Friday, July 15, 2016

Finding Awesome Through Balance

Where to about here...

I went back to the very beginning of my blogging days in early 2008, nearly 700 posts ago, and found this gem on the right where I ran the Athens Marathon near Ohio University. That was in the Spring of 2008. I ran a 3:28 or 3:26 that day, failing to qualify for the Boston Marathon which was my goal that day. (I still have yet to qualify for Beantown.) The left photo was on March 31st of this year, the last day we had a CrossFit gym to call home. Since then, we've called our actual home our CrossFit home...aka: garage box/gym. Like a "fine wine," I like to say we get better with age and not only physically but also in our marriage of "almost" 24 years. We've had our ups and downs, had periods where we were more like roommates instead of being fully committed to each other, and have grown in just about every area of life. Today, we find ourselves closer to each other than ever before. We like to find new craft beer bars together, "beast" it in the gym together, laugh hard together AND at each other, fumble through raising two girls together and laugh very hard along that path and ultimately, be completely vulnerable and an open book to one another, bar nothing. Basically, we're proving it's still possible to be in love, even after all this time and "life" happening.

Last night, she joined me to take photos and watch a "ruck" workout at a local CrossFit gym. She did her first official GORUCK event a few weeks ago but since she's still licking her wounds from that one, she decided to just observe last night take over 500 photos of all the fun. As we were leaving last night, I made the comment/observation about where we are right now and how we choose to walk the walk. There was once a day where I couldn't get enough time running alone. I would run 200+ miles a month, I'd devote half of Saturdays to being on the trails and in the meat of 100-mile race training, Friday as well. I'm not knockin' running at all. I love to run. Looking back, though, it owned me and robbed family time from me but honestly, I would've told you back then it didn't. She had her passions...I had mine. We were all good. "Today, we're balanced in our own way," I told her. "I love to work out and find the suckiest workouts I can. I want to be strong and be the best I can be. I love to ruck, too, and all the friends I have met. There is no one thing I'm gung ho on. That doesn't mean I don't give maximum effort, it just means it doesn't own me nor define me." Some weekends, for's crazy and I'm "all in" on a particular activity but it's all about balance. Taking the time to talk, listen, put the devices away, watch a movie on the couch, sleep in, take a rest day, get away for a few hours on a date, and yea, sometimes just go and be alone. Someone recently made a comment to me and eluded to how all of my physical activities are all I do and ARE me. Ha! It's ok to be passionate about things, ya know?! I mean...if you're not, then why even bother doing them, right? Do them with maximum effort or don't even bother. Yea, I think I heard a few GORUCK cadre say those exact words a few times recently. By the way, your age is just a number...or an excuse. Don't let it define your ability or put any restriction on what you can or cannot do. YOU can do anything you want! Now how about some photos from last night's fun?!

Situps...not the traditional kind.

Creating a scene at the local rec center. Always a kid at heart!

Buddy Bear Crawls...Joe wasn't allowed to use his feet at all. Just be a dead weight, essentially. An awesome should try it!

Ever heard of the Turkish Get-Up? It's normally used with a dumbbell or kettlebell. Same movement but using a 60lb sandbag. Another first for me. We got 98 reps in a 10min timeframe. This was our warmup for the evening. :)

Our evening ended around 9pm with these overhead presses. Position 1 here, then to the shoulders, then locked out overhead.
Last but not least, a few local friends dropped a little present off at our house today. I haven't yet seen this, but my bride was kind enough to test it out and send me this video. Fun times ahead!

~ Chris CT, Old Glory Armory and GORUCK Cadre
Have a great weekend, friends!

Friday, July 8, 2016

AAR: GORUCK Light, Class #1217

This is Part 2 of 3 of a 3-part blog series covering the GORUCK Tough/Light/Scavenger July 4th weekend in Cleveland. Read them here >> AAR: Tough, AAR: Scavenger

Reflecting back to my first After Action Report covering this past weekend, that being of the 13+ hour Tough event, I eluded to my wife and her reaction to Friday night's Welcome Party at the Tough which is a perfect place to start this report. No one in my family had been to anything "GORUCK" and since this past weekend's events were all local and the starting point for that event was only 30min from home, I invited her, my two young daughters and my parents to stand in the shadows and watch. Well, that kinda, sorta, DEFINITELY back-fired. The beginning of GORUCK events, dubbed the "Welcome Party" can get pretty intense and with the last minute add of Cadre Geoff Reeves, a Navy SEAL, it was ramped up a few notches. Heavy PT, yelling, choice words that could make some sensitive ears bleed...yea, that wasn't the best thing for my bride to see the day before her first event. Yea, I tossed an invite to her a week prior never thinking she'd say "yes" to but she did. I was thrilled, honestly. We CrossFit together and do so much training side-by-side, I thought this was do the "Light" together and embrace the suck as one. After all, the website for the Light says: "If you can do a 5K, you can earn the GORUCK Light patch." (hehe) Well, as I walked in the house from the Tough with less than an hour to shower, eat, and get back on the road to Cleveland for the Light on Saturday, I found out that she has been trying to figure out how to tell me she was NOT doing the Light and "why would you pay for THAT?!" "That doesn't look fun at all!" My response..."but it's a Light." Her: "But Geoff can do whatever he wants." She had a point, there. Feeling in the dog house before even leaving for Cleveland, I did my best to encourage her and not let her quit before she began. The site also touts a 100% completion rate. Fast forward to the end: not on this day in Cleveland!

We arrived in Cleveland an hour later and once we found our parking spot, we made our way to the starting point at the Fountain of Eternal Life, adjacent to the Key Bank building. It's a wide-open space with the fountain in the center of it all and lots of green space just north of it. We milled around with friends and swapped memories from the Tough event with those who were doing both events, waiting for 2pm to roll around. As it did, we formed up into ranks. 41 brave souls.

From the beginning, it was definitely a different flavor of GORUCK as compared to the Heavy and Tough. Smiling cadre and a laid back roll call were evidence of that. Soon though, we had "rucks on front" (see photo above) and we were off crab walking across the pebble surface that without gloves, shred some hands within the first 5min of the event. (my wife's being one of them....NOT GOOD for my sleeping arrangements come that evening!) Crab walks can be a real pain, especially if you don't loosen the straps on the ruck as it'll choke you.

Many thanks goes out to the grounds crew for the City of Cleveland for the next evolution...low crawls through the grass as the sprinklers kicked into high gear. You'd think it was pre-planned by the cadre. I's a Light, right? Who doesn't want sprayed in the side of the head by a reclaimed water sprinkler while crawling on your elbows through wet grass?

And there went our 100% completion rate. We had a drop in the first 5min of the Cleveland Light. After that crawl, too, my bride had bloody elbows and a look on her face that said something like "talk to me and die." Got it. More crab walks were to come before moving up to the grassy, green area. Once there, we shed our rucks and split into two teams, putting our flags in the middle of the two piles of time!

What came next was a game of mixing PT in with teamwork, a cornerstone of GORUCK...that being, working together as a team. For each round, the losing team chose a PT evolution for the other team to do. This was actually a lot of fun and some good PT as well but not the shouting kind. It really was all in the spirit of fun and I finally saw some smiles from my partner of 23+ years. Good....let's keep that up.
We circled the rucks prior to each movement/round
Cadre Geoff looking on as we did an overhead press of one of our teammates
For each evolution, we raced to form a letter. Each round moved closer to spelling the word "Independence"...the team first in forming their letter chose the workout for the other team.
After we formed our word, we formed up to head out and get the weight we'd carry for the rest of the day. We had a lot of inexperience in the group (as expected) so getting into formation was a struggle at first. Ranks, communication, teamwork...all a real mess there in the beginning but it started to come together pretty quick. Our first task was to find a silver Toyota that contained our sandbags...or "bombs" in keeping with the mission we were given. We found it pretty quick.

As soon as I saw it, I commented how it looked weighted down like a car would look like in Afghanistan if it were a VBIED...vehicle borne improvised explosive device...a "car bomb." Sure enough, that's what Cadre Aaron asked the team...what looked wrong with this car. Inside: 700 pounds of sandbags that our team would carry for the rest of the day, supposedly 4-5 hours (also per the website) in length. We got them out, put them on shoulders, formed up and headed on out. Team leaders were identified just prior to this and led us towards our next objective: Burke airport where the static displays are of a Navy Blue Angel and Air Force Thunderbird. Off we went. During this trek towards the Lake Erie waterfront, the "team" aspect started to form as we're supposed to keep it tight, within an arms length of each other and we had to change out the weights as we rolled along. Whether in a team leader position or simply on the team, it forces everyone to communicate and work together...or fail. There really isn't an alternative to working together and under stress, emotions definitely started to emerge. Still, we moved the best we could until reaching our objective at Burke Lakefront Airport.

My wife (on left) doing her part under one of the heaviest sandbags we had.

We were told to distribute the sandbags under the wings of both jets then got into formation, obviously for some more PT because: 1) this is a GORUCK event! and 2) we didn't make our time hack...we weren't even close.

That's me in the red wife in the lower right in the gray shirt...being a trooper!
So there's this thing called the standing sit-up. I'd never done it before. We were told to find a person of similar weight/size and form up. I thought we'd be doing buddy carries that I was good with. I'd been practicing those! Well, the standing sit-up is when you get in sit-up position with your partner sitting on your toes and wrapping their arms around your legs/calves. Then, you sit up, arms/fingers locked behind your head and then stand up...all in one movement. It took me a few times to get this but I eventually got it. I don't recall the number but I think we had to do 20 of them and that number got reset multiple times because some couldn't make it vertical. Once done, we traded spots and our teammate had to do the same.

We thought it was time to move out after this BUT we were too slow forming up so instead of leaving, more PT, courtesy of Cadre Geoff awaited. He found a nearby fence that we used to get into a chair sit position then held our rucks overhead. I was wiped at this point and really struggled to keep that thing over my head. Overhead "anything" is always a struggle for me. As we did this, Geoff began another history lesson, something he did a lot of overnight during the Tough event that I really enjoyed and appreciated. This time, it was about the President's desk in the Oval Office called the Resolute desk. After the lesson, he made his way around showing us a photo of him and his SEAL team when they once visited the President in the Oval Office, adjacent to the Resolute desk.

Off we went. We headed north across the city en route to some train station along the Cuyahoga River. It took awhile to get there. Eventually and after a few wrong turns, we arrived along a steep, grassy slope and given a good 10min break to go to the bathroom and chill. After this short break, it was game time again. Imagine a game of charades with an empty ruck on the person's head doing the motions then once the word is guessed, the same person rolls down the steep hill towards the pink ruck followed by sprinting back up the hill...not always an easy task when your equilibrium is thrown amuck!

This went on for awhile and we all got 3 to 4 turns at charades and rolling. The losing team (ours) had the pleasure of getting in the not-clean Cuyahoga River down by that fountain.

And we're off! By this point, I think everyone knew we were going a bit long, probably not in the 4-5 hour expected range of time. Fine by me, really, as we had no place to be except for dinner and a big fat burger after we were done. We started making our way back to the starting point at the Fountain with a fresh set of team leader/assistant team leader. We knew it was later in the day pretty soon as we were marching right through the early hours of nightlife in Cleveland as city-goers were sitting down for dinner on outside patios, doing their best to enjoy a beautiful evening in a bustling and revitalized downtown Cleveland. For us, we were struggling a bit to stay together. If you ever attend a GORUCK event, there is a common rule: stay an arms length apart from each other. Don't spread out. Well, we kept spreading out so we got stopped and put into an uncomfortable (and embarrasing, I might add, given our audience) position to prevent us from splitting up. I think they called it an elephant walk. You can see why in the photos below. You had to put your ruck or sandbag between your legs and the person behind you had to grab onto it. Honestly, this couldn't have ended soon enough. The most we could do was shuffle very slow until someone dropped the weight and then we stopped...again and again and again.

Once we went a few blocks like this, we got the weight back up and hoofed it back to the Fountain and starting point, nearing the end of the event. We formed up and without hesitation, we found out we had some penalties to pay for our slow pace throughout the event. It got paid in the form of 8-count body builders with rucks on. Our reps didn't count until we could get ourselves together as a team. Often, the count didn't go 1 through 8 and instead bounced all over the place. It was up to us to pay attention, follow instructions and do it as a team.

We had one our teammates' son join us for a few 8-counts!
Once we hit our number (20, I believe), we were done except for one of our teammates who gave us a solo performance of the National Anthem as many of us sung along. (thank you!) With that, Class #1217 was a wrap with 38 of 41 finishing the SIX hour event. hehe! It was 8pm, I was starving, and as soon as we got our patches and got our group photo, we'd be out of there!

Cadre Geoff delivering my patch. I didn't get a photo after the Tough event so I'm thankful for this one. "Thanks, Geoff!"

I couldn't wait to say two things to her: 1) I'm sorry I pulled you into this!, and 2) I'm so proud of you for not quitting.

Before we took off, we gathered around for our group photo in front of the fountain.

So legs that broke out in bumps from the wet grass, two bloodied (scabbed) elbows, a left numb thumb, two blistered palms and two knees that also bled, my wife did it. We talked a lot on the way home and after dinner about the event, the different emotions we saw in our team and what worked and didn't work. What we didn't talk about was if there would be another event for her in the future. That question was best left for a later day after the days of Neosporin and healing was finished. I didn't end up on the couch but I couldn't touch her much, either, since lubed up knees and elbows kinda prevent that! I had a great time at the Light, a blast at the Scavenger the next morning and overall, an epic Tough/Light/Scavenger July 4th weekend. In the words of my wife on her Instagram account yesterday:

"These pictures make me proud! The GORUCK Light challenge was the hardest thing I've ever done. I've still got skinned up knees and elbows, blisters on my hands and a numb thumb. But, I dug deep and did it! Sometimes you have to strap in, ignore the pain and get it done."

Photo Credit: Many thanks to Sean Frost/Nicole Richardson and Cadre Aaron for the awesome photos!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

AAR: GORUCK Scavenger CLE / July 2016

This is Part 3 of a 3-part AAR (After-Action-Report) over the July 4th weekend. Part 2 has yet to be published but will be in the near future. Part 1, the AAR for the GORUCK Tough event, Class #1988, can be read here.

GORUCK Scavenger, Cleveland, July 3, 2016

OK, we've all been kids at some point and hopefully, we've had a part in a scavenger hunt. Whether it's on Easter looking for Easter eggs hidden throughout the house or given a list of items and told to find them, either individually or as a team, we've all most likely done it. The GORUCK Scavenger event is an event most often at the end of a long weekend of grueling/fun/challenging events put on by GORUCK. It involves no weight (unless you choose to) or ruck (again, your choice) and is nothing but fun. I went into this past Sunday's scavenger with zero knowledge of what to expect except for others proclaiming what a blast it is. Bottom Line: DO IT. I had a blast!

We had Cadre Aaron get it going who led us, along with Cadre Geoff, through the past few days in the Tough and Light events but only Aaron was at the Scavenger. We had about 50 people show up at 10am Sunday morning at the Fountain of Eternal Life, adjacent to the Key Bank building in downtown Cleveland, the tallest building in the city. After forming up, we broke into 5 teams and given instructions. Some already had the instructions that were sent via e-mail just prior to the meeting time, too. It was simple: multiple points of interest around the city were laid out along with bonus point opportunities for getting things like Old Glory, the Ohio State flag, Indians fan gear, etc. in the photos. There were also bonus points given for doing certain things at each point of interest or just wherever along the way. Looking through the instructions, we were pretty central to the POI's so a plan was easy to formulate. So about those points: we used Instagram and hashtags to post our finds along the way and tagged Cadre Aaron so he could follow us virtually through our 3 hour hunt. 100% of our 10-person team had to be in every photo or it wouldn't count. So it was time...and a 1pm deadline to return to the start point. The winner would not only get the Scavenger patch, but the GOLDEN eagle on the patch. So to tell the story, I'll let the photos do the work. I brought my selfie-stick so by default, I became cameraman for the event and posted everything to our custom Instagram account along with all the hashtags. That's why my ugly mug is at the forefront of all these photos. :) You can find us on Instagram at party_like_1776

USS Cod World War II Museum along Lake Erie

Not sure of the name, here, but it was next to City Hall #coolpoints

Forward Torpedo Room aboard the USS Cod ($12 admission each! Well, $10 for the military types on the team)

Poor guy...just going for a stroll and we (Bryan, namely) convinced him to join in the fun. GO TRIBE!!!

Hot dog vendor wearing an American Flag meets GORUCK Scavenger Team "Party Like 1776" = CoolPoints!

He was raising money adjacent to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame so we all bought a water and grabbed some #coolpoints and #doublecoolpoints! 
The last thing we did was bring Cadre Aaron something to remember Cleveland this case, a hot corned beef sandwich from the deli shop at Public Square

Don't even ask! I have no idea what was going on here but we were at the 9th Street Pier, a point of interest, so #coolpoints!

Ahhh, yes. That poor taxi cab driver. We got bonus points for all getting in the cab, me in the drivers seat, and all rucks with us. We did it AND we all got in the pic!

I'm pretty sure you can tell who the unsuspecting ones were in this photo, one of which is on Bryan's back because in GORUCK, buddy carries is what we do!

Our first post of the day, dubbed #commscheck as we quickly got IN the Fountain of Eternal Life before hitting the streets of Cleveland

The steps of City Hall. Notice the overhead press going down in the background?

More #coolpoints with Cleveland's finest and #doublecoolpoints for getting the Soldier/Sailor Memorial in the background

Forward Torpedo Room of the USS Cod

Push-Up Position topside of the USS Cod. Boom!

Mom, Dad and child taking a walk and said child is reading a book about Slider, the Cleveland Indians mascot. Time for a selfie!

Cleveland Indians! Boom.

Cleveland ROCKS!!!! Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame

The objective? Find a family member of someone on our team inside the Soldier/Sailor monument at Public Square.
Of course, some things are only captured best by video. Thanks to Instagram raising it's video length restriction from 15 seconds to 1 minute, we were able to crush the scavenger even more! From top to bottom:

1. Air Guitar craziness at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame
2. Coming up from the forward torpedo room on the USS Cod
3. Reading the 1st line from the Constitution then joining my teammates in a heavy shot of American-made whiskey!
4. Pledge of Allegiance at the Soldier/Sailor Monument at Public Square
5. Burpees with a new friend who was laying in the sun at Voinovich Park!
6. Bear walking up and crab walking down the steps of City Hall
7. Bear walking into a pub (where we also recited the Constitution) ... oh the looks!
8. Veteran giving us a history lesson on Old Glory at the USS Cod
9. Doing our best to convince a stranger that GORUCK is the right and proper path for his life.

And with that, we got back to the Fountain by 1pm for the final point tally. Cadre Aaron worked with a person from GORUCK HQ to tabulate the points and BOOM! Party Like 1776 took the Gold Eagle! Seriously, was there ever any doubt?!

And like any GORUCK event, it's not truly over until we get a group photo. Great time, great people and again, more new friends. Can't wait for the next one!