The Colorado Veterans Project hosts several events throughout the year to help Colorado Veterans. This includes the Memorial Day Run & March, which offers several races on event day- the 5k Run Or Ruck, 10k Run Or Ruck, and the 30k Ruck March. Deciding rather impulsively I thought that the 30k Ruck March might be a great way to motivate myself to train for the summer hiking season and to help raise food for homeless Veterans. I registered for the 30k Ruck March. Ok, so what to do next? I was now committed to finishing the 30k Ruck March- march 30 kilometers with 25 lbs. of canned food in my backpack. Now that I had a goal, planning and training fits into the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle of continuous improvement.
Plan – plan the work, work the plan. For the 30k Ruck March, both long term and short term planning came into play. Training for hiking and back-country skiing provided my base fitness. This is the long term plan because base fitness is developed over months and years. Setting weekly training goals, tracking progress, types of exercise, and other training methods are discussed in detail in previous blog posts- Fitness First and the Karvonen Formula. The short term plan is for the event specific training the 3 months before the event and a plan for the event day itself. Before February, I had been emphasizing jogging in my weekly training. Jogging at low intensity levels, with perceived easy effort, and training for an hour or more- this is a type of Zone 1 training exercise discussed in Training for the New Alpinism. After February, I introduced event specific training by changing my exercise from jogging to pack-weight carry (i.e. wearing a backpack with a specific amount of weight).
Do – work the plan. By March, I was hiking with a 30 lb. backpack for 2 miles, 2 times a week. The rest of the weekly exercise could be considered non-specific training, for example going winter camping for 2 days (carrying an overnight pack and hiking to a campsite near Winter Park at 9,600 ft). In April, I continued back-country skiing on the weekends with less emphasis on training during the week. My training efforts tend to have an unintentional cyclic fluctuation- 1 month I’ll train more each week, more days per week, and then the next month or so my number of training days per week will drop off. I think that this is in part just the natural need to recover from training and also that there are competing interests from daily life that need time, too.
Plan – the 30k Ruck March. There are time standards for the 30k Ruck March and while civilian participants do not need to meet these standards, I used this as my benchmark for the event. For my age group, to meet standard the 30k course needs to be completed in 4 hours 40 minutes. I made myself a table with the following columns: Distance traveled in km, my goal for each km, and the benchmark for each km. My goal was to alternate 11 minutes per km with 9 minutes per km (the benchmark rate). This is a slow, fast, slow cadence.
Do – 8:00 am on Saturday, time to ruck! I moved forward with the crowd, letting those eager to race to the front go by me. Moving at a fast walk, I was soon in the back of the pack. Abruptly someone comes running up- Stop!, Stop! You’re going the wrong way! We had missed the first turn in the course and were following the road, when the course route was to take a sharp right turn onto a bike path. Surprisingly, I was now in the lead of the pack! But not for long. The group redirected itself and we headed off onto the bike path and the correct course route.
Check – As I passed each kilometer, I checked my time vs. the table I had printed out. At 8 km, I passed the marker at 9:30 am and my goal time was 9:20 am. Not bad, but I was losing time.
Act – Pick up the pace. Seeing that I was off of goal, I quickened my pace- but not too much. 8 km is just the first quarter and there were 22 km to go.
As I completed sections of the course, I would check my actual time vs. the goal time. The course turn around was at 17.5 km, goal was 10:53 am, actual was 12:00 pm. These self checks along the way were monitoring short term performance- Do, Check, Act, repeat.
Saturday, there was not a cloud in the sky and the sun beat down relentlessly. From 15 km to the turnaround at 17.5 km, there were few trees and a long, gradual uphill section to reach the top of a grassy plateau.
Do – Heat exhaustion was a very real possibility. Long sections of the course had few opportunities for shade and the daytime high was 90°F (32°C). After resting at the turnaround point, I started back to the finish line at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
Check – The goal for the last half of the ruck was simply to finish. I was 2 hours behind the planned rate and it was a real effort to simply place one foot ahead of the other.
Act – Keep moving. From 20 km on, simply moving was physically painful. Oddly enough, the mental effort was not the kind of effort needed when lifting a heavy weight. Perhaps the best way to describe it, is mental relaxation and to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. The 27 km marker was a very welcome sight and it was a relief that I knew that there were only 2 km left. At this point, my fastest pace was a slow and steady walk but the 28 km and 29 km markers seemed to go by quickly and it became easier once the finish line was in sight. I collected a Finisher’s ribbon and went to weigh my pack. The pack weighed 27.98 lbs. The event volunteers unloaded the pack and put the canned food into plastic bins. This was the purpose of the event in the first place- collect food for homeless Veterans and to remember those that have served and those that are serving: the reason for Memorial Day.
Quality tool: PDCA – Plan Do Check Act.
Application: 30k Ruck March
Personal Results: 27.98 lbs canned goods donated to feed homeless Veterans in Colorado