05.27.15

300 HELLISH YARDS

MY ARCH-NEMESIS CONDITIONING TEST

I hate the 300-yard shuttle.

BKVIS-300-HELLISH-YARDS

The 300-yard shuttle run is a conditioning test used by most sports as a measure of mental and physical toughness. Generally, it is a timed 50-yard suicide sprint down and back three times followed by a 5-minute break. Each time down and back, it is required that the player touches the line with his hand. Then a retest. Often, the average of the two times is recorded for the final time.

This test is especially difficult because the energy expenditure in the first sprint totally affects how much gas is available for the second sprint. The key is to have a fast time in round one and come close to matching it in round two. My legs, ass, and lungs tend to burn out quickly and it often feels like I am running through a mixture of oatmeal, sand and pudding. The times never seem to reflect how fast I think I am moving.

Mention the 300-yard shuttle to retired athletes and they will scrunch up their face as if having smelled a sour fart. Most have blocked the memories of having uncontrollable projectile vomit. The purpose of the drill is to see who continues to grind and push when their body is exhausted — and it will be exhausted. It also exposes who the quitters are and who did not keep themselves in peak shape. While very few sports require their players to run in a straight line at such a high intensity for such a high duration (about a minute), I appreciate the mental toughness aspect. There will be suffering. Who can handle it?

I was introduced to the 300-yard shuttle as part of the Iowa football conditioning test. I remember throwing up on the Bubble turf and having coaches yell at me for failing to aim my puke into the garbage cans. Good times. It was also part of the White Sox testing. We had to finish in under 57 seconds while wearing full catchers gear. While I was always able to finish under my required time, I probably looked like someone that was using every last bit of energy to make it. Smooth, it was not.

Every now and again, I will add the 300-yard shuttle to my program. At HiFi, the turf is 30 yards long, meaning this suicide sprint is down and back five times. Because the stopping and starting is more frequent, it’s harder to stride it out and thus a more difficult run. I’m also older now too, which sucks. A few weeks ago, as I’m grinding through my two 300-yarders, I’m told that NHL players are required to run six 300-yard shuttles with all times under a minute. Six? All under a minute? That’s insane. So I’m definitely trying it.

After a couple weeks of mental preparation and a much needed self-pep talk, I decide to go for it. Number one: 1:02. Clearly, I have already failed the NHL and White Sox tests. But, I’m stubborn and undeterred. Number two: 1:01. During my rest break, I try to convince myself that running four more is out of the question, that I don’t really need to do this. Then I tell myself to shut the hell up and go. Number three: 1:02. My legs and ass are now done and have convinced each other it’s time for a vacation. My brain denies their request. Number four: 1:03. At this point, I am ready to stop running. Forever. But, Nate Voronyak sees me suffering, and as a former football and track guy, recognizes my pain. He offers to jump in and run with me. I accept. Number five: 1:05.

I could stop right now, crawl off the turf and still be proud for running five 300-yard shuttles. It’s the most shuttle running I have ever done, more than I ever ran as a player. I’m not in the NHL, do I really need to run all six? Five out of six is pretty good. Hell, I’d be hitting .833 if I went 5-6! I’m ready to shut it down and celebrate my small victory when it hits me: I can do one more. What kind of example would I be setting if I quit just because I was tired? Is that the kind of man I am? A quitter? If I stop now, I will not have done something I said I would do. Number six: 1:07.

We are all capable of doing more than we think we can. We all have greatness inside us and must find ways to unleash it. The purpose of our inner greatness is to silence any doubt about what we can’t do. No matter how uncomfortable we perceive ourselves to be, we can always do one more.

***A few weeks ago, Nike started their summer athlete training program, which I am honored to be a part of. It kicked off with a group trainer workout, focusing on football. I was not surprised to see that the workout concluded with a single 300-yard shuttle. Fortunately, I had been practicing. It was 25-yards, down and back six times. With a competition in place and people watching under the lights of the Nike fieldhouse, I finished in 58 seconds — my best time since 2007.

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