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!

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