Monday, November 24, 2014

GORUCK All Girls FAD/WSFB/C/L/S (Firearms Day, War Stories and Free Beer, Challenge, Light, Scavenger)

GORUCK All Girls Firearms Day/Challenge/Light/Scavenger

            When I heard that GORUCK was having an All Girls event, and that it would take place in Miami, I was thrilled! There was some grumbling in the GORUCK community "Ew, I'd NEVER do an All Girls Event." "Um, all girls? No thank you." It was a little disappointing (these were other women knocking the event) but I get it. We all have our own reasons for doing these events, and for me, the excitement of the first ever all girls event was too good to pass up. I'm a very happily married mom of four daughters, I'm a loner, don't drink or party, so a unique event that would be physically challenging and bring together a huge group from all over the country, how could you NOT want to do it! I was going to put myself out there and go for it. This was going to be a positive experience, not a watered down 'let's make it easy on the girls' event. As long as my friend Amy was going to, I'd be ok. Amy and I met because of our mutual joy at doing Spartan Races. We connected and ended up meeting on the side of I-95 one night for our first GORUCK challenge. (You make fast friends with people who will basically meet a stranger on the side of the road and then do hard work for 12ish hours with them! She is beyond awesome and I am thankful for her friendship! One day we will do something together that doesn't involve hours of hard work and mud, sand, water and burpees. One day!)

          Day one of the weekend (Thursday) was Firearms Day. Think 9 hours with the best instructors around. GORUCK describes them ~  GORUCK Cadre are world class shooters and teachers, having honed their skills by firing millions of rounds and instructing hundreds of thousands of students in both training and in war. 
Cadre Machine led the class, along with Cadres Bert, Aaron and Bruce. We learned how to safely load a weapon. How to safely check that weapon. How to always hold it, where your fingers should be, stance, grip, everything. Shooting was terrifying. We slowly and safely worked through many many drills and situations. Working with parents, running back and forth yelling "THREAT!" to shoot under stress, times drills, everything. I was afraid of guns when I started my day, but ended still being wary, with a lot more confidence. A LOT.

We would form a 'classroom' around Cadre Machine to hear our next lesson.

Cadre Aaron told me to say to myself "I want to shoot right there" as I drew my weapon and aimed at a target. Say it to yourself slowly, enunciate every word - it's a very powerful statement. It's like any mantra  - it forces you to concentrate on that one thing, to clear your mind other than your one goal. I wrote that down on a piece of paper and have it taped above my computer. Your "I want to shoot right there" goal can be anything - I am going to use it with my running, hitting times, etc, and at taekwondo. I am often filled with self doubt about my abilities to do special kicks - but now I will focus, look at my target and say "I want to shoot right THERE" and go for it. This was a huge moment for me. Someone else might just breeze past this and not take it for anything special, but man oh man....this is my new mantra.

       After Firearms Day we headed straight to War Stories and Free Beer. Listening to stories about the Cadre's experiences - incredibly moving. In a weekend full of lessons and learning experiences, it's hard to say which was my favorite. I loved what I learned at FAD. I loved what I heard at War Stories. I loved what I experienced (and learned) at the Challenge and Light. I am so glad I got to hear their stories. There were serious moments, there were a ton of laughs, and my respect for them grew 100x after that night. Everyone should experience an evening like this!

   On to the Challenge. The actual Challenge is 12 is hours of work. We started at 8pm Friday night and finished a little before 9am Saturday morning. We gathered, lined up and our evening started.

    The first thing we had to do was empty our rucks. Our rucks that had been carefully packed and organized had to be dumped out on the ground in 60 seconds. Neatly though, so the Cadre could walk around and check everyone's rucks. Then we had 90 seconds to get EVERYTHING packed back up and hold our rucks over our heads. Needless to say, re-packing was a mad rush and things got shoved everywhere. So much for careful planning of ruck packing! We ended up having to do burps for every item that was NOT repacked. Someone left (dropped, didn't have time to pick up) zip ties. I think 15 or 17 of them. More burpees added on as punishment.  We did 100 burpees with our rucks on before we could start. Yay! We broke into three teams and I was on a team with Cadre Aaron and Cadre Bruce. There were 40 of us, and we were off.

Push ups. We did a lot of push ups. This was after we had to retrieve some items to start our challenge - a wine barrel, wood,  rope, ammo cans, buckets....

     We ended up doing a lot of work on the beach. Push ups in the water, toe touches in the water, crawling in the can't expect to do an event on South Beach and not spend a lot of time in the sand and water. We low crawled (faces in the sand, people!) ran, push ups, it's all a blur. We carried and dragged each other. We filled our ammo cans with sand by using spoons. We had to figure out how to do it fast, without crashing into each other, and not losing all our sand. That turned into a lesson about how soldiers enter buildings. The hows and whys of where you go, who follows who,  and where they go - it was fascinating. 

There I am carrying the wine barrel!

        We never stopped. No breaks. Until we sat as a group, introduced ourselves, and told a little about ourselves and what GORUCK meant to us. Such a wonderful part of the night. We moved into a playground area and worked through what was actually a pretty fun obstacle type course - made difficult by not being able to touch the ground and 30ish lb rucks on our backs. Going up a twisty slide was harder than it looked! We figured out how to help each other, and then moved on to our next mission. Moving a huge concrete slab. It seemed impossible. There were 40 of us, yet only 4-5 could stand on each side and lift at a time. The slab was on our wood beams, and Cadre Aaron helped us figure out how to use the rope to create extra carrying 'handles' to let more people help carry the weight.

    We spent hours moving this slab. A few feet, a few yards, then rest. We had to figure out a system to be more efficient. This becomes difficult at 4am, when you are exhausted and stressed from hours of what was already hard work. We were instructed to have our team leader count down from ten, and then we had to move. The ladies carrying decided that we would also call the shots a bit - when the TL counted down to one, we'd say "One...two...three!" and lift together. Then we'd move as far as we could until someone said "Down!" then we'd all say together "One...two...three" and put it down. As soon as it was down, the TL started counting down from 10 again. This let us have a say in how long we could carry, yet also just kept us moving. That was the key - to stop talking and debating and figuring, and just follow instructions. Just move forward. Just go. It worked and we did it.

Sometimes we needed to stop, do pushups, and reset to start listening again. Just once this happened (I think. It's a blur)

     When we finally placed our slab against a tree, we had the Ah-ha moment of the night. We listened to two obituaries of fallen soldiers. We cried. We were told "This is your memorial. There are not a lot of memorials we can take you to here in South Beach, but this here - this is your memorial". Another absolutely powerful moment. The hours of exhausting work had broken us down, but we were working together. We were a team, and that moment of hearing "this is your memorial" wow wow wow. Our hard work and exhaustion was nothing compared to what troops are going through right now, tomorrow, yesterday, every day. It's very sobering and it was a real moment of reflection.

     We headed back to the beach for more water fun. Going subsurface for ten seconds doesn't sound hard, but we had some difficulties getting it together in sync. One teammate started feeling off - breathing, heart rate, something was off. We gathered together, made sure she was ok to continue and I told her that I'd hold her hand and squeeze it every second so she'd know when we were done. We would do it together. I squeezed her had 12 times (two extra, for good measure) so we'd all be under together for the full 10 seconds. We did it. 

Tunnel of love, why not! (That's everyone holding push up position while the person at the end crawls through, for my non -GRT friends)

Team Bravo. Awesome women!!!!!

     We got about a two hour break(maybe close to an hour and half) and then started the Light. A 'Light' is basically a short Challenge - 5-6 hours of good living.  We started again with the ruck inspection, burpees, carrying eggs (luckily I caught one during the distribution, and had to do my 100 burpees holding on to an egg. Not easy. And YES, this was 100 burpees once again.)

     We started with a fun game. Four teams, two people would spin ten times, run (with rucks over their heads so they could not see) and try to stop on an egg (an IED) then two more people from their team would run to them and drag them back. Then the next two would put the rucks over their heads, spin, etc etc. Your team had to yell directions at you - Go straight! Two steps to the left! Etc. The only problem was that there were 80 women yelling at their teammates - no one could hear anything! We moved into the water to do push ups and get wet and sandy before heading down the beach. 

    A heavy log (fat slab of wood really) was found and had to be carried. This again took rotations, timing, teamwork. If you were not carrying Harvey the giant piece of wood you were carrying our team weights, paint buckets filled with sand, extra rucks, then each other (casualties). We had a little more fun (Operation and Jenga challenges) then more tunnel of love and reverse tunnel of love. Hard, wet, sandy work but we were all smiling. 

We had lots of friendly spectators!

Going subsurface again. Cadre Big Daddy showed us how it's done!

         When we finished, we got to hear some moving and touching final words from our Cadre. Telling us we were role models (we had a GRT showed the event (follow) with his 6 yr old daughter. Cadre Bert told us we were better role models for this sweet girl than the bikini beach babes were - we showed her what strong capable women really are), thanking us for letting them lead us and teach us things. How this was what they loved to do - bring people together, teach them (by letting them do the work) to become a team. Thanking US! Incredible when we were all standing there thinking "no, Thank YOU!" I was so very lucky to be part of this event. So very lucky.  The girls at FAD, chatting and meeting more ladies at WSFB, then our teams at the actual Challenge and Light  - such a wonderful group of strong, friendly beyond fabulous women. My teammates.