Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Green Beret Challenge : Behind Enemy Lines - Urban Assault

HOW I GOT INTO THIS CRAZY EVENT:

A few factors came together that piqued my interest, and it soon became clear that this was the perfect event for my next step.
  • I had done GORUCK Constellation, which I enjoyed because of the skills that we learned and practiced.  
  • I had seen a facebook friend's pictures of a past GBC BEL event, where they were doing stuff with guns, and it was intriguing.  
  • I read more about GBC BEL, and saw that it had many of the teaching elements of Constellation, if you survived a PT test and team activities like Selection.  
  • Another facebook friend had done a GBC Operators obstacle course event at the Guardian Center in Perry, GA, which has a mock city, complete with a fake subway, flooded neighborhood, earthquake rubble, highway simulator, car crashes, etc, where first responders go to train.  It looked like such a cool venue.  
  • Plus, after getting through HH12HR and a GORUCK Tough, I wanted to see how I'd fare with a 24 hr event.  
So... cool stuff we get to do + venue + 24 hour challenge.

TRAINING STRATEGY:

I signed up about 2 months before the event.  That would give me some time to prep for the PT test.  The test format may slightly vary from event to event, but you could probably count on a few key exercises being there.


There are published minimums for official UBRR standards, but we were told to do our best, and not necessarily settle for the minimums.  With the real test, if you don't meet a minimum, you fail, so I worked on my biggest weaknesses where I might not meet the minimum.  That meant trying to get in more push-ups and pull-ups than I used to do.  I'd throw them into the mix more often.  I did see some improvements in pull-ups... not even close to where I need to be, but it was nice to see efforts pay off.  My push-ups didn't improve much, though... even after doing the 10,000 burpee in 100 day challenge, which is a little confounding, but it may just mean that I need to work harder.

During my weekly strength sessions, I started doing exercises with the same 1 min AMRAP format, too.  I do some of these exercises as part of my routine anyway, but I'd typically focus on pure number, as opposed to number within a limited time frame.  Although sit-ups would be one of my stronger points, I had to get used to forcing speed.  

TRAINING IN THE 2 WEEKS LEADING UP:

Monday, Jun 19:

9.0 miles in 1:14:05, 8:13 average, 2 degrees of incline.  I hadn't run in the past week, aside from the 6K race, so my legs were fresh enough for it.
Wednesday, Jun 21:

45 min Strength session:
  • Sit-ups/1 min: 40 + 38 + 38 = 116
  • Push-ups/1 min: 33 + 27 + 25 = 85
  • Flutter Kicks (4-count): 45 + 55 + 35 = 135
  • Lunges: 115
  • Plank: 3 + 2.5 = 5.5 min
  • Squats: 100 + 85 = 185
  • Mt Climbers: 100
  • Jumping Jacks: 75
  • Assorted dumbells
  • 1 set of pull-ups and 1 set of toes to bars
Saturday, Jun 24:

I didn't work out on Friday, in order to save it for Saturday.  On Saturday, instead of a run, I did some rucking while geocaching, though.  2 birds with 1 stone.  Maybe 3 birds... I had bought some used BDUs from Amazon, plus some boots from REI, so I got to test the gear and figure out if any of it would give me issues.






The geocaching was great.  I had gone to Latta Plantation with my dad a few weeks prior, for some rucking, but I didn't realize how many geocaches there were.  I ended up with 15.  The BDU pants and the boots ended up working really well.  I did have to tie the laces repeatedly, to keep them tight, but it's better to find that out now, to be prepared for it during the event.  Both helped to keep me dry when I bushwhacked through dewy brush when I was looking for the caches.  They fit well, too.  

Afterwards, I went to NODA Brewing to pick up my prizes from the Brew Dash 6K... excellent Boba Brett wild ale, a trucker hat, a 4-pack, and a brewery tour.  A satisfying day.




Sunday, Jun 25:
The next day, the Whitewater Center's trails were [still] closed, because of recent rains, so I went back out to Latta Plantation.  I decided to make it a goal to run as much of the trail system as I could.  I ended up doing all but one trail, covering 15.4 mi in 2:26:44, 9:30 average (including stops for re-tying laces 3x, and giving someone directions).  The one trail that I skipped was only 1 mile long, too, but it had been on the early part of my journey, and I avoided it because last time when I was there with my dad, there were lots of mosquitos.  Oh well... it will give me a target for next time, to do the full thing.  

It was a fantastic trail system.  It was wide, pretty flat, and non-technical, for the most part.  I can see myself using this for marathon training later on.  I used the Whitewater Center for my last training cycle, but I had to be selective about the trails there, since most of those are hilly and more technical.  
Work had been tough this week, with so much to do.  It's been overwhelming at times.  It was a good weekend to celebrate getting through it.

Monday, Jun 26:

I didn't end up doing a formal workout, but at 9pm, a neighbor posted on facebook that she had extra cucumbers from her garden that she was giving away.  I decided to ruck/run it.  The running part was because I had only 15 minutes until Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge was going to air on TV, and even though I was DVRing it all, I didn't want to miss seeing it as it aired.  It ended up being 2.2 miles round trip.  I normally don't train rucking for speed, so it was good to get a little practice on this, too, before BEL, since that was a component on the PT test.  That would be 4 miles, but I felt comfortable that I could do 4 miles fast enough.  

Since the madness would start at 7pm on Friday, I tapered for the rest of the week.

THE DRIVE DOWN:

I took Friday off of work, so that I could do the 5 hr drive down to Perry, GA, and get a nap in before the 24 hr event.  If I hadn't gotten a nap, then it would've really been 24 + 10 hours with no sleep.  I stopped at Ocmulgee National Monument on the way down, since I love national parks and other national park service places.  They had Indian mounds there.

It was another 30 minutes down to the Guardian Center, where I unloaded my stuff at our base camp.  I met our designated Class Leader, Lance, and a few others who started coming in. After unloading, I parked my car and rested up for an hour or two.

When the time neared, I made my way back to the admin building, to do final prep for Phase 1.  I got my roster number on, filled my sandbag, got my ruck ready, etc.  There would be 22 in the class, with 1/3 being women.  It had been interesting to see on Facebook in the weeks leading up, which other crazy people had decided to sign up for this. 

PHASE 1:

For the PT test, we took turns doing push-ups, sit-ups, a shuttle run including heavy carries and a sled drag, a rope climb, a 4-mi run, and a 4-mi ruck.  In the tests, it was all about you pushing yourself to do your best.  In life, most of the work and growth happens when people aren't watching.  Who are you and how do you push yourself in those times?  I suspect that the people who put down the money to do this event, and felt up to the challenge weren't going to be the type to phone it in, though.  Sit-ups went well, I did my best with the push-ups, I wasn't very fluid up the rope and struggle bused it a bit with getting my feet right but got up it, I felt strong on the run but came in second girl to someone who was not only super beastingly fit but also clearly fast, and enjoyed the night ruck run.




Then, a group march, then carrying heavy things.  Team dynamics were tested, as we figured out our strategies, how to allocate people to items, share the burden, etc.  Different people had opportunities to be team leaders during various sections.  The mosquitos there were freaks of nature - 4x the size of normal ones.  We also built a raft for our rucks and swam across a 0.15mi (240m) lake.  That was really cool to do in the dark, moving along with just our heads above the water, with headlamps and glowsticks on.  The swim felt good after that heavy stuff, and it offered some relief from the bugs.



I physically and mentally rested when I could, and cherished the 1 hr that I had to sleep.


PHASE 2:

We got to learn a bunch of cool stuff from experienced Green Berets.  I'm glad that there was nearly no overlap with stuff that I had learned during Constellation.  We learned [a taste of] restraint escape, movement between buildings, clearing buildings, rappelling, and building scaling.







The Green Berets are of course physical machines, highly skilled operators, with the experience to back everything up.  But they were also awesome at teaching, and set up a great environment for us to learn, try, make mistakes, be coached, and improve.  

PHASE 3:

I don't want to spoil the fun, so I'll just say that this was epic.  We got to put what we learned in phase 2, and the team dynamics that we built in phase 1, to use in a mission.  We had 2 teams working together to complete an evolving mission.  So much more and so much better than any event I've encountered before, a thousand times over.  Like my jaw dropped at some of the surprises along the way.  It was crazy exciting.  





24 hours felt too short.  

TIPS:
  • You'll really appreciate bringing extra changes of clothes, between each sweat / dirt / waterfest.
  • Rest when you can.  My OCR bucket was nice to keep stuff in, and to set on.
  • Eat and drink.  It's 24 hours.  Stay on top of things.  You'll appreciate having real food.
  • Help each other out.  You're a team, and it makes all the difference.
  • You get out of it what you put in into it, with the work during the event, and the work before the event.

SUMMARY:

This was an incredible event... everything cool about GORUCK, Constellation, and Hurricane Heats, but with stakes raised and the epic factor multiplied by ten. I got to try and learn some things I never thought I'd do - challenging and thrilling. I was glad to have experienced it with such awesome people. 

The Cadre taught not only with words, but also with actions. Their experience, knowledge, and teaching ability were second to none, but we learned just as much from how they interacted with each other and poured 110% into everything they did to make sure we got the most out of the event. They created a great atmosphere to try, makes mistakes, learn, and improve.

 Mad respect to our Class Leader and Phase 3 Team Leaders Lance, Rachel, and Deborah. They proved themselves and earned our trust and admiration in the first phases of the event. They gave us the direction that we needed to succeed, and were also willing to jump in and help shoulder the burden without hesitation.

Finaly, the team made it the experience that it was. Some moments designed to test you can be tough, and like with most events like this, there are times when you wonder why you're putting yourself through yet another sufferfest. But the encouraging words from Rosie, Ericka, and Alissa, or the inevitable laughs that come from Miguel being Miguel 😜, bring light to any dark situation.

I learned from each person on the team, and I sincerely hope that I'll get to participate in another BEL event with you all in the future. Thanks for the adventure!

I'm really inspired by the people I got to work with there, and want to start training now for the next one!  Time to up my game!