The SUCK

The SUCK

First off, let me say that The Suck is NOT an OCR.  That’s important to know for a few things I’ll say later.  The Suck is an endurance event.  That’s the best way for me to describe it.  Notice I didn’t say a “physical endurance event” because the physical portion of this event is only part of what you’ll need to complete the grueling 12 hours.  So I bet you’re wondering how I got involved in this event if it isn’t an OCR, trail race or road race.  Those are my things.  That’s what I train for.  Run, scale a wall, run, throw a spear, run, jump in a mud bath, run some more and, well, you get the picture.  I was fortunate enough to meet a guy a few months back that is an absolute beast in the sport of OCR by the name of Yancy Culp.  Yancy is a two time Death Race finisher, has multiple Spartan Race top 10 finishes, multiple top 10 finishes in other OCR’s and can now add the title of two time The Suck winner to his already impressive resume.  Yancy runs a bootcamp in Cedar Park, TX, called sCULPture Nutrition & Fitness that I was able to attend one evening.  On Wednesday nights he also hosts an OCR session complete with farmers carries, bucket carries and some of the other essential OCR training activities.  I’d heard Yancy was an inspiring coach but after only one night attending his bootcamp and OCR session, it was easy to see what anyone that has spent more than five minutes with Yancy already knew, the guy is an amazing and motivating leader!  So when someone like Yancy gives you an opportunity to challenge yourself at an event like The Suck, you say yes and get ready for the ride.

Pre-Race

I had about a 10 day notice to get myself prepared for this event.  If you’re thinking about doing any type of endurance event like The Suck, please take this away from this review if you take nothing else away, 10 days is NOT enough prep time!  Even if you’re an experienced trail runner or an avid OCR racer, make sure you spend a few months getting yourself physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for an event like this.  In the OCR world we encourage people to get off their couches and onto a course.  If you plan on doing this event, I highly encourage you to get off your couch, train intensively for a few months, take stock of your life and then make the decision to sign up.  The gear list was pretty typical:

  • Ruck Sack / Backpack – I personally recommend a 60 liter / 3500 cubic inch

  • CamelBak hydration plus pack – recommend 70 – 100 oz

  • Life Jacket

  • 8lb sledgehammer

  • Old car tire

  • Guys 2 x 50lb sandbags

  • Gals 2 x 30lb sandbags

  • 2 x 5 gallon buckets

  • Headlamp

  • Trail Shoes

  • Work gloves

  • Workout gear

  • Warm/cold weather gear

  • Plenty of food, water & electrolytes for the entire 12 hours

  • Suggested – snake bit kit, poison ivy/oak remedy, first aid kit

I had to purchase almost all of these items.  I was recently loaned a MOLLE 2 ruck sack but had never used it with more than just the empty ruck to run a few mile repeats so I knew that was going to be a different experience.  One of the trickier components for me when I was getting ready for the event was the food/water/fuel portion of the list.  I knew that was going to be very important, especially never having done an endurance event before but I really had no idea what to take.  So I grabbed the usual Honey Stinger gels, Shot Bloks, a couple of bottles of pickle juice, a can of raw, mixed nuts and I made a few peanut butter bagel sammiches.  I thought that was sufficient.  It wasn’t and I completely missed the boat on that portion of prep.  Huge lesson learned there.

The event was held at Rocky Creek Ranch.  More on the venue in a bit.  Upon arrival, I checked in and met with Joe and Nicole Decker, signed my death waiver and had all my gear inspected.  While waiting around for the event to start I was able to meet with some of my fellow competitors, many of whom I already knew and a couple that I’d only either Facebook known or been familiar with via social media and their involvement in the sport of OCR.  I’ll be completely honest, I knew I was competing with a different caliber athlete prior to ever stepping foot on the ranch but to meet these athletes in person, it was a little intimidating for me.  But it didn’t take long after meeting everyone to have my nerves calmed a bit as everyone was very encouraging and helpful.  Maybe I had “N00B” written across my head but I was immediately given some pointers on how my ruck was packed and a few things I needed to change and that proved to be very good advice later in the evening.  Around 7:30-7:45, Joe and Nicole gathered everyone to welcome us to the event and provide us with instructions for the evening.  We went over potential safety concerns, course route, you know the usual stuff.  I took away two things Joe said during his speech:  “Don’t think just f*#king do” and “Become robotic”.  After a few more opening remarks we were sent on our way to start the event.

The Venue

Rocky Creek Ranch is located about 45 minutes North of Cedar Park, TX, and proved to be the perfect spot for this event.  Base camp was at the top of the property and was the site of the Strongman portion of the event.  Located about a half-mile from base camp was another building that served as a turnaround point for most of our challenges.  “The Mountain”, as I called it, was located between base camp and the turnaround point as was a creek bed at the bottom of “The Mountain”.  A mile or so portion of the creek served as the location of another one of our challenges.  Various other parts of the ranch were utilized for the event and by the end of the night I felt every inch of that 500 acres on my muscles!  In order to truly pull off an event like The Suck and make it live up to its name, the site of the event has to be perfect.  Rocky Creek Ranch was the perfect place for the Southwest event.

The Event

So this is the portion of the review where I go into detail about everything we did during the 12 hour The Suck, right?  Wrong!  I won’t ever reveal the exact details of what went on the evening/morning of March 28/29 for a few reasons.  One, it wouldn’t be fair to future competitors to have me write out in detail what they are going to experience.  Each event means something different to each person that participates and I don’t want to create false expectations or ruin anyone else’s The Suck experience.  Two, Joe & Nicole put on a hell of an event!  They’re also two very smart people so I hesitate to believe that any two events are alike.  Even if I told you what we did, it likely wouldn’t matter because I’m 100% positive Joe & Nicole have plenty of tricks up their sleeves for future events.  Finally, we see people ask all the time “What all did you do during the Hurricane Heat?” or “What kind of things did you do during your GoRuck Challenge?”  And it seems like the answers are usually the same, I can’t really tell you, you just have to go do it.  If you want to know, go do it.  Seriously, here’s the link to the remaining events this year: http://gutcheckfitness.com/the-suck/  Go sign up and see for yourself what it’s all about.  I promise you, if nothing else comes of the event you’ll learn a lot about your mental, physical and emotional toughness.  You may not like what you find but you’ll definitely find it.

My Experience – “Don’t think just f*#king do.  Become Robotic.”

While I won’t tell you about all the activities we did, I do want to spend some time describing my own rollercoaster of an experience, if for no other reason than I need to get this stuff off my chest, out of my head and out in to the open.  We’re about 72 hours removed from the end of The Suck Southwest event and to be completely honest, I’m still haunted by what happened out there.  Yesterday may have been my low point, at least I hope it was.  I’m suffering from a severe case of what I call post-race depression (PRD).  You guys know what I mean, you spend weeks and months preparing for a race or event and once it’s over there’s usually a bit of a letdown because all the excitement is gone.  You’re not really sure what to do next because your next event isn’t for a few weeks or months even.  So you’re left with this feeling that can only be described as BLEH.  It happens to me after almost every event.  But this time it’s different and I don’t really know how to deal with it because the wounds I have aren’t physical.  I mean some of them are.  I still look like I’ve been in a car accident or was beaten with a baseball bat.  But those will fade and eventually heal so they don’t really bother me all that much.  I’m having a difficult time processing and dealing with the mental and emotional bumps and bruises that I earned last weekend.  When Yancy offered me the opportunity to participate, he was very clear that the event would be physically demanding.  He was also very clear that it would be 90% mental as to whether or not I completed it.  I knew I probably wasn’t physically ready for The Suck, mainly because I had no idea what to expect but I’ve always considered myself a mentally tough person.  Someone who is able to block out bad, let in good, process the emotion and overcome the situation.  I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that didn’t happen at this event.  12 hours in the dark, some of it by myself, was a long time to let fear, doubt and negativity fester inside my head.  I talked with another one of the competitors at the beginning of the event about where I would “go” when I reached my breaking point.  I thought it was important to have a plan and a place to go mentally when my body started telling me to quit.  But it didn’t matter how well I’d planned to tell my mind to go to my family or friends when I needed it to because until I actually reached that point, I had no clue what was going to happen.  I wanted to do exactly as Joe instructed in his introduction speech “Don’t f*#king think.  Just do.  Become robotic.”  But that never happened.  Around 1:45am I finally reached my breaking point.  I was dehydrated, malnourished, cramping and experiencing what I thought was total muscle failure.  My plan was to tell the body to STFU and keep going but I couldn’t.  At least I thought I couldn’t.  I approached Nicole and told her that I would not continue with the rest of the event.  I was dropping out.  Nicole told me to take some time and really think about that decision before making it final.  So I walked over to where my gear was and sat on my bucket for a good 20-30 minutes.  I sat there with my eyes closed and wanted to pray but it had been years since I last prayed. I figured it would probably fall on deaf ears anyway.  So I just sat there and thought of all the reasons why my body could no longer continue; too tired, too sore, too tight, never used a ruck before.  Every excuse I could find to make my decision to quit valid.  The list was long and in my head justified not risking injury and cutting my night short.  About that time, one of the other competitors, Patrick Mies, came over and had a word with me.  I can’t tell you exactly what Patrick said, partly because I don’t remember and partly because it’s not rated PG but all I know is as Patrick’s words started getting stronger and more aggressive I began to feel my emotions getting stronger and more aggressive.  Whatever receptors in the brain that shut down with fatigue began to wake back up.  That place I had planned to go mentally became a little clearer.  Patrick spent a good five minutes reminding me why I was there to begin with.  When one of your teammates and fellow competitors takes the time to grab your hand and pull you out of one of the darkest places your mind has ever gone, the only way to repay him is to grab your ruck, ignore the pain and put one foot in front of the other.  So for the next five hours that’s exactly what I did.  I’ll never be able to truly show Patrick my appreciation for what he did for me.  He may never know the magnitude of the emotional and mental catastrophe he helped me avoid but I’ll be forever grateful for his words, his belief in me to continue and for giving me the swift kick in the ass that I so desperately needed.  As I continued on in the event, other competitors offered their encouragement and with the help of their words and some much needed fuel, I was able to make it the full 12 hours and earn my The Suck Challenge Coin.  Full disclosure, because I was already a good ways behind on time due to my mental break, I did not complete the entire course but I did complete the challenges needed to be a finisher.

It’s a funny thing what the dark does to your mind.  As the sun came up Saturday morning while we were finishing the very last portion of the challenge, “the mountain” that we climbed up and down all night became fully visible.  Turns out it wasn’t such a Mt. Everest sized mountain after all.  The caliche road we hauled heavy stuff up and down wasn’t a 10 mile road either.  It was only a quarter mile or so long.  The dark is a crazy place to be when someone is pushing your physical and mental capabilities to their absolute limits.  The lesson learned here is no matter how steep, tall, and long the mountains are in the darkest times, the sun will always rise and reveal just how manageable they actually are.

“Can I get a GUT CHECK!”

Man, it’s hard for me to describe how thankful I am that I had the opportunity to participate in The Suck Southwest event.  I learned a lot about myself and how far I have to go to become the mentally strong person I thought I was.  I also can’t thank the brave volunteers that spent all night out at the ranch, by our sides, enough.  Sarah, Shane, Kirk, Tyler, Taylor, Rick and anyone else I missed, you guys were all amazing!  I say it about every event I attend and it holds especially true for this one but volunteers make the event what it is and without your encouraging words, your side by side pushups and just your general presence, this event would not have been what it was.  Thank you guys so much!  And what can really be said about my fellow competitors other than I now know the true definition of what Beast Mode is.  Beast Mode doesn’t happen in a gym or on Facebook.  It’s a real thing and I’ve seen it with my own two eyes.  I was able to witness two high caliber athletes in Yancy Culp and Ella Kociuba go head to head and absolutely dominate that course Friday night!  They were both so tuned in but not to the point that they didn’t always have an encouraging word to give in passing.  Congratulations to the both of you on your wins!  And the others competing, Mylo Villanueva, Patrick Mies, Matt Willis, Lulu Espinosa and Brian Dannenfeldt, it was an absolute honor to be in the trenches with you guys all night.  I can’t think of a better group of athletes to share a 12 hour ass whoopin with.  Thank you for making this event memorable as well.  Joe & Nicole Decker, two of the most encouraging and uplifting people I’ve ever met.  I think I may have frustrated them a bit throughout the night but they never gave up on me and I’ll never forget that.  Thank you guys for putting on such a demanding and amazing event!

It’ll be a while before I fully “recover” from this one.  The bruises, scratches and muscle fatigue are all almost gone but I still have some demons to address and I plan to do that everyday for the foreseeable future.  I’m scheduled to run my first 25k trail race this weekend but I’m not really sure if that’s going to happen…..oh who am I kidding, of course it’s going to happen!  I’m a sucker for a medal and I hear this event has a pretty sweet one, haha!  I’ll never forget those 12 hellish hours I spent at Rocky Creek Ranch.  I don’t want to.  I’ll take this experience with me everywhere I go and in everything I do as a reminder that the body WILL go where the mind tells it to.  And that amazing and encouraging people exist everywhere, even in the dark.  “Can I get a GUT CHECK!”

Paul Almanza Paul Almanza (1 Posts)

Team Captain and member of the Lone Star Spartans' Leadership Council


Posted in Race Review.

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