In Honor of Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Theodore Fitzhenry, SEAL

Today’s training session and discussion on mental toughness is dedicated to Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer Theodore Fitzhenry, who was assigned to SEAL Team Five and   lost his life on 2004. In my post “In Honor of Army Sgt. First Class David Metzger”, I talked about mental toughness. In that post I stated that there were fours areas of mental toughness I am attempting to address in my training. I do want to state that I am not a psychologist and the thoughts I am sharing are strictly from my prospective. Dr. Nick Hall has probably done the most work in studying the mental side of Watertibers . The four areas of mental toughness that I have targeted are: (1) Fear/Fears management, (2) Pain management, (3) Decision making while fatigue and (4) Resiliency. In this post I am to only address (1) Fear management. In the races that I have done there was not a lot of talk about the fears each person had to overcome. Only in casual conversation and not in a group did a fear slip out. For one person it was sharks, for another it was lightning, for another it was a creepy camp spot, for another it was drowning, and the list goes on. My take on all this is that each and every person has some kind of fear or fears that they have to deal with in doing one of these races. My fear is that I am going to make a bad decisions, get myself into a big time pickle, and I will not be able to get myself out of it.  In my first Everglades Challenge (EC) I did it with a guy who goes by the tribe name GitUrDun and I felt no fear whatsoever. It was one big fun adventure. Why did I have this attitude? GitUrDun is a very tough individual, is a great athlete and we have a long history together. He is one of those special people who the more he is hurting, the quieter, the stronger and the tougher he gets. He has done numerous marathons, long distance bikes rides, several Ironman triathlons and was an Army Green Beret who was the top graduate at jump school. So in the 2007 EC I felt that whatever trouble we got into, the two of us together would figure a way out of it. One of those “take it to the bank ” feelings. So imagine my surprise at the finish line of the 2007 EC, where I am already thinking about the two of us doing the 2008 EC and getting a faster time, and GitUrDun turns to me and say ” I will never paddle that again ! “. He was dead serious about it too. He wrote a story about the race and would re-read the story to remind himself of it anytime I ask him about doing the race.  He even sold his kayak to put an exclamation mark on his position. So at the start line of the 2011 EC , without GitUrDun at my side, I found myself dealing with a big rush of fear. Will I make the right decisions and if I do get myself in trouble, will I be able to get myself out of trouble ? It was all on me. Well the record book shows that I did finish the 2011 EC.  I feel my decision-making was pretty good. I did deal with some hairy situations that I was able to work through by myself. But, as I think with most fears, it is one that I know lurks way back in my brain, ready to pounce on me at my weakest moment. My training approach to manage this is to raise this fear up, feel it as much as possible, and to work on reducing as many fear triggers as possible. By fear triggers I am talking about performing rescue drills until I have them cold, thinking through my plans for different emergencies, going over charts until I can almost draw them from memory, and having good safety gear that I am very familiar with. Now how about the approach of working at raising and feeling the fear. Somewhere in my military career I saw a definition of courage that went something like this. ” Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to feel the fear and overcome it.” With that in mind I am taking the approach that the best way to learn to overcome it is to feel it and deal with it. To accomplish this I do a lot of training by myself and I try to train in bad conditions. If it is night-time and the wind is blowing that is a good time to train. If the wind is blowing, it is cold and the seas are confused, that is a good time to train. Find a river that flows for miles through no man’s land and that is a great place to train. Especially if the water level is low and the local knowledge is not that accurate. The other thing that I try to do is to think about how others have overcome their fears while doing these events. I think about one Watertriber who has completed two Everglades Challenges and he is missing both his legs. Talk about courage. I think about him and feel pretty wimpy letting my fear bother me. Shoot I have two good legs to help me get out of a bad situation.  Watertribers kind of ask for the opportunity to deal with their fears, but for Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer Theodore Fitzhenry’s family, that included a daughter Lauren, they didn’t ask for the fears that came when he lost his life. Please consider a donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation to help reduce the fears of the future for the families of our Special Operations Warriors.

Training Session : Ran 3.7 miles – 33 minutes / TRX- Routine 2 – 5 /6 Week Schedule. I  will talk more about how I am training for the other three areas of mental toughness in future post.