Sunday, November 20, 2016

GORUCK TOUGH Class 2123 - 2016 - Columbia, SC

I'd normally start with a recap of my training leading up to the event, but in the week between the Spartan Carolinas Beast and Friday night's GORUCK Tough, I didn't do anything.  My plantars were roughed up from the weekend's activities, and I was simply tired.

How'd I find myself in a GORUCK event?  For the Spartan Hurricane Heat 12 HR event, we had to carry 20lb plus supplies, and the GORUCK GR1 was the most recommended backpack model.  You didn't want to go into a big event with time hacks and all kinds of unknown rough activity with lack of confidence in a bag that may give out from the weight and wear partway through.  I visited the website periodically, and on July 4th, there was a great deal on a GR1 which included a free standard event.  The GR1 did great in the HH12HR in August, even with my makeshift waist belt (they had sold out of real ones on the website).  Even after everything it went through, you could hardly tell it was used.  I continued to wear it on my walks to the fitness center, to make those walks a little bit more challenging, and to keep my body used to carrying weight.

I didn't do much training specifically for this event.  It was 12 hours and overnight.  I did one incline treadmill rucking workout with some ruckless body weight strength exercises after each of the three one mile rucks, a couple of weeks earlier, but that was the only ruck-specific one.  I figured that my usual combination of strength and cardio for Spartan training would be enough to get me through.

It was different to have an event on a Friday night.  I drove down to Columbia after work and killed some time after getting there early.  I found a parking spot and went to Finlay park where fellow ruckers gradually amassed.  When it was time, we got in formation with our rucks in front of us, and the Cadre came.  There were three for this event, since a large group of 60-70 was expected, although just 44 showed up at the start.  Cadre Montreal, a super funny guy, checked our names off the list.  One Cadre was named Shredder, which is frightening.  There was a surprising amount of women at the event, and a good mix of newbies and experienced ruckers.  It was different, not quite knowing what to expect.  I had checked on a couple of blogs the previous day, so I got the general idea, but this would be interesting.

We started with some sprints up and down big stairs, for gear checks and some PT punishments along the way.  Then, we went to the trailer to get our "coupons" for the event.  I have no idea why random heavy items that we have to carry are called "coupons", but they included various logs, boxes, duffels, jerry cans of water, ammo cans and fake pumpkins filled with concrete or something, and sandbags.  We started along a paved walking trail, carrying the coupons.  We did a human conveyor belt for the coupons, then worked as a team to get the coupons up the slope under an overpass and sang the national anthem afterwards.

This event ended up being a special one for Veterans Day.  Each of us brought the picture and story of a veteran to honor during this ruck.  A few times over the course of the event, we'd stop and share the stories of our vets.  There were many who had grandparents who had served, and it was really touching to see the ruckers challenge themselves with this event in their honor.

We continued carrying coupons through different parts of town.  There was one coupon called the Krakken, which was three logs tied together with heavy ropes, and no part of the Krakken could touch the ground at any point.  There were time hacks in this event, too, although unlike the HH12HR with individual challenges, you passed or failed as a group, and failure meant more PT.  All of the coupons were heavy... you thought the sandbags were heavy, but you try the pumpkin and ammo can, and it's no easier.  All heavy.  I no longer think happy thoughts when I see pumpkins, haha.  I thought farmers carries were my strength, but the coupons showed my weakness. 

After the first couple of legs of our trip, where the men had taken on the Krakken, there was a surprise twist... the females had to take the Krakken now.  I thought "no way", but we started.  I thought we'd just have to take it a short leg of the trip, but we ended up taking it for a few long [never-ending] legs.  I wasn't able to contribute that much, unfortunately.  I was a few inches shorter than the rest, so I couldn't carry any of the load while on teams of three.  In teams of two, I don't know whether it was where I was relative to the center of mass, or whether it was like that for everyone, but it was only tolerable on my shoulder for very short periods of time, before someone had to pick up my slack.  A couple of times, on teams of two, I could actually make it, and it seemed to be when the log was able to sit on my ruck instead of my shoulder.  

The other women, though, they were beasts.  Some weren't much bigger or taller than me, and they suffered through that thing for long periods of time like champions.  It wasn't easy.  I felt pretty useless, but they'd be carrying it then lifting it overhead repeatedly, to switch shoulders, and they'd take on the weight when others needed switching out.  They were so tough.  There was even one girl who had shoulder issues but toughed it out and would help with that crazy heavy stuff as much as she could.

We continued through the night, carrying coupons through residential areas and bushwhacking through tall grass and a little stream.  Didn't do so well on all of the time hacks, but we tried.   There were sprint challenges, and there were casualties.  I was a casualty.  Despite the smiles, being a casualty isn't as easy as you'd think.  Your arms get stretched in trio mode, and you get bruised all over in farmer carry mode.

Finally, the sun began to rise.  Throughout the event, different people got to be the Team Leader and practice their leadership skills.  It's a tough job, wrangling a bunch of ruckers and trying to keep them in formation.  You have to keep everyone together while keeping everyone going fast enough to have a chance at the time hacks.  You also have to coordinate distributing the workload - always more coupons than people, and the logs don't get any easier.  At the end of your leg/trip/mission, the group gives you feedback, and you give the group feedback.  The TLs that night (lots of men and lots of women) all did great, and the hardest TL role was the one as the sun rose, when everyone had gone through a long, hard night already and was cranky and tired and ready for it to be over.  They did great, though.  The sight of the sun rising in the morning was so very welcome, but the Cardres did not let up on us at all, continuing to press on us with time hacks and the need to stay in formation.

Finally, we got back to the park.  I had hardly eaten or drank.  There wasn't much time, and I used Nalgenes rather than a handy hydration pack.  I didn't use the restroom, either, since it meant going into the woods with a buddy.  Thankfully, just 12 hours, so it was doable.  We ran into the park with our flags, paid up our PT for the demerits, and finished with tiered climbs up to the top of the park, where we received our patches.  The newbies became GRTs and were welcomed into the family.  44/44 finished.

Final Thoughts: What a tough and dedicated group of people.   Met some great people who were very encouraging.  At personal cost and pain, many took on great loads for the good of the group.  Like with some other events, in the midst of it, I think "one and done", but a few days later, I start thinking about signing up for another.  Supposedly, each GORUCK event is a bit different, so there's always something new to look forward to. 

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