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Podcast No. 7: Robert Moeller, Veteran Navy SEAL, Running 100 Miles
My guest today is Robert Moeller.
A Navy SEAL for 13 years, Moe recently completed the first ever Specter Series event, in which he skydived into the Pacific Ocean, swam 3 miles shore, then ran 100 miles around the California coastline, all to raise money and awareness for the SEAL Future Fund. In Part 1 of this podcast, I spoke to Moe two days before the event took place. We discuss his training, how WHOOP helped him prepare, and the motivation behind taking on such an incredible challenge. We also talk about his time in the Navy, including when he knew he was going to become a SEAL, what he went through to make it happen, SEAL training Hell Week, the experience of his first mission and the mindset needed to achieve success, as well as some funny stories around team building and brotherhood. In Part 2 we recap the event, looking at what was necessary for Moe and the other SEALs to cross the finish line, what they saw in their WHOOP data, and what they’ll do in 2019 to somehow take it up a notch. Coming from someone who spent more than a decade as one of the most elite operators on the planet, I found Moe’s thoughts on human performance to be very inspiring, and I think you will too.
4:06 - Inspiration to Become a SEAL. Moe met a SEAL when he was 10 years old who later sent him the book Brave Men, Dark Waters by Orr Kelly. “That was the first book I ever read cover to cover. … I said ‘That’s it, that’s what I’m going to do.’” 6:38 - BUD/S. Stands for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL. “I knew I was leaving in one of two ways, as a SEAL or in a bodybag, and that’s it.” He also discusses the team building value of just throwing seven guys in a boat together. 8:59 - From 168 Down to 21. The number of people who started in his class, and those who actually graduated. What attributes are most likely to predict who succeeds? “If somebody looked at me, they would never say ‘Oh that’s a Navy SEAL. … You don’t know what you have inside of you until you’re put through that six months of hell.” 10:30 - Hell Week is when a lot of people break. “The guys who are going to make it through have that look in their eye … this look of almost happiness because they know they’re doing what they want to do.” 13:06 - Combat Sidestroke. He was never a runner, but was always very comfortable swimming. “If you’re trying to muscle your way through the water, the water is going to win every single time.” Moe explains the technique used by SEALs. 16:57 - People You Can Call at 3:00 AM. “There’s not an aspect in my life that wasn’t shaped from me going through BUD/S. … It is a lifetime full of friendships.” 18:42 - First Mission. “For me it was just like ‘Oh, this is what’s going on, here’s what I need to do and you need to get it done.’” 20:30 - Necessary Mindset. “Anything we do on a daily basis becomes routine, business is business.” 22:28 - Physiological Data? “There was nothing I could look at to let me know if I was ready, whether it was physically or mentally. … I wish there was, it would’ve been a game changer back then.” 24:24 - Meditation as Preparation. He tried to do it 10-25 minutes a day while in the service, but had no way to monitor if it worked or not. Visualization as well. 25:18 - The Rip Its Challenge. “Think poor man’s Red Bull.” Moe never drank coffee while in the Navy. He recounts some playful tales of “friendly hazing.” 29:24 - First Experience with WHOOP. He describes previously using a variety of other technology that wasn’t practical. “Once I put the WHOOP Strap on I started seeing a story unfold in front of me every day. … It completely changed how I looked at training.” 32:55 - How it Can Benefit the Military. “From an operator standpoint, there are so many things that you don’t have control of ... but what you can control is the response that your body has from different evolutions when it comes to training.” 35:15 - Specter Series. What prompted it? “It came out of a need to just not be average.” Moe explains that transitioning out of the service was the hardest thing he ever had to do, and how the SEAL Future Fund makes it easier for others. “I’d rather be in a firefight than put a suite and tie on.” 39:47 - Strain. Moe credits WHOOP for preventing him from overtraining for the event. He also describes what his strain was like, and how identical runs resulted in lower strain as his fitness improved. 43:03 - Sleep. “I went from sleeping maybe 4.5 to 5 hours a night, to now, four-and-a-half months later, sleeping 7.5 to 8 hours, and it’s because I didn’t want to wake up and not see my recovery be green.” 44:27 - Recovery. He’s a big fan of NormaTec, Theragun and cryotherapy, which he tries to do every day, sometimes twice. “Those three things have been the best recovery modalities that I’ve found, and I’ve pretty much done them all at this point.” Moe also submerges himself completely in the cryotank, “Classic SEAL move,” Will says. 50:37 - Napping. He didn’t believe in it until Kristen Holmes suggested it might be a good idea considering he was running 30 miles per day to train. The results showed in his recovery. 51:40 - Expectations for the Event, including the jump, the swim, the run, and what gear and equipment he’ll be carrying throughout. “I’ll have kit on, so I’ll have different pockets ... instead of mags I have goos.” 59:57 - Prediction. His official guess for how long it’ll take to finish: 33 hours and 47 minutes. “Once you’re a team you’re always a team … we are running this together, if one of us has a bad race we’re probably throwing him over our shoulders and we’re going to continue running.”
1:03:08 - Everybody Finished! - Moe’s prediction was very close, despite his rocky start jumping out of the plane. 1:05:38 - Heart Rate During the Jump. It spiked on the flight up, but then actually dropped during free fall. “That’s truly where I’m at my best, I’m just comfortable there.” 1:07:55 - The Run. “We not only came out of the gate extremely fast, none of us had ever run a distance like that before.” Moe tells the story of a random ultra marathon runner they met that day who dramatically helped them by advising they adjust their pace. 1:10:05 - Darkest Thought he had during the run? “Right around the 35-mile mark I might have wanted to punch a couple people that had cameras.” 1:11:09 - Asleep While Running? Moe says it happened. 1:12:49 - Hallucinations? He had those too. “I saw hostile guys coming out of the bushes.” 1:16:48 - Injuries. The active-duty SEAL actually fractured his heal and kept on going. “We were like, ‘Do you want to quit?’ He said ‘I will kill both of you before I quite.’” 1:19:22 - Nutrition & Hydration. “I didn’t eat much, I really couldn’t stomach much food” outside of a couple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. “The other guys, there were eating pizza, Chick-fil-A, they’re machines. … Those guys are tanks, they could eat anything and drink anything and they’d be fine.” 1:20:37 - Going to 'That Place' Again. “Right around mile 80, that’s when I opened up that door.” 1:22:23 - Last 20 Miles. “It was painful, and it was terrible, but at the same time there was a part of me that was like ‘I don’t get to do this anymore, so enjoy it.’” 1:23:07 - How Hard Was It? Where did the Specter event rank compared to other things he’s been through? “That was definitely in the top three hardest things I’ve ever done, hands down.” 1:23:51 - The 21 Club? What did his strain data look like? “I was 20.7 two days in a row.” Will says “We still have yet to see a 21.” 1:25:42 - Sleep Afterwards. His first sleep cycle after finishing was only 4.5 hours long, with many disturbances. “Any time I put myself through that traumatic a stressor as far as training goes, I have a very hard time shutting down.” Then for the next two sleep cycles he got almost exclusively REM sleep. “I think that when the body is at that point it knows it has to take care of the brain because that’s the most vital piece.” 1:28:07 - How Did He Recover? Did he take Ibuprofen or anything while competing? “I am such a data dork, I didn’t want to take anything because I wanted to see my data as raw as possible. … It took me three days to get into the green again.” 1:31:26 - The Next Specter Series. What will they do to top this? 1:32:01 - Want to Donate? Learn more here. 1:33:08 - “It’s Been Eye Opening.” Moe describes the work he's doing now educating tactical athletes to the benefits of biometric monitoring. “I’ve had people call me, email me, text me, and say ‘What you guys are doing at WHOOP is a game changer and you’re saving lives.’”