Wednesday, January 30, 2013

GORUCK Miami 2013

Where to begin. GORUCK was one of those events that seemed fun, hard, exciting, and definitely outside my comfort zone. 8-10 hours (ours ended up being almost 12) 10 miles or so (I have no idea how much ground we ended up covering) of crawling, carrying, lifting, dragging, walking, hustling, and did I mention carrying rucks, sandbags, and each other all around South Beach Miami.

GORUCK website describes it as - Teamwork, leadership, camaraderie, smiles, and a gut-check worthy of Special Operations training. But the beauty of the Challenge is that it’s not about you, it’s about the people by your side, the individuals that become your team. 

I enjoyed the Hurricane Heat at the Miami Spartan Race so much that this challenge seemed like a reasonable second step. My friend Brent described the HH as 'a GORUCK light', so I thought I could handle it. A fellow Spartan friend Amy said she was doing it, so I felt I would not be totally alone and decided to do it. 

The challenge started at 1am, but it's suggested that you meet your team prior to say hi, get to know each other a bit, etc, before the challenge officially begins. Plans were made to meet up at a local bar in the hours before the challenge started. Amy and I met and drove down to Miami together - and after a long search for overnight parking, made it to the bar to say hi and head to our start point with the group.

Cadre Ben
Standing at the beach, waiting for our Cadre (military personnel able to establish and train a new unit) was a bit nerve-wracking for us first timers. Cadre, ruck...these were all new terms for me. Another quote from the GORUCK website explains that "the foundation of all GORUCK events is the wartime experience of our Cadre. They have all served in special operations. And they are all decorated combat veterans. Now their task is to teach others lessons learned on teamwork, leadership and survival." The word on the street was that Cadre Ben - also known as the Death Dealer - was our Cadre. That was a bit scary. I had no idea what was going to happen, what this person was going to be like, make us do, etc. I had no idea about the 19 other people standing around me. Would they smile, would it be competitive, would I want to was so strange standing there in the dark, waiting. 

Too much detail will spoil the mystery and unknown factor for anyone who is thinking about doing a challenge, so I won't go into too much detail. We spent the next 12 hours, (after our 'welcome party' of time in the surf, flutter kicks, crawling, back in the water, rucks over our head, etc etc etc) completing missions - do something wrong (picking up milk jugs filled with sand instead of the sandbag IED's we were supposed to find), put too much space between you and your teammates (stay arms distance apart at all times or someone would become a casualty and need to be carried), be too slow....then we'd stop, hold our rucks over our heads, flutter kicks and more again, and basically be punished.Then get right back to the mission. Keep moving down the beach, up and down the streets, etc.

In and out when we were not low enough. 

I started the challenge thinking that my ruck was heavy (about 30 lbs), and by the time we were finished, carrying only my ruck was a relief. We had more and more casualties - so everyone was rotating carrying, carrying each other's rucks, while carrying the American flag and our team weight (a 25 lb dive belt). When I was pouring over the website (I know, no original thoughts from me but the words are just so perfect) I read this  - Too much effort is spent to make it easy and not enough effort is spent to just suck it up. That's exactly what happens. You spend the first few hours thinking everything is so hard, there's no way, I can't carry more, how can I adjust this to make it easy, but by the last few hours you are saying "Give me your pack! I can carry it! I'll take her!" Everyone was capable of so much more than they thought. 
I think we were in trouble for picking up random milk jugs here

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Do not let your ruck or sandbag touch the ground. 

Can I also just say bless the bigger guys who just carried everyone constantly and never complained or gave up. I apparently was hard to carry because I was crushing some ribs when I was being carried on their backs (I still have no idea what I was doing wrong, or if my legs are just weird...or it's my hip issues once again!)

When we finished (after walking down Ocean Drive in the middle of an art show - so lots of spectators wondering what the heck was going on with this wet, sweaty, smiling, group carrying each other on their backs; with others carrying 2 or 3 rucks led by a flag carrying member) it was a mixture of relief and "Oh shoot, that's it." When I heard "You are now GORUCK Tough" I could not stop the tears. Crazy. I composed myself quickly and got my patch. Some pictures, goodbye's, and it was time to get back on the clock and get home to the family.  I will never forget this day.
No way - really? Mission complete?

I have only 2 regrets. #1, I would have talked more and gotten to know my teammates more. We had a few breaks - short, find a bathroom spot, get the sand out of your shoes, gulp down some food 5 minute breaks. I got to know people better as the hours passed, and now I wished I had done even more. There were 20 of us, and I really liked everyone. #2 would be asking Cadre Ben more questions. When he introduced himself, he talked a bit about his background (very impressive) and said to ask him anything we wanted. I will admit I was a bit nervous to run up and start pounding him with questions, but now I wish I had. He was great, and I know I could have learned a lot in those short 5 minute increments we had to talk a bit. It really stuck with me when we were crawling out of the surf and he was yelling at us to keep our bellies on the ground, to keep low. We're crawling and all of a sudden I hear "Keep your f*&^ing head down or it'll get shot off!" and I had a moment of clarity. I realized that wow, at this exact moment somewhere, some soldier was doing this exact same thing, but for REAL. Not for fun, not to push himself, not for a challenge, but for REAL, to stay alive. It really struck me and I appreciated the reminder. Thank you to my teammates, Cadre Ben, and GORUCK for the experience!