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Green Beret Trains for the Chattajack 31: Background and Month 1





Background

Context is everything. Providing background helps you experience some of the decision-making that occurred. I love teaching and mentoring, and hopefully, my insights are beneficial.


I have always been passionate about endurance sports and competition. I relish the feeling during and after a challenging trail run, mountain bike ride, or long endurance session. I have always had an extreme mindset throughout my life and career in the special forces. I always gave 100% effort to destroy the status quo of mediocrity. During special forces selection and training, and even in every training session, my mentality was to either win the day or push myself beyond my limits. Commandos believe that the only honorable outcomes are winning or a medivac trip.


That mindset and grit are crucial while operational. It's a tough job with high stakes, with a constant risk of severe injury or death every day. One day, while driving home from our base, I saw another team parachuting into our area. The wind didn't cooperate, and one of the guys had to use a tree to avoid a cement wall, suffering significant injuries. I ended up by his side with blood on my hands and clothes. Special operation guys are often misunderstood. It's not about cowboy behavior but remarkable professionalism, attention to detail, planning, risk management, and dedication to mastery. We constantly face hazardous conditions and assume these risks in an uncertain environment. It's a complex task that you must face without failure.


I am now 46 years old and coping with injuries from my time as a commando. After retiring, I found it challenging to adjust without the strong sense of purpose that came with serving on a Special Forces team. My uncertainties now revolve around deciding what to have for dinner. My ability to perform at a high level no longer holds the same importance. I no longer have a team relying on me to work in hazardous conditions. When I tried to maintain the same level of training and diet, I discovered that my new battle was against chronic pain, insomnia, and inflammation. My once capable body had let me down. I had given up.


In January 2023, I hit rock bottom and decided to relearn and master myself. I was overweight, drank daily, was in constant pain, and felt terrible. I sought help from the VA and nonprofits but found them ineffective. I realized it was up to me to fix my situation.


I started training and working on my mental state. Despite my chronic pain, I began to gain some fitness. Small actions grew into considerable momentum. I eventually signed up for an adventure race, and the addiction grew. I felt like my old self again. Trail runs, paddling, and mountain biking became my salvation. More races and longer distances followed, and I continued to scratch the itch.


In 2024, I committed to ultra-distance endurance events. Training and racing provide the uncertainty and risk I crave. I am fully invested in this endeavor, and entering these races creates risk. I have something to lose, which motivates me. I have three young daughters, and I look forward to taking them on epic adventures and teaching them the ways of the Green Berets. I now understand that I have a team for which I must perform. This team was always there, but I couldn't see it through my pain and shattered ego.


With this new commitment, I realized I needed to prioritize my health. My win-the-day-at-all-costs attitude was no longer needed. I needed to figure out how to remove the chronic pain and inflammation before focusing on speed.


Around June or July 2023, I began to gradually change my diet to improve my health and body composition. I delved into books and scientific journals, searching for truths and answers. I discovered that there isn't one definitive answer. Each person must experiment to find what works best for them. While some best practices exist, authentic learning comes from personal experience.


Nutrition

I feel much better eating real foods and limiting junk foods. I still enjoy what I eat and have variety. I approached this like any training plan, slowly adding and experimenting.


Here are the broad strokes of what I have done:

  • Removed all ultra-processed food

  • Removed all grains

  • Removed all seed oils

  • Eliminated almost all sugars


My main staples are:

  • Meats

  • Eggs

  • Cheeses

  • Coconut oil

  • Beef tallow

  • Olive oil

  • Ghee

  • Butter

  • Heavy cream

  • Nutrient-dense vegetables

  • Berries

  • Nuts

I test my blood glucose and ketones. I have learned that small amounts of carbs spike my insulin for a long time. I never thought I was insulin-resistant, but I have an issue with it. My guess is that it's from following a high-carb plan for years. Older team guys always told me that you can't out-train a lousy diet, but I only listened once I realized it was confirmed with my chronic pain and inflammation.


My blood ketones rarely reach ketosis levels (above 0.5 mmol/L). I typically keep my daily intake of carbohydrates in the 30-120 gram range.


I have removed almost all of my chronic pain. I take no pain meds, and my body feels great. To give some context, I have C3-C6 fused in my neck, multiple herniated discs, and bone-on-bone grinding at L5/S1. My left shoulder is destroyed, and my bicep is missing a tendon. Despite this, I now train 12-16 hours weekly and feel fantastic. No constant aches or pain, just the tired muscles I used to love when training for selection. I have energy all day and don't crash. I feel entirely free from my diet.


For me, the balance that works best is:

  • 70% of my calories from fat

  • 20% from protein

  • 10% from carbohydrates


Training

Along with my nutrition changes, I adapted my training to facilitate my health. I wanted to become a fat-burning machine, break free of insulin resistance, and go further, faster, and harder without relying on sugar. I shifted my training focus to developing my aerobic system to complement my nutrition.


Polarization of Training: I conducted most of my training well below my aerobic threshold. I followed an 80/20 intensity split, about 90% below my aerobic threshold. To establish my zones, I initially followed the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) method by Dr. Philip Maffetone. Once in better aerobic shape, I conducted field tests to establish my aerobic threshold. My best resources were "Training for the New Alpinism" by Steve House and Scott Johnston and "Training for the Uphill Athlete" by Steve House, Scott Johnston, and Kilian Jornet. These helped me set up a better plan for developing my aerobic capacity.


Training Metrics from June 2023 to May 1, 2024:

  • Paddling: 163 hours, 547 miles

  • Running: 147 hours, 422 miles

  • Mountain Biking: 104 hours, 656 miles

  • Other: 26 hours, 50 miles

  • Totals: 440 hours, 1675 miles

I did all of this despite being a broken individual with chronic pain and inflammation. I built a solid training base without overuse injuries or aches. This demonstrates that it doesn't matter where you are—don't quit on yourself. Accept that it will take time and hard work, and take a step. You never know where you will end up once you commit to an adventure. I am always here to help if you need it. I am not claiming to be a badass; I am still working on myself and figuring things out. I have started my journey, made mistakes, and learned from them. I can only share what I have done and help you problem-solve. Everyone is different, and there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Reach out if you have questions at ryan@commandoculture.com.




Chattajack 31 Training

I’ve never imagined entering an ultra-paddling race before. It’s entirely new for me, and I have no clue how to train for it or if I will even meet the time cut-offs. Embracing and signing up for such event is about taking risks and embracing uncertainty. We all need opportunities to take risks and learn new things safely. Watching our two little ones and seeing their excitement when trying new activities makes me wonder why we, as adults, don't allow ourselves to be as excited. Fear and ego hold us back. We are afraid of being beginners, not knowing, or looking stupid. But who cares? We must be brave and take on challenges we fear. That’s what I’m doing with this race. I’m entering a new sport, using new gear, and starting from the bottom. I want to see what I am capable of.


Training Data (May 1 - June 3, 2024)

  • Total Distance Paddled: 124.04 miles (30.5 hours)

  • Total Distance Ran: 55 miles (19.5 hours)

  • Total Distance Biked: 60 miles (6 hours)

  • Body Weight Reduction: 1.27%

  • Body Fat Reduction: 3.28%


Starting Metrics (May 1):

  • Acute Training Load (ATL): 47

  • Chronic Training Load (CTL): 70

  • Form (Training Stress Balance, TSB): 16


Updated Metrics (June 3):

  • Acute Training Load (ATL): 92

  • Chronic Training Load (CTL): 84

  • Form (Training Stress Balance, TSB): -22


Training Focus and Approach

My transition to the Epic V8 touring surfski required a new paddling technique and adaptation to the wing paddle. The intensity required for the Chattajack will test the capacity I have been building.


I had two primary goals over the past month:

  1. Increase my ability to use the capacity I built. I focused on building my aerobic engine and now it's time to develop localized muscular endurance, specific strength, and the ability to hold the pace needed for the race.

  2. Improve Technique: The new surfski demands a different paddling technique. Proper technique development is essential to enhance efficiency and power.


Performance Testing:

May 11 - 60-Minute Time Trial:

  • Average Heart Rate: 172 bpm

  • Average Speed: 5.93 mph

  • Strokes Per Minute: 64

  • Aerobic Decoupling: Under 5%


This test indicated good pacing and consistency, although I experienced localized muscular fatigue, highlighting areas for improvement in endurance and technique.


June 1 - 90-Minute Test:

  • Average Heart Rate: 165 bpm

  • Average Speed: 6.05 mph

  • Strokes Per Minute: 70

  • Aerobic Decoupling: Under 1%


By focusing on feel rather than metrics, I achieved better efficiency and consistency, showing progress in my training and technique.


Reflections and Learnings

Training for the Chattajack 31 has been a challenging but rewarding experience.


Key takeaways from this month include:

  1. Consistency is Key: Regular training sessions are crucial for building endurance and strength.

  2. Listen to Your Body: Balancing intensity with recovery is essential to avoid overtraining.

  3. Proper Technique: Developing efficient techniques is vital for performance improvement.

As I continue to train, I remain committed to this journey with an open mind and a disciplined approach. The difference between commitment and discipline is crucial; commitment drives the overall goal, while discipline guides day-to-day decisions to prevent injury and overtraining.


Momentum comes from consistent action, and I'm excited to see where this journey takes me. Stay tuned for more updates as I prepare for the Chattajack 31 in October.


Take on your next challenge! Sign up for the Nous Defions 8-Hour Team Assault on Lake Keowee!



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