GRH Honor the Fallen AAR

Last year when I signed up to complete my first GORUCK Heavy, I signed up with one of my closest friends. Unfortunately life happened and I ended up going it alone. Almost. Thankfully I knew so many of my teammates. But after that event, I didn’t know if I wanted to attempt another Heavy because we were such a cohesive team, I couldn’t imagine an event any better (or easier for a Heavy). But when my friend asked me to do it with her…I couldn’t say no.

Going into this Heavy (or HZL aka Heavy, Sleep, Light), my biggest issue was how to train. Last year, I rucked event weight plus 5-10 pounds often and fast. I focused on push-ups and sit-ups and some other PT style movements. I utilized Pure Barre to increase my core strength and also to mentally prepare to push through when your muscles start shaking. Training for this Heavy was going to have to be different, because what I did before was not enough. Before I had kept up with my running, and this training period as soon as I could, I was going to cut that out. I had the LA Marathon in March, and I was coaching (plus “training”) for the Glass City Half Marathon at the end of April. I had started back up at CrossFit in December to get ready for lifting heavy shit. I also started rucking after Glass City; in order to make up for only having a month to train, I doubled my ruck weight and tried to get out there 3-4 times a week.

Two weeks before my event, I attempted my 12 Mile Ruck. Under the extra weight, I suffered more than usual, and called it around 5 miles. This made me nervous, but every other training ruck before and after when smoothly. Two days before the event, I loaded my ruck for the event (at event weight) and my body sang with happiness at my ruck’s weight. I easily went out and comfortably hit well below the required 12-Miler pace.


Columbus

May 25, 2017

Class 180

Cadre Karl, Montreal, and Shredder

Once again, I tried hard to sleep in. When that didn’t work, I tried to be as lazy as possible. Around 10:40am, I headed to Chipotle to fuel before the event. 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 made some updates to my packing list after my last heavy. I included more food (which of course I didn’t eat half of), I switched to my 2L Source Bladder, and only packed 2 pairs of socks instead of 3. I included my long sleeve, my beanie, my buff and my Columbia Rain Jacket.

I left my friend’s house in Columbus around 3:15pm with a 30 minute drive to the start point. Unfortunately due to work, she had to drop the event, so I was on my own. Because of construction, traffic, and some pretty heavy storms, I arrived to the Three Creeks Metro start point around 4pm. I knew more people than I realized.

Around 5pm, the Cadre pulled up and told us we were in the wrong location and we had to hike quickly to another parking lot not far away. Roll Call and the safety brief went quickly. There really was no gear check other than to make sure we had our weight.

Cadre informed us that our PT test was going to be on-going until it wasn’t. We should consider everything a part of our PT test, because we could be performance dropped. The first movement was the push-up. The Cadre gave us the standard and wanted us to grade each other according to standard. I made sure that these were the most perfect push-ups I’ve ever done and completed only 29. Next we ran as a team to the wood line and back before being given our time hack to cover 7 miles in 1 hour and 24 minutes to our community service project. Cadre emphasized that there was no missing this time hack because we only had a window of opportunity to complete our service project.

At this point we only had our rucks, our team weight, a 15# bucket for holding the flag, and our flag. We were tied into a rope which didn’t hinder our movement in my opinion.  Unfortunately, one of our 24 teammates couldn’t hold the pace and we took their ruck within a quarter mile. Even still this teammate was holding back our pace significantly. It took us over 2 hours to cover the 7 miles. Thankfully we still had enough time to complete our project. This project was to clean up construction debris from a home renovation project to help make a former Marine’s bathroom wheelchair accessible. Afterwards we did 22 ruck swings for the 22 service-members who lose their personal struggles each day.

With that done, we moved single file to pick up a paver stone from a U-Haul van. This paver stone (weighing roughly 23 pounds) would be carried by each teammate for the remainder of the event to represent the tombstone/headstone of the service member we were memorializing that weekend. It was at this time, the first teammate dropped. We were now a team of 23.

Our next movement was to Nelson Park along the Alum Creek Trail. Here we did the second PT movement: sit-ups. I successfully completed 55 during the two minutes and felt happy with that number. Then Cadre taught us various maneuver movements and how our American Military’s tactics have changed over time. It was a great history lesson, and I learned quite a bit. After this was completed, Cadre encouraged us to stow our tombstones in our rucks if we could. Mine at the time just would not fit, so I was left carrying it using a climbing runner to sling it over my shoulder on top of my ruck.

During our next movement to Innis Park, we had to clear bridges (both over and under passes). After a failure, we sustained casualties. We met our next time hack, however, so we had an advanced team clearing our bridges for us. After meeting another time hack, we were relieved of our casualties. To be honest, I don’t remember much from this stretch of the night. Upon arriving at Innis Park, we were informed that we would be completing the last movement of the PT test. It would be a run and the standard was a 9-minute mile regardless of gender. I headed out at a comfortable and sustainable pace, trying to push it but not too much. I didn’t know how my legs were and I did not want to go out too fast and fall apart at this point in the night. As I rounded the turn to the finish, I heard 1-2-3…and then 8:04 as I crossed the finish line. In my state, I thought they were counting 9:01, 9:02, 9:03, so when I heard 8:04 I breathed a sigh of relief. Thankful I made the time, I turned around and headed back to the course to find teammates and run them in to the finish. After three shuttles, we were all in. During this we lost another teammate, which I should have known when my head count was only 22, but ever ruck was covered. We then were directed to complete 6 pull-ups. After which we were given time to do foot care. I changed my socks and realized that through the rain and the puddles, plus sweat, my feet were not doing well. This was right around the time the cops showed up. I don’t think it’s a GORUCK, if the cops don’t make an appearance!

The Cadre unloaded some sandbags from their U-Haul. I don’t remember the count, but at least one 120 pound, maybe two 80 pound and a 60 pound or two. We definitely were suffering under this weight, because we realized just how many of our teammates were just either unwilling or unable to assist. This didn’t stop us from meeting our time hacks. And because of that success, we were granted more rest breaks than I’ve ever had at any event. This was a relief because with my 2L bladder running down, I was able to fit my tombstone in my ruck and that weight was vicious. The sun came up and we had around 15 minutes for a sock change. Moving on again, we finished our time on the Alum Creek Trail and headed west on Schrock Road to Sharon Woods Metro Park. Sometime during this movement after Innis Park, we were allowed to break up the sandbags. This allowed me some time under the “40” pound sandbag. I use quotations because a 40 pound filler can hold at least 50 pounds of sand and usually Cadre expect fillers to be filled to the very top. Not to mention because of rain, this sand had gotten wet.

Upon our arrival at Sharon Woods, we received our next task. We were given additional weight, and instructed to construct two apparatuses to carry our current and additional weight. After construction, we would conduct a short test before storing the apparatuses and weight for a future mission. And by short it was an estimated 3 mile test. During this iteration, I suffered carrying the bucket and the flag simultaneously. The only people not contributing were the two individuals who were unable to fit their tombstones in their rucks and thus unable to suffer under additional loads. They were not permitted by Cadre to give up their tombstones to any teammate. The heat picked up because the sun was shining. This only made the suffering worse. I also had the 40 pound sandbag filler for at least one mile. This part of the suck was when I started to get angry at the teammates not contributing. We had very few bodies to switch out under the heavy loads and we were taking rests every 50 meters or so. Yet during this time, we had one teammate who was holding an ALICE pack of nothing but the rope used to construct the apparatuses. I at times begged him to switch with me for at least one movement and he refused. Eventually another teammate and I were switching on and off either the 40 pound sandbag filler or the 50 pound teammate every other movement. I would have loved to suffer with my teammates under an apparatus but when the shortest guy is 5’10” and I’m 5’6″, I would have been no help at all. My contribution was trying to manage the rest of the items as best as I could to give them relief. We were really breaking down as a team because everyone was suffering. But finally after 3 miles from hell we arrived. We were able to give up some weight and Cadre instructed us to change our socks.

We had a one mile movement and then 20 of us were pilled into the back of the U-Haul van. One road in the front and I was throw in the back seat of a shadow’s truck. The van ride was miserable for my teammates, but I felt blissful when we arrived at the field across from Thomas Worthington High School. I knew where we were and where we were headed. I glanced at the clock in the truck and knew it was around 1:30pm with an estimated 3-5 miles to the proposed ENDEX location.

Of course, it couldn’t be that easy. The Cadre gave us two large ammo cans. Once we began movement, it became clear that our team was still breaking down. Even more teammates began gray-manning. Cadre instructed another female and myself to switch off on one piece of equipment, which made me feel like a poop-stick because my teammates were struggling. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t suffering, because I was. And as our team continued to break-down, I felt my willingness to continue rapidly dissolve as I entered my dark place.

Then it happened. Because we failed to follow instruction, Cadre gave us some logs to carry. If I thought the 3 miles from hell were painful to witness, this was worse. We were so close, yet so very far. Traffic was picking up on the trail, and our lack of communication made for some very dangerous situations. Eventually Cadre directed us to an off-the-path hidden trail that wound its way to an underpass also known as storm drain passing under 315. We were then instructed to sit down in the water. At this time, we shared stories of who we were carrying for the weekend. We gathered together and sang the Ballad of the Green Beret and proceeded to move out of the tunnel across the field. Cadre indicated for us to form up, retrieve our bricks from our rucks, and take a lap around the baseball diamonds. When we returned, our patches were on our tombstones.

So let’s get on with the AAR.

What was supposed to happen: “a test of your desire to overcome under conditions of significant physical and mental stress. There’s more weight, more miles, and no sleep which makes for a lot more time for the Cadre to push participants past their limits. ”

What did happen: All of the above.

What can improve: In my last heavy, Cadre encouraged us to get under every piece of equipment. There was some equipment that I couldn’t physically get under due to height restrictions. I think (hope) I did my best to carry my share of the weight, more so than any other event I’ve completed. I can’t say the same for some teammates, as there were a few that refused to carry some of our heavy items.

What we should sustain: I loved the planned out route. I enjoyed the education we received throughout the event. I was also thankful that I trained with a heavier-than-event-weighted ruck because I was prepared for carry the tombstone.

Final thoughts, I’ll explain later that I was quite delirious throughout the night. I recorded the events above to the best of my recollection. It rained, but I don’t remember when, for how long, or how much. I may have missed details or incorrectly recalled the order in which things happened. Overall, we covered approximately 31 miles on foot in roughly 24 hours.

I’ll be back shortly with my AAR for the GORUCK Light that occurred the next day!

 

GORUCK Heavy AAR

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.


Detroit

June 16, 2016

Class 121

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.

GORUCK AAR

WHAT IS GORUCK?

I’ve mentioned in a few posts about GORUCK events that I have completed or are planning on completing in the future. I thought that just like a Race Recap, I would give you an AAR of my most recent GORUCK event, which was a GORUCK Light in Columbus, Ohio. This wasn’t a “special event,” but just your standard run-of-the-mill Light. Keep in mind that just like every race (even the same course) is different, so is every GORUCK event. GORUCK events are led by Cadre who are Special Forces veterans assigned with the tasks of teaching you teamwork, leadership and communication. The Cadre utilize their own training and personal experiences to shape each event. Now the Light (according to HQ) is 4-5 hours covering 7-10 miles, and is an introductory event. I’ve had an event last barely 4 hours, and one that lasted (slightly) over 6 hours. How long an event lasts really depends on what the Cadre have planned and how well you perform as a team and meet your time hacks.

Just like a race, the hardest part is signing up. It helps if you have friends, but that’s not a requirement. Many individuals have shown up and completed events. There are no first or last place finishers. Everyone who signs up and shows up to the event builds one team. A GORUCK event is not a competition. The second hardest part is showing up for an event. But in between you have to train. GORUCK offers a 6-week training plan on their website. My personal training plan for a Light involves throwing some weight in my ruck and into my car and driving to the Starting Point; I feel if I am in good physical condition then I should be able to complete a Light. A Challenge is estimated to be a 10-12 hour event covering 15-20 miles and requires a bit more prep, such as more time spent with my ruck. There’s never any harm to throwing in some military style physical training; think pushups, flutter kicks, shoulders to over head, burpees, bear crawls, crab walks, duck walks, low crawls, inch worms.

PACKING LIST

Next up in prepping for a GORUCK event is the packing list. Think of it like getting your race day gear together. Basically it boils down to a ruck with a designated amount of weight, some water, your ID, cab fare, a headlamp with extra batteries, a reflective belt, plus there needs to be a team weight and an American flag. The team weight is dependent on which event it is; for the Light we used a 15lb weight. Sometimes Cadre will designate additional items they require you to carry, such as another team designated flag. The weight in your ruck is also dependent on which event you are participating in; for the Light it is 2 bricks if you’re under 150 lbs and 4 if you’re over, or 10lb of sand if you’re under and 20lbs if you’re over. But my last two Lights I’ve used a 25# steel plate for weight.

My personal packing list for a Light is very different from a Challenge. Typically during a Light, once you start, you don’t stop so there’s no reason to over-pack with items you’ll never get a chance to use. Although during a Challenge, there’s never a guarantee you’ll get a break or one long enough to open your ruck either.

For this Light, I used my Ranger Green GR0.

  • 25lb steel plate for weight, attached to the inner MOLLE with two straps
  • 1 yoga block in the bottom of my ruck to help stabilize the weight at the top
  • A 2L Source Bladder for hydration; 3L is recommended for a Challenge but I’ve never drank more than 1L during an event
  • Sea to Summit Dry Bags to keep extra clothes dry; I double-bagged everything
  • An Under Armour Fleece Hoodie as an extra layer in case I got cold after the sunset; this gets double-bagged in two 8L Sea to Summit Dry Bags
  • A Marmot ROM Jacket which is a soft shell jacket that is windproof and water-resistant; this gets double-bagged in two 4L Sea to Summit Dry Bags
  • A Pelican case for my phone and car key fob; it isn’t waterproof so it goes in a 4L Sea to Summit Dry Bag
  • My ID and $30 Cash (because it’s required) and my credit card in case the Class went to a bar after; these go in a ziploc baggie in the upper inner pocket of my ruck, double-bagged of course
  • A Petzl Tactikka Plus headlamp, which I also use for running at night; this gets packed in the upper inner pocket of my ruck too
  • 1 QT Ziploc bag with hand sanitizer, some peppermint candies, and a Luna Bar which is packed in the outer front pocket; typically you don’t need to eat during a Light, but it sucks when everyone else has munchies and you don’t have any!
  • 2 Black Diamond 18mm Climbing Runners (120cm Length) in the outer front pocket of my ruck
  • A pair of Mechanix Gloves in the outer front pocket of my ruck
  • 1 Carabiner attached to the MOLLE on the front of my ruck
  • 1 Reflective Belt around my ruck
  • 1 Nite Ize SpotLit attached to a zipper pull; it has a strobe feature which is great for after sunset

For a Challenge, I usually have 1-2 pairs of extra socks, maybe an extra shirt, my first aid/foot care kit and some Tylenol and Advil, and more food. I use ziploc bags to organize my stuff but I don’t rely on it for waterproofing, because that’s not it’s purpose. Dry bags are meant for keeping your stuff dry, so when it doubt go with a dry bag versus a ziploc bag. A strobe light isn’t required, but it provides extra safety at night. The climbing runners also aren’t required but they can be useful to make straps or handles when trying to carry awkward loads; some people carry webbing to serve the same purpose. People sometime question the headlamp, especially with an event that is only supposed to last 4-5 hours and may be over before the sun sets. Keep in mind, there is a saying “under promise, over deliver” and that happens at events often. Never expect to be done by a certain time, and always be prepared to be safe. My primary packing tip is to ask yourself “Can I survive the next 6 hours of my life without this?” if the answer is yes, then leave it behind.

OOTD (OUTFIT OF THE DAY)

Dressing for an event heavily depends on the weather. For a race, often you think about stripping down as you warm up, but for a GORUCK event if you’re still going after sunset, you might want to be putting on more clothes. At mid-40s, partly cloudy and a 5:58pm sunset, this Light was all about layers. So I started out wearing:

I try to dress for an event like I’m going backpacking. My undergarments are the same for running because I know they won’t chaff. Next, I want a comfortable base layer that will wick sweat but still keep me warm. Water resistant or repellant outer layers are also a great.

GORUCK LIGHT 618

Before the Light, I woke up around 7:30am and ran 10 miles (it is half marathon training season after all). I ate Raisin Cane’s Chicken Fingers for Lunch and hydrated. At 1:30pm, a group of us slowly started to grow at the Tuttle Park baseball fields, which was the designated Start Point. Once Cadre Matt S showed up and GRL Class #618 got started. You can learn a lot about how the event is going to go from how they introduce themselves and lay out the rules for the event. Cadre Matt was very laid back and emphasized the team-building aspect of the event. After the welcome speech, the Welcome Party began. Lucky for us the snow had melted and gave us a field of mud to play in. We learned our first lesson as a team. As a GRT, you can do two things: sit back and let the newbies learn, or lead. Early on, I feel it’s best to let them learn, because that’s how you build a team, you learn together. If someone hands you the answers, you learn nothing.

Once we were covered in mud from head to toe, Cadre Matt introduced the next task and gave us a time hack. We had to get our casualties up to the Helipad for a Medevac. Being a small female, I more often end up being a casualty than carrying one. After making our time hack, we moved to the OSU ROTC building for our next assignment. After successfully completing that our team leader was fired, and I was appointed TL. My mission was to get us to a specified location (because my big mouth knew where it was) carrying some extra weight. As TL, I had to make sure that every one made it safely as a group moving in a formation and meeting our time hack. Since we were now on OSU’s campus, I also had to make sure our class moved in such a manner to allow pedestrians to share the sidewalks. I took attempted to take two short cuts from the route Cadre had planned, the first one was denied, but the second one I was able to squeeze off before he could stop it. Once we made it to our destination, we were given a break. I ate my Luna bar and threw on my Half-Zip. Being covered in mud, made me a little cold. During this short downtime, teammates adjusted their rucks and gear, some of which had issues with muddy zippers. Others suffered hydration malfunctions, with bit valves falling off and bladders springing leaks. I thankfully was okay.

Soon we were on our way in our next movement; I was fired as TL and another one appointed. And then our surprise came. After finishing the movement, Cadre Matt divided us into two teams and sent us on a Scavenger Hunt. This is a Light event, and it’s supposed to be fun but not easy. We were given a time hack and told that the losing team would pay. We jogged most of the hunt in order to meet our time hack, but we thoroughly enjoyed this mission. As soon as the Scavenger Hunt ended, we were on to our next team movement, which involved lunges and bear crawls. Apparently Cadre Matt is known for his love of stairs and the torture he can inflict with them. I will leave this up to your imagination. But Cadre Matt knew I ran 10 miles that morning, and was laughing at me the whole time. Nonetheless, we finished, survived and made our time hack.

Two more movements later and we had casualties again. This time I was “awake” which makes for a very bad casualty. Supposedly dead girls aren’t supposed to talk, and I was trying to give the TL short cuts and just joking around for most of the movement, which ended at the start point. Now the tunnel of love isn’t an event staple but many Cadre will make you do it, and in the mud we did. And then we got patched and the event was over. A group of us, including Cadre Matt, hung out in the parking lot after the event for about an hour, before people peeled off to eat, go to the bar, or me who just wanted to shower. One thing I will suggest is to keep a garbage bag or three in your car for your muddy or wet gear to include your ruck, and to shed as many layers (or even changing your clothes) before getting in your car.

AAR

For those of you who have done an event may think that this was a very vague AAR. And I’ll agree. This isn’t aimed for GRTs. GRTs know what to expect and would appreciate a critique on an event. This AAR is geared towards newbs who haven’t done an event yet.

An AAR (after action review) has a process. We discuss what was supposed to happened, what did happened, what can we improve and what should we sustain. I always encourage 3 sustains and 3 improves, but it’s not necessary.

What was supposed to happen: “an introduction to team-based training found in Special Operations.” Typically there are issues building a team, which the Cadre will help guide you through.

What did happen: 15 people built a team. We communicated well and didn’t have an issues that would have impeded team movements.

What we can improve: I hate to say this but we had some PT studs in this crew, and I think we could’ve been pushed harder, but there is a fine line between a Challenge and a Light.

What we should sustain: The scavenger hunt! It gave you the illusion that you were getting a “break” but you ended up pushing yourself the entire time instead. Also, we performed really well as a team, which made for an easier event.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This wasn’t my easiest event, but it was one of the most enjoyable. I regret not doing the Challenge the night before, despite the cold weather. I am happy, however, that I did get a cold(ish) weather event under my belt. The Light gave me a basic idea of what I need to work on to prep for the Heavy in March. I’m still on the fence about the Heavy, which is the 24 hour event, but I have 4 weeks to prepare.

I found GORUCK while looking for a new military-style backpack. I realized they did events and followed a Selection online. I knew Selection wasn’t for me, but I decided I wanted to do a Challenge. It took 1-2 years before signing up, but I’m glad I finally did it. For me, it’s a way to get out of my comfort zone, push myself, and test my limits. I’ve met a lot of amazing people during events.

QUESTION: How do you get out of your comfort zone and test your limits?

Thanks for reading!

Jes