Dallas Henry is a great friend of mine who I had the pleasure of serving part of my time in the military with. As well as being an exceptional officer, he is a world class
dancer athlete of the extremely rare breed. If I could define him in one term, it would be: “high energy.” For those of you unfamiliar with the military and some of the men and women who serve in it, hopefully his short blog entry that follows gives you a new appreciation of how badass some of the people are who are willing to stick their necks out for our freedoms. And I know the next time I’m feeling sorry for myself when I have a workout coming up I’m not motivated for, I’ll think back to the preparation he describes below and drive on. I’ve bolded some of the crazier stuff he mentions. Enjoy.
Post written by James Dallas Henry, MBA, PMP
During the weekend of April 14-15 2016, I, along with my partner Tim Moore, competed in the U.S. Army’s Best Ranger Competition (BRC). BRC is considered the military’s foremost mental and physical competition. It is a grueling 62-hour series of events, where 50 teams from across the nation compete to be crowned champion. To give perspective, the events were set to include obstacle courses, ruck runs, open water swims, rope climbs, stress shoots, 11-hour land navigation, rock climbing, and many other military oriented events.
A little personal background: I am a regionally elite and nationally sub-elite runner, specializing in distances from 5k to ½ marathon, while representing a handful of sponsors. Tim is a naturally gifted athlete who maintains a high level of fitness as his passion. In February, we were nominated as one of two teams that would represent Fort Stewart (Savannah, GA) at BRC. For those who understand the typical build up to BRC, this fact is somewhat alarming. Many teams are selected 5 months in advance and spend their workdays training exclusively.
Preparation and training was a great challenge in and of itself, as the competition events required us to alter our current routine as well as a significantly increase overall workout intensity. The 10-week build up to Best Ranger aimed at building a complimentary team by decreasing our personal weaknesses and bridging the gap between our strengths. Tim’s foundation is in lifting opposed to endurance sports and consequently, he focused on increasing aerobic capacity. In contrast, I required a training protocol shift that aimed at accumulating lean mass and strength. Overall, we averaged 12 training sessions per week, which typically encompassed 35-50 miles of running, 5 weight lifting sessions, 3 swim sessions, and 1-2 55lb-65lb ruck sack foot marches.
As we progressed through training we each saw great gains: Tim was able to routinely run 10 miles under 75 minutes with me and I gained six pounds of lean muscle while maintaining a body fat percentage under eight. By the middle of March we were performing as we never had before, signifying that good preparation for a competition renowned for pushing athletes further than they believed possible.
Although we never shared the words, Tim and I knew that the only way we could attain accomplishment in such a competition was to rely on one another. Through the bond of countless hours of training, we came to a mutual agreement: we would never quit, but instead give every ounce of physical effort we had, be the leader when our partner needed it most, and sacrifice our strengths for one another. In retrospect, three specific BRC events represent this the most aptly:
1. The 5-mile run. We completed this event in a full army uniform: pants, long sleeve top, and boots. To add to the difficulty, we were given a 40-pound kettle bell mid-run. I am the stronger runner and so I took it upon myself to carry this for as long as I could. Thankfully, Tim shared the load when I needed a brief recovery. We finished the five miles in 36:12, having carried the kettle bell for 2 miles.
2. The 800-meter open water swim. This event was also conducted in a full uniform. Tim carried the team in this event, as despite my training, I am not a strong swimmer. I was really struggling to keep up with Tim and being the consummate teammate, he came back to me, grabbed my collar, and physically pulled me across the water.
3. The night foot march. This was the most trying event for Tim and I. We were required to complete 17.8 miles while wearing a 55lb rucksack. We labored through the rolling hills of southern Georgia as sunset turned into darkness. We spent a majority of the night walking in the rain and pushing through the pain of our bleeding back and hips, which had rubbed raw from our rucks. Personally, the most trying moment of the event occurred when I stepped into a pothole. This caused the soaked skin of my foot to split three inches down the webbing between my great and second toe. I didn’t know what happened, and all I could do was simply continue to walk, while grimacing in pain desperate to complete the event. It wasn’t until morning that I had the strength to take off my socks and could see the damage that occurred.
The Best Ranger Competition is not noteworthy because of the arduous nature of the events or the results we were able to achieve, but due to the fact that we were able to reach new physical heights and find things within ourselves that were previously unknown.
While the opportunity may not arise in the form of a national military competition, I challenge everyone to find a way to push their limits and explore the greatness they have within. Opportunities are everywhere: local 5k’s, local lifting competitions, or simply choosing to commit to a workout regime that is more intense than you have ever done before. What makes a person’s performance noteworthy is not an “elite” status, but rather the amount they can overcome and the control they can attain over their body and minds.