Sunday, August 30, 2009


I mentioned in the past doing the CrossFit exercise program. The centerpiece of the program is the workout of the day (WOD). The WODs vary widely, but they always include some combination of metabolic conditioning (aka aerobic activity), Olympic weight lifts, and/or gymnastic movements (i.e., pullups, pushups). Many of the workouts are "named" WODs. The names are either those of girls or heroes. The hero WODs, such as Murph (I'll explain where the name came from later), are usually pretty brutal.

This past Saturday a group of nine of us met at 0530 at the stadium that is on base to do Murph. There were six men and two women doing the workout. The ninth person was Vanessa (the woman I dropped during the fire muster but who carried me without a problem). She did Murph on Friday so she was there to be our motivator, timer, and photographer (I'll post my pictures when I download them off my camera). The workout is running a mile (we did it around a 1/4 mile track), doing 100 pullups/200 pushups/300 air squats, and then running another mile. Oh yeah, you do this while wearing your body armor vest (about 25-30 pounds). We broke down the pullups/pushups/squats into 20 sets of 5/10/15. Some people didn't wear the vest and others, like me, took off the vest part way through the workout. Vest or no vest, it is a very difficult workout.

We all started together on the run. Some people took off like a shot and some of us (yours truly) were happy to plod along at a more modest pace. The "like a shot" group completed the mile in under 7 minutes. I came in at over 9 minutes. Then it was time to start the real part of the workout. The first couple of sets went pretty well. After that I started to feel the effect of the vest. Before we started, we attached resistance bands to the pullup bars. So when I got tired, I put my foot in the other end of the band and used it to help me up. I still did full movement pushups and squats. While I was in the middle of my exercises, one of the guys took off to do his second 1 mile run. Someone asked me what set I was on. I said I'm not going to tell you now after seeing that guy take off (I was only on 8 or 9). After 10 sets of the exercises, half the workout, I dropped the vest. I kept plugging away and eventually completed the exercises. I might have been able to do the pushups and squats with the vest on, but there is no way I could have done the pullups. I put my vest back on for my second 1 mile run. I ran (if you can call it that) at an even slower pace than I did my first mile, but I wanted to do it right. I had hopes at one time of beating Vanessa's time. She completed Murph in 1 hr, 8 minutes. I started my run at 1 hr, 1 minute, so I knew there was no chance of beating her (as I said in the fire muster, I knew she could kick my butt). I finished the WOD in 1 hr, 12 minutes.

So why is that session of self-abuse called Murph? As I mentioned earlier, it is named for a hero, Navy LT Michael Murphy. Here is what the CrossFit website says about it:

"In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005. This workout was one of Mike's favorites and he'd named it 'Body Armor.' From here on it will be referred to as 'Murph' in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more in life than to serve this great country and the beautiful people who make it what it is."

That doesn't begin to tell you what a hero LT Murphy was. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor. He was a Navy SEAL on a scouting mission in Afghanistan when his 4-man team was ambushed by over 50 enemy. LT Murphy deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire so that he could get in a better position to radio for help. During the attempt to rescue the SEALs, a helicopter was shot down killing all 16 aboard. The SEAL team continued to fight against an overwhelming force. Eventually, three of the men, including LT Murphy, were killed and only Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell was rescued. You can read the entire story here.

So why does anyone do something like Murph? For me, it's the same reason I do triathlons, the upcoming AF Half Marathon, or other events like those. It is a challenge to test myself. Also, even though I dropped the vest halfway through the exercises, I felt very proud of myself for finishing the full Murph. I'm not saying I'm looking to do it again anytime soon, but I'm glad I did it.

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