Good morning Tash Appreciators,
I’ve been making my way through a series of documentaries on the initial training of Navy SEALs this week. The series followed one class from the beginning to the end of their training.
It turns out that SEAL training, particularly the first three weeks of it, is even more horrific than I had previously imagined. They call the first phase “two weeks and one long day”. The “one long day” refers to the third week of training, also known as Hell Week, where those wanting to become SEALs get up very early on Sunday morning and next go to bed on Friday night.
The purpose behind this torturous form of training turns out not to be a test of physical ability – these guys are already in good shape – it’s to teach them a lesson. The lesson is that their bodies are capable of withstanding more than they think possible and that the only thing holding them back is their mind.
To put the lesson in context, the first two weeks involve a series of “evolutions” which are carried out by boat crews of six. The evolutions range from each boat crew doing exercises while holding very large logs above their heads; to paddling rafts through/over impossibly large waves; to lying in freezing cold water for long periods of time.
Hell Week involves doing all of that for five or six straight days.
As far as I’m concerned, surviving Hell Week should be impossible. That view is supported by the fact that the vast majority of those who start Hell Week do not make it past day two or three. However, by the third day, you can see that the prospective SEALs have simply stopped thinking about the pain and the fatigue. They no longer think; they simply do. They have gone beyond the mental barrier which in normal circumstances would have caused them to stop and they just get on with it.
In a less hostile environment, something similar happened last night. Jens Voigt, the 43 year old German cyclist, pushed his body to its limit by cycling a staggering 51.115km in one hour. That’s 400m further than the previous record.
I’m quite certain that Jens could have been a SEAL if he’d wanted to be. He’s well known – and incredibly popular – among cycling fans for his no-nonsense approach to riding and his seeming indifference to pain.
For those who haven’t heard of “The Jensie”, he retired last night but all year he’s been racing in a team where he’s been a pro longer than most of his team mates have been alive. But despite his age, the punishing pace which he sets when he’s racing is one that few can keep up with. That’s not because he’s physically in better shape than other riders (he’s clearly not), his ability comes from his mental strength. When his legs are screaming at him to stop, he simply says “shut up legs” and presses on. Seriously.
Not everyone can work at the level of Jens or SEALs – most of us will find that our brains will take over at some point and say “that’s enough”. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep taking ourselves to our limits and try to push them just a bit further away. In some cases, even where logic and reason says that something is impossible, we find that it is not. Sometimes glass ceilings can be smashed through and closed doors can be knocked down. I found that notion reassuring this week.
As for the Tash, Jens obviously rocked one:
and it turns out the SEALs have been enjoying the benefits of a Tash since 1992 at least:
Have a great weekend folks!