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.
- 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