Sunday, January 3, 2016

Report: First Ruck

A friend of mine mentioned this thing called "rucking" a few years ago and I've been looking at it off and on since then. So what's rucking? Rucking is defined as "the activity of moving with weight on your back in a rucksack (aka: backpack)." (click here for Full history of Rucking) Then there is the company "GORUCK" that was founded in January 2008 by former Army Green Beret, Jason McCarthy. He founded it with the goal of building and selling the baddest rucksacks in the world...totally military grade. What he found is the social part of began to develop. People rucking, using his gear, moving heavy stuff over miles and hours, drinking beer, and being led from former Special Forces folks like those from the Navy SEALs, Green Berets, etc. 

So what began as a pursuit to sell gear ended up being that PLUS the whole event part that spans from the "light" challenges to the Tough GORUCK Challenges to the Heavy events. (click here for the story told from the source) The original event, the "Tough" is about a 12 hour event that starts at 9pm in places all over the country throughout the year and covers 15-20 miles. While the events are led by Special Forces "cadre," the participants aren't necessarily veterans. They could be but it's open to all. Without a doubt, though, it's military-like training from the physical to the mental, Old Glory always leads the way, never touches the ground, and it's all about teamwork. No one person can finish an event. It's a group effort from start to finish. (map here is a snapshot of what you'll find on the GORUCK website when you start your search for an event near you.) Finally, if you still want to know more about GORUCK, I recommend two sources...their website and their YouTube channel. The videos will tell the story well of what it's all about and what to expect.

Back to yesterday: Locally, the CARC (Cleveland Area Rucking Crew) has rucks around the area, depending on everyone's availability and location, and I've been looking forward to jumping in on one of them. I got my rucksack from GORUCK about a month ago and 30lb plate so I was ready to go. They met up at the Hinckley Reservation Boathouse for a 4hr ruck. This is the same place I ran the Buzzard Trail 100K trail race in 2013 on just about nothing but ice so I'm really famliar with the trails out there...beautiful area. Besides what I was told to bring, I really didn't know what to expect. I showed up just prior to 8am and about 12 of us were there. Bryan, the leader of CARC and who would act as cadre for the day, laid out some basic rules (mostly for me...pretty sure I was the only true newbie there) before we got moving. Here's what I recall:
  • The flag will always lead the way, will never touch the ground, and will stay un-furled. 
  • Team weights should stay near front of group. They will be a PVC slush pipe, an 80lb sandbag, and 60lb sandbag.
  • There will one team leader and he/she isn't to carry anything.
  • Stay within an arm's length of each other at all times. If you must leave group, buddy rules apply.
  • Wear your appropriately weighted rucksack at all times. For me, that's my Rucker with a 30lb plate.
Photo Credit: Crystal McClintock
So with that, we headed to a nearby picnic area to "warm up." Immediately, Bryan told me I was team leader. Reminder: never done this! I can lead but wasn't sure what to even do. Up at the picnic tables, we thought as he checked which were anchored to the ground and which weren't, that they'd be going up over our heads. He pulled me aside and told me I have 40sec to divide the group up and line up along the seating areas of the benches. I lined everyone up tallest to shortest, had them count off 1, 2, 1, 2, etc. that divided everyone up evenly for height. We were right. Several reps, in unison, of lifting those tables over our heads, counting out the reps each time. After that, we were on the ground doing push-ups and flutter kicks. Bryan was kind enough to hold Old Glory during our little "warm up" session.

Once our initial PT was done and blood was pumping good, I lined everyone up in ranks and we headed out. Hinckley is a combination of the beautifully paved bike-n-hike trail that surrounds the lake then miles of single track trails through the woods. Over the 4 hours, we covered 6.29 miles. As we moved along, we hiked at a comfortable pace and took turns carrying the team weights. As team leader, I needed to pay attention to keeping everyone within arm's length and making sure people get relieved from the weight. It wasn't uncommon at all for Bryan to point to a small "boulder" or log along the trail and say "pick that up." If so, it was up to me to delegate someone to pick it up...hence, a new "team weight." Those would last an underdetermined amount of time and would eventually be shed. We also stopped now and then for PT. PT = physical training. So we stopped about 1 1/2 miles into the hike and Bryan said we were going to do "buddy carries." One thing this sailor has never done is that. He said to find someone of similar weight and whoever is being carried could shed the rucksack. Chris, about the same weight as me and experienced, showed me how to pick each other up, and we were first.
Photo Credit: Crystal McClintock
Then it was my turn to carry him and I did. Surprisingly, it was easier than expected. (credit CrossFit? Perhaps.) Unfortunately, one of the guys got hurt at this point while lifting one of the others on to his back. Someone grabbed his rucksack and we headed back towards the boathouse. He would continue with us the rest of the day but instead carried the flag only to give his back rest. Somewhere along that return trip, Bryan was kind enough, yet again, to hook the 80lb and 60lb sandbags together with his caribiner. That forced us to walk two people side-by-side in step with each other because essentially, it was a big sloppy 140lbs of sand now. At this point, I gave up my team leader position and started my turns carrying the weights which I was itching to do.

I quickly learned that the team-aspect flows naturally amongst everyone. It was contagious. I wanted to do my part.

"Tunnel of Love" -- Photo Credit: Crystal McClintock
Back at the boathouse, we took a bathroom break but before heading back out, PT was on deck. Flutter kicks, squats, thrusters with our rucksacks and the "tunnel of love." Just imagine lining up in push-up position then the far left person crawls underneath everyone. As soon as a person passes under, the next person goes and that process continued until Bryan told us to stop. Afterwards, some more PT and we hit the trail. The plan was to circle the lake now, about a 3mi loop. 

We still hadn't gotten wet and it's known at rucks that getting in the water is normal and should be expected. It was about 30F out but I still thought we'd get wet. We ended up coming upon this man-made beach, heavily used in the summertime, and we headed right for it. There was actually a guy in the water, breathing heavy and being videotaped by a friend. He was shouting out time increments so I guess the crazy guy in the water was going for some kind of record. As we passed on by, Bryan thought of putting us in but decided not to. We ended up putting our feet in some muddy water a short time later but for this body of water, he opted not to put us in. Clearly, he was considering it as this photo was taken.
Photo Credit: Crystal McClintock
Just past this water, though, we had another PT session that almost revealed what I had for breakfast hours earlier. We laid on our backs then rolled like logs in the direction told to us. First we rolled right then left. We got up, did some squats then got back on the wet grass again. The second roll totally messed me up and got me nauseous and disoriented. "If you make us roll's coming up," I thought. I'm one of those guys who when I look at the teacups at the county fair spinning in circles, I get sick just looking at them. Totally weak stomach. Luckily, we were done rolling and the order to pick up the weight and get moving was put we went.

To add a little complexity/challenge to it all, Bryan decided to shed his ruck at this point and using another caribiner, hooked it to the end of the two sandbags, making the total across the chain 180lbs...basically a human body's weight and probably a good average of the men and women present. For awhile, we tried to move side by side with 3 people holding the weights but decided to go lengthwise with it and hang it, off-setting each person left and right of the weight. That worked and it also make the transition when giving breaks much easier. I did my part then got on the pipe for the first time. Eventually, we were back at the boathouse and the day was a wrap, dead on 12pm and a cumulative 6.29 miles. Below are a few more photos from Crystal McClintock who shadowed us with her camera all morning. "Thanks so much, Crystal!" The first photo below is my favorite. You can't see me, but that's me. I have the 60lb bag on my shoulders. That flag patch I have on my Rucker is the flag I was issued when I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. Then you have Old Glory flying in front of me as it led the way down the trail. I just love it.

Flutter Kicks after our break at the boathouse and before the "Tunnel of Love."

We always helped offload the switch the bags from person to person

A little PT along a fenceline. Above the head, holding out front...on Bryan's count.

Team Leader at this point so out of formation and not carrying anything but my ruck.

Just after the initial PT of lifting the picnic tables. Some pushups and flutter kicks.


All in all, I had a great time and great first introduction to rucking. I did as much research as I could, asked a ton of questions, and showed up. I had a great time. For the future, I definitely need to get a water bladder in my ruck so I can drink when I want to. This time, I had a bottle in my pack...pretty useless in there. I also need to find a pair of pants that work for this kind of abuse, repel water, move freely and not tear. Many thanks to Bryan for all the time he put in to this and the Cleveland Area Rucking Crew. Great to meet you all! To the next one....

July 1st Goal:

1 comment:

Cody Reynolds said...

What you did there is just 1-2 hours and a mile or two short of a Light! Great job! I'll be at the light in Cleveland in May(Tough as well), you should think about that before your July 4th Tough on the 1st!