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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.