In Honor of Navy SOC Derrik C. Benson (SEAL)



These training sessions are dedicated to SOC Derrick C. Benson (SEAL) who lost his life in Afghanistan in August of this year. Today was a long paddle session that can be seen on “Find me on SPOT”. On this long paddle Jarhead and Harpoon joined me and the area we paddled in was the Hillsborough river.  Having company and new things to look at really made this paddle enjoyable. The paddle ended up covering 21.8  miles in 5 hours 50 minutes with an average speed of 3.7 MPH. We started this paddle in the early morning hours sometime around oh dark 30.  As we paddling up the river the early morning sun was coming up and it was extremely quiet and peaceful. We approached a large bend in the river when we started hearing load music, a guy with a loud voice braking orders, and a lot of trash talking. I couldn’t believe that some boaters were starting to celebrate the arrival of the New Year so early. Then all of a sudden out pops a Dragon Boat, paddlers cranking, heavy breathing, and there may have even been a little fire-breathing out the front of the boat.  Luckily we were going in opposite directions so the meeting was brief.  One of the things that was different on this paddle from the two other twenty milers was this one was accomplished at a slower speed. I was pretty shocked at how much better I felt at the end of this one versus the other two but the speed was only about .4 MPH slower. Something to really remember for the UFC. Fueling protocol worked real well. On Friday my workout consisted of 4 miles on the elliptical and a weight lifting session. On Thursday I biked 11.2 miles in 33 minutes, did a TRX workout and then paddle 6 miles easy with an average speed of 4.4 MPH. The workout today was a long one and seem to make the day slowdown. For the family of SOC Derrik C. Benson (SEAL), which included a young son, facing life without him makes the days seem especially long.  A donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation will help provide a college education to son of SOC Benson.

Who left the plugs out ?

In Honor of Army SPC Dustin M Adkins

These training session are dedicated to Army SPC Dustin M Akins who was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group and lost his life in Iraq in 2006. Today was a 6 mile time trial to see the effectiveness of the last few weeks of workouts. My last time trial I averaged 4.8 MPH and on this one I average 5.29 MPH. I know on my first time trial I had some winds and waves that were stronger than I experienced today. Maybe that first time trail should be 4.9 versus 4.8 but it was nowhere near the time I turned in today. Bottom line I think the training is producing results. The first three miles I had a solid 5.4 MPH average speed going but I couldn’t hold it the last three miles. Thus pretty pleased with the day’s training. Especially since I had Peanut ( see post on pain management) talking to me all day. Kind of different to get the negative talk even before the workout has even started. I guess that is the advantage of having a coach. You don’t know what the workout is until you start  the session. The problem with that is that on the UFC I will be the one who is planning the next day’s paddle.  I have to be mentally able to plan a paddle on a particular challenging (winds, waves, rain, cold, act) day even if I don’t feel like it. I guess all the food from the holiday’s has me feeling a little sluggish and thus the negative talk from Peanut. Yesterday I did do a 4 mile walk with a 35 lb weight – 1 hour 6 minutes and performed a TRX workout. Those little TRX straps are torture. Lots of talk among the Watertriber about the low water levels in the St Mary’s and the Suwannee. Really could change the whole nature of the race. Presently the portage is a 40 mile portage and it is a real killer.  A contestant who has been not using their legs for 12-19 days depending on how fast they have been paddling has to then walk and pull a boat for 40 miles. Talk about muscle confusion. If the upper St Mary’s and upper Suwannee have river levels so low they cannot be paddled that 40 mile portage could become a 60 mile or worse portage. Not a nice thing but then that is why it is called a challenge and like the back of my TIME BANDIT hat says ” No Cry Babies” . I signed up for the Ultimate Florida Challenge and it will be over in 30 days. The family of SPC Dustin M Adkins, that includes a son and a daughter, have the challenge of getting through life without him.  A donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation will help provide a college education to the his children.

In Honor of Army Ranger 1st Lt Dimitri Del Castillo

This training session is dedicated to Army Ranger 1st Lt Dimitri Del Castillo who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2011. Yesterday was Christmas and a very needed rest day. Family, lots of food, ball games, gifts, and good times. Today was a new training day and started off with a 3.4 run- 33 minutes and a TRX workout. Hard to believe that a set of straps can put a hurting on you but they sure can. In the afternoon went on a 9 mile strength paddle and covered the distance in 1 hour and 44 minutes which was a record average speed of 5.2 MPH. I am finding there is a pattern on how I feel with the present workout schedule. I normally feel pretty good during the week and come Saturday morning, and the start of the long distance paddle, I am feeling tired from the week’s workouts. So far I have been able to get through the long paddles and feel pretty good afterwards. Come Saturday night I start to feel a little bad and by Sunday morning I am in full-blown “I don’t feel so good” condition and I am sore. This is where the suck it up, get out of bed, move around, go to church, get some food, and rest is the plan of the day. By Sunday afternoon I am feeling better but not great and this feeling stays with me right up to Monday morning. The Monday morning workout is not the best but I usually can get through it and then by Monday afternoon I am feeling pretty good. In fact the Monday afternoon workouts are pretty intense and I usually perform quite well in them. Will have to see how this goes going into January where the workouts will be even more intense. I am finding that I feel bad during the weekends but the bad feeling passes after about 36 hours. For the family of Army Ranger 1st Lt Dimitri Del Castillo the bad feeling caused by his loss didn’t go away after 36 hours. It seemed like it just decided to take up permanent residence.  A donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation will make it easier for children of warriors like 1st Lt Del Castillo to get a college education.

In Honor of Army Master Sgt. Daniel Adams, Special Forces

This training session is dedicated to Master Sgt. Daniel Adams, 10th Special Forces Group, who lost his life in Afghanistan in Sept of the year. Today was a long paddle session that can be seen on “Find me on SPOT”. The winds were forecasted to be out of the northeast so that is the direction I started with. On long training paddles one of the challenges is keeping them from getting boring. Spending time paddling away from shore is important but it can get boring real quick and makes it tough to get through the session.  On these paddles I am trying to avoid long periods paddling directly into the wind and trying to stay close to the shoreline so I have something to look at to keep my interest up. This morning I ended up covering 20.2 miles in the 5 hours. I am not sure I will ever figure out why on some long paddles my fueling protocol works and I feel great during the entire time and on others I don’t. Last weekend I felt great and on this session using the exact same fueling protocol I felt good the first two and half hours  and then I felt old Archie Bunker coming on.(See pain management post) This time I just consumed a full hammer gel on the first indication that Archie was getting ready to pay me a visit. After about 15 minutes I was feeling better without a lot of Yoda talk and finished out the session with an average speed just over  4 MPH. Yesterday I did a 33 minute bike ride -10.2 miles and completed a TRX workout . Today I experienced a brief period where I wasn’t feeling that good.  I think about Master Sgt. Adam’s family, having to celebrate Christmas without him, and realize how hard it will be for them to feel good during the holidays.  A donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation will help provide a college education to the children of warriors such as Master Sgt. Adams.

In Honor of Navy SOC (SEAL) Adam L Brown

This training session is dedicated to Navy SOC (SEAL) Adam L. Brown who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2010. Today was an easy training day so I could recover from yesterday’s interval workout. I ended up paddling 5.3 miles at an easy pace with an average speed of 4.4 MPH. There was very little wind and the tide was slack so I was able to produce a pretty good speed without putting out a big effort. Got some nice words of encouragement from Capt. Andy of the F/V TIME BANDIT thanks to Frank August a USMMA classmate.  If you get a chance watch the show “Deadliest Catch” and see the crew of the F/V TIME BANDIT in action. They have a tough  and dangerous job. Today was an easy training day for me. There are no easy days for the crew of the F/V TIME BANDIT when she is fishing.  When she comes into port and finishes offloading the crew does get a break and has some easy days. For the family of SOC (SEAL) Adam L. Brown, that included two children, there are no easy days without him. A donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation will make it easier for his children to get a college education.

In Honor of STG2 (SEAL) Matthew G Alexson

This training session is dedicated to STG2 (SEAL) Matthew G Alexson who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2005. I hate interval training plan a simple.Today’s training session was all about intervals and Rocky and Peanut ( if you are new to the blog see my post about pain management) were in a full-scale battle. Intervals are just not fun at all and doing them alone is especially challenging. When I was training with GitUrDun I at least had someone to compete with and that competition made the interval a little interesting. Not now, it is counting strokes, watching the heart rate monitor, dealing with the pain, and getting through the distance. I got through the 5 miles of intervals which ended up being 20 intervals of 150 strokes and then a rest interval of 30 strokes. My average speed was 5.1 MPH. Probably would have been a little higher but I had a pretty good wind in my face  through half of the session. At times I come across people on the water who are really curious about what I am doing. Especially the guys on big boats who come across me out in the open water. On the long distance paddles I try to take the time to talk to them both because I appreciate their interest and it also helps breakup the paddle. Today’s encounter was kind of interesting. I am paddling down the channel, wide open, in the middle of an interval, with my head down and cranking out the strokes, when lo and behold I have a young man start paddling a canoe across the channel and across my bow. The other odd thing is he is not making a real big effort to get across. I ended up kicking the rudder over, swerving the boat to his stern, missing him, yet still hammer out the strokes, and so winded that I sound like a hurricane. As I go by he ask ” Hey man how are you doing?  ”  REALLY !  Rocky turned his attention away from Peanut and was ready to jump on the poor young man. Sometimes I just don’t get it. We have the whole bay, I am in the middle of the channel, in the middle of a workout and this happens. Oh well I had two more intervals to crane out so he didn’t get a lot of chat time. In fact it was ZERO chat time. Intervals are painful for me but at least they were over after the workout. I think about the pain that STG2 (SEAL) Alexson’s family experienced when he didn’t come home and the fact that the pain didn’t end after an hour. A donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation will help provide a college education to the children of fallen special operations warriors such as STG2 (SEAL) Alexson.


Due to the fact that I am training in the same area the SPOT data for my training paddles that is listed in “Find me on SPOT” stays loaded for 7 days. After 7 days it is removed to allow the next training paddle to be visible. This parameter will be changed for the UFC so that my progress on the route can be viewed.

Dragon Boater Versus Watertribers

What is the difference between Dragon Boaters and Watertribers? Big difference. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture on the left is a picture of what Dragon Boaters look like going for a long training paddle (6 miles). The picture on the lower right is a picture of what a Watertriber looks like going on a long training paddle (20 miles). Note the difference. The Dragon Boaters even had a cookie exchange after one of their long training paddles. That is just not right.

In Honor of Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman

This training session is dedicated to Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman who lost his life in Afghanistan in 2002. During any Watertribe event I have been in, my next day plan always ended up having to be changed due to circumstances I encountered.  Having to adjust my training plan to accommodate circumstances is really good training. Originally I was scheduled to do a morning session and an evening easy paddled on Thursday, a morning lift on Friday, a long 15 mile / 4 hour paddle on Saturday and an easy 6 mile/1.5 hour paddle on Sunday. I got the Thursday morning session in which was a 33 minute bike session of 11.2 miles and a weight lifting session. That is where things got derailed. I ended up with a conflict and missed the Thursday easy paddle, Friday’s lift session, and Saturday’s 15 mile/4 hour paddle. Knowing how important the long paddle sessions are I decided to combine the original Saturday and part of the Sunday paddle distance and do a 5 hour paddle Sunday. I  ended up covering 20 miles during this session. This gave me an average speed of 4 MPH and I was fighting head winds for the first 10 miles. I felt pretty good during this session and never had the negative gang of Archie and Peanut show up. My fueling protocol seemed to work fine but based on how I felt Monday morning I would say I pushed it too hard. I did complete the Monday morning run of 3.4 miles in 33 minutes and performed a TRX1 workout but I was a hurting gator. Peanut was all over me. The long paddles are important and they are only going to get longer so my goal should be to complete them feeling pretty good versus pushing it and having a problem recovering. By Tuesday morning I was feeling better and had good session. Walked 4 miles 35 lb. weight and completed a weight lifting session. Sunday’s paddle was a long paddle and I spent a lot of time alone on the water. For Air Force Tech Sgt. Chapman’s family, that included two daughters, I can only imagine the long periods of loneliness they have encountered. Please consider a donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation to help provide a college education to his children.

Mental Toughness – (3) Decision making while fatigued

So is this Captain a man with a really big macho ego or is he a man who has not gotten any meaningful sleep in the past 48 hours, is in a fatigued state, and worried that his ship gets through the storm and safely enters the harbor. “In Honor of Army Sgt. First Class David Metzger”, I talked about the mental toughness of Watertribers. In that post I stated that there were fours areas of mental toughness. I want to again state that I am not a psychologist and the thoughts I am sharing are strictly from my prospective. Dr. Nick Hall, who is an accomplished Watertriber in his own right, 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 management, (2) Pain management, (3) Decision making while fatigued and (4) Resiliency. In my post ” In Honor of  Navy SEAL Senior Chief Petty Officer Theodore Fitzhenry” I addressed (1) Fear management.  I explained what I go through with pain management in my post “Mental Toughness – (2) Pain management”. In this post I am going to explore decision-making while fatigued. To complete a Watertribe event such as the Everglades Challenge a contestant has to figure they will be on the water 12 to 15 hours at a minimum. Depending on how bad the weather is most folks are pretty tired by the end of the day. This is understandable but it doesn’t take away the fact that a contestant may have to make some pretty important decisions during those late hours. Do you try to make a beach landing when the waves are as bad as they are? Do you attempt to get through an inlet that you know the current is flowing out, there is a sea breeze with a pretty good swell and oh by the way it is at night so you don’t have a good visual on the breakwater. It is so dark you cannot make out the horizon. Hmmm the GPS charts doesn’t appear to be as accurate as the computer screen at home.  Can you figure out a compass heading for that little pass through a mangrove bank. Heyyyyyyy, that Chickee was supposed to be right here on this exact spot. You even checked it on the National Everglades Park map, but there is nothing here. What do you do? The next good campsite is miles away and you are exhausted. Spend time searching around a mangrove area or just keep going.  All the above are real situations that have happen to me when I was exhausted and wanted to get off the water hours earlier. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how I look at it, I have been in several situations both at work and in the military that I have had to function while being tired and sleep deprived. Having been through those events has taught me that when I am in that state I need to keep the following in mind:

(1) Put extra focus on the decision at hand and the decision making process

(2) Double check the facts that I am using to make the decision

(3) Once the decision has been made take two deep breaths and exhale and see if the decision  still seems like the best decision.

(4) Recognize that my chances of making a bad decision in this state are pretty good. What actions do I need to start taking to deal with the bad outcome?

In the 2010 EC I had a choice of going on the outside or going on the inside to get from checkpoint 2 to check point 3. This leg is going through the Everglades National Park and I had obtained a camping permit for a location called the South Joe River Chickee. My plan was to get there in one day, which was going to be a long  but it would give me a great starting point the next day to go straight through CP3 and to the finish. On leaving CP2 the weather reports were that the winds would be out of the east and be pretty strong. With that information I decided to go on the outside hoping the land mass will keep the waves down and I could do the leg paddle sailing. Well it didn’t workout that way. The winds blew out of the east as long as I was going west but as soon as I turn to go south the winds turned and came out of the south south east. I think God was having a good time playing with me that day. Along with the winds came small squalls and rain showers which killed my speed. In hindsight I wished I had gone on the inside. It is longer but I wouldn’t have been fighting the winds. Nighttime arrived and I found myself still on the outside off a place called Highland Beach. I was way behind schedule, and wouldn’t you know it my GPS started to shut down on me randomly. Ok extra focus on this problem – I had charts, they were accurate, I had been in the area before, and I had a very good compass but I also hadn’t really hit the more challenging navigation.That would start about 7 miles from where I was at a place called Shark River. Ok double-check the facts – If you have been in the Everglades at night you know it is dark. Trying to pick out an object or a land mass to take a compass sight off is very difficult.  Fortunately for me there was a camp on Highland Beach and they had a fire going. Great a solid reference point to develop where I am on the map. I just needed to keep a southerly direction which meant keeping the fire 90 degrees to my course ( Right off my left shoulder). There were some waves that night and they were coming on deck which was bouncing the compass around quite a bit but I thought I could manage it. Ok two big breaths and the decision to navigate this way seemed pretty sound. Ok what is my bailout plan – There is pretty good beach access for the next 7 miles. I would just bailout before getting into the Shark River. Well three times I started and three times I found that after five minutes of paddling I would look up from my compass to see that fire on Highlands Beach right on my nose. I was doing circles. The compass was bouncing around too much for me to hold a good course and without a good visual reference I was losing my spacial awareness. I ended up just paddling into Highland beach and camping at the beach that night. Was I fatigued ? You bet I was. Did I make a good decision ? I guess it wasn’t bad. I finished just a day behind my target. Was it the best decision?  No it could have been better. The skies were clear that night and I had stars. All I had to do was pick a star and use it as the reference point. Pretty simple but I couldn’t figure that out. Could have been the same with the Captain who couldn’t figure out the contact was a lighthouse.  So how am I training for this mental state. Really the same process that is used for training physical muscles. Anytime I find myself being very sleepy and tired I try to take on a very complicated task that doesn’t have any negative consequences if I do it incorrectly. Thankfully with the computer I can pull up a chess game as a last resort. Through these experiences I can attempt to put myself in situation where I have to use the principles I have presented. This way I am mentally learning how to deal with it in training so I will be better prepared to deal with it during the event.  For special operations warrior families who have lost loved ones fatigued came and took up a long-term residence. Please consider a donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation to help reduce the fatigue for the families of our Special Operations Warriors.