One year ago I attended Kokoro Camp 25 at US CrossFit. I blogged the following posts about it:
I think about the Kokoro experience daily. The tools I’ve gained from the camp I use every day in life and in training. I thought I would write a followup on how the experience has affected me one year later. If you know nothing about Kokoro, it’s a 50-hour military-style camp held at US CrossFit in Encinitas, California, a couple of times a year. The instructors are ex-Navy Seals and the program is designed by Commander Mark Divine.
On a recent business trip to Orlando, Tom Davin stopped by CrossFit Firebase for a mid-afternoon WOD. I was fortunate enough to be able to conduct a quick interview. This is the first time I’ve met Tom and I was thoroughly impressed with how down-to-Earth and how willing he was to share his time…not to mention he hammered through a tough chipper WOD in 90-degree Florida heat. Tom is the CEO of a 5.11 Tactical, a company that landed on the Inc 500 in 2007–Inc magazine’s annual list of the fastest growing, privately-held, U.S.-based companies by revenue growth. 5.11 specializes in tactical clothing and gear for law enforcement, firefighting, and military professionals.
A good friend of mine works for 5.11 and I’ve watched them grow from a relatively small company with just enough products to feature on a tri-fold brochure to a national brand with an impressive catalog. They recently released their Recon line of fitness gear, which includes WOD shorts and WOD shoes that are gaining traction in the CrossFit market.
There were a bunch of announcements for the 2013 CrossFit Games on Monday night, including the surprise announcement of a half marathon row on the Concept2. The row is two scored events, with 100 points available for the top 2000 meter split and another 100 for the 21,097 finish. I think this is a great event, not because I’m a rower, but because it signals that endurance events are here to stay in CrossFit. Last year we had the Camp Pendleton triathlon and the year before was the long Beach Murph. If you’re not mixing in long distance stuff into your training, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Wodapalooza is on it’s way to becoming the Ultra Music Fest of CrossFit competitions, a multi-day carnival of fitness and CrossFitting. At some point in the future, if Guido and company choose to go in this direction, I can see them turning it into the biggest CrossFit-ness event in the world, perhaps second only to the CrossFit Games. By no coincidence, Wodapalooza takes place on the same hallowed grounds as Ultra at Bayfront Park. With 3 days of events, over 500 competitors, and thousands of spectators, they’re already one of the biggest CF events.
I had the good fortune to be able to compete, my second year in a row. It was one of my most challenging and rewarding athletic experiences. Full review below.
This year featured a whopping 549 competitors across 10 divisions (male and female Scaled, Rx, Elite, Masters, Team), up in a big way from the 116 individuals and 10 teams from last year. Just to throw a few stats out to illustrate the growth, and by extension how popular CrossFit has gotten, there were 74 Rx men and 36 Rx women in 2013, compared to 37 and 11 from last year. On the team side, there were 65 total teams compared to 10 last year (!!). With that many competitors, Wodapalooza II may have been the largest CrossFit competition in the world–I’m defining competition where all the athletes are in one place, thus eliminating the CrossFit Open. Oh yeah, by my count, the CrossFit Games had 508 competitors in 2012.
One thing I like training with is a good sandbag. Back in the day before I was CrossFitting, I used to work out with a personal trainer, and he had us doing walking lunges and squats with 50# sandbags at every session. It was brutal but it worked. At CrossFit Firebase, where I’ve been working out for the last three years, we use sandbags in WODs frequently, in a variety of ways. I’ve grown fond of this particular piece of gear.
Here are just a handful of exercises you can do with a good sandbag:
Last week I did a leg of the Ruck Across America (RAA), the grassroots fundraiser organized by alumni of the GoRuck Challenge. The pack started it’s journey on June 22 in Coronado, went north to Seattle, traveled across the country to Maine, then all the way down the east coast until it finally reached South Florida. By the time it reached me it was very stinky and filled with various knick knacks from around the country. There was a beanie baby reindeer and a bottle of Fireball. Despite the stink, it was a pleasure to carry.
What I liked about the RAA was the chance to spend a day hiking a section of the coast I had never visited. The most I’ve ever hiked in a single day is 20 miles, if you don’t count the GoRuck Challenge as a hike, which you shouldn’t. My crew opted to walk at a brisk pace, about 17′ miles. Leisurely compared to the GRC, but still aggressive enough that it was tiring. I thought the RAA backpack weighed about 20 pounds, but I wasn’t sure. It felt light but it burdens you just enough to wear you out, especially by the end.
When I lived in Austin in the summer of 2000 I remember watching Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France, his second of seven, against Jan Ullrich. The entire city was rabid about the Tour and about Lance, because he was their favorite son. The rivalry against Ullrich was a great rivalry and would last for another six years, with a hiccup in 2002 when the big German was suspended for taking a banned substance. During that time, the US Postal team was an icon of teamwork, speed, and power. Images of the blue juggernaut were ubiquitous in homes and offices.
I have been a fan of a smattering of baseball players, the occasional basketball player, and a few elite rowers. If there was any larger than life sports figure I was an uber-fan of, it was Lance Armstrong. I admired his approach and I liked that he was a brash, domineering Texas a-hole in competition. At his height, he was a killer on the bike and he made his rivals look like bad.
Having the right gear and nutrition strategy is critical for success at Kokoro. I’ll review what I did and offer some suggestions.
I bought regular white t-shirts from a drug store for like $10 for a pack. You don’t need anything better than that. You want at least 8 shirts at Kokoro…change your shirt every single chance you get so you’re dry. Having a dry shirt also gives you a little morale boost.
For pants, I rocked ripstop TDU pants from 5.11 Tactical. These pants are frigging awesome and I highly recommend them if you can afford it. They’re comfortable, durable, and performed decently despite not being the ideal pant for working out. They’re chock full of features like having cool pockets-within-pockets and a snug-fitting but flexible waistband that is critical for the amount of movement you’re doing. I only brought two pairs, which worked okay, but I recommend having three pairs.
If Kokoro 25 was the capstone to my sports year–scratch that, the capstone to my athletic career–then Megatransect 2012 aka “Mega X” was the after party. I went up with about 20 of my friends from CrossFire Firebase and we had a spectacularly good time. Traversing the 26 mile course was fun and difficult, every bit as kickass as last year. Having done two Megas, I fully plan on going back in 2013. It’s still that good. Below I’ll tell why.
What I Liked
The way I think about Mega the race, I think of a great fighter who humbles me when I finally show up for the battle. I get a good long beatdown and a tremendous learning experience. It is good to be humbled as an athlete, because it gives you perspective on your physical self. It’s healthy for the spirit. Every climb at Mega is a cathartic experience and every descent is a victory. Simply finishing the race is an accomplishment. If you’re a serious athlete, you have to put yourself through these grand experiences or else you’ll never grow. That’s something I figured out last year and something I’ll continue to schedule yearly as long as I’m healthy. Mega is the perfect grand experience.
In my previous post I gave an overview of Kokoro Camp 25. In this post I’ll review what I did to train and offer some ideas for anyone considering Kokoro.
Personal Fitness Standards
Coach Divine recently updated the fitness standards for Kokoro and they are the following:
- Minimum 50 push ups (40 for women), 50 sit-ups and 50 air squats in 2 minutes each.
- 10 dead hang pullups for men, 6 women
- 1 mile run in boots and utility pants on road in 9:30
- Body Armor (aka Murph) with 20# pack (15# for women): 1 hour and 10 minutes minimum
- 10 mile run in less than 1:20 (recommended)
- 20 mile ruck hike with load in less than 6 hours (recommended)
This is me speculating, but I think because of the growing popularity of Kokoro Camp, Coach Divine is putting a renewed emphasis on the basic skills of running, rucking, and body weight PT to make sure attendees have those skills.