Monday, May 29, 2017

RACE REPORT: RUGGED MANIAC NC SPRING 2017

TRAINING (MORE LIKE "RESTING") THAT WEEK:

Monday, I rested, to recover from Savage in time for Rugged.  Tuesday, I slept 10 hours, but even that wasn't enough.  Another rest day Wednesday. 

Thursday, May 18:
This was a recovery and body reset run.  Joints were a bit achey and stiff, but it was ok.  Arms felt normal again.  4.0 in 33:20, 8:20 average.  Held back, since it was close to Rugged.  I'm tempted to push the pace when there are others at the gym, but I wasn't really tempted this day, which is good. 

PRE-RACE:

Drove out to the Rockingham speedway - my first time in that part of NC.  Lots of small, quiet roads on the way there.  My start time wasn't until 9:45, so I didn't have to get up insanely early, like I have to do for some other races, especially the ones that are farther away (like 3 or 4am sometimes). 

I got there with plenty of time to get ready.  Check-in, porta potties, parking, and bag check were all very smooth.  I prepped in the tent with lots of tables and chairs, which was convenient.  There was another girl there who looked like she meant business, and I think she might've ended up finishing second.  This was going to be an A-ish race, to try to qualify for OCRWC.  It's 5K, so I was going to do my typical 5K warm-up.  I forgot that it starts at 9:45, rather than 10, though, so when they announced the loading of the elite wave's starting line, I rushed to the start.  I was tying my shoes right before the race, tightening it like I do, and my lace actually broke. 

I panicked for a moment, before remembering that laces can be tied to themselves.  Problem solved.  Some people complain about the durability of the Reebok All-terrain shoes, but I've used mine since 2014, for about 15 events, including an Ultra Beast an a HH12HR.  They have some holes that have developed where the toes bend, but that's mostly cosmetic.  If anything, it may help with draining.  It may let in a bit more sand, but that kind of happens anyway, so not a huge deal.  I'll still keep using them, at least for non-A races.  I do like them, though, so I bought 2 more pairs (newer models).  They've done well for me.  I like the grips on them, and the drainage.  Drainage is key.




THE RACE:

I started at the front, albeit on the far side.  We were off.  It was more congested at the beginning than at my previous/first Rugged, but then again, this was the Elite heat.  I really wanted to do well.  I counted the number of girls in front of me.  Started off in 4th, got to 3rd quickly.  The first obstacle was a low-ish wall.  A good amount of running vs. obstacle ratio early on, to spread the herd.  Some sort of A-frame was next, and I was on 2nd's tail.  Running, steps where people normally spectate car races.  Then quad burner sand dunes. 

 

The design of the course is pretty much an out and back in shape, although on different courses that don't really see each other, so you could figure out when you were about halfway, when you turned around.  Barbed wire crawl, see saw.  It helped to have run one Rugged before, so now I was familiar with the obstacles and didn't have to be so tentative when taking something like the see saw on. 

I started feeling the early portion's hard pace.  I could tell that I was going to pay for it, as I started slowing.  At least the obstacles would help me catch my breath.  Bang the gong, cargo net, a more difficult heavy carry than the one in Charleston (still short, but this time with a hill), guillotine, more crawls, fire jump.  Mid-race fire jumps are always a bit of a strange feeling, for someone who's done many Spartans.


Trampoline, swing shot, ring rig, trenches, frog hop.  I was really in the pain cave.  It was hot.  Claustrophobia, where you crawl through a completely dark and skinny tunnel, was particularly intense, because it was surprisingly hot in that tunnel, and it was already hard to breathe from running so hard.  Keg hoist, gauntlet, crag. 
 


The end was in sight.  Just had to get up the warped wall, and go down the slide.  On my first three attempts, I either under-shot the ledge, or couldn't get my fingers around it.  After each attempt and failure, I had to catch my breath and muster strength for another attempt.  At any moment, 4th may come.  I had to get this.  I moved towards the middle, and that time, I got a good grip and was able to get over it.  It's a good feeling to get the warped wall.  It's probably not that the wall was any different... it may be a matter of where your steps fall on the curve of the wall.  Crawled up the cargo, leaped down the slide, wanting to waste no time. 


I was expending everything I had.  I un-gracefully hopped over the edge of the balloon slide, and finished.  I got third, which was sweet news to hear.  The race official took down my name.  After I got my medal, water, and orange slices, I ducked under one of those 3-foot tall A-frame signs, to have a spot in the shade to cool off and catch my breath.  I was that desperate.  Once I had recovered, I showered off, changed, etc.  Awards were fun, getting to be on stage.  2nd was about 3 minutes faster, and 1st was a minute faster than 2nd.  Well done to them.  I pushed hard, but they were better.  Hopefully, next time, I'll pace a bit better, and get the warped wall on the first attempt. 





Afterwards, celebratory beer (Harpoon - woo hoo!), and volunteering.  Punched my ticket to Worlds!  So excited.  Mission accomplished.  Can't wait for more Ruggeds to come!



Sunday, May 21, 2017

RACE REPORT: Savage Race Charlotte 2017

I think many who have been doing Spartan races for a while have been branching out into other OCRs in recent years.  Maybe some have always done so.  But at least some, based on Facebook posts, have looking for other, innovative obstacles, among other things.  I've been doing this, too.  This would be my first Savage Race.  A number of my hard-core OCR facebook friends are big fans of Savage, so I had to see what it was all about.

I went the route of volunteering, then racing same-day, which would mean racing in the 2pm volunteer heat.  My main goal during the race was to see what their obstacles were like, and to see whether I'd be able to compete in the elite heat.  Savage has mandatory obstacle completion, with the option to try as many times as you want.  If you don't make it and are running in the elite heat, though, they cut off your pro wave bracelet.  I wouldn't care so much about speed.  I wanted to complete as many obstacles as I could.

TRAINING THAT WEEK:

Monday, May 8:
7.0 in 55:58, 8:00 ave, 2 degrees of incline.  Felt good and easy, after taking 3 days of needed rest.  Tempted to go a bit farther and harder, but that would've wrecked me for a few days.  Tempting, but I decided to hold back a bit and allow my body to do more miles later int he week.  Most training is supposed to be at an easy pace, anyway.  Splits> 8:28, 8:12, 8:12, 7:55, 7:57, 7:46, 7:24.

Wednesday, May 10:
I decided to go to the Whitewater Center for an outdoors run after work.  8.9 in 1:42:33, 11:31 ave.  sunny but shaded.  Sometimes, my legs feel like they wouldn't be able to handle overly repetitive motion, at a forced, fixed pace like what you'd get on a treadmill.  On trails, your feet and legs hit all kinds of angles, and you get to naturally adapt your pace at every step, based on how you feel.  A mid-week burst of nature doesn't hurt, either.  Got thirsty in the last mile, making it mentally harder.

Thursday, May 11:
1 hr biking session, covering 12.9 9miles.  After a nearly 12 hr workday.  Need the stress relief of a workout, though.

VOLUNTEERING AT SAVAGE:

I had made a facebook friend via a Spartan page a while back, and we'd check up on each other's training every now and then.  We finally got to meet in person, volunteering this weekend.  His family came, which was awesome.  We were able to join forces on Water Station 2.  The Savage course at this farm had many obstacles around a big field, which was nice, because you could watch a good bit of action from there.  We had big water bottles to give out, although most people didn't need nearly that much water.



They were a lot of fun to work with.  It was cold in the morning (like, my light jacket and volunteer shirt were not nearly enough), but it got almost a bit too warm in the sun later on.  

RACE TIME:

They let the volunteer+racers out at around 1:20, to start getting ready for the 2pm volunteer wave.  I changed and checked in.  Pumped!  
I had gloves with me, for obstacles that didn't require good grip (like monkey bars), but where I wanted to protect my hands.  I also had a shirt on, because I didn't want to get cut up or get any grass-related rashes.  I'd be racing Rugged Maniac the following weekend, and that would kind of be my A-race, so I didn't want any lingering effects of Savage to bite me later.

It's interesting to see how different race series pump up their waves.  At Savage, they had us do movements and chants, like a tribe of Savages, almost.   Just before the start, they released a deep blue smoke-maker.


We were off.  People went sprinting out, like literal sprinting, even above the usual race pace hard effort.  Some of them were walking about 200m later, which was odd, but this was a volunteer wave, so not a big deal.  The beginning of the race is running, to help spread people out a bit before the obstacles start, which is smart.  I caught up to all of the boys and was leading, after maybe 0.7 miles.  Climbed a ladder.  At the 8-foot wall, I had to try 4x before I made it over.  During my re-tries, a few guys passed me back.  They were really nice and offered to help, but I wanted to do as many as I could, on my own.  

They have some unique obstacles that I've never seen before, like squeezing yourself under big rain barrel.  They also have some standard stuff, like jumping over fire and barbed wire.

 

I encountered my first ice water tank during an OCR.  It was a warm day, and I like cold, so I thought it would be comfortable.  It was almost painfully cold, though.  There's a wall that forces you to dunk your whole body under it, too.  You just keep telling your body to move forward, though, and you get through it.  


As a runner, I haven't had a lot of upper body strength, so I'm always the most excited about being able to complete monkey bar-style obstacles.  The most impressive obstacles at Savage, in my view, are Davey Jones's Locker, which is mostly a mind game of jumping off a ledge into water... not a super-high ledge, but it looks high when you're up there.  There was also a steep water slide, which was similar, in the feeling that you get at the top.


There was a traverse wall, with rock wall grips instead of Spartan's wood blocks.  It felt longer than the Spartan walls.  It was slightly tilted downwards, too, making it harder.  This wall took a lot of patience, where you had to be sure your grip on both feet and both arms were good before progressing, and it was long enough to really start sapping your strength towards the end, but I made it.  

There was a log on chains, kind of like a swinging balance beam.  I was a bit too tentative on it, and took more time than I should.  This one is probably more a mind game, too.  It's probably more stable than it looks. 



There was also a tube on a see-saw.  It seemed easy, but you were already wet, so it was hard to get traction.  The challenge for small people like me, was to make my body take up as much space as possible, to get enough friction to climb up the smooth surface of the tube.  I heard that it was hard for tall people, who had trouble getting their knees under them to crawl up.  

They had a drone flying around all day, giving "live" facebook coverage.  I watched it after the race, and it was really good.  It was extremely professional-looking and seamless, even though nothing was really pre-planned, and they were just driving and narrating on the spot!  I found myself in one screenshot, rolling being the nearest wall, under some barbed wire.


I ended up pushing harder than I had envisioned, during the running of the course.  It's hard to resist pushing, when in a race setting.  Not a crazy effort, but kept the foot on the gas pedal.

Towards the end was a gauntlet.  First, a rig called "twirly bird", which had alternating mops and rings, sort of.  I made it about 2/3 of the way before dropping from lack of grip strength.  I re-tried a couple more times, but did progressively worse as I used up more and more of my remaining grip.  This would be the first obstacle that I missed.  The next obstacle was another rig.  I only made it about 15% of the way, maybe.  I wonder how I'd do at it, if I was fresh.  No way this time, though, especially after the previous Twirly Bird.  And lastly, "Tree Hugger", which was a line of poles... umm... nearly impossible for me at this point.  I struggled so much to even get on the first pole.  

Well, now I know that I'm not capable of doing the Pro wave at this point.  It turns out that only 2 women were able to complete the course, so it is hard.  I don't know if I'll ever get to the point where I can complete it, but I can at least strive to do a little better next time.  Rig-style grip obstacles are where I probably have the most bang-for-buck improvement opportunity.  It's hard for me to get gains there, though.  


On the bright side, my pure race time was really good, thanks to the running.  5.5 in 1:16:22, 13:53 ave.  A good learning experience, a fun day, and good prep for Rugged next week!  Now to recover in time.

The next day, I went out to volunteer for course teardown.  I helped to collect signs and course markings, I got to drive around a gator (awesome!!!! like a tank had a baby with a golf cart and a race car) and collect trash.  I also took down the elements from the rigs.  


Durham Day!

After finally finishing the 100-day burpee challenge, and having had two weeks of a break from running to recover from Boston, it was time to start getting back into a normal training schedule.

Monday, May 1:
7.0 in 56:36, 8:05 ave, 2 degrees of incline.  The gym was warm.  I did my first run in a new pair (my 5th iteration) of Saucony Kinvaras.  Missed arch support, and feet swelled a bit.  Good performance for a first run back, though.  Went progressively faster.  Splits> 8:28, 8:17, 16:22 for 2 (8:11), 8:01, 7:59, 7:22.

Rested the next day.  My feet needed to recover from the first run back.

Wednesday, May 3:
First strength session in a while.  Did 55 more min of work for the Deez Nutz WOD, which I probably started about a year ago.  Column B shows how many we're supposed to do, with no specified time limit, so I've been chipping away at it.  The stats below are as of May 20th.  Some people did it in about 100 days... you'd have to average a ton of work each day to do that.  It's a nice full-body mix of cardio and strength.  Column C shows how many I have left (if positive) or how far I've surpassed the target.


This day, I did
  • Sit-ups: 250 + 95 = 345
  • Plank: 2.5 + 2.5 + 2 = 7
  • Push-ups: 35 + 25 = 60
  • Flutter Kicks (4-count): 45 + 45 + 45 = 135
  • Jumping Jacks: 100
  • Squats: 80 harder than in the past
  • Lunges: 120
  • plus some 10lb dumbell work
Thursday, May 4:
6.2 in 48:18, 7:47 ave, 2 degrees of incline.  At first, I stopped after only running 0.1 mi, because my glutes were really tight.  It would only tighten up once I started running.  I foam rolled it, and pushed through some initial tightness, and it ended up being ok.  Strange feeling, though.  Maybe it was from getting back into strength yesterday.  Splits> 8:04, 7:58, 7:51, 7:47, 7:18, 1.17 for 0.2.

Saturday, visited my friend in the triangle area.  It was a fun-packed perfect day.

Lunch at Otis and Parker, a mixture of a cafe plus a fun store with interesting gift-type items.


Next, a stop at a beer store to look for some brews to share later.  Plus, I got a Kwak glass, that I've been searching for, for a while.  I like collecting beer glassware.


Next, Duke Gardens.  It was huge.  It's kind of on campus, in the middle of the city, yet huge.  We could've stayed there for much longer.  The Discovery Center had all kinds of vegetables and some fruits, and it was interesting to see what their plants looked like.



The Asiatic Arboretum was really cool, too. 


We took a side-trip to Duke campus, where we tried to re-create a photo that I couldn't really remember.  I only remembered (from seeing the picture later in life, not from the original day) that there was a lawn and the chapel.  




There was also this art installation that looks like abstract people in a huddle, but it's huge, and made of twigs, and you can walk through it.  It's almost maze-like inside - not a big maze, but there are curves everywhere, and it's cool.


We didn't go much into the other half of the gardens, since there was a wedding going on, so there was even more we could've seen.  I highly recommend this place, though!

Next, we went to Fullsteam Brewery, for a drink and board games before dinner.  I like that they have a good selection of fruit/sour beers.  Good stuff!


North Carolina is a great state for craft beer.  Love this fountain!


We met my friend's husband for dinner at a South American place in downtown Durham - Luna Rotisserie.  Really unique and tasty food - something for everyone.  There are so many good places to eat in the triangle.  There are probably some good places where I live, too, but I don't venture out enough to know about them.  So much good stuff in the Triangle.

The next morning, we went to the church where they had gotten married years ago.   Nice to come full-circle with that.  Then, we went to a mini vegan market in Chapel Hill, where we got to try some local fare and support small businesses who support vegan food.  Vegan desserts are the best.

A great 24 hours in Durham!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

10,000 BURPEE CHALLENGE

WOW!!! THIS IS MY 1,000TH POST, AND IT HAPPENS TO BE A POST ABOUT MY COMPLETION OF THE 10,000 BURPEE CHALLENGE!!!

So... at the beginning of the year, a Facebook friend from my HH12HR posted a challenge to do 100 burpees/day for 100 days... a tough-as-nails friend who's undertaken Agoge and does burpees with weighted rucks and does all kinds of crazy challenges.  I figured that I do 30 each time I fail an obstacle at Spartan, so it should be a stretch, but doable.  If you accept, you post or email a video of yourself doing the burpees.  My main concern was not having it overlap with the Boston Marathon, since I didn't want burpees to sap me of energy during marathon week, and it looked fine, so I signed up.  My exact words on the sign-up email were "I must be crazy, but you guys are, too.  Let's do this!". 

It began on January 20th.  I'm not sure if it had anything to do with the inauguration, but at least it made the date easy to remember.  I happened to be in Wisconsin for a project at the time, so my burpee journey started there.  In the early days, like the first 10 days, my main concern was fitting them in, amidst long days at work while traveling, and recovering in time each day for the next day's burpees.  To keep my posts clean and easier to track, I did all 100 at once, rather than in sets.  They weren't fast, but they were steady.  Also, I used facebook live for the first time.  It was really convenient, as long as you have a reasonable cell or wifi connection, and it allowed me to not have to worry about having memory on my phone, since I typically have almost no memory left, anyway.

I made it through the first 10 days, and at about the 10th day, it became easier, for the first time.  It did go back to getting harder, but I kept at it.  At some point, the rules permitted people to do the 10,000 burpees across the 100 days, without necessarily needing to do 100 per day for 100 days.  That was good, since it allows people with injuries or other constraints to make it up while still hitting 100.  I'd use that, when I needed to taper for a race, or recover and not risk injury.

That did lead to me getting hundreds behind, but I started being able to do many more in a row at once, working up to 150, and later 200.  Prior to the challenge, the most I had ever done at once was 60, during a couple of workouts.  That was a big jump up.  Once you get used to burpees in general, though, adding incremental amounts isn't too bad, even if the incremental amounts are somewhat significant, percentage-wise.  I'd have to work hard to make them up, but I would.  I'd typically get behind again during the next taper or recovery cycle.  But I'd catch back up.

Memorable burpee sessions:
- One night, between 100 burpee sets (one before midnight, and one after midnight, when I was still strict about hitting the 100 on designated days), I was doing a biking session, at midnight, and I saw a childhood acquaintance pop up as a contestant on a Food Network TV.

- Did burpees on the top of Crowder's Mountain, with some members of Southern Spartans who had run up there, joining me.
- Did burpees on a visit to my hometown, on a picture-perfect pier near sunset.

I tried to keep good form, because if I was going to go through the trouble, I wanted to do it right.  The most challenging part of it all was scheduling time to do it.  

There was one guy who stuck with it to the end.  We'd see each others' videos.  When you scroll through the facebook group, it's kind of funny, too, because I have habits that I didn't even realize that I'd have, when doing the burpees, like shaking out my hands, or kicking back my legs before beginning, or crouching down a certain way when giving a pre-burpee talk in the video.  Day after day.

It's funny how much camaraderie you can feel with others going through the same challenge.  You may be states apart, and may not have ever met in person, but you're in it with them.  You know what each of those burpees feels like, and it's nice to know that there are others counting on you to do yours, since you mutually push each other on towards the finish.

It turned out that I counted wrong, and Boston would be within the 100 days.  I tried to bank what I could, but I knew that I could make up the deficit in the days afterwards.  It was tough, with 215/day for the last 10 days needed to make it.  I ended up having 350 to do on the last day.  Did it, though, in 2 sets, through pepperspray-tainted sweat.  For the last 160, some guys in a Crossfit Box that I was bumming around invited me in, and I finished to blaring motivation music with encouragement from a couple of new-found friends.  It was an epic finish to an epic adventure.

I'm someone who's always been into collecting medals and other mementos of accomplishments of various sorts.  I never quite understood people who say that they don't really care about the medal they get at the end of the race.  While that was my initial main motivation for joining the challenge, over the course of it, that changed.  At some point, what mattered more was the personal journey and finishing what I had set out to do.  

The day after the journey, my co-finisher and I both remarked how strange it felt to not have burpees to do, for once.  He felt like he had a nagging feeling of forgetting to do something, haha.  I had been conditioned to look at any spot of grass or 8'x3' foot space and feel the urge to start doing burpees.     

What have I learned from this crazy challenge?
- How to make time for stuff, fit it in, even when it's hard (although not as well as the other guy, who was perfect and actually a bunch over, for all 100 days)
- The journey and the memories along the way are the real prize
- You can improve, more than you can imagine.  50 at once used to seem crazy.  Then, I jumped up to 100.  By the end, I was doing 250 in a row.  The keys are challenging yourself past what you think are your limits, but also balancing that with listening to your body.
- You can become friends with people in strange ways, haha - I now have some burpee buddies for life!

GORUCK CONSTELLATION - RALEIGH 2017

GORUCKs are team-building, leadership-building, learning-about-oneself events, and not races, so rather than giving a "race report", I'll really be giving an "after action report", which is apparently "a thing" in the army.  I don't know much about the format.  I think it's supposed to be more focused on lessons learned, which is the most lasting thing you take from any kind of event/activity, anyway (aside from friendships, maybe).  I'll still give as much of a recap on the course of events as I can, though, so that I can look back on the memories one day, or reference technical knowledge, or give overviews to people who may be looking for more info on what the event is like, operationally.

I drove to Raleigh after work on Friday.  No dramas.  There was traffic on the most direct route, but the less direct route that google took me through was scenic with a national forest and some lakes, and it wasn't much farther of a drive.  I arrived at the Kroger across the street with an hour to spare.  I had already picked up my last-minute 2L bottle of soda elsewhere, so I just walked around a bit.  I drove over to the strip mall across the street with Black Bolt Crossfit, the parking lot of which would be home base for the night.  I dumped out the 2L of soda, which is wasteful, but I don't drink soda.  I wish they sold 2L soda bottles of still water.  Someone on Facebook had guessed its purpose, so I knew that I wouldn't get to deviate from the somewhat vague instructions about bringing a 2L water bottle... I had originally planned on getting a thick plastic or over-built traditional re-usable water bottle, so I'm glad that person spoke up.



I had been debating about which pack to bring.  This was a "gentleman's event", in that it had no weighted rucking, no push-ups, etc.  It would be about learning and practicing skills on simulated missions.  Because it was about urban survival and escape and evasion, I felt like bringing my bright red 26L GR1 would not be the best choice of color, even if it is a good choice in durable bags.  I decided to go with a black backpack.  Upon arrival, though, I saw that at least 1 other person had the same red GR1, and some people were wearing bright-ish clothes, so I decided to switch back to the GR1.  I frantically moved my stuff over to the other pack. 

Our packing list included these mandatory items:
  • ruck
  • 2L H2O
  • Photo ID
  • Cell Phone
  • $20 cash
  • headlamp with extra batteries
  • 15' 550 paracord
  • Duct Tape
  • Large tin coffee can
  • 1 selfie stick per team
Plus these recommended items:
  • Belt
  • External battery pack for the phone
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Chem light
  • Compass
  • Ferro rod
  • Note pad
  • Canteen cup
  • Tourniquet
  • Rolled Gauze
  • Nalgene
  • Contractor bag
  • Ziplock bags
  • Gallon-sized ziplock bag or map case

I bought most of the recommended items, too, because this would be a chance to learn how to use that stuff, and I wanted to have the tools to do so.  People were starting to assemble, so I finished putting everything in reasonable pockets in my GR1, and approached the crowd. 

The event, with its 72-ish people, were told to form teams of 8.  Some groups of various sizes had signed up together and knew each other.  I was coming alone.  I saw a group that looked a bit smaller.  It's intimidating, looking for groups to join, especially if you're at something like a GORUCK event with a bunch of tough-looking people.  You worry about being a weak link in the chain, but it's really not something to worry about, especially in communities like this, because everyone's cool and wants to encourage each other and see each other succeed.  The group closest to my car happened to look like they needed more members, so I asked if I could join, and another single asked if he could join, and we made a perfect 8. 


Each team had a name relating to a certain letter in the alphabet, and we were team "I".  The original 6 from this group knew each other through a local Crossfit Box called Crossfit Local.  Each team set up an instagram handle, so we were @teamiloco.  We would use instagram throughout the night to provide proof to HQ while we complete various missions out in the areas of operation. We would be in different 1/8 sections of a pie, centered around Black Bolt Crossfit.  One person would be in charge of Comms (communications), we'd rotate Team Leaders, and I volunteered to be Navigator.  I figured that I'm ok at navigation, based on the running and city exploring that I do.  Worst case, someone could switch out with me if I didn't do it well.  Since we'd be using our phones, I could use Google maps, anyway, so it wasn't like I needed compass skills.  The teams would be competing with each other through the night to earn points for completing tasks.


The night consisted of lessons, some practice in a classroom setting, and then a mission where we got to use what we learned from that module.  The first module was about resources.  We learned how to plan a 72-hr bug-out bag.  We worked on making gas masks out of the 2L bottle.  For our first two missions, we had to find certain resources for water purification, med care, and fire.  We practiced climbing over a fence, changing our appearance, observing who may be tailing us, finding a rally point, and also looking out for "caches", which were envelopes hidden by the cadre, with special bonus point tasks we could undertake, or with special intelligence that would help us in our final mission.


In the first two missions, everyone is learning how to work together effectively.  It was great to get some early wins, too.  Our team members were able to find both of the caches hidden in our area of operation.  We knocked off different tasks.  Some were harder than others, and the hardest was to find two poles between 6 and 8 feet long.  We looked everywhere, looking in dumpsters and all kinds of places.  Time was running out, before we had to be back at base camp.  We sent out a scouting group to make a last-ditch effort to explore a few more areas, and what do you know - the two people who I was with managed to find poles, just in time.

We made our way back to HQ, for our next set of lessons.  We learned how to escape from being duct taped.  We learned how to use a tourniquet, which was also cool.  And we learned how to address hemorrhaging.  We were taught how to make a "jet boil" camping stove out of the coffee tin.  My small pocket knife and my limited strength prevented me from being able to make a jet boil, but one team member was able to make one, which would be very useful later on.  We also practiced making fire.  I had some ferro rods, but my sparks weren't catching on the kindling in the humid air.  A team member gave me some cotton, and another team member let me borrow a large knife that generated far more sparks.  With their help, I was finally able to get a fire going.  When I was little, I loved 007 and collecting gear, and going on missions and adventures with my sister.  Now, I'm grown up and able to play with real gear... still pretend missions, but way cooler, haha.





We also got a booby trap to set.  Our next mission consisted of setting a booby trap for the next team to come into our area, practicing med care (splints, tourniquet, stretcher), and then finding and purifying water.  Each of the 1/8 pie areas of operation had its own characteristics.   Some were more residential, and some were more commercial.  The area of operation for the water hunting mission was really difficult.  We had to dump out all of our water, and find a water source that we could purify.  There were few options for us.  We had one ray of hope, but it was a long way away.  We went for it, and it looked grim for a while, but a scouting trip of two went out and found our saving grace.  We then had to purify our water, which either meant building a fire and boiling it, or, thanks to a very prepared team member, using purification tabs!  This saved us significant time, which we needed for our long hike back.  Another successful mission.




In our next lesson, we learned a bit about being stealthy.  This was one of the most interesting sounding modules to me, but the mission was not really easy to implement.  We had to go to our designated area of operation, while not being seen by cadre roaming the area.  In the meantime, we had to try to notice cadres searching for us and take a picture of them.  It's difficult to move in a stealthy way when you're in a large group of 8, when the sun is rising again and it's getting bright, and when there aren't many other people aside from our group awake at that time in that neighborhood.  Sometimes, you can't really avoid traveling on main roads, too.  We did our best, though.  I did like our hiding spot ;)

 

 When we went back, it was time for our final mission, in which we'd use everything we had learned through the night.  It started with putting our gas masks to use.  We were going to get pepper-sprayed.  I'm glad I over-built some parts of my mask, but I could've used even more coverage.  My ears and neck felt sunburned.  My hair got some pepper spray on it, too, and later that morning, when I was doing burpees, it would get on my face and into my eyes.  It did pretty well, though.  




After the gassing, our teams took off, going through booby trap alley.  If someone tripped up a trap, they'd have to undergo a series of med care tasks.  We were careful.  Our team was bringing up the back of the pack of teams.  However, next, we had to have someone in the stretcher get carried for a long time.  As one might guess, I was the casualty, and during this time, our team jumped from last to maybe third.  It was amazing.  We passed team after team of much stronger groups.  I was so proud of all of the carriers.

 
It came down to a fire-building challenge... build a fire, and boil water... first team to get a good boil wins.  It was any team's game, because this challenge was worth the most points.  We entered maybe a little above average in terms of point standings.  It all came down to this.



Well, the other teams in front of us ended up blasting through the fire challenge quickly.  I was amazed at how fast they got theirs going.  We finished this together, though.  Mission accomplished.  It's always a unique feeling, coming to the end of an all-night event as the sun comes back up, celebrating the achievement with your team.  We had fun, we learned cool stuff, and we made new friends.


Stuff I learned (aside from the technical knowledge):
  • I haven't done events with teams competing against teams in a while.  I've thought about Ragnar races, but I had always pictured myself looking for a team of people with similar running abilities.  I realized through this event that you may actually be missing out that way.  Sometimes, when you're the weaker one at something, you learn to ask for and accept help, like with fire-starting.  I tend to be pretty independent and avoid asking for help, sometimes to not inconvenience people, and sometimes to prove that I can do it myself.  But I wouldn't have had fire without my teammates.  A good dose of humility is good for me.  In other cases, when you're stronger, you get the opportunity to help others and practice leadership.  
  • This point is a little bit like the previous point, but a big broader in context.  I've heard it before, most of the time, in the context of 1 Corinthians 12 , which describes how each person is gifted differently but equally vitally.  Each gift is needed for the body to function.  In the context of spiritual gifts, it was a bit harder to grasp, but this night helped make it more tangible.  Each member of the team ended up contributing in some clutch way, each person with something different.  In quite a few instances, our mission was on a thin line between failure and success, and someone was able to help our team pull off our victory.  It was always someone different, too.  It made me think, if it had been a team full of Jennifers, we would've de-hydrated, frozen to death, died from broken bones and wounds, etc, but thankfully, we had the team that we did.  We were able to accomplish more together than we could as 8 individuals.  
  • Lastly, "Building Better Americans".  That's one of the tag lines of GORUCK.  I figured this out before, but it's good to be reminded of it again.  At events like these, you realize the meaning of "better" and what's most important in a person.  These are a bunch of physically tough people.  Lots to admire in the dedication that it takes to be that fit, for sure.  However, what struck me most that night, that I admired the most, were acts of selflessness and encouragement.  There are people in this world who look out for others, without thinking about themselves.  Those kinds of people have saved me countless times, in other contexts.  I need to be reminded to strive to be more like them, and not so selfish.  That's the real gold.