SGPT: Tell us about yourself?
Mark Klemm: My name is Mark Klemm. I currently live in Lebanon NH. I am 33 years old and constantly am being told I act like I am 5 haha. I live with my wife, Serena, and two kids, Kingston and Kiana. Right after high school I joined the Navy and was stationed on the USS Enterprise in Norfolk Virginia as an Aviation Ordnanceman. When I got out I went to college in Boston MA, where I received my bachelors in business. While in college I started training Muay Thai. After about a year of training I began competing as an amateur. In 2009 I turned pro and continued competing in the U.S. and in Thailand. Two years ago my family and I moved to NH and we opened our own Muay Thai gym.
SGPT: Did you have an athletic background growing up?
MK: Nope. I didn’t play any sports growing up. I did ride a BMX bike everywhere though. There was a group of us who didn’t like team sports but we loved riding. Anywhere we could find dirt we built jumps and that was our hang out spot until the cops came to kick us out haha. And then on to the next place. All day, everyday I was on my bike.
I took training for GORUCK Selection
like I was training a title fight in Muay Thai, which is very serious. I looked at Selection like an opponent in the ring. Most of my training I hated. I have done a ton of different events including Tough Mudder, Spartan Race Invitational, marathons and 1 Ultra Marathon in the mountains of Vermont. I trained for all of these by just sticking with my Muay Thai workouts twice a day. Because of the percentage of people who fail Selection, I decided for the first time to mix up my workouts. Most of my workouts were still training Muay Thai at least twice a day, sometimes three times a day. Times were 6am, 12 noon and 6:30pm. Muay Thai class involves running or skipping rope (Thai jump rope), bear crawls, crab walks, walking plank, and sprints as a warm up. Shadow boxing with 9lb weights is next, for 6 minutes. Pad work and bag work follow shadow boxing. After that sparring/clinching and lastly a ton of different abs exercises averaging about 500. Things I added to this were, I went to another gym called Wayne’s World where I did bootcamps Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a full ruck plus added weight. The bootcamp was 1 hour long and was 19 different stations and went around 3 times. I hated every minute of this, especially Friday because it was at 6am. I would run to the gym with my ruck (not jogged but ran), do bootcamp, then after class I jogged home and walked the hills. It was about a 4 mile round-trip run.
I bought a 120 lb sand bag with three – 40lb fillers also, I found a cut up telephone pole and took a piece of it. It weighed 57 lbs. I made up random workouts with them and my ruck. All sand bag and log workouts were done in my back yard. We have 15 acres of land with woods and a field with 10 foot tall weeds so I came up with some weird shit back there. Boring stuff! I hate lifting. It’s so pointless to me. Muay Thai is ALL I need.
The thing I hated most was rucking. I can’t stand it. Walking is a nightmare to begin with, let alone with a weighted pack on your back!! So I only rucked once a week but made it a long one. I was averaging 2-2 1/2 hours on my 12 miler so I knew I could do that for the PT test. After I knew I was all set with the PT part came the hard rucks. I added extra weight so my ruck was 65-90 lbs and would hit the mountains. The mountains in NH and VT are no joke with really difficult trails.
I trained hard as shit 6 days per week, taking Sunday’s off no matter what the weather was. I did take 1 week off because I got bursitis in my right knee really bad and was put on antibiotics. Other than that, no breaks. My last month I went 100% sober, not one sip of alcohol. And 2 weeks out I tapered my ruck stuff out and replaced it with yoga.
SGPT: Tell us a little about the event? Where was it?
MK: Selection was held in Bellbrook, Ohio. When they gave the starting point I googled it and saw it was in a state park. It looked like a watered down NH. When we did the PT test I was very comfortable. When I was training, I did push ups and sit ups on rocks and decline and everywhere else possible that was uncomfortable so when I had to do them on flat grass it was easy. The run and ruck were on the same trail as each other. I was running about 35 minutes for 5 miles on really tough trails at home, so this was a walk in the park for me. (Train hard so the fight is easy.) I did everything so much and beat my ass daily for almost 5 months, that I knew I was gonna be OK during Selection. There was a ton of talk up about the Welcome Party too. So many people quit during this! The Welcome Party is the first thing you do in Selection. If you sign up for Selection you obviously know they yell and talk shit to you. It blew my mind how many people quit during this part. It was the most fun and easy part of Selection for me. Everything in the Welcome Party is a race/competition. As they say “it pays to be the winner”. I love competing and thrive off of it. When the cadre would talk shit to me, especially after I won an event, all it did was fuel my fire to go win some more! If you don’t think like this than don’t sign up. You have to like doing this kind of shit to pass.
SGPT: What was hardest part of the event?
MK: The hardest part was definitely the “Long Walk”. I did it several times at home sometimes up to 21 miles on mountains. Brutal!! But I never did it when I was tired. Always fresh. I started hallucinating on the trails during Selection. All I wanted was for the sun to come up. I really injured my knee before the long walk and could barely put any weight on it. The walk was slow, boring, and frustrating. Once the sun came up I was back on my shit because I knew it was almost done!
SGPT: What is one thing you wish you would have done to get ready for GORUCK Selection?
MK: I wouldn’t change anything I did. I am so happy with my performance those 48 hours. My training was worth everything I put myself through. If your workouts don’t absolutely suck then you’re not training right. I mean miserable workouts so when Selection comes you already beat that shit a million times!
SGPT: Any tips for up and coming athletes that want to do GORUCK Selection?
MK: Train hard. I honestly never shorted any workouts. You cant. When you fight and enter the ring all you do is think what you put yourself through and your mind convinces your body that you are gonna fucking destroy your opponent. If you do weak ass workouts or went out boozing with your friends when you should have been recovering you will only think about things you shouldn’t have done which weakens your mind. All of my training partners, my wife and myself were not surprised at all that I finished. They all knew. You have to know!! Also find a gym that will strengthen your mind. CrossFit is not one of these gyms. Trust me! J/K but seriously, I was nowhere near the strongest person at Selection. Probably not the fastest either. I guarantee I had the strongest mind and that made me the strongest and fastest. Muay Thai is awesome. It is the only combat sport where winning doesn’t matter. Sure its great to win but its so much more than that. Its fighting yourself. There’s one rule that Muay Thai has and it’s not to quit. Every traditional Muay Thai gym is the same. Don’t quit. This translates into anything that you do. Also its cardio non-stop which played a huge role in Selection, especially during the Welcome Party. I saw all the muscle heads gas out on every exercise, then they were left for the sharks. How’s those big muscles now, bucko?! I’m not saying CrossFit and weight lifting are bad but you definitely don’t need that shit in your workouts. All the weight I primarily used was my own body weight. Push ups, pull ups, burpees, rope climbs, sit ups. Workout to learn something while getting in shape. Martial arts helped me so much mentally for this mind fuck.
SGPT: What kind of boots did you use for the event?
MK: Hahaha the boot question. I wore Nike Frees running shoes. All of my workouts are done in sneakers. I do own a pair of Hitec and a pair of Merrels, but don’t workout in them. Selection is 48 hours long. You need to be comfortable and you need to be fast. If it was a week long event in the mountains I would have worn boots but they are unnecessary for Selection. Comfort and speed is what you need. Everyone had on boots and everybody failed!
MK: Same thing with the socks. I had regular black Nike socks. Same socks I wear on a daily basis. Never double socks and I never put anything on them. No glide, no baby powder. I did bring a pair of wool socks for the long walk which got soaked by the time that started but who cares right?! I didn’t get one blister or one cut on my feet. They were barely even wrinkly after.
SGPT: What kind of ruck did you use for training and the event?
I borrowed a friends GR1 pack. You need a GORUCK ruck for Selection, I still don’t know why. They say in case yours breaks, they will have another for you to continue. If your ruck breaks than it should be on you. Too bad! I own a ruck that I did a Heavy Event with and it was fine. Also my son and I go on long hiking trips and I carry all of our gear, food, water, tents and everything else and it weighs 60-75 lbs. Its called a Condor. It was very inexpensive and I have beat the shit out of it and there’s no problem with it at all. I broke the stitching on the right arm strap of the GR1 in the middle of my training. I had to pay to send it out, which they did do a great job of repairing, but then had to wait for them to send it back. I paid for the fastest shipping possible because I didn’t want to miss my workouts and it was gone for 2 weeks.
SGPT: How did you hydrate and fuel your body during the event?
MK: All I really drink on a daily basis is water. I know about dehydration and knew how it could affect me in Selection. I made it a priority to finish a 3L bladder and a whole Nalgene bottle at the minimum on my 12 mile rucks at home. Learning to drink a lot of water was part of my training. Even when you’re not thirsty, drink! I peed every 10 minutes during selection, sometimes even in my pants when I was wet and cold. One of the cadre said he had never seen someone piss so much. The whole 48 hours there was never even the slightest tint of yellow in my pee. Two days before the event, I drank a lot of water and Pedialyte. For food, I packed 1 MRE and I took whole wheat crackers, granola bars, almonds, a couple Oreos, and rice cakes and put them in a blender. Once it was mixed together I put raisins and peanut butter in there.
SGPT: What is your next big event?
MK: Not sure what it is. I always say it’s my last one, then I decide to do some other shit. haha. I don’t know why I do these events sometimes. I guess it’s a reward at the end when my kids are there. I love seeing my son and daughter at the finish of any event that I do. I want to be someone who they look up to. My last fight that I had, I had my son who was 4 at the time working my corner. Giving me the water and rubbing my legs in between the rounds. That’s some fucking motivation for ya not to lose! There are no plans for anything now, just training at my gym.
SGPT: What book are you reading now?
MK: So I hate reading. I hate sitting still. I am always on the go and my wife always tells me to chill out. I am cooking on the grill, playing with my kids, while I am writing this. No attention span. With that said, I did buy 2 books to read as part of my training. They were called “Champions Mind” and “Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable.” Relentless is awesome. I felt like the book was written about me except I didn’t play basketball, but the book isn’t about basketball, its about being fucking relentless!!!. I read on my downtime in between training sessions as another way to get my mind right and do something I hate doing.
SGPT: Many thanks for the interview.
MK: Thanks a lot for reaching out. It was a pleasure!
SGPT Interviews GORUCK Selection graduate Paige Bowie