boot camp fitness and training

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

“I not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. I’m really good at suffering.”

Amelia Boone (The Michael Jordan of OCR).

Way before I began serious training, I had to work on my mental toughness. I read many books, listened to podcasts and talked to a lot of people who have accomplished incredible events including two of my closest friends who have completed the Death Race.

I had so many doubts about my ability to take on the Joe Warner Bragg Heavy. I have never considered myself the type of person who could take on such an event. So why the hell did I sign up?

My sister and I were visiting my parents who live in Fayetteville. I grew up at Ft. Bragg. I was trying to convince my sister to register for a Tough that was taking place where we both live now, in Tallahassee, FL. She was on the computer looking at events and then said there is one at Ft. Bragg and that we should sign up and stay with my parents. We were both so excited about the opportunity to do an event on the hallowed grounds that my dad trained on for so many years. We registered AND THEN read about what the event entailed. I was terrified and immediately began my typical doubts in my ability and my mental strength.

This was in June and I figured I had plenty of time to train. At this time I had done a GORUCK Tough and a Light. My second Tough was the following month.

The first Tough I did several years earlier, I hated. I was in way over my head and wanted to quit many times. I even thought about falling off a curb and breaking my own ankle to get out of it. Yes, I was that miserable. Seven of us finished and I was one of them. I came home and threw my patch in a drawer and swore I would never do one again.

The following year a bunch of my friends and clients (I am a personal trainer and own my own gym) signed up for a Light so I got suckered into doing it. It was a great event and soon I forgot how traumatized I was about the Tough I had done.

I signed up for the Tallahassee Tough against my better judgment, but again, my friends and a few of my clients were doing it. I succumbed to  peer pressure.

I never work on conditioning and I hate cardio. I had spent the last couple of years training and competing in powerlifting. Anything over five reps was enough cardio for me.

I finished the Tough along with our whole group and not once did I think about breaking my own ankle. Although it was very challenging, I was hooked.

With 7 months until the Joe Warner Bragg Heavy, I figured I had plenty of time to train.

I downloaded a few different programs online and began to focus on becoming an endurance and cardio girl.

I soon found out I was not good at rucking longer distances. One of the first things required for a Heavy was a 12 mile ruck in under 3 ½ hours. My sister, an endurance athlete had no trouble. I on the other hand was dying. I was slow and had all kinds of pain in my feet. My mind began to work against me. I’ve never had much self-confidence and training for and failing the simple task of fast rucking only made things worse.

From the very start, I was thinking about how I could back out.

After screwing around for a couple of months and not getting any better, I hired a coach, Flo Zurkinden who had done many endurance events including the JWBH and several Death Races.

The first few workouts sucked. I was taking a lot of breaks and left gasping for air. The doubt really set in. I made sure that everyone who knew I was signed up, knew I wasn’t sure I had the mental strength to finish. My doubts, my lack of confidence and my fears permeated every part of my life. I became a loser before I even started.

My workouts included running and I hate running. Many times I be out on the trail and as soon as I started getting out of breath and uncomfortable, I quit.

It took a couple of months before I started getting some endurance. I still couldn’t ruck fast even when I added spurts of running. The thing that scared me the most was being last and left behind.

I finally started working on my mindset. I even met with a sports psychologist, things were that bad. We came up with several techniques, the first being to quit telling every one that I lacked mental toughness.

I started training my mind. One of the best things I did, although weird was to read and copy Mark Klemm’s (number 35 in selection) quotes. I had one quote put on a bracelet that I never took off. I had the quote as my screen saver and had a copy in my car. I had my friends and family write personal letters which I laminated and kept in my pack. The other important thing that one of my friends wrote for me was to focus on the task at hand and don’t give any thought to what might be next. That became my mantra.

I covered my weight plate with a picture of my dad receiving his Silver Star after a heroic event he performed in Vietnam. My dad, who served 35 years and is a retired SGM was my inspiration. He spent so much time training at Camp Mackall and I wanted to be there.

Finally everything came together. I was at a place that I was confident in my physical abilities and I began to believe that I could finish. I would finish no matter what.

My sister and I arrived in Fayetteville on the Wednesday before the event. My mom was sick and my sister decided to spend the time with her and not to do the Heavy with me.

My dad is currently in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. We spent the afternoons and evenings visiting with him. Most of the time he doesn’t quite know who I am. Sometimes with coaching, he knows I’m his daughter but doesn’t remember my name.

I don’t want to get into this too much but it’s hard to see my dad, my hero, so vulnerable. I never know what to say to him because he can’t communicate very well anymore. I wanted to tell him what I was about to do but wasn’t sure he would understand.

The afternoon before the event, I asked him if he remembered, Camp Mackall. His face lit up and he said, yes. I told him I was about to do training there. I don’t think he understood that. I wanted so bad to talk to him, ask him questions and share this experience with him but I couldn’t.

I went to War Stories that night. It was great to meet so many people that I only knew from Facebook. I was thrilled to meet, Mark Klemm ie, number 35 from GORUCK’S hardest event, Selection. I wore my, “I finished the day I signed up” shirt. It was a statement he made during Selection that stuck with me. Of course, I got a picture taken with him.

I also took a huge risk by trying to bribe Cadre Dan with a handful of Dons, the official money of Pineland. I figured he’d either think it was funny or he’d make me regret it the next day. Thank God, he thought it was funny.


Friday was a blur. I packed and unpacked my ruck several times. I started to panic. I was worried about bringing the right clothes, the right food and the right gear. My sister helped me weed out the contents of my ruck so it wouldn’t end up weighing 100 pounds.

We had one last visit with my dad before we headed to Southern Pines. I met up with a couple of ladies I knew from FB and had met the night before at War Stories. We made plans to stick together.

At 5:00, everyone was ordered to get in line. It was go time.

Stay tuned for Part Two, Joe Warner Bragg Heavy AAR (after action report)











Super Strong Nana does the Whole30

I’ve been on the Whole30 website on and off for the past year. I’ve looked at how strict it is and knew that there was no way I could change my eating that much. I rationalized that maybe I could do it but still eat dairy and put milk in my coffee, eat my nightly treat of popcorn because after all, my meals are pretty healthy. I told myself that I do better with a diet high in carbohydrates and a lower fat intake. LIES, LIES, LIES!

I hit rock bottom with my eating during Christmas week. In October of this year, I was at my lowest weight in years. I even went out and bought several pairs of skinny jeans. I was feeling confident and on top of the world.

As usual, I was was close to my weight goal, a number that I haven’t been at in 10 years. I have no idea why I picked that number or why I continue to chase that number after 10 years of coming close and then failing. Even though I know better than to use the scale as a way to measure my success, I am addicted. The number on the scale effects whether or not I am a good person or not. It effects whether I feel like a loser or a winner. It is a mechanical square that I have allowed to dictate my happiness.

At the end of October, starting right before Halloween, I starting allowing myself to eat candy. It only took a few bites and I was as out of control as a crack addict. I couldn’t get enough. I was hiding my eating, hiding my wrappers and going out and buying more.

One night turned into a daily stops at the 7-11 for candy. Feeling ashamed, I would buy other things so the cashier wouldn’t think I was such a loser.

The holidays were just another excuse to binge. I resorted to my favorite Oreos. Once I go down that road, there is no turning back. I felt sick, lethargic, bloated and overall unhealthy. I didn’t have energy to workout and it took everything I had to do simple things such as going to work. Emotionally, I felt hopeless and worthless.

I went back to the Whole30 website. As bad as I felt, I still wasn’t willing to follow the rules they laid out to help me reset my eating and to get healthy again. I ordered their book, It Starts With Food. It only took a few chapters to realize they were talking about me! I related to everything. They even used Oreos as an example of the vicious cycle of sugar cravings.

It was then that I decided to get healthy. As foreign as it was, I decided to focus on health rather than my weight. Focusing on my health allowed me to be willing to do anything to get better.

I went back to the Whole30 website and printed out everything. I printed out shopping lists, recipes and a success guide. For once in my life, I was willing to go to any lengths to get my eating under control.

On December 26th, I quit eating sugar. As the days wore on, I cut out other foods that made me feel unhealthy. I officially started Whole30 on January 9th.

I would love to tell you it’s been easy, but it hasn’t. There are days when everything in my being wants to eat sugar and other junk food. The more days I get behind me, the easier it is. I’ve had sugar dreams and have woken in a panic thinking that I blew it.

I get stronger and stronger in my conviction as I experience more energy, more strength in the gym, better sleep and a clearer head. Mentally I am feeling strong and confident. Each time I pass up the pizza, bread, desserts and pasta that my family eats, is a notch in my success belt.

The best part is that I am trying foods and cooking things I would never have tried in the past. The food I make is so good! Even my family loves it. Things taste so good and I am experiencing the taste of sweetness in natural foods. I never would have thought that carrots could be so sweet. My taste buds were used to the extreme sweetness of highly processed foods loaded with artificial sugars and ingredients.

Although I think everyone would benefit from a super strict reset, I realize that most people either don’t think they have the strength to do it or don’t care enough about themselves or their health to try. Like I did for the past year, the thought of making such drastic sacrifices despite the health benefits prove to be too much. Even making small changes such as detoxing off of sugar can make a difference.

Making changes based on getting healthy and maybe even saving your life instead of appearance or a number on a scale may just be the to finally succeed.