Outrun the Bear

By Whitney Dean

I did not act on impulse when I ran off a bear from my campsite last summer. In the night, I heard the distinct sound of something being eaten, realized it was the only available food within an hour’s drive to the nearest grocer, and made a calculated decision to intervene. I had a large hunting knife, an acquired knowledge of how best to interact with a black bear, and a relative confidence that my physical capabilities would, in the worse case scenario, give me a fighting chance.

I often joke with the athletes at CrossFit Elevation about the importance of being able to outrun a bear. I know I can’t actually outrun a bear. A black bear can reach speeds of up to 35 miles an hour from a near stand still. Four legs against two put me at a significant disadvantage. I know this. And the night I confronted the black bear at my campsite, I saw fairly quickly that this particular bear had, at least, 100 pounds on me. But I wanted that food more than he did. And I’m not a slow runner. I can climb trees and throw heavy objects, and I feel comfortable with a knife. I test these skills regularly. I’m an animal. 

I’ve whittled down the essential survival skills to this: 

  • Pull my bodyweight, at least once. This will matter if I’m ever hanging off the side of a cliff.
  • Fight back against the mountain lion. Colorado Parks and Wildlife admits that while there are no studies confirming the best defense against an aggressive mountain lion, observations of those who’ve found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time seem to universally agree that cats don’t care for a good fight. I foresee claws and incisors being a challenge, but if I can throw 100 plus pounds of barbell around at the gym, I trust I’m a formidable foe.
  • Throw big rocks. If I’m in trouble, head for high ground. If “they” come for me, throw big rocks.
  • Carry my dinner home. The Smithsonian Institute of Natural History in Washington D.C. features a bronze sculpture of a female Homo Erectus—her body bearing an uncanny resemblance to my own—hauling the carcass of a goat over her shoulder, grasping the nape of the goat’s neck with her hands overhead as she lunges forward.  I consider the necessity of her body to serve that function, and I consider how I try to achieve that overhead strength and stability in my athletic training. Then I consider how what's a luxury now might very well become a necessity again somewhere down the line.
  • Grapple. The Rape Aggression Defense System is organized around physical skill mastery. In a hostile situation, I’d better be prepared for matters to get physical, I’d better have a plan, and I’d better be able to execute that plan. Think Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, kick boxing, contact sports. I want to challenge my sympathetic nervous system, remain rational under environmental stressors, censor the neural activation of my amygdala, and resist the freak out.
  • Outrun the bear. An apothegm, really. I can’t outrun a bear, but I can’t imagine a single scenario in which being a faster runner would prove detrimental.

The “not in my lifetime” mentality is dangerous. It’s not paranoia I’m suggesting we nurture but rather confidence in our potential. My aim to improve upon my competence—agility, speed, power, stamina, coordination—empowers me, emboldens me to take charge of my own circumstance.

Recently, my uncle made the observation that I seem to have gotten back my “walking around senses” now that I’m nine years in recovery. That sounds about right. Situational awareness and self-awareness are becoming less alien to me, more familiar, in part because of the attention I pay to my body’s health. I strive to outrun the bear.


Strength
EMOM for 10 minutes
Minute 1: 40 second hollow body hold
Minute 2: 15 second dead hang on pull up bar

WOD
0-5 minutes:
4 minute AMRAP
15 Thrusters 95/65#
10 Burpees
5-10 minutes:
4 minute AMRAP
15 Thrusters 95/65#
10 Pull ups
10-15 minutes:
4 minutes AMRAP
15 Thrusters 95/65#
10 Box jump overs 24/20"
At 15 minutes, for time:
15 Thrusters 95/65#
10 Burpees
10 Pull ups
10 Box jump overs 24/20"

*4 scores total at end

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