While most people relaxed at home watching television over Mother's Day weekend, a group of San Gabriel Valley residents took part in a grueling obstacle course called the SISU Iron. The challenge lasted from 8 p.m. on Saturday to about 10 a.m. Sunday and featured tasks such as lifting heavy rocks, chopping wood and reciting quotes.
Many of the tasks were inspired by the Death Race, an endurance competition held in Vermont that some SISU team members are in training for.
Every year, the Death Race invites 200 competitors to participate in a 40-mile course of mentally and physically trying challenges. Generally, only 15 percent of competitors complete the competition, which takes place over 24 to 48 hours.
This weekend's obstacle course challenge, which took place in Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park, included carrying heavy sandbags in backpacks that weighed 30 to 50 pounds. Participants began by lifting rocks and then lifting a rail road tie of 200 pounds as a team. Following an exercise in carrying the rail road tie to another location, participants hiked to Henniger Flats. They then chopped wood while completing lunges, squats, and sprints. Throughout the night, participants also had to complete surprise exercises kept in a sealed envelope.
“It’s something we all have a passion for," event organizer and former Death Race competitor Yesel Arvizu said. "Doing these exercises, you start to realize that so many people like doing outdoor activities that are physically extreme. When you’re out there in the middle of the night, you’re humbled. You learn a lot about yourself and others.”
In continuing their trek, the participants hiked to the bottom of the hill and memorized a quote by President Abraham Lincoln in the wee hours of the morning. The hours following were spent in a boot camp of military callisthenic exercises. At the end of the event, SISU Iron participants received t-shirts as a symbol of their achievement.
“It’s great bonding and meeting new friends,” said Arcadia resident Helena Vlahos. “I just wanted to see what my new challenge was, pushing myself to the limit.”
Besides testing limits, much of the program focused on teamwork and participants commented on the interesting organization of the event.
“It’s different, there’s not a lot of groups that train overnight,” teacher Tom McFadden said. “I think that everyone had their own thing that they wanted to accomplish.”
Besides planning these feats of athleticism, SISU has assisted community organizations. The group is planning a 50K trail run and a series of 12- to 15-hour hiking expeditions to raise money for Schools on Wheels, a nonprofit that provides tutors and academic support to homeless youth around southern California.