March Full Team Training

10001134_825720180788377_175787097_oMount Diablo State Park again played host to CoCoSAR’s monthly full-team training. The March edition was a Type 2 fitness hike. In contrast to the driving rain and wind that challenged searchers during the February mock search training, the March weather was postcard-perfect.

The hike is a 6-mile loop, circling the upper slopes of Mount Diablo with 1,600 feet of cumulative elevation gain. To maintain Type 2 status, each member must complete the course with a 20-pound pack in under 3 ½ hours.

Beginning from the Laurel Nook picnic area (2,900 feet), the route heads up Juniper Trail to the summit overflow lot (3,700 feet), then down the Summit and North Peak trails to Prospectors Gap (3,000 feet). The descent continues along Bald Ridge Trail to Murchio Gap and onto Meridian Ridge Road. Near the junction with Mitchell Canyon Road (2,000 feet), the climbing resumes up Deer Flat Road, with a difficult final mile back to Juniper Campground.

Larry Fong organized the training and reported 29 team members successfully completed the hike. An additional 30 team members provided support, as roving or stationary proctors on the course, time-keepers, medics and radio communications.

Four other Type 2 qualifying hikes are planned for 2014.

Additional Type 2 Hikes Available


The following Type 2 qualifying hike opportunities have been added to the CoCoSAR team calendar. Please sign up on the website when the event is posted. Team members are encouraged to participate as proctors and for conditioning and encouragement. Be a good teammate!

The requirement is to complete the specified 5-mile course in no more than 2.5 hours and carrying a 20-pound pack. Course map and GPS tracks are on the CoCoSAR website in the documents section. Maps will not be provided at the site.

Team uniforms are not required. Do not bring non-SAR canines; if your canine is not on the SAR Canine Resource, do not bring him/her.

The Type 2 hike location is at the Shell Ridge (WCOS) trailhead at Marshall Drive by Indian Valley Elementary School in Walnut Creek. Google Map 500 Marshal Drive for directions.

  • Monday, Aug. 26 – 1800 hours sign-in and weigh-in, 1815 hours timed start
  • Sunday, Sept. 15 – 0800 hours sign-in and weigh-in, 0815 hours timed start
  • Tuesday, Oct. 7 - 1800 hours. This is the first class of the Type 2 Academy. Uniforms (full team/proctor) are required. All team members are encouraged to participate in order to support the new Type 2 Academy team members.

There will be one more Type 2 hike qualifying opportunity in calendar year 2013.

Summer Is Here


By Nancy Hart

Our summer Search and Rescue missions can bring us into some long hot days. It's important to know the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses for ourselves, for our subjects, and for our teammates. I know this well now after my experience at this year's County Fair. It was in the upper 90s on Friday and a whopping 105 degrees on Saturday. Even with sunscreen, I was sunburned on Friday. My body's cooling system just couldn't keep up on Saturday with the burn and the even higher temperatures. Although I drank plenty of water and wore sunscreen, I still succumbed to heat exhaustion by late Saturday. And like the subject in Diane Blue's scenario at last month's full team training, I tried to keep going!  Thanks to a teammate who kept insisting I had too much sun, I finally signed out and spent the next two days nursing a headache and staying indoors. Be safe out there!

Heat Illnesses To Be On The Watch For

Heat edema (and it starts)
Heat causes blood vessels to dilate (open up) and as the body is starting to have trouble with using salt to sweat out, fluid will pool in the hands and legs. Ever get those puffy fingers when running or hiking?

Heat exhaustion (milder initial stage)
Move into an air-conditioned environment and don’t go back out into the sun for at least a day or two or the condition will return and possibly be worse!
• profusely sweating
• rapid weak pulse
• rapid breathing (just can’t “catch your breath”)
• blood pressure drops when standing up (you feel dizzy)
• fatigue (you might feel a little “out of it” and “tired”)
• reddened face changes to -> pale, cool, and moist
• headache
• muscle cramping
• nausea (sometimes vomiting)

Heat stroke (next stage, can be deadly!!)
Immediately get out of the sun, in an air-conditioned room preferably, and sponge cool water on the skin. Call for an ambulance to the emergency room.
• sweating has stopped!! – skin is dry, red and hot (body’s sweating mechanism has failed)
• body temperature is up over 101 degrees F
• confusion (Can your teammate or subject remember where they are? What the plans were for the day? What day of the week it is? Their name or your name?)
• throbbing headache and nausea
• severe cramps (as if muscles are encased in cement and you can’t move)
• pulse is fast, breathing rapid, blood pressure low

CDC Facts on Heat Illness, Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke


By Jeremiah Deespush

Pushing requires nearly the same skeletal mechanics as pulling; however force is applied in the opposite direction. This requires a different pattern of muscular activation. As with the pulling, get the movement pattern right before pushing against resistance.

I often ask people to demonstrate how they would push me over and they look a lot like I do in these pictures. Then I have them do pushups or bench press and the first thing they do is raise their elbows and lift their shoulders (a strategy that will quickly damage the shoulder under load).

When performing pushups, mimic the positioning represented in the pictures above.

  • Start in the plank position.
  • Take a deep breath into your belly to establish a positive bridge.
  • Hold your shoulder blades down against the back of the rib cage as you do the pushup.
  • Break the arms toward your sides and lower your chest toward the ground.
  • Keeping the body in a rigid bridge, press your hands into the floor. Create tension in your abdomen, around your ribs, in your chest and the backs of your arms. Notice how the body aids the arms and chest while pushing away.
  • Be sure to extend your arms all the way, while leaving your shoulders back against the ribs.
  • For pushups from the knees, keep hips in line between knees and shoulders.

Bend from the hips

By Jeremiah Deesbend from the hips

Every time we exercise we start with hip bending. Our focus is to get our mobility established and this motor pattern dialed before adding load, speed and volume. Start with a very slow hip bend, described below. Move only within the range of motion your body will volunteer. As repetitions increase, you will notice two things happen:

  1. Additional range of motion becomes available all by itself.
  2. The motion is executed with more speed.

This is because your body is adapting to how you’ve decided to generate the movement. More importantly, your mechanics are now congruent with the human design. Your nerves are realizing there is no need for muscular guarding and as these mechanisms relax, your movement becomes more fluid.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Place your hands on your hips so that you are holding the crests of your pelvis.
  • Take a deep breath into your belly, and then gather your abdomen as you exhale. Maintain this spine-stacked-on-pelvis relationship throughout the movement.
  • Shift your weight backwards, bending only from the hip. Your hip joints will move backwards in space and you should feel your pelvis tilting forward. You should also feel weighted through your heels, with little to no weight on the forward parts of your feet.
  • Keep bending until the backs of your thighs feel tight. There should be no tension in your back. If there is, then you’ve also bent your back.
  • Hang out here for a moment; literally, hang on your hamstrings. You are bending over without bending your knees and directing the majority of the load to the big muscles of your thighs and butt. This is how healthy bending becomes back injury prevention!
  • We are going to take our time getting back upright. Squeeze the muscles in the backs of your thighs and butt. Notice that as they shorten, your hips are levered back forward. Keep squeezing until your hips are underneath your shoulders.

Previous article in this series

Three Reasons You Should Do The Upcoming Type 2 Qualifying Hikes–Even If You’re Not Qualifying

photo (12)

1. Build Your SAR Conditioning
Searching requires hiking, and the best way to condition yourself for hiking is to hike – with a fully loaded 24-hour pack. Getting out and climbing some hills with your pack on builds and maintains the exact muscle groups you're going to need when that callout comes. Doing a timed hike is also an opportunity to benchmark where you currently are with your conditioning. 

2. Build Your SAR Knowledge
Chances are, you'll be hiking with fellow team members who have different skills and experience than you do and chatting as you go is a great way to learn from each other (and keep your mind off those hills). At the last qualifying hike, new team members were able to get detailed information about communications and radios from a more seasoned team member who's an expert in those areas. 

3. Build Your SAR Friendships
Nothing creates camaraderie like supporting your fellow team members! It's also a fun way to get social and learn more about people with whom you might not be familiar. That connection will pay dividends at the next training or callout.

Larry Fong will be organizing Type 2 qualifying hikes every month, between now and October. The June and July Type 2 qualifying hike dates are now available for sign-up on the website. All team members must sign up if they plan on attending, so Larry knows to expect you and can safely manage the hike. (If no one signs up, he won't be there, or have proctors and hiking company in place.) If it's unavoidably last minute/same day, please text Larry on his cell to let him know you'll be there (or if you won't, but had signed up).

Searcher Fitness: Achieving A Neutral Spine Posture

By Jeremiah Dees

The most important characteristic of healthy movement is the ability to stabilize the lower spine and pelvis while mobilizing the other parts of the body; especially the hips, thoracic spine and shoulders. Your focus when doing any type of exercise should be on quality of movement and appropriate muscle activation patterns. 

Exercise: Practice Achieving A Neutral Spine
Sit on a stability ball (or chair if you don't have one) with your feet flat on the ground. Take a deep breath into your belly. Go ahead – let it get fat!  Now exhale. Notice how you got a little bit taller with deep inhalation into the belly. You may also have gotten a little shorter on the exhale. 

Take another deep breath into your belly and allow it to make you tall in your spine. When you exhale this time, stay tall. What did you have to do to accomplish this? Most people report that their abdomen firms up a bit (say 20 percent activation). This is the goal.

On your next big belly breath, you’ll notice that your abdomen doesn’t have to be on when your lungs are full. This is because when you belly breath, your diaphragm is fully activated and it creates postural stability. It’s taken the load away from the abdominal muscles. 

When you breathe out and your abdomen regathers that 20 percent, I would like you to also relax your neck and shoulders. Did your shoulders drop? Congratulations! The weight of your shoulders and arms are now resting on the rib cage, rather than hanging from the back of your head.

Now, take one more deep belly breath. When you exhale this time I want you to also lightly gather the muscles on the backs of your shoulder blades.The key concept here is lightly gather the muscles. They merely aid the drop of the shoulders and position the arms in a functionally stable position.

Give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve achieved neutral spine the natural way.  No longer are your muscles playing a tug of war inside your body. Instead you’ve coached them to cooperatively work together in an effort to hold you upright against gravity. 

This strategy is one you’ll be able to sustain for the rest of your life. In fact, with a little conditioning, all these cues to “gather here” and “squeeze there” will become the way you move all the time. 

Next: Bend from the Hips

My Perspective: The DEH, ctd.

Purple sage

“I forgot how hard the DEH is! The hike up is so hard on my heels that all I want to do is go downhill. Then going down the summit I realize that my heels don't hurt as much, but my knees want to give up. It is a great test for me, to see how much my body can take."
Lauren Thomas

The DEH is an effective measure of fitness for Type 1 participation. It represents the minimum level of fitness required for responding to Type 1 callouts. As challenging as it may be, it's a beautiful hike filled with expansive views, springtime wild flowers, and local wildlife.”
Mark Wilfer

“The DEH tests both mind and body. Physically, it gets easier the more I do it, but it’s still a mental challenge every time. Because of the mountain's natural beauty and weather conditions, it's a different hike on any given day. But what consistently makes it special for me is the encouragement and camaraderie of fellow team members. No matter what my conditioning level is, there are some who are faster and some who are slower, and it’s always gratifying to know that we look out for and support each other on the trail.”
Natalie Zensius

I think the hardest part of the DEH is understanding that it was necessary to make a "no running" rule.
Pierce Plam

“While the DEH is an opportunity for some people to show their amazing physical fitness levels, some use it to demonstrate their true team spirit. The latter was best exemplified for me when, in a SAR role reversal, my “coachee” Natalie Zensius took me under her wing and made sure I finished the hike, not only in time, but well under what is allotted. As she has far more hiking/backpacking savvy than I, she took the lead, encouraging me all the way with “You’re doing great!” This meant she had to hold back her drive to best her own time, but in the end, she still came in at her fastest pace while ensuring I succeeded, too. What a win-win!”
Wilma Murray

“This was one of my most memorable DEH hikes due to the weather, flowers and the fact I cut 25 minutes off my time! The cool cloudy weather really made the normally sun-drenched hike much easier and also perked up the flowers. I probably could have cut another five or 10 minutes off my time had I not had to stop for all the flower photos (this is only a third of the pics!). This hike saw one of the largest turnouts we've had and it's because we have a great team of dedicated people who like to see just how tough they can be!”
Todd Rogers

“The DEH is a challenging accomplishment and one that says "I'm there!" until the next challenge comes along because it’s only a milestone benchmark. Don't assume you can make up significant time going down after going up; going down has its moments – they’re just different. Overall, this hike opens up a whole new world, confidence, opportunity and a beginning.”
Larry Fong

“Avoid the doughnuts! Carrying an extra 20lbs for 11 miles and 3,000’+ altitude gain lets you know why you don't want to gain that extra weight! Is it tougher going up or coming down? Up is tough on the cardio system, down is hard on legs, feet, joints (plus, you have fatigue setting in). Survey says: coming down. As always, our proctors are awesome! Giving up a Sunday to shepherd the flock up and down the mountain truly reflects the SAR spirit.”
Pat Dodson

The DEH is a challenging but beautiful hike so I was anticipating it with both excitement and dread. It turned out to be a beautiful day for a hike. That and a new personal best time made it much more rewarding than dreadful.
Joe Keyser

On the day 14 team members and myself took on the DEH, it was at the beginning of a heat wave for the Bay Area. Even with an early start the heat filled the area as the Sun rose. My pride was garnered not by the successful completion of the event by 12 members but rather by the assistance each member rendered to or were ready to render to others:

  • Two explorers gave up their Sunday to help shepherd a fellow Team member up and back.
  • Two members aided a SAR hiker down the trail when she had far too many blisters for comfort, but still she made the time with their help.
  • Hikers that had completed early stayed in place ready to render aid, until all were accounted for and code 4.
  • A SAR Proctor stayed without hesitation with a fellow hiker that found this day hot and far too long (7+ hours).
  • And for one person that did not meet the time, she showed nothing but enthusiasm asking when would there be a next opportunity.

This was not a day of speed but rather heart.
John Banuelos

"My first DEH was a good test and I appreciated the support of a hiking partner, Claudia Langley, who had experience and knew the ups and downs of the route. And yes, bringing an extra pair of boots and socks (hiking and mountaineering) can come in handy for yourself or others!"
John Hubinger

The top of mountain is a long way up. But going down is harder. Slippery gravel roils with anticipation.
Don Kavanagh