Category Archives: Fitness

God in the Desert

UdairiRangeI am a religious man, who fails to live up to his ideals every day. I’m working on it.

This happened in the Kuwaiti desert. It’s a story I’ve told to close friends and family.

Here it is for the rest of you.

After a week long exercise in the desert, the Udairi Range for those in the know, we had just finished the culminating event. The ODAs had performed a hit on a quarry and we were all standing around in the dark.

We were expecting the word when it came down. “You’ve been compromised, your vehicles are disabled. Here are the grids for your extraction point and for the route you’re to take to get there.”

My team leader, Mitchell, tapped in the first grid coordinate as fast as he could and we punched out into the night.

I had volunteered to carry the satellite radio. A little bit smaller than a kitchen drawer, it was very dense and heavy. I had my ruck built up already though, with a pocket for the radio close to my back and strapped in high.

The night was  cold, even colder than was typical for a desert in Kuwait, the sky clear. Once we were about a kilometer out into the desert we stopped and performed a SLLS halt. (Stop, Look, Listen, Smell, prounounced ‘sills’) The purpose of such a halt is to get a feel for the area. To try and determine what is normal. To discover if you are alone.

All was well. Once the SLLS was complete, while the other five of us pulled security, Mitchell punched in the rest of the coordinates for our route. I heard him swear softly. We’d been given the longest route of anyone participating in the exercise. 47 kilometers. We had until the next night to get to our extraction point and traveling during the day was verboten.

I was worried. It had only been a klik or so, but I was already feeling the weight. I suspected that I might have over-estimated how many pounds I could carry. But what was I going to do? Ask someone else to do it? Not a chance.

We stood up and went on, curving out into the desert along the prescribed route. I pounded along, keeping up as best I could. Hot spots were developing on my feet.

A few hours later I was even more worried about my situation. I was keeping up alright but I was having trouble keeping my balance through the alternating bands of sand, softball sized rocks, and gravel. I knew that if I started falling it would be the end. I would have disgraced myself and my team.

Desperation was a growing pressure in my chest.

I muttered a prayer, asking God for help of some sort. It came to my mind that I should ask for a walking stick. I grinned to myself. Why not? If I was asking for help from a divine being, why not a walking stick in the middle of the most barren landscape I had ever seen?

It got worse. Clouds rolled in, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped.

Through the dust ahead of me I picked out a fenceline. I grimaced and steeled myself for the ordeal of either climbing over it with my pack on, if it was low, or taking the bloody thing off and putting it back on again on the other side. Neither prospect thrilled me.

I wondered, though, if one of the posts might not be persuaded to come loose and be pressed into service as that walking stick I’d been asking for. I’d seen fences in kuwait, some of the posts were made from lengths of PVC, others metal, others lengths of rattan. I was hoping for rattan.

As we got closer to the fence I realized it wasn’t a fence. There was only the one post. The men ahead of me walked on, past whatever it was sticking out of the sand.

I stopped, sweating there in the dark, and stared. It was the bottom half of a HMMV’s radio antenna. The half with the big brass threaded nut on the end. It stood there in the sand, heavy brass end down. It wasn’t even partially buried, it was balanced upright. I extended a finger and tapped it. It fell over.

I looked up and all around. The other men were dark hunchbacked shadows moving through the night.

I squatted down just far enough to snag the antenna and picked it up. Grasping it by the heavy brass end, tip on the ground, it reached to just above my waist. A perfect walking stick.

I muttered a brief prayer of incredulous thanks and moved on through the desert, aided by my walking stick. The wind and the weather got worse.

In the end we made good time and were the second of seven elements to reach the extraction point. I had blisters that covered the entire heel and ball of my foot. I walked very daintily for days after that exercise.

The “walking stick” is still in my equipment room.

Working out, exercise.

A guy named Mark Rippetoe once said, “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.” I’ve found this to be true, not just in my military experiences, but in life generally.

I’m not talking about powerlifters. I’m talking about people who could help me move all my boxes of books without hurting themselves. People who could grab the A pillar of my car when I forget to put on the brake and keep it from rolling away while I do.

Nor am I talking about marathon runners. I’m talking about people who could run up five flights of stairs and tell me the building’s on fire without losing consciousness in the middle of the critical sentence. People who could take the scout troop on a hike or a bike ride and not get left behind.

Like the man said, ‘more useful in general.’

Where are these people? I look around and it seems there are fewer everyday.

In fact, the US is finally emerging from a long awkward period where, in the collective consciousness, being ‘in shape’ meant being either a powerlifter or a marathon runner. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a powerlifter or a marathon runner. The problem was not with the disciplines themselves. The problem was that people grew up thinking that anything different or less focused was not worthwhile. The concept of simply being in the kind of shape that would allow you to do a lot of varied physical work was lost. If you didn’t want to be a boulder or a stick figure, exercising was not for you. We are the poorer for it.

There’s a new movement out there that focuses on ‘capacity for work’ when it comes to exercising. It stresses the right things, in my opinion, and can be scaled to any desired level of intensity. Alas, I fear that my generation may largely be lost to it.

Working out under this school of thought is still hard. Varied work doesn’t mean easy work. The deal with the wall is still the same: “You hit the wall and the wall moves back an inch. Repeat.” The varied routines and exercises are more interesting to work through, but you still have to fight through the suck if you want to improve.

In my opinion one of the easiest places to start is CrossFit. Read up, be smart, and regularly push past your limits. It won’t take you long and as you learn it will get easier.

I promise you’ll feel better. Your body was designed to get stronger.

Conan didn’t read many books

Conan could have been a Ranger.So, as I mentioned earlier on this blog, I got a chance to go to Ranger School in late August of 2010. Ranger School is a 60 day school. Add two weeks to the front for National Guard guys like me to go through the mandatory Pre-Ranger training and you get two and a half months. Notice please that it is early September and, since I am writing this, I am clearly not in Ranger School.

I failed out. I do not feel bad about this. How and why make for a story that I won’t be telling in this post but which culminates in my burning desire to go back and try again.

So why this digression on Ranger School? Because of the look.

Continue reading Conan didn’t read many books

Lawsuits for dummies

Or BY dummies I suppose.

Woman asks google for directions from one place to another on her blackberry. Gets directions. Follows directions down a road with no sidewalks. Gets hit by a car. Sues google.

So many things wrong with this I find myself nearly mute, though I wish to comment. What. An. Idiot. And a selfish idiot at that. I suppose we could attribute a certain low cunning to the idiot in question. Google, after all, has deep pockets and may settle out of court.

Why is she an idiot? Several reasons. One, for getting hit by a car as a pedestrian. Not hard to avoid. Another, for thinking that the magic google-magic would keep her safe on a road she could plainly see didn’t have sidewalks, and which she is now claiming was obviously unsafe. Obvious to everyone but her at time apparently. Yet one more, for behaving in a manner that would end society in a heartbeat if everyone followed suit. Really, idiot? You wish to live in a society where Google is responsible for YOUR actions? How about YOU be responsible for your OWN actions.

Oh and you, her friends who urged her to sue. You’re stupid too.

The long road to Ranger School…

…has begun.

I’ve been sporadically working out for the past several months, going two or three weeks at a stretch usually, toying with things like P90X and long grueling ruck marches in the middle of the night, for lack of time elsewhen.

All that has changed now. My ATL is a fitness and nutrition guru with a vested interest in getting me into good shape. I might have to drag him out of the line of fire after all.  He’s also a genuinely nice guy willing to put some effort into helping me out. You rock dude.

Today was the first day of the program he’s designed/designing for me. Nothing too complicated but I definitely did some work today.

Oh, and I got fired today too. My company could no longer afford to employ me. They are outsourcing whatever the hell it was I did for them. I suspect it also has something to do with the fact that they know I’m due to deploy pretty soon. They’ve bent over so far backward to accomodate my military requirements to date that I can hardly blame them, though their timing stinks. For me. For them, it’s pretty good.

Nice severance package at least. Gives me 2.5 months to grind out the end of my novel and get a massive start on the collaboration I’m doing with Brandon.Terrified

Bloody terrifying, choosing to finish writing projects instead of searching frantically for another 9-5er. I have faith that it will all work out in the end though. I’ve been handed some pretty incredible opportunities on the fiction front, I’d be a fool not to take them.