Thursday, May 2, 2019

GORUCK Land Navigation Heavy - North AAR

Thursday morning came and it was time to load our gear into the car for the 1.5 hour drive north to Molon Labe crossfit gym in Macedonia, OH. My oldest two kids and I were excited to tackle a GORUCK Double Heavy. The first Heavy would be 24+hrs of Land Navigation with a few hour break and then a 24+hr Trek Heavy would start. It wasn’t our first GORUCK event by any stretch but the idea of two Heavies back to back was daunting. My daughter has done a few Lights and a Tough but no Heavy so this was really going to be new territory for her. We all talked about the event, the cadre leading it and stuff but as we got closer the car grew quiet as we all started to really think about the impending challenge.

We arrived at Molon Labe about 45 minutes before the start time, which was noon, and finished getting ready. Moleskin, Body Glide and other precautions were applied, I put on my knee support sleeves and made final adjustments to my ruck. Man, that ruck was heavy. I had a 30lb weight plate in addition to 7L of water plus all of the other gear we needed. I didn’t weigh it at home because I didn’t want a specific number rattling around in my head all event, but I am guessing it was close to 55lbs. We joined the rest of the team and met some familiar faces though there were plenty of new ones. There were a lot of familiar names from the GORUCK and endurance community including Selection participants, triple Heavy finishers and other event beasts. We had an impressive team.

Someone took charge and we circled up to do some group stretching and loosen up. It wasn’t long before the cadre had us form up. Cadre Wild Will, a Force Recon Marine, started us off with farmer’s carries of weight plates from the gym down the parking lot and back in teams of two for 12 minutes. My teammate and I had two 35lb plates and he started us off while I followed. The rules were simple, go around the cone and back without dropping the plates or letting them touch the ground when we switched and use a pinch grip. If they fell, we were to do 20 pushups as a team. We made out first loop without incident and then it was my turn. We passed the plates successfully and completed that loop as well. One our 3rd loop my teammate dropped the plates so we served our penalty together and resumed. My next turn was successful and we were part way through his third cycle when time was called and we were told to get inside the gym now.

We filed in and formed up and were briefed on the workout ahead of us. We were to do 50 ruck thrusters, 75 4 count flutter kicks and 50 monkey lovers (check out the linked video if you don’t know what they are – LOL). These workouts certainly got us warmed up and there were pools of sweat around most people. During this workout we had 2 people med drop due to back pain. Also, the guy who organized the HH shared with us that he had a neck injury and wasn’t able to lift his ruck by himself. Cadre informed us that the team was responsible for helping get his ruck on and off and if they saw him doing it by himself, we’d all get smoked. He is a beast and I am sure needing help would be hard for him but since he had done so much work and planning on making these events happen, we all were happy to have him on the team. He led the group workouts and used a Swiffer mop instead of a ruck which made for some great pictures.

Cadre then had us go outside for a 2 mile run as a team with a time hack to make. We moved out and kept a steady pace which wasn’t going to meet the time requirement. I’m not a fast runner so I wasn’t going to complain or start stressing people who were slower. We all had a long day ahead of us and needed to gel as a team and I think most realized that we needed to realize we were not making the time hack but needed to focus on finishing as a team. Some of the stronger personalities on the team were coming out, as expected. It always happens when you have a diverse group of people at varying levels of fitness show up for an event like this. We pushed and finished together as a team well over the time hack and filed back into the gym. Our next evolution was to line up in ranks 4 across and do a sandbag toss as a team. This was a fun exercise and helped us work on communication and continue forging the bonds of teamwork that we would need for the rest of the event.

When this was done we were told to go back outside and tie into a rope with our carabiners for our 12 mile ruck march. The leader was given the destination and the 3.5hr time hack. We all clipped in and moved out. Being tied to a rope with 27 other people is a great way to work on communications and team work. You have to avoid stepping on each other’s heels and crossing roads together can be challenging. We made our way through Macedonia on the road and sidewalks when we could find them. Our endpoint was Eggbert Park and we would take a bike/walking trail a good portion of the trip. It was nice to get off of the roads and we stopped for a bio break once we got to the bike trail. It was in the mid 60s and I was sweating like a beast. I made sure I was hydrating as I didn’t want to get behind the curve there – been there; done that – don’t want to do it again.

We stopped for a few minutes and moved out again. I reconnected with some people who had done the North Carolina LandNav Heavy in December and talked with some new people, too. We were able to stay on the bike path even when we go back to the roads which was nice. We were making our way to the destination but clearly falling behind schedule and at one intersection Cadre Shredder rolled up in a truck and told us to hurry up. We started moving with more purpose and shuffled where we could. My team helped me by taking my ruck as I was getting dizzy and I really appreciate it. The reprieve from carrying the ruck really helped me get back into the zone along with some electrolytes. We stopped a short ways up the path for another team mate who was struggling and I took my ruck back. We made a mistake here in that we unclipped 3 people from the rope – the person struggling and two to lend a hand and make sure nobody fell down. It was the right call medically but we broke the cadre’s instructions of staying on the rope.

We made our way to the park and lined up for the cadre. They asked about the people off of the rope and were not happy with our answers. We were in a field that was 100m across and they told us to get down and do buddy bear crawls to the other end of the field. Keep in mind we were still roped together to add to the fun. A buddy bear crawl is like regular bear crawls but the person in front puts their legs on the shoulders/back of the rear person. It’s awkward and takes bear crawls, which I don’t like regularly, to a whole new level of suckage. We tried to move as a team but were getting misaligned as people fell and stopped. We slowly made our way towards the end but were making less and less progress with each iteration. The cadres decided we had earned some 8 count bodybuilders due to our performance and the longer we took and the more we fell, the more we earned. We eventually finished the crawl and were all pretty wet and muddy as it had been raining a lot in the area the previous days.

Cadre then had us circle up for our 120 8 counts that we owed. We began as a team and started the grind. Having my ruck on during this was crushing my knees during the 8th count which is to stand up. I lasted 20 before I asked if I could remove my ruck. Cadre Wild Will wanted to know why and when I told him about my torn meniscus he questioned the choices I make in life but let me take my ruck off. Personally I wasn’t very happy with my performance so far. So much work, training and preparation to get here and I was sucking rocks. The demons were creeping in and whispering that I was too weak – that I was going to fail – that I was going to embarrass my kids (which I am sure happened) – that I wasn’t worthy of being on this team. All very real thoughts that I had to brush aside and focus on doing the 8 counts.  In between reps, Cadre Wild Will asked which direction was north. I pointed towards it right away and he took away 10 of our 8 counts for a correct answer! That was a big morale boost for me. I may suck at much of the physical aspects but I can do land nav. We continued on our grind until the cadre decided we would do the rest of them later. It was time for the land nav portion to start. Our first task was to determine pace count for 100m which we did multiple times to get an average. We then calculated our pace counts when shuffling as they are different. Pace count is the foundation for knowing how far you have gone so if you don’t know it, you need to. It was starting to rain now and after we finished the pace count exercise we moved to a picnic shelter and broke out our maps.

The cadre all took turns teaching us the basics of orienteering. For some of us this was all new, for others it was a refresher. No matter how good you are, you can always learn more and learning these skills from people who literally made life and death choices based on their careers in the military. It doesn’t get much better than that in my opinion. Cadre Cleve had told us last year during a Constellation event that he teaches these skills to us civilians since we helped pay for him to learn them when he was in Force Recon. I liked that perspective and intend to take advantage of learning from these guys at each and every opportunity. I took notes and as we got closer to plotting a point we could start to zero in on where we were and where we needed to go. It was totally dark now and still raining so everyone had their headlamps out and on. I had brought reading glasses with me based on North Carolina’s experience and it helped a ton.

We broke down into teams of two and I paired up with my daughter. We were given our point, azimuth and distance and moved out. We used dead reckoning to just walk in the direction we needed to. It took us bushwhacking and we made adjustments as we hit creeks and ravines. It was neat to see 12 other teams out there in the woods with our headlamps on moving in more or less the same direction. We could hear a creek down in a ravine we were skirting raging with the recent rain water and also a train tracks up ahead. We needed to get up and over the train tracks to reach out destination. It was a pretty steep embankment and the loose cinders made scrambling look like a bear crawl for me. When we got to the top, I tripped on something and faceplanted on the tracks. As luck would have it Cadre Cleve came up just as I was getting up and made a comment about not laying down on the active train tracks. Hahah – Yes, Cadre. I guess it good he didn’t see me faceplant but now thinks I was being a moron and laying on the tracks.

We moved down the embankment and towards a parking lot where we all met up and debriefed with the Cadre. Since we were in pairs we had split the tasks of shooting the azimuth for one and counting paces for the other. To return to the shelter we swapped roles and worked our way back. A train was passing so we had to let that go before we could cross the tracks. We should have been stealthier but since the conductor blew the whistle at us, we were spotted. Ooops. No worries and we returned to the shelter for more instruction. We talked about pace counting when an obstacle is in the way and how to “box” around it. We were given our next coordinates to plot and asked to calculate the distance before we were broken down into two teams. Right before we were to step off on our next movement, the park police showed up. It was after 11PM, dark, raining and there were 30-something people moving around so I am sure they needed to check us out. Cadre Shredder went over and talked with them and it wasn’t too long before we were back on track. The park closes at sundown so they wanted us to move on, which is exactly what we were doing.

We moved out and used our newly learned skills to move around obstacles and reach our objective. The first part of our movement was pretty easy as we were crossing a golf course before doing a little bit of bushwhacking. Our goal was the Bridal Veil Falls parking lot and our group arrived a little after the other one. We hydrated, grabbed some calories and waited for our next points to be provided. Once they were given we plotted them out and did some route planning. There was some serious terrain between us and the end point so we looked at the map and talked about alternatives routes. Once we agreed on a route we stepped off. If you’ve never done land navigation at night, things seem so much further in the dark. You move slower, especially given the rain, wet, slippery terrain and just in general, the unknown. We were doing a good job as a team calling out paces and checking that we were still headed in the right direction. We were moving slow but going the right way. We had just crossed a road and were bushwhacking when we heard a truck bowing its horn. That was the agreed upon sign to stop what we were doing and move towards the truck. We backtracked maybe 150m and met Cadre Shredder. I assumed we had blown our time hack so bad that he was picking us up but instead he saw where we were and our direction of travel and let us know we were very close and to continue on.

Relieved, we went back into the woods and continued on our way. We could hear Tinker Creek, which was a backstop for us, and knew we were super close. We came across a trail and realized that the point was more or less straight down a steep hill. It looked too precarious to navigate safely in the dark so we moved until we found an area that seemed safer. It was still steep but we all made it down – some on our butts sliding down and side stepping down. We all made it down safely and walked the short distance to the shelter where the other team was and debriefed with the Cadre.  Our next movement was going to be multiple points so we talked about route planning and more nav topics. Cadre Cleve had us line up and then count off to form two new teams. I was still on a team with my daughter and we all grouped up to plot out the route. Our first stop was across Tinker Creek to a water re-supply point that would be marked with a flashing green beacon.

Our team moved out and we arrived to the supply drop and everyone topped off their supply. My hydration was much better now that it had cooled off some and I was being hyper vigilant on drinking. As such, I needed plenty of water and it was nice to know I was topped off. We cleaned up the bottles and trash and left the remaining bottles and beacon where we found them to, what I assume, would be picked up later by the awesome support crew we had or the cadre. We moved to the next point which for our team was an abandoned golf course green. We then shot our last azimuth which took us to an old warehouse on the golf course. We were the first team to arrive so we took our rucks off sat down, stretched, hydrated and ate. Cadre Shredder had us collect our stuff and go inside which was nice to be out of the rain and wind for a bit. It wasn’t too long before the other team arrived and we debriefed a bit. Cadre Shredder asked where his green beacon was and was very unhappy to hear it was back at the water drop. Apparently he told the team leaders to bring everything with us when we left the supply point but we clearly didn’t.  It wasn’t long before we were on our faces in a pushup position in the warehouse. This was going to get ugly, quickly. Cadre Cleve shared a story about plastic bottles that are turned into IEDs and the point of us not leaving a trail of evidence we were here was reinforced. We were sent outside to start working on paying down our 8 count bodybuilders (Cadre never forget!) on the pavement next to the building.

We ground out 25 and given the mood, I didn’t ask for my ruck to be removed. As such I had team mates helping me with the standing up portion and my knee was less than enthusiastic about it. I know the phrases “It’s not about you”, “Team first” and similar are bandied around a lot at these events but when the crap hits the fan, it’s very true. The team helped me and other teammate complete the activity. It’s a humbling experience to know you are the weakest link in the chain. I doubt my current team knows (or believes it) this but I have been getting better and better between each of these events. Anyways, enough of the “woe is me” portion of the AAR. After we completed our series we were given new points to reach. The sun was just starting to light up the eastern sky, which was nice as we had made it through the first night.

We plotted them out and headed towards our destination, Frazee House. To make it more fun, each team was given some slosh pipes and a sandbag to carry. Our first point was the green we had just found in the previous movement and once we were there we got our bearing and moved out. This next point was easy to find in a direct line, but there was a steep ravine and swamp that we needed to skirt. We moved around it and found a trail that followed our bearing and took it to a right of way clearing for power lines. We saw some deer in the clearing getting breakfast. We decided to skirt a fence line and ended up walking through some what I am guessing private property. We made our way quickly and quietly out to the road where again we needed to skirt some private property. We moved along the road without any sidewalks. The area was clearly waking up for their Friday and the road was busy and we needed to be careful. We reached our goal with 7 minutes to spare which was awesome! We were the first team to arrive so lined up our rucks and chilled.

During this break we huddled in a public bathroom to get a break from the wind and chill. Cadre Wild Will was back on duty with Cadre Shredder. Wild Will had us all try to do a handstand while we waited and then four or five took a picture of them doing handstands in the bathroom. It was pretty funny and a nice change from the Heavy grind. Some people changed socks and did footcare which is always important on these types of events. My feet had been wet since the bear crawls but honestly felt very good for being 30 some miles and 21(ish) hours into the event. We all hung out until the other team arrived and it wasn’t long before we were lined up and being given instructions.

This next movement was going to be a 7.7 mile march along the Ohio and Erie canal towpath which was across the road from the Frazee House. We didn’t have a time hack to make and the cadres had us unload some more sandbags and some Rouge Fitness logs to carry. This was going to be a grind for sure! I mentioned we didn’t have a time hack, but Wild Will let us know that he would be following us with his desired pace and that if he caught up with us, whoever he touched would become a casualty. Well that would suck, wouldn’t it? We loaded up and moved out knowing we were being stalked. We made decent time and the team did a good job of rotating coupons around with the exception of when I tried to take a sandbag. One of the guys on our team took it from me almost immediately and told me to focus on me. Not very “team-ish” but OK. I’m going to chalk that up to people being tired and cranky. We were making progress and slogging it out.

I’m guessing we made it a bit over 2 miles before we got our first casualty. Coupons were shifted as the casualty was placed in a litter we had. I helped carry the litter until we earned another casualty for being slow. With two casualties we couldn’t have 4 people on a litter and started doing buddy carries. We were progressing but it was slow going and about to get slower. At our lowest point we had 4 casualties in addition to our team coupons. I was carrying two rucks as were others, plus coupons plus casualties. We got a lot of interesting looks from people that were out for a bike ride or run for sure! When I had the two rucks I was starting to slow down and I knew Wild Will was back there calmly pursuing me like Michael Meyers from the Halloween horror movies (LOL) though he is much nicer. He made a deal with me that if I could stay ahead of him for 200m one of our casualties would be restored to a healthy participant. I’d like to say I stepped on the gas and put the hammer down but that’d be a lie. I did what I could to pick up the pace and met the goal. We lost a casualty – whoo-hoo! It was another mental “win” that I needed to help me feel like part of the team and I was glad I was able to help.

We continued the march and another deal was made for the entire team to make it past a marker ahead we’d have another revival. We all pushed and made it happen. It felt like the tide was turning in our favor but we still had a ways to go. We lost another person and really slowed our pace. Tempers flared, less than helpful comments were made multiple times and in general the stress level continued to ratchet up. We shambled into a town called Boston and made our way across the street. As we were forming up, Cadre Shredder had the front of the group go down an embankment and go sit in some swampy water. It wasn’t long and we all were down there. The three Cadres were here and soon we were on our faces getting up and down as quickly as possible in the ankle deep water and muck. They were all taking turns sharing bits of wisdom(I am not saying that sarcastically – it’s some serious good stuff). Cleve hadn’t forgotten about the rest of our 8 counts we owed and we started the bang them out. Now we had drawn a bit of a crowd between the shadows, support crew and passersby watching 26 people do 8 counts in the swampy water. My knee was screaming by now and Cadre Wild Will let me remove my ruck to finish the exercise. We had to re-do a few of them for being low quality and we had to wait while people finished the movements, etc. It was challenging to say the least. Once we were done, we were told to grab all of our gear and load into a U-Haul truck that was waiting nearby.

We collected gear and moved out and loaded into the back. By now I was nose blind to smell thankfully as between the sweat, swamp and 25 hours of work we were ripe. Cadre Shredder had us sing “God Bess America” and closed the door as we reached the end. The mood changed from the frustration of casualty carries, 8 counts and long miles of rucking to a bit lighter as we all felt EndEx was near. We sang You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling, Bon Jovi Living on a Prayer and Garth Brooks “Friends in Low Places” as they drove us to wherever we were heading. We finally stopped just about at the end of Low Places and we all clambered out and formed up. The Cadre said the words we had been hoping to hear “Land Nav Heavy, you are EndExed.” What a relief! We were patched and congratulations exchanged. 25+ hours and 38.8 miles with 50+lb rucks were in the books.

We endexed at a Boy Scout camp and all of our transition gear was there waiting for us. There were showers and permanent lean to shelters as well as food like burgers, hot dogs and more. Everyone scattered to start their next step of transition to get ready for the 2nd Heavy or get cleaned up to go home. I talked with my kids and they both were totally in for the 2nd Heavy. My left knee was telling me that 40 more miles with that ruck wasn’t a good idea. I was torn – my mind wanted me to push but I also have to keep the realities of my life in mind. I approached the cadre and asked them how we would handle my younger daughter as she is a minor. When they asked why I was not going on my first response was the “I am the weak link response but quickly remembered Cadre Will had mentioned that it was a BS excuse and it is. The real reason was my torn meniscus. I have a fun summer trip planned and if I trash my knee now I won’t be able to do to the summer trip. I am playing the long game. I assumed we had a shared fate but they didn’t hesitate to say she could continue. I was relieved as that meant she could pursue the Double Heavy. I thanked the Cadre. Before I walked away, the cadre told me they thought they were going to have to med drop me after the bear crawls and 8 counts the night before. They were impressed I was able to push through and find ways to contribute to the team. I really appreciated their words. It was a weird mix of emotions as I knew it was the right thing to do, but also proud of my kids for finishing a massive event like that and without hesitation being ready to do it again. They never cease to amaze me.
We collected our things and headed to the showers.  I’ll leave it here because my journey is over and as for a Trek based Heavy…..well, you’ll have to find someone who has done one to learn about the fun they all had.

Finally, some things I'll do differently next time - lower back tape or moleskin to protect from chaffing. I need new underwear as the pair I had on rode up and wound't stay down which left a lot of chaffing on my thighs. I need to figure out why I have so much chaffing on the top of my toes - that was a new issue. Obviously, continue to lose weight and improve physical fitness is always going to help.

I want to thank everyone involved in making this event happen. It was a huge crew of people including the cadres, Cleve, Shredder and Wild Will, Bryan, Mark @ Molon Labe, the support teams, shadows, Cleveland Area Rucking Crew (CARC) and our families who sacrificed while we were out in the woods.

Gear List

  • GORUCK Desert Digital GR-2
  • Condor Battle Belt II Padded Hip Belt
  • 511 Tactical Coyote TDU 1.5" Belt
  • MSR Dromedary 6L Bladder
  • Nalgene 1 Quart bottle
  • Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Mid Boots
  • DryMax Knee High Hiking Socks
  • Russell Athletic Dri-Power Performance Crewneck Shirt
  • Columbia Silver ridge Convertible Pants
  • Marmot PreCip Jacket
  • GORUCK Beanie
  • Mechanix Covert Tactical Gloves
  • Black Diamond Head Lamp
  • Silva Explorer Compass
  • protractor
  • NUUN Electroyltes (I used 8 tablets in 4 quarts of water over the event)
  • Stinger Honey Waffle
  • CLIF Blocks with caffeine (I like the orange flavor)
  • Plain bagel that I ate over 3 breaks

Class - Heavy 305A

38.82 Miles Covered

LandNav Heavy West AAR
LandNav Heavy East AAR


  1. Ron, in the PT portion, we ultimately did 100 thrusters because Cleve reset our thrusters to 0 because we didn't work together. He also reset our monkey lovers to 0 when we were at 35.

    After the event, I looked at my phone and saw that we went roughly 5.5 miles before we got our first casualty. Wild Bill gave us a 5 minute break at the 60:00 mark. You'll likely be shocked to learn (as was I) that we were moving at 15:00/mile until we got casualties. That's crazy.

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