Easy Day – SealFit’s Overnight 20X at Vail Lake, California

About 2 hours into the event, one of my teammates asked the Sealfit Coaches if he could step out of line to pee. Their response? “Piss your pants.” In retrospect, it was the easiest thing he’d be asked to do all night.

SealFit’s 20X is a 12-13 hour event for the slightly imbalanced endurance enthusiasts hoping to test their mettle by simulating aspects of Hell Week from SEAL training. These are not cheap, there are only so many per year, and they are not for people without solid physical and mental resilience. For the truly damaged / awesome, SealFit offers a 50 hour crucible called Kokoro.

Saturday Night Before Check-In

The fun started with a sunset check-in at the Vail Lake Resort. Once the sky was black, the Coaches had us run after a moving truck. As we chased the truck through the campgrounds, groups of drunken campers appeared to cheer us on. A mile or so later, things got real. We entered an open area with floodlights and a raging fire that lit up several pull up bars and two horse troughs filled with ice and water.

We were told to form lines around the Coaches who looked like models from a military fitness mag. The stoic Coaches stood quietly and eyed us over with their arms folded. If anyone got too close to the Coaches barked “Don’t F*$king Touch Me” in a cold monotone.

Coach Rick with a Kokoro Class

Commander Divine made an appearance and then let the Coaches loose on us. As the lead Coach (Rick) went over the ground rules, the other coaches walked amongst us randomly pouring ice water on people or spraying them with a hose.

We started off by splitting into pairs for the PT test. One person had 2 minutes to do each exercise while the other watched their form to count and no-rep them if they cheated. This part sucked. It wasn’t bad because the coaches were spraying us with the hose or dumping buckets of ice and water on us the entire time (they were), it hurt because they were eagle-eyeing us to make sure we’d no-rep our partners if they didn’t meet the standard.

After our PT test, the funishment started. For the next couple of hours, things would suck. Everything we did was wrong, and the rapid-fire commands demanding instant compliance just kept coming: “on your feet, belly, back, push up, feet, back, belly… ‘why are you all facing different directions!?!’, bear crawl, low crawl, one legged bear crawl, mountain climbers,” etc… All the while, the hoses and ice buckets rained on us, the ground got muddier, and the 50° night air felt colder and colder.

The 20X Pain Train has two speeds: awful and please-shoot-me. If you were good (i.e. you said “thank you coach” when they soaked you) things were awful. If you did anything to call attention to yourself, you prayed for a quick death.

People received unwanted attention a couple of different ways… Stuff like untucked shirts, grunting, making poopy faces, or doing anything out of sync from your teammates was not tolerated. But some things genuinely set the Coaches off!

One person was shivering and started to cry. They scolded her for being a princess and feeling sorry for herself while everyone else was suffering in silence. As one coach delivered that speech, another coach slow-poured an entire bucket of ice and water on top of her head. Later, a guy set down his sandbag before anyone else. That poor guy (who was a really nice!) was pulled in front of the class, called a BF by the coaches, and punished while everyone watched his special PT.

Coach Divine believes in tough love

This epic session of tough love ended with a long bearcrawl they said would continue until at least 7 of us quit. I’m not sure when the first 4 quit, but it happened before we moved on to the next evolution.

Eventually, the PT swarm gave way to ruck time. We loaded our rucks with a chem lite, sandbag, 1 gallon of water, an MRE (no outside calories or water allowed) and were handed a 5’ plastic tube filled with sand. The tube was our “weapon,” so it couldn’t ever touch the ground and always stayed in our right hand.

Our initial pace was light, but we were going uphill in the dark, had no lights, and were carrying 30-40 pounds. The terrain was a mix of deep sand, hard and loose rocks, ruts, and packed dirt. The next few hours of rucking and running were downright treacherous, but I didn’t care. I kept looking up and smiling because I’d never seen as many starts out in my life. The coaches could make life on earth suck, but the nighttime sky in California’s wine country was still breathtaking.

A few miles in, the coaches finally gave us the green light to pee somewhere other than our clothes and all the guys hit the brush line. I asked if anyone was nervous about the Rattlesnake signs posted all over the park. One guy said “snakes sleep at night.” I said a rattlesnake would probably wake up if a group of people started pissing on it, but nobody seemed to care.

After our break, some of us volunteered for a fast 4-6 mile ruck run while the others hung back for a different activity. Generally, running fast in the dark over that sort of hilly terrain without any light is dumb. But if the Coaches could do it, how could we say no? Despite the 30#+ load, we probably held a sub-9 pace in several spots. I inadvertently ran off the trail into the tall bushes once, others took nasty spills, but nobody got seriously hurt.

Once we came in from the ruck run, it was Murph time! I’m willing to bet we’d all done the Murph before, I’m less certain that anyone had done one after 7-8 hours like the kind we’d just lived. Our rules were: solid form, strict order (no Chelsea), and we would do it in teams of two. Our finish times varied, but the last two people finishing did so with the entire class running behind them and cheering.

Relaxing after the Murph

The coaches decided to cool us down from the Murph with log PT. I’ve read that SealFit logs are lighter than GoRuck logs. Those stories are crap. SealFit logs just feel lighter because you aren’t carrying them in a fixed position for 5+ hours.

SealFit log PT is awesome. Yes, I said it. The “ground log, right shoulder, press, squat,” etc. were the best team exercises I’ve ever done. Our team never really could shoulder the log in place very well, but we moved in synch like a boss.   Some parts did suck – like when I crushed my face with the log during sit ups – but I learned a lot about how to read my teammates and be part of a group moving together.

Once our log PT was done, we moved to a deep sand pit for morning sugar cookies and a PT blitz. Even though I was still shaking sand out of my hair on the flight back, the coaches said my sugar cookies sucked. We vacillated between PT, team races and more punishments for screwing up for a long time. Then it was back to the logs.

After overhead log presses, squats, and shoulder-to-shoulder repeats, the Coaches mixed it up and sent us off doing a series of log races. 6 people running with a log on their shoulders trying to pass another team of 6 people running with a log on their shoulders is every bit as much fun as you might imagine. Nobody died. J

After our races, the SealFit coaches force-multiplied and frenetically hazed us with hoses, buckets of water and nonstop commands over the bullhorn to do things that hurt. This went on for a while until the damn logs came back again!

Looking good, feeling good.

We did all the log PT movements for a long time, only this go around we were being hosed down. With a log under my chin, I was on my back for a sit up when one of the coaches emptied a bucket of water on my face. It felt like being water boarded.

Log sit ups are even more fun than they look

Coach Rick called out for an overhead log press hold. We failed his time goal. He ordered a second one, we failed it too. Before our third attempt, he called out Hooyah! All 31 of us screamed Hooyah back, and it sparked an exchange of Hooyahs between Coach Rick and our Team that lasted for about a minute. After the last Hooyah, all the logs went up and stayed overhead for the duration. Coach Rick led us through one final Hooyah, then said the magic words we’d been waiting to hear: “20X, you’re secured.”  Video of our last 20 minutes is available on SealFit’s Facebook page.

39 started, 31 graduated; 20X class is secured!

When the 20X ends, you get to see the Coaches revert back to the nice people they are in real life. You also get a sweet patch and SealFit coin that will never be sold.

SealFit SWAG proudly displayed on my GR1

After the 20X graduation there’s an immense feeling of pride, a special sense of community and in my case a ravenous hunger. Literally, hunger… I went to In-and-Out Burger, then to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffle, and then downed an entire pizza once I made it to LAX.

Coach Rick asked if I would be back for Kokoro. I thought he was crazy. After a good night’s sleep, I got my mind right and set the goal to head back.  In 2018, I’m going to kick the demon called Kokoro right between the legs. #hooyah!

But first, there’s that small matter of tackling Survival Run Canada this August. 🙂

Photo Credit: SealFit’s Facebook Account , SealFit’s Instagram Account , Daniel Delfino, and Jason Zinn .

Daniel Delfino

A middle aged guy with a day job that deals with stress by training for obstacle course races and extreme endurance events.
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