Tuesday, May 28, 2013

THE MURPH - a recap

Yesterday marked my first attempt at the Memorial Day Murph. My brother-in-law, Josh, had suggested we give it a shot about 2 months ago. Me, being up for any challenge of the like, accepted without really knowing what I was getting myself into.

The Murph is a crossfit workout done around the country on Memorial Day to honor fallen Navy SEAL Lt. Michael Murphy who received the Medal of Honor after exposing himself to enemy fire and knowingly leaving his position of cover to get a clear signal in order to communicate with his headquarters. He provided his unit’s location and requested immediate support then returned to his position to continue fighting until he died from his wounds. There is a book by Marcus Luttrell called 'Lone Survivor' that chronicles the operation.

The Murph crossfit workout is based on Lt. Murphy's own favorite workout that he dubbed "Body Armor" because the SEALS completed the workout wearing their 20lb body armor vests.

The above backstory was given to me by my brother as a ploy to garner support. It worked, plus it just sounded like something impossible which in turn means I must attempt it.

Here it is... 1 mile run, then 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another mile run. I was told you can break down the pull-ups/push-ups/squats to a more reasonable circuit set (ie 10 pull-ups / 20 push-ups / 30 squats / repeat 10 times) so that was how I trained.

Come race day, I arrived with Josh, who brought along his 20lb vest of body armor because he has a lizard brain. There were 40 people registered to give it a shot. They offered bands on the pull-up bars to hook your feet in for support, bands to wrap your upper body in to aid in the push-ups and even suggested doing some of the push-ups on your knees if needed. They also offered a modified 1/2 Murph which consisted of 1/2 mile run / 50 pull-ups / 100 push-ups / 150 squats / 1/2 mile run. Here is the kicker... because of the limited space and the number of people attempting the race, they required you to do it without circuits. You must do all of your pull-ups before moving on to the push-ups and complete those before moving on to the squats.

Many opted for the 1/2 and/or bands for assistance.

Immediately my body started to shut down. I could feel my heart start to speed up and my knees wobble. It was like getting hit in the face with a 2x4. I turned toward Josh whose lizard brain was already taking over... "We're doing the full thing right?" he asked.

"Of course," I said as every fiber of my being screamed denial.

Ten minutes passed and we watched the first heat of 10 runners take off. One of which was an active Navy SEAL in full fatigues and body armor. "Screw it. I'll be back." Josh walked out of the gym on a collision course with his SUV. He emerged from the backseat with his own body armor.

I knew at that point, my fate was sealed. If he was going to do the full, in armor, without bands or assistance... I was too (sans body armor because I'm already carrying around an extra 20lbs consisting of Guinness, pizza and hot wings).

The cross-fit trainers at the gym pulled our group aside and told us they were pushing our start time back 30 minutes because the first two heats were taking a lot longer than anticipated clearing the pull-up racks (ya think?)... more waiting, sweating and baking in our own anticipation. They explained that because of the great turn out, not to think of it as a race, think of it as a marathon. We were going to end up fighting for station space and room in the gym to do squats and push-ups. That was 100% fine with me. Training, I was able to complete the circuits in 35 minutes. I figured adding in the adrenaline and race-day competitive push minus the runs and the exhaustion factor I was going to be able to top 45 minutes (a personal best). Breaking 45 minutes went right out the door when they took away the circuits. I was going to be happy just finishing. Josh had gone into this wanting to break 30 minutes without body armor. Our whole game plan was null and void.

Ten minutes before our revised heat was to begin, the trainers grabbed us and pulled us out front for a warm-up crossfit stretch to ensure no pulled or torn muscles. Stretch? More like an added 10 minute workout. I was dripping with sweat before they ever fired the starting pistol.

We took off in the rain (yes, in the rain) for our first mile. The course was actually only 1/4 mile long down and uphill, turn around and head back down and uphill. Upon returning to the gym, you had your final chance to switch to the half or head around for your second lap. My desire to run straight into the gym was cut short when I saw Josh rounding the building heading for the full run... fuck.

Heading back inside after the mile I found an empty station on the pull-up rack at the exact opposite end as Josh (who was already 25 pull-ups in). I'm a short guy and the rack was 7' high... I needed a 20" plyo box to grab the bar. I wasn't about to jump up and miss the bar. If I could do it now, I wouldn't be able to after 75 pull-ups. I figured my best bet was to start intelligently and finish in one piece. Josh and I had worked out a half-ass plan before we began. Because we weren't able to run circuits, the smart thing would be hammer out as many as you could before hitting muscle failure, take a break and repeat until the 100 were finished.

I started with 20 conventional reverse grip pull ups. The few people around me that were not using assistance bands were "kipping" straight pull-ups. This is something I've never been able to master; I blame it on my strict diet of Guinness and fried chicken. At 60 pull-ups the bar across from Josh opened up. I moved down to see how he was doing. "Where are you at?"

He didn't answer, just held his left hand up, palm out... The blister that had ripped open was about an inch and a half long and bleeding. Apparently, in his excitement that morning, he'd remembered his body armor but forgotten gloves. I gave him mine and used the opportunity to take a breather. He was at 85 and knocked out the last 15 while I contemplated hiding in the restroom until everyone had left for the day.

I attempted 20 pull-ups without gloves, using just the chalk next to the rack... How he cranked out 85 that way boggles me.

Sets of twenty quickly dropped to sets of 15, then 10, then 8 with 30 second breaks in between. The last ten pull-ups came in sets of 2-3 to ensure my Frosted Flakes didn't make an encore appearance.

I dropped and hit the floor next to Josh. He was 120 in on his push-ups before I started number one. I was so happy I'd finished the pull-ups I was able to crank through the push-ups in sets of 15-20 without too much problem.

Squats were going to be my downfall. This was the part I'd been dreading most of all. After tearing my ACL and meniscus last summer playing soccer and undergoing pretty extensive surgery (I now have a cadaver tendon in both knees as well as a repaired right meniscus and a left meniscus that was removed, repaired and actually sewn in place on my bone) and 6 months of rehab, my left leg is still only hitting on 5-6 cylinders at best. The atrophy in my left quad has yet to dissipate.

I was 60 squats in when Josh finished and bolted for his second mile run. Without my motivation in sight I slowed considerably. At 150 the event photographer started snapping pictures in my direction. I cranked out another 50 while sucking in my gut... As she turned her attention to another station, I nearly vomited. I stood and started walking to my car without really realizing it. Half way there I came to the conclusion I was grabbing a Gatorade out of the cooler in my backseat.

I jogged back into the gym, Gatorade in hand and knocked out another 90 before Josh re-entered to complete his Murph. "How many do you have left?" he asked.

"Ten," I think I said.

"C'mon, just do it. You got it."

That was all I needed. I finished and sprinted for the second mile. Ok, so "sprinted" may be a strong word... I hobbled with speed.

I made it half way to the turn around before I heard footsteps coming up from behind with intent.

Josh had dropped his body armor and along with my nephew, was going to finish my second mile with me. It meant a lot. Josh's final time was right at an hour in 25lbs of body armor. I finished up 12 minutes later with him effectively running a 5K in tow.

I didn't vomit. That's why I consider it a success.

Today, I feel like I've been run over by a truck. My armpits ache. I coughed earlier and nearly blacked out. My toes hurt. The back of my thighs are so tight and sore, if I have to poop, I'm just going to lean up against the back of the house because I know if I try to sit down on a toilet, it'll take Mel Gibson, a bathtub and a block of C4 to get me off the seat.

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