If things go right, come early August, members of the U.S. Sailing National Team will remember visiting Colorado Spring in March. They'll remember how they were pushed past their mental and physical limits, made to sprint, swim, run and lift for hours on end, caked in mud and dirt. And, again, if all goes to plan, it will be those memories propelling them to the gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
On Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, members of the U.S. Sailing National and Development Teams were put through a grueling workout courtesy of the U.S. Navy SEALS to help improve their ability to push through barriers and set goals.
The experience came about thanks to a partnership between the Navy SEALS and the United States Olympic Committee.
The sailors were put through more than three hours of demanding exercises including running into the chilly, 52 degree water, holding a bulky log for an extended period of time and sprinting long distances. Sailors dropped to the ground to roll in the dirt, the only thing available that could warm them up.
After more than three hours, the sailors ended for the day, thinking their Navy SEAL experience was complete. But, unknown to them, their coaches and the SEALS had other plans. The next morning, the sailors were treated to a surprise 6 a.m. wakeup call by the SEALS.
Still sore from the day before, the group was back at Memorial Park as the sun rose, doing sprints and log lifts.
When their experience was finally over, both the athletes and coaches knew that what they had gone through will help them both physically and mentally at the Olympic Games.
"I think the cold out-ruled everything, but the Olympics are going to be cold, so it's probably good training," said Erik Storck, of the Olympic venue in Weymouth, where the average high temperature in early August is 68 degrees.
"It just redefines what is plausible to us," Storck said. "These last six months we can just train that much harder and that much longer and it's going be that last little bit that counts."
The sailors also benefitted from the team-building aspect of their experience.
"Teamwork is a huge part of what we did today, and not one of us could have taken this load on all by ourselves," said national team member Amanda Clark. "We also learned how strong so many of our team members are, and everyone cares deeply about each other. Maybe the fifth time down into the water on the single sprints, I was running over with my teammate Paige [Railey] and it was a good feeling just knowing that we were going to both jump in, both get cold and wet and come back."
US Sailing's High Performance Director and 2012 Olympic coach Kenneth Andreasen was pleased with the overall performance of the sailors.
"These SEALS came in here and raised the level of our sailors for sure," said Andreasen. "I think they raised the bar, they know now that they can do a lot more than they thought they could do, and when it comes down to the last race, the last leg of the Games, it may be windy, it may be cold, but they're going know now that 'I can do this, because they're going to think back to March in Colorado Springs, and know that they can do a lot more than they think."