Growing up, Memorial Day didn’t mean much more to me than an extra day off of school. I think that is what it means to a lot of people: sun, fun, being together with family and grilling out in the backyard. However, since joining the military, I’ve grown to care for and respect many military men and women. Yes, I would classify many as ass-holes, but in military mode I can be an ass-hole too. Maybe it’s a survival mechanism. Furthermore, some of the most surly and trigger happy gun loving military members I’ve met, also have a willingness and acceptance of self-sacrifice unknown in the civilian sector. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but every service member has to confront their death in the line of duty as a possibility. Every service member’s family has to confront that reality too. It is a sacrifice, every day, and for some, the ultimate one.
Those sacrifices, especially when made for the sake of others, deserve respect and remembrance. Memorial Day has become important to me, and I wanted to do something last Monday to show that.
How about a 1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 air squats, followed by another 1 mile run?
The above insanity is a cross fit hero workout called The Murph. Traditionally done on Memorial Day, The Murph is done to honor fallen soldier Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was the officer in charge of Alpha Platoon in Afghanistan. Because he followed the rules and refused to kill a group of goat herders his platoon encountered while on a reconnaissance mission, the Taliban was informed and they were surrounded by the enemy. Murphy exposed himself to enemy fire in order to radio for help, dying in the process. The rescue call went out, but the rescue attempt failed, leading to the death of all but one man. Murphy’s story, and that of his platoon, is chronicled in the film “Lone Survivor”.
Certainly, a worthy man to dedicate a workout to.
Once I decided to do the Murph, I called my boyfriend Jesse.
“Hey, I got a crazy idea,” I said. “Want to do The Murph with me?”
“Sure,” Jesse said.
We both found our way to two different cross fit gyms, Jesse with his friend Jeff up in Portland, me with Cross Fit Analogue down in Sacramento. Jesse started a whole training plan centered on The Murph. I did a few extra pull ups with my home pull up bar, and hoped my regular conditioning was enough to take me through one of the most inconceivable work outs I had ever attempted. I did do one trial mini Murph, 17 sets of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, and 15 air squats. Amazingly it was fine and I felt prepared. I decided to keep the 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, and 15 air squats break down.
The day arrived and I diligently planned out my playlist, my snacks, and my meals. All that was thrown out the door when we started late, and I began running hungry. The gym wasn’t playing pump music, at least at any volume I could hear, so when I finished the first mile at minute 7:15 my headphones disappeared and I got started to the soundtrack of my own grunts. I could tell with the very first set that this wasn’t going to be easy. I was tired, and I still had 95 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 air squats, and another mile to go. The pull up bar was soon slick with my own sweat and chalk. I had to run around the gym, looking for a towel to dry it off with. At set 7, not even half way, the skin on my hands began to tear. Without heavy metal blasting in my ears, I began to question myself and lose my breathing. I could feel panic welling up in my chest, or possibly hyperventilation.
“I can’t do this,” I thought to myself.
At that moment, the 17 set murph trial run came to my rescue. “The hell you can’t!” I yelled at myself. “You did it once (minus three sets, but who cares about that?) you can do it again!”
I fought. No doubt about it, it was not fun and it was not glorious. My Murph was just miserable and full of chalk. However, at 13 sets I started to hit a groove. I was over half way done, my breathing was under control, and I was taking everything one set at a time. At 17 sets I did 3 pull ups in a row for the first time since set 6. With the end in sight, I felt strong and confident in my body’s ability to pull myself through. I finished set 20 with a woop and left for the final run. I felt a little like a concrete block with legs, my upper body completely immobile, but I pushed the last run out in 8:30, giving me a final finishing time of 52 minutes and 49 seconds.
Did I then collapse on the floor in a puddle of sweat and make a full length sweat butt print?
Yes, yes I did.
To me, the moral of the story is the value of sacrifice. The Murph seems impossible to many, done only by people with rippling six packs and huge biceps. However, except sometimes after a good pump, I don’t even remotely look like that. I don’t train like that either, my normal routine being about 30 chin ups with 4 of those weighted. Yet, with a little sweat and sacrifice, a crazy goal was achieved. Murph gave the ultimate sacrifice, so it is only fitting that in his memory, we realize the value of our own sweat and effort. Murph gave his life so that you and I can live our own lives fully. Thus, let’s give up a little time and effort, and do something amazing with what we have. No limits.
Also, for those who were wondering, Jesse (who worked incredibly hard for this challenge) finished in 33 minutes. I am incredibly proud of him! Next year, I think I’ll aim for a time like that too!
This Week in Updates: Drunk Cherry Garcia Cake and Ow
This week was an exercise in health perseverance. Some experimental recipe from last week decided to do a number on my sensitive stomach, resulting in 3 days of really not being able to eat. Despite that, I had pretty good work outs, until the very day my stomach decided to be better. Apparently I was tired, and decided to try and change my form mid dead lift. Bad idea. So now my stomach is great but my back is tweaked. Still, being my determined self, I tiger balmed and stretched like a mo-fo, then finished that work out with an appropriate dead lift substitute. Funny thing about backs. For me, if they are ever injured, they seem to fix themselves so much faster when you don’t stop moving. The way things are going, I am expecting light deadlifts or at least good mornings by tomorrow.
None of these tribulations stopped me from First Cake Friday either. My latest vegan cake adventure is called the Drunk Cherry Garcia, and involves brandy soaked cherries in vanilla cake covered in melted chocolate. It was pretty good, but it really needs some more brandy in the batter itself. Good but not perfect. I also should have saved some of the dried cherries for topping, or bought 6 or 7 real cherries to put on top. I guess I’ll try the adjusted recipe in July, just in time for the 4th!
The Recipe: Easy Miso Glazed Tofu
If you don’t know about making your own vegetable stock, check it out here.
The initial price of miso paste may be intimidating, but don’t let that fool you. Miso lasts in your fridge FOREVER, and a little tablespoon here or there makes all the difference. This glazed tofu recipe is easy, full of protein, and delicious. 4 blocks of Tofu costs $4, veggie stock is free as long as you make your own from discarded vegetables, sesame oil $1, garlic $0.50, 2 tablespoons honey (bulk) $0.50, 1 tablespoon soy sauce is basically free, red pepper flakes, $0.50, grated fresh ginger $0.75, and 2 tablespoons miso paste for $1. Thus, that is $8.25 for 4 servings. Goes fantastic with homemade rolls and sautéed greens. Not as cheap as beans, but then again, nothing ever is.
- ½ cup homemade vegetable stock
- 2 tbs miso paste
- 2 tsp sesame seed oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Red pepper flakes
- ½ tbs grated fresh ginger
- 4 blocks tofu
- 1 tbs olive oil for sauteing
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Chop and puree garlic, then sauté until brown and fragrant in the olive oil.
- Add the veggie stock, miso paste, sesame oil, honey, soy sauce, and grated ginger to the pan.
- Simmer for about 5 minutes, until smooth, creamy and bubbly.
- Grease a baking sheet.
- Place tofu on baking sheet, and cover with the miso glaze.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until glaze is a nice toasty brown.
- Top with red pepper flakes if desired.