April 25, 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.

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.