DEKA comes in four flavors. Maybe you’ve heard three: Strong, Mile and Fit. Add Bread to this list. It was my very first DEKA event. Bill Kemmerer, the owner/operator of Flemington Fit Body Boot Camp at Nex Level Sports and Fitness, producer of the event, asked me on Friday if I knew what I was getting into. The truth is, yes. I have been a Spartan for almost ten years. I had planned to go into this event and highlight it throughout. And I did. Glorious Pain was the result. A world top 10 ranking for my AG and #2 AG for this event. Endorphins that lasted for hours afterwards.
Talking to the volunteers before my wave, I discovered that they too were Spartan veterans who loved to hate events like Palmerton and now DEKA. Red-lining through ten stations at a DEKAStrong is the kind of pain that keeps me coming back for more. I loved it when I finished, I immediately wondered why I got into it. Pain is pleasure. DEKA was everything I hoped for.
Each participant is accompanied by a volunteer throughout the event. Jack was with me before I got in line. He found a clear path, reset the machines, then we drove through the stations. He described each in detail for repetitions and form. He suggested that since we had time, I should pre-set the seat height on the bike. Normally, like when the crowd showed up later, that wouldn’t have been possible. These are just game breaks.
DEKA’s ten stations will make or break you equally. Begin with thirty reverse lunges under a 55-pound load. Since there is no running in this event, it is only a few steps and you are at the next station, 500 meters rowing. I wore my Garmin 245 to monitor and maintain my heart rate throughout this event. I maxed out this machine. Then 20 jumps over 24 inches. Jack warned me here that I couldn’t just jump and then back up. Up and over is the rule. Then there were 25 reps of sit-ups with a 20# med ball. Ball in hands, touch ground behind head, sit down, then touch ground between legs. It was the only replacement station for the wall balls. Then it was on 500 meters on the ski-erg. The heart rate increased again as expected. Then a very relaxing farmer’s carry with 60# dumbbells in each hand. The last machine was the stationary bike for 25 calories. I put the machine in reverse and didn’t realize it until halfway through when I changed direction. Jack was very curious about my strategy. Next is the 60# medicine ball over the shoulder for 25 reps. I was thinking twenty and started to drift away when Jack kindly reminded me to do five more. After two consecutive misadventures, it’s time for the push/pull of the sled. Here I noticed that my heart rate had dropped below the red line. I rested deliberately though, keeping the FC in zone 3 knowing which final station was coming. RAM burpees. Run twenty of these fearsome lung burners using a 44# RAM. Then collapse into a sweaty pile. It was finished.
I hit the Garmin and went back to the gear table and collapsed again so as not to vomit. I broke all recovery rules at the time. Stand up, breathe, move slowly. Once the feeling passed and my heart rate got back into an aerobic zone (the longest two minutes of my life), the endorphins started kicking in. It was amazing. We all talked, fist bumped, excitedly reliving the times there. It was great. Let’s start all over again.
Actually, I’m going to sign up for the DEKA Mile. For newcomers like me, this second tier event involves a bit of racing. Between stations, run 160 meters. Once I’m trained for it, I’ll do the DEKA Fit. This includes a lot of running, around 500 meters between stations. It wouldn’t be fair to say it’s like Spartan minus the hills and water. “Training with purpose just before and between each DEKA Mark test/event provides an opportunity for every fitness level to improve in these 10 functional areas of movement. As DEKA Marks (time/ score) improve, fitness, health and well-being improve – Yancy Culp, co-founder of DEKA.
Now, lest you think this is a sport for young people, I’ll remind you readers who haven’t followed me for the past nine years of my OCR writing life that I changed my age this year. I turned 60 in January. I am in the best shape of my life. The young man at the listing shared a similar story using a different marker. He lost 400 pounds doing these kinds of events. No matter your journey, start your fitness life today and make your mark.
Note: All photos courtesy of Rich Ortiz unless otherwise noted