The following post is over 6 months late. I drafted it that long ago but then stepped away from my blog. As I close out 2016, I decided to publish one last event recap.
What do you do as you recover from 2 Full Marathons in 7 days? You train for another event. This year I decided to accomplish one of my goals: Completing a GORUCK Heavy.
My first GORUCK event was the 4th of July Challenge in Detroit. (You read my after action review of a previous GORUCK event here.) So in 2016, I returned to Detroit to attempt a GORUCK Heavy on June 16th. A GRH (GORUCK Heavy) is approximately a 24+ team-based event, covering an average or 40+ miles, with a completion rate of 50%. It is not a race. There is no course. Just a start point and a group of weirdos who become family during the ensuing madness.
Being around the GORUCK community for going on two years, I’ve heard various experiences at Heavy events. There are so many factors that you can’t control (think Cadre, weather, etc), but there are some things that you can do to improve your chances of passing a GRH.
-Be mentally strong.
-Be able to carry heavy stuff over long distances.
-Be a team player.
-Know your weaknesses.
Primarily for Training I used a Training Plan from Military Athlete. This was a 6-week training program designed specifically for a GRH event. I didn’t follow this training plan completely. Additionally, I continued to run and attend Pure Barre because I enjoy running and couldn’t imagine giving it up completely, and Pure Barre was strengthening my core which was a major weakness for me. One component of a Heavy is the Physical Fitness Test consisting of 2 minutes of push-ups, 2 minutes of sit-ups and a 12 mile ruck in under 3 hours and 30 minutes. The Military Athlete plan focused heavily on this aspect, completing various of pushups and situps throughout the week.
One criticism I had of this plan was the time commitment to complete. Training schedule and times:
Sunday: Total Rest
Saturday : 4-6 hours (Mini events)
Monday/Wednesday: up to 4 hours. This depends largely on personal ruck time.
Tuesday: less than 60 minutes.
Thursday: 3 – 4.5 hours
Friday: Total Rest
My time constraints was a major factor in my modifications for the training plan.
June 16, 2016
Cadre CT and Heath
Like pre-race/event nights, I had trouble sleeping Wednesday evening. I wanted to limit my time awake prior to the event so I tried as hard as possible to “sleep in” and take a nap, but I ended up being awake around 9am.
I had packed my ruck on Wednesday and only had my Pelican case to load prior to the event. Since this would contain my cell phone and car keys, this was going to wait until the last minute to get packed.
I went over my packing list, and made some last minute deductions of food. I was getting nervous and worried about overpacking vs underpacking. I love my GR0, but when it comes to events I always feel like its too small. I had my super slim 20# plate, my 3L Source Hydration Bladder filled, a 2L Sea to Summit dry bag with some first aid supplies (IBU, Contact Solution, a small roll of athletic tape, nail clippers, safety pins, Body Glide), 3 Clif Bars (with caffenine) and 1 pack of ProBar Bolts (with caffinene), 2 Climbing Runners. I also had an 8L Sea to Summit dry bag with 3 pairs of socks, a long sleeve dry fit shirt for when it dropped below 60 over night, a spare dry fit shirt, spare gloves, beanie, buff.
I left my house around 2pm the day of the event and dropped my doggie off before swinging by Chipotle for one last meal. I had almost 3.5 hours to make a 90 mile drive which was expected to take 2 hours. Well it took almost 3 because of traffic.
I pulled into the parking lot at the start point right around 5:30pm. I loaded my Pelican case into my ruck and headed to wait with everyone else. I was a ball of nerves. I’ve read so many AARs of Heavy events, that I had developed so much self-doubt. It was comforting to know a few people at this Heavy event.
The event started smooth, roll call, safety brief and gear check. I was dinged for forgetting my spare headlamp batteries. WTH, I remembered packing them. I normally grab 3 packs to share, but decided I only needed the minimum required. I couldn’t remember what happened to them. When packing I keep all of my event supplies together and then sort what I need and what I don’t. Somehow my batteries, all 3 sets, were in the “do not need” box. Oops.
We first started with a PT challenge of ninja pushups. But Cadre Heath beat us. Our penalty was Flutter Kicks. 1701 of them. Then Cadre CT gave us our 23 exercises to work off the deficiencies found during gear check and 3 late comers.
Next, the Cadre explained how they designed this team event. I actually liked that they shared their thinking behind the process. It gave me an idea of what to expect during the 3 phases of the event.
We didn’t start off with the PT Test however. Which was the big focus of my training (according the the Military Athlete training I followed). I was so ready to knock it out of the park too. We did start off with some team PT. Cadre CT gave us a question. A number was the answer so when we guessed a number, if it was incorrect we had to do that many reps of 3 different exercises. Legit early on I was like fudge this stuff. I could see my car. Mentally its hard at this stage but I tried to remain focused on the current mission.
After some fun picnic table PT, a water run and sandbag loading, we were headed out of the park with our coupons. 41 started the event; 41 remained carrying 4-40+ lb sand bags, 1-80 lb sand bag, all linked together, a duffel bag of unknown goodies (it felt like rope). two water cubes/billets, our team weight (50#). and an American Flag on a 30+lb flag pole. The Duffel bag quickly became my baby.
We did so great as a team, changing out on all of the weights. Moving forward. Staying positive. It got dark quick and it made me happy. With sunset around 9ish and sunrise around 5:45ish, I knew that less than 9 hours and we would be halfway done.
After weaving our way through some trails we came across a parking lot next to a river/stream. Water is typically my weakness and on this June night I felt chilly and was hoping the water wouldn’t put me over the edge. We broke into teams of three and one lucky team got to hop in the water. During this one cop car showed up. Then a second. And a third. Finally I think there were 7 cop cars in that parking lot. And there we were holding our rucks over our heads cursing them for making this movement last even longer as the Cadre conversed with these find men in blue. And we were back on the trails.
I got on almost everything except the sandbags and flag pole. But then in one of our stops CT discussing leadership mentioned honesty and asked us who hadn’t been under the sandbags. And this only motivated me to make sure I was in the rotation for those damn bags.
It wouldn’t be a GR event without having issues as a team. Our biggest issue was with people (TL) forgetting a battle buddy. And so we lost strap privileges. ALOT. I really pushed myself here to make sure I was getting under weights, but with no strap privileges everyone was extra motivated to get under them. We got strap privelegse back for a whole two minutes before we lost them again. Around this time we passed a bank and apparently it was 4:30am. I didn’t see that clock AND I was looking hard.
We finally arrived on a beach and were given a break. This was a point where changing out of wet socks would’ve been nice, but you were looking at water and knew thats probably how you were going to enjoy sunrise, so it would be a waste of dry socks. I ate food, just one bar and quickly realized that I may not have enough food. I stored a bag of chews in my pocket for during our next movement.
As the sun rose, we were in the water doing the Tunnel of Love. And then my ankle cramped. I’ve always had bad ankle flexibility, so I wasn’t concerned until we stood up and I realized something wasn’t right.
The next phase we were running missions. We switched out Cadre and had Heath again and the sun was out. He gave us 40 minutes to go 2 miles. I grabbed my duffle bag baby and was determined to carry it the whole 2 miles. Because if I couldn’t at this point in the event then I didn’t deserve to stay. We arrived and then played in the field doing IMT. I knew during the high and low crawls that something was wrong with my ankle. It felt like it was still cramped. When we got a 5 minute break, I stupidily didn’t think I had time to change my socks but did pull them down to look for swelling. Seeing none I was determined to walk it off.
Cadre Heath decided we didn’t have enough coupons so he added a sandbag litter. We had a 3.1ish mile movement ahead. I wanted to carry my duffle bag the entire time, but I noticed the added weight made my ankle feel worse. I was just hoping that if we finished this mission we would lose some weight…hahaha. Then we started experiencing casualties because we missed our time hack.
I didn’t want to become a detriment to the team. After this movement we had some downtime and I changed my socks. Wow waterlogged feet for over 12 hours is not a pretty sight. I worked on trying to stretch out my ankle. It didn’t hurt putting weight on it, so I knew it wasn’t sprained or broken, but it hurt to point and flex it. So probably a tendon ligament issue.
During our next movement we came across some uneven terraine and I tripped while carrying a water cube. At that point I knew I wasn’t questioning anymore, I knew I was in trouble. I hit a low with self pity and fear. I was in tears. I didn’t know if I should pull out and quit at that moment when we were over half way through. I didn’t know if my teammates would be punished if someone dropped especially this late in the event. I didn’t know if I would be able to carry our coupons any longer, and we had so many hours to go. I did my best to contribute during the movements.
Pretty much I don’t remember much between that movement and when we finally hit the trail. On the trail I busted out a flag carry. I wanted to make sure I got my hands on every type of coupon we had. I was put on litter carries too. Eventually we stopped for some instruction and it was nice to take off the ruck and sit down so I wasn’t putting weight on my ankle even though that wasn’t exactly the issue.
After that rest, my ankle was feeling good. We had 15 minutes to knock out a 1 mile…TBH I’m not sure if Cadre’s mileage was wrong, but from someone who has rucked and run a lot of miles, I felt confident in knowing how far we had gone. We were on a trail running about a 13-14 minute pace. And we passed the Mile Marker about 1/10th or more before we actually finished our “mile.” And we made it with 30 seconds to spare. They gave us another break. And because so many people were black on water, they gave us time to refill. They talked to us. Let us drop our coupons. And gave us our last mission. Carry the Flag and Team Weight back to the start point. And here it was our 12 Mile Timed Ruck. They gave us a 3 hour 30 minute time hack and told us this was not an individual movment but a team movement. After our speed mile, I knew I wasn’t able to make that time hack. Two teammates had to convince me to give up my ruck around Mile 2. I was so embarrassed. But deep down I knew that I had to do it if I wanted to finish. Cadre forced everyone to take back their own rucks around Mile 6. I took it back earlier because people were starting to complain about having to carry additional weight and I felt like a piece of doggy poo because of it. There were multiple points during that movement though where I was handed other peoples rucks or the team weight. The entire team was struggling after Mile 6. Everyone was hurting. Everyone one was just in a crap mood. We were hot (it was close to 90 degrees); some of us (including myself) sunburnt. Our pace suffered. We were also back on some trails so the terrain slowed us down, so did having to share with other users. Not that I’m complaining. Seeing people out running and with puppies kind of made me smile. I was seeing Mile Markers going awesome only 3 more miles to go and then someone said we had 4-5. Around the time I thought we had only a mile to go, we were told we were already 25 minutes past our time hack and still had two miles to go. And we had 30 minutes to get there. I broke down. Legit I didn’t think I could go another 2 miles let alone at that pace. I was forced to give up my ruck, and basically told I would be buddy carried if it had to come to that.
And then we were done. And just like that we were patched. I stayed in that field with my shoes and socks off so long that I missed all of the amazing post Heavy food that people had brought for us. I was hungry considering that I didn’t pack enough food, but everyone seemed to have underpacked food this event. Many of my teammates headed out to the next start point as they attempted the HCL, even though so many of our feet were trashed from water logged. I headed home, stopping for food and a diet coke, and followed the remaining to HCL events on Facebook.
Immediately after this Heavy event I was back in training for the Detroit Marathon. My ankle didn’t seem to be a problem running. And unfortunately I had to back out of my 3 remaining GORUCK events in 2016. The first event I dropped was because I was sick; and the second I had to med drop because I was injured (which also made me drop the third). I have signed up for another Heavy in 2017. I’ll definitely be changing my training because I don’t think I was adequately prepared for the different PT we did. Plus I now know my weaknesses during a Heavy event, so I can work on fixing those; besides focusing on the PT test, which is only a few hours, does not prepare you for the remaining 20+ hours of the even.