Navy SEAL PT Course: Day 3. It’s also known as ‘hump day’ but it is far from downhill this point onward. Out of 26 who started, 22 showed up today — not exactly a robust showing, nor is it “dropping like flies” but that might be tomorrow.
Most of us in the civilian world think of “hump day” as the point were things just start getting easier in the week.
But in the context of military use, “hump day” is a reference originating from World War II and the term “flying the Hump”.
For Allied pilots this meant crossing an extremely dangerous part of the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains. Pilots flying the Hump faced an area 50-miles wide where climbing to altitude was highly restrictive while being laden with cargo and heavy fuel loads.
As they reached altitude, clearing the mountains’ peaks, pilots had to then stave off icing on the wings before hitting extreme turbulence from the deep gorges between north Burma and west China.
A common monthly average of aircraft loss for flying the Hump was 50 percent. And, this is why Instructor Jack Walston called Wednesday “hump day” because it’s the day that decides which 50 percent will return, or not, for Day 4.
There Is No ‘I’ in Team
Instructor Jack Walston wasted no time in getting us fatigued in a hurry. At the start of a 200 meter pathway with up and down inclines, we did 10 push-ups, then sprint-ran to the end where we did 10 sit-ups, to only turn around with a sprint-run back to do the next set of push-ups.
After the 70th push-up, I stopped counting.
The day moved quickly and the name of the game was teamwork, which Walston easily revealed was not happening in our group. At which point, we all suffered with any number of at-will repetitions, including eight-count body builders, chase the rabbits and squat thrusts.
Unlike yesterday, I had my gloves on and thankfully so because at one point as our column did a modified Indian Run with us on the ground doing walking push-ups, I could smell the stench of defecation and urination — animal or human, I have no idea, nor cared. The point was to keep moving, and as a unit.
From crawling along we transitioned into a traditional Indian run, where the last runner leap frogs to the front in a sprint.
With a modification, to ferret out the team’s egocentricity, Instructor Walston had a hay-day with us.
Oh, I got the message, loud and clear. But I have always been a team player — in high school, I was given the team-spirit award in basketball. It’s just my nature to cheer others on, and in doing so, it’s like my own external motivation.
But as Walston railed on about our lacking observation for “a man left behind” or our society-driven mindset to “get yours and forget the others”, I was wishing my team would pull it together and be a team, mindful and aware.
After about the sixth time where we failed to follow directions and be a team, which meant dropping and doing some kind of arduous task, I was livid.
I actually shocked myself at how mad I was when someone’s slip-up in front of me happened — fortunately, it went “unpunished”, yet it was a moment that gave me pause.
The proof was evident in why my teammate’s slip-up angered me: the perceived threat that it was going to cost me. Bingo! My self-centeredness was exposed.
After today, I got what it meant to authentically be a team player — like Walston says: “Everyone’s actions out here — good or bad — effect the rest.”
$20 & a Pair of Stilettos
The week’s toll on my body started to show up today in the homestretch of PT. Running up hill backwards, triggered the faint and gradually growing intensity of a seizing spasm in my left calf.
With each stride the pulse pulled stronger. I pushed to the top and stretched for about 15 seconds. I plodded down the hill only to run backwards up it again. This time was infinitely harder, but I made it. Then came the third time up and back. The fourth leg up the hill — my breaking point was near.
I don’t think that I made it up the fifth time, there was some kind of intervention on Walston’s part. I can’t remember if we did jumping jacks or were just at the top of the hill simply being partnered up by Instructor Walston for a closing run.
My run was hobbled further as my right Achilles started seizing up — probably from over-compensating for my left calf.
My partner and I walked. I drank water and we made it out of the park to find ourselves at 100th Street and Central Park West. I had 40 blocks to cover until I reached home base. Wowsers!
In those burning moments, I considered how my calves will soon look like dynamite in stilettos. To that, I say: Hoorah!
Although I tried to conserve my liter of water, it was soon gone. I had no cash or card, and I still had 20 blocks to cover.
I asked a couple buildings’ doormen if they had a water fountain or facet I could tap. They said no. A couple of blocks later, someone came up from the subway.
We chatted as we walked together for a minute, but John regrettably had no cash either. He urged me to get water soon, he didn’t want me to pass out, and said a couple of apartment buildings were up ahead, where I had to ask them for water.
This stranger’s concern was restoring to the previous two encounters with humanity.
He actually apologized that it wasn’t bottled water but at that moment, it could have been boiling water for all I cared.
However, it was fresh, cold and possibly the best water I’ve ever had. As we came down from the service floor, Robert said he was happy to help, and was concerned that I had been in danger of passing out.
I didn’t feel that bad — but then again, my looks might have been deceiving to both John and Robert. Being a fair-skinned redhead, my complexion turns ruddy quite quickly during exercise, regardless of actual exhaustion.
Nevertheless, Robert was amazing. He even offered me fresh fruit and I walked out of San Remo with a new liter of water and a fresh pomegranate bought in Long Island that morning.
Community was on my mind for the remaining blocks I ran with my full, effortless stride restored — pain still present, though.
It struck me that 50 percent of the people were unwilling to help. It also reminded me of my great-grandfather’s advice to always carry at least a 20-spot in the sock.
And, it humored me that my emergency cash-on hand lesson from Pop-Pop was the same amount which could allow a wounded soldier to escape the daunting challenges of injury and recovery for an extraordinary afternoon filled with fun, friends, family and food.
Will you be the 50 percent who helps or passes by?