Rucking and Running

10 weeks out to the start of the Spartan Death Race. Excitement is starting to build. The Grim Reaper awaits my arrival at the gates of hell…aka Amee Farms in Pittsfield, Vermont. Nothing better than hitting the trails for an all-night ruck with some fellow Death Racers, Goruckers and friends crazy enough to venture out into the chilly night for a dose of Good Livin’.

I admit I had some reservations about organizing this event for the folks at Team SISU (the group of like-minded racers, runners and cross-fitters I belong to). I had already done three of Joe Decker’s SUCK events down in San Diego…ass-kicking beat downs. And I wasn’t sure I had enough “stuff” for the group to do or that I wanted to lead it. But I wanted to do something to keep my mental edge about these cold over-night excursions since Joe’s next SUCK isn’t til the end of the month. So, I took my cue from Decker’s overnight rucks, made a list of things to do the SISU Friday The Thirteenth all-nighter in Griffith Park. Nine brave souls signed on.

We met at Griffith Park just outside one of the lesser known entrances to the park in a residential area. As we prepped our gear in the glow of nearby street lamps we were spied on by a small pack of coyotes. At night we were on their turf and they were trying to figure out whether to leave us alone…or eat us. I think our much bigger size kept them at bay and after a few minutes they wandered off into the night. Each of us loaded our rucks with 20-25lb sandbags, 8-10lb sledgehammers (One of my Goruck buddies brought a 20lb sledge! A decision he probably thought a lot about during the long night in his sick and not-fully recovered condition…ha! He did bring a flask of whiskey, though. Goruck Toughs always know how to ruck hard and drink well.), water & fuel, and a car tire shared by each team of two. Just before 10pm we hit the trail.

Griffith Park is officially closed from 10:30pm to 5:30am but we were stealth in our approach and kept our headlamps to a minimum when on paths possibly visible to park rangers. There was the threat of thunder showers but, alas, the rain gods were not with us and we settled for clear skies, chilly winds and muddy trails. I really, really, REALLY wanted it to rain long and hard. The suck would have been epic but the experience would have also been invaluable (at last year’s Death Race rain was a constant). It’s one thing to ruck with weigh uphill for long hours and quite another to have rain pouring down on you at the same time. The suffering gets miserably compounded. Really bummed it didn’t rain. Sigh.

Still, the night was good. The ten of us covered about 16-18 miles over the course of 9 hours. Rucking time was punctuated by PT drills, tire pulls (someone brought rope harnesses that wrapped around our waists or shoulder), tire throws, wind sprints, sledge hammer tire-pounding sessions, and Indian runs. I considered hiking to the Hollywood sign but thought better of it. Too many security cameras and lights up near the sign. We got as close as the beginning of the trail that snakes up to the sign from behind the mountain. Regardless, the views of the city at night from Mount Hollywood (several miles away from Mount Lee where the Hollywood sign sits) were amazing. A treat for all of us to be sure!

In the morning a small miscalculation on my part caused us to end the night near the entrance to the park on Los Feliz and Riverside…several miles off-course from our start point. Not to worry! Another team member and I ran the few miles to our cars and came back to pick up the rest of the group and our gear. While the event was over for most in the group, three others and myself had about 45 minutes to hydrate, refuel and change into dry workout clothes for an 8am Gut Check Fitness Boot Camp class! Joe Decker brought his ass-kicking ways to LA for one-time gut check in Griffith Park! I’d planned the overnighter with this in mind…no genius on my part, folks…just plain stole Decker’s model of overnight pain-fest followed by boot camp class. We joined about 20 other fresh-faced people for a solid cardio and strength training session. At 10 am we were officially DONE! Well, I had to run home, shower and get to an 11am rehearsal in Pasadena. No point in literally stinking up the room!

In hindsight, I realized that it is not necessarily the amount of “things” to make the group do that counts as much reading the group and determining how far and how hard to push them at any given moment. Although I did put on my best GR Cadre impression during the Indian runs, I found that praise, encouragement and motivation is a better tool during these types of training than going into drill sergeant mode. Many thanks to the nine folks that allowed me to take them on this little adventure into the unknown and got their ruck on.

Next Post: Merrell Down & Dirty (24 hours after the end of the Friday The Thirteenth overnight session)

Ruck On. Stay Muddy.

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