South Carelian Military March 2019

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Our experience in the SCMM road and off-road divisions. There are never too many good marching events and the South Carelian Military March - organized for the tenth time this year - is definitely among the best in Finland. You can choose between a division that has your patrol avoid being detected while completing tasks, or a traditional march along roads. The idea is a straight-forward and fun challenge. This year we participated in both main divisions and here's our report.

Preparation

Last year we prepared with a lot of SoMe presence in the form of a diary. This year we shelfed the video camera and focused on the fundamentals: traditional marching exercise solo or with a team and a hefty weight on the back to make it good practice. The terrain near our base of operations in Konala has a couple of hills, which provide a good route summit-to-summit-to-summit. Ascending hills with a backpack does wonders to your buttocks.

Neither division requires superhuman abilities, but a base level of physical condition is very good to have as well as preparation beforehand. It's a lot less frustrating and more safe that way. A good stamina is essential especially when you go into the forest in the night after little sleep.



The off road division starts on the roads before competitors spread up into patrols.

Tervis' thoughts on preparations

“I began to get ready for the march at the end of December 2018 with 15 km (9 mi) walks and a 10 kg (22 lbs) backpack. From the first steps, I documented and analyzed everything with Sports Tracker. My goal was to walk 100 kilometres per month, which means 25 km (15.5 mi) for one week. I walked alone and with buddies, in the freezing cold and milder weather, snowfall and clear days. I also started taking magnesium citrate supplements twice a day to avoid cramps, which amounted to a total number of zero for my entire practice routine and actual march.

All together I walked 329 km (204 mi) before SCMM and my longest single accomplishment was the 40 km (25 mi) Brandstein March, which was hosted earlier in the same month in Loviisa. It gave me good insight about route planning, energy intake and other activity during movement as well as recovery after the march.”

Off road division

In the off road division patrols move from one checkpoint to another along routes they deem to be most suitable. Some checkpoints involve tasks. The total time is 24 hours, which of course isn't all walking. The shortest lines between checkpoints are about 45 km combined, but obviously the terrain, enemy activity and other factors you actually walk a significantly longer distance.

The scenario for this year was an adventurous patrol behind enemy lines. The guidance was rather blank and patrols had to prepare for basically anything that involves being in the bush with enemy presence. Apart from a few specific pieces of equipment and tasks the patrols had a lot of freedom to choose how to equip themselves, and it obviously came with the responsibility as well.

To make it less of a running competition, the organizers cut up some railroad track for each patrol to carry over the finishing line. The weight was about 5 kg (11 lbs) so it wasn't a horrible burden, but a piquant addition nonetheless.

The march was a combination of orienteering from one checkpoint to another and small tasks. Areas with enemy activity forced to consider the routes and standard of movement. Time penalties for being detected were brutal, so you really had to find the way with the most cover instead of the easiest and fastest route to the next CP.



Even the flat lands between actual obstacles was punishing on your feet and body.

Cowabunga it is

This year the chief planner had devised an infernal maze of checkpoints and activity areas: swamp and bog, open flats, more bog, hills, larger hills, open ground and some more swamp and bog. Obviously, a direct route wasn't going to be the fastest in these conditions. There was also some snow left from the winter to mix things up. For example, between CP4 and CP5 we cleverly thought we'd avoid enemy territory and go around it along old ruts: our idea was to utilize the ease of movement to make up for the longer distance. Alas, the ruts were filled with snow, mud or both to the knee, so it wasn't the walk in the park we envisioned.

Around half-way through, at CP11, the task was to cross a body of water and mandatory recovery. The bath was refreshing after being on our feet for the whole night and hit the spot, so to say. The recovery part involved building a shelter and ensure all men were in a combat-ready condition for the remaining march. At this point we replenished our water canteens: we had run very low for some time despite bringing a lot to begin with.



Swimming counts as marching, right? As long as you bring all your gear.
Photo: LauRes ry.

One of the more devilish areas was the peat fields of Konnunsuo swamp as well as Hyvättilänsuo swamp, which were around CP11-CP15. The terrain and enemy presence left very little reasonable routes to utilize and we got picked off by a sniper once, despite using a rut. Lesson learned; we got really low and enjoyed everything the spring swamp offered.



A good fighter avoids uncomfortable things, like getting wet, to maintain combat readiness.

Step by step

Our patrol maintained high morale through the whole march. A few times we messed up with orienteering and some alternative route choices could have been made, but those were the worst setbacks we had - nothing major. We had some breaks according to need while maintaining momentum. Each of us had a beer in mind after crossing the finishing line, and when it comes to treats like that, sooner is better.

Overall we were on the move for 17 h 59 min and stopped for a combined 3 h 13 minutes. Pretty good ratio. The distance travelled was 74.3 km (46 mi). With task bonuses deducted and time penalties added our total time was 20 h 33 min, which got us 10th place. The march left a good feeling: Encouraging support was present, the organizing was functional and the terrain, routes and opposing forces provided challenges for the whole money.



We didn't suffer from GPS jamming, these are accurate stats.

Pro tips

Orienteering and choice of routes. A little time spent beforehand can save a huge amount of time and effort later. Especially when you're tired and in the dark, think before you move.

Boots with membrane were a short straw. At some point you're up to your knees in the bog anyways, and at that point the membrane keeps water inside.

Make planned breaks and only do things that help you recover and maintain readiness. This eliminates unnecessary sitting around.

Example kit list

Road division

The other challenge was marching on the roads, where the patrol had to tackle 50 kilometres (31 mi) of movement by foot with a 12-hour time limit. The route went along roads in Joutseno, offering a variable marching experience. Our patrol had the ambition to make it in less than nine hours. Here are some thoughts from along the way:

"The march went without trouble with high spirits, which is always a good thing. Afterwards, my condition dipped because of exhaustion. Still, I'm happy to have been there and being able to finish. Some things I learned on the way: whenever you change socks, keep a towel or rag handy to dry your feet, and put some vaseline between your toes.”

“During the SCMM march the feeling was consistently good. The biggest reasons for this were the optimum marching weather and the route plans we made together, which included breaks for changing socks, lengths of breaks and dedicated tasks for each member during the march. Things were considered before any of it got to us. We also had a time goal, which was broken down into short legs to keep track of our advancement during the march.”

The time goal was sadly not achieved this time, but our patrol did keep up a good pace. The final time was 9 h 46 min, which got us the 6th position in open category and 13th of 32 among all participants.



On-road marching demonstrated by our off-road patrol.

Pro-Tips by Tervis

Practice marching, do it for real! Make calendar dates beforehand and stick to them. March in different conditions, vary the lengths and surfaces, remember to walk up some hills as well. Set goals, timed and otherwise, and when you reach them, set harder goals. Use a Sports Tracker or other means to keep track.

Learn to dring a swig of water every half an hour, even though you really don't need any hydration during shorter practice runs. Be dutiful about recovery! Learn how to maintain readiness before the march, during and afterwards. My principle was to remain combat ready after any march.

Remember energy intake during the march. Figure out beforehand what you'll eat and when. Carbs will run out after roughly 90 minutes after the start, so replenish them way beforehand. I kept an eye on my wristwatch and ate according to my plan. Carb gel worked well for me, I ate one every half an hour, which added up to 20 bags, much to the horror of my marching companions.

I also ate some mini salami and salted peanut-raisins every 30 minutes. For drinks, I had prepared 3 litres of Hartsport and 1 litre of water (adds up to a gallon of liquids). I ate on my feet and had no separate breaks for eating.

I taped my feet with some Leukoplast beforehand. This worked for me to avoid blisters. I changed my socks once. I put some vaseline between my buttocks and toes to avoid chafings, which worked for me. Keep these tips in mind!

Our medical bag had some magnesium powder for a quick need, a pack of Ibuprofen and tablets against heartburns and allergies.

Tracking and monitoring apps drain your battery, so keep a power bank with you.



No medikit compares to the care of your mates.

Gear list



Area of operations on a map.

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