34 hours into the Ultimate Suck, my beaten body laid triumphant on a bale of hay. I managed to place second in one of livestrong.com’s ten most extreme races, two hours before the race typically ends. Despite the race throwing at me three miles worth of burpee broad-jumps, a 10K of five gallon bucket carries, endless trials of push-ups, crossfit workouts, splitting wood, time-trial runs, pepper spray, and a culminating eight mile river swim in the 26-29th hour, I walked away with only a small fracture to my finger and a sense of supreme accomplishment. Of the 52 that signed up for the race, nine managed to finish, and I--Adam Gura, a high school English teacher--placed second.

What Was I Thinking?

This race has it all: Strength, endurance, power, and speed.  To be able to do well in this race, you have to walk the line between strong and endured.  I somehow managed to win the little brother of the Ultimate Suck, The Suck, to gain entry into the Ultimate Suck.  The Suck was a mere 12 hours compared to the goliath that lay in front of me.  However, I knew because of the 12 hour what kind of physical tasks were awaiting me.  The question was why would I want to take on a race that is 36 hours of torture?  The answer: I love testing limits!

Preparing For The Ultimate Suck

The question that I'm always asked is “How do you even prepare for something like that?” I have a pretty solid base, so shifting into my adventure race training isn't a bold leap. From May until the end of August, I workout two days on and one day off, and on those two days on, I workout twice a day. My weekdays consist of strength or as I call it “power endurance” and cardio. On the weekend I do an applied strength day that simulates a lot of what I would see in the race. Here is a sample week:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

-50x Get-up @ 44#

-50x Snatch @ 43#

Then:
Row interval work

Then:
300-sec Ring Support
Then:
300-sec Forward Leaning Rest (plank)

10x30m Various Carries
5x30m Lunge
5x30m OH Lunge
Then:
triplet EMOM for 15 minutes @ 170#

Clean, front squat, power clean

Then:
8x3 Back Squat @ 135# + 100# of chain
Rest 1 min between sets
Then:
6x4 (2 each leg) Lunge @ 95# Sandbag on one shoulder &53# KB in opposite hand
Rest 1 min between sets
Then:
3x 40m Sled Drag forward and backward

x active recovery, light jog

for 30 minutes, pull-ups, push-ups, and dips as many reps as possible

5x30m Lunge
5x 30m OH Lunge @ 25#
Then:
5x5 Pause Back Squat @ 225#
Then:
6x Sandbag lifts

@ half my weight in sand (3 each side) +
50M Bear Crawl
Seven rounds
Then:
2x 15-foot Rope Climb (no feet for as long as possible) +
3x Back Squat (thighs below parallel) @ 275# +
5x Box Jump @ 30” Box
Five sets, rest as needed between sets

x total rest

weighted stair repeats

Then: 100 meter bucket carries,

Then:

5 atlas stone over the shoulder throws

Then:

1 mile run

REPEAT for 3-4 hours

weighted stair repeats until time failure

3-5 mile run and 400 yards of lunges

x

weighted stair repeats until time failure

Row 5000 meters for time

x

I don't have a lot of big hills around me; however, I do have a killer set of stairs out by a state park near me. The goal for me is to make my legs bullet-proof. In the US, you will be rucking (backpack carries) with weight ranging from 50 lbs. to 100+ lbs for miles upon miles. Running isn't going to help you in this race as much as the repeated stress of lunges, or stairs, or heavy carries.

Gear Prep, Mind Prep

Prepare your feet! They will be destroyed, but if you plan wisely, they won't get macerated. With that said, have a heavy rotation of socks, at least every time you get out of a creak during this race (and that happens a lot). Any sock that has quick drying ability or merino wool, but is also cool works well. Check out my blog entry on socks and shoes for more information. Besides this, Rhone has wonderful clothing to handle the abuse of the race. I wore the Sentry t-shirt throughout Saturday, and the Field Bullitt shorts the entire race. At night and events where I knew I would be in water above my waist, I opted for compression gear for added warmth.

Finally, your ruck is everything in this race. Racers opt for two backpacks: the Osprey Aether or the Eberlestock Warhammer. I opted for Osprey because it has a lifetime warranty and fits nicely on my longer torso. Practice with your gear too.  Figure out what works best for your bucket carries, fit your backpack to your back perfectly, do marches with wet feet; practice in unfavorable conditions.  Be comfortable being uncomfortable.


The biggest advice that I can give to a race like this or any long endurance challenge is to get your mind right.  Demons of the mind come out even when you feel like you are supremely ready.  They will tell you to quit and tell you what you are doing is stupid and that your body and soul would much rather sit on the couch eating ice cream and watch the Cubs instead of swim in a 61 degree river for eight miles. Find moments to laugh in what you are doing, and it always helps to get encouraging messages someone (in my case, my wife and kids) that will push you through the darkness.  And no matter what, if you are thinking about quitting, don’t quit at night.  The sun will lift your spirits.


Here's a video of me getting a second wind after an evening's worth of burpee broad jumps, strong man lifts and 2-4 mile time trials:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BJEydOeQwVk

What I Learned? What’s Next?

I can never give a straight-forward answer to why I take on challenges. It’s such a complex response! I do know I’m always looking for the next great adventure, and no it doesn’t have to top the previous escapade. I’m looking for something new and different, perhaps something that I may be out of my comfort zone.  I love those adventures where I’m learning just as much as I’m competing. Until I figure out what’s next, I’ll continue to move forward in life.

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