The Motivation: a couple weeks ago, a dear friend and mentor of mine sent me a Facebook message asking if I was interested in doing a GORUCK Heavy scheduled for November in Nashville. I had heard about GORUCK a couple of years back when there were only Challenges around, it was when mud runs were becoming popular. Until his email I hadn’t thought more about trying a GORUCK Event. However, his email came at a point when the timing was right and I thought why not.
The Backstory: A few years ago, I learned a valuable lesson about myself and my proclevity to do challenges. I thought doing a half-marathon would be a cool accomplishment, but the longest I had ever run was a couple miles on a treadmill. I signed up anyways, but the trouble was the half was less than two months away. I jumped in the deepend to start training. I was dumb and got IT band syndrome (which feels like you have a knife stabbing you in the side of the knee). A lot of Ibuprofen, ice baths, stretching, foam rolling and I completed the half marathon in 1 hour and 52 minutes (that is averaging roughly an 8:30 minute mile).
So why did I tell you about my half marathon experience? Because my lesson learned was to focus on smart training and working on your weaknesses. In that example, I should have tried a couple 5k’s first to help identify my weaknesses. So what would be the equivalent for the GORUCK Heavy? Why the GORUCK Light of course.
Simply put, it is “Good Livin” …which really depends on your interpretation because my wife thought I was crazy. Basically a Light is 4-6 hours and covers 7-10 miles. The Challenge is 8-10 hours and covers 15-20 miles. The Heavy is 24 hours and covers 40 plus miles.
Yes, the Light consists of lots of walking/jogging/running with 20-30 pounds of bricks in your rucksack intermixed with calisthenics…yes, it sounds like the boot camp class from hell, but really it is a team building event. The quicker you learn to be a team the easier the event becomes. It is still filled with plenty of suck, but knowing the person to your right and to your left is there to make you successful makes the pain bearable.
The After Action Review (AAR) from GORUCK Light Class #315
It all started at 2 PM on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon at Washington Park in Cincinnati. I felt totally late to the party, partly because I only signed up two days prior to the event and second I literally got there at 2 PM. The rest of the team had met an hour or so earlier plus had been communicating via a Facebook group well before the actual Light. So I was the random guy in blue for the first part of the event.
I’m already an introvert, but talk about added anxiety rolling up as Cadre Jason J was just starting the introduction. Then to make it worse, since I had only signed up a couple days before I didn’t completely review the gear list. I knew you needed a rucksack, four bricks (if you weigh over 150 pounds), water, and shoes that dry. But otherwise, I failed to completely read the gear list. Don’t be me. Make sure you read the list and bring some sort of reflective belt/strip for your ruck, a strobe, and your head lamp even if it is going to be daylight hours. This was the first thing that helped bring our team together because I was not the only one who missed the essential gear (A special thank you to Dale and Michelle for the strobe and reflective strap).
So obviously there is the gear check to start, followed by introductions, and then some calisthenics(PT) to test our fitness level…think squats, push-ups, burpees, etc. At this point one of the few rules was given, do NOT let your ruck touch the ground. We then got a quick lesson in Army formations of ranks and columns so that as we ruck through Cincinnati we know what our column is supposed to look like.
In case you are like me and have not served in the military, there were only 13 of us, so our column was a single file line with the Flag bearer in the front. As we moved, it had to be as one unit maintaining an arms distance from each other. Each time that distance became too great, we suffered some form of PT. This meant crossing streets in formation, weaving through pedestrians as one. It also meant watching out for each other to make sure everyone kept pace or adjusting the pace as necessary so no gap was created between teammates.
Cadre Jason assigned a team leader (TL) and an assistant team leader (ATL) who would lead us through the first segment. Now we were ready to start our first ruck which was to get from Washington Park to the Roebling Suspension Bridge to cross the Ohio River. I wish it was a straight shot, but unfortunately, we had not yet perfected communication so when our Flag bearer made it across the street while the rest of us waited for the light to turn green. He got lunges and we had to carry our rucks over our heads for a couple blocks. We also had the opportunity for elevated push-ups using the window of Saks Fifth Avenue for calling Cadre Jason, sir (you need to be military to understand). Fortunately, we made it to the bridge in the allotted time so we escaped some extra PT.
A new TL and ATL were selected to get us across the bridge and to the beach on the Kentucky side. Off we went. Along the way where a few more slip ups which earned some more PT. I learned the joy of donkey kicks with a rucksack on your back. TIP: get a waist belt for your ruck. Donkey kicks start in a bear crawl position, but you kick your feet in the air which causes an un-anchored ruck to hit you in the back of the head…50 repetitions later it was solidified in my mind that I need a waist belt.
On the Kentucky side of the Ohio River heading east from the suspension bridge to the pedestrian bridge near the Newport Aquarium there is a berm that gave us several opportunity to improve our team building and communication skills as we went down and up it many times. Some of those times included bear crawls and rolls (thanks for that idea Bryan…).
I am told that each GORUCK event is different, but one guarantee is you will get wet. We were able to enjoy a not so leisurely dip in the Ohio River. I would’ve loved a nice sandy shore, but instead it was ankle-deep mud. In the river we went. We learned of the joys of flutter kicks, man-makers using our rucks, and some twisted version of the motions for the song YMCA while sitting chest deep in the water (the picture is worth a thousand words).
Honestly, as filthy as the water was, it was refreshing which was good because if you are familiar with Cincinnati than you know we had gone downhill from our starting point to the river. Now for the return trip we would cross back to the Ohio side and then uphill made even better by the climb up the stairs to the Immaculata Church atop Mt. Adams, one of the highest points in Cincinnati, I might add. TIP: make sure you test your socks/shoe setup because I had mud, sand, and rocks in my socks that rubbed my heel raw.
Up at the parish we got the pleasure of fresh water to wash off the mud and the added bonus of an education on etiquette from one of the priests. Next time we will get permission to use the hose prior to actually using it.
From here we headed towards the reservoir ruins by Eden Park. On this stretch of the ruck we learned way finding skills making our way through the forest between the church and the reservoir. The amazing thing is I somehow managed not to get poison ivy. Awesome!
Once we reached the reservoir ruins we were able to learn some Ranger history and the joys of low crawls with a ruck on your back. Bonus we also got to climb the ruins to get a better view of the Ohio River (not that I could forget thanks to the mud in my shoes) and then do the equivalent of buddy deadlifts (or drag a teammate up a hill).
Our event was almost over and we were working well as a team. The final challenge was to find a location for Advanced Cellular Repair Technology, AKA a bar with Guinness on tap for Cadre Jason. We survived with 100% pass right. Way to go team!
I didn’t include all the extra PT we did, but I know you now have some insight into the intensity. The important thing is I now have 12 new friends, whom I am indebted to for pulling me through and sharing some great memories.
One thing to keep in mind if you do a GORUCK event…just because it is over doesn’t clear you from having to ruck back to your car. Our Light was just under nine miles, but I had about 3 miles left to go from our ACRT location to my car. Why did I write my name on my bricks…
GORUCK Leadership Lessons Learned
My previous boss was a former Army Ranger, whom served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He did a great job teaching me LDRSHIP skills. This acronym reminds Rangers and us civilians key leadership points to carry you through no matter how tough things get.
- Loyalty – both up and down the chain of command.
- Duty – your attitude needs to be reflected in your teammates (or staff).
- Respect – You treat others with courtesy, honor, and trust…and expect it in return.
- Selfless Service – Others (and your company) come first.
- Honor – Demonstrate a principled character and sense of ethical conduct. Live that example.
- Integrity – Follow strong moral principles.
- Personal Courage – No matter the consequences do the right thing.
GORUCK’s mission statement is:
“Challenge Excellence and Do Right By People.
GORUCK allows those of us outside of the military to take the LDRSHIP concepts and put them into action through an environment of physical stress. The GORUCK Light showed me what I was capable of and as part of their motto ”Building Better Americans”. I feel that I have leveled up in my leadership skills.
I am not saying I am going to have my staff do push-ups when they screw-up, rather I know that their failure is probably a reflection of my failure to lead. During the ruck I learned that together we could overcome adversity which translates at work that I can overcome adversity when I can count on the person to my right and to my left.
I want to say a special thank you to Cadre Jason J. for an awesome event or should I say leading me on a personal evolution. Also, want to thank you 12 other crazy souls who suffered with me and came out stronger on the other side.
The next chapter is GORUCK Heavy in November…who’s with me? Drop me a line if you are up for the next personal evolution.
-Richard, the man in blue