards that direction….the point of rocks? I don’t see a point of rocks…oh wait, I squinted and could barely make out the rocks. Holy shit that is far! “Also we need to carry the extra 6 sandbags down as well as a team, so some of you will carry two at a time and trade off along the way”. I was in alot better shape than most at this particular time in the night, so I grabbed one of the extra sand bags. We all started marching towards the point of rocks. It was a quiet but steady walk. As we were marching under peoples houses which were directly above us on the cliff, I couldn’t help but think about those people sleeping soundly in their beds. Meanwhile we were going through our own little “hell night” out here. We continued to walk, ok maybe trudge down the beach, weaving around rocks and through water. I had both sandbags up on my shoulders, then moving behind my head and ruck. I was just trying to find the sweet spot for carrying these things, it there was one. I looked around to hand one off, ”You want to carry this?” No takers….I continued to carry both of them. We finally got to the point of rocks. “Halt and about face” was yelled in the darkness. Now it was time to head back the other way…..back to where we came from. I could tell some of my teammates were wiped out, their feet were dragging and heads were hung low. I was doing good, it was just walking with sand bags…not salt water in my face or up multiple stairs….just walking, I was good. I decided I would carry two sand bags the whole way. I new this would help the team and save some of the others from additional strain and fatigue. One step in front of the other, ‘Embrace the suck’ kept being repeated in my head….over and over. There it was again…those words. Finally we made it to were we started. “Halt” yelled a coach, “Everyone front and center, one line”. We all jockeyed for position in one line, trying to make it as straight as possible but knowing it must have looked pretty pathetic as we were all weary and tired. “Drop your Sand bags” yelled coach! There was that crashing “THUD” of all the sand bags hitting the beach…..no gentleness about it. We were done with those things! “Load” them in your rucks, so we did just that. Everyone tried to undo their buckles/zippers and stuff the sandbags in their rucks. Some teammates were having a harder time than others and we all chipped in to help. Once we all were loaded up and rucks back on again. ”Follow me” Coach said and we followed like the sheep we were down along the beach towards our van. Could we be done? Was this it? I think everyone was thinking this…there was a little spring in everyone’s step as they were thinking this too. Are we done at the beach?
“Swim Buddy Circuit” Surf/10/15/20push ups/Burpee/air squats”
“Everyone line up here” yelled the coach and pointing to a flatter spot on a small hill. Nope, we were not done….Ugh! I paid for this? This was a Christmas present from my beautiful and thoughtful wife? Seriously….I got here framed pictures of the family.
As we lined up, coach explained we needed to partner up…so we all did. As we were lining up with our partners he was explaining we will be doing a Circuit. “You and your swim buddy will run over that hill, hit the surf, on the way back do a sugar cookie on the hill, back up here do 10 pushups…back down to the surf, sugar cookies, up the hill, 15 Burpees….back down to the surf, sugar cookies, up the hill 20 air squats….back down to the surf, sugar cookies, up the hill and done! What the hell?!? Seriously….Ugh! And so it began….”Ready…Go”! Down the hill we went, into the surf, up to the hill and roll around…this was by far my favorite. Sand in my face, ears, eyes, nose and every other part of my body…..NOT, this sucked! Up the hill and 10 push ups…done! Back down to the surf…sugar cookies…….you get the just. Oy this sucked, my body and mind were fatigued. At this point I was just trying to get through this without being the last team. I was encouraging my teammate along the way as we were in the top three and I was hoping, just hoping maybe if we finished in first we could sit out like before. As we reached the top of the hill, we only had 20 air squats left, only?! I faced my swim buddy and started counting….1…down….2….down. I could tell he was fatigued. Coached yelled, “make sure your going parallel”. At this point I told my partner to dig his toes into the sand, this would enable a more stable position for him and if he had issues with flexible ankles would fix. He did and we were back at it. I started breaking it into sets of 5 reps then rest. We were on our last 5 reps……15 down……16 down….17 down….18 down….19 down…..and 20!! Oh it felt so good, we were done. We finished, not in first but second or third and at this point I didn’t care, we were done. “Grab water” coach yelled. We all took a water break and tried to catch our breath. “Bushnell, your in the book” coach quietly said. Just then I look over and my teammate Bushnell had put his hands on his hips to rest…..ugh I thought. Talk about kicking a man when he is down.
“Ok on the line” coach said. “Down…stomach….back…..up…..down….back…..stomach….up” this went on for awhile, it became a blur to me. Finally on our feet again. “Ok we are going to do the circuit again, this time rolling down the hill and working backwards starting with 20, then 15, then 10”. I’m not sure I heard that correctly, we are doing that again? Seriously….This can be what he said! We already did it….it sucked, we all were VERY tired! Again?? Those three words came into my head ‘Embrace the Suck’! I have to admit, I remember very little of the second circuit as I was just going through the motions. If you just reread the earlier few sentences and add a 20x factor to the suck to it, thats what it was like! It really sucked the second time through!
After finishing we grabbed a drink, we were all done. There was very little in the tank left. “On the line”…..oh this couldn’t be, another one?! “I want you to run around that life guard tower, down the hill and across the beach and up through that gully and back here…..Ready – GO”! Oh shit….we weren’t done. Luckily there was no time to think about it, we just started running. To be honest, I was fine with the running….to me it was fairly easy, no salt water…..just wet, sandy, cold boots and clothes. I was able to finish in the top 3, feeling fatigued but definitely accomplished. As the reaming teammates made it back and lined up, coach told us we were done. The words I had been waiting to hear for hours, we were done! He led us up the beach, we reached the sidewalk and up the ramp we walked. I remember feeling the concrete on under my feet, thinking how hard that surface felt under my boots. It was a combination of cold feet, wet boots/socks, and spending the last 6 hours in the softer sand that caused this. We made it to the top, van was in site….oh what a good feeling this was. “Line your rucks up, straps facing away in a line” coach said. As we filed up to the line, clumsily placing our rucks in line and ready to load up into the van. “Now I want everyone to jog down to the sand and back……little cool down”! Oh hell….again! At this point I was not surprised, one thing I learned was whenever I thought it was over….it wasn’t there was always more. Embrace the Suck! I ran down the ramp, reached the sand and back up. I was leading the pack by about 20-30 steps, I was ready to be done! This is were living at an elevation of 5300 ft I believe helped me. Back to the van I went. Once everyone was up, we loaded up….Oh we were tired, but we were done with the beach!!!
“Van ride back”
This was one of the quietest rides I had every been on, not a lot of talking or for that matter moving at all. Luckily the heat was on, but I’m not sure that would have mattered or we would have noticed as we were too tired. The one thing I do remember is there was NO SLEEPING! Whenever anyone nodded off, coach would shake or yell back to wake us up. He didn’t want any sleeping or resting. We would try and help our teammates out, or at least we thought we were helping by waking up those who were nodding off before coach saw. Geez….can’t even rest after that workout, or workouts we did. Embrace the Suck! As we rounded the last corner and I saw the sign to the campground where it all began, there was a sign of relief that came over me. We entered the gate and the van pulled over to the side behind the other van. The other passengers were already out, waiting for us. As we unloaded and made our way over to the others, our coach instructed us to form two lines. Then we started jogging back to the “Fun Campsite”….just a couple of miles, not bad. The jog was quiet, both with the team and our surroundings. Other campers had not yet woken up, they were asleep in their campers…still enjoying a peaceful nights rest! It crossed my mind several times, how I had just gone through the worst night of my life and they didn’t have a clue, maybe they never would? As we trudged up the last hill,I was still digging hand full of sand out of my pockets…..I got a chuckle out of that! Across the flat section we came to the big circle road which was lined with still burning “chem-lites” from the previous night. Definitely was an odd feeling, seemed like days ago….but was only 8-10 hours ago.We all made it to the “Fun Site” and were instructed to take 15 min break…..water, snack, and bathroom break. We all looked like walking zombies stumbling around, eating our protein bars, and sucking down the electrolyte fluid on the table. As our time winded down, we all started making our way back to line up…..definitely reluctantly. I think I can speak for everyone, they were done!
We all lined up coach let us know we will be doing the “Murph Workout”. We new this was coming, but maybe we were hoping they might forget. In case you’re unfamiliar, “Murph” is a classic CrossFit workout known as a Hero WOD. Hero WOD’s are made by CrossFit to honor the men and women that have fallen in the line of duty. This one is specifically to honor Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on June 28th, 2005.
1 mile Run
300 Air Squats
1 mile Run
*With a 20 lb Vest or Body Armor
This workout itself was Michael’s favorite workout to do, which at the time referred to it as “Body Armor”, hence the 20 lb vest or body armor as part of the workout prescription. So, every year, CrossFitters synonymously around the world pay special tribute to Lieutenant Murphy by joining together and suffering through this workout. I was happy to hear we won’t have to wear the 20lb vest. There was something different about this workout, yes I was tired, but this was a HERO WOD, there was a sense of pride I felt, as did others. I had done this a couple times before, once without the vest and once with….both times were tough. If I remember correctly the first time I completed MURPH it was in 43mins, not a bad time for someone who only does it once a year I guess. This was going to be completely different, I was in boots and BDU’s….not only that, but they were completely soaked and sandy! “Toes on the line” Coached yelled! We all stepped up to the line and so it would begin….”Ready…Set…Go”! We were off…..running the circular driveway, lined with still visible chem lights…..lap one of 8 for our first mile. I was by no means setting a record pace, at this point I was just wanting to get through it. Around I want, we all went, some faster than others but we where all moving forward…barely. I finished my first 8 laps…mile 1 done! Now on to the pull ups, push ups and air squats. We were able to break these up, so it would be little more manageable. 10 pull ups, 20 push ups, and 30 air squats….10 rounds! We were able to kip or butterflyif we wanted on the push ups….I started out with strict pull ups. 5 then rest….5 then done. Now down to push ups, these were easy for me and it felt like resting….at least my legs were resting. Same concept of breaking up reps, only this time it was 10 and 10. For now it worked, but later I would break these up to smaller sets as well, 5 reps x 4 = 20. I was plugging through these….yelling out to coach to mark down, “Baumgard round 1”. “Baumgard round 2”. “Baumgard round 3”…….and so on. There were two of my teammates that smoking through this, like machines. Huge respect to them, as they had just been put through hell and were going strong. There were others who had partnered up, one was doing the pull ups and the other was doing the air squats…we were all muscling through it. I completed my last round of pull ups, push ups, and air squats….”Baumgard round 10” I yelled. Now was time for my last mile, almost there. I started around the paved driveway…same chem lites still making the way in the morning sun. Oh this mile was going to suck, feet felt heavy and legs were fatigued. Around and around I went, seemed like with each lap I slowed just a little more. “Lap 6” I yelled out as I passed the starting line, only two more….I felt a sudden adrenalin rush. “Lap 7”, only one lap left and this workout was done!! As I started out there was a feeling of accomplishment from the night before and everything I had done. As I passed a few of my teammates, my speed picked up….rounding corner 3 and I was almost done. There definitely was a spring in my step, I was almost done……”Baumgard lap 8”. Done!! Coach yelled my time, “52 minutes”….I was happy, it was tough but I was done! I slowly walked around catching my breath….being conscious not to put my hands on hips or knees, still didn’t want to be added to the book! We had a couple of teammates that were having a tough time, walking around the loop. Those of us that were done, we headed around to walk with them…..support and help motivate to finish the MURPH! Words of encouragement all the way around! As our group headed around the last turn, we were all pretty excited….we were finishing this as a team. Just a few more steps…..DONE! We all had finished! It was a very good feeling….we completed it! “Grab some water and 15 min rest” coach yelled. We all welcomed those words as we knew we were close to the end…..or were we?
“Burpee payment- the book”
Those ever painful words echoed throughoutFun Camp, “Line Up, I want 3 rows facing me”. Whenever I thought we were done, we weren’t. We all quickly lined up hesitantly ready for what they had in store for us. “Time to for payment”! “Time to pay me if your name is in the book.” As he started reading off the amount of checks each teammate had and the total of burpees, my head sank. I only had 2 checks, so only 40burpees….but some others had 80-100 burpees! Oy…there were alot of burpees our team had accumulated over our time this was not necessarily looking like a quick exit! Coach asked one teammate to come up front, he was going to lead us……by counting each phase of our burpee exercise. One….our hands touch the ground. Two….feet sprawl out behind us. Three….chest hits the ground. Four…..push up. Five…..feet jump forward under our body. Six…..stand up. Pretty simple…right?! We were looking at close to 240burpees if I remember correctly…..Oh Shit!!! “One….Two….Three….Four…..Five….Six” our leader yelled and we responded “1”. “One….Two….Three….Four….Five…..Six” – “2”. I remember thinking how hard the ground was when I hit it for the burpee, this is going to be fun. If this wasn’t fun already, now came the water again, the coaches were spraying it right in our faces. I’ll have to give them credit, they had great aim….every time seemed to be right in center of my face. We all slowly struggled through all 20, barely. Coach brought another teammate up and we went through the same process…..leader counting, team counting, coaches spraying water, and yelling “get your butt up, good form”. 40 burpees down. I know it was only few sentences here, but it was a good 30-40mins for those 40 burpees. This went on for another couple sets, I really thought this was going to go on for ever. I just remember those words going through my head, “Embrace the Suck”….over and over again. We were not moving fast at all, the complete opposite as our bodies were weary, fatigued, and ready for this to be over. Coach called up our youngest teammate at age 19, who he nicknamed “Asshole” because his last name started with an “A” and there was an “s” in it. “I’ll make you a deal, if ALL of you do these 20 correctly without screwing up these will be your last set and we will be done with burpees”. What….done with burpees? There was a renew of energy and all of us seemed to find our voices, “Come on guys we have this”. “Lets do this”. “No mistakes”. This could be it, we all just had to go through the motions without messing it up. Let me tell you those last 20 burpees were done V….E….R….Y……S…..L…..O…..W as to not mess up. There were times we were going so slow I felt like I was going to mess up. With each number yelled out be our team leader, we were in that position….with correct form. “19”…….One….Two…..Three…..Four….Five…..Six……”20”! We were done….DONE! I so hate burpees. I know they are one of the best full body exercises, but boy do I hate those now! “Get some water” yelled our coach. Oh could this be the end of all this?
“Everyone in a line, tallest to shortest”! Ugh…we were not done. Wishful thinking on my part. We all formed a line, tallest to shortest which put me right in the middle…number five out of ten. “Log PT time” Coach yelled. Oy…don’t these coaches ever get sick of yelling. “I want you five over there and the other five on this log”. I was the tallest of the shorter five….wait a second. I was 5”10 3/4 (need that 3/4 added) and 178lbs. Although probable after this last day about down to 165. One other teammate, SHEA on my log team was little shorter but about the same weight and stocky.The other group smallest teammate was 6’0 and 205 most likely….they had us on the weight and size for sure. As we lined up next to the log, I was on one end and my teammates were behind me on the same log. Our coach proceeded to go through the correct lifting techniques as to not hurting our backs. “Each position is a number, log down right is 1, log shoulder right is 2, log pressed up overhead is 3, log shoulder left is 4, and log ground left is 5” he said. As we he shouted out the numbers we lifted log to the correct spot, sometimes it took us a couple of times to do. Some were getting 2 and 4 mixed up which with a 250lb log causes some issues on the neck. Did I tell you we were all EXHAUSTED…..if I hadn’t, we were. Oh this log was heavy, my arms were screaming…especially in position 3, log pressed overhead. This seemed to be a favorite of the coaches, “1…….3…….hold……………4…….3……hold……….4…..3…….hold”. This went on for along time, hours. Ok maybe not hours, but seemed like it. “Switch logs” coach yelled. I was so hoping this would be the lighter log, but from the facial expressions of the other guys during lifting…it was not. As we all stood along side the log, we were so done. “5……4……” coach yelled. We stood with the log on our left shoulder, the log continually being shifted by myself and teammates behind as it was uncomfortable. We were all trying to find that “happy” spot on our deltoid, but there was not “happy” place to be. Our coach then told us we will be walking the loop, you can carry the log on your shoulder or all can face and carry curled against your chest. I quickly piped up, “we will carry on our shoulder, right team”? We all agreed, I was afraid our arms were not going to handle for the walk….at least on our shoulders there was the help of our whole body, what was left of it. So we began, the walk around the loop….still littered with lit Chem-Lites marking the way of the night runs we did. Oh this was tough. Some teammates were really feeling it, the log was doing a lot of adjusting as we walked. Half way there. I through the log off my shoulder…..noI didn’t, but that is how I felt. I’m sure as did ALL my other teammates as well felt the same. Our feet were stumbling and the groans were getting louder with agony.We could see the finish line and our speed picked up. 20 steps left. The log was falling. 10 steps left. Log was still falling. 5….4…..3….2….1 steps, we were there. “Logs down to 1….slowly” coach yelled. We tried to do it slowly, but the last phase was fairly quick….log dropping with a thud. Oh I was so glad to be done with that log! “Shake out your arms and stretch your back little……walk around”. Oh I was so happy to be done! It had been a long day, my body was soooooooooo done! “On your Log” coach said. What? Seriously……Oh shit!! We were not done? There was more?!? Those three words came into my head, I might of even said out loud under my breath, “Embrace the Suck”! “How long do you think you can hold the log over your head?” coach asked a teammate, he replied “2 minutes”. What did he say? 2 minutes? “2 minutes it is, I want you guys to hold the log overhead for 2 minutes”. I really thought this could not be done, my arms were smoked….along with all other teammates as well. “Coach I need to use the head” piped up a teammate. “Right now? Find a bush over there…..while he’s going, everyone else feet on log and in a pushup position”. “Really, you have to go piss now? Make it quick”. We all stayed in our straight arm plank position for seemed like eternity. I have to admit our form was not stellar, there were alot of sagging bodies…..I could see this and our coach was continually yelling to get your ass up! Geez….what was taking him so long! Here he came, once he arrived coach allowed us to get up. Oh that sucked. I’m sure from this point on everyone else will be pissing in there pants! Back to the log we went, lining up with the log on our right side…..position 1. “READY….up to 2 and hold”. We held the log on our shoulder and coach instructed us, once ALL of our elbows were locked out he would start the clock. “READY…..3”! We all lifted the log up and pressed over our head…..oh those shoulders burned. Starting out we all seemed to be doing as well as we could, picture 10 noodles holding up a log and that was us. Lots of shifting was happening throughout. “1 minute left” coach yelled. Oh wow, we still had a minute left?! The other group was dropping, I could see their log out of the corner of my eye. Ours was dropping too, my arms were tired…not sure they were even attached any more. “30 seconds left”. The other teams log hit their shoulders, ours was close behind I was afraid to say. Ugh…..we didn’t make it. “Logs down to 1 and shake out your arms”, coach yelled. I pretty sure we skipped position 2 and just dropped the log from our shoulders, there was nothing left. The log hit the ground and we too shook our arms out. We failed. I’m pretty sure we could not do 2 minutes, maybe we can just do a minute? Wishful thinking on my part.“Ready….Position 1 and up to 2” coach yelled. We all struggled….this was going to be impossible. My arms were gone, there was nothing it felt like. Our coach calmly said, “Reach deep down, you can do it….tell yourself you have this and you will”. Up went the log and the clock started. I closed my eyes and started breathing. The log was heavy and I could feel behind we there was alot of wiggling going on. Embrace the Suck! “One minute done” coach yelled. Halfway there, will we make it this time? 30 seconds……my arms were gone, it felt like I wasn’t even holding it up. Coach started counting down from 10, my arms were no longer attached…..5, 4, 3, 2, 1…..DONE! Logs down. Oh that sucked! I’m pretty sure we didn’t make it, but we were close. I can’t believe we have to do this again….Oh I am so done!! “HOOYAH” the coach yelled, “Congratulations…..You have completed SEALFIT” !! What, this was it….we were done?! I really didn’t believe it, seemed surreal. I let out a huge “HOOYAH” as did a majority of my teammates….we had conquered SEALFIT! My body was so tired, felt like gumby! We congratulated each other and I thanked the coaches for all they did and their service. We were DONE!!
“Done – Hooyah”
Hooyah is a word used in the United States Navy to build morale and signify verbal acknowledgment.
I was done! We had done it, completed SEALFIT! Looking back I didn’t think I was going to be able to complete it, but I did. I learned I have never really pushed myself both physically or mentally. Before this experience,when I thought I was done and could do no more…..I was mistaken. I still could do a lot more, I didn’t push myself far enough…..I gave up! Each time I thought I was done, I could not lift another sandbag, climb another step, do another burpee, or do lift another log…..I was ready to throw the towel in, give up! The coaches kept pushing me past my breaking point, farther than I had pushed myself and I could lift another sandbag. I could climb more stairs. I could do another burpee. I could lift another log. I did ALL those things and more!
Thank you to the Mark Divine and ALL the SealFit Coaches, not only for your service but also for your ability to push me beyond my limits and for continuing to push others beyond theirs! I will forever be changed from this time I spent with you and your staff at SealFit. I will do my best to pay it forward and push others beyond their limits as well ! Thank you to all Navy Seals, Special Forces, and those serving in our military….my hat is off to you. Mad respect for the training you have been through and what you do for us daily!
Disclaimer – The activities and events in this blog were depicted to the best of my knowledge. I was tired, sore, fatigued, and mentally broken-down at times so might be a little cloudy on specifics. I did my best to remember and describe to you the experience I had.