Sunday, June 17, 2018

GORUCK D-Day Tough - Charleston, SC


After GORUCK Immersion, I spent Sunday cleaning up the townhouse for a friend who was visiting from Virginia. 

Monday, May 21:
I like to take visitors to the US National Whitewater Center, because it's a cool place to walk around, even if you don't get an Activity Pass.  The man-made whitewater is cool, and the trails are good for something so close to home.  I rucked it, to get some extra cardio in, and to get my body a little more ready for D-day. 

There are no mountain vistas here, but there are some small bodies of water on some of the trails.  Afterwards, we went out for BBQ at Mac's Speed Shop - good stuff (quality brisket, for example).  I'd go back.  Good food and a nice beer selection.

The next day, we went to Copper for the best Indian food I've had, followed by the airport overlook, bocce, and more Eureka, a fun and quick little game... kind of like how you'd play Tangrams or SET... trying to solve puzzles more quickly than your competitor.

Thursday, May 24:
The right timing for my last strength session before an A-event... 10 days.  It had been a while since my last strength session... almost a month, since I had Immersion, and Spartan Fayetteville in the meantime.   My body was ready for this reset, though.  I might've strained my right outer butt from rucking.
  • Plank: 4 + 2.5 min = 6.5 min
  • Situps, UBRR-style: 40 in 1 min, a bit violent on my back as I went for speed... trying to get ready for GBC Behind Enemy Lines.
  • 6 in: 75 + 75s
  • Lunges: 100
  • Single Leg Squats: 95 + 100
  • Pushups, UBRR-style: 22 + 20 hard... I'm worse than ever at them, I think.  I used to be able to do 40... don't know if I switched form to a harder form, and/or if I'm weaker... definitely weaker there.
  • Adductor/abductor Leg Lifts: 105/130
  • Pullups: 5 with hang until 60s, then 4 with hang til 40s
  • Assorted Dumbell Rows
Friday, May 25:
Went for a post-work run to kick off Memorial Day weekend, at the Whitewater Center.

8.5 in 1:38:27, 11:31 average.  I did a couple episodes of Zombies, Run!  My body beaded water everywhere from sweat and humidity.  More bugs buzzing and following me than normal.  Had to surge to get away from them.  Cloudy and threatening to storm, and some mud to deal with.

Saturday, geocached a little while running errands.  Discovered some good ones!  That can be rare, when you've been caching in an area for a while.

Sunday, May 27:
Biked 16.9 miles in 60 min at the gym, while watching Naked and Afraid.  I recently discovered this show (at Fayetteville in the hotel).  It's actually very informative, and helps to supplement what I've been learning at the GORUCK Survival series events.  The part that opens my eyes the most is usually related to understanding animal behavior, which helps you catch them or avoid predators.

Memorial Day, I worked on planning for the upcoming Europe Trip with my sister, for maybe like 8 hours.  When I get focused on something, I go non-stop for hours on end.  

Tuesday, May 29:
I haven't done interval work in maybe 3 months.  I have been doing tempo sessions and races, but no treadmill speedwork.  My body felt like it could handle it today, though, so I tried.  My butt was sore and cramped initially, but it felt better as I ramped up the speed.  Strange when it does that... it's only the second or third time, and I never encountered that until this year.  I did a longer 1.5 mi warmup because of it.
  • 1.5 mi warmup in 12:19
  • 3 x [0.75 mi @ 9mph (5:00), 0.25 mi @ 7.5mph (1:59)]
Not a record workout, but it is a typical solid one, so I was really happy.


Because a Heavy preceded this event, it didn't start until 10pm on Saturday, which worked out well for me.  It meant that I could take my time driving to Charleston after work on Friday, meet up with a college roommate on Saturday morning, nap a little, then go to the event.  The event was in the same city where my parents live, so I didn't even have to drive far.

My friend has 2 little kids... let me tell you, parents of little kids should earn a patch every day for the heavy carries that they do!  Those kids are heavy coupons, and they often need carrying. 

At the parking lot for the starting point, people gathered.  I saw some familiar faces from previous events.  There were some newbies.  I felt more confident, having done a Tough before, albeit 2 years ago.  At least I was well-rested.

At the Welcome Party, we acknowledged the 74th anniversary of D-day.  We split up into 3 groups rotating through 3 stations.  At the first station with Cadre Montreal, we did 74 reps (split among sets) of squats with rucks overhead, followed by 74 reps (split among sets) of flutter kicks with rucks overhead.  I'm glad we got this one out of the way first, while we were still fresh.  At the next station with Cadre DS (who I met at Expedition), we did 74 reps (split among 3 sets) of ruck kettlebell swings, overhead presses, and a sprint down and back across the field.  The kettlebell swings were kind of tough, since my 26L GR1 would touch the ground.  I started off using the shoulder straps before the Cadre got on me about that, so I switched to managing with the handle.  

Next, with Cadre Heath, we learned proper buddy carrying technique (single and triple), to not hurt ourselves.  The trick to the single is getting your shoulder right between the casualty's legs, pulling their arm in the direction that you want their body to go, squatting up, and shifting them up by adjusting afterwards.  Fortunately, there was a girl my size to pair with.

Next, a history lesson, drawn out in sand.  The history makes the rucking more meaningful, as you think about what our heroes went through and succeeded in doing.  I had no idea about the amount of cunning that went into pulling off D-day.  Brilliant.  That kind of stuff wouldn't work the same way anymore, because of how technology has changed, but I'm sure there are equivalent kinds of strategies that would be at play in modern times.

Now, it was time to get started with the movements.  We picked up our coupons, filled sandbags, filled water at a gas station, then started off on a 3.5 mi ruck.  I did a combo of ammo cans and sand bags for the first couple of evolutions.  It was a little surreal rucking through the streets I used to go through in my childhood home town, in the middle of the night.  At the first checkpoint, we learned about the 82nd & 101st Airborne's mission behind enemy lines under heavy fire as they cut off enemy communications and secured bridges to pave the way for the invasion that would start a few hours later.

We then rucked another 2 miles to the beach.  It wouldn't be D-day in Charleston without something involving the beach.  We learned about the Higgins Boats, with so many crammed in rough waters.  We simulated this with a boat drawn out in sand.  We didn't even have our rucks on when we were in there, and it was tight.  We got in the same position in the water, then did crawls up the beach at low tide, similar to how they had low tide.  

Next, we started heading back.  With Cadre DS, we learned about Hedge Row Warfare, and went through some flooded fields securing positions between two teams.  It had grown light by now, though with a 10pm start, we wouldn't be finishing until 10am, so we still had a ways to go, and still miles to go before we were back to the start point.

We picked up some casualties, and had to buddy carry them to our next checkpoint, a hospital.  Newbies got picked for TLs, a rude awakening, but a good leaning opportunity.  Things didn't feel as heavy to me this time, as they did the first time, or at least I knew how to manage the weight better and shift to different muscles in a more optimal way, so I could contribute more than I could last time.  I'm glad that as opposed to many logs, like last time, they had more individual coupons, and sandbags of various sizes, so it was less of an all or nothing contribution.  You could find a way that you could give the most you could, without being dependent on having 3 people of equal size to carry awkward huge objects with.

At the checkpoint, we learned about the liberation of cities like Sainte Mere Eglise.  One of the team members created a custom team weight, which was the crest of Sainte Mere Eglise.  The church's stained glass, and the crest, commemorates the liberators, and we learned about how appreciative the cities were of the Americans who came through.  It brought tears to my eyes, which is a weird thing to happen at a GORUCK event, but it was really touching.

Next, we rucked to Shem Creek Park, where we simulated securing a bridge on the boardwalk.  I've visited that park once before.  It's really pretty.  It was fun to put learning into action with this little mission.

We rucked a little more, almost back to the start point.  I was digging deep at the time, eager to finally finish.  However, right before we would've taken the turn, we found out that we'd be rucking up the Cooper River Bridge!!!  That thing is huge!  I had spent the remainder of my energy getting back, and I couldn't believe it.  We had to dig even deeper, especially since that bad boy went uphill.  It was the final bridge to take.  

We made it, though!  And we took a quiz on Normandy history at the top, and earned the ability to drop sand.  During the second half of the event, I carried a mixture of the sandbag, the litter with my size twin, and the team weight.  Fortunately, we didn't have to go all the way to downtown.  We finally made it back to the start point.

My biggest takeaways from the event:
  • Learned a lot of fascinating history about what went into the Invasion of Normandy
  • Now that I'm less of a Newbie (still a newbie compared to most), it's interesting to see how they evolve during the course of a single event
  • Glad to see that I'm able to contribute more now, and better able to handle the weight... more confidence
  • Found a strange phenomenon that when you help other people, even if it's by taking on more weight, it feels less heavy
  • Also became more comfortable with asking for help.  A key part of teamwork is taking turns helping each other.
  • And, as usual, respect for a number of women there with impressive smarts, strength, and leadership

This was a well put on event.  I enjoyed this more than the Veterans Day Tough I did two years ago.  I liked the way there was history, a better understanding of our military heroes, good livin, teamwork, good coupon weight distribution, and missions weaved in together.  GORUCK, like all good companies that succeed, is good about getting feedback and always evolving.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

RACE REPORT: Rugged Maniac NC 1 & GORUCK Expedition+ Double Header


I had recovering to do after the Fayetteville Triple, so I only did one workout in the week leading up to Rugged Maniac NC 1 and GORUCK Expedition.  I would've wanted to taper for Rugged, in any case.

Tuesday, May 15:
4.2 in 34:45, 8:16 average.  I did my second run with the treadmill app that simulates running in outdoor locations.  I did the Magic Lake video, which is flatter.  It was a recovery run, sort of.  I didn't need to go fast.  I just wanted to move some, to maintain fitness and shake out from Fayetteville. 

My body is ok.  I haven't done anything speed-related in a while, though.  I took a nap before the run after work, since I was passing out tired and would've needed adrenaline to force myself to run despite the tiredness.  Right arm is still 30% numb from the HH12HR. 

Splits> 8:47, 8:34, 8:21, 7:50, 1:12 for 0.2.


Since Expedition is more about learning survival skills and not about enduring a bunch of PT, I wasn't concerned about tacking Expedition on to my existing race plans for Rugged Maniac.  I was glad to be able to fit in both.  I'd be done with Rugged in the morning.  I'd have to skip the volunteering that I'd usually do, but I'd drive to Expedition afterwards, with a chance at a nap before the 12hr overnight event.

At Rugged, they had the same set of 2018 obstacles as the ones I encountered in SC.  The main challenge was the rain that made all of the obstacles tougher than usual. 

I managed through the rings, and I chicken winged my way (for the first time on a monkey bar style obstacle) through the tilting monkey bars.  I wanted to do things right, even if it took longer.  It helped that I had a good lead and was in 1st.

The rules allow for help on the warped wall.  I wanted to try to do it myself, and I tried, over and over again.  It normally takes me like 3 tries.  I tried over and over again, and it still wasn't working.  You may find a drier spot on a normal race day, but today, everything was wet.  2nd and 3rd caught up to me, and they were going with volunteer help.  My chance was slipping away.  I lost one spot, then finally got help up and managed to get 2nd, maybe because the 2nd girl up the wall knew that I had been there for a while and felt sorry for me.  She was nice.  Anyways, I was happy just to podium, and to get through reasonably well in the rain.  It'll be like that in England, probably, so I need to start getting used to wet obstacles.  I'm ok at best on dry ones, and wet ones are normally nearly impossible.  We'll see!  One day, though, I want the top spot at Rugged.


The packing list for Expedition said no food, which is different.  I figured that we may learn how to find food.  I didn't want to go in empty, especially after doing a race right beforehand, though, so I fueled up at Arby's.  I wanted salt, meat, and lots of sauce.  Plus, lots of light lemonade for hydration in the heat.  It was warm.

I realized that I didn't have everything I needed, so I swung back home before going to Westminster Park.  I don't know what kind of park it is, but it's open to the public during daylight hours.  It has some open fields, plus access to a river.

After introductions of the participants and cadre, we split up into 3 groups of 13 to learn how to build a rope bridge, which includes a figure 8 knot and a knot with a bite, and the alpine butterfly, plus the Swiss harness.  I've never been good at understanding knots, visualizing how they work and are assembled.  This practice helped, though.  After doing rope traverses with a caribeaner (not with pure arm and leg strength like in Spartan with the Tyrolean Traverse), we practiced all connecting ourselves, which was cool and unique.

Next, we learned how to estimate distances with paces and keep bearings with a compass.  Then put that into practice during a map making exercise, which was more challenging than usual because we had to do it in the dark.  There was some wild terrain with elevation changes and bushwhacking to get through, too.  When I was a kid, before the days of Mapquest and later, Google Maps, I'd ride all around my neighborhood in my bike, and mapped all of the roads and ponds and other landmarks.  It reminds me of that.  

The 6 hour Expedition people taught us about first aid, which we also covered in Constellation and Immersion.  It's good to get some repetition, though, to reinforce it.  First aid isn't something you think about on a day to day basis, so it's easy to forget unless you get it reinforced.

After that, we learned foraging techniques and fire building techniques, including how to prep rabbits, eggs, etc.  That was very new to me, too.  There were a lot of people in the class, so not everyone got to do everything, but there were chances for each person to contribute in some way or another.  We learned about using the skillet, aluminum foil with food by the coals, and boiling.  

The fire building instruction was useful.  The patience to do the necessary prep at the beginning to get enough wood and tinder, and to sort it, is critical.  We kept the fire going on the jetboil to sanitize water.  

We did a mission where we got to put a lot of the learnings into practice, using our previous exploration and map making of the area to go to a location, build and cross a rope bridge, get water, bring it back, and boil it.  

After that, we learned about making shelters, staying dry, staying off the ground to stay warm, creating insulation, etc.  That was pretty cool.  I car camp occasionally, and I usually try to avoid using AC or heating, and maybe wouldn't at all, except I don't want to damage my house with the temp swings and extreme temps.  So this was useful to learn about.  

Our time ended too soon, but for those who could stay and wanted to stay, we could go through the culminating exercise that had been planned.  It involved doing a 1 mile float down the river, Immersion style but with the added skill of the rope connection with alpine butterfly knots.  Afterwards, we navigated our way back to the start point.  I was game.  Going through missions are my favorite parts of events like these.  

The water was cold, but we endured and swam our way downstream through the uncharted waters.  The currents were a little stronger in some areas, but we all made it through to the landing spot.  It was a little surreal, floating under I-77.

Next, we started navigating back to the start point.    There were twists and turns and obstacles along the way, but that's an important and normal part of navigating that's good to learn and get used to.  The most intense part was the final stretch, which I had planned on being a straight shot back home.  However, it was a path riddled with obstacles of all kinds.  I thought numerous times that there's no way we were getting through this or that, but where I saw obstacles that prevent us from getting where we want to go and doing what we wanted to do, the cadre saw challenges to get through and overcome.  It was really cool to see them operate in conditions like this, and to see how they think and get through unpredictable situations.  That's what training and learning like this is all about.  It was such a special opportunity to be able to go through this Expedition Extra with them and the team in a more intimate setting.

We got through at last, and round 2 of the beers felt so rewarding after what we accomplished together.  

Saturday, May 26, 2018

RACE REPORT: Spartan Fayetteville HH12HR (DNF), Super, HH

I don't think I did any workouts between GORUCK Immersion and my post-Immersion trail run at Kennessaw Mountain, and Spartan Fayetteville
 weekend.  My arms were sore, and I needed to rest up and be 100% for HH12HR.

I had gotten a spot at the HH12HR through a 300 burpee facebook challenge, and it was incentive to go back for redemption.


I left work a little bit early to head out to Fayetteville.  Fortunately, I wouldn't hit any congested areas, but you don't want to be late for a team event like GORUCK or HH*, since the whole class typically gets punished, or else you get punished.

It felt familiar.  We parked at the same treeline.  People got their gear ready, double-checking everything on the list.
  • Headlamp
  • Ruck
  • H2O
  • Food
  • 20LB for women
  • 2x Duct Tape
  • Multi-tool
  • Safety Vest
  • Gallon of Water
  • 5x Sandbags
  • Plastic Cup
  • Metal Spoon
  • 5 Gallon Bucket
Fortunately, there wasn't anything I didn't have already.  I'm not a big fan of having to spend a bunch more money on random items that I may only use once, so this was a good list.  I had sandbags leftover from a previous event... last year's Fayetteville HH12HR.

It was kind of warm at the start, but it would get to 70 during the night.  I wore BDU pants for protection from spikey or poisonous plants and bugs, and for a barrier against rocks or sand against knees.

We started off with a couple of rounds of "the floor is lava", where we had 10s to get off of the ground.  We did gear checks.  We had pushups because of someone's smart commenting... typical.

Our first task was to make a couch out of firewood, in preparation for the next day's race.  Afterwards, we held a high plank with our feet on a bucket for a while.  

That woman in the middle, by the way, is amazing.  I remember seeing her on course at the Beast last year.  She ended up making it!  It was not easy.  She beat out so many others, out of the initial class of 45 members.

After that, we rucked out to our base camp.  From there, we rucked even further to a sandy area to fill a sandbag (1/2 way, for women) and bring it back.  After that, 8 count man-makers, with the sandbag.  That was brutal.  We had to hold the "8" count with the sandbags above our heads for long stretches of team.  I had trouble with that, and there were times where the whole class had to have it up at the same time, or else everyone would have to do it longer.  It was tough, and I thought about quitting.  I felt bad about pulling the class down.  I really didn't want to be the first one to quit, though, especially after I had been given/ had earned the spot at the HH12HR.  I didn't want to let down Bev.  Eventually, the 8-counts ended, though.  A guy named Silvay helped me at the very end, saving the rep.

After that, we had a mission - ruck a long, long ways, with the sandbag as well, with one arm duct taped to our hip so that it was immobile, to go to a creek and get a cup of water to bring all the way back with all of our gear, to a bucket, for who knows how many laps.  There were some sketchy parts of the path with roots and sandy, steep, irregular uphill and downhill... you had to be especially careful about your water then.  It would've been so unfortunate to have rucked like 0.75 mi to only spill at that point.

Since it was 2x out and backs (there were 2 laps, in the end), you got to see everyone else.  Some were super strong, almost running the task and full of energy.  I was glad to have held my own.  I took a short break after the first water drop-off, before proceeding.  Challenging, but you can push yourself through it.

After that, we rucked back out to the sandy area and did burpees with the sandbags, with our ankles duct taped together.  The last step where you jump involved throwing your sandbag forward, and doing a broad jump to join it, all of us in unison.  

The last task that I was involved in had us with ankles duct taped again, with a sandbag, and we had to somehow make it like 0.3 (or who knows) of a mile like that.  Ideally, you could hop your way there, but it was pretty jarring for the spine, since each time you landed, the sandbag and 20lb ruck would slam down.  I switched to waddling 1 in at a time, which sets certain muscles in your hips on fire.  I think the weight of the gear was more difficult for me than the lactate in my hips.  I had to get down on the ground to rest a minute at one point, before continuing on.

Cookie had told us that who knows (other than he and Amy) what the time limit would be, but to not give up, so I kept going.  The hay bales and cluster of trees that we passed went by so slowly, because it was a hard-earned inch at a time.  During this movement, I thought about wars fought in trenches, where inordinate amounts of time were spent with only inches or feet or progress.  Eventually, I got to the point where we were allowed to take off the duct tape and make the final run to the finish line.  It turns out that I missed the hack by 15 min... well, it's less difficult to swallow when you miss it by a lot vs. by a little, I suppose.

Failed again.  I had wanted to quit multiple times during the event, but I had told myself better to go down fighting and missing a hack, rather than giving up.  I had read about what happened with the Green Berets in Niger, and something that the article kept emphasizing was that the one hero went down fighting.  He wasn't captured or hadn't surrendered.  I thought about that, too.

After I was out, I recovered while watching the remaining peoples' next task.  At this point, maybe half of the original class were left.  They had to stand on their 5 gallon buckets, with the sandbag, for what seemed like forever, with the rule "if you step off, you're out".  Imaging staying balanced... some of the buckets were on sand or on uneven ground.  And imaging holding still with all of that weight.  Maybe there are bugs, or sweat, or maybe you have an itch, and you can't easily move without potentially dropping your sandbag.  I can't believe that nobody fell. 

I only know a little bit about what happened after that, because we had to evac the area for secret stuff.  I went with Silvay for a nap in the car before the Super and the rest of the weekend.  At least one of their tasks was to push their bucket with a sandbag in it, while their knees and ankles were duct-taped.  They did that for 4 hours, or something like that.  When I was cut, I couldn't imagine surviving for more hours.  Who knows if I could've made it, had I gone on.

Oh well, you learn something at each one.  You learn about yourself, you are inspired by amazing people like Scotti, you have more of an appreciation for people who go through tough stuff like this as part of their job.


I woke up to bright sunlight and the noise of the festival in the background.  They had a special parachute drop for the event, since we were in the Fort Bragg area.  I watched the tail end of the jump through my dashboard window.

I went into the festival a couple of times to get more water, register for my race, etc.  I hung out at the Team Southern Spartans tent a bit, seeing friends.

At the tent, I met a fellow HH12HR, and we decided to run the Super together before moving on to the HH.  At this point, all we really cared about was finishing the weekend, especially after what we went through at the HH12HR.  It was the first time I've run a full race with someone else.  I have run parts with Marie before.  It was fun, getting to chat and take on the obstacles together.

It was a very hot weekend.  We left with the 11:15 wave, and it only got hotter as time went on.  We took it smart, with the goal of finishing, by stopping for water, taking walk breaks, etc.  After all, we still had the HH ahead of us.

I'm still a fan of the capped buckets.  I wonder if in the past, when we had to fill them in the past, if I had always been over-filling.  

I like the Fayetteville course a lot.  Spring Lake (here) and the Smith Lake venues were great... flat, which is to my liking.  I'd like to try to run competitively here some time.  

My buddy was a beast... her callouses had ripped off at the monkey bars, but she still made it through every obstacle after that!  I would've called it by then.

Eventually, we finished.  We didn't have tons of time left before the HH... I had about an hour to shower off and go back to my car for my gear.


The HH is mostly first-timers.  They're in for an experience!  Most HHs that I've been a part of have been mostly first-timers, it seems.  This was the most fun I've had at a HH, though, I can say. Less focus on beat-downs, more focus on team work and fun while doing hard exercises.

I met a guy who was visiting from Germany on a work trip... that would be cool, to throw in a weekend like this!

We did Floor is Lava, Human Conveyor Belt, Tunnel of Love in a circle, and Circle Pushups at the initial meeting point.  Then, we went to the Festival, where we did Sally and Thunderstruck, followed by a dance party of a couple of songs hosted by the DJ.  Definitely a more fun atmosphere than usual.

After that, we went on course, where we did the barbed wire crawl (I think I crawled through a bunch of fire ants!), the human conveyor belt through rolling mud, and then slip wall without ropes!

After these challenges, we had to carry 2 logs and 2 giant tires as a class.  As usual, I wasn't able to contribute very much on the logs.  I was at least able to help with navigating.  We had a unique challenge, too, where we had to figure out a way to cross a road without touching the ground, where only the tires and logs could touch the road, and we had to get the logs and tires to the other side by the end.  Surprisingly, we made it!

We finished with a carry back to beat threats of lightning, plus what looked like a fire off in the distance. It was satisfying to at least finish this, even if I did DNF the HH12HR.


After a luxurious-feeling hotel stay after long days with little sleep and car napping and dirt, I volunteered on Sunday.  I was glad that I didn't sign up for the race this time.  I normally do, but I've done it before, and I didn't have anything additional that I needed to prove this time.  It was good to stay relatively clean today, even if it was hot.

Also, I got home at a reasonable time, and treated myself to some real food for the first time in what felt like a long time at "Pho Real".  Salt, vinegar, broth, and spiciness to counter palate fatigue is just what I needed.