2017 SISU Iron Recaps

by Ryan Tworek:

Here’s a summary of my SISU Iron for 38.5 hours this past weekend!

This weekend, I participated in my fourth SISU Iron. Soo far, I have completed all four Iron’s I have participated in. It is a special event and the people are amazing. The challenges push me and there are multiple times I have wanted to quit. This may be a long write up, but I can ensure you can finish it in less time than I spent doing any task. 97 Registered, 65 Started and 35 Finished This year had the highest caliber of athletes yet. Total race time about 38.5 hours and 40+ miles.

What is the SISU Iron? It’s an ever changing and evolving event. It is a place to learn and grow. You’ll find your inner strength and know your why. There is a theme every year and this year’s theme was “Gratitude”. In the past, there have been other themes where I have thought about my wife and Jax to get me through. This year, was Gratitude. This year was for me, to prove to me that I could do this. I was not going to give up on myself. I would not quit. The event typically starts Friday night and goes for 30+ hours. The last couple of years have been 38+ hours. The challenges can be just about anything and I’ll list out all of the events below. The times may be off as I’m guesstimating when they happened and I was up for a long time.

The first challenge was before the race and it was to do something related to Gratitude. I was in San Francisco for work. When you walk down the street, there are homeless people everywhere. I ate a meal and it was a delicious pulled pork sandwich. I thought about the people I had passed and wanted them to enjoy something good. I am sure they may get shelter food, but not good food like this. I bought 4 meals to go and headed out. Giving these out was harder than you think. Choosing who to approach was difficult. I tried to be least judgmental and just give to people in need. Here’s a clip of what it was like. I can say, it was very rewarding and difficult. I am thankful for what I have and have been provided!


Thursday night was registration at Dave and Busters in Monrovia. I have never come to registration as I usually register at the start of the event. I thought by going, I might jinx my finishing streak. To be honest, I had a lot of doubts about this Iron. First, I always know the date of the Iron and four months ago I told myself I needed to lose 15 lbs as I didn’t need to carry them 40+ miles. Did that happen? No…. Since we had our 2nd child Chloe, 6 months ago, I have only been able to do Crossfit 2-3 times per week. Last year was 48+ miles. This year, the total miles I ran on my own for preparation for the event was 3 miles the week before! My belief is that your body can do it, you just have to will it to do it. I knew I was not in the shape I have been in the past and figured this would be an event of will for me. I say you can willl your body to do whatever you want, but not sure what happens when it applies to willing it to eat the right things.

Registration is like a big family reunion. You may see some of these people once a year, but you feel you know them through the SISU Iron Support Group. It is fun to see everyone and everyone is like family. At the registration, it’s social for the first couple of hours and then there are some fun games and races like carry a potatoe between your legs and drop it in a bucket or death by burps. For death by burpees, I made it to the final 9 people as we completed the round of 15 burpees and started the round of 16. The big thing about registration for me was it was a 2 hour drive there and an hour and 15 on the way home meaning I got home close to 11 PM. With a 38 hours coming up, I really would have liked to gone to bed at 6 PM.

Started the morning at 6:00 AM, some final gear prep, son to school, pickup son and take Chloe and Jax to see the grandparents in Huntington Beach around 12 PM. Tried to get a nap in for about an hour and a half and then headed to Trask Boy Scout Camp. There was a stop at Walmart for a shovel and Costco to pickup a bag of pre-cooked bacon and a pepperoni pizza. For an event like this, it’s good to eat food you like versus perfectly balanced nutritional food. My food stash has things like gels, shot blocks, mustard, Tailwind, electrolytes, pizza, bacon and sour patch kids. I rolled up to the VIP Parking lot close to 5:00 PM and parked. I started setting up as I had 1/2 of my support in the back of my van and 1/2 in a tent so I was always ready.

**Registration (gathering wood)
The race was supposed to start at 7:00 PM. It actually started around 5:30 PM to 6:00 PM as there was a lot of wood that needed to be moved. You always have to be ready for something like this to happen. One huge key to success at this race? Have a smile on your face at all times! It makes everyone around you feel good and you feel good!

These were the welcoming speeches from the Race Directors. These people are not paid and the registration fees from the event basically cover the cost to rent the facility and provide what’s needed for the event. The Race Directors are some of my friends and they are all awesome! There are also a ton of volunteers at the event! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do. Your smile, gummy bears, strawberries, water, words of encouragement and small conversations all help! You don’t know how much they help, but they are like nitrous boosters on a car giving a little boost to every racer. I can’t say thank you enough to the Race Directors and Volunteers for all you do.

**Play Your Flute (at Monrovia Street Fair)
We had to run as teams of 6 to downtown Monrovia. It’s about 3.5 miles. These are always a small challenge as not everyone runs the same speed and people want to get their first. We made it and then it was time for a “Recorder” play off. We all brought a Recorder and you had to play your song. If you lost your round, you went to to exercise like planks, push ups and bicycle crunches.

**SISU 1000 (at 24-Hr Fitness in Arcadia)
From there, we paired up with a buddy and ran a couple of miles to the 24 Hour Fitness. We were told to bring workout shorts and a shirt. We changed and went to the pool and were in the pool from 10 PM to about 1 AM. Almost 3 hours in the pool is a definite way to wear you out. It was continuous motion in the pool as well as a 10 minute workout in the steam room or Sauna that was 2 rounds of 10 burpees, 10 sit-ups and much more. This definitely took something out of you.

Saturday April 29th

**1:00 AM Run Back to Trask 
Run back with your partner about 4 miles.

**Kayak Carry
As teams of 7-8, we had to get a Kayak, fill it up with water and carry it up a creek. Your feet had to stay in the creek and go under a bridge, not an easy task.

**Polish Your Wood
You had to bring a log that you had cut a layer off of and smoothed out. If it wasn’t smooth, some sand paper was offered to make it smooth.

**Injinji Jenga
This was a fun challenge. Two teams of 20+ each. We all had numbers based on the order you returned on the run. The first person grabbed a block and the block had a number on it. Whatever number you drew was your partner and you had to do a task that was on the block.

**Deer Creek Hike (time hack)
This was a hike that you had to be back by a certain time that was around 6:00 AM. This was a nice hike up and then a run down a fire road. Probably 6-7 miles.

**Wood Chopping
Always a favorite to chop wood that we stack and the Boy Scout camp uses.

**Don't Miss the Bus (run down to Daren’s)
About a 1.5-2 mile run over and down a hill to Daren’s house who is a race director.

**Bus Ride to Nowhere (blindfolded)
Once at the house, put a blindfold on and bucket over your head for a 20-30 minute bus ride. It was a chance to sleep with a 5 gallon bucket on your head.

**Hike to the Bridge
The whole team had to carry a log and punching bag all the way to the Bridge to Nowhere and back. It’s probably 6 miles each way. There are a lot of river crossings. At one point, Don put a rock in the river that was about 10 inches out of the water. He said build a dam to cover the rock. We built a human dam by sitting in the cold water and it took about 10 minutes to get the water up. It was pretty awesome to see!

**Bungee Jump
When we were hiking, I saw a sign for the Bridget to Nowhere. I had bungee jumped there 7-8 years ago and realized we might be jumping. We were told to bring $100 that we could use or not. Since the theme was Gratitude, the natural assumption was we were giving it to charity. In this case, you had a choice to jump or go to the bottom and do exercises. This was a no brainer! probably 85% of the people jumped. One lady was scared to death. She was crying and shaking. I did my best to help her. The cool thing is to see people overcome their fears. She overcame her fear and jumped and it was awesome! There were actually several people who overcame their fear and jumped which was soo cool to see! Great place to jump if you’re looking for a good place.

**Hike Back to Bus
The hike back may have been disappointing from a group perspective. There was guidance that the first 25 to get back wouldn’t have a penalty and anyone after the first 25 would. I started off going quickly as I already had my bag and was in the front of the pack. Then I was thinking, who in the hell’s going to carry the bag and the log? Luckily, a group stayed with the log. I stopped and waited a couple of minutes for the punching bag to catch up. My plan was to stay with the bag. The trail was super busy in the afternoon and I started following the bag. I don’t know who the beast was, but he was killing it with the bag and was hard to keep up. Then I stopped to tie my shoe and got behind some more. It ended up I didn’t carry the bag and I did carry the log on the way in. Some people were more worried about being first 25 than who would be left to carry the bag and log. Unfortunately, I found out one of the guys who killed it with the bag left it all out there and had to drop as he couldn’t go after that. Jesus Chavez was carrying the bag and beasted it!

**Return from Nowhere (bus ride to Monrovia)
A nice ride back and half of the bus was passed out and the other half trying to learn a song on the recorder.

**Test Your Senses (at Pacific Plate Brewery)
We stopped at a brewery! Heaven, right? Nope… Had to do a physical task and then guess what type of hops out of three types. Guess wrong and do 50 squats with a 5 gallon bucket full of hops. After this, run back to the split in the road to the camp and the waterfall about 4 miles.

**Waterfall Hike
**Bucket Carry (up to Trask)
It’s about a 1.5 mile hike to the waterfall. Close to the end, you get your shoes zip tied together and you need to go to the waterfall. At the waterfall, fill your 5 gallon bucket up and carry it 50 feet back where you get your zip ties cut off. Here, you can carry your bucket or strap it to your back. I had my pack and spent a couple of minutes strapping it up. From there. it’s about a 2 - 2.5 mile hike back to camp track. This is a hike where you’re carrying 60-80 lbs on your back. Usually, this really sucks and I have to stop and rest a lot. For some reason this year, I was able to make it back with only four quick breaks. I felt great and like I could have gone for a while.

**Letters of Gratitude
We wrote a letter of Gratitude to be sent to someone else about ourselves. I missed the concept a little bit and wrote a letter I thought was being sent to me. It was all about Gratitude and being thankful for God has provided in my life. I am very fortunate and feel very blessed and thankful everyday!

**Jones Boot Camp
Mark Jones is a former death racer and teaches some type of ranger camp. You would have to do exercise for a while. You might have to submerge yourself in the pond, then do 100 v-ups, then 100 4-count arm circles and so on. After this, there was a team race involving carrying a picnic table up a creek, flipping truck tires, moving a heavy ass log up and down a hill and then running a hay bail around a course. There were three teams of 10+ and 1st had some exercise, 2nd more and 3rd more. My team came in 3rd. We had to fill a bucket full of sand, put a lid on it and carry it upside down. It was up a trail, down a path, along a creek, down a ladder, through a creek and back to camp. This sucked. That bucket is 50+ pounds. We missed a turn and had to do it a 2nd time. At least we finished it.

**Head in a Hole (Shane's challenge)
Draw a card 1-4. Fill your bucket with cold water from the pond. Dig a hole to put your bucket in. Once your bucket is in the hole, put your head in the water for 1-4 minutes depending on what you drew. It was accumulated time.

**Barefoot Fun (hiking barefoot with canoes)
They said take your shoes and socks off. Sounds nice to give the feet a chance to breath. Yeah right. Let’s take a hike. Grab a canoe and carry your pack on your back and canoe as a team. Let’s see, gravel, road, trail, rocks and more. These city feet need some more county! It was miserable. We also had to get the whole team and canoe over a gate without touching it. This was definitely a fun challenge and our team was good at this one. We were also fast with the canoe as we had a great way of carrying it.

**Brand Your Log (with "TEAM SISU”)

**Awards Ceremony (at the Chapel)
This was very about 10:00 AM. The cool part of the ceremony was that after a person got their spike, that person would pick another person to give award their spike. They would say some words about that person and it was a very touching ceremony and nice to hear what each person had to say about the other people.

**Pack Up and Drive Home
Gotta do what you gotta do. I made it home with Green Tea, Monster and two naps.

SISU Iron is not a race, but an event. It was an event to prove to myself that I can I could do it. When we were running back on Friday night, it was soo windy and I was doubting myself. I thought, do I really need a 4th spike? Your tent would be very nice! It would be easy to stop…Then I remembered who I was doing this race for. It was for me and I wasn’t going to give up on me. After that, there wasn’t a time that I wanted to quit. I wanted to help make sure others finished as well. I feel thankful to have the opportunity to events like this at least once a year! Thank you to all of the Race Directors, Volunteers and Racers!

You never know the people who do these races! I met a guy Chris who was in submarines for 11 years around the world. I met a woman who raised identical triplets on her own. I talked with a friend who works construction and instructs CrossFit. There is a cross section of everyone here at these races and they are all awesome because they showed up to the event and pushed as far as they could! It is fun to finish and it is even more fun to see others finish. You see their struggles. I didn’t mention all the times int he water, but there were quite a few. I didn’t hit all of the events or what we did, but you get the gist. Some people can’t handle the water and there were tears shed thinking of having to get in the water. It’s great to see people push through with the end in mind. To see people bungee for the first time who swore they would never do it was awesome! To see people come back for redemption after a previous DNF (Did Not Finish) was inspiring. The people truly make this event from the Race Directors, to volunteers, to supportive families to racers. Thank you also to every family out there as this weekend was time away from our families and you had to watch kids and take care of households while we were out being crazy for 38.5 hours! Thank you to my wife Andrea for watching Jax and Chloe while I raced as well as Terry and Jeanette.

See you all in 2018 for round 5! If you are interested in racing, send me an email. You don’t have to be in top physical shape. You need to have your self mentally together. I’m more than happy to help anyone and give you the details and gear that will help you make it through.

by Matt Wiltshire:

SISU IRON 2017 Ramblings…. 
(You have been warned… Hardcover and Paperback available on Amazon.)
Going into the SISU Iron, I was pretty certain I had little chance to finish. I spent the 2 weeks leading up to the event getting my head right for that fact. I knew it was less about a piece of metal, and so much more about the experience we were about to have. I looked at almost every other participants FB page to get a gauge on the field. Don’s odds for me to finish were at 33-3 and that was very generous. Having been there once before and missing a time hack around hour 19, I know a little bit of how hard this event can be.
I eventually came to terms with it all. Don’t worry about the finish. BE PRESENT. Toe the line. Go do EPIC SHIT with AWESOME PEOPLE! And most importantly. DON’T FUCKING QUIT! EVER! Make them take your bib from your body, do not hand it over willingly.
For those that don’t know: The 2017 SISU Iron ended up being a 38 to 40 hour (we still aren’t sure) sufferfest of epic proportion that covered 40+ miles. All the logs, all the water, all the cold, all the rucking, all the PT, and even all the sensory deprivation discomfort. Less than 40% of those that signed up finished, and that was actually deemed a pretty high finisher rate.
At the pre-registration event, the first set of burpees got to me and I was thinking. I’m screwed. Try to make it to the first sunrise. That’s the goal. Then I looked around and saw so many faces of people I respected and admired. New and old faces of people getting ready take on this event. I started to smile. Then I started to laugh as each wave of burpees, planks, and other PT came our way. There are very few times in my life that I will get to stand shoulder to shoulder with so many determined and motivated athletes. Get your shit together Wiltshire, and GO. BE. DO. Every single staff member, volunteer, supporter, and participant there inspired me to get over my own crap, and get on with tackling this event.
There is no way I can possibly describe in proper detail what happened to us during 38+ hours of the Iron but it never stopped. It may have slowed down a few times, but I only got to shut my eyes for a few moments on the bus ride to/from the Bridge to Nowhere. Oh and there was that one time around hour 35 when I fell asleep standing up and almost took out 2 other people.
The second night we had another of the several time hacks to make. Up from the city, to the waterfall trail, fill our 5-gallon bucket, and take it back to the fort. Some form of this challenge is a staple at the Iron, and I was dreading it. The road to our base at Camp Trask is paved but it is brutal. Steep & windy. In that last mile of uphill road with my pack and full bucket of water, I had to stop every 150 yards or so to catch my breath. Each time I counted down from 10, stood up and kept going. It was during this moment I began rehearsing my speech on how they would have to take the bib from me. I did not think I would make this time hack. We were already 30 hours in and the event was far from over. That would be good enough, right? No. No, it wouldn’t. Move your ass. DON’T QUIT! I made it with 15 minutes to spare.
The next evolution of the event got very dark. The fort was cleared of everyone except the remaining 36 and a handful of staff. The doors were slammed shut and we were told to blindfold ourselves. We were tasked with different exercise movements. We had to remain silent or we would be cut from the event. If we did not do the movement adequately we were going to be pulled from the fort. Each exercise led to 1 or 2 participants being pulled from the group and led out of the fort. Each time, all we heard was their number being called, feet shuffling to the door, and the creaking of the fort door as another member of the group was led away in silence.
Eventually, my number was called. Instantly, each shoulder was forcefully grabbed and I was led, blindfolded, out of the fort. I was escorted to the pond where I had to submerge myself and then was led back to an area and sit cross legged with the other participants removed from the fort. Instructions were clear: No talking and no moving or you are out of the event. I scooted as close to the person in front of me as I could. She (I think it was a she) was shivering uncontrollably and reached back to grab my hands for as much body heat as she could get. Blindfolded. 32 hours into the event. Cold. Wet. Tired. Every few minutes we were sprayed with a hose to add to the misery. I felt ALL the aches and pains in my body during the 30 or so minutes that we sat there. I fought with every ounce of energy against the cramps that wanted to take over in my legs and lower body. If only I could fall asleep. If only I could move just a little bit. Every few minutes a new person would join our ranks. I heard muffled breathing and groans. I think I even heard someone crying under their breath. It was a dark moment for sure. All I kept repeating in my own head between the bolts of pain shooting through my legs was DON’T FUCKING QUIT! I wanted to say it out loud to the group too, but knew I could not.
That segment ended and we moved into another session of Iron Boot Camp. It was still dark, and the energy in the group was much different for a while afterwards. It really felt as if this event would never end. But it was too late for me and everyone else to even think about quitting. We had made it this far, we were not stopping now. Several people got injured during the boot camp session, but only one had to be pulled from the race.
The event did eventually end. I had made it through the final task (a barefoot hike on fire roads and trails around camp, carrying a canoe). I finished the Iron with 34 other strong competitors who refused to quit and were able to push themselves through all of the time hacks of the event.
I guess the whole point of this rambling is to share my experience with my friends and say. It doesn’t matter what you do in life. Work. Play. Family. Whatever. DON’T QUIT ON ANY OF IT! Failures happen. Not everyone wins all the time. Great things can be learned in failure. How to be better competitor, contributor, or parent all come from failures we experience. DON’T QUIT! IT CAN ALWAYS BE WORSE! You also don’t have to go the extremes of what I did this past weekend to apply this to your lives. If you want to be more active, than start slow and add to it each day. Walk around the block, than the neighborhood. Run a 5K than go find a 10K. Listen to your body. Challenge yourself, but live to fight the battle each day. If you need a new career, plan out the steps to achieve that goal and start knocking them down one at a time until you succeed.
Each of the participants were tasked with “Aspiring to Inspire”. I don’t know if I inspire anyone or not, really. I do some pretty dumb stuff for fun. It’s hard but I learn more about myself each time I go out and I continue to be surrounded by AMAZING and INSPIRING people. None of my “normal”/day to day friends do these events with me, but everyone I know is trying to achieve something in their own lives.
Work goals, personal fitness goals, life goals. Whatever they are, I say this. Give them your all. But do it smartly. Don’t think only about the finish line of your goal. Think about the next step. Kick its ass. And move onto the next. If you fail at a particular step. Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Try again. DON’T QUIT. EVER!!!!
The Iron was and will be a life changing experience for all of us. We each learned a little bit more about what we are truly capable of in the face of adversity. And to be fair, what we went through was voluntary and NOTHING compared to what some people have to live through each day. We know that. But we also know we needed the Iron to help hone our skills more precisely than awaiting an unexpected tragedy or set of circumstances to find us.
To everyone at the Iron: I respect, admire, and am inspired by each of you. Staff, volunteers, participants. You are great humans. This was the Year of Gratitude at the Iron. I am grateful to have competed alongside each and every one of you.
Thanks to the staff for putting on another amazing experience out in the woods... Daren de Heras, Matt Trinca, Louis Lopez, Mark Jones, Steffen Cook, Don Devaney, Scott Parker, Ande Wegner, Shane Ellison, Dave Huckle, Dave Lokey.

Posted On: 05/04/2017

Comments (0)

Write Comment
Your Name:


Comment: Note: HTML is not translated!

Enter the code in the box below:

Tags: 2017, Iron, Recap, SISU,