12-Mile Thoughts

Every month, GORUCK sends out unique challenges to their official ruck clubs. These “Ruck Club Callouts” are fun ways to get more people out rucking.

Members of the Conviction Ruck Club have taken part in a few in the past.

We’ve done flutter kicks while getting sprayed with a hose for the “Rain Ruck”. We’ve sung Christmas Carols while rucking for the “Caroling Ruck”. And we picked-up trash and shoveled snow at a local park to earn our “Service Ruck” patches.

This month’s callout was a bit different.

Rather than doing a big, fun group ruck, the challenge this month was to do a 12-mile ruck for time. Because we were to ruck as fast as possible, it made sense for each member to complete their 19.3 km on their own.

The group rucks are always fun, but this was an exciting new challenge. So, after my son’s basketball game this past Saturday, my dog, Benji, and I set out for our twelve miles.

Here are a few things I learned during our time together.

The Big Lesson – Podcasts, Books, and Silence

Before setting off for 12-miles I spent some time looking for something to listen to. Most of the time I ruck with an audiobook in my ears, but for this one, I was hoping for a good podcast. I knew I’d be pushing the pace a bit, and concentrating on a book would have been difficult.

Dan John recently shared his thoughts on this in his weekly Wandering Weights email. He wrote:

Like many of you, I find podcasts to be a good way to keep me walking and biking. I like books on tape (or whatever the cool kids call it now), but I feel like I miss some stuff on podcasts and still get the general point. With books, I don’t like to miss very much.

This made a lot of sense to me. It’s easy to miss bits and pieces of a conversational podcast and still follow along. Books are different, though.

I’ve found myself having to rewind audiobooks often as of late. My focus has been elsewhere while navigating through the snow and ice. I didn’t want to have to deal with that during a timed ruck.

After downloading interviews with entrepreneur and author Jesse Itzler, and MTI’s Rob Shaul, I was good to go.

At 4:00 pm, I rucked-up and hit my usual one-mile loop. The plan was to do twelve laps and go home. It was cold and windy, but I dressed for the weather – my earbuds tucked underneath my toque.

As time went on, both the sun and temperature dropped. It was much colder and darker than when I began and I was getting tired. Once the streetlights came on I decided to turn off my podcast.

I’m a huge fan of learning on the go. If I’m driving, rucking, or watching my kids’ practices, I try to listen to something educational.

I’d bet I’ve learned more from this habit than from my entire bachelor’s degree.

It gets to the point, though, where it can be too much. Reading, listening, and learning are all great. But if we never stop to reflect or take action, it’s kind of useless.

The “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffet, invests 80% of his time reading and thinking. And if someone that smart and successful does it, the rest of us probably should, too.

When Buffet says, “I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think,” I try to listen.

I know I’m guilty of trying to cram in as much information as possible. Always looking for that next book before fully digesting the one I just read. I’m becoming more aware of this, though, and am consciously trying to fix it.

So, even though Rob Shaul was in the middle of discussing some great training methods, I took out my earbuds. I wanted to try a few laps in silence.

Turning off the audio turned out to be a great decision.

The final laps of this ruck were the most enjoyable. They were the coldest and darkest, and I was at my weakest, but the silence was incredible. I was able to hear myself think and got a lot of brainstorming done.

Since then, I’ve spent the final third of each ruck in silence, reflecting on what I’ve listened to.

This may be a winning formula as I’ve made a couple of big breakthroughs these past three days.

Mental Struggle

As noted above, my plan was to do twelve laps around the same one-mile loop. While I changed direction, doing six laps one way and six the other, it was a mental struggle to keep going.

I wanted to go off course and explore new ground. Badly. But for a couple of reasons, I forced myself to stay the route.

First off, it was dangerously cold out. And I didn’t have any food or water, either. Should something happen to me I wanted my wife to know exactly where I was.

Second, I wanted it to suck.

Even with podcasts to distract me for the first nine miles or so, the monotony of this course was brutal. It felt like regardless of how hard I was pushing, I was going nowhere.

I am mentally tougher for having gone through it.

Food and Hydration

Three hours of intense physical activity is draining. If it was a race, there’s no doubt I would have brought food and hydration. But there was no prize at the end, and, again, I wanted it to suck. I wanted to earn my patch with a tough twelve miles.

I also wanted to see what happened to my body and performance without support.

While I was able to complete the three miles in a respectable time, my performance took a clear hit about an hour in.

At the five-mile mark, I hit the proverbial wall. My pace slowed down by about 48 seconds/mile from miles six to eight. At the beginning of mile nine, I hit another speed bump. My pace once again dropped close to 50 seconds/mile and stayed there for the final four miles.

My heart rate stayed constant. The drop in pace, though, was a clear indicator that my body could have used some food and water.

Just Keep Moving, and You’ll Be OK

This wasn’t so much a new lesson as it was a reminder.

The cold is nothing to be afraid of. The human body is an incredible organism, and, as long as we keep moving, it can create a lot of heat on its own.

Despite being out in the cold for three hours, I was completely drenched in sweat.

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