Monday, April 9, 2018

Indianapolis GORUCK Bataan Death March Tough AAR

My oldest son and I signed up for this event without either of us knowing much about the Bataan Death March.  As the event drew closer we both started reading “Tears in the Darkness” and doing research on Ohio survivors of the Death March. If you’ve not read much about it, please take the time to do something, even a quick Google search and learn part of history that doesn’t get much air time anymore – there are some powerful lessons to be learned. On to the event.

TL;DR – We rucked a lot, it was cold but we all finished and had a great time.  Sorry, I’m not known for short blogs.

We drove to Indianapolis Friday afternoon and it was 55F when we left a meeting I had in Columbus. As we made our way west the temps dropped to be 32F when we pulled up to our hotel in downtown Indianapolis. We also drove through light rain and snow and it was still scattered flurries when we started to get ready to head to the start point. We’ve done other winter events before, so we were set on gear and I’ll have the gear I used at the bottom of the AAR.  Equipment list was standard for a Tough 30lbs weight in the ruck + water and nutrition.  I am 10 weeks post operation from a knee surgery (meniscus tear) and had just been discharged from PT earlier that morning. We’ll find out how the knee holds out.

Our start point was the Thomas Taggart Memorial in Taggart Riverside Park. We’ve been to Indianapolis quite a few times, but this was a new location for us. We arrived about 30 minutes early and met some of the other participants and double checked our gear to make sure we were ready when the event started. This was the first Tough event for both of us though we’ve done two Lights (Mog Mile and Veteran’s Day) and a 12-hour Constellation. Army Ranger Cadre Cody G rolled in around 8:50PM and we started to form up. The usual roll call and equipment checks started and then we went around and did a quick introduction which was nice to hear why people signed up for the event. With it being dark it was hard to match faces to names later in the event. Cadre also told us we wouldn’t need our headlamps as this was in the city. Out of the 30 people who showed up there were a few people who didn’t have their cab fare, reflective bands or a Bataan story which were on our equipment list. Cadre mentioned we’d all pay for those oversights later.

We started with some basic PT to warm up. Cadre is from Tampa so cold weather isn’t his favorite by far. We had a very light welcome party and then started towards our first objective. We collected our American flag, team coupons (sandbags and a duffel bag of water bottles) and moved out. It was a nice ruck along the White River then moved into an apartment complex to pickup the river trail. We found that the road was closed and a detour around it would have changed too much of the rest of Cadre’s plans, so we headed to the next location, the Indianapolis Zoo. Cadre gave us 70 minutes to go 4(ish) miles and we moved out with purpose. Our team leaders navigated us through the city and
we made the time hack but not by a lot. Six of us read our Bataan stories and it was sobering to hear reports that I’d not read about the cruelty and barbarism that happened. We also took bio breaks and then our first “punishment” for gear infraction was 19 rucks on burpees. Could have been way worse so no complaints. I did the best I could to complete them – burpees are hard with a knee that’s not 100%. Cadre mentioned he likes to walk and we would definitely be getting our walk on tonight.

We picked new navigator and team leaders and moved out. Indianapolis has been getting hammered over the last few weeks with snow and rain and the White River was high. We were following more of the river trail way until the high water made us take a detour. We wound our way through the city until we reached our objective, Riley Park. More of us recounted Bataan stories and on that really resonated with me was where the grandson of a Bataan victim that now lived here was going to do the Light event the next day. Talk about a local connection!  We did bio breaks and some relay races and more PT. Sadly for my team we were last in each heat and that’s pretty much on me. Sorry guys, I’m slow but as you learned, I don’t quit.  We headed towards our next objective which took us through an industrial area where I chatted with another father/son pair in the event. It’s good to know we’re not the only ones! If you read this, I hope your first child/granddaughter comes after next week’s custom Tough and everyone is healthy. 

We reached our next objective which was Lilly’s Recreational Park. Unfortunately, is not open to the public so we formed up next to the entrance and hydrated, fueled up and recounted more stories, including mine.  I chose Charles Johnstone from Cleveland and the article I used as reference is here. 

It wasn’t long before we were on the move and into some impoverished areas of Indy. As we were rolling we passed a house that many of us were sure was a grow house given the light coming from the basement, the fan in the broken-out window and the people loitering around.  Cadre had decided that the team weights needed to be connected so looped some bungee cords to interconnect them. This made the weigh more awkward and required more communication and team work to carry effectively.  I helped carry the team weight for a while as we rotated people in an out throughout the event. As we got closer to our objective we found a freight train that was stopped blocking the road. Cadre and team leaders developed a plan and made a detour.

We made our way to the next stop, Kelly Park, and missed our second time hack. We hydrated, recounted more, including my son’s, Bataan reports and then began some more PT. Cadre pulled out a deck of cards and we did some air squats, bear crawls and regular crawls. During the welcome party Cadre had asked about medical conditions and I was hesitant at first to call out my knee, but did. Fortunately for me, Cadre remember and gave me the alternative of air claps and running laps around the rest of the team that were crawling. I’m very appreciative of his awareness and flexibility. I thought air claps were a bit of a joke until I was over 100 in. They can be harder than they sound especially 7+ hours into an event.

After the PT session was done, we moved out with the next objective the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Monument Circle. As we moved through the city we had 3 police cruisers stop us and ask if we needed any help and what we were doing. It didn’t take them long to realize we were not a problem and they even helped block some of the intersections downtown to help us move through. Thank you, Indy PD! We also had our first drunk encounters as the bars had shut down and people were stumbling home. Always entertaining and luckily these were all friendly and inquisitive drunks. Cadre took some pictures of the team and it was fun to hear “GORUCK” echo across the empty downtown streets. I think a few of the late-night party animals misunderstood “GORUCK” for something else based on their replies.  Ha!  Cadre shared some other encounters with people on events and we all got some good laughs.  It was getting late (or is that early as it was after 4AM) and it was pretty cold, so we didn’t hang around Monument Circle long and moved on towards the Indiana War Memorial. Cadre took some more pictures and we moved on.

As usual with a GORUCK event there is a community service aspect and ours had been arranged to be washing fire engines at Indianapolis Fire Department Station 13 close to downtown. We rucked to the canal area and stopped for a bit for the Cadre to host an “Ask Me Anything” session and he shared some of his experiences as a Ranger. It was very informative, and I always learn a lot from these events. We moved down the canal to the USS Indianapolis memorial and had participants read the inscription out loud.  We then moved on, passed our fire station and kept rucking. We were too early and didn’t want to mess up the timeline. We rucked through Military Park and then back long the canal for a bit before stopping at the Congressional Medal of Honor memorial. Indiana has a ton of Medal of Honor recipients and is a testament to the bravery of us Midwesterners.  We hydrated and fueled a bit before making our way to Station 13.

Our service project was to wash the fire engines and the fire fighters seemed happy to have someone  The sun was rising an we knew the end of the event was near.
else do the job. We were all happy that we washed the trucks indoors and for the first time since about 8:30PM the night before we were out of the elements. We washed, rinsed and dried the trucks and then moved out.

Along the way our team had what I think I heard as a hamstring injury and the team all worked together to help him along by giving him a shoulder to lean on and carrying his ruck. I had multiple people offer to carry my ruck as they knew about my knee and it was obvious I was slow but keeping the pace and never fell behind the group. I refused their help, sometimes more abrupt than I would have liked but appreciated their offer. I wanted to finish strong and under my own power and with my ruck and they seemed to understand. If I was too rude, please don’t take it personal – long day and in pain makes my responses more terse than normal.

We moved through the city and watched it wake up to a cold Saturday morning with traffic increasing, people honking and waving at the flag and birds chirping. As we were walking through the city one of my team mates gave me his Tactical Dad patch. I had commented on it earlier in the night and really appreciate his generosity. I hope I earned it in his eyes. I really wanted to finish with my ruck and not be more of a burden to the team. We moved with purpose and everyone perked up a
bit as the start point was in sight. We arrived at the park where we started this 23+ mile journey 11(ish) hours after we left and formed up one last time. Cadre had us do some ruck presses and then we earned our patches and Class 2587 Endexed with a 100% completion of all 30 of us. I was sore, tired and ready for some sleep but have survived my first Tough and done it under my own power and with my ruck.

My son and I drove back to the hotel and I don’t know when a warm shower felt better than this one. We got a few hours of sleep and then made our way back to Columbus. There was no way I was in any shape to drive 3+ hours home without some rest.

Having a day to reflect on the event and it really was a great experience. I learned a lot about the Bataan Death March, the Cadre, many of my team mates and of course myself. I was able to push myself and when my mind told me it would be easier for me and better for everyone else to quit, I didn’t.  I proved I can persevere and was also reminded of some areas that I need to improve in. I’m looking forward to my next event and the work I’ll undertake to improve myself.

Gear List:
·        GORUCK Java GR-1
·        CamelBak Crux 3L bladder
·        30lb GORUCK Expert Plate
·        Altra Lone Peak with Superfeet Green Inserts
·        DryMax Knee High Hiking Socks
·        Woolx Merino Wool base pants and top
·        Grunt Style Performance Long Sleeve T Shirt
·        Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
·        Hoodie
·        Marmot PreCip Jacket
·        GORUCK Beanie
·        UnderArmour base gloves
·        Mechanix Covert Tactical Gloves

Garmin Tracking of the Event. My battery died as we were headed back to the start point. Also, I saw in another video of an event that the team was punished for someone having a watch. Not sure if that is a Cadre specific thing or not but I'll just put it in my ruck next time. Sounds like we were lucky Cadre didn't either care or ask and it wasn't a distraction for me. I started it and didn't monkey with it until after Endex.

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