August 23, 2017

The Search for Big Hungry — GORUCK Beached 004

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A Guest Post by Matt Hammonds

What is Beached?

Beached is a 3-day submersion into the world of special amphibious operations taught by current and former Special Operations soldiers (GORUCK Cadre). You and your team will learn amphibious skills based on actual special operations and training exercises conducted by the GORUCK Cadre in their careers. Whether you are a professional diver or an inexperienced swimmer, your Cadre will ensure that you walk away with new skills and the ability to thrive in an amphibious environment. Beached does not make you into a special operator; however you will emerge with greater skills and appreciation for the underwater world of Special Operations.

More Than Just Getting Wet

I can tell you right now, the description does it no justice in preparing you for the amount of fun you are about to experience. If you have never done one of GORUCK’s expedition events, then you are truly missing out on an epic adventure. I can tell you that if you think it’s going to be days in the sun drinking beers and eating hot dogs then you are in for surprise. GORUCK has recently put a lot of effort into revamping their expeditions: Ascent, Navigator, Beached, and Trek.

During my time at Beached, I was able to have some lengthy discussions with the folks that are in charge of making these happen. They want these events to be something truly special. They want people to really get their money’s worth and feel these should be top notch events. I am familiar with some of the expeditions (formerly called Capstones) that have been put on before. I can say that starting with the Navigator expeditions that just took place in May as well; these expeditions are far superior to ones of years past. This is not meant to bash any of the prior events in any way. But with all of the trial and error with these events over the years, they have really transformed into something special.

It Pays to Arrive Early

I actually flew into Jacksonville the day prior to the start of the event. It was recommended to arrive the day prior to allow time to travel to the team house in Neptune Beach and set up your sleeping arrangements at base camp. I am glad I followed that advice because when I arrived, there were about ten other tents already pitched. I was lucky to grab the last real spot available. It was about to get crowded real quick.

The morning started off with a nice cooked breakfast. One of the big changes to the expeditions was having someone there to prepare high quality meals. Grant worked real hard to ensure we were fed with “high quality, good calories”. You work up a serious appetite swimming around in the ocean and lugging those Zodiac boats around. Grant always made sure food was ready when we came in and that the table was always stocked with the means to prepare you a snack.

From here the first day is a full day of activities well into evening. It started with introductions from the cadre with some back story about their military careers. For those of you in the GORUCK community, the cadres were: Big Daddy, Michael, Geoff, Chase, Joel, Garrett, Rick and Grant handling everyone’s food needs. As you can see, there were plenty of guys on hand to share their experience in every aspect of the course.

Keep Away from Big Hungry

Big Daddy went on to brief everyone on rough timeline of events. He shared a truly tragic story of a recent dry land drowning fatality. If you aren’t familiar with dry land drowning, I suggest looking it up. I was unaware of just how easy it is for someone to succumb to it. This led into our safety brief for the course and the importance of being a buddy team. Throughout the course the only real safety issues we faced were jellyfish stings, dehydration, and scared people thinking Big Hungry was going to chomp them in the ocean. I will say, we had a great time making jokes about Big Hungry lurking under the water waiting to eat one of us. Some people didn’t find the humor though.

We received classes on:

  • How to properly kick in the water with fins to maximize our power
  • How to perform buddy rescues in the water
  • How to wear our scout swimmer vests and the safety features included
  • How to perform an inspection of ourselves and our swim buddy prior to entering the water

We headed down to beach and were informed that we would be doing a 1000m open ocean swim with our swim buddy. We were instructed to swim out to a buoy, back in to surf zone, then back to the buoy where we were to show proficiency treading water and doing buddy rescues, and finally back in to shore. I can tell you now; if you are thinking about doing Beached you better start doing your flutter kicks and get some swim time in. It’s tougher than you think because you are getting pushed one direction by the current at the same time you are trying to hit your target so it makes for more work. I actually enjoyed the swims because the water felt so nice even early in the morning.

The day continued with a class on the Zodiac boats we would be using for the next few days. These boats weigh about 325lbs. without the motor. Think it was about 425-450lbs. with. We would be carrying these bad boys around for the next few days. They were not fun getting them up and over the sand dune at the start and end of each day. We learned about how to assemble them as well as positioning inside them. It was time to get wet again. We split up into boat crews that we would remain in for the remainder of the course.

Techniques to Flip Over a Perfectly Good Zodiac

We took them out on the ocean and learned a technique called “broaching”. This is the act of flipping your boat back over if for some reason you have been capsized in the surf. It entails climbing on top, grabbing the broaching line, leaning way back as one of your boat crew pushes the boat up. The combined weight of the boat crew leaning back will flip the boat back upright. We practiced this many times until we were able to do it easily. Part of being a boat crew is the ability to work together as a team. You have to be able to be in sync while paddling to maximize your power in the water. We had a friendly competition to see just how well the boat crews could work together. We were instructed to paddle our boats out to the buoy and back, broach the boat upside down, then broach it back upright and continue to paddle to shore. It was a fun way to implement the things we had learned to this point.

We headed in for a great lunch of big chicken breasts and veggies. I couldn’t believe how hungry I was. While tearing into that chicken, I thought about everything we had done so far. When you decide to head out to Beached, be prepared to put in some work. It was nice to be out there getting it on and having the ability to cool off in the ocean at the same time.

Practicing Speed Casting

After lunch came high speed casting. This was serious fun. Casting is putting the swimmers on the boat into the water quickly so you can deploy your whole boat crew in the matter of seconds. You start out by hugging one of the upper inflated sides of the zodiac. As you are cruising along the driver will yell “go” and you will push yourself up and out from the side of the boat. This action is to clear you away from the propeller in the back. In the process you actually can skip on the water for an added sensation. We practiced retrieving the swimmers from the water without stopping the boat. We did these two things a few more times until we got it down because we were instructed that we would be doing this at night as well.

After dinner we started our evening with a 1000m night swim just as we had in the morning. The Big Hungry jokes were in full effect and some people really weren’t pleased with heading out for an open ocean swim. I was proud to see so many push past their fears and get the job done. It was really cool to see all of the lights from that far out in total darkness. Little did we know that we would be going even farther the next night and Big Hungry hadn’t been fed yet.

After completing the swim we went into nighttime casting and recovery. If you thought it was fun during the day it was even more fun at night. Nighttime broaching was a blast as well. All of these events were so much fun at night under a clear sky with the beach lights so far inland.

Day one was over and it was a full day. We lugged the boats back over the dune and were able to clean up. Then it was time to relax and get to know everyone else over some beers. That was a nice end to an amazing day of ocean fun.

Respect the Neighbors

Day two began with breakfast and followed shortly by a 2000m swim by boat crew. For anyone that has never swam that far, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Since we were doing it as a boat crew we were able to chat and laugh along the way which made the time go by. Again it felt nice to hop in the ocean first thing in the morning to get the day started.

We were given a class on the different parts of the ocean and beach in relation to combat swimmers. Then we went into a class and presentation of scout swimmers approaching from the water to conduct a beach recon. We were told to pay close attention as we would be utilizing this on our “mission”.

The day took a crazy turn and we were instructed to pack up all of our things out of the back yard. We were informed that the police had been called on us due to some knuckle heads GRT’s using the neighbors outdoor shower the night prior. Should the police have been called, no. Should they have been messing with something that wasn’t theirs, no. So we were instructed by the police that we could not be outside any longer. Big Daddy never skipped a beat; he informed us that due to our mission we would have been out all night anyways so it really wasn’t a big deal in the whole scheme of things. We moved all of our operations inside for the rest of the day which consisted of  classes on survival and how to waterproof your gear. We were shown how to make our bags float even with our gear inside. Again, this would come in to play later. Learned about nautical maps and then were instructed about the night’s mission.

Stepping Off Into the Deep Blue

We were briefed on the overall mission and then each of the boat crews leaders were briefed on each boat crews separate mission that would contribute the overall mission success. We went into mission planning, gear prep, dinner, and leader back briefs on our individual plans to the cadre. I’m not going to go into anything that happens during the mission except that it uses everything you have learned so far and then some. The next twelve hours are a blast.

The next instructions we were given was to prepare our swim gear and to waterproof a bag with a change of civilian clothes for a follow on mission. We were instructed to paddle our boats from the team house down to Jacksonville Beach pier and then come ashore. That was a nice little paddle to the pier and riding the boats onto a beach full of onlookers wondering what was going on. Our next task would be to swim out past the end of the pier until the cadre told us to stop. This time it was like a 2000m swim as a class. Here we are all thirty-six of us, arms locked entering the surf zone and then swimming all the way out and back. It was pretty cool to see the look on everyone’s faces when we all came walking out of the ocean.

Each boat team was handed their mission instructions and went their separate ways. I’m not going to give any of that away either, but it was a cool way to end it all.

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GORUCK has really put a lot of time and effort in planning these events so people can walk away and feel like they have done something special. As I sit here thinking about those days and writing this, all I can think about is the conversation I had with Big Daddy at the endex party about how he has even more ideas to make Beached even cooler. I can tell you that if he makes those ideas a reality, then Beached 006 will blow mine out of the water.

Photos Courtesy of : M. Beacon, K. Johnson, B.D.

Babes in the Woods: GORUCK Custom Lake Tahoe Navigator

Photo by Bryan Calo

Photo by Bryan Calo

If I could list a single thing that I learned from GORUCK Custom Lake Tahoe Navigator it would be this — it’s easier than you think to get lost in the woods.

GORUCK Navigator is a four day land navigation and survival training experience that teaches you the basics of handling yourself in the wilderness including a culex (culmination exercise) to test your skills. It’s vastly different than a normal GORUCK Challenge because it leans more towards skill development and mastery instead of let’s do 1,000 8-count body builders while sitting in your favorite ocean. Now, find a pole!

The venue was picturesque Homewood Ski Resort and Sugar Pine Point Campground in beautiful Lake Tahoe, CA from May 14th-18th, 2014.

Attention to Detail

GORUCK is one company that really listens to its customers. Past Navigators (as best I can tell only three others have been held — see here for an ARR (After Action Review) from Nav 002) had some anecdotal rumblings of being kinda random and not having a real blueprint. This navigator was none of that. It was well planned, wonderfully communicated and precisely executed right down to the excellent meals prepared by Chef Grant, the flow of the program by lead Cadre Joel, rock star photography by Tosh (who got patched for shadowing Team Orange) and the professionalism and deep knowledge of all the Cadre. Thanks for your service and putting on a fantastic event.

Everyone Needs a Den Mother

A special thanks needs to be extended to den mother Laurie who took on the challenge of setting up this event over a year ago. Without her tireless efforts, infinite patience and true care for whose who participated, this event would never have happened. Thanks Laurie for spearheading one of the most fun and well organized events I have ever attended.

Event Schedule

The Custom Lake Tahoe Navigator was a 4-day course (with an optional Firearms Day) that adhered to the following schedule:

  • Day 0 (Optional): Firearms Day.

  • Day 1: Navigation Classes. Map and compass skills plus a ~4km hike

  • Day 2: Skills Classes. First aid, basic survival, finding water and shelter building.

  • Day 3+: Skills Practice + Culex. Time to ask any Cadre questions and practice followed by a practical test of all the skills learned. Lasted well into the morning of day 4, especially if you were Team White. They got “owned” by the night.

  • Day 4: Brunch & Beer: Camp breakdown and After Action Reviews (AARs).

Each day had several lectures followed by the opportunity to practice the taught skills. Overall, the material was fantastic and the lectures were engaging even for those who might have been hungover from the night before and fell asleep during class. You know who you are.

One recurring theme that I heard from participants was that there was no handouts of the excellent material (Cadre Big Chris did offer to email it around) or field manual to keep with you (according to Cadre Joel, this is in the works). That might have helped most of us un-fuck ourselves when we got lost. Well, maybe not.

Go Shoot an Azimuth. A What?

The first course was land navigation using a compass and map. Cadre Joel did a stellar job getting us up to speed on reading maps and shooting azimuths. One of the hardest things to figure out is how the contour lines on a map translate to real terrain. This is a critical skill to master since it can really help plan a route that avoids thick brush and steep elevation climbs. Remember this point, it comes up later.

Along with terrain feature recognition, we got to practice looking up grid coordinates and correcting for declination, which is the degree difference between the map and the compass. All of this is important to remember when in the field since it’s these small errors that build up to big errors. nav_map

Let’s Try Not to Kill the Patient

No course on surviving in the wilderness is complete without a class on basic first aid. Cadre Dakotah and Cadre Bert did a masterful job of giving us the basics of how to treat common first aid issues (before attempting any type of first aid, make sure you get the proper training).

Basic wilderness first aid boils down to the handy acronym SMARCH which is used to assess a patient in the field. SMARCH stands for:

  • Situation: Is it safe to help. The only thing worst than one patent is two patients.

  • Massive hemorrhaging: Stop the bleeding quickly since lack of blood leads to all sorts of nasty things.

  • Airway: Check that the patients airway is clear before trying to see if they are breathing.

  • Respiration: Check the patients breathing rate and depth.

  • Circulation: Check the patients pulse.

  • Hypothermia: Check the patient for hypothermia by looking for shivering and blue lips. Blood loss can make you hypothermic even if it’s 100 degrees outside.

Each part of SMARCH has specific treatment techniques that are applied to stabilize the patient. A recurring theme was prevention since it’s 1,000 times better to prevent an injury than it is to treat one in the field. Being prepared was also stressed since it’s what you have with you and your training that takes over during a stressful situation.

What the Heck is a Swiss Seat?

Cadre Chris and Danny taught probably the most challenging and fun part of the whole weekend — knot tying and rope bridge construction. For the culex, we had to learn three basic knots (figure 8, alpine butterfly and bowline) along with two others (square and half-hitch) to construct a rope bridge across an obstacle.

These particular skills are critical to get right since it’s a major safety issue if your rope bridge falls apart as you traverse a 100 ft crevasse or you fall out of your Swiss Seat (which looks dam sexy if cinched with the proper force and determination as Dan and Amy can attest too).

Photo By Chris Way

Photo By Chris Way

The rope bridge crossing was an absolute blast and probably the single coolest thing we did during the whole weekend except for maybe seeing bears and Lake Tahoe at night.

Cadre Manzanita

Out of all the Cadre at Navigator, no single one inflicted as much pain, suffering and learning than Cadre Manzanita pictured below. This stuff is nasty and can really ruin your whole day. Manzanita is the reason why you need to fully understand your sectional maps and what the lines and shading means. This knowledge can help you work smarter not harder. Climbing up through dense brush is not working smart at all, it’s the ultimate in working harder and costs time and energy, which Team Yellow learned the hard way. ManzanitaShrubBranches_wb

Making it Home to Fort Living Room

Cadre Hawke and Cadre Big Chris took us through the basics of survival with death by a thousand Power Point slides. Honestly, it was not that bad since both Cadre Hawke and Cadre Big Chris were engaging, funny and told awesome stories based on real world experiences.

Cadre Hawke’s approach to survival is a mix of common sense, be prepared and do what the locals do. Everything he taught us just made sense. He even debunked some common myths such as you can’t drink seawater (you can if it’s diluted) and you can drink urine to a point (urine is sterile but you need to worry about the ureic acid concentration). We also learned that it’s best to always carry a mini-lighter in your pocket, have a fixed blade survival knife, the meat left after you shake a carcass is good and anything over 12-inches is just a waste. The field part of the survival class had us look at different kinds of shelters and how to build a solar still. Everyone enjoyed this part because we got to get out of the classroom and into the field.

Shelter construction techniques vary widely but the principle message was that a shelter needs to protect you from the elements you are in. If it’s windy, you would build it one way as opposed to if it was raining. A shelter also needs to be close enough to your fire so that you can reach over and stoke it but not too close that you set your shelter on fire. All common sense but good to have reinforced.

Construction of our solar still was a lot of fun. The basic idea is that you dig a hole, throw in a bunch of green vegetation in, place a cup in the center, put a plastic bag over it and wait for the sun to evaporate the water from the vegetation. This evaporated water then collects on the plastic bag and drips into your cup. We never did confirm that it collected any water but I’m sure we got some.

Photo by Alvin Louie

Photo by Alvin Louie

Aha. Look what I’ve created. I have made FIRE

Primitive man must have felt the same joy that my fire team felt when our magnesium shaving drenched pathetic attempt at a birds nest engulfed in flames. And I’m also sure that during their version of a touchdown dance they promptly blew the fire out just like we did.

Starting fire by means other than a match or lighter is thrilling. It’s also an extremely valuable survival skill since fire can warm you up, signal your location and generally improve your morale. Cadre Joel gave us some great advice about always looking for materials to start a fire. He told us to always try to gather up dry moss, birds nests, small sticks and anything that can easily be set ablaze. Another important thing was to over do it on the magnesium shavings — you can never have too much of that. During our culex, our team found a functional lighter that we got to use to start our end of culex fire. It pays to have your head on a swivel and to be always looking at your surroundings.

Photo by Capt. Paige Bowie

Photo by Capt. Paige Bowie

Babes In the Woods

The range of skill sets and experiences of the participates (60 total) ranged from “I hike in my city park” to “I volunteer for mountain search and rescue.” Of course, all were GRT’s which meant we were used to rucking 12+ hours while hungover.

Even though everyone came from different backgrounds, we all felt like babes in the woods when it came to the culex. Human nature is fascinating especially when you have a bunch of GRT’s who are used to action. When a person or group is under stress, a lot of strange things happen. Logic and reason fly out the window and the “gotta get there” mentality takes over. Out of all the potential hazards in the wilderness, the one that posses the most risk to you is you! The reason for this is simple. We tend to over inflate our abilities, rely on “this feels like the right way” and get fixated on easy to do tasks. If you can control that, you’re a lot better off.

Learning by Failing Safe

The method of teaching at navigator was to fill our head with a lot of information and skills and then send us out in the wilderness to fail safe. This may seem cruel or even counterintuitive to most people but as Team Yellow’s Cadre Chris Way put it, “you have to experience getting lost in the woods before you appreciate how easy it is and how hard it is to get un-lost.” This is spot on. I could tell you a 1,000 times what to do when you are lost in the woods but until you are tired, hungry, stressed, second-guessing yourself, melting down, bickering with teammates and in the dark, it will never fully register.

Even though you must experience this for yourself to appreciate it (I highly recommend you sign up for one if you are interested), here are some of the lessons Team Yellow (and most other teams) learned by failing safe:

  • Trust your equipment over yourself: Your equipment will not lie but you will lie to yourself.

  • Humans make mistakes: Never assume that something is correct on a map. Double and triple confirm.

  • Verify your assumptions and be data driven: Don’t just assume something is correct. Look at the data you have collected and adjust your thinking if that’s what the data says.

  • Altitude is your friend: Get as high as you can so you can see the terrain.

  • Remain calm: Being calm will allow you to make better decisions and will reduce the anxiety level of the people around you.

  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of your team: Give tasks to people that cater to their skills especially during stressful situations.

  • Have a plan and a backup plan: Always have a plan when you enter the woods as well as a backup plan if things go wrong.

  • Follow the terrain contour not just the straight line path: Don’t hard charge up a hill because it’s a straight line path. That will just tire you out.

  • Map bearing and compass bearing are different: Your map is what you are walking on. Your compass is wrong and needs to be adjusted.

  • At night, constantly check your location: The night makes navigation extremely hard. You can drift a lot easier with no frames of reference.

This may seem like common sense to most of you (frankly it is) but when you are in a survival situation, common sense is not so common and our experiences and training (or lack thereof) take over quickly.

Team “Just Go South”

My team, Team Yellow, learned the above lessons the hard way. We were doing great right until it got dark. Once the sun dipped down below the horizon, our pace slowed, we got disoriented and we started to make simple mistakes. One mistake was not properly correcting for declination (e.g. The different between the map and the compass). Our mantra was to “just go south” when we really need to subtract the declination and go more south-east.

Another simple mistake was that we never picked a close by landmark to navigate too. This meant that as we zigged and zagged around obstacles, we just kept a southerly bearing, which is kinda like walking while drunk. We may have been going “south” but we more like drifting south-west, then south, then south-east and back again.

All of this added up to Team Yellow getting lost and hacking our way through Manzanita grove after Manzanita grove. At one point, we crested a hill with a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe, which as Cadre Chris put it,“”Well, you can still see the lake so you aren’t THAT hopelessly fucked.” Yes, it’s always good to know that it can always get worse.

Photo by Chris Way

Photo by Chris Way

A Deep Sense of Camaraderie and Respect for Nature

For me and a lot of my fellow participates, the whole navigator experience boiled down to being in nature with a bunch of great people that are as weird as you are. From the pre-nav birthday BBQ (hosted by Dan and Amy) for Amy and Cynthia, seeing bears above Quail Lake, Rebecca “One Pole” trying to set up her tent, the tragic news of fellow GRT Jeff Proietti’s passing, Rocco’s insistence on hydrating, the funny and touching moment when John helped Laurie wash her hair and rockstar photographer Tosh barking out “I need 4 people to move this table in 10 seconds. Hurry up!”

Everyone I talked to about their navigator experience felt it was wonderful and they learned a lot about themselves and others. The lessons learned go far beyond how to survive in the wilderness because anytime you get a bunch of good people together, you share priceless moments that no social media feed, picture, tweet or blog post can reproduce. As Cadre Bert says, GORUCK makes Facebook friends real friends. It’s these bonding experiences that allows us to grow towards being the best people we can be. For that, we should all be eternally grateful.

Heavy 2.0 — Ed’s Valentine’s Day Massacre

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A Guest Post by Ed Shelton

This post is an AAR from Ed Shelton who did the first Heavy 2.0 (Heavy 026) in Dallas, TX on 14th February 2014. Thanks Ed for sharing

GoRuck Heavy 026 started in Dallas, TX at 6:00pm on February 14.  It was the first Heavy to run under Cadre Dan’s Heavy SOP.  Before the Heavy even began, the chorus had dubbed it the Valentine’s Day Massacre.  We even painted “Valentine’s Day Massacre” on our team weight.  I don’t think anyone realized how appropriate that name would turn out to be.

28 people began Heavy 026, only 13 finished.  My name is Ed Shelton, I am one of the 13 finishers.  This is my AAR.  Since I have never written up an AAR before, it would be more accurate to call this my story of Heavy 026.  In the end, there is a good chance you learn more about me than about GRH 026.

About Me

A quick background on me, I did my first GoRuck Challenge in Austin, TX on Dec 22, 2012.  Since then, I have done 5 more Challenges, 2 Lights, and 1 Heavy before Heavy 026.  I do not have a military background and I have no plans to do Selection.  I did not sign up for Heavy as a prep course for Selection.  I signed up for it because I wanted to complete another Heavy and it was the only Heavy listed in Texas at the time.

In the week prior to Heavy, I began to prepare my body for the event.  The Sunday prior to 026 was my last workout.  From Sunday to Thursday, I made sure to drink a 32 oz drink of chia seeds, coconut water, honey, and lime in addition to 64oz of water everyday.  Despite all the preplanning, I made a huge mistake of only having breakfast and lunch the Friday Heavy started.  My last meal before Heavy was at 1pm.

The Calm Before the Storm

As usually about 5:45pm, everyone was showing up.  Cadre Michael and Cadre John Big Daddy started to call everyone together.  Cadre Bert was also there, walking around with a baseball bat.  They did the roll call and quick safety briefing before moving the group to flatter ground.

Heavy had started and it was time to pop my collar.

The Cadre explained that we would be the first class with the Heavy SOP.  Cadre Michael brought out 2 garbage bags and told us to put all our food in the bags.  I knew that this meant we have to go without food.  I was kicking myself for not getting something to eat right before we began.  Then I remembered what I learned from Kung Fu Panda, “It is said that the Dragon Warrior can survive for months at a time on nothing but the dew of a single Ginkgo leaf and the energy of the universe.”  I would need to keep a lookout for dew and energy juice.

We were also told to remove our water so our rucks could be weighed.  Cadre John Big Daddy walked around with a hanging scale and weighed each ruck.  He only told you if you were good or if you were light.  I felt good about my ruck weight since I knew with water it was over 50 lbs.  At least two people were under weight.  Luckily someone had some weight plates in his car.  Cadre allowed them to get the weight and add it to their rucks.  The rucks were reweighed and then given the thumbs up.

Meeting the Standard

After the ruck weighing, the PT test started with pushups.  John Big Daddy read the rules and Bert did the demo. We were split into two ranks.  Rank 1 counted while rank 2 did the push ups.  My partner, Michael, did awesome getting over 70 pushups done while sticking to the rules.  Cadre John Big Daddy went down the line to ask for the scores.  He wrote down the names and counts of everyone that completed less than a certain number.  Then we switched.  It was my turn to do pushups.  When I reached pushup 47, my shoulder popped out and I was stuck in the down position.  While I knew I could not get back up, I was not going to give up and held in the down position for the rest of the time.  Cadre John Big Daddy recorded my name and count.  This was not the way I wanted to start Heavy.

Next was the sit up test, rank 2 went first.  Cadre John Big Daddy again asked for counts and wrote down names and counts of everyone that was below a specific count.  Luckily, in my first Heavy Bert described the best technique to do the sit ups in order hit the Selection number.  Since then, I have practiced the technique and felt pretty good about my ability to complete 65.  When it was my turn, I completed 69 situps.  I was trying for 70.  On the bright side, I thought with 69 completed at least I could make a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure reference. When Cadre John asked for my count, he did not write down my name.  I was relieved to not be on Big Daddy’s list a second time.

When the final count was tallied, Big Daddy told us that 8 people failed the push up test and 18 failed the sit up test.  After the 12 mile ruck, he told us he would test those that failed again.  I was very nervous because I was confident I would not be able to do 55 push ups, especially given how my shoulder popped out during the first test.

On a Scale of 1 to 10

We were told to put our rucks on, grab the team weight and food bags, and prepare to move.  Big Daddy told us that throughout the Heavy he would ask us how we were doing on a scale from 1 to 10.  We started on our way.  Pretty quickly after we started, we had gaps.  We lost our left shoe.  Soon after that, we had another gap and lost strap privileges.  We hit a roadblock – construction closed off our path so we had to find another way.  A couple miles of travel later, we hit upon two concrete pillars and a stack of cinder blocker connected together.  They were now team weights and came with us.  I jumped under one of the pillars and we started moving again.  First down a levy, then back up, then back down again.  We were told to drop off all the weights near the bridge.

Cadre Big Daddy told us were about to begin the 12 mile ruck.  We had to ruck out to Cadre Michael, go around him and come back.  We had 3 hours and 30 minutes to finish.  We started as one unit with the pace set by our team leader.  The ground was made up of loose rocks which were not kind on the feet.  I could see some people struggling with the terrain.  Big Daddy said that for every gap he saw, he would give us a minute penalty.  It did not take long before we had 2 minutes of penalties.

Big Daddy decided we were not moving fast enough, so he got in the front and set the pace.  We were really moving now.  The Assistant Team Leaders (ATLs) started asking people how they were doing (1 to 10).  I figured a 10 would be equivalent to sitting on my couch with my wife and cat binge watching a TV series on Netflix.  I answered 9.  Most people were between 7 and 9, but we did have a couple of lower numbers.

A couple of miles in, where the lights of the Dallas skyline were no longer illuminating our path, the average number for the group was dropping.  We had our first drop, closely followed by a couple of more.  I don’t know if the drops were medical or they hit their limit.  We kept pushing forward and finally came upon Cadre Michael. We went around him and started on the way back.

Hurry Up, Hurry Up, Hurry Up

On the way back, Big Daddy was setting the pace again.  Now, we started to lose people as part of the group.  One group was with Big Daddy, the rest started to fall behind.  I was with the Big Daddy group and we were on a fast and steady pace.  After a couple of miles, we stopped to see how far behind the others were.  Big Daddy told us we were going to wait just long enough to give them hope before crushing it.  Pretty quickly we saw someone appear, shuffling alone, out of the darkness.  It was Candace and she was wearing two rucks.  When we she joined us, we started out again.

Once we were moving again, we asked Candace where the extra ruck came from.  She said that one of the guys was struggling and she took his ruck from him.  I had to ask, “Did you ask him first or just take his ruck when he went off to pee?”  I try to make light of situations when I can.

As we started getting closer to Dallas, Patrick was convinced we were stopping at the next bridge .. then the next one … then the next one.  I felt like we in a real life Super Mario Brothers situation, “Thank you Patrick, but our food is under another bridge.”  I honestly kept thinking we would get to the bridge and see that one of those giant rodents Cadre Bert told us about, has eaten our food.  As we got close to the actual bridge I could see a bunch of people.  My instant thought was great, its not rodents, but bums that have found and eaten our food.  Turned out it was a bunch of Texas GRTs, so almost the same thing.

When we got to the the bridge, Big Daddy told us we finished in 3 hours 19 minutes.  There were 16 of us, including Candace who still had two rucks.  Sal and I were picked to find water and off we went.  After some looking around, we found a 7-11 and headed back.

We ran back down to the bridge, but could not find our team.  Cadre Michael told us they were back on the trail and to double time it to them.  As we were shuffling, Sal’s calf decided to cramp up on him.  He pushed through and we met up with everyone.  We shuffled back together as a team.

As we got close to the starting bridge, 3 volunteers and I were sent to get water.  We were told to get 8 gallons and to hurry.  We shuffled to 7-11, moving as quickly as we could.  We picked up 9 gallons of water, using 1.5 gallons to fill our bladders outside 7-11.  We shuffled back to our team to find they were already doing PT.  We were told to leave the water by the food and join our team for PT.

Smoke Session

The PT session was pretty similar to other Cadre Michael’s welcome parties – 8-count body builders, flutter kicks, mountain climbers, etc.  The major difference was there was a little more running from point A to B and there were several folks already smoked from the 12-mile ruck.  During the 8-count body builders, I noticed the guy next to me was really struggling.  I kept giving him a hand to get up.  At one point I looked at him and he had the most blank look on his face and was mumbling something.  I was about to call Cadre Michael over, but he was already on his way.  I believe the guy dropped at that point.

After our PT session, we filled our water and we were one the move again, except this time we had a lot of extra weight to carry.  We had two concrete pillars, a sandbag contraption (courtesy of Cadre Bert), 2 bags of food, and our team weight.  We had 4 people on the pillars, 4 on the sandbag man, 1 on each of the food bags, 1 on the team weight, 2 flag bearers, and I believe we had 1 or 2 people without weight (14-16 in total).  It is hard to remember because it was not long before more people dropped and we were down to 14.  With only 14 people, everyone was carrying weight or a flag.  I was under the concrete pillars during this time.

Mr. Sandman Bring Me a …

We went several miles, but we were moving very slow.  The team under the sandbag man was having difficulty keeping up with the rest of us.  We made a stop to use the bathroom and put some warmer clothes on.  You could tell the team was hurting.  We were tired, sore, and hungry.  I tried to lighten the mood by asking, “So who is signed up to do the Austin marathon on Sunday?”  It was just silence and stares back at me.  The only other time I have seen a response like that was the night before my wedding when I tried to joke with my wife and she responded, “I can’t handle jokes now.”

Eventually, we came to a spot where the Cadre let us drop the pillars and food.  We assigned two teams of 4 to carry the sandbag man.  I was on one of the teams.  For next several miles the 2 teams kept switching back at forth.  It was during this part of the night that was the hardest part for me.  I was having a real hard time staying focused.  My eyes felt tired and were playing tricks on me.  I would see the ground shift when it did not.  The best way I can describe it is like when you start to fall asleep while driving.  You know you should not and you fight it hard, but you still doze off.  The best thing I could do was keep my mind busy.  I tried to think of a song to sing and all I could think of was “Let it go” from Frozen.  Even though my daughter insists on listening to it and singing it every day, I could not remember how the song starts.

Not sure how long I was in the zombie mode, but I do remember we lost another during that section.  The guy that usually took over my spot on the sandbag man was not there when we went to switch.  Luckily, Colleen stepped up and took my spot.  After the switch we realized he had dropped.  I had a hard time believing that we had lost someone else.  I switched back on; I did not want anyone else to drop.  I thought, “How could I have missed someone drop at this point?  Especially the guy I kept switching with.”

Conquering The Night

The sun was beginning to rise.  The darkness started to fade.  We had conquered the night.  We had gone 20+ miles in about 13 hours.  I looked back and saw the sun rising up from behind the Dallas skyline.  It was an awesome sight – a combination of human engineering and nature’s rawness.

We stopped.  It was time for our first break and food.  A group of us was sent to drop the sandbag man into Bert’s truck and take a bag of food and case of water back to the team.

The sun was up and we were about to eat, life was good.  Due to some unexpected delays in traveling to Heavy, I had not eaten anything since 1pm on Friday.  I estimated it was about 18 hours since I had food.

When we returned with the food bag, I thought it was going to be a live action reenactment of Hungry, Hungry Hippos.  Surprisingly it was not too bad.  We all looked for our food.  All three of my food bags were in the other bag.  Damn it.  So I started looking through what was left in the bag.  There was a surprising amount of candy.  It was like the day after Halloween – there were Twix, M&Ms, Snickers, Gummy Bears, etc.  The last thing I wanted was candy.  I was just looking for a Clif Bar, some caffeinated gels or goo, or something.  Luckily, I found a Cliff Bar, a gel, and some honey almond butter.  The almond butter was so good, I ended up buying some the other day for lunch.  Thank you to whoever brought the almond butter, it was awesome.

No One Left Behind

Big Daddy told us to gather around.  He told us that we started with 28 people and we were down to 13.  Big Daddy stated, “No one else it dropping.  Everyone finishes.”  He told us to clean up our garbage and get ready to go.  Sal and I went for a quick bathroom break before starting back.  I remember telling Sal, “No one else is quitting.  I will carry their ruck.  I will carry them, if need be.”  Sal responded, “Same here, brother.”

We had made it through the night and we were a stronger team.  We knew we still had at least half of the Heavy left, plus water work, bottom samples, etc.  It did not matter, we felt invincible.

Over the next 4 to 5 hours, we covered a lot of distance, went for a cold swim in a nasty pond, and eventually met up with Cadre Michael at a big open field.  It was time for another Cadre Michael PT session.  We still owed him 70 8-count body builders.  Michael gave us a couple of challenges to reduce the count of Body Builders.  After a couple of exercises, one of the team was having a hard time.  She was shaking and having a hard time breathing.  Michael checked on her and she was able to stop the shaking of her muscles.  She was still in.  After a couple more exercises and paying back the Bodybuilders, we were allowed to eat again.

I was so excited about the food, I knew my food was in this bag including my Trader Joe Espresso Pillows – espresso and toffee covered in dark chocolate.  They are fantastic and I am completely addicted to them.  Once my wife made chocolate chip using the Pillows instead of chocolate.  She did not use all the cookie dough and was going to toss it.  I actually sat there and ate all the Espresso Pillows out of the raw dough so I would not waste them.

Take Care of Your Feet Forrest

Some folks started to change socks and care for their feet.  There were some very nasty blisters, including some big purple ones that looked like grapes hanging off the side of their toes.  Big Daddy saw this and asked for a foot check.  All of us removed our shoes and socks.  Big Daddy walked around and checked everyone’s feet.  He asked a couple of questions based on what he saw.  I had two small blisters, nothing bad.

We put our socks and shoes back on.  It was time to head out again.  As we were rucking, I noticed one of the shadows helped himself to one of my food bags – the one with my espresso pillows.  When I saw the shadows eating my espresso pillows, a white hot rage flashed in front of my eyes.  Who dares to eat my pillows without asking.  I quickly calmed down when I thought about it.  He shadowed since the beginning and would continue to the end.  If I ever see him again, he owes me a pack of espresso pillows.

We continued rucking our way back to Dallas, which included a stop at our morning water hazard.  This time we stopped for bottom samples.  Big Daddy lead us into the water for bottom samples and a quick swim.  He told us that given the water temperature (which he measured to be 48 degrees), hypothermia would set in in 10 minutes. He kept us in there for 5.  Once we were out of the water, we were allowed to change.  This was not easy to do since Colleen was grabbing asses and calling out “bottom samples.”  Soon enough, we were back on the trail headed to Dallas.

We met up with Cadre Michael, who took over as the lead cadre to bring us back into Dallas.  It felt like we were on the final stretch, even though we probably had about 7 miles to go before reaching the starting point.  Cadre Michael was determined to get us back to the starting point at 24 hour point.  This meant shuffling, a lot of shuffling, and little to no breaks.  When we did not shuffle enough, we were punished.

Tunnel of Love 2.0

On the way, Michael saw a tunnel under a bridge and through one of the levies; a tunnel he would have us crawl through.  The tunnel is a drainage tunnel for floods.  It was a nasty and dark tunnel, which we later learned was over 100 meters long.  The tunnel was dry up until the last 10%.  I do not envy the first person on the team that had to determine how deep the water was.  Luckily, we could see the light and all of us made it out without incident.  Cadre Michael was very proud that he had us crawl through the longest tunnel he has found (to date).

Once we got back on the trail, it was time to shuffle and walk, walk and shuffle.  We kept this up until we got into the city.  Somewhere along the way, I became the flag bearer and was setting the pace.  While I try my best to set the correct pace, I am terrible at it.  I always go too fast.  It seemed that I was doing alright because no one was speaking up.

We were back in Dallas and the temperature was dropping.  Cadre Michael saw a nice fountain and decided it was time for a little fun in the water.  First, we had to sit on the edge and flutter kick, splashing as much as we could.  He was not impressed with our splashing, so into the fountain we went.  It was hydro-burpie time.  After 2, we were instructed that we were not doing them correctly, so we started over.  This water was cold, to me it felt colder than the pond we were in earlier.  After we completed our task, we went back on the move.

Breaks appeared in our line and we lost our right shoe.  Soon after, Candace ran up to the front and took the flag from me and said “Back of the line; you are going too fast.”  Like I mentioned earlier, I am a terrible pace setter.

We entered the park, that was our starting point, to see a crowd of GRTs, friends, and family waiting for us.  We were not finished yet.  Cadre Big Daddy pulled out the piece of paper and said, “There are still those that owe me pushups and sit-ups from the PT test.”

“Damn it,” I thought, “well, maybe all this rucking and the adrenaline of finishing may push me to hit the numbers.”

PT Standard Redux

First was sit-ups, I was paired with Patrick.  He went first and put up a respectable number in the 60s.  We switched.  I was tired, but I felt I could do this.  The words I heard in my head were, “All the effort, all the time.”  That was what I was going to do.

Cadre said go and I knocked out as many as I could, as fast as I could.  I don’t remember where I needed to rest but I knew it was earlier than my normal spot.  Took two deep breaths and kept going.  I took another break, I heard Patrick offering some words of encouragement, but all I heard was the words in my head, “All the effort, all the time.”

Cadre called time, but I ended up doing 2-3 more before it sunk it.  My final number was 57 (as best I can recall).  When I heard the count, I wanted to have completed more.  I instantly started to dissect my performance and how I could improve.

“Get in the up position,” the Cadre called out.  Cadre had us call out phrases as we went down and pushed back up.  I knew this was the end, but the words, “All the effort, all the time,” repeated in my head.  These push ups were going to be as close to perfect as they could be.  In the end, they may have been terrible, but they felt right.

Finishing as a Team

We were told to hold the up position while the Cadre came around and handed us our patches.  I received my patch from Big Daddy.  Heavy 026 was completed.

We started as individuals, were tested as individuals, then came together as a team.  We were tested as a team, suffered as a team, and finished as a team.  It was an honor to be part of our fantastic team: Patrick, AG, Tim, Mariela, Brian, OG, Colleen, Dave, Candace, Abi, Mike, and Saul.

After it was all over, Big Daddy came over to a couple of us and asked why we did not quit.  I told him, “I always had more in me.”  He asked how I knew that.  I replied, “I don’t know.  I would just pause and realize that I always had more in me.”

Heavy 26 Team Photo

Heavy 26 Team Photo courtesy of Abi Rittenhouse Wilson

My final thoughts on Heavy 2.0

Heavy 2.0 is more than just a 24 hour version of the challenge.  I am happy with the changes that Cadre Dan has made.  It pleases me to see GoRuck evolve over time.

Heavy 2.0 will test you both as an individual and as a team.  I have been asked for my advice on tackling the new Heavy.  My advice is simple, but not easy.

  • Get yourself physically ready: GORUCK has a great training page and so does SGPT

  • Practice the PT test often.  Get used to it.

  • Ruck:  Ruck often with your Heavy weight.  Ruck far – most people’s bodies will start to have issues around mile 7 or 8.  Make sure you are rucking at least 10 miles.  Keep a steady 15 min/mi pace.  I realize the standard is 17:30 min/mi pace, but that assumes no stops, no time penalties, etc.  If those things happen, be sure you are able to recover the time.

Get yourself mentally ready

  • Quitting is a virus:  Quitting is highly contagious and can take down even the strongest person.  My personal philosophy is never think about quitting.  Some people repeat the mantra: “Don’t Quit” or “DFQ.”  I don’t.  That mantra means you are thinking about quitting.  I keep my mantras positive, “Be Water,” (from Bruce Lee) and “I have more.”  After Heavy 026, I have a new one thanks to Big Daddy and my team, “Feel the wind in your hair.”

  • When you ruck the long distances, try to ruck alone in the dark and in the silence.

  • Smile: If there is one thing I could change about my performance, it would be smile more.  Smiles are also contagious and they are up-lifting.  Smile when you are out, even if you have to fake it sometimes.

Going Heavy — David Pearson’s Experience at Goruck Heavy 006

dave_close_up_masters_heavy

Dave after 006 Heavy with his much deserved Heavy Patch. Photo courtesy of David Pearson.

On May 18th, 2013, a group of 38 Master’s (40+) descended on Washington, DC to participate in a custom Goruck Heavy.

David Pearson (almost 47) was one of those masters who participated. I sat down with Dave to go over his experience at Goruck Heavy 006 (24+ hours of Good Livin’).

 

Jarie Bolander: Thanks Dave for agreeing to be interviewed on your experiences with the Master’s Heavy.

David Pearson: No problem. Glad to help

JB: How many people signed up for the Master’s Goruck Heavy.

DP: 40 signed up, 38 showed up, 36 started and 29 finished. The two who didn’t start had a good reason as they were a couple and just found out she was pregnant.

JB: Why did people drop?

DP: Two were definitely medical. One a shoulder and one a back. One person dropped out pretty early. He was in his 60’s and did two challenges in a row and basically said he had no business being here.

He said, I’m too beat down and I’ll just slow you guys down, which is not fair to the team.

The other four dropped after 4 or 5 hours. One could not keep up with the pace, one because a buddy said they would drop if their buddy dropped. One of them looked medical and the fourth I never had a chance to talk to but may have been a med drop.

We started on the mall with a smoke session, then to the Jefferson memorial and got photo bombed by some Japanese tourists. Then we went to Arlington and watched the changing of the guard. That was pretty good.

We missed both time hacks getting to Jefferson and Arlington. Cadre Devin said he would extract punishment from us later.

After that we went to Roosevelt Island and that was were we lost the four before going to the island.

Before crossing to the island, Cadre Devin gave us a speech about this being a custom challenge and we were all masters. If we wanted the Heavy patch then we had to meet the standard.

You either step up and perform or go home now or tell me you don’t want this to be a heavy and we can change it to something more fun. If you want a Heavy patch, you’re going to earn it.

After the speech, another person was ready to drop out but a teammate convinced them to stay.

From that point, we lost two other people who had med problems. The one with the shoulder problem (he had surgery a couple months prior) and another one, his back was giving out.

Everyone else finished. We did have two pretty serious medical problems that we treated during the event.

JB: What were the two serious medical problems?

DP: The first guy went down for dehydration. He was throwing up and could not hold anything down. Thankfully, a teammate treated him with meds and got him going.

That took about 15 minutes and all of us had to lay down and not say a word. Most people fell asleep but I stayed awake because I just knew that Cadre Devin would pull some sort of surprise, which he did.

The other guy had an epileptic fit. It scared the crap out of me since me and another guy watched it happen. I thought he was having a heart attack since we could not get him up.

Luckily, we had an EMT in the group and he and Cadre Devin came over and got him going. It was scary.

JB: Was he a known epileptic?

DP: He was known to himself but no one else knew about it.

JB: He did not tell anyone. Oh my God!

DP: Every thing that we were doing in a Heavy are the things you are not supposed to do if you have epilepsy. Every bad thing you are not supposed to do, we were doing.

JB: But in the end, he made it too. Wow, I guess he should have done more or maybe, I don’t know.

DP: Yeah, stuff happens. The only time I came close to dropping was when my right knee started acting up and feeling funky with shooting pains. I thought that if this keeps up, it’s serious and I would have to med drop but after about a half an hour, it just stopped hurting and I was fine.

JB: Okay. So, what was the most grueling part? Was it the physical or the mental? What was it that you had the most problems with?

DP: It was a combination. After we left Roosevelt Island, we went to Georgetown to do a rest and refit. From there, for the next 13 hours, Cadre Devin gave us sandbag babies.

So we had 1,400 pounds of babies we had to carry, which is 22 sandbags.

At one point, because we damaged some of his babies by dropping them, Cadre Devin decided that we needed some sturdier babies and gave us two additional concrete babies to carry.

And then because we missed a headcount, he gave us a big log that one person could carry but it looked like a big recoilless rifle and then we had to carry that.

We had like 31 people which later dropped to 29 and 27 items to carry. So no matter how bad off you were, you had nobody to trade with.

We were basically walking from lock or bridge to the next lock or bridge, dropping our load and taking 3 minutes off since that’s about as far as you could go without taking a break.

JB: Right. that’s because of the weight.

DP: Yeah, because of the weight and you had no one to trade off with.

Most of us, at any given time, we carrying between 70 and 110 pounds on our back for 13 hours.

JB: That must have wore you down.

DP: Yeah, it’s just a long way. If you have any kind of injury or whatever it starts to get exacerbated. That’s what happened with the guys with the shoulder and bad back had to go out on.

But everyone, including Max who was one of the young babies we let do it, by the end was injured. Both of his knees were in bad shape and his back. All of us were struggling and it’s just a matter of pushing through it.

JB: So, did you guys have to lift any logs?

DP: Yup. We lifted a log on Roosevelt Island that the ROTC kids put there a couple of weeks before.

JB: Nice. I love it how they seem to find logs like “Gee, where did this log come from?”

Cadre love logs and I just don’t get it. Every Goruck guy I know hates them.

DP: Well, that’s because it builds the team. If you can’t work together as a team and get a system going, then you can’t move the log.

Luckily we had one guy who stayed under the log the whole time and he had a huge booming voice. He got everyone moving in the right direction and got the log moving.

At one point Cadre Devin got pissed because we were not moving very far before we would drop it. He said that if you don’t get this 100 feet in the next 4 minutes, you are going to carry it all the way to the Potomac River.

JB: I’m sure the motivation was pretty high. Those are the worst possible things. I hate them [logs].

DP: I was under it twice and it crushed me.

JB: Lifting the log is a tough, tough thing to do.

What were some of the gear changes that you did between a normal challenge and a Heavy? What did you add or take away?

DP: I read everyone else’s reports and what Cadre recommended. I switched from tennis shoes to boots for ankle support. I was glad for boots especially when we crossed a pond before the Potomac River. There must have been a foot of muck on the bottom. I don’t know how people did not loose their shoes. As I said, I switched from tennis shoes to boots and I also went from a kilt to long pants and knee pads and that helped tremendously.

One thing I did not consider was what would happen when you wear compression shirts for long periods of time. Chaffing is an issue and I should have brought some Body Glide. That was a mistake.

JB: So if you ever did it again, it would be Body Glide for sure.

DP: Definitely. Body Glide over 24 hours when you are wearing the same clothing and going through all the stuff, you definitely need to get some Body Glide.

Heavy means that you are going long distances with lots of weight. So you are getting stuff rubbing all over your body.

While a compressions shirt might be good for 6-12 hours, after 18 or 20, you need something to be between your skin and that shirt or shorts.

JB: Yeah because it’s going to start to chafe. Chafe for sure.

So, how soon after you guys started did you guys realize that this is a different event — more than a challenge? It seems like more weight. Did it pretty much start out the same? Was it just a challenge with more weight and time?

DP: It pretty much started out the same and most of us did not know what to expect because this was a custom event. We were all in DC. We were thinking we’ll see some monuments, move a log and that it would be just longer time.

Cadre Devin started out with the normal PT and that kind of stuff which we all expected no big deal. And then he started to set time hacks that younger guys could have made but there was no way our group was going to make it especially with a couple of 60 year olds. It just was not going to happen.

We were fine. We accepted the punishment. It’s not a big deal. We know we are going to miss the time hack. Who cares?

So it really did not get real until his speech at Roosevelt Island where he said you guys are missing your time hacks. It’s not going to get any easier — it’s only going to get harder. That’s when it started to set in. He started to wail on us and then he gave us the sandbags.

When you have 80 pounds on your back and he’s like I want to do 60 miles which is more than any prior challenge has ever done, it gets real.

JB: That’s a lot of miles. How much did you end up doing?

DP: About 45 is what he calculated. The longest so far was New York at 50. We were just shy of New York and our average age was probably double theirs.

JB: Yeah, Cuz I mean going 60 miles in 24 hours with 80-110 lbs on your back. That’s pretty brutal. That’s not going to be fun. Not at all. No fun.

This is no joke. It’s more than a challenge or a double challenge. It’s like a challenge plus.

DP: It way beyond a double challenge. If you look at past classes, they have a 50% drop out rate where ours was more like 20% for a Masters so Cadre Devin was impressed as hell by that.

JB: Well Masters — guys over 40 — are crazy anyway.

DP: We are used to pain. We wake up with it everyday so we are used to it. We’re too stubborn to know any better.

JB: Or too stupid. Wow. So the typical Heavy has been a 50% drop out rate.

DP: If you look at the prior ones that have been run, they have been a 50% or higher drop rates out of 6 Heavy’s that have been run so far.

JB: That’s pretty up there. I mean a typical challenge has a 98% pass rate. You have to put out and all but that’s a huge disparity. You’re like doubling. Wait way more than doubling the fail rate.

DP: On ours, it’s like we had no relief. If you had trouble with your sandbag, you had no one to give it too because everyone else had one. You just had to suck it up.

At some point, people were asking to switch sandbags for a lighter one.

JB: That’s just the way it goes. I mean it’s funny when someone says, can I get a lighter sandbag. That’s when you are embracing the suck. Can I just trade with you for a little bit to get a lighter sandbag just to recover? Amazing.

DP: You would be shocked. We would stop every mile or two for maybe a couple of minutes but that couple of minute break was great. By the time I got there, I was sweating profusely, ready to throw up but after that break, I was good to go. That break provided a tremendous amount of relief.

You get to the next stop and you are in the same broken down condition.

And the other thing that I learned because I was watching the other guys do it was every time we stopped by a tree or a ledge or something to get your feet up in the air for the swelling. And that’s a big thing when you are on your feet with that kind of weight for that length of time.

Anytime when you can take a rest, get on your back and get your feet up.

JB: Aw. Okay. So just to reduce the swelling.

DP: Yeah, that worked great.

JB: So some of the things that you learned. Get your feet up to reduce the swelling and to reduce the stress. Body Glide is a must.

DP: The other thing is know your equipment. I did the half-marathon on Mt. Diablo with my boots and ruck. So I was doing that under 45 pounds of weight while you guys were running by me.

That helped teach me where the hot spots were going to be on my feet. So before I even started I had blister pads on, moleskin over that and rock taped it down or the moleskin will move as soon as it gets wet. So the KT tape will hold everything in place when it gets wet.

I had only one place on my feet that erupted and that was below my ankle. Everything else was perfectly fine. Never blistered. It hurt like hell and I thought my feet would look like sausage but they were perfectly fine in the end.

JB: So you handled the hot spots by really just beating your feet up. Knowing where the hot spots were going to be and taking care of them ahead of time.

DP: Yup. You need to be out using your equipment under tremendous amounts of weight and time so you can figure out what’s going to break where and fix it before you get there. Because if you look at some of the Selection reports, a lot of guys dropped out because of their feet got in their head.

JB: Yeah. That’s why Dan had to drop from NorCal because his feet. I saw his feet after. You were there and saw them too. They were pretty bad. That was pretty awful.

So, what about training? What did you do to train for this? Is it different than a challenge?

DP: I started lifting a lot because I wanted to put on more muscle because I knew I would have to carry a lot more stuff for a lot longer. Doing longer rucks under weight was what I did. That’s why I did the half marathon, under 45 pounds on Mt. Diablo. It was something like 2,500 feet of elevation.

So, I wanted to see because I never wore boots for a challenge before to see what would happen for that kind of elevation gain.

Going back to DC, it’s pretty flat so you don’t have to worry about hills. If I could do the hills out here, then I knew I could do DC.

JB: So basically, longer duration rucks, with the equipment to understand where things are going to pop up like hot spots, how your equipment is either going to fail or pass or whatever.

DP: Yep and getting used to once the weight is on my back just to continue to walk forward with it. So, it depends on where you are mentally. On the mental part, I’m always pretty strong. It’s the physical that I’m more concerned about breaking down.

I stopped doing spinning and running and focused on the lifting so I had more muscle mass.

JB: Okay. So for you, what were some of the mental things you went through or the mental toughness so to speak. I mean, how do you condition yourself for the mental aspects?

DP: I think part of that comes with age.

JB: Ha Ha. Age. I guess we are just too stupid. Ha Ha.

DP: Doing Diablo a year ago and failing at it told me where my body was breaking and recognizing how to fix it.

As you know, doing the ultra running, you are on your own. You are in your head the entire time. There is no one next to you to talk to. That’s what makes you mentally tough.

JB: Okay, so basically going out and doing things where you rely on yourself, maybe even fail, understand where that failure is, adjust and just keep on going. Really building that mental endurance.

DP: A Heavy is still a Goruck Challenge where you can talk to the person next to you. If you can keep a positive attitude, then that’s good.

People were smiling, telling jokes. We had one guy from the south who talked the whole night. It was awesome because you had someone to listen too. You know, that helps.

In Selection, people get into their own heads because they can’t talk to anybody. So if you can’t manage, like Paige said, learn to mediate so that you don’t get into your own head.

You need to be able to control that and what you are thinking when you do these kind of events.

But the Heavy is not Selection and in a Heavy you have a team that can pull you through it.

JB: So, Okay, that sounds good. It seems to me that the general summary. You have to get physically conditioned and more muscle is important. Cardio is important but muscle because you are carrying a lot of weight.

DP: We had to move fast in the beginning because he was setting time hacks that we were not going to make. I don’t know if it would have made that much difference.

JB: Okay. So mostly focusing on the muscle mass, obviously cardio is going to be important. Second thing would be knowing the equipment and making sure that it’s all right, understand how to use it and actually knowing where the hot spots are on your feet are going to be and the chafing. Lesson learned on chafing was invest in some Body Glide.

DP: I never had chafing like that before ever.

JB: Oh yeah. I don’t even want to image how bad that can be.

DP: The benefit of having pants is that if you sometimes only have a 2-3 minute break. During some of the longer breaks, I would stuff food in the pockets.

So on a shorter break, I would lay on my back and I could reach into a pocket for food. There would be no way I would have time to reach into my ruck to get food out before we were up and moving again.

So the pants were a benefit from that standpoint because I had all these pockets I could stuff food.

Over 24 hours, you are burning like 1,000 calories an hour, which is 24,000. That’s a lot of calories.

JB: Did you think nutrition was a factor for you?

DP: I had plenty of food so I was eating regularly. We were reminding people to drink and eat. We had a resupply point during the night as well.

Cadre Devin was really good about getting us water and making sure we had it.

Normally during a challenge, I don’t eat. For 12 hours, it’s no big deal but for 24, I made sure I was eating a bunch of food throughout the event.

Having pockets for that food was a big plus.

JB: What kind of food? Was it the normal kind of food that you would eat? Like bars or what?

DP: Bars, gels some dried fruit (bananas and apricots). I brought some chocolate covered Acaci fruits. I had a chocolate bacon bar which was one of my rewards.

We were sharing food. A couple of people brought potatoes cooked with salt. People were sharing that. Jerky. Easy finger foods to eat.

A bunch of people brought MRE’s. So on a longer break, they were breaking out MRE’s and eating them.

[MRE’s] are easy food to carry. Light.

JB: Yeah, that’s true. So nutrition was a factor and so was hydration and all that was important. Did you feel that you hydrated enough? Was there ample time to hydrate?

DP: There was plenty of opportunities to hydrate. The one guy that went down for dehydration I don’t think was paying attention to his food and water.

That was on him for not paying attention to that. Everyone was reminding people to drink, drink, drink.

We had plenty of stops for water and the weather was perfect. Low 70’s. Cloudy. Warm but it was not humid. Heat, from that standpoint, was not a factor.

It never really got cold at night. We really did not need a lot of clothing.

If we would have started 2 days before when it was in the 90’s, half of us probably would have dropped due to dehydration.

JB: Yeah. Dehydration is a killer. When I did that ultra-marathon, Mt. Diablo. I was like every water stop I would fill up. I must have gone through 8 or 9 liters of water. That was a 7.5 hour race and I was constantly drinking and going to the bathroom. It was sweating out as well.

DP: Someone brought one of those marshmallow rollers, he said that was his M4, he would break that out and people were rolling their calfs and thighs and that was a pretty good idea.

JB: Yeah, Yeah. You will definitely get your calves seizing up if you are under that much strain for that period of time.

Any closing thoughts? Do you plan on doing it again?

DP: Yeah. I would not mind shadowing one or helping out with one but I don’t know if I would actually want to do another one. It does a lot of damage to your body.

My legs and hips are still sore. Both shoulders have bruising on them. I’m not nearly as bad as some of the guys I have seen. It’s a lot more damage than a 12 hour challenge.

It was fun to do and it was a great group of people because everyone had done multiple challenges. There was no new person that you had to teach how to form a team, so that was cool.

JB: So that was good that a least there was that knowledge of what to expect.

DP: There was no one there that did not know what to do with a log for example. We knew how to move sandbags. We knew how to do all the different workouts. When to cheat and when not to cheat.

JB: That’s so important. That is really important. Okay. Any final words? Like advice if someone is going to do this kind of thing?

DP: Take it seriously. If you have an injury or mental reservations, then don’t show up or drop out early. Don’t hurt the team by making them carry your weight just because you want to be there.

You need to be putting out for the team because it’s going to be miserable during the event. If you have an injury, it’s going to get worse if you have that much weight on your body over that distance.

Don’t do a challenge the weekend before like some of the knuckleheads did. A lot of guys were regretting that they did that.

JB: Sound advice. I mean it beats you up. It takes me like a week to feel normal.

DP: Even Mark Webb was ready to throw up.

JB: It really beats you up. Yeah, and Mark’s a vet at this stuff. He’s done like all of them.

DP: He’s done the most other than the Cadre.

JB: Okay. Great. Dave I appreciate your time and letting me interview you for my blog.

DP: No problem.

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Class 006 Team Picture. Photo courtesy of Max Beckman Baird

 

Goruck Challenge Class 449 Event Report — March 9th 2013

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Photo Credit: April Palugod Cioni

I finished my second Goruck challenge on International Goruck Challenge Day.

Yup, you heard me right, International Goruck Challenge Day.

The Board of Supervisors in the City and County of San Francisco declared March 9th, 2013 (see the picture below) as International Goruck Challenge Day.

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What a fitting day to do my second challenge!

A Twisted Way to Start

Our night of Good Livin’ kicked off on Lombard and Hyde with Cadre Beaux and Cadre Michael. For those of you who don’t know where that is, you can click here.

Lombard is the famed “Crookedest Street in the World”. Thankfully, we did not have to bear crawl down it or anything like that. I think they picked it for the fantastic views or maybe just to mess with our minds.

Welcome to Embracing the Suck Again

I don’t think I’ll ever get comfortable with the Goruck welcoming PT. It’s a shock to the system that you hope to get used to but never seems to feel right with.

Cadre Michel (Bravo team) put us through the paces with some truly miserable PT. Push-ups, bodybuilders, jumping jack and squats (and a bunch I choose to forget). Of course, this is all done in mid-shin deep San Francisco Bay water (aquatic park to be precise).

The welcome party is a gut check.

It gets the blood flowing and breaks down any illusion that this is going to be easy.

A Goruck Challenge is never easy and I don’t think they will get any easier. Even the additional training I did (mostly running, weights, rucking and some crossfit) does not fully prepare you for the challenge of doing all those things with 6 bricks on your back.

Even training with weight does not fully prepare you for what might happen. Sure, it helps but after two challenges, you really can’t predict what kind of PT you will be doing except for maybe push-ups and flutter kicks in cold, sandy water.

Sage Advice From Lieutenant Dan

I’m sure most of your remember the movie Forrest Gump. If not, definitely go check it out.

Lieutenant Dan’s advice to Forrest and Bubba rings true for any challenge — Take Care of Your Feet.

Anytime you have the chance to put dry socks on, remove sand, massage them or just let them dry out, do it. Your feet (along with other body parts) will take a beating but sore feet is just miserable and will make embracing the suck a lot harder.

My friend Dan found that out at Selection when he had to drop because his feet were really torn up. If you are having foot problems, let the Cadre or your fellow team mates know. I know that someone will either have extra socks or something that will help you out. Thankfully, mine held up okay but there were times when I was glad I toughen them up.

Some Simple Ways to Toughen Your Feet

Tough feet will make finishing a Goruck challenge a lot easier. My regime is a little bit odd but it works for me.

I’m an avid Roman Style runner (Teva Hurricane XLT is my preferred sandel). I have also done barefoot running (with Vibram’s 5 fingers) and routinely wear minimalist shoes as much as I can (I do my challenges in Merrell Trail Gloves. Doing this helps me toughen my feet so that they can handle the punishment.

Some of the other things I do to strengthen and take care of my feet include:

 

  • Proper toe nail care: It’s critical that you take care of your toe nails and make sure they are trimmed and not digging into your other toes. Believe me when I tell you, you don’t want any part of them removed for being ingrown.

  • Be barefoot as much as possible: Walking barefoot will allow you to toughen your feet but it also helps you understand how you walk.

  • Compete with what you train with: Always compete with what you train with. Break in new shoes or boots at least a month before you use them. New shoes or boots will be murder on your feet during a challenge.

  • Figure out your swelling factor: Feet swell during long endurance events. Once they swell, they will tend to rub more on shoes and boots. If you know your swell factor you can get a half size or bigger shoes and use socks to make them fit when not swelled.

  • Use glove type socks: Glove type socks really help keep your toes from rubbing against each other.

  • Duct tape works great for blisters: If you do get a blister, try some duct tape to prevent more rubbing.

  • Pop those blisters: Make sure to pop those blisters when they appear or it will just get worst and worst.

 

Zen and the Art of Carrying Logs

No Goruck challenge is complete without dealing with some sort of large log. This challenge was no exception.

Cadre Michael initially picked a real massive one that we could not even hoist to hip level. Thankfully, we settled on one that was a little more manageable — albeit still a monster.

Carrying logs is usually the de facto team building experience since a massive piece of wood cannot ever be lifted individually — it takes a coordinated team effort.

One thing that’s always challenging about log carrying is that the shape makes a huge difference. Odd shaped logs, with branches, curves, breaks and the like, pose an interesting dilemma – where to position people.

Team Bravo’s log had a fat end, a dip, several branches and was waterlogged. That made it just miserable to carry and to figure out positioning. Several attempts at “thinking about it” just led to failure after failure after failure.

With logs, the best method seems to be to just do it. Don’t overthink it. Don’t try to make it any easier. Just assess the situation and go for it.

Of course, this is easier said than done when you are tired and cold but overthinking did not help us one bit.

Another valuable lesson is to coordinate putting the log down. It’s vital to not abandon your log station no matter how much it hurts until the command is given. It’s really dangerous and can injury your fellow teammates. One of our teammates,Nick, got a chunk of log to his head. Thankfully, he was not hurt (he has a pretty hard head).

Challenge Assessment

As I talked about in my last challenge report, upper body strength was my big performance gap. For this challenge, I decided to focus more on Cross-fit style exercises and just long runs since my next event is the Diablo Trails 50k.

It worked out pretty well but I’m still deficient in upper and lower body strength (those 50 bodybuilders in Aquatic park just about broke me).

I’m going to up my weight training and do more cross fit to get make myself stronger. I will say that having more strength did help out a lot

Everyone’s Challenge Will Be Different

When you show up to a challenge, you have no idea who will be there with you. Each and every person that shows up is doing it for one reason or another.

What’s clear is that everyone that does show up wants to learn something about themselves.

A Goruck Challenge is going to push you beyond what you think you can endure. Even if you never carry a log, you will have to carry someone elses ruck, the team weight, maybe food or literally someone (usually a sniper or Zombie causality).

What’s fascinating about the types of people that show up is that they bring with them skills that they don’t know they have. Team leadership, endurance, encouraging others, navigation or just a positive attitude. Whatever it is, everyone’s challenge will be different and unique.

Everyone in class 449 made it and their unique experience will follow them forever. Congratulations Class 449!

 


 

If you are interested in doing your own Goruck Challenge, check out the site here. Ten dollars from the entry fee goes to The Green Beret Foundation to help our wounded, ill and injured special forces soldiers. Here’s to Good Livin’!

Goruck Challenge SF: Nov 3rd, 2012 Class 306 Report

 

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Class 306 after the Challenge. Photo Courtesy of Johan Beisser

It never fails. The days before an event, I start to get nervous.

It starts out simple enough. A few checks on my equipment, maybe review the course a 1,000 times or double check my race packet. Whatever it is, it feels like I have to do something to double, triple or quadruple check that I have everything ready. All those checks and balances make me feel better but it can make the people around me mental.

The Goruck Challenge amplified my nervousness because there is no race packet or course map — only a time and a place to show up and get going.

Nerves, War Stories and Free Beer

The best way for me to deal with nerves is to be around other people that are nervous. I know, it sounds kinda crazy but the shared experience of being nervous actually makes me calmer.

It also makes me feel a lot better that 1) I’m not the only one and 2) there are people more nervous than me.

That’s why I really enjoyed the War Stories and Free Beer event before the challenge. It was a great way to not only meet up with the team but to also hear some incredible stories of how war effects our brave solders.

I’m sure some of you may be thinking that telling war stories glorifies war. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t.

These stories are an incredibly powerful testament to the ability of our solders to endure a tremendous amount of physical and mental stress. A soldiers war story punctuates the real human cost of war from those that have experienced it first hand.

Thanks to All Who Serve

I’m extremely thankful that our soldiers put themselves in harms way to protect our country even when they may not agree with why they were sent in the first place. That’s my definition of a true patriot.

To everyone who serves or has served in the military, thanks for enduring the struggles, hardships and sorrows to protect our nations freedom and it’s people. Cheers!

An Unorganized Bunch

Class 306 started out as an unorganized bunch of people most of whom I did not know. Most of the guys I trained with were in class 305.

It’s an amazing site to watch the transformation from rag tag bunch of Gorucktards to a team that can actually perform pretty amazing tasks.

Our Cadre, Chris, was always at the ready with some sharp remark, snarky comment, war story or physical challenge to push our personal and team limits.

The challenges and shared experiences are really what the Goruck Challenge is all about. It’s an imperative that the team gel quickly or the night is going to be miserable.

Being Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

I think the best advice I got about this sort of event was from my friend Dan.

Dan’s an ex-marine who has been to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Dan’s advice was simple — you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

All of the games we played during the night were meant to put us in stressful situations where the dynamics are always changes, there is no rhythm, you don’t know where you are going and the physical challenges just makes it that much harder to concentrate.

It was this notion that whatever is thrown at us, we just have to deal with and get it done is what builds a team. No need to bitch. No need to ask why. Just do what the Cadre says and complete the mission.

When the Switch Flips

There is something strange that happens to people under physical and mental duress. At some point, the switch either flips or it does not (Thanks again Dan for the great metaphor).

What’s the switch?

The switch is when you get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s the point where you stop caring how much pain you are in, how uncomfortable you are, how cold it is, why the hell you are doing this or even how heavy the load is. When the switch flips, you and the team are in the zone. You just focus on the task at hand and you don’t worry about anything else.

Getting the switch to flip takes training, dedication and mental toughness. Those that can’t flip the switch are the ones that quit when the going gets tough. Thankfully, everyone in class 306 flipped the switch!

Pushing Through to the End

As the day wore on, it’s inevitable that I was thinking about the end. Our trek across the Golden Gate Bride was both the high and low point for me. My shoulders and back really started to hurt while I was leading the charge across the bridge as flag bearer. Frankly, it got kinda emotional as I usually get when runners high sets in or I feel the fatigue start to break me down. I really had to did deep to make it across.

This challenge was a lot different than Vineman where if you wanted to stop and sort yourself out you could. They even have these things called rest stops where nice people give you food and drinks. It’s downright civil :)!

Pushing through to the end came down to wanting it more than letting myself or the team down. Even though everything hurt, the pain was manageable when I got in the right frame of mind and just focused on the task at hand.

Challenge Assessment

Finishing a Goruck challenge combined every single element that I have talked about over the last 6 posts:

  • Adapt to the situation you are in.

  • Consistently put out your best effort

  • Pace yourself and your team to have a sense of urgency but not panic.

  • Confidence in your abilities even when things look bleak.

  • Endure through the suck by not focusing on the pain but rather on the task at hand.

  • Teamwork is the only way to complete the challenge.

Specific things the challenge taught me and I need to work on include:

  • Upper body strength: I have the endurance but my upper body strength is lacking. It’s really time to hit the gym.

  • More quality time with the bricks: The weight of the ruck just sucks. I don’t think it will ever be comfortable but it can be a lot more comfortable if I practice with it more.

  • Practice all the PT: The PT is what kicked my ass the most. PT with the ruck on downright sucks.

  • More practice with a group: The group practices were a lot of fun and really helped me prepare me for the challenge. I need to do that more.

  • Wrap the bricks better: I need to wrap the bricks in a cut up yoga mat like Dave does. I think that will make it a lot easier to load in and adjust if required.

The True Meaning of Good Livin’

It’s kinda crazy to subject yourself to a grueling endurance event but I now totally get why people do it — for the camaraderie.

Most endurance events are based on solo performance. You rarely get to work as a team and feel that esprit de corps that binds people together.

All of us strive for that human connection which is hard to find in our digital age where social media completely “connects us” but only superficially. We tend to spend tons of time on-line but don’t spend a lot of time truly connecting with others. That connection is what a Goruck Challenge provides and no social media platform will even come close.

Thanks to all those guys and gals of class 306 and 305 that endured the struggles, injuries and challenges with me. All of us made it through as a team to become Goruck Tough!


If you missed any of the training posts leading up to the challenge, you can check them out below:

If you are interested in doing your own Goruck Challenge, check out the site here. Ten dollars from the entry fee goes to The Green Beret Foundation to help our wounded, ill and injured special forces soldiers. Here’s to Good Livin’!

Goruck Challenge SF: Training Update #6 — Teamwork

This week I’m nursing a back injury so training has been light and not as jarring as in the past. No quality time with the ruck like I wanted to but that’s just part of training — eventually you’re going to get hurt and will need to deal with it.

Looking at the NorCal Goruck Facebook page, it looks like several of my gorucktards are nursing injuries as well. Tory even canceled the training session this week because not enough people could go.

Saturday was also such a beautiful day. I really wanted to get out their and get training. The posts by Nick and Gary didn’t help either. Man, those guys kicked some butt and all I’m doing is resting, eating cake and pie and getting fat. Can someone pass me the Cortisone so I can get back in the fight?

The Ties That Bind

This weeks brick is teamwork.

Reading the comments on the NorCal Goruck Facebook page is a cornucopia of insults, training tips, gear recommendations and ribbing that can only be described as a lovingly swift kick in the nuts. It’s amazing how a common cause or event can bond a group of people together — some of whom have never met.

Teamwork will be a vital part of the challenge since it’s going to be you and 29 of your soon to be closest friends that need to navigate whatever challenge is thrown at us. It’s comforting to know that at least some of the guys have done this before and know what to expect. That’s always a vital part of a teams success — having some team members that have been there, done that and can help others get past the mental and physical struggles.

It’s amazing how quickly an esprit de corps can be formed even online. I think it has to do with a common focus and a shared experience, even virtually, that makes it easy to relate and feel part of a tribe.

These tribes, both real and virtual, are an essential part of our human experience.

Injuries Suck

I tweaked my back last week and it’s still giving me problems. I’m not even sure how I did it but it’s annoying as hell. It sneaks up on me sometimes when I least expect it. Hoisting a ruck is agony. The good news, is that it’s getting better.

I have to force myself to rest and that’s hard since I don’t want to lose my fitness. Unfortunately, rest is the only way to recover from injuries. No amount of balms, elixirs, massage, voodoo or pushing through the pain will make an injury get better faster than letting your body rest and heal itself.

This Weeks Assessment

  • It’s been a light week due to injury so all the work outs have been low stress and focused on maintaining my cardo fitness. Lots of swimming and stationary biking.

  • I bought some carabiners for my ruck and they work well as a nice finger hold when carrying it without the straps. I stole that ide from someone but I forgot who.

  • This next week is all about getting better and staying healthy so that I’m ready for the challenge. I’m considering it a taper week.


This post is the sixth in the series about my training for the Goruck Challenge on November 3rd 2012 in San Francisco. Each time I add a brick to my pack, I’ll name it and post a training update (there’s 6 total). If you missed the first five, you can check them out below:

If you are interested in doing your own Goruck Challenge, check out the site here. Ten dollars from the entry fee goes to The Green Beret Foundation to help our wounded, ill and injured special forces soldiers. Here’s to Good Livin’!

 

Goruck Challenge SF: Training Update #5 — Endurance

I’m really starting to hate sand. The stuff is everywhere in my apartment. I can’t vacuum enough to get rid of it all. I’m definitely losing the sand management fight — it’s more like an invasion. Can I get an airstrike over here? Sometimes, I think sand has more endurance than I’ll ever have. Argh!

Another Brick in the Ruck

This weeks brick is endurance.

I’m sure it’s no surprise that I have to talk about endurance. I mean, come on, it’s in the site’s name.

Endurance is all about finishing when finishing seems impossible. This challenge will require a tremendous amount of endurance to finish. It’s going to be one major mental and physical challenge after another.

The best part about a group challenge is that everyone is in it together. That reinforces a esprit de corps that transcends the individual and allows us to endure more than we can alone.

Although endurance, at times, is an individual thing, there is a certain comfort in knowing that each and every one on the team needs to endure just as much as I do. It’s also motivating to know that the team depends on you to pull your own weight.

Went it Alone Today

Today, I got up early and went hiking by myself, with my ruck, up Twin Peaks with a brief stop at Corona Heights for some PT (push-ups mixed with carrying my ruck, strap-less, up and down to the Corona Heights summit).

On the Twin Peaks summit, the fog was blowing so hard that it nearly knocked me over. At one point, it was almost a white out.

This is the most time I have had the weight on my back and it just beats me down. I need to find a way to stop focusing on the pain and put one foot in front of the other. Hills don’t help this feeling at all. Up or down, it doesn’t matter — it all sucks.

This Weeks Assessment

  • I need to spend more quality time with weight on my back. That’s going to be the hardest to endure.

  • I miss the esprit de corps of a group training session. Having others around pushes me to suck it up and get through my physical and mental barriers.

  • Staying healthy and injury free is a priority. I should keep up the intensity but maybe reduce the stress on my joints. I can really feel how the weight is putting stress on them.


This post is the fifth in the series about my training for the Goruck Challenge on November 3rd 2012 in San Francisco. Each time I add a brick to my pack, I’ll name it and post a training update (there’s 6 total). If you missed the first four, you can check them out below:

If you are interested in doing your own Goruck Challenge, check out the site here. Ten dollars from the entry fee goes to The Green Beret Foundation to help our wounded, ill and injured special forces soldiers. Here’s to Good Livin’!

 

Goruck Challenge SF: Training Update #4 — Confidence

Modern civilization owes it’s existence to beer.

Without beer, the pyramids would not have been built, vast oceans would not have been charted and we would still be stuck in the dark ages.

This training session Dan and Jon, two fellow gorucktards (Brilliant name. Someone needs to tell me the story about that), added yet another reason civilization owes a debt to beer — it’s the perfect endurance fuel. Both these guys make the hash house harriers look like teetotalers. 🙂

I’m telling you right now, beer and exercise don’t mix well with me. I have a hard enough time working out hungover (BTW, it’s good practice for endurance events — at least I keep telling myself that).

Dan expounded the health benefits of beer saying that it’s the perfect endurance food. I fact checked him (I could not resist) and he’s actually half right.

One can of beer (%DV) has Riboflavin (5%), Niacin (9%), Vitamin B6 (8%) and Protein (3%). It has zero fat and contains Magnesium (5%), Phosphorus (5%), Potassium (3%) and Sodium (1%).

It’s not a super food like Chia (Fair is fair Robert, I had to check) which in an ounce packs 137 calories (an ounce of beer only contains 12 calories). Weight for weight, Chia is much better but clearly not as much fun or as entertaining as a couple of drunk gorucktards (Someone needs to copyright that).

Confidence Not Cockiness

The next brick is confidence because this training session was a big confidence boost for me. It was grueling and totally different than last week (thanks Esme and Nick for putting us through the paces) but it gave me a better sense of how I handle the different types of stresses that a challenge will put me through.

I’m confidence in that I have a good shot at finishing but not cocky that I can slack off. I still need to put the training in and specifically work on my upper body strength (Jon was doing pull-up’s where he would switch grips after each one, all while drunk. Esme did pull-ups while wearing two rucks. Man, I felt like such a pussy watching them).

Confidence is also important so that I don’t second guess my abilities. This event is so much different than any triathlon or anything I have done before. I can’t get discouraged when I come in last place on those stupid crab crawls. Man, I really hate those things. They should be banned under the Geneva convention as cruel and unusual punishment.

This Weeks Assessment

  • The wet suit rash guard was a stroke of genius. Thanks Troy for the inspiration.

  • Water was not an issue this week. I need to experiment with Dave’s advice on Pedialyte. I’ll look into that this week.

  • My bear crawls were much better but my crabs still suck. I might get some wrist supports like Nick. It should help to stabilize them.

  • I’m glad I have a ruck with a sternum strap and a waist belt. I switched rucks with my battle buddy for the day Jai and you can feel the difference. I was impressed that Jai sprinted to catch the lead guys with my 6 brick ruck.


This post is the forth in the series about my training for the Goruck Challenge on November 3rd 2012 in San Francisco. Each time I add a brick to my pack, I’ll name it and post a training update (there’s 6 total). If you missed the first three, you can check them out below:

If you are interested in doing your own Goruck Challenge, check out the site here. Ten dollars from the entry fee goes to The Green Beret Foundation to help our wounded, ill and injured special forces soldiers. Here’s to Good Livin’!

Goruck Challenge SF: Training Update #3 — Pace

I gave in and bought some Merrell Trail Gloves to replace my Teva’s. They’re barefoot style trail running shoes.

I’m glad I did.

The first dip in the ocean, my shoes came untied. With Teva’s, they would have probably come off.

What I did not appreciate till today was that form fitted shoes are a Godsend. They won’t rub as much as Teva’s and will stay nice and snug on my foot. It’s probably also better for sand management.

Take Your Time But Hurry Up

Today’s brick is pace. Pace is an important part of a Goruck and something I need to work on.

As David put it, the young guys will charge ahead and wear out while the older, wiser guys will set a consistent pace. That’s solid advice since I guess I’m one of those old guys — forty-one is the new twenty-one right :)!

The thing about a group challenge is that you can’t get behind the rest of the team. The GRC vet’s were telling us stories about when the team leaves someone behind and it’s no fun. It’s going to be interesting to see how the entire team deals with this.

Today, my pace was slower than the rest and I need to step it up to keep up with the hard chargers. I’ll be working on that more this week (see below).

Sand Management

Every crack, crevasse, orifice, nook, cranny, body opening and piece of clothing was covered with sand. There is sand where I can’t even feel it, see it, shake it off or wash it off.

There is no way you can prevent this. Every time you go in the water, sand will consume you and permeate every square nanometer of your body. Combine that with the salt and you get the perfect sand cement. It’s like the stuff is magnetic and I’m a chuck of Iron.

Managing the sand is going to be a challenge (Hat tip to Troy for the Sand Management line) but thankfully, that the least of my problems.

Things to Work On

This is nothing like an Ironman so I need to adjust my training schedule and spend more time with the ruck on my back. Revelations today include:

  • I suck at the crab and bear crawl thing. Those really, really suck.

  • I drained my water bladder after like 2 hours. Not good at all (I dehydrate easy).

  • Tighter fitting shirt is a must. Maybe I’ll use my wetsuit rash guard.


This post is the third in the series about my training for the Goruck Challenge on November 3rd 2012 in San Francisco. Each time I add a brick to my pack, I’ll name it and post a training update (there’s 6 total). If you missed them, the updates that are done so far are listed below:

If you are interested in doing your own Goruck Challenge, check out the site here. Ten dollars from the entry fee goes to The Green Beret Foundation to help our wounded, ill and injured special forces soldiers. Here’s to Good Livin’!