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.
May 25, 2017
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!