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Chris Ring on SEAL training, mental toughness and swimming the Mississippi river

By May 24, 2017 November 8th, 2017 No Comments

 

 

“…time stops for no man, so, as you’re pushing through to strive for your goal, realize that no matter… Don’t take time for granted, I could say.”–Chris Ring

Mark is excited to announce that the 5th annual Unbeatable Mind summit will be held in Carlsbad, December 1-3. Previous guests have included Jimmy Chin, Robb Wolf, Ben Greenfield and Jesse Itzler. This year will have an unbeatable lineup as well. Listeners of the podcast will enjoy a special deal of $250 off on registration for the summit until May 29th. You can use the code “unbeatable250” at the website summit.unbeatablemind.com. Hurry and take advantage of this special offer for this life-changing event

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Chris Ring is a former SEAL who was the first American to swim the entire Mississippi river to raise awareness of military casualties and their families.  Oddly, for a SEAL, he’s not really that fond of swimming, but swimming the Mississippi seemed like the right thing to do, so he did it. Hear how about his SEAL training, deployment, and the Mississippi swim. Find out how he was able to use mental toughness and an Unbeatable Mind to endure and overcome challenges.

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Other episodes of our podcast that you might be interested in are Mark’s interviews with Nathan Fletcher on helping veterans with PTSD and James Lawrence, the Iron Cowboy who completed 50 triathlons in 50 days.

Transcript & Shownotes

All right. Hey folks, welcome back. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast, and I am here in Encinitas, California at our current SEALFIT headquarters. And you may have heard, actually, soon not to be. In October, we’ll be moving. But hey, that does not impact you.

And today I have a really cool guest. A teammate, a Navy SEAL, Chris Ring. So in a moment I’ll introduce you more to Chris Ring and if you’re a member of SEALFIT online you’ll be able to actually see the video, because we’ll have that at SEALFIT online.

Before we get started, can I remind you that if you haven’t rated the podcast, it’s very helpful for other folks to find it. And you can only rate it at iTunes, so go to iTunes and find the podcast, and then if you could rate it that’d be cool. If you’re not on our email list, go to our email opt-in at unbeatablemind.com/podcast. Then you can stay up to date on what the heck’s going on around here.

And as usual, all sorts of cool things happening and new stuff happening around here. And one of them that I’d like to announce is our new sealfit.com website. Just come live this week, along with the new SEALFIT boot camp, integrated training program. Which integrates the best of our mental training into a functional fitness program–minus the barbells. So if you can imagine kind of blend of Crossfit, SEALFIT mental training, and P90X–that’s what this is. It’s like a video series you can follow along with me and my coaches training with some athletes. But we’ve taken out some of the things that get people injured. So it’s a pretty cool program.

Introduction
[02:56]

All right. So Chris, thanks for joining us. Chris Ring is–like I said–he’s a teammate, Navy SEAL. We’re going to talk a little about his SEAL team years. Spent about 10 years on active duty. Tours in Afghanistan and Iran…(laughing) Iran…well, maybe Iran but you won’t be telling me about those. Iraq.

And recently out doing some charity work. I met Chris just a few weekends ago when he came to audit the Kokoro camp and take a look at that. And potentially become a coach for our SEALFIT Kokoro training.

Chris, thanks for making the time today. I really appreciate it.

Chris: Thanks for having me.

Mark: So, I like to start out… I don’t have any, like, canned questions. I like to see where these things flow and see where they go. But I always like to kind of get a sense for who the guy is in the early years. Like what were some of the experiences in your early life that kind of shaped who you are today? Where are you from? What was your family like? What was that like, before the SEAL teams?

Chris: So I grew up in Tennessee. I’m from close to Nashville area, about 50 mile south of it. So I grew up in very rural Tennessee. Grew up on a river. As a young kid, I’m running through the woods all day long. Playing on the river. Swimming around. Shooting guns here and there. And really just playing off my imagination. Friends over… back then you go out all day until your parents are yelling at you at night to come back inside, you know?

So, yeah, I just grew up just being active. Just being out in the woods and sports, again, as a young kid. Always playing as many sports as I could. Just getting that…

Mark: What kind of sports were you attracted to?

Chris: Young, I played pretty much everything, you know? Running, baseball, football. I even swam a little bit… which we’ll get into later, obviously. But I dabbled in everything. Basketball. Dabbled in everything. And then as I grew up, I started kind of limiting to what down the road I wanted to go. So at this young age, I knew I wanted to be in the military at some point.

Mark: Did you? Really?

Chris: I was drawn to it. I liked the whole lifestyle. Just the…

Mark: Was your family… any military members in your family?

Chris: Nope. No. In the military I was the first one. And there’s something about, I was just drawn to it. Just like this group of guys going out there together and overcoming obstacles and just working together. That teamwork. And the funny part was, growing up I knew I wanted to be in the military but I didn’t know what. But I did know for a fact that I did not want to be in the Navy.

Mark: (laughing) Oh, no kidding?

Chris: (laughing) Whatever it is, it’s not going be in the Navy.

Mark: Well, cause your impression was big, grey ships…

Chris: Yeah, that’s all I knew. Was going on the ships and that’s not my thing. I like being around the water, but… growing up I was like in the woods. That’s what I wanted to do. Be active and just on land.

But then I one day just saw a documentary on TV about SEALs. And what really me to it… I can still picture now. It had a picture of the class starting out and then what they were… how many graduated. And seeing the huge difference of how many were here to how many finished. And it clicked right there, “That’s what I wanna do.”

To seeing how challenging that is. And I wanna push myself to be the best. Whatever’s the best out there, that’s what I wanna accomplish. And that was it, right there.

Mark: That very thing has inspired so many people. I mean, there was an element of that that kind of inspired me, even in my day.

I went through well before that documentary… I remember what you’re talking about. That was Discovery channel?

Chris: Something like that, yeah.

Mark: “The Making of Class 226” or something like that…

Chris: I can’t remember exactly what it was. I was something like 9 years old or 13. I don’t really remember. But just sitting there and it happened to be on TV. I just saw part of this training. “That’s cool. What is that?”

And then I watch it and I learn about it right there.

Mark: So that’s when you decided? And how old were you when that happened?

Chris: I wanna say I was 13 or less.

Mark: Really?

Chris: I was pretty young. I was still in grade-school and stuff like that. But I was just… that was it. It was that moment. Once I learned what it was, I started reading books and researching what do they do? Cause I saw that little snippet, but “What makes it so difficult?”

It looked like big, strong men and then finishing with so few of them. So I started researching what it entailed, what it took, and what they actually did. And I was like, “All right, that’s it. Right there.”

Mark: Your parents were aware of this fascination with the military.

Chris: They were…

Mark: Were they supportive? Or what did they think?

Chris: They were very supportive. They’ve always been, you know, “Do what you want to do, but just be passionate about what you want to do and then shoot for it.”

So once they saw how passionate I was they were behind me 100%.

Mark: Mm-hmm. You have any brothers or sisters.

Chris: I have one older brother. He’s more the brains, I can say. He’s the smart kid in the family.

Mark: So he didn’t go into the military.

Chris: He did not. He does like some contract work for the military. He’s a smart guy, but not in the military itself.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. Interesting.

Okay, so you knew you wanted to become a SEAL once you saw that documentary. Obviously, you just kept doing what you were doing. As a physically active guy.

Did you do anything specific to train for it?

Chris: So, like I was saying, I started doing a lot of sports. And I started tailoring it as I got into high school. In high school, I started off with football, swimming, track and cross country.

And then I got rid of the football, focusing on swimming and track. And I swam for 2 years and then I focused on just the running aspect of track and cross country. So I went from that to reading about it. Like, how much endurance is involved. So I was comfortable in the water.

I learned to swim, I was like, 2 years old. My dad was a huge swimmer. So I learned really young. I was comfortable in the water. I could do the swims. “All right, let’s move on to push something I’m stronger and better at.” And that was running, so let’s improve that.

I just focused on all that. Because, all those endurance sports, it’s such a mental aspect whenever you’re doing them. Cause… especially the individual aspects.

If you’re doing an individual race… a swim or around a track for a distance–you’re in your head. You’re the one pushing yourself. You may have track members… like team members, and you’re still fighting for a team.

But you’re still in your own battle for that…

Mark: I also did endurance sports. Swimming, track and then I got into triathlons. So I kind of have a sense for what you’re talking about. But what do you think about those 2 sports in particular? What did it do for your mind? What were the mental… what changed in you that allowed you to endure the hardship and then succeed at BUD/S? How did they help you? I guess is what I’m trying to say.

Chris: So I really chose those 2, because I knew those would be involved in BUD/S and being a SEAL was swimming and running. But what really worked for me, or what helped me develop and become stronger was the mental aspect of overcoming the difficulties no matter what the pain is… whatever it was. Of realizing what it was and seeing how far I could push myself.

So a lot of those are time-based. So whether you’re swimming or running, you try to beat that fastest time, so you can realize the barriers and you have something to strive for.

“How difficult I’m feeling now, it’s going to be over at some point. Whatever distance this is, whatever time this is… every second is ticking by.”

And that’s something I applied. When I showed up at BUD/S I heard an instructor say one time, “Time stops for no man.” And that’s something that stuck with me from that moment to… for the rest of my life.

And I always thought about, no matter how painful or difficult this little piece of running or swimming is, that every second is ticking by and I’m getting closer to overcoming this obstacle.

So this race… say I’m running a 3 mile race. Every mile is taken down, every step is something. So you just learn to keep pushing yourself and strive to be… to overcome how difficult it is and be better every single time you do it.

Mark: And when you hit that wall inside your head, even if you’re only three quarters of the way through an evolution or an event… what was it that you would tell yourself to kind of step over the line?

Chris: So I would focus… when I was hitting that wall… Most commonly, people think about how much they have left to do. You’re hitting a wall, you’re like, “Oh crap. I still have 2 miles to go.”

I started thinking about more how much I’ve already accomplished. “I’ve already knocked out a mile. I’ve already knock out this distance.” And then I start focusing not on how far I have to go, but each… I start getting a rhythm for myself to keep going. So how your breathing is, or how your stride is and correlating/connecting the two.

So I started focusing on that–at the now moment. Not how far I gotta go, but on the “now.” And we start focusing on the now, shortly later you realize you’ve already come. “Oh wow, I’ve already done another mile. Two miles are behind me.”

And then you start taking chunks. People look at it… BUD/S or anything as a big chunk, but you gotta break it into the smaller chunks. That applies to anything you really do. From BUD/S to races. Small chunks.

Mark: Yeah, what I love about that. And kind of what’s coming back to me is that quote you just said… the clock doesn’t stop, but your relationship to time can change.

Chris: Exactly.

Mark: So when you bring yourself to the now, like you said, all of a sudden you’re not focusing on the “tick, tick, tick, tick.” That goes away even though the clock is still running. And you’re in these timeless moments. Like I imagine–and we’ll get to it later, on the river–or in this 6 mile swim we did in BUD/S, there’s like miles that you just… or large distances where you miss it. Where you just are like, “Whoa.” You come out of it and you’re like, “Holy shit, man. I didn’t even remember what the hell’s going on for the last 45 minutes.” Because you were so focused on something else.

Chris: And I think that’s huge in any aspect is losing yourself in what you’re doing. Because it just makes time go by even faster without even realizing it.

Mark: And do you think that is a skill that can be developed?

Chris: I think it is. I think it’s something that… when people start off anything, everything’s going to be difficult. Starting off working out. Say someone’s getting into it again, so it’s a bit of a struggle at first. But then they get more… they learn to adapt. So I think it’s all a process of just adapting and learning how to focus and lose yourself in that challenge or difficult moment.

BUD/S
[12:54]

Mark: yeah. So what BUD/S class did you go through?

Chris: I graduated with 264.

Mark: 264. And give me a time-frame. What year was it? (laughing)

Chris: It was early 2006.

Mark: ’06. So 2006. So you were in for 10 years. So you got out around 2016?

Chris: 2015.

Mark: 2015? So tell us a little bit about your BUD/S experience. How many guys showed up? How many graduated? What were the highlights and some of the shitty moments? (laughing)

Chris: So that’s the thing about BUD/S. When you’re going through it, it can be so miserable at times. And then when you look back, like, “Wow, that was some of the best times of my life.”

I think that’s a lot of the difficult times that people experience… we look back and it kind of like molded you, who you are. And we appreciate how difficult those things were.

Again, like, sometimes I was like, “Wow. This is miserable.” But then a while later I thought that was pretty awesome at the same time.

So, it was one of those experiences that you meet so many awesome guys. You can show up nervous and not really knowing anybody. But then shortly later then you’re… you’ve just got best friends all over the place. And that’s where the evolutions and stuff like that, they’re going through the exact same thing you are. So that’s just another boost.

If you’re having a hard time… everyone’s going to have a low-point. In training. In life. That’s when you look to the guys… the teammates around you. And they’re there for each other. If I’m having a bad day or something like that, there’s another guy there to lift you up and vice versa.

If I look up and he’s struggling, “boom,” I’m stepping in. What can I do to make… to help him push a little bit farther.

Mark: You know, swimming and running track are–even though they’re team sports, they’re very individualistic pursuits. What was it that clicked, or at what point did you click and realize that you really, really had to be integrated into your team? And focusing more on your team than your own performance at BUD/S? Did that happen pretty early for you? Some people never get that, as you are aware.

Chris: It happened pretty early for me because, you know, there’s rollbacks in a lot of classes, too. So you learn from them a lot. So you learn… like I once I saw rollbacks come in and then they start giving you advice. You start to learn how things operate.

And a lot of stuff at BUD/S too, you’re doing in boat crews. So you learn early that you’re only successful as a boat crew a lot of the time. So you learn… well most people should learn pretty quickly that, “Hey, if we wanna be successful, this is a team effort, here.”

But that still involves you as an individual pushing as much as you possibly can. Cause again, somebody’s going to have a weak moment. So you’re under that log and someone’s starting to struggle a little bit. Maybe you take a little bit more weight for a little while. Then build them back up, and you’re struggling.

But if you’re working together, it’s so much more easier to accomplish it. So when you have that whole mindset as working as efficiently as a team, it just makes it easier for you as an individual as well.

Mark: Mm-hmm. I think the profound truth there, that you just kinda brought out, and this is something that’s lost on a lot of people, is when you are in an elite team, you’re working with your team, so the team can succeed. But you’re not taking your eye off your own performance. You’re still optimizing your performance. You’re still pushing as hard as you possibly can, but not at the detriment… or not to sacrifice anything they do with the team’s ability to succeed at the mission.

That’s a fine dance, you know what I mean? That’s kind of an interesting concept that a lot of people have failed. Cause you can surrender yourself to the team, and then your performance can go to shit, and you’re not doing the team any favors.

That’s pretty interesting.

War Zone
[18:05]

Mark: So what were the stats for your class? People always like to know that.

Chris: Stats for my class. I’ll be honest, I have a terrible memory for a lot of these things. I think we finished with 32 or 34.

Mark: Some of those guys were rollbacks, for sure.

Chris: A lot of those guys were. We had a lot of rollbacks for every phase, which obviously affects the numbers.

But I can’t think of the originals. Top of my head, I can’t…

Mark: Interesting. If I knew that… for some reason that was burned in my skull. For my class.

Chris: I’ve had a lot of memory loss, so I can’t be honest. (laughing) Anything I say, date-wise, take with a grain of salt here guys.

Mark: (laughing) That’s pretty funny. A

All right, so where did you go after BUD/S? What was your career like?

Chris: I went off to SEAL team 2. I went to the east coast.

Mark: And 2 operated, back then, in Europe. Did you get to do a tour in Europe? Or straight to the war-zone?

Chris: I did not. Straight to the war-zone. Iraq first. Came back. And did another workup and then went to Afghanistan after that.

Mark: Okay. What about those tours, Iraq and Afghanistan. What can you tell us about them? Did you see a fair amount of combat? And what type of missions were you doing?

Chris: They were both very active. Afghanistan a little more active than Iraq at the time, and they’re completely 2 different missions, you know. One’s more… can be a lot more urban stuff going on, the other one, you’re out in the more rural type of things.

But they were definitely great experiences. Again, you just build throughout training. Even once BUD/S and SVTs over, you’re still learning, you’re always training, always striving to get better. And I think that if you ever find a time in your life where you feel like, “I’m as good as I’m going to get,” you need to move onto something else.

Mark: You’re kinda done.

Chris: never settle, you know? You always want to keep pushing to improve. Not only for yourself but for the platoon, for the team. And so on.

But the deployments themselves, they’re great experiences that you learn so much. You can train so much, but ’til you’re actually in those moments on the deployments… until you still really get that real world experience is definitely a game changer as well.

Mark: What was the scariest thing that happened to you?

Chris: Scariest thing that happened?

Mark: Either training or combat.

Chris: Well… which one? (laughing)

Mark: (laughing) Both. How about we do both? I had some pretty damn scary moments in training.

Chris: I would say training was… we were doing a… we were working with the Swift guys, so we got on a C-130. We were flying up to Delaware, the middle of the winter. We were going to jump out, hook up with the SWIT guys, and go take down a prison.

We did all this. It was like a week long training or something like that. That was successful. Everything worked out even though it’s freezing cold. Coldest I’ve ever been. Middle of winter, middle of Maine.

But one mission we were practicing an extraction of somebody. So we had several different platforms. I was on the water platform. So we’re taking Zodiacs in to go pick up somebody important.

And as we’re coming in, our motor dies. There’s some massive swells coming in. We’re all wearing dry suits, because it’s freezing cold.

Swells coming in, our engine dies, and we just go ass over teakettle. WE just flip over. And the thing about these dry suits, even if you think you think you get a lot of the air out of it, they’re still buoyant when you’re in the water. So what happened was the Zodiac came on top of me, and my dry suit prevented me from getting out underneath it. So I was, like, stuck under the water and I couldn’t get out.

And I was just tangled in… And we had all this gear on there too, so I was tangled in all these straps. And I started to panic at first, cause I’m like, “I’m stuck in this. I’m not getting out and I’m under the water.” And I really started to think, “This could be the moment that I’m drowning. Of all the times. I’m going to do it in training, right now. Just got flipped in a Zodiac. IN cold, freezing water. The worst thing imaginable right now.”

And I’m sitting there, and I’m feeling like… my lungs burning, I’m feeling like head just zoning in. I’m starting to lose a lot of vision even though it’s dark. Then I just sit there and I relax for a second. And I go back to the training.

Whenever you’re in some crazy situation, you go back to the bare minimum training. Whatever muscle memory is trained into you.

Mark: Right. Pool comp right there.

Chris: Pool comp right there. So all I did was relax for a second. I just completely stopped. I’m on my back. I’m pinned up against all this gear and I just stop struggling for a second. I just stop struggling. I just sit there. I count to 3 or 4, and then all I did was just calmly… I was like, “One way or the other, at least I’m gonna go trying to find the way out.”

So I’m just calm. And I just start slowly moving. And then… weird thing, when I was calm, stuff started shifting. Cause we’re in the waves still. And imagine like, the straps were off me and I just reach over and I feel another leg over here.

So I just kinda slowly attached myself to that, and I just gasp up at the last second. Get all the air I need.

But conveniently, the prop was still spinning right next to my head. So that was a whole… (laughing)

Mark: Holy shit! (laughing)

Chris: (laughing) Get your full gasp of air, the prop’s like zinging right next to you. But that was one of those moments that, no matter how… what’s ever going on, it’s one of those obstacles that you’ve gotta realize, just relax.

Mark: Yeah. Most SEALs have some story like that. I’ve got my version of that too where I got stuck in an escape trunk of a submarine. And my air just… I watched it just go “tick-tick” And then I’m like, on my last breath, and I’m just relaxing into it. And this is one where I actually had to rely on other people to help me out. And “boom” all of a sudden the door opens and I’m like, “Okay. Guess I get another day.”

Chris: Which brings a good point. In pool comp you think it’s all dive specific, or like drown-proofing. But there’s so many different scenarios that even water or not. Another one, I got stuck one of those 15 foot deep… The buoyancy we’re doing at OTB and the buoyancy of my ruck had popped. Had like 3 ATD vests in there I was using to keep it buoyant. And they had all popped. And it just like sunk into like 15 feet deep.

The wrap, I slipknot it got stuck, so I was stuck on the bottom of it. And I’m panicking, just getting churned around. But it’s, like, again… relaxed… got a knife out and I was able to cut it. Get back up and go down, but…

Always those good training situations that you definitely learn from.

Mark: No doubt. The ability to calm yourself and relax in those most extreme circumstances…

Now the whole point of that training is to prepare for combat. So what was the pressure like on an ambush, or like…? Were there situations where all of a sudden you felt out of control, and then that same training kicked back in?

Chris: yeah. For example, we were doing a route clearance. Trying to get to a location one time. And by this point we’d lost 2 vehicles to IEDs already, and we just… the mission was originally supposed to be like, just 2 days. There and back. To test this new route. To see if we can get there.

And then like, day 3–it’d been like 5 days, instead of 2 days–but, day 3 then my vehicle hits an IED, there’s rounds and you can hear RPG just going everywhere. You just sit there. You’re kind of stunned at first, but then you realize…

Mark: You were in a Humvee, or…?

Chris: We were in the big, RG vehicles. So it goes off. You can’t really see anything at first. It’s all dusty and everything like that.

Mark: Were those protected enough so that an IED would not kill anybody.

Chris: Yeah, everyone was fine in our vehicle. Well, we ended up medi-vacing a guy later on, but it just… wasn’t anything physical. He just got messed up from the blast a little bit.

Mark: In the early days, the Humvees would have been toast.

Chris: Oh yeah. But in that situation, you want to get out and start checking to make sure everyone’s okay. But then you go back to your training. “First of all, we just hit an IED. There could be other IEDs around here.” So you start thinking through the steps of what should you do next? What’s the proper thing?

Of course, I wanna get out there and make sure everyone’s okay, but first, let’s not cause any more damage.

Mark: You’ve got rounds coming in too, right?

Chris: Yeah, let’s not cause any more damage than we have to. Let’s take a second. Don’t get too hyped up. Assess the situation, and then make the best call from there.

Mark: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

What were some of the most interesting lessons in leadership that you learned from combat? You know, leading through crisis situations like that? Like an ambush or a firefight?

Chris: Probably a common one was “Murphy’s Law.” always is a thing that’s going to happen. We can plan for every possible scenario, and then something else that we didn’t think of is going to happen.

So, I think just learning to be flexible and don’t take too much onto yourself. I mean, do as much as you can, but there’s so many awesome people around you. You want to be able to rely on anybody for anything.

So there’s times that, “Hey maybe, I think I’m… I wanna be the one that does this.” But maybe someone else is better. So understanding that leadership is more than just being gung-ho and charging forward, but bringing up those around. So if you’re an older guy in a platoon, there’s younger guys.

And one thing you can learn is… you can learn so much from everybody. You not the “go to” for everything. So many people have different life experiences. Have gone through so much or learned skills way better than I can at some things, so learning that you’re not always the best at everything and that relying on others and learning from others–no matter your position, no matter your rank, you can always learn from somebody else. And apply those things.

And that’s one thing that worked well in our platoon. Everyone from the OSE down was, “this is what we want to do. What’s the best way of accomplishing it?”

And then everyone has a say. Everyone can figure out… has an idea, has a strategy has something. And then, you can build off of each other.

Mark: Yeah, absolutely. What was your biggest screw up?

Chris: My biggest screw up? There’s so many.

Mark: I know, right? (laughing) It’s a long list for me too.

Chris: Biggest screw up. Man that’s a toughie. This was… oh…well… wouldn’t say that’s a screw up on my part, that’s just bad timing. Put me on the spot with that one.

Mark: (laughing) We’re not used to thinking of our failures.

Chris: (laughing) I like to learn from it and move on. Don’t think about it again.

Mark: (laughing) Don’t dwell on it. That’s part of that memory erase, right?

Chris: (laughing) yeah, conveniently I forgot the bad things I’ve done. I’ve only done good things. Real convenient.

Mark: (laughing) Hardly true, yeah. That’s pretty funny.

Pride in Service
[28:14]

Let’s flip it then. What do you consider to be like the thing that you are really proud of most that you kind of left behind with the SEALs. Either… whatever. Whatever. What are you really proud of in that 10 year span? In your service?

Chris: I have so many flaws and so many screw-ups, there’s still so many things that you’re proud of and believe it or not other than the team… I was a first phase instructor after Afghanistan. I had some proud moments of seeing… as a proctor of our class… seeing training guys. Seeing how they are on day 1, to seeing how they are finishing training. To see how much taking a guy that maybe wasn’t the best at first, and then seeing him being the top performer in the class.

So just seeing how much of an impact you can have on a new generation of people that are striving to become what we’ve become. That’s their goal. And just seeing how much people can turn around. How much they learn. How much they learn of themselves. And a lot of things that I appreciated, a lot of trainees, they’d come with this attitude that… not entitlement, but they need to learn… experience things before they…

Mark: They need to empty their cup a little bit.

Chris: Exactly. So seeing that happen as well as guys acknowledging who they are. Taking a step back and like, “Hey, this is where I am right now. How can I get better?” Seeing the guys that strived. Seeing the guys that went from being an individual to being the biggest team player in the class type of thing.

Mark: Let me ask about that BUD/S experience. You know, cause I was never an instructor at BUD/S, but through SEALFIT, we put thousands of students through kind of similar type of training which you saw. And I’ve surprised sometimes, both positive and negatively, about human nature. And so what were the some of the things that surprised you, as an instructor? Which, you know, very different experience than going through BUD/S as a student. You just obviously don’t see things the same way. You have a completely different viewpoint of what the experience is as an instructor. So what surprised you?

Chris: One thing I learned when I first became an instructor… so when you’re a student, you go through it seems like complete chaos all the time. You know? All this stuff’s happening.

Well, getting on the back end of it… being an instructor… seeing how much detail, how much planning goes into every aspect…

Mark: Yeah, even the chaos…

Chris: Even the chaos. It’s all controlled chaos in a way. But as a student, there’s so much going on. Your eyes are wide open, trying to take everything in. Drinking from a fire hose, trying to take in as much as you can. And you think, “Wow, this is so crazy.”

And then on the back side is the instructor. It’s all so strategic. Such planned chaos that it’s amazing to see what can be done. And how the different viewpoints are on each side.

Mark: Yeah, that’s interesting. Definitely.

So, you finished your career at BUD/S?

Chris: I did.

Mark: And why did you decide to get out? What was the impetus for you?

Chris: For me? I was on the fence about it. I was at the 10 year mark, “Do I wanna stay in? Do I wanna get out? Do I wanna do something while I’m young enough to try something new?”

And then I learned more about Legacies Alive, the non-profit that I did the swim for. And I learned about… 2 of my good friends are part of this organization. And I learned about Mike Viti, one of the co-founders, who was doing the first challenge.

Now this guy had… he was in the Army, he got out. He had this really successful job. And he’s like, “I wanna keep serving in some aspect. These gold-star families, what can we do?”

And he quit his job, went up to Seattle and he’s like, “I’m gonna walk 1 kilometer for every service member that was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.” He just stopped everything, went up there, and…

Mark: And so you helped him out on that. You went with him?

Chris: I wasn’t there at first. This is where I learned about this non-profit. Legacies Alive was made on his journey. So he walked down from Seattle down to San Diego, over to Savannah, Georgia, up to the Baltimore…

Mark: How many kilometers was that? Or how many steps was that? Did you say 1 step or 1 kilometer…?

Chris: 1 kilometer for every service member.

Mark: 1 kilometer for every service member.

Chris: Which, obviously, the number changes all the time. And so when he was coming through San Diego, I learned about what he was doing. I was like, “Oh, wow. This is amazing. I like what he’s doing. I like why he’s doing it. “So that was kind of an inspiration for me.

Just because I’m not serving in the military, doesn’t mean I can’t serve in some other aspect. So I got to know him very well. And what he was doing. And help out with this organization. And one thing this organization does is extreme challenges to raise awareness of what a gold-star family is. And a gold-star family is a family that’s lost a loved one in service to the country.

So, doing these extreme challenges to raise money, to meet families along the journey. Connect them together, and just make sure that… Eventually our goal is that one day you’ll be able to walk up to anybody on the street and they’re going to know what a gold-star family is. Cause there’s tons of people that don’t know what that term is.

So I was helping them… “What could be the next challenge? What could be the next huge endeavor that someone could take on to raise this awareness?”

So I was helping mull over ideas. “Oh, we’ve done a hike. What’s something that not everyone has done before that’s so crazy…physically and mentally demanding that cold really draw people to it.”

And I was like, “Well, what about a swim somewhere?” Then the Mississippi River came up. I started researching. I was like, “Is that doable?” Research. “Yeah, I think that’s doable. That can be done.”

And then that’s when it clicked for me. “All right, I’m getting out cause of this I feel I was meant to do. Take on the swim.”

And I told them, “Yup, I’ll do that. I’ll swim the river.” Even though I hated swimming. I thought in BUD/S, swimming I thought was the worst thing ever. I hated… more than any evolution, swims were my downfall. Couldn’t stand them.

Mark: So went after the hardest, nastiest thing you could possibly find.

Chris: Yeah, if you’re going to do it, go big, you know? Just like when I was young, all that video of that starting class to that finishing class. If you’re going to strive, shoot for the stars. If you’re going to do a swim, do the hardest one you can find.

Mark: Yeah, I mean, no one’s probably even thought of swimming the Mississippi. Why would you want to do that? You know what I mean? (laughing) Not you. But why would anyone else?

Chris: (laughing) I wouldn’t want to do it again. I would, but…

Mark: All right, so how long did it take to plan the swim? Like, what were the details or how did it come about?

Chris: So me and a couple of other team guys got together and we started really planning. We were the swim team, dedicated to this organization to really do all the planning.

So we started researching the river. How long is it? What can you encounter?

Which is really hard because planning for swimming something like the river is not very simple. Which you would assume. Cause there’s so many aspects of it. What are you going to encounter? What’s the river like here? What’s there? How does it change all the time? What’s the ship traffic? How do you overcome all these obstacles?

So pretty much what we did is we just planned for everything we could possibly think of. We would sit late nights on a whiteboard writing things, getting on a computer, researching it. We’re just making all these notes…

Mark: What were some of the biggest risks that you had?

Chris: Some of the biggest things that we planned for, for the swim, danger wise was… of course, you’ve got the wildlife in the river. Up north, there’s nothing crazy. You got like some beavers and river otters. But then down south you have snakes, you have alligators, you have bull-sharks.

Mark: Really?

Chris: Bull-sharks can live in fresh water for up to a year I believe.

Mark: No shit.

Chris: I remember the point in the river… I got to the point, “Oh, this is where the northern-most bull-shark was found. Okay, cool.”

Mark: Great. (laughing) So let’s focus on the bull shark. Did you carry a stun gun or something like that?

Chris: I didn’t carry anything. I didn’t…

Mark: You just… prayed. (laughter)

Chris: Pretty much. If it’s going to happen… cause the water’s so dark anyway…

Mark: You can’t see shit.

Chris: As soon as you get in the water, it’s black. So, it’s like, even if there was something in the water underneath, it’s really hard to… I’m going by feel at that point. Its like, “What am I going to do?”

So, extra drag. Let’s just swim. And if it happens, it happens.

Mark: Did you see any alligators, or any sharks or anything?

Chris: Didn’t see any sharks. We heard word of sharks down the river. Like, some boats or someone seen them, but never saw them myself. Snakes were on the banks. The alligators… a lot of times we’d take these side canals to get in and out of the river. From this boat. Get to the start points. We had GPS plot we’d start and finish every day. And you would see their little trails and bubbles from where they are under the water and stuff like that. But never had any…

Mark: They’re pretty much gonna leave you alone…

Chris: They are. Specially… there’s so much ship traffic down that way anyway, that they’re staying out of the middle of the river, unless they get across real quick. But they’re not coming out there after…

That’s what I figured, you know.

Mark: Now, when you charted your course. The Mississippi’s pretty wide in some areas, right?

Chris: It is. It’s so crazy. Goes from like, 12 feet across. It can go up to, I think at one point… Cause there’s so many lakes on it as well. It can be up to 5 miles wide at some point. Like it’s 3 and a half… There’s some pretty substantial, wide areas on there.

Mark: And you had a very specific route that you were trying to map in terms of… like, when you got to these big areas. Did you go down the middle? Or did you try to hug the side? What was the actual strategy?

Were you trying to stay in the center…? You couldn’t stay in the center of the river cause you’d have the ship traffic.

Chris: I tried to. I tried to.

Mark: You did?

Chris: So this is what we had to do. Starting off it was just me swimming and a guy in a kayak in front of me. And what he was doing, he was helping me navigate obstacles in the water. Cause the water starts off pretty clear, and then as you get farther south, it gets dirtier and dirtier. You get more factories and major cities and stuff like that.

So he was guiding in front of me. When I was swimming, he was like doing the ocean swimmer thing… get the guide… so he was pretty much my guide. So if I see him starting to angle this way, then I’m starting to turn that way. I’m avoiding something or he’d be pointing out something as I’d look up at him.

And he’d also hand me snacks occasionally.

So I started off, I’d be following him. And we would plan it each day, one day at a time. So we’d look at the map, we’d look at where we’d like to… where we’re shooting for. “So we hit there, if we have more time do we want to shoot here?”

So we have like a, b and c plans. If we have to cut it short, this is where we’re going to get to.

So we look at, what are we encountering that day, and we kind of plan it as best as we could. So if we encountered a lake, how long is the lake? What section of the day is coming into?

Mark: Yeah, you don’t want to be in the middle of a lake and have it be the end of the day and then have to swim 2 miles to shore. Because…

Chris: That’s the weirdest thing. You can look at a map of the river, and it say, “Oh, you’ve gone like 5 miles.” On these canoe maps. Cause that’s what we’re using. Canoe maps.

But then we have a GPS with us, and the river map says “oh, you’ve gone 15 miles,” but our GPS says you’ve gone 19 miles. Cause there’s so many switchbacks and bends that you’re swimming so much more than it actually says.

And up north it’s super-swampy too. So that’s why, if you look at the Internet, and you Google how long is the Mississippi river, you’ll see everything from 2350 to 2550. Because up north, it’s swampy and the river changes so much. It shifts around.

There are parts… I was swimming along and I could see this grass, these huge weeds on top. But you could go underneath. But how the river flowed, so all these things shift around with storms and everything like that.

Which makes it… at one point, I was swimming along. I just smelled something so terrible, going along. And I go, “What is that? Something smells dead.”

And I run smack-dab into this like skeleton deer. Like just got tangled in this grass in the water, and we just bumped heads. I was like, “I’m gonna get some disease now,” but I didn’t. But, you know, we’d encounter a lake in the middle of the day, the beginning of the day. We just kind of planned, “What’s the best option?”

So if the river enters the lake at one side, where on the other portion of the lake. Sometimes you enter it from the north and it comes out on the southeast or southwest, so you would… “Is it best to hug this side? Is it looped around, are you gonna swim more if you go around? Or is it a straight shot? What’s better?”

And we would try to tailor it as much as possible. We’d try to shoot for the straightest line for anything. Even going down the river, we would stay in the middle of the channel until we saw ship traffic coming.

Mark: Are there any locks in this?

Chris: There’s 26 locks and dams.

Mark: 26 locks. So you’d swim there and then you’d go around the lock. (laughing) You wouldn’t go through the lock, would you?

Chris: I was not allowed to go through the locks, so how it was… Safety and just how dangerous it was. But I would go up to the lock and they have a little ladder next to it. So I would touch it, climb the ladder, walk to the other side, wait for the guy in the kayak.

He’d actually go in. They’d lower it. Then I would go down the other side and we would continue on.

Mark: Oh, interesting.

Chris: Which is so hard to plan a day. We started setting for hours, for time-wise. If we didn’t have an event… cause the goals was to meet families…

Mark: Yeah, so along the way you’re actually trying to go to locations that families can meet you.

Chris: Yeah, so the whole point of this swim wasn’t for the achievement of swimming the river. It was to meet as many families as possible. To hear their stories and learn about their loved ones, so I would tailor swimming around that. So if I had a meeting early in the morning, I’d go meet as many families as I could, and then go swim later in the day. Or try to start early, and then…

Mark: How many hours a day would you try to get in?

Chris: So I would try to do 6 to 10 hours a day of swimming. Starting off, I’d get out and I’d eat on the side of the river. But I’m just sitting there looking at it. And I’m like, “Man, I could be making so many miles right now.” So I started switching to I would just eat. I would just sit on my back and just kick like a little otter and just eat that way.

Mark: Right. Turtle-backing.

Chris: Which made up some time. Course, it’s miserable cause you’re not getting out of the water. Having that breather. But you’re always moving…

Mark: What was your skin like? Did you get any sores and all nasty…?

Chris: Surprising, nothing really. I had no major skin issues.

Mark: And did you get sick at all?

Chris: I did get sick. I did one infection up north. A lot of leeches up north, so if I didn’t catch them early on in the swim and get them off then they would be sucking on me all day long. One was underneath my… I had booties on. One of my booties and I ripped it off in the shower and it ripped him off. And it caused… his teeth, I guess, got caught in there, got infected.

That’s the only skin infection-wise. Just because of that.

But further south, as the river got more disgusting I guess, cause you have Memphis, New Orleans, St. Louis that you’re going through. I’d sort of get sick every day. Not like…

Mark: Like stomach sick?

Chris: Like stomach sick. I’d be swimming along and all of a sudden, I’d get super-nauseous. I’d just start vomiting all over the place. After a couple minutes of that, then I’d feel fine. I’d start swimming again.

Mark: It’s amazing. The human body can just ward off all that crap. You weren’t taking like cpacs everyday to prevent, you know…? Did you have any meds at all?

Chris: I had some. I had a doctor on standby that if I was starting to feel any… If I was hurting in any way, I was feeling sick in any way, I would call him up if I needed to. And started giving him my symptoms, and he would make a recommendation. “Hey, do this, or do that.” But there was nothing different that I did to combat it. More probiotics, and stuff like that, but nothing like all these antibiotics on standby or anything like that.

Mark: Nothing like that. And what was your diet like? What did you eat every day?

Chris: That was the good thing about swimming. I still lost 30 pounds doing it, but I could eat… you could eat whatever you wanted. Starting off…

Mark: There’s only so much you could eat while you’re on your back swimming right?

Chris: Well, you’d be surprised what you could eat, when you get sick of food, what you’ll manage to eat while swimming on your back. No, starting off, I was trying to eat good. I had all these supplements. There was protein. I was doing like, these bars. All this stuff is possible. Then I was like, “I’m getting so sick of that.” If you’re eating the same thing every single day. So then I started switching up to whatever I could get.

Mark: (laughing) Cheetos.

Chris: We’d go restock on food, and I’m just like going down the junk food aisle just piling it in. Cause I was hungry all the time too. There was days… there’s pictures of me just eating donuts on the water. I got Subway sandwiches. Everything I could think of. I’m sitting there… if they can hand it to me in the water, I’m eating it, you know.

Mark: That’s pretty funny.

Gold-star Families
[44:52]

Mark: You were burning like, 20… 15 or 20,000 calories a day.

Chris: Yeah. I’d get in early in the morning. I wasn’t getting out of the water ’til later in the evening.

Mark: Even the water itself’ll suck your energy….

Chris: Cause even if I’m not swimming, I’m still kicking. I’m still doing something. And that’s a common misconception about the Mississippi River as well–every time I talk to somebody, they’re like, “Oh, at least you had the huge current to go with you.” The average current of the Mississippi River is like, 1 knot. And that’s only in certain areas. So you think… you’ve got 26 locks and dams, so there’s a lot of back currents. So the most miles I did a day was 28. I could do 28 miles on day, and the next day, it took me an hour to go half a mile.

Just because of storms, or back currents. There’s one day that there’s ten foot swells. We had to pull the boats out cause they’re so dangerous. It can be like the ocean out there, especially when it’s super-wide. And there’s days that I can’t see one side of the bank, and then huge waves are rolling in. You feel like you’re out in the middle of the Pacific somewhere. Really you’re just in this river. Which I didn’t expect. I’m thinking the river would be nice and simple.

Mark: Yeah. You’d think you’d be able to see the shore the whole time.

Chris: But when there was current, it was super-nice. Making time instead of fighting it.

Mark: Yeah. What were some of the most memorable moments with regard to the families you met, and the impact you were having. And the awareness, and also what it meant for these families, that you would sacrifice like that.

Chris: That’s what really got me through day-to-day. You really got to focus on why I was doing something like that. The most difficult part of it wasn’t the physical aspect–probably the mental aspect.

Mark: Yeah, of course.

Chris: Cause you’re swimming–you’re in your own head all the time. And when you’re… you run out of things to think about eventually. So you kinda get to zone out.

Mark; (laughing) “Oh shit. I’ve gone through the entire catalog in my brain.”

Chris: So then you start focusing on “My shoulder hurts.”Then you’re thinking about how bad your shoulder hurts.

Mark: You didn’t listen to music or anything like that?

Chris: I tried to. So there’s a company that they water-proof iPods. So I was testing some out. So if I broke one, I’d send it to them, and they’d make it better. So I was trying to and then once I developed… through the second half, I was trying to do audio books and stuff like that. Teach yourself. Didn’t always work, but at least it broke up the monotony. Something.

Sometimes I’m not following the story, but at least I’m listening to something different.

But what really got me through the day was thinking about the conversations with the families that I met.

So, you know, we had a kayak. The kayak that went down with me. Every time the privilege of meeting a family, they would write the name of the loved one on a little message on there. So whenever I’m having a terrible… I’m struggling, I’m having a rough time right now. I’m feeling pretty miserable. I can look up at that kayak and see these names one there, and I realize, “No matter how difficult this is right now, it’s going to be over at some point. I’m going to get out of the water. I’m going to go be able to lay down and rest.”

These families had to live with their burden for the rest of their lives. So what is it for me to push a few more hours to overcome this day when these families have to… there’s nothing they can do about their loss. And they’re dealing with it.

So I was like, “What’s that? What’s a few more hours? What’s 5 more miles? What is that to that?” So…

And I would just think about the stories they tell me and I would want to… Every time we had a meeting with a family I would run over what we talked about in my head a lot. So that’s what I think about. So I learned about a family…

When I talked to them, I didn’t just talk about how they lost them. I learned about how they were lost, but I also talk about the happy memories. Who were they as a person? What did they like to do growing up? What were their hobbies? Some funny stories, just to keep that legacy of who they really were alive. So that’s what I’d think about. Those families. Just to keep it fresh in my mind.

When I would swim down the river, I would look up at a name and be able to, like, remember that story about that person. That’s on there. Who’s that hero on the kayak, and I think about them and I move through thinking about that story and who they were.

Then I look at another name, and be focusing on what family am I gonna meet next. What’s the next city that I’m gonna have the chance to meet some more families.

But some of the most impactful things for me… there was one day that I swam. It was freezing cold out. It was pouring down rain. Had a long day and I got out of the river and there’s a family standing on the bank that are waiting for me. And they just come up to me crying, hugging me. Cause I’m this wet, disgusting… They’re hugging me with tears in their eyes. Thanking me for what I was doing. Even though I didn’t know who their son was, the fact that I’m still honoring him, and ensuring that his loss, his sacrifice is not forgotten. That’s what was impactful for me.

And then having families that would drive 5 hours one way just to see me for an hour and then drive right back.

Mark: How did they all find out about this?

Chris: So we would try to do as much local media as possible. And there’s other gold-star family organizations in the area. Like there’s survivor outreach services that we got in connection with. They would hand us off state by state.

Mark: How many folks do you think you connected with on the trip?

Chris: On the kayak itself, I had over 215 signatures, so that’s just 215 that I met in person. Plus, there’s numerous… I would travel. Like there was one weekend that I went to the Iowa State Fair. So we packed up, cause the gold-star families were doing a parade in the fair, and they asked us, “Will you come join us in the parade?” So we packed everything up, just to spend the day with all those families. And having a good time at the Fair. And then drive back and get in the water the next morning.

So that’s what I’m saying, the mental aspect… besides being in your head all day, you’re giving all this effort… it’s physically demanding. And you’re mentally exhausted. But you have to stay on top of your game. Cause when you get out of the river, you’re talking to someone who paid the ultimate… like, that family paid the ultimate sacrifice.

If I get out of the water, I’m just acting tired and drained, what good is that gonna do? You’re not going to help anybody. So you have to make sure that… mentally, that you just kind of wake yourself up and realize what you’re doing. And mentally keep yourself sharp to have that conversation and remember what these people are talking to you about. These awesome families that are sharing the stories of their loved ones.

Mark: That’s amazing.

And how did you determine where the finish-line was? Was it the Gulf of Mexico? When you saw blue water again?

Chris: Yeah, you actually see a little bit of change there, but there’s mile-markers going down. So we used the canoe maps as well as the US Core of Engineers–their river maps as well. So they have, like, markers on there. So on the side of the river occasionally you’ll see little markers. So at the… it’s called the Head of Passes, where the river kind of splits off into three different directions. There’s actually a little wooden platform there with a mile marker zero. Sign on there.

Mark: That’s where the river starts on the south end. So when you passed that, what did that feel like?

Chris: It was so incredible for me. As soon as I finished, I look up. Families from 10 different states had travelled down there to be at that finish. And you can only get to that location by boat, so I had all these awesome volunteers…

Mark: Were out there in boats? Waiting for you?

Chris: Out there in boats. Organization was trying to find boats… all these people who traveled down there, we want them to be there for that experience. As soon as I… that was the most powerful for me. When I finished, I look up and I see all these families together on these boats just having a great time. Just clicking and bonding and just sitting there dancing…

Mark: Were the boats all kind of together? Like, one big party barge?

Chris: Yeah, they’re all lined up. WE had some fire-boats out there shooting water hoses. People cheering. Music playing.

Seeing families from 10 different states just clicking and being able to have that mutual understanding of what they’re going through. Cause they’re truly the only ones who understand the pain and suffering that they’re going through. But seeing them connect and just having a great time was the biggest impact for me as soon as I crossed that line.

Mark: What was the first thing that you did when you crossed the line and finished? After you got out of the water?

Chris: Actually we got up on top of that platform. Got the American flag. Held it up there and kinda just waved the families… just talked to them and then kind of really just enjoy the moment. Just seeing how happy they were made me even more happy.

Cause they were there to encourage me all along the way. Every time I met a family… we’d keep tabs, keep in contact and just seeing how everything was going. So having them share that experience with me, was the biggest thing.

We got the whole team, cause it’s a team thing. I swam it, but there was other people who helped me get down the river too. I couldn’t have done it without the guy in the kayak in front of me. The guy on the second half, who was in the boat.

Mark: Was it the same kayaker who took you the whole thing?

Chris: Yup. It was a very small team. Me swimming, guy kayaking, and a guy on land in a truck. So a lot of the time spent… that’s why our days were so long… sometimes we’d have 3 vehicles. Open our vehicles, drive to the town, put up our camping gear…whatever we had… drive back up, start the swim, and try to finish. And we kind of balanced like that. So there was a lot of stuff on the front and back end of going with a small team.

Mark: Just logistically, yeah.

Chris: But the guy that kayaked with me, he came in 2 weeks in? And he did the entire way with me. Without him… cause he’d be on the radio. If we saw barges, we had to make a decision. I relied on him so much to guide me in that river. He’s the one who looked out…

All these ships are coming out here. Cause they can’t just easily turn and get out of your way. They’re massive barges.

Mark: Did they know in advance that you were going to be on the river?

Chris: The barges and stuff like that?

Mark: Yeah.

Chris: Some did. So we met a lot of great barges that would pass it on. And we would let certain authorities know, “Hey, we plan on being between mile marker 784 and 710 between these days.” And they’d be on the lookout for us. As well if we saw one, he’d be on the channel letting him know, “Hey, this is us. We’re here. What would you like us to do?” a lot of the time.

Cause if we couldn’t get him on the radio, it would take, like, a mile to be able to move and turn those things. So they can’t really get out of our way. I have to get out of their way.

Plus, I don’t want to mess up the normal ship traffic too. Everyone’s got a job. Everyone’s trying to do stuff. I don’t want to mess that up, so wherever we saw something, we would try to hug the side of the channel. Hug one side or the other.

Extended Team
[54:04]

A lot of barges that would talk back to us, “You’re good where you are.” Or asked, “Hey, do you need anything?”

We had so many ships that came up to us and said, “Hey, can we help you out?” They would pass this on. “Hey, look out for this going down the river.” And give us advice.

Mark: Very cool.

Chris: Which was super-helpful. But a lot of fire departments and police, through major cities. St. Louis is probably the most dangerous part of the river. That… giant barge fleets out there. And the river’s moving so quick through there that some people will die in there, cause you can’t get out of the way. So even if I’m swimming sideways, right towards the river, if there’s a fleet there, I can’t necessarily get out of the way.

So they had these ropes with loops on them. 2 Fire-boats that if they saw that I couldn’t get out of the way, then they’re throwing these ropes at me to try to yank me…

Mark: So they went kind of alongside you? While you were swimming through that area?

Chris: They block off other boats, and then one’d go up ahead to see what ship traffic is coming up. They come back, let us know, “Hey, start shifting this way. Start shifting that way.” And one which is there for safety purposes, in case…

Mark: So the team effort really extended to law enforcement, first responders, in all those major cities. The barge traffic itself. The gold-star families. It was all one big intersecting team.

Chris: It is. Even for lodging, you know? A lot of families that would open up their homes. So we’d spend the night with just families. Or we’d camp on the side of the river, and people would bring us food. Hold events for us, and it was awesome.

Mark: What an amazing experience.

How many miles in all did you swim on that event?

Chris: I would say… it’s hard to say. I definitely did more than 2350. I can safely say I did over 2550. I definitely did over that.

Mark: (laughing) You just have no idea how far you went with all of the little side…

Chris: Based off of the mile markers, and how our GPS would say… cause we’d lose our GPS sometimes, but we’d base on the average of for every 5 river miles, I’m doing 6 miles type of thing. Or 7 miles. Depending on how the turns in the river are. So based off of that, I know.

Plus, the lakes. If you’re having to start from a bank somewhere, swim out to get across the lake, and then start cutting down. Or if you have to get out of the way of barges. Here I am swimming over here, and then zigzag back over there. So all… a lot of extra stuff is going on. So it’s hard to say exactly but I’m 100% comfortable saying over 2550.

Mark: That’s awesome. Well done. So what do you think your next challenge is going to be? Do you have any ideas yet?

Chris: So for Legacies Alive, what we do, is we try to pass the torch off to the next person. Actually, our next challenge starts next month. A gold-star mom who lost her son is going to bike from San Diego to the World Trade Center. She’s kicking that off on June 11th.

Mark: Okay. Are you going to be on the support team for that at all?

Chris: Starting off, I’m going to be on the support team. I’m going to try to go out as much as I can. Cause having a support team is huge. It takes so much stress off of the person doing the challenge if they know the team is taking care of… everything’s planned.

So if you’re doing the challenge, and you don’t have to worry about anything else, that makes your life so much easier. You’re just putting more pressure if the challenger has to worry about other aspects of it.

So yeah, that’s my goal, is to make sure everything is as easy as possible for her to accomplish.

Mark: That’s cool. And what do you think is in the future for you? Like, what’s beyond continuing to do work for this foundation or others? What do you think you’re next area of focus is going to be career-wise, and what’s in the future for Chris Ring?

Chris: For Chris Ring…

Mark: (laughing) The Chris Ring show.

Chris: Obviously, continue with Legacies Alive. Supporting a lot of non-profit work is the easy answer. As much as I can to give back to these families. Serving that aspect of these families gave ultimate sacrifice so I wanna keep doing everything I can to keep serving them.

So it’s not just any non-profit too, because one thing about Legacies Alive is we will work with other non-profits. Cause we’re a small non-profit. There’s other non-profits that can do stuff that we can’t do. So let’s go help each other out. Be mutually beneficial in that aspect. And continue on, and seeing how SEALFIT goes, and helping out as much as I can there. And just trying to do everything.

Mark: You do some shoot training, too, with some of your teammates?

Chris: I do. With the help of a company called “Sure Shot” we do a lot of civilian… it’s a civilian company, so we train firearms, shooting, at home defense, natural disaster preparedness. Any training you want to learn, we can come up with it.

Mark: Cool.

Well I certainly look forward to seeing you at the next Kokoro camp, and having you jump into the fray. Some controlled chaos.

Chris: I’ll look forward to it.

Mark: That’d be awesome. What was your… I mean, that was the first time that you got to experience what we do. Kokoro for me is a labor of love. But what were your thoughts after observing that?

Chris: I was very impressed with how everything is put together. From taking the concept of what… you’re not going to go to Kokoro and be disappointed with the experience that you’re getting. It’s going to be everything that you expect from it, if not more. You know, it’s… every training aspect of it, you know where it comes from. You know where the basis of it, from this BUD/S lifestyle. And then it that’s your goal, to get that experience, then you’re going to get it from doing that Kokoro camp.

Mark: Yeah, that’s true. Well said.

Awesome. Any final thoughts for folks who are listening? Any motivational thoughts or comments to help people kind of navigate their day or their lives? Anything that pops into your head?

Chris: Yeah, I would say… there’s kind of 2 things I can think about. My earlier statement was “Time stops for no man, “so as you’re pushing through to strive for your goal, realize that no matter… don’t take time for granted, I could say. So, I use the aspect of “Time stops for no man,” as you can apply to it when times are rough. But you can also apply it to when times are good as well. So things are going well for you, but remember, it may not last forever. So take advantage of what it is, and really live up to what you’re experiencing in a moment.

And then on the back-end, if things are going rough, know, hey, that’s not going to be forever. You’re going to overcome it.

And the next is obstacle. Everyone’s going to face obstacles in life. But obstacles are not a bad thing. Everyone says, “Oh, this is terrible,” but take advantage of that obstacle. It’s a reset buoy. “What am I capable of? What am I not capable of? Where am I at in life right now? What can I learn? What can I do better?” And just take advantage of those obstacles to improve yourself and to be a better person.

Mark: Yeah, awesome. That’s your teacher. The obstacle’s the way.

Chris: The obstacle’s the way. And strive to be better.

Mark: Yeah, absolutely.

Awesome. Chris, thanks very much for your time. Super-appreciate it. Really very much enjoyed the conversation, and I’m just imagining right now, like, “Wow. Would I have the balls to go swim 2500 miles?” You’ve laid down the gauntlet.

Chris: (laughing) Well, it’s doable, so…

Mark: (laughing) It is doable. Now we know.

Hooyah.

All right everyone. Thanks very much for listening. Super-appreciate your time, Chris and I do. And we know that there’s lots more work to do. So it’s time for you to get back to work.

So stay focused. Do your training. And we’ll see you next time.

Hooyah.

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