Thursday, December 20, 2018

GORUCK Land Navigation Heavy - East AAR

In June my son and I completed our first GORUCK Heavy event, the Land Nav on the west coast in Southern California. You can read the AAR here. It wasn’t but a few weeks later that the coordinator of the event started to plan a similar event for the east coast and the location was identified as Pisgah National Forest outside of Asheville, NC. We jumped at the chance to do a similar event, closer to home and in weather we’re comfortable with. After my challenges with the west coast event, we both signed up for the Cleveland Area Rucking Crew’s Heavy Drop Training and completed 3 rounds before this event. In addition, we did multiple other events and continued to train and improve. I had a goal to fare much better in Asheville than I did in CA where I was consistently the slowest team member and….well, read the original AAR and let’s not rehash the past. That said, this is the AAR for the East event.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

GORUCK Indianapolis Veterans Day Tough AAR

The time had finally come for the Veterans Day Tough and we were ready. I was thrilled to have my oldest son and my oldest daughter joining me for the event. My son had just finished the Heavy a few hours ago and this was to be my daughter’s first Tough. Our cadre were two of the best we’ve done events with, Cadre DS and Cadre Shredder. My son and I did the LandNav Heavy with this pair in June and all three of us had done the Veteran’s Day Light with DS last year. We were excited to get to work with both of them again and knew they had a special event in store for us.

TL;DR - It was a Tough with a log, miles, cold and a great service project. Hopefully you read on.

Our start point was Military Park in downtown Indy and we arrived maybe 30 minutes before the event to make sure we were not late. It was in the 30’s and we knew it was going to be a chilly night. Other participants rolled in, including quite a few from the Heavy. Team Ninja in Indianapolis had quite a few people working towards their coveted “Bolts” for completing the HTL weekend and it was great to see so many make it. We mingled a bit and then lined up alphabetically just before the cadre arrived. Normally the first part of any event is the admin phase with roll call, gear check and other administrative tasks. We had a very quick intro from the cadre and then project chaos started. They wanted us to line up in columns of 5 and while we were sorting that out, they asked us to line up according to height. While we scrambled to do that, they were unhappy with how long it was taking so they had us run to some park benches a hundred yards or so away and run back. They then wanted us to line up in a single line and were unhappy with that, too.  Hahaha – the whole experience put us all off balance as the normal expectation was admin stuff, not this chaos. We eventually were told to line up in 3 rows which we did and roll was taken. During this IDs were checked and random bag weight checks were done as well. The cadre had a full program for us and we didn’t waste any time getting to work.

We formed a large circle and while Cadre Shredder talked about chance and roll of the dice in regards to Veteran’s service a deck of cards were broken out. I’m sure many of us have done a deck of cards but this time the choice of the exercise was done by roll of the dice. Cadre rolled, we’d roll and the higher dice would choose. We won two of the four rolls and exercises were assigned to suites. Cadre selected 8 count body builders and devil thrusters while participants chose burpees – yep, you read that right, someone deliberately chose burpees. You can bet your bottom dollar he took a lot of grief about that choice and the last exercise was sit ups. Cadre DS wasn’t content with just normal situps so we did 4 count ruck press situps. This was going to be a long night – LOL.  The plan was to work through 10 cards instead of the full deck but somehow two of the team drew two cards each so it was really 12 cards of work.  We cranked it out and had as much fun as you could with it. To better forge the teamwork we’d need the rest of the event, we lined up in a single row, interlocked arms and did group walking lunges, followed by a body surfing/conveyor belt movement. We were not really body surfing properly and a lot of us, me included, were bear crawling. Cadre Shredder wanted us to sing “God Bless America” while we were surfing and I am sure it sounded wonderful. After we butchered that song he decided that we needed to cry like babies as we were crawling instead of surfing so I am sure that looked hilarious to anyone out and about on the chilly night.

The cadre then asked us to take off our shoes and prepare the enter the water in the canal the borders the south side of Military Park. We all hustled down the embankment, took off our boots and were instructed to take the flutter kick position. We did 4 count flutter kicks with a goal of NOT getting our feet wet. We also did leg raises over the water, again testing mental and physical fortitude. Soon we were told we had 4 minutes to get our footwear back on and back into formation. We ended the welcome party with a tunnel of love race which my group was thankfully not dead last. Small personal note, I’ve been working like crazy to drop weight and this is the lowest weight I have done any event – Spartan Race, GORUCK, 5K, etc ever. Still have plenty of weight to go, but I wanted to make sure I was never the slowest person out there and didn’t drag my team down. I think overall I met my goal and was as asset to the team as best I could be at all times.

After the Tunnel of Love we were told to get ready to move out. There was a MASSIVE log that they Heavy had brought back from their service project sitting in the park next to the start point. It had been sitting there, silently judging and waiting for us. We knew it wouldn’t be long before it would be put to use and now was the time. We sorted ourselves into 3 teams based on size – large, medium and Smurf.  I didn’t pick the names so don’t blame me, shorter people. We picked up the log, our coupons and the flags and moved towards the Indiana Statehouse south lawn which was a few blocks away. We started to practice rotation of the log and coupon duties by size.  It was cumbersome and a bit clumsy as people took the load and painful as people left the load. We were shuffling and trying really hard not to step on each other's heels, too. Communication about different arm placement tactics was flowing but at the end of the day, a heavy log is a heavy log. We were slow and not communicating well so lost the use of the shoulder straps on our rucks for a bit. Here is a picture from the Heavy and was taken in the day so you can see this log in all of its glory.

We made our way to the statehouse lawn and were instructed to set the log down and line up. Cadre Shredder had done some research and shared some great information about the significance of the statehouse and Indiana in general. I'm truly appreciate the effort both cadre put into each of their events and small details like this make it all the more memorable.  While listing to Shredder, Cadre DS counted us off into two group and after our history lesson, the first group laid on the ground in a circle facing each other and the 2nd group lined up. We were getting ready to execute a new activity for me called the "meat grinder".  The group on the ground would roll to the left while keeping in a circle formation and the 2nd group would enter the "grinder" one by one and do a burpee to get over the rollers. It was a bit of a complicated movement and we started grinding away. We finally got the hang of it and we started rotating the first group with the 2nd group so we could all enjoy the burpee fun.  After we ground around enough the cadre had us get up, line up and get ready to roll to our next objective, the USS Indianapolis memorial along the canal.

We collected our coupons, the log and moved out. Along the way we had our first "cop stop" wondering what in the world this group of 45 people were doing at 11PM(guessing) at night in downtown Indianapolis. I was under the log and we didn't stop moving while the cadre talked with the police. A few rotations later of log and coupons we were approaching the memorial. We had the memorial in sight but there was a lot of confusion about where we should be and at some point the log was set down. Cadre Shredder was not happy with this development and he gave us very clear instructions as to where we needed to be, down the hill much closer to the memorial. Once the flag and team gear was situated we were placed in a stress position of a forward leaning rest with our rucks on and feet up on a stone wall. While in this position he reminded us of the importance of team work, communication and a pretty detailed history of the USS Indianapolis. Cadre are experts at sharing details in a nice, calm, steady voice and really excel in this regard when you are in a stress position. If I hadn't been struggling to stay in place I would have cracked a smile at this skill. Afterwards he had us stand up and read about the USS Indianapolis and the horrific situation that so many of the sailors found themselves in after their ship, on a secret mission to deliver the first working atomic bomb, was struck by Japanese torpedoes and sunk in shark infested oceans. Many of the sailors were lost to the sharks while they waited days for rescue. It painted a horrible image and fit into the theme of "Chance" for those who sign up to serve our country. We moved a bit further down the canal, got into formation and sang the "Star Spangled Banner" under the bridge, next to the canal. It seemed very fitting. Cadre Shredder then had us prepare for flutter kicks. We did 309 flutter kicks for the sailors and Marines that survived the USS Indianapolis, broken down into manageable sets.

We gathered our gear started moving out to work on our service project. We continued to carry the log and rotate around. We had people driving by asking if we were OK and as we walked by some houses, the comments from the inhabitants were hilarious. I'm guessing many of them had been talking to their friend Al K Hol (read it out loud if you don't get it) and in general they thought we were crazy. Haha!  We carried the log a bit further and I think our pace was suffering to the point that the cadre had us leave it in a green area along the road. I figured we'd see the log again (spoiler alert - we didn't!) but the cadre said they both mentioned its location in their AARs to HQ for future events.

Cadre Shredder and DS had coordinated a really cool service project that would benefit the local community. Our team weight was a bag of axes and hand saws that we would use to help clear the overgrown shore along the western side of the White River. The river runs through Indianapolis and where we were working had become a bit of a de facto barrier between affluent communities and those with fewer resources. Our work would re-open the bank to access for fishing and a better sight-line to downtown. The Heavy had done a lot of work here earlier and we continued where they left off. We split into groups that would cut the brush and wood, those that would stack it and a third group that would carry it up the embankment and pile it in designated spots near the curb for the city to collect. I lost count as to how many trips up and down the embankment I made as we ripped through this work in a timely fashion. After we policed the area and made sure it looked great, we gathered back on the sidewalk and lined up for the next movement. Here is a before picture and after for some context.

The cadre led us to another area that was maybe a half a mile away and we were tasked with clearing what seemed like an old road that was covered with logs and debris. The city has plans to turn this area by the water into a greenway and an area where they can have pontoons and kayaks for people to use. Another part is slated for public concerts and they needed us to do some of the clearing before they could get some of the machinery in there to do the work. Luckily for them, we seemed to have some good experience with moving logs and working together as a team. We worked together to clear the area and sometime during this process my left knee and lower quad really started hurting. I don't know what it was but my knee was more or less locking up and any bending of it really hurt. It was maybe 3 or 4 AM and I was doubting my ability to complete the event. I brushed the negative thoughts aside but could feel my lower quad swelling.  I continued to work and hydrate and focus on something other than the throbbing in my leg. We finished the work and one of the HTL participants had a birthday on Sunday. We of course celebrated in GORUCK fashion with some flutter kicks. I was able to get down but unable to stand up as I couldn't bend my knee. I took my ruck off and someone helped me get up (thank you!). I was mad as hell and didn't want to drop. I put my ruck back on and I went inside my head, committed to doing everything I could to finish as strong as I can and be a good example for my kids. We started moving back out and luckily for me walking didn't seem to really hurt my knee. Here's a screenshot of a video that showed the area we cleared in the daylight so you can appreciate the work we did. Note the big logs to the left and right of the trail - those and many more were moved by our team. 

We were headed back towards downtown and the cadre gave us a pretty aggressive time hack to get to Monument Circle. We took a bit of a wrong turn and the cadre corrected us by taking us across a train trestle. I am SO happy we did this at night so I didn't have to look down at the ties and see the river below. This was a total mind over matter thing and I just took it one step at a time and before long, we were across. One of the team really wasn't a fan of heights and was literally crawling on their hands and knees across the trestle. This slowed us down quite a bit as we waited but since I'm not a huge fan of heights, I wasn't as upset as some of the others. It is what it is. Once everyone was across we worked to make up time and were covering some pretty good distance to get downtown. We still had all of our coupons but luckily, the log wasn't to be seen again. We rotated many times, hustled through lights and the city was starting to wake up with a lot more traffic. We had another officer stop and ask what we were doing but sent us on our way quickly. Sun was starting to break and I don’t know what the deal with light is, but it *always* helps. We were in a bit of a race with Shredder to get there and the last block or so we were running. He's like Michael Myers - he can walk faster than you can run - hahaha!  We arrived at Monument Circle and had missed our time hack by almost 30 minutes. That's gonna hurt. We found a port a potty that had been tipped over but luckily wasn't too gross so we set it up and I think most of the team took advantage of the facility. They had had us walk around the Monument and read the inscriptions and admire the craftsmanship. It is very cool if you've not seen it before. We formed back up and had to pay the piper for missing the time hack. The dice were broken out and we would multiply the number of exercises by three to the number on the dice. This could get really UGLY if our team leader rolled a 6. Thankfully she rolled a 3 and cadre decided that ruck presses were the order of the day, so we had 90 to look forward to. We started and the team leader was having a hard time completing the activity. Honestly, most of us were too, but since she was up front it was hard to miss. The cadre changed the activity to 4 count arm circles. Laugh all you want, but after the night we'd experienced they were harder than they sound. Nobody cares what you can do fresh, right?

We shared some of our veteran stories and they all were poignant. So many different perspectives and reasons why people were there for this event.  My kids and I were prepared to share our stories as well but with 45 people we'd probably still be there and the cadre had to do last call before we were to move out. As we formed up and were told to head towards the starting point, Cadre DS decided we needed some casualties. This created some more chaos as people broke out webbing to improvise carriers and someone even had a portable stretcher they had with them. We had people doing buddy carries and starting to walk off towards the starting point. It was bad. Cadre DS appointed my son the team leader and he started to organize the group and eventually we moved out. Traffic was still pretty light and I am sure we got some interesting stares. My knee held out and I was able to help 3-man carry one of our casualties in addition to carrying someone’s ruck on my chest.

Along the way to Military Park we passed a 9/11 memorial. Cadre DS had us stop and do a round of memorial pushups. That was a very nice touch given 9/11 was a big reason many people joined the military. We collected our gear and finished the march towards the start point. When we arrived we planted the flag, piled the coupons and were patched as having successfully completed GORUCK Tough Class 2876. All told we did more than 12 miles and a ton of great service work for the community. I had planned on doing the Light later in the day but after hitting the hotel, resting and refueling my knee was still not willing to bend a lot and was swollen maybe twice its normal size. I ended up sitting it out sadly. I knew I would not be an asset to the team and didn’t want to be a drag just gimping and grey-manning my way through it. Overall, a fantastic event and exactly why we were excited to sign up for a Cadre DS and Shredder combination. My son crushed his first HTL and my daughter did stellar in both the Tough and the Light. I couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments, grit and determination to finish this weekend in some very cold conditions.

Gear List:
  • GORUCK Java GR-1
  • CamelBak Crux 3L Bladder
  • 30lb GORUCK Expert Plate
  • Rocky RKC050 Military and Tactical Boot
  • DryMax Knee High Hiking Socks
  • Woolx Merino Wool base pants and top
  • Grunt Style Performance Long Sleeve T-Shirt
  • Russell Athletic Dri-Power Performance Crewneck Shirt
  • Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
  • Marmot PreCip Jacket
  • GORUCK Beanie
  • UnderArmour Infrared Balaclava
  • Mechanix Covert Tactical Gloves
  • Vitchelo V800 Headlamp

Friday, October 19, 2018

Feral Hog 50k Race Report

Saturday 10/13 was a date I had circled on my calendar for quite some time. It’s the date of the 3rd running of the Feral Hog 50k trail race in Southwestern Ohio and it would be my second time testing myself against this challenging course. I tried in in 2017 and was quickly humbled by the hills, creek and river crossings absolutely lighting up my IT band forcing me to drop after 20 miles. I didn’t even know what an IT band was, let along how to fix it before I started the race but since then have learned quite a bit. Months of PT where I learned stretching, foam rolling and loads of hip strengthening exercises ensued. I firmly decided I’d be getting my revenge on the course in 2018. I’ve been doing a lot of rucking lately and a few GORUCK events so as the event drew close, I felt pretty comfortable in changing my entry from runner to rucker. I had logged plenty of training miles in my boots, with my ruck and was happily anxious to get started.

My son and I drove to Williamsburg for packet pickup the night before the race and were greeted by name from Mary, the race director. We had been joking back and forth on Facebook about my quest for a finish and made a special DNF glass from last year’s race for me with a promise I wouldn’t need the 2018 DNF version. We were all smiles and happy to be recognized by name. She remembered my son who was the youngest finisher in 2016 at 16 years old. We collected our swag, which included a cool zip up jacket, bib and we were on our way to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before the big day.  While watching “Live PD” a guilty pleasure that reminds me of the “COPS” of old, I got my ruck ready. I had a 10lb weight, 3L of water in a hydration bladder and a 1L Nalgene with NUUN electrolytes in it. I also had my Pelican case with foot care kit, more NUUN, batteries for my headlamp and my headlamp itself. All told it was over 25lbs and the weight requirement for the rucking division is 20lbs so I was all set.

We were up and at ‘em around 5:30 and on our way to East Fork State Park. I had some hotel coffee and two Panera bagels we bought the previous night as nothing is open this early. We arrived and parked in time to hear the pre-race briefing for the early start (6:30AM). I checked in and had my ruck weighed at 27lbs officially and it wasn’t long after I was off on the course. My son started at the regular time so hung around the camp fire while I hit the trail. 

It’s important to note that it rained the night before and had also rained earlier in the week, so the course was pretty muddy. I am being kind here as the first two miles or so are part of the horseback riding trail and the horses made some pretty deep mud holes which after the week’s rain were more than ankle deep and even more in some spots. My plan was to shuffle as much as I could on the flat but this mud made it a real slog. No worries, I kept on trucking, this was going to be a long day but I was in the woods, so it’s hard to beat that! My first two miles were under my target pace but once we made the transition off of the horse trail, I was able to bump it up. I was feeling great and really just enjoying being out there with the sun slowly coming up. I was able to turn off my headlamp and just started grinding miles. The Feral Hog 50k is a single loop course around the East Fork State Park. The race director changes the direction of the race every year which means that the part of the course I was on now was new to me as it would have been the last 14 miles of last year’s race. It is fall in Ohio and the leave are turning and it was cool, in the mid 40F’s and I was making the pace I needed to make. All of the other early starters were ahead of me with the exception of a few I passed in the mud. I was rucking solo and totally loving it. Mary had mentioned early starters could now compete for a coveted flask for finishing under 10 hours and I not only wanted to finish, but a flask. I was on a mission! The terrain was rolling hills and I knew I had a pretty deep river crossing coming up. I started the descent into the river valley and right before I reached the river, the lead runner from the regular start time dashed past me. Dang that dude is fast!  I crossed the river and Mary was on the other side cheering everyone on. I made my way up the hill and somehow missed a turn and kept up the path until I hit the parking lot and didn’t see any runners or markers.  No worries, I wasn’t too far off course so backtracked down, found the turn and began the uphill slog out of the river valley.

The first aid station was coming up soon and I arrived a little behind where I wanted to be, but still in the hunt for a flask.  I drank some NUUN, topped off my 3L bladder, which I had been hitting regularly and checked in with the volunteers. My son had passed me while I was on my detour so I was bumming that I missed seeing him out there. I grabbed some peanut M&Ms and was off. I had a plan to not sit at any aid stations and I wasn’t going to quit this course – they’d have to pull me off. I shuffled along the flat part of the Spillway section, again keeping with the plan. I was feeling good, IT Band was happy, post operation knee was happy and so was I. Runners were all supportive as they passed me. The trail running community is amazing and I am happy to be a small part of it.  I was making the pace I wanted and working my through the course. The terrain wasn’t too bad and we were on single track and part of the Buckeye Trail so pretty well maintained. We joined up with the mountain bike trail and could finally see the lake through gaps in the trees. I pushed when I could and felt like I was constantly drinking.

The next aid station, Indian Mound, was getting close and I was slightly behind flask pace but still moving. I pushed harder and it wasn’t too long before I was walking into the aid station. I checked in while one of the volunteers filled my hydration bladder – I had drained all 3L of it. I finished my NUUN and mixed up a new Nalgene of it, grabbed some PB&J sandwich pieces and was out of the aid station without sitting or spending too much time. It was maybe a mile out from Indian Mound and I was noticing I was slowing. The terrain was getting more intense so I chalked it up to that. I found another rucker, Steve from Cleveland, who was lost. He joined me in the grind and we made our way forward.  We chatted on and off and were clocking miles. He had DNFed last year too and was out for revenge. At one point he sat down and told me to keep going. I double checked to make sure and he insisted so I kept rolling.

This is about where the wheels on my dream fell off. I stopped to urinate, which almost immediately struck me as odd. With all of my hydration I should have gone at least once before then. I’ll spare the details but lets say I was between IPA and Red Ale. 
CRAP. How did I get dehydrated?  I had probably close to 5L of fluid in me including maybe 1.5L of NUUN which I use all of the time in training. I was soaked with sweat but apparently was sweating more than I was taking it.  I can’t tell you how demoralizing it was to see how dehydrated I was, though it certainly explained my slower pace. I intensified my drinking efforts and kept moving. We were into part of the course I had been on last year and I knew what was up ahead – a very challenging section of hills and valleys. I pressed on but my pace was way off. It wasn’t long before Steve caught up with me. We were close to missing the cut off time at the 3rd aid station and probably had 2 miles to go. I was crushed to realize this was not going to finish the way I wanted. The only way out is forward so onward I pressed. We met up with a female rucker and checked with her as she was working on a strain or pulled calf. She urged us to go on so we did. The cut off time came and went. The female rucker passed us and we continued on.

Our day came to an end at 20 miles as we arrived at the aid station and loaded into the “Slaughter Wagon” to be returned to the start. I had more or less come to peace, as best you can, with the way the day ended up. I hadn’t planned for dehydration and man, can it kick your butt. I felt horrible, weak but somewhat content that I gave it my all. In the car on the way back to the start I heard that my son finished (whooo-hooo!!!!) and that he won the “Dirtiest Nut” award. Apparently he was caked in mud and I found out after the fact that the last 2 miles were back on the horseback trail and the mud we faced at the start. The dropped us off next to the fire and I walked up to my son who was talking with some of the other ruckers who DNFed. He was sad to hear I DNFed but happy that it wasn’t my knee or IT band. He suffered an IT band issue earlier this year and knows how miserable that can be. We chatted with people for a while and made our way to the start finish line so I could get my DNF pint glass. Mary was there and commiserated about the DNF. We took some pictures with my son getting his award and headed to the car for the 2 hour drive home.

It is Thursday as I write this and I am just finally starting to feel normal and hydrated properly. I obviously drank a ton of water, Body Armor, coconut water and more water over the weekend but wow did that experience really drain me. I’ve been able to hit the elliptical the last two mornings and did some rucking last night but nothing that’s close to my normal training effort. I’ll be training more before my next races and will pay special focus to my hydration. I don’t want to enter that pain cave again and as always with these endurance events, you learn a lot. Check out the salt crust on my face in the pic below - that's a serious sweat.  

Will I be back next year? Without a doubt. Now I have a double-sided axe to grind. Plus, the volunteers at the aid stations are amazing and so supportive. There was a band at the finish with banjos, too and of course, the race director is awesome. To remember our names and put as much effort into this event as she does is just a testament to her love of the sport.

In case you care,

Gear List:
·        GORUCK Rucker
·        CamelBak Crus 3L Bladder
·        Nalgene 1L bottle
·        Columbia SilverRidge Convertible Pants (in shorts configuration)
·        Russell Athletic Dri-Power Powerformance Crewneck Shirt
·        Rocky RKC050 Military and Tactical Boot
·        REI Hiking Socks

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

GORUCK Mog Mile Light AAR

My two oldest kids and I participated in a GORUCK Light event (#2827) this last weekend to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Operation Gothic Serpent and the Battle of Mogadishu. Most people know this battle as the one depicted in the movie Blackhawk Down where 19 US Army Rangers, Blackhawk pilots and Delta operators were lost during what should have been a quick snatch and grab. Two Medal of Honor recipients were named posthumously to give you a flavor for the heroism and selflessness displayed during this fight. Watch the movie and read up on it if you want to really appreciate the significance.

We signed up for the Light which is 4-6 hours and 5-8 miles kind of an event and considered GORUCK’s “fun(ish)” event. The start point was a big park in Columbus, the Whestone Park of Roses, which is a nice park with lots of green space and connectivity to the Olentangy Trail which run from the north suburbs all the way downtown. We figured we’d end up doing some miles on the bike path for sure. It was a beautiful day in the upper 60s and sunny and all three of us were in the right mindset for a challenging but fun event. We had watched Blackhawk Down earlier in the day to make sure we had the real meaning of the event in mind.

On arriving at the park we had no problem finding the exact start location as we saw quite a few people with rucks milling around. The flag and team weight showed up so we were all set. The team weight was 25lbs and has the tail numbers of the two Blackhawks on it - a very nice tribute.

There were a few familiar faces in the group, including a couple who did the Mog Mile Light with us in Cleveland last year and a guy who did the Indy Bataan Tough with us in April. There were also some people from Southwestern Ohio Rucking and Endurance (SORE) so it was great make new friends right away. Our cadre for the event was Cadre Pike and we have not had him yet. Each cadre brings their own flavor to these events so we were anxious to see what Pike would bring to the table. Cadre Pike rolled in and we completed the admin tasks like roll call, checking gear and a general safety briefing. Pike was Force Recon and after leaving the service stayed engaged through contracting. He’d been in Somalia a few weeks after the Battle of Mogadishu and had some nice insight. I love that GORUCK has people who have been there, done that and aren’t just reading a paper of timelines. It’s an incredible learning opportunity. After discussing Mogadishu, the fun started.

We rucked up and moved out for our first activity. Along the way to the activity we found a nice pond of waist deep water and walked through it and the mud. I of course lost my balance and dropped my ruck which got covered in mud – off to a great start. 

We moved towards a nice field where we dropped our rucks and moved to a sand lot baseball field for some sugar cookies. If you are not familiar with these, it’s pretty much roll around in sand and throw sand at your neighbors to get it in your hair, ears and other places. It worked well and we were properly dirty after getting wet.  We then moved back to the field and did some stretching (pushups) and some other PT like flutter kicks and leg lifts. Cadre Pike has a good sense of humor and it made the PT enjoyable. We transitioned to doing low crawls while pushing our rucks ahead of us. I’ve not done low crawls like this before and I am sure my technique was good entertainment. One of the guys in my squad was there for his first non-firearms event and I tried to help him as much as I could. It’s a team effort and everyone needs some help now and then. Cadre also demonstrated different methods of buddy carries and for the first time had someone who could pickup him up when he played unconscious. He joked that it ruined his demo, but we all knew what we needed to do when the time comes for the Mog Mile.

After we did this round of PT we moved out and surprising for me we moved towards High Street instead of the Olentangy Trail. Cadres like to keep you on your toes! We had a large group of 35 so formed into two columns and moved out. Along the way we got plenty of stares from walkers, bikers and people in the park. We walked north on High St until we came to a bus stop that had a bit of pavement behind it. We broke down into our squads and Cadre Pike had us do some team pushups where your feet are on the shoulders of the person behind you. It was a big circle and the goal was to be synchronized so that everyone went up at the same time. The other teams got it but I was really struggling and our team was last to crack the code on how to do it. We then moved out for a good ruck. We walked further north and then turned East onto Cook Rd and walked along it, eliciting more stares and some friendly honks from cars. We made our way to Indianola and turned south. We stopped for water and continued on to North Broadway where we turned West. It was great to talk with the other people during the ruck and share funny stories and experiences. There was no time hack but we kept a good pace with Cadre Pike leading the way. We stopped on last time at the corner of High and North Broadway where many of the women hit the Verizon store for a restroom break.

I knew we were headed back to the Park of Roses and wondered when the “Mog Mile” would kick in. For those who don’t know, the Mog Mile is when the cadre declares some of our team mates casualties and the rest of us need to carry them and their gear back to the start point. This is to commemorate the Mog Mile the Rangers faced when leaving the hostile zone and moving to the Pakistani stadium. We hadn’t gone very far before the cadre called out the casualties. We were fortunate that he picked my 155lb son and not me. Our team picked him up and carried him back to the start. Each squad had a casualty so deal with, some much bigger than we had – no complaints on my side!  We switched out different positions and tried to do it on the move to minimize the amount of stopping and make good time. We eventually all made it back to the start point where cadre had us line up. I think many of us thought it was patch time, but cadre had some more fun for us.  We shifted away from our rucks and finished with some pushups, flutter kicks and leg lifts. He didn’t kill us but I know I was starting to feel the last 5ish hours of fun.

We all got back up, moved back over to our rucks and Cadre Pike passed out the patches. Another great GORUCK event in the book.  We took a team photo and then one with the Masters (anyone over 40) and then the over 50 group took a picture. We had quite the age span from 14 to 57 in this group and everyone finished with smiles on their face including a dog who came with us. The patch for this year is unique as it is the 25th anniversary and for those wondering, RLTW is “Rangers Lead The Way.” I am very happy we were able to participate in this event.

Overall, it was around 5 hours and 6.5 miles, so right in the middle of the advertised duration and distance for a Light.  Well done, Cadre Pike!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

GORUCK Custom Land Navigation Heavy AAR

GORUCK Custom Land Navigation Heavy AAR - Class 259

Where to even start with this event? It has been in the works for a long time and the day finally arrived Saturday 6/16/18.  A bit of background on this event. First and foremost, it is a Heavy which means 24ish hours, lots of miles and hard work. The “theme”, if you will, of the event was Land Navigation which is a great topic and being able to learn skills from the Cadre would be awesome. The location was going to provide some fantastic terrain for us, especially since we live in flat-as-a-board Ohio. How hard could mountains near Los Angeles really be?  Over a few months the gear list grew and adapted to accommodate the situation. As we’d be in a very arid environment in June, it was mandated that 9 liters of water per person must be carried, at a minimum. We also needed maps of the Areas of Operation (AO) which there were 2, compass, map protractor, pencils, notepad, machete, clear glasses for night operations (nobody wants a stick in the eye), headlamps with extra batteries and whatever else you think you might need for 24 hours of movement.

TL;DR - This event was awesome, educational, very challenging, 26+ hours of fun and 32+ miles covered in the mountains. Cadre Shredder and Cadre DS obviously put a ton of work into planning this out and it showed. The support crew from Super-D was awesome and we couldn’t have been as successful as we were without them. Details (lots and lots of details) below.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

GORUCK Star Course Washington DC

In February when GORUCK announced the Star Course in Washington, DC my son and I both jumped at the idea of participating. We registered and watched the initial registration limit get smashed and GORUCK added more spots. For those who don’t know what this event entails I’ll use GORUCK’s specific wording

In 1908, Teddy Roosevelt issued an executive order to members of the military, later echoed by JFK:

“Do 50 miles in under 20 hours.”

Pretty straightforward, eh?

In JFK’s time it became a national craze, a challenge accepted by people of all walks of life despite claims in those days of the growing softness of the American people. Claims not too dissimilar to those made these days.

We believe those doubting the generations of today are looking in the wrong places. Many of us are not only up to such a 50 Mile Challenge, but we’re starving for some way to push ourselves to those new limits, and beyond.

Plus Some Special Forces Inspiration: The Star Course

Rucking is the foundation of Special Forces training and the “Star Course” is the culminating rucking exercise of Special Forces Selection. You show up with your ruck and you get a list of waypoints. You plot your route, then you start rucking: point to point, mile after mile.

For a lot of miles.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?!  We thought so too and a lot of our spring prep work was geared towards this goal. 50 miles is no joke and I knew I didn’t want to fall short. One of the requirements is that at least two of the people on the team must be together to complete the course and earn the patch. No solo attempts for Star Course. With that in mind many miles were rucked in prep, my son did the New Jersey Spartan Race Ultra, among other local races and events.

TL;DR – It rained we started and med dropped after 5.5 hours and 16.2 miles. Read below for more details.

Friday 5/18 and we were in a plane on our way to DC. We had a hotel for the weekend though we knew we wouldn’t need it Friday night/Saturday morning as we’d be on the course grinding miles. It was raining when we landed and that would be constant the whole time we were there. We checked in to the hotel, double checked our gear especially after finding TSA went through our bags. This was our first time to flying with ruck plates and I guess the TSA has to open the bag and see what’s up with the 20lb piece of steel in the bags.  We’d heard mixed results for people who have tried to carry them on so opted to check them. The TSA took my son's out of his ruck and then put it back in the suitcase after emptying his ruck (not cool). I guess they did his first as mine was opened but not rifled through like his was. We grabbed lunch and hit CVS for some moleskin and scissors. There is always something forgotten it seems.

We chilled in the room for a while, watched TV and finally 6:30 came around and we got an Uber to the start point, Georgetown Waterfront Park, a few miles from our hotel in Crystal City. We knew we were in the right place when we got closer and saw all of the rucks, reflective bands and people hanging around. We checked in at registration, got our cool Star Course shirts that we’d ordered before the event, and hung around talking about what the event might entail and what the next 20 odd hours would bring.

The team captain meeting was at 8PM and we listed to Big Daddy give instructions. Initially there was going to be a choice to do the city portion of the course first and then the long out and back or vice versa. With the rain the DC area the Potomac was high and portions of the C&O canal trail were washed out further out. In the interest of safety and getting people through this part of the course ASAP we all were doing the 32.4 mile out and back first and then could hit the city course. A few other words about the aid stations, medics and general rules. Big Daddy handed out the hit list of waypoints we would need to visit and check in on Instagram to claim credit. There was no particular order we had to hit them and it was up to us to find the best path for our team. He made it a point to mention that we would be doing at LEAST 50 miles and if your navigation skills were less than optimal, you’d be doing more. 

My son and I plotted our course and discussed the overall plan while we waited. Since it was still raining we put the waypoints into the notepad on his phone and the order we planned to tackle them in. Here’s a picture of the hit list and maps.

Our plan was to hit them in this order:
Lockhouse 11, Swain’s Lock (both on the C&O towpath trail) and then head back towards the city. Once we got back in the District, we’d cut our way to the Washington Cathedral then make our way to the Exorcist Steps. Next would be Canal Mile Marker 0 then over to Theodore Roosevelt Island and then down to the Women in Service memorial at Arlington. From there we’d hit the Lincoln Memorial, FDR Memorial and Thomas Jefferson as we headed towards Hain’s Point Picnic Area. From Hain’s Point it was back to the Mall and the WWII memorial, Washington Monument then onwards to the Supreme Court. After there, we’d visit the White House before making the final push the end point, Balance Gym on 14th St. Sounds like a good plan, huh? 

A little before 9PM we headed to the starting area where Jason (founder of GORUCK) talked with us and got everyone hyped up with some chants of GORUCK and Running Sucks.  LOL.  Big Daddy sounded 3 blasts of the air siren and we began. 700 weirdos all carrying at least 20lbs of steel plates, water, chem lights and plans for 50+ miles of fun grinding. It was pretty crowded as we filed onto the bike path and it took a few miles before everyone settled into their personal pace and spaced out a bit – just like any race or event it is always a bit crowded at the start. Of course it was still raining and my Marmot raincoat kept me dry.

We got into a nice pace and transitioned from pavement to crushed gravel. The rain was non-stop and would alternate between drizzle to a bit heavier to some good spots of harder rain. It was never a downpour but was constant. We found one of our Corn Fed Spartan buddies, Mark McKennett and talked with him for a bit. He shared some funny stories about his experience the previous weekend at the Spartan Race in Boston and the HH12HR, 2 laps of the Sprint course with the HH12HR weight (30lbs) followed by the HH which was an unofficial gathering of endurance people called the Quad Shot organized by Rob Barger. We’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the neatest people in the last few years doing this stuff.

It was heads down rucking and watching your footing as some portions of the trail were rocky. We could hear the Potomac roaring on our left side and as we passed canal lock after lock we could hear the water rushing through the gates. It was very cool and I would have loved to see it in the day! We talked and passed the time with some times in silence.  We made it to the first checkpoint, Lock House 11, took a selfie and uploaded it to Instagram. I wish I had practiced a bit more with it before the event. Instagram isn’t my social media tool of choice (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) I really don’t need another so fumbled around with a bit to get it tagged properly and out there. A quick pit stop and we were off.

We passed under I-495 and kept on trucking.  Did I mention it was raining?!  It was. We made our way down the dark trail and it was neat to see the chemlights of the ruckers in front of us when we’d hit a curve. We saw Jason out rucking with us which I was impressed with. I wondered if he would do the event of just kick it off and let us goobers go do it. Nope, he was out there grinding with us, too and talking with people. Major cool points for that! We kept going and could hear the falls at Great Falls but couldn’t see them. I bet they were really raging as they sounded loud.

We were chatting and killing time while grinding. I practiced counting my paces as we’ll need it for a Heavy we are doing in a month. Counting really takes focus. I hope I get better at it with practice. My son had mentioned after last week’s 25k trail race that his IT band had flared up during the race and forced him to walk a bit. He had spent the week resting, foam rolling and stretching. I asked him how he was doing and he said it was not comfortable. He’s a tough kid so for him to mention it was noteworthy. He said is started acting up around mile 7. He said he could keep going, which was good since we were in no-man’s land. We agreed to do a no-BS assessment at the next waypoint, Swain’s Lock.

We kept moving and my left ankle, which had been giving me grief since the Cinco de Mayo Light was making it’s displeasure known. We kept grinding and it was maybe mile 14 or so that the first leaders passed on their way back. These dudes were running and making good time. I had wondered if some ultrarunners would sign up and crush the field and now had my answer. Side note, they finished in 12h30m!  That’s a good pace, especially considering the conditions, having to stop for checking in, etc.

We plodded on and finally reached Swain’s Lock. We took our picture and added it to Instagram. I asked my son what he thought we should do. After a long, thoughtful pause, he said we should drop. I knew this was a tough call for him to make but also very smart. We’ve got a lot of events lined up this summer and after he watched me struggle with my IT band last fall, I think he knows it’s not a short fix. My ankle was happy that we dropped as well though I know I could have kept on going but would have paid for it later. We notified the lady working the checkpoint that we were dropping and she notified the right people. I called for an Uber and while waiting another team of two asked if they could ride back to DC with us. The guy was getting hypothermic and couldn’t continue. Of course I let them and they were kind enough to split the bill.

While we waited EMS rolled in for someone who needed more serious medical attention than we did. I wasn’t sure what was going on as the patient walked to the ambulance but they took him away so it wasn’t a small deal. There were Ubers coming and going while we waited and I think a lot of people were dropping. The weather was taking its toll on many of them. It was around 2:30AM and it was in the mid 50s and raining so no surprise people were tapping out.

We rode back to the hotel and the warm showers felt great and dry clothes were really appreciated. While walking from the elevator to the room, my boots were squishing out water with each step. It was particularly funny at 4AM.  I was thrilled to have only one blood blister on my right foot and none on my left. The boot I used were new and didn’t have as many miles breaking them in as I had planned to put on them. They worked great and will get a lot more punishment in the future. I sent my wife an email letting her know we dropped and that my phone wasn’t working as it detected moisture in the charging port. Ha, imagine that!  We hit the hay hard. My son woke around 10 and I got up close to 11. I was able to get an earlier flight home and checked out of the hotel a day early.  We made it home and once again, TSA went through our stuff but not as disruptive a before.  On a side note, my checked bag with wet clothes, boots and ruck weighed 3.5lbs more on the way home than it did on the way there. Did I mention it rained?

I am happy we got to participate in the first GORUCK Star Course and while I certainly would have liked to finish it, I’m glad we stopped when we did more or less injury free. There are a number of other Star Courses happening this year and I can’t wait to try another go at one.  We have to finalize our plans for the fall and see what we can fit in. Obviously, this is unfinished business (I have a lot of that around the US) and I’d like to get one under my belt.

Gear List:
  • GORUCK Black Rucker
  • CamelBak Crus 3L Bladder
  • Nalgene 1L bottle
  • 20lb GORUCK Plate
  • Columbia SilverRidge Convertible Pants
  • Russell Athletic Dri-Power Performance Crewneck Shirt
  • Grunt Style Outdoors Heathered Long Sleeve
  • Rocky RKC050 Military and Tactical Boot
  • Smartwool Hiking Socks with inner socks that I’ve had for years
  • Gasden & Culpepper Operator Boonie Hat
  • Marmot PreCip Jacket
My Garmin Map

Our next GORUCK event is a custom Heavy in California mid June so keep an eye out for that AAR.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

GORUCK Cinco de Mayo Light AAR

My oldest daughter and I signed up for the Cincinnati Cinco de Mayo GORUCK Light (Class #2644) a few months ago and participated in the event yesterday. You might be wondering – an AAR for a Light?  Yep, my blog, my choice to write what I want – LOL. This is my 3rd Light and while I’ve enjoyed them all, this one was bigger and not what you think of for a Light, thus the AAR.

TL;DR – We rucked a bunch of miles, carried heavy stuff and had a great time with a cool cadre.

We drove to Cincinnati the day before so we could rest and be ready for the event. A quick hotel breakfast and we were on our way to the start point, Fifty West Cycling, and started meeting the other ruckers. It seemed like a lot of them have done other events with each other but we were far from being the only new faces. One lady did the Indianapolis Veteran’s Day Light with us and one of the guys did the Indianapolis Bataan Tough with my son and me. Small world of people who like to do these events, it seems.

The cadre, Stephen, arrived and we checked in, did the usual gear check and safety briefing. I needed to fill out a paper waiver for my daughter as she is a minor which was new since this is her 3rd Light. In total 17 of us started the event, which was our smallest class we’ve been in. We collected the coupons the cadre stashed earlier and moved out of the parking lot to a grassy area for some PT. We did squats and leg raises while some of our team went to fill the sandbags. We had a total of one 80lb, one 60lb and 3 40lb sandbags in addition to three 4 foot PVC pipes full of dirt or sand, two 5 gallon jerry cans of water, an empty keg as a team weight, a backpack of misc things, a small shovel and of course a US flag leading the way. For those counting along at home, that’s 14 coupons for 17 people.

We moved out and did a good job rotating the coupons around though you were rarely without something to carry. Our destination was 6.5 miles away at Pattison Elementary School. We moved with purpose and only stopped once to refill hydration packs which in turn lightened the jerry cans. It was overcast and in the mid 60’s but humid so we were sweating pretty good. Hydration is key at these events and even if it is a Light you don’t want to get behind on hydration. Once we arrived cadre set out some markers in the field and we split into two team for relay races. We did buddy carries for 4 races. We won 2, lost 2. The winning team got to pick the penalty for the losing team and cadre was cool with us doing easy penalties like “Air Force pushups”, cherry pickers, hip rotations and bicep curls. It was a great laugh and kept spirits high with the fun factor.

We moved out shortly thereafter and started making our way back to the start point. We rucked through a beautiful section of Cincinnati that I’d never been to, Milton and Newtown. Some amazing houses and a few micro-breweries along the way. We eventually made it to the Little Miami Scenic Trail which was nice to get off the roads and sidewalks. This is a rails to trails pathway and was busy on a beautiful Saturday morning. We stopped once for water and bathrooms before making the final push to the start point.

When we arrived, we piled the coupons, filled the jerry cans for the 4PM Light class and cadre presented us with our patches. We did 11.3 miles in just under 6 hours. Certainly not the most I’ve rucked but it was a lot for a Light and we loved it!  I had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people and always enjoy talking with everyone while we’re there. My daughter did great and shouldered more than her fair share of the coupons. She’s a tough cookie and I saw her with the 60lb, 40lb, keg and PVC pipes. I’m proud of her beyond words as she is doing stuff at 14 that so many others would never even consider doing and she enjoys it.

This isn’t our last event and by far and I love how each one is unique. Each cadre brings their own “flavor” and style to the events. Some really focus on the PT aspect, some on the rucking and movement, some on both. The end result is the same – a good time with great people. If you’ve not done one, start with a Light and enjoy the experience. You can find events here: GORUCK Light.

Most cadre don’t like you to wear watches during the event as it is a distraction from the activity. I’m cool with that so put my Garmin in my Ruck as we were forming up. You can see the map of our route here. Not sure where the elevation change came from – we maybe did 500’ and that would be generous.

Gear List
  • ·        GORUCK Black Rucker
  • ·        CamelBak Crus 3L bladder
  • ·        Nalgene 1L bottle
  • ·        20lb GORUCK Plate
  • ·        Altra Lone Peak with Superfeet Green Inserts
  • ·        Drymax OCR ankle high socks
  • ·        Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
  • ·        Mechanix Covert Tactical Gloves

Until next time, folks.

Thanks to Jennifer Jarvis for the Welcome Party photos. Heal up and see you next time!

Random photos below.