A New Day

There are a lot of days in the average American life. If you live to be about the age of 80 you get about 29,200 of the sun rises and the sun sets. That seems like a lot. Over time we set some goals for some of those days. Day two thousand, go to a park. Day 16 thousand, get a new job. We look at the goals as a way to accomplish something before day 29,200 gets here. To be able to say to ourselves “It was all worth it”. Maybe you tell yourself that if you run a marathon, you will look better. Or is your goal to be a better person. Too many of us focus on just one goal. Lose weight. Eat right. Get stronger. Get smarter. But life is not that simple. We are complex beings. I have many goals. Get my business off the ground. Eat better. Finish Goruck Selection. Be a successful husband. Be an even better father. Have a meaningful career. All these things are parts of what I want to be. Each a separate goal. So I split them all up. Focus on one, then the next. Study hard for weeks for a certification. But then I don’t train for Selection. Train for Selection every day for a month. Then I don’t spend the time with my family. Work late every night for three weeks. Everything else suffers. How do you juggle all those goals? How to fit everything in. The first step is to realize that all those goals are part of the same goal. To make a better you. To support the ‘why’. To secure your ‘purpose’. Each of those goals are actually segments that are intertwined in the goal of not waiting till day 29,199 to say “This was a good life”. Every day is a good life. Each day the goal is to make the next day even better. Your purpose, your why, the family, the job, strength, endurance, intelligence, intuition, all woven together like an amazing orchestral piece that is your life. Don’t wait for day 28,800 to think that you could have been more. Don’t even breathe. Move with a purpose. Plan & Conquer. Now.

p.s. Thank you Team Awesome for reminding me.


Naked Hill

 The sun was setting. Mosquitoes were in phalanx size units. Lethargy had set in for the evening. Glitter covered my body because my two year old daughter was wearing a shirt with the sparkly material. Thus everyone in the house is covered in glitter, the dogs, the cat, my wife. This was the perfect time to work out. Lifting the awkward sandbag onto my shoulder I walk to the bottom of a lazily slopping hill. Stopping at a rock pile to grab a handful of pebbles. Fifteen to be exact. At the bottom of the hill I pile the small stones. One mound will be the repetitions I have done. The other mound will be the repetitions I have left. 15 to zero so far. The ice cold water bottle placed next to the dreadful green sandbag. The buzzing in the air is informing me that a battalion of mosquitoes were readying an assault. Time to move.

   First sprint up the hill. Who thought this was a good idea? In the distance I can see my wife with a ball of silver light running before her. Keep running. Panting, sweat pouring down my face. Get to the half way point and turn around. All down hill and there is my wife again with my sparkly daughter. Pass them with a smile and stride down to the sandbag. Eight back squats and eight sit ups. One repetition complete. Move a rock over to the complete pile. 14 to 1. The odds are looking up. OK that was not so bad. A 30 second break as I watch my daughter make her way to my starting point. My wife is holding our three month old son. Woops time to go.

 Sprinting up the hill a second time was not that bad. Warmed up. Get to that half way point and turn around. Look, my daughter tried to follow me up the hill. She tries so hard to do what I do sometimes. It is impressive. She is nothing but giggles as she chases me. I am sweating and wondering why I am torturing myself. But to her it is a beautiful evening to play games. By the time I finished my second set of squats and sit-ups she had made her way to me. The stones are set to 13 to 2. Making progress and I sprint up the hill for my third rep as my wife watches over all of us.

 This third sprint is starting to slow down. Those squats just ruin your legs for any kind of running. Running back down the hill I see my little angel playing in the dirt by the sandbag. Nope that is not dirt. She has scattered all my stones. Damn. Well at least it was only two reps. Finish up the exercises and reset the stones while my daughter is distracted by some piles of grass. 12 to 3.

 Sprinting up the hill seemed to attract the attention of the local insect militia in force. But I need to keep moving. As punishment for my slowing down I add another ten yards to my sprint. It seems that even the run back down hill is starting to slow down. By the time I get to the sandbag the blood suckers have regrouped. On my back for the sit-ups it is hard to see the sky through the winged leeches. OK ,11 to 4. Easy day every day.

 I was hoping this workout would go quicker.. That this would not take all night. Stepping up my speed, and widening my stride seemed to help my mood. Is that my daughter at the sandbag again? She is playing with my stones. Wait, how many reps have I done? Why wont she leave them alone? Her giggle answers none of my questions. Anger is slowly building up in me. This is hard. Does she not understand that? She pushes all the stones around in different patterns and smiles at me. How can I be mad at that? This little imp is pleased with herself. Sparkly legs wobbly get up and walk towards Mommy. Despite the evil hum of devil vermin she insists that Mommy take all of her clothes and diaper off. With that task done, my two year old daughter stumble runs up the hill, bare buns blazing white in the fading light, leading my wonderful wife and son into the distance. I stare at the ground. Look at the stones. Then at my family. Again my daughter has taught me a lesson. She has taught me so many of these lessons. This flash, my family silhouetted against the sky and life is what is important. The stones do not matter. The hill does not matter. The bugs do not matter. Clothes do not matter. All that matters in life are a these few simple things. A giggle is the most useful thing you can ever have and do. It is vital to have someone who cares in your life, that will help you get naked and not laugh. It does not matter how much you have left or how much you have done or how big the bugs are. Just do them and do not stop. The most crucial is that you consistently be there for the people you care about. No matter how big or small you are just being there is sometimes the most important thing that helps out.  


The Force is strong.

The Force is strong with this one.

Sometimes you need that push. That little shove to get you to move to the next level. There are times where you are mentally spent. When the sun is hiding from the moon and you are covered in filth. At these times you have to pull your memories. The memories of the good times. The memories of the bad times. You have to remember why you get up everyday. You have to use your memories.

I was working out late one Monday night. Using a 73 pound sandbag doing Turkish Get Ups in my basement. The floor a rough indoor/outdoor carpeting. The TV is playing some sort of sitcom my wife is watching. The three month old son is quietly making due with a bottle, while my two year old daughter is running around pulling couch cushions off of the furniture. It took me a while to realize what my daughter was doing. Between grunts, sweating and gasps I was playing a game with my daughter. At least she thought it was a game. I was working out. Every time I would lay on my back to start another repetition of this ancient grueling exercise the cute little gremlin would run from her perch on the couch and slap the sandbag.

But this game does not end there. Soon my tiny mischief maker is doing laps around me when my shoulders hit the ground. She is laughing the whole time. A tiny little body that resonates with a giggle that could fill the Superdome. Each step up is an effort. Each step down brings me closer to exhaustion. My stomach feels as if it will empty everything it may have every consumed. As I lay down in what I hope to be the last time, twinkling eyes stare into my heart. With a short gesture my daughter points at the ground and she says ‘Again’.

Training For GORUCK Heavy 039

Training for GORUCK Heavy

Chicago Heavy 039

May 23 – 24 2014

Daniel “Mustache” Zenczak

    My take on training for GORUCK events in the past seems to be a little ‘heavy’ handed. It is either maximum effort or it is maximum laziness. The training schedule is a mixture of working intensely for weeks at a time, then it is nothing for weeks at a time until the motivation monster bites again. This of course destroys personal confidence and erodes all the hard work that was done previously. I was trying to not let this happen with my Heavy training schedule. Let us take a quick jump into my background so you get a feel where all these training ideas are coming from.

Take me, your friendly neighborhood GRT (GORUCK Tough for all you not in the know), a 40 year old male. Usually floating between 175 – 185 pounds. Five foot eleven inches tall. I have been a runner since middle school and been doing various forms of martial arts off and on since I have been 17. The strength training craze had never set in well with me or the Crossfit thing. Even going into my first challenge I really did not focus so much on body weight exercises as much as just rucking under some weight.

Welcome December 2013 when the pass to go to the Heavy in Chicago was purchased. Right then and there a new dedication emerged. This Heavy was going to be a turning point. Instead of just enduring an event, or barely surviving (Challenge 411 was a horrible experience), I was going to knock this event out of the park. That meant some different ways of thinking of the GORUCK events. With keyboard under my finger tips and monitor in front of my eyes, a plan started to form.

The Plan

    Part of the Heavy was the APFT. Now according to all might Facebook and it ever ending supply of rumor, speculation and hearsay they will not drop you if you can not make the APFT. But then why give it to us? The worry started early. Reflection on past events I concluded that there are three different physical facets of a GORUCK event (this does not include the mental aspects or skill based challenges that the Cadre bring to the game) that will need to be trained. Running, rucking and raw strength. Each one of these three golden children of GORUCK had their own training plan.

For the heavy an assumption was made about running. The goal was to be able to conclude a marathon before the Heavy under a 10 minute mile pace. Though being a life time runner, I have never ran more than 15 miles at one time. So this was a little challenge. So I scoured the Inter-webs for a marathon program for an intermediate runner. Finding one was not too difficult and modifying it so my long runs were on Sundays.

The rucking fell along a category kinda the same as the running. If a marathon plus type distance could be achieved with a 60 plus pound ruck, then the Heavy should be “ a thing” and the 12 mile ruck with a time hack should be a breeze. So grab a simple marathon plan for beginners. Add a ruck weight of 40 pounds the first week. The second week increase speed/distance. The third week increase weight in the ruck by ~5 pounds. Repeat the ‘increase weight’ one week, ‘increase speed/distance’ the next week throughout the training schedule. During the week my shorter training rucks I would make sure that I would have more weight than on Saturdays when I would have my long rucks. Also during the week there would be something to carry, a 30# slosh pipe, a homemade sandbag of 50# or a found log/rock. Amid the rucks on Saturday approximately every mile there was a stop to do typical stupid activities, bear crawls, push ups, crab walks, etc.

I left my description of my strength training for last. This was because strength training has always been a little of a tough thing for me. From past events I knew that I was not the strongest guy out there. It seemed that for my height and weight my strength levels were not up to snuff. Some serious consideration really needed to be put into this. Also for any GORUCK event not only do you have to be strong, but you have to be able to do that strength/weight exercise repeatably. Something like a weird ‘strength endurance’ hybrid. At this moment I am sure all you Crossfit people will say “Hey come to the Darkside. We can do this for you.” So we will ignore Crossfit temptations for all training evolutions for right now. Just because.

For the last several years I have been using the book The Navy Seal Workout by Mark De Lisle as a base for my works outs. All body weight. Five different kinds of pull ups, several different push-ups and over a dozen core exercises. But the thing that stuck with me over the years is the pyramid style workout. Doing your sets 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1. This always felt liked it worked for me. Mark De Lisle also throws in one little twist. Only 15 seconds rest between reps. At least that is what I took away from the book when I got it as a gift from my mother-in-law years ago. With that set routine as my base I moved to the gym.

Following the pyramid workout I then outlined several exercises I needed to focus on, bench press, dumbbell overhead press ( at first I started with a seated military press but changed to the overhead press), a triceps exercise where the weight was over my head and lowered behind my head, curls, squats, deadlifts and dumbbell lunges. Pull-ups, push-ups, air squats and sit-ups were all done at home as often as possible, but that is a different story. Going to the gym three days a week Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Finding the right weight for these exercises was a little difficult. Sure I could bench press 175 pounds five times. But could I do it six times after only a 15 second rest. So I started low weight. Week one would be for reps, then week two increase weight, then week three increase reps ad nausaem.

Back to a little aside to body-weight exercises, push-ups, sit-ups, air-squats. Every morning when I crawl out of bed ( and i mean in my underwear, gunk in eyes, drool on face ) I try to push out to failure a set of each. Most mornings this would be an embarrassing number. But I looked at it as more of a mental toughness thing. Forcing myself at my most vulnerable of the day to do something I would clearly not like. Also I have a reminder on my Google calendar set up. I rotate the exercises out every three days. Monday is push-ups, Tuesday is sit-ups and Wednesday is air-squats. Then repeat making Thursday push-ups, you get the idea. Then I would try to get in a set of the exercise to failure once every hour. When I trained for my first GORUCK Challenge I was working by myself all day for a couple of months. So I would knock out a set every half hour. Again it became more of a mental thing after awhile.

Training the mental toughness was really an aside but I felt like I needed to train it. But cold Lake Michigan water began to wear on my little mind. So the morning cold showers were implemented. Then of course the rucks. Forcing myself to ruck whenever, wherever or whatever the place, time or environment. Nothing like getting up at 04:00 on a Saturday morning in February in Wisconsin. Bundling up against -15 degree weather and several feet of snow for a 10 mile ruck. Then stopping no matter where it was on the trail every mile and doing push-ups, bear crawls or crab walks.

What Actually Happened

    There was a lot of time spent figuring out what day of the week I would do what exercise. How much weight to increase and when. How far to ruck and how fast. But as I started to execute this program it became apparent that time was a factor. This training schedule sucked up all my time. At best I could only do all my planned exercises times for a week or two before real life stepped in.

We moved from Louisiana at the end of January to Wisconsin. My wife was pregnant with our second child. My one year old daughter. That is it if you are a parent you get the time sink that is, still love her though. Looking for a new job in Wisconsin. Starting a new job in Wisconsin. The birth of said child from pregnant wife. Then a frickin’ life sucking fever and bronchial infection three weeks before the Heavy that did not leave going into the Heavy. All these and more were stressors and made scheduling several hours a day for training very difficult.

The reality is that I weight trained three days a week, ran a little on those days. Long runs never ever really happened. Tried to throw in as much body weight stuff during the day as possible. I even did the stairs at my new job with a weighted ruck during lunch a couple of days. Then did a long ruck on Saturdays. The long ruck never was that very long. Some might say because of phone calls like this.

Phone rings
Pregnant Wife: What do you want for breakfast?
Me: I don’t want breakfast. I am doing the intermittent fasting thing.
Pregnant Wife: OK
Me: Love you
Pregnant Wife: Love you too
End conversation
5 minutes later phone rings
Pregnant Wife: How long are you going to be out?
Me: Well I have been on the trail for an hour. I would like to put in at least another three. Why?
Pregnant Wife: Well I was thinking you, me and our daughter could go out to eat.
Me: Can you guys wait until I get back?
Pregnant Wife: I am pretty hungry. I guess I will make something.
Me: I could come back.
Pregnant Wife: No no finish your work out.
End conversation
3 minutes later a text message
Pregnant Wife: miss u!
Me: miss u too
2 minutes later phone rings
Pregnant Wife: You know we are supposed to be at your Sister’s by one?
Me: Yes I know. I have plenty of time it’s only eight.
Pregnant Wife: Well if we are to go shopping and get something to eat before we go to
her place we will be tight on time.
Me: sigh, OK I will start heading back.
Pregnant Wife: No don’t it’s all right.
Me: No it’s fine, I will see you in a little bit. Love you.
End conversation and turning around on trail.

That was a common scenario on my Saturday rucks. Thus making my longest ruck going into the Heavy only an 11 mile ruck. Though my wife was not the only one to blame. Excuses are always easy to find. During the Heavy Top impressed on us that the 12 mile ruck was not a race. We just needed to finish before 3 hours and 30 minutes. The class basically split into two groups. The fast group and the slower group. I was part of the slower group because I figured I didn’t want to burn myself out. I found a battle buddy and told jokes and stories along the way. We finished the ruck and Cadre Luke told us 2 hours 42 minutes. I was impressed. We were told after the Heavy that the route got screwed up and we all shortened the distance by at least a half mile. But hey whatever, it was done and we moved on.

It seems that my strength training work out was never enough. My arms were still weak whenever something needed to be lifted during the event. The push-ups of the APFT was passed but my sit-ups didn’t. Thankfully Top did not put that much importance on the results of the APFT. Though some monster in the class was able to knock out 120 push-ups in two minutes. Even Top was impressed. Buddy carries were impossible and they were early on in the event. Since the Heavy I have reevaluated my strength needs and started working on the 5 X 5 strength workout. Then adding in WOD type exercises on top of the running and rucking.

Take Away

    Take what you want from this training schedule. But it seemed that I never had enough time to train as much as I wanted. I am sure there are a thousand ways I could have planned it better and a thousand things that were not covered here. But the most important thing is this. No matter what, do something everyday. No matter how little, how sore or tired you are. It is progress and little progress is better than no progress. Every Heavy is different. Every Event is different. But the only thing that is the same is you. And you are going to be in pain and exhausted no matter how much you train. Just DFQ. Ever.

GORUCK Heavy 039


Heavy 039 AAR

April 29 2014

Daniel ‘Mustache’ Mark Zenczak

GORUCK Challenge 079

GORUCK Challenge 411

RAA New Orleans Leg

Heavy Location: Chicago Illinois, Lakefront

Deployed Cadre: Cadre Andy ‘Top’

                            Cadre Adam

                            Cadre Luke

Deployed Date: Friday May 23 18:00

Duration of Heavy: 26+ hours

Distance Traveled: 40.2 miles

Purpose: To do stupid shit.

Participants: 42

Participants Completed: 40

What was planned?

     The plan was to do Heavy in Chicago and come out of the other side smiling. I wanted to be that guy. The guy under the weight. The guy smiling when the Cadre are yelling ‘Hurry Up!’. The guy taking up the extra ruck when needed. Also it seems that I always wait till the last minute to make my travel arrangements for events. That needed to change. The other part of the plan was to use this as a gauge for Selection. This event was/is far enough away( there is never enough time ) from Selection in 2014 that I figured I could use it to help find some weak spots and crush them.

What actually happened or occurred?

     Like all good plans when you first encounter resistance, mine fell apart. Three weeks out I picked up some sort of virus/flu/sickness and fought a high fever for a week. Then it took another week of hacking and shakes to get most of the goo out of my system. It was not until the actual week of the heavy that I even felt like moving. Travel arrangements were delayed and delayed until some GRTs that rocked gave me a ride into the Heavy. All these were stressors that shot my confidence to hell. My butterfly filled stomach did not calm down until after the GORUCK APFT. My score on the push ups and sit ups, though not great, gave me confidence that seeing the end of the Heavy was possible. Or maybe it was the fact that Top made us do Marine Yoga to warm up, boosted the confidence. Either way, when we pushed on for the 12 mile ruck I was thinking easy day every day.

      Lots of people were asking during that ruck ‘How fast do you think we are going?’, ‘Do you think this counts as part of the 24 hours for the Heavy?’, ‘How far do you think we have gone?’, ‘Top can not be doing 17.5 minute miles. Can he? He has to be going faster.’ It never became so apparent to me that we use our watches and mile markers as a crutch, a measuring stick to see how much we have got left, as well as a means to say ‘Hey look how tough I am, I can ruck 10 miles with 50 pounds. I am bad ass’. Who cares if the 12 mile ruck is over? Who cares how much we have left? We are not done till the event is done. When Top gives us the Heavy patch is when it is over.

     I have been coating my feet with the Tuf Foot stuff for several months now. So after the 12 mile ruck my feet seemed to still be happy. Changed my socks, added a dusting of foot powder and now the games can begin. Somehow hitting up my first couple Challenges in New Orleans I have been able to avoid sand and surf work. You read about sugar cookies, you read about bottom samples, but you really do not know what it means until you have to do it in the middle of the night. Cadre Adam was a beast. Straight from the start he was no nonsense. This also led to one of the lowest points for myself. It was the buddy carries down the beach and back. My legs kept giving out. Sorry Team Two. Who ever helped, thank you, it helped a lot. I could not keep anyone on my back. I kept falling over. So I was carried and never carried anyone. That hurt. It stuck in my mind. It ate away at my mind for awhile, or at least until we moved to Cadre Luke.

     Cadre Luke was a beast of a different breed. He was almost the good cop to Cadre Adam’s bad cop and what I assume was going to be Top’s horrible Marine. Cadre Luke was all smiles with a crazy look in his eyes. You felt like you wanted to do the task on hand to keep him smiling. Yes Cadre Luke, my rifle only held five rounds. I was muzzle loading or something. He was a a constant reminder of how ridiculous it was to be there, doing the things we were doing. Also he pointed out the rising crescent Moon. That made me smile even more. It made the night go that much quicker. But Team Two had to move on to Top, our last beach of the evening.

     I expected the worst from Top. So I sucked deep and thought ‘one evolution at a time’. But Top gave us hope and made me curious for the rest of the event with promises of … well you had to be there. His constant reminder of how we can not even perform a particular action while he had to do it under fire, in 110 degree heat, far from home hammered into my head the differences of civilian life and military life. These differences never really struck home with me during other challenges or even at the time. It still wasn’t until I was safe in the hotel room the next morning that the aha moment hit me. The ‘So that is what he meant’ moment.

     When the sun came up, a smile crept across my soul and I thought ‘I have made it this far, I will make it all the way.’ The rest of the day moving through Chicago was rough. Top and the Cadre gave us plenty of time to move and work together as a team. Some times we figured it out, sometimes we did not. Top knows his stuff. Not only did we have plenty of PT but there was plenty of learning going on. Top regaled us with stories of famous people and their exploits. He also poured his heart out telling us stories from his career in the Marines. I choked up, it sure was dusty out there.

     There was plenty of stupid stuff going on. Plenty of funny stuff that made the Cadre laugh as well as us. But also plenty of the Team getting frustrated with each other. It seemed to take a long time for us to get together and work together. Then it seemed like such a fleeting moment when we did figure it out. It was not long enough. There were several Rock Stars on the Team. I wish I could say I was one of them. If you can do a challenge, you can do a heavy. It was just longer. Just another evolution, another push up. But do you just want to carry heavy stuff? Or do you want to be the guy who knocks the event out of the park, crushes it. Several times I heard ‘Stop feeling sorry for yourselves’ and thought to myself ‘I don’t feel sorry for myself but damn I could use a break on this stretcher.’ That was the wrong mindset. ‘Get your mind right’ was another motivational sound byte the Cadre mentioned and it was clear mine needed to be put in the correct place. The right mindset should have been “I need to stay on here until we are done” or “I need to get on that stretcher more.” We do not do these challenges to get a medal, to write it on the wall next to today’s WOD. We do a GORUCK event to be stronger mentally and physically today then we were yesterday. We do the event to taste life like we have never done before. Each event is different. Each team is different. You should be different at every event because you learned from the last one. I can not wait to go out and put on my ruck again. I can not wait to do another Heavy. It was not nothing.

Final Thoughts

    This is new for me. A spectre is following me. The ghost of the event that stalks me throughout the day. How do you write in this review that even though it has been seven days since the event started, six since it ended, I still expect to hear Top yelling ‘5…4…3…2…1 on your feet !’   How even though I have never seen military service it feels as if the world around me has changed. But in reality it hasn’t. I have changed and the world has stayed the same. The office at work looks different now, alien. My boss seems softer, my responsibilities less important. 26 hours under the scrutiny of a hardened Marine and my world has changed. 26 hours of exercise and my soul has only more questions to ask.

    I DO NOT KNOW HOW YOU MILITARY PERSONNEL CAN DO THIS. Not to trivialize what any person in the military has ever done. A GORUCK Heavy is not serving in the military. A Heavy is nothing but a minuscule taste of the hardship in the life of military personnel. That little vapor of a life style, called GORUCK Heavy has made me feel like a tourist in my own life. Even as I sit here I can feel the memory of the Heavy slipping away. The alien leaving my body. I don’t want it to leave, this ghost of a ghost. Maybe that is why I will do another event. Maybe that is why I am going to train harder. All I know is that I have nothing but respect and admiration for the men and women that not only have to face their fears on the battlefield daily but then have to face the disconnect from society when they come back home.