Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Saying It Better than I Ever Could

Can I just make my resolution to do or be all Neil Gaiman talks about in his three New Years Eve messages? I shall be quite happy if, in the coming year, I can make some art, dream dangerously a time or more, and make some epic mistakes.

Opening the Door on a New Year

I have been going back and forth on "official" resolutions for 2014. I have no desire, though, to come up with a list of specific, quantifiable goals as I have in some years past. I'm not even sure I want a list of general things on which to work. Last year, I wrote of wanting it to be a year of not asking why I should do something but instead asking why the hell I shouldn't do something, a philosophy suggested by younger son. Sometime in the past year, I read another sentiment worthy of deliberation. Googling it just now, I have learned that it is from Henry David Thoreau.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.

The statement I read and have pondered is the middle statement, sandwiched between two others that just don't have offer quite the same food for thought. Live the life you've imagined. Live. The. Life. You've. Imagined.

What is the life I have imagined? I'm honestly not sure, though I do know that the life I would imagine was very different at different times in the life I've been living. And is it a life I have imagined, or a me I have imagined? A life to me implies so much that is external--what is around me as opposed to what is within me. There is certainly much in the world around me over which I have no control. What I can control is the reaction I offer to that which I cannot control. So perhaps the life one imagines is both outside and inside each of us. If I have had more than one philosophy class, I might be able to articulate it better.

Exactly what it means aside, I think my resolution for 2014 will combine last year's thought with the one I have been incubating throughout the year: Why the hell not live the life I've imagined? I can't say exactly how that will evolve, but I hope it happens thoughtfully. In the life I imagine, I am not as much the light-switch all-on or all-off over-reactive person I often am. I will admit that in some areas, I am already living the life I've imagined. I have the means to nurture my creative spirit even if I don't always make time to do so. While there are things to which I would like to devote more time--chiefly photography and writing--there are certainly enough others to which I do devote time.

And so I prepare to bid adieu to 2013 and open a brand new, clean and unmarked calendar holding a year in which I will endeavor to live the life I've imagined, because, well, why the hell not?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Out with the Old

Re-reading my last post from 2012, it appears that I resolved to make 2013 a year of "asking why the hell not" and of learning some Vietnamese. Meat Loaf told us that two out of three ain't bad, and I'll say the same about one out of two. I did things in 2013 that I never expected to do, some more intentional than others. I never expected to complete a GORUCK Challenge, but I did, along with four GORUCK Lights and one Nasty. I'm even registered to do two more Challenges and two more Lights in 2014, in pairs of one Challenge and one Light within the same 24-hour period. Why? Why the hell not?

To help prepare for the GORUCK events, older son and I started working out with a group called SEAL Team Physical Training. As a result, I have actually appeared in public in workout tights or capris. In terms of capris, the workout ones would be the only ones I have ever worn since I have never embraced capris as everyday wear. In terms of workout tights, I have always hated seeing the skin-tight leggings worn by many women, but here I am wearing essentially the same thing. They're warm on a cold morning, though, and quite easy to move in.

On the unintentional front, I spun out a 2000 Pontiac Firebird on an ice-covered stretch of Interstate 70 while rescuing younger son from a paperwork fiasco by driving him from Rawlins, Wyoming to here through something called Winter Storm Q. I, the original snow weenie, drove in deeper, more blowing snow than I ever had and managed to get all three of us (younger son's dog was also along) back safe and sound.

As for learning some Vietnamese, well, I tried. My first attempt at using Rosetta Stone on a daily or almost daily basis got interrupted by the week-long adventure of Winter Storm Q and playing catch-up on work and life after I got back. I started over again in late spring and worked my way to a bit further along than I had the first time before getting hit by an assortment of life things I don't even recall now but which made working on Vietnamese seem a very self-centered activity, sort of like, well, blogging. Will I get back to it again for the third time's being the charm? No one knows, certainly not I.

I now find myself three days from the start of a new year, and halfway through the 58th year of my life. How should I resolve to spend it? Living a philosophy such as asking why the hell not somewhat was? I do have one in mind that might work. Doing specific, quantifiable things such as exercising a certain number of days in each week, month, or the entire year? Doing one profound thing in each of several general areas? I've done both of those in earlier years. The quantifiable one encourages a competitive streak that I'd rather be rid of, but it's also hard to know if I've really done something remarkable in any given area.

Non-caloric food for thought, I guess, over the next several days as I try not to think about the excess real food consumed during the holiday weeks. For now, let's just say that I resolve to come up with something by 12:00 a.m. Wednesday.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Quilts with a History and a Future

My latest two quilts having been presented to the intended recipient, I can now post about them here. I was once told that every quilter made only one quilt out of t-shirts because they were difficult to work with and just not very interesting to use. Being someone who often swims upstream (and that really is the way to get to an eddy when you're river kayaking), I've now done three. The first one was practice for the two that followed, which would be the two I'm posting about here.

I moved to Charlottesville in the summer of 1978. As a frequent user of the university's academic computing center, I got to know several of the staff members fairly well. I actually became an occasional babysitter for the daughter of one of my staff friends. Later, I was assistant leader for a Girl Scout troop that my friend led (that's actually a bad word to use because Girl Scout troops are really girl-led) which included her daughter as a member. By the time the daughter was a teenager, I had children--sons--of my own, and she babysat them. As an aside, this was not an easy undertaking given that if the sons knew a sitter was coming, they spent the better part of the afternoon planning Babysitter Traps. This usually took the form of a stack of afghans or blankets hurtling down on the sitter from the second floor of our open foyer. After the first time, a sitter came to expect the trap and played along, making it all the more fun.

Back to the story at hand. My friend's daughter went to college, went to work (at DisneyWorld), went to graduate school (in child life), and went back to work (at a hospital in Boston). She even got married. I made a quilt as a wedding present.

I used baseball fabric as the backing. After all, what else would two die-hard Boston Red Sox fans want on the back of their quilt. As the daughter went through life, so did her mother, eventually retiring, downsizing, and moving to Mt. Desert Island in Maine. As she was downsizing, my friend assembled about 40 of her daughter's t-shirts from throughout her life, and asked me if I would make a t-shirt quilt from them. I was touched to be asked and immediately agreed with the stipulation that there be no deadline. On a project like that, I did not want to be rushing to meet a deadline and cutting corners as a result.

The first thing I did was to make this quilt for younger son.

The shirts are all from Odyssey of the Mind or Destination Imagination, two creative-problem-solving competitions younger son took part in in grades 3 through 10. Since I'd never done a t-shirt quilt, I figured I should practice on one before I started the "commissioned" one, and this seemed a good way to do that. In researching t-shirt quilt patterns and instructions, most showed quilting limited to around each shirt piece and between blocks of a t-shirt with fabric borders, or no quilting but ties at the corners of all the squares. As I was sewing the blocks of this one together, I kept thinking how neat it would be to quilt on the t-shirt pieces themselves, on the t-shirt design or outlining parts of the design. That's what I ended up doing, and it looked so amazing that I knew that was the way I was going to do the commissioned one.

Back to the commissioned t-shirt quilt. After going through the boxes of shirts, I decided that it really needed to be two medium-sized quilts if I wanted to include as many different shirts as possible. And with two quilts, the recipient and her husband would each have one to use. I also decided that I didn't want to orient all the shirts in the same direction as I'd done with the practice quilt. That arrangement could be taken to convey that the quilt should be hung so as to be viewed and admired. I wanted these quilts to be used. It occurred to me that orienting the blocks in all directions would mean that a person sitting or lying under one of the quilts would always see at least one shirt logo oriented top-side-up. First things first, with those decisions made it was off to the races.

Step one was actually to wash and dry all the shirts without using any fabric softener. I will admit that I'm not sure why I was supposed to do that but I think it was to avoid there being any coating on the fabric that might interfere with a later step. Step two was to cut out the backs or fronts of the shirts with more than enough of a border around each logo. Step three was to iron each t-shirt logo to a fusible interfacing (this is where the fabric softener coating might have been a problem), again leaving a large enough border that I would be able to cut around the logo and leave a good-sized interfacing border around the actual logo.

Then the fun began. I had slightly over 40 t-shirt logos (some shirts had a front logo and a back logo) of sizes varying from about three inches on each side to over a foot on each side. In other words, I couldn't just cut them into squares and start sewing. I had to think about how the logos would go into a row by column arrangement that had a nice mix of colors.I had to calculate not only what size square to cut from each logo piece but also what width of fabric I would sew around the logo to get blocks of appropriate sizes to sew together into the quilt top. I should say that it did take some thought to choose a silvery grey fabric that would look fairly neutral around the logos of varying color. As it turned out, I could use 39 shirt logos between the two quilts. There were a couple of logos I couldn't use, but I am fairly sure that I used something from each of the shirts.

Enough background that may only interest those who quilt. Presenting "The Fabric of a Life (in Two Parts)"

In terms of size, each quilt is lying atop a queen-sized bed. I did not take the time to photograph every individual logo, but I did photograph several that give a sense of the quilting within each logo.

Finally, there were two t-shirts that I just could not cut up to use in the quilt. The logos were just two large. Interestingly, both were shirts that I had given the recipient of the quilts after trips my family took. I used these as bags for the quilts, one in each.

I started these quilts in the summer of 2012. I finished them a bit more than a year later, just in time for two friends who were driving to Maine to deliver them. I have mailed quilts before, but I really prefer not to. I haven't been able to write this post or mention the quilts on Facebook because I did not want to spoil the surprise of my friend and her husband giving these to their daughter in person. I heard this morning that that had happened and that the quilts were joyfully received and would clearly be cherished. Since I make quilts not as heirloom items or to be entered into shows, that's music to my ears. I make quilts to be used and loved, and I know these will be.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

If the Third Time Is the Charm ...

... is the fourth one the harm? I did my fourth GORUCK Light last weekend, and it took more out of me than any of the three previous ones did. It may even surpass the one GORUCK Challenge I've done; it's at least close in terms of how drained I felt at the end and how sore I felt on the day after. Perhaps it was having gotten complacent and not training enough or well enough. Perhaps it was how cold the water we got personal with about halfway through the event was. I do know that after the water I never quite felt at full strength. While I was the one encouraging others on the event's Facebook page in the days leading up to the event, by the end, they were all encouraging me.

I registered for this Light because a fellow karate student was interested in trying it. Unfortunately, the diagnosis of a broken foot kept her from any serious preparation, so the sons and I did it on our own. Still, the more GORUCK events one does, the more they become mini-reunions with people with whom one has done other events. We had done one Challenge and one Light with Matt, the cadre leading the event. Someone else had done the Challenge with us. At least one other person had done the Nasty. While we did not know each other, we at least had discussion of the Nasty to give us a connection. Other participants included a woman who had been a trainer at the gym to which we belong and a future groom (wedding in January) doing the Light as a bachelor party with his best man and some friends. This Light had the highest percentage (nearly 50 percent) of women versus men of any of the events we've done. I was clearly the oldest woman. The man doing the Light with one of his daughters while another daughter shadowed and shot photos was at least of my parental generation.

The Light began as the others had. We lined up in ranks for Matt to do a roll call. One woman who responded so meekly Matt could not hear her got named as the first Team Leader (TL). Several people arrived late, resulting in their leading us in push-ups. They'll probably be on time if they ever do another GORUCK event. Matt inspected all our rucks for the correct number of bricks (two for those weighing under 150 pounds and four for those weighing over that magic number). Bricks had to be labelled with one's name and phone number. Duct-tape-wrapped packages left in garbage bins or on public ground tend to excite local law enforcement personnel; having one's identifying information listed is designed to keep people from simply tossing their bricks at the end. Matt inspected the required team weight that had to weigh at least 15 pounds; the 21-pound sledge hammer we had clearly fulfilled that criterion. Finally, he stated the main "rules." We would be acting as a team of 30-some members not as 30-some individuals. We would never go anywhere alone; we would always have a buddy. While moving as a group, we would always be within an arm's reach of the person in front of us. We did not want to be further apart should Matt yell, "Reach!" The American flag we would be carrying would never, NEVER, NEVER touch the ground. Nor would the team weight or any of our individual rucksacks.

The fun and games started with a low, infantry-style crawl across a lawn, around a tree, and back. We had 15 minutes for everyone to do it. Younger son and I hung back encouraging one of the latecomers who was struggling with the crawl. We offered to take his ruck to make it easier or to stay with him so that he didn't have to worry about being the only person not to make the time limit. He said he had some physical issues that he had just discovered would make it impossible for him to do the event successfully. He dropped back on the crawl and out of the Light. The low crawl segued into the physical training (PT) part of the Welcome Party. Flutter kicks with the ruck on your chest. Legs held at varying angles for varying amounts of time.

Since we were doing all this in front of the University of Virginia Rotunda and Matt has a fetish for stairs, we next had to box jump (jumping off both feet and landing on both feet) up the steps and run back down. We had to do eight of those laps. This was easier for some people to do than others. I will admit that I used the side walls for assistance with the jumping, though I never resorted to just walking up the stairs as some people did. I also did not run down the stairs, though I did run on the level ground in between the different sets of stairs. I have a legitimate fear of falling, and I did not want this to go down as the second GORUCK event in which I opened my head up by falling.

The stairs having been conquered, we were given a reconnaissance mission by Matt. We were to go, in a group, to a certain statue and collect various bits if information. We were also supposed to take photographs of certain of the information points. A couple of people had cell phones with cameras, and I noted that I had a small digital camera in the dry box in my ruck. We also had a time hack we had to meet or suffer the consequences which is usually more PT. We set off, and it didn't take long for some people to propose that we meet the time hack by sending a couple of people off in a cab or running to the statue to collect the required information and photos. Several of us reminded them that we were a team, and we would stay together. It was specifically suggested that I, as carrier of the camera, go ahead with two other people in the interests of making the time hack. I refused, again noting that we were a team. Eventually and still together, we did reach the statue and collected the required information and photos. We hustled as best we could back to Matt and presented our findings. No, we did not meet the time hack. I honestly cannot recall, now a week later, if there were any PT consequences, so perhaps there were not.

As in our other Light with Matt, we then set off to collect a large log or telephone pole that we expected we would carry until we encountered the water portion of the festivities. Given the number of people, it was fairly easy to swap in and out to divide the load. Those not carrying the log had to carry their rucksacks without using the straps. Eventually, rucks went back on our backs, and those not carrying the log traveled in Indian run fashion. A can got passed back from person to person. When the last person in line got it, they had to jog to the head of the line--right behind the people carrying the log--and start passing it back again.

We carried the log through the student business district known as the Corner, down the main street of town, and then down the pedestrian shopping street. We got more than a few strange looks, and several people asked what we were doing. We encouraged them to google GORUCK.com for details. At times I simply replied that we were "building better Americans." At the end of the pedestrian mall, we put the log down long enough for a bathroom break at the local tourist center. Fortunately, we were still clean and not too sweaty. Having done a Challenge and Light with Matt, I know that was soon to change.

Again carrying the log, we had a nice downhill stretch ending underneath a bridge crossing the Rivanna River. The "Viking ship" log we carried in the May Challenge and the pole-type log we carried in the June Light were still where we'd dropped them in those events. Knowing what was coming, I asked Matt if I could be the first one in the water. Why I did that escapes me now; had I known just how cold the water would be I'm sure I would have taken longer. As it was, the first wave of people in the water quickly encouraged the others to join us, knowing that the sooner everyone got wet, the sooner everyone could get dry. We did push-ups, including some of the dive-bomber variety, in the water and, what else, some flutter kicks. Holding our rucks over our heads, we also did squats. Eventually, Matt offered that if we could all cross the river and climb up the bank to the other side before he crossed the bridge to meet us, we would get a 10-minute break. We were to cross holding wrists since the bottom was slick and irregular. There was at least one spot where I felt a rock or branch on the river bottom that might have trapped the foot of someone who stumbled there.

Crossing holding wrists was fine in theory. In practice, though, it meant that when the person carrying the team-weight sledge hammer slipped and lost control of it, it hit the knee of the woman walking next to him. She got across the river but was in so much pain it was impossible for her to continue. Matt noted that she would get a medical drop, meaning that she could register and do another Light for free. Had she voluntarily dropped, that would not have been the case. I'm not sure we legitimately earned a 10-minute break, but the medical issue meant that we got one. It was nice, though some of us kept moving to try to warm up from the river.

We headed off down a trail that runs along the side of the river. Those of us who had evented with Matt before knew that we were heading to a park with a giant, steep, grassy hill that we would have to scale doing low or infantry crawls. For par tof the way we did another Indian run but with a rather heavy rock. I was not displeased when the Indian run ended before I became the last person in line and run carrying the rock. Those of us who had done other events with Matt wondered whether we would have some fun and games in a sandy area we knew we would cross. During the Challenge, we'd spent a non-trivial amount of time there crawling, lunging, or otherwise crossing back and forth. This time, we simply bear-crawled over the sand, which meant our still-wet clothes did not get the scratchy coating of sand they did in the Challenge. Needless to say, this was a good thing.

When we got to the hill we were going to low crawl up, I steeled myself for what I knew was going to be difficult. We had low crawled up this hill in the May Challenge and in the June Light, and having seen a photo of the crawl during the Light, knew that I'd basically sucked at it then, with my butt far too far up in the air. If you want to check it out, the article with the photo starts on page 26 of this issue of Blue Ridge Life. Matt made it all the more compelling by announcing that if anyone got their butt too high in the air, they would be sent to the bottom of the hill to start over. Two people were sent back, but despite having to start over, both still made it to the top before I did.

Yep, I was last up despite younger son's taking my ruck for a short while. How he managed to low crawl with an extra ruck is beyond me; I did not mind at all when he passed it back to me. Eventually, someone who had finished the crawl relieved me of the ruck, which made it easier to finish. Younger son stayed with me, offering encouragement. Matt commented when I was getting close to the top. I told him that I might be last but that I wouldn't quit. I think he liked that.

After the crawl, we had to box jump up a long flight of stairs and run down eight times. Since I was the last person to start the process, I was also the last person to finish. The last couple of times up were pretty hard. I was conscious that most of the other participants were done and watching me. By the time I hit my penultimate lap, I was on my own. When I headed down the hill to start the last jump up, older son and the guy who had done the Challenge with us said that I couldn't finish alone. They ran down with me and jumped up after me. I thought I might cry out of sentiment as opposed to anger (I cry when I am angry, though that anger is often directed at myself); I may have been last, but I didn't finish alone.

Jumps finished, we were directed to get back to the starting point. The time hack we were given was totally unreasonable for the distance we had to cover (4 plus miles) given the loads on our backs and how much else we'd already done. I was having trouble with the pace others were setting, so I got moved to the front of the line to carry the flag and set a pace I was comfortable with. That was a quick walk; I knew that I could not jog for long without needing a hit off my albuterol inhaler, something I was trying to avoid doing. Besides setting the pace at the front, younger son and I were supposed to be navigating the group which was easier as a "follow us" activity than yelling from the back when and where to turn.

As we approached the starting point and could see Matt in the distance, a lot of people started telling me to jog so that we could finish at a run. Younger son told me I didn't have to do it because I think I may have looked to him about as bad as I was feeling at that point. I managed a run, though when Matt reached to take the flag I was carrying, I basically collapsed. There wasn't much recovery time, though, because Matt directed us to bear crawl up the steps of the Rotunda and then crab walk back down. We then did a few more PT exercises and were declared to be finishers. Matt handed out the patches. Some folks left for the student area likely in search of beer. Some of us chatted for a short while before heading off to the rest of the day, which for me included dinner with friends who got quite a kick when I had to slowly rise and gently walk to the rest room. My body was that tight.

This is going into the books as the hardest of the Lights we've done. In a way, it may have been as hard as the Challenge because I had expectations of how I thought I could or should do, and I didn't live up to them. Part of that may have been due to the cold water; I know that I never really felt the same after that as I had before. I also did not train as much as I should have with all the weight I was going to carry. Since the next planned GORUCK event is a Challenge (think four bricks and three liters of water) followed a couple of hours later by a Light (think two bricks and the same amount of water), I need to up my training in a serious manner. I want to finish both those events.

Why do I keep doing these? I thought after the May Challenge that I would never do another Challenge, and then I register to do a Challenge and a Light in the same 24 hours, not once, but twice, in March and again in May. A big part of it is that it's something I can feel a sense of accomplishment doing. I don't really have a career to speak of. The kids are grown if not both out of the house. The house is rarely clean, though the laundry does get done and put away daily. While I don't feel as if I fail at those any of those or other life things, they aren't the sort of thing you'd feel a real sense of pride in doing. Many people, especially some my age, have told me I'm crazy to do these. That may make succeeding at them all the sweeter. At some point, I expect that I will say I just can't physically do them any longer, but I'm not yet at that point.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Nasty Was, Well, Nasty (and a Total Blast)

I sent email and Facebook posts Saturday night with a one-sentence summary of my experience at GORUCK's Nasty at Massnutten Resort in McGaheysville, VA: It was a blast, and now the husband needs to be very, very nice to me so that I don't get him in trouble for the multitude of bruises in awkward places on my body. Yes, I have set a new record on the number of bruises, but it was well worth it. And now for the more-than-one sentence account.

The Nasty was billed as "obstacles and beer ... Special Forces style." Beer was one dollar. The obstacles were the Special Forces style, patterned after those on Nasty Nick, the obstacle course that all Green Berets must pass in their Selection process. Unlike events such as Tough Mudder or the Spartan Race, Nasty was not a race. Some of the people in the first wave to start, at the same 7:00 a.m. for which my alarm was set, clearly treated it as such, with the fastest finisher taking roughly one and a half hours to complete the 19 obstacles located on the six-mile course that included climbing three of the resort's ski slopes.

Having done several other GORUCK events, I knew more people there than I thought I did. Picking up my event packet, a man came up beside me, greeted me by name, and gave me a hug. I will be honest and admit that I could not tell you which event or events I'd done with him. Heading to the cash register in the PX to pay for our merchandise, the founder of GORUCK greeted me by name and gave me a large hug. There were several people whom I did recall from my first GORUCK event even before they asked how my head was or noted that it looked better than it had after that event. One person approached and said he'd done the Charlottesville Challenge with me. It was nice to feel part of a larger community; it made me a bit less nervous about what was to come the next day.

I did Nasty with the sons and the girlfriend of the younger one. I was heartened by the fact that the sum of their three ages was larger than my singular age. (When I tested for my black belt in Myo Sim kendo, the combined ages of the three people with whom I tested was less than my age.) We made a good team, encouraging each other and, where needed, physically assisting each other, though that was more of the males assisting the females than the other way around. We were in the wave starting at 10:00, which was good since younger son and girlfriend did not arrive at our hotel room until 2:00 a.m. If we'd been starting earlier, we'd have started with a much larger sleep deficit.

Arriving for our start, there were not many people my age to be seen. We passed three women looking to be close to my age and who were looking up at the course as they drank coffee. I noted that they must be the mothers who were not doing it with their kids. I eventually saw a woman looking to be about my age and wearing a number indicating that she was doing Nasty; she turned out to be five years younger, but at least in the same decade of life. We also ran into more people with whom we had done other GORUCK events, something that also happened at several points along the course. Again, the feeling of community was a nice one.

The initial maps of the Nasty course showed 27 obstacles. Some got cut and some got moved, meaning that the map was somewhat outdated. The reconstruction from memory that older son and I did generated 19 obstacles and a possibly accurate list of the order in which they appeared on the course. If I got some of the order or some of the names wrong, I apologize. We weren't exactly checking them off as we completed them given that we weren't carrying any extraneous things such as pencil and course map with us. Many people were carrying rucksacks or water bladder bags. We thought about carrying water but decided that we didn't want weight on our backs to interfere with our balance. Given that there were three water stations along the course, we didn't miss having water with us. There was also at least one obstacle at which people were told to remove any sort of backpack. When we finished the course, I actually voiced the question of whether someone might have left a backpack or bag somewhere along the course. If it were too far up the course, retrieving it could be a real hassle.

As might be expected, obstacles started out somewhat simple if not easy, and got more complicated and harder as the course progressed. Interestingly, though, the two obstacles we saw that got shut down due to safety issues were among the simpler ones. Many of the first, simpler obstacles involved one skill that would later be combined with other skills in the more complicated obstacles. Low Rail required low crawling under a wooden grid. Cargo Net required climbing a cargo net to the top, going over the top beam, and coming down the other side. Swing, Stop, & Jump required a rope swing to a beam and then jumping from there to the ground. As we were approaching one of what might have been a simple obstacle, someone in front of us fell to the ground with, as one of the sons put it, his arm pointing in a direction an arm is not supposed to point. We were directed around the obstacle and on to the next one. We looked back at one point and rescue squad personnel were treating the person, and it appeared that the obstacle would be permanently closed. On another obstacle not too much later, a woman fell onto her back while attempting to jump from a lower beam to a higher log and grab it to climb over it. I was next in line to do the obstacle, and the GORUCK cadre monitoring it suggested that I not do it. He said that I could try if I wanted to, but I took his first suggestion and limited myself to jumping onto the low beam and then off. Younger son's girlfriend did try it. She could not keep her grip on the higher log but fell in a controlled manner and landed on her feet.

As I said, it took one of the earliest starters about an hour and a half to complete the course. It took us about seven and a half hours, a lot of which was waiting in line to attempt an obstacle. The first significant wait was for Under Cover, which required crawling through one of two tunnels. It looked as though construction of the tunnels was fairly easy--dig a trench with a backhoe, put plywood over it, then pile the dirt dug from the trench on top of the plywood. Because some people were unsure about entering the tunnel, and others did not want to start right after another person, the line backed up quite a bit. People were given the option of skipping the obstacle by bear crawling up the slope a certain distance and then crab walking back down. Those who chose to wait for the tunnel were treated to stand-up by Jason, GORUCK's founder. Waiting was worth it just for Jason's explanation of GORUCK's "three rules."

Those three rules, stated on t-shirts so popular that at one point on Friday I counted over eight people (including myself) wearing three rules shirts in the same room. Those rules are
     (1) Always look cool.
     (2) Never get lost.
     (3) If you get lost, look cool.
I am not sure why, but I had interpreted this as "looking cool" being "cool" in a stylish manner. I'd thought of the rules in a comical sense, imagining a cool-looking person trying to look even cooler when lost or otherwise doing something wrong. For that, I extend apologies to Jason and his current or former Special Forces colleagues. Always look cool? Always look "cool" as in calm, collected, and controlled. Look in charge so that those who need to will look up to you. Never get lost? Try not to let things go south in a hurry. Try to keep the situation together. If you get lost, look cool? If things do get worse, at least appear to stay calm, collected, and controlled. The people with you need to know that you're on top of things and ready to handle whatever needs handling.

Under Cover was one of my favorite obstacles, though it was one that had me very nervous during the wait time. I'm not claustrophobic at all; I've had two MRIs without freaking out. Still there was something about looking at the small opening into the tunnel and hearing other people around us talk about losing it or freezing up did get some of my nerves active. While some people did not want to follow anyone else through the tunnel, the four of us went one after another. I followed older son, younger son's girlfriend followed me, and younger son brought up the rear. While the entrance to the tunnel looked quite small, the tunnel itself seemed roomy. I could do much of it on my hands and knees rather than belly. It opened up a bit at each of the four turns, too.

After the tunnel through the earth, we crawled or bear crawled up a large tube, in an obstacle called The Tunnel Rat. It was a bit slippery in the inside but otherwise quite uneventful. I wonder in 20-20 hindsight whether putting this before the more earthy tunnel would have given some of those who bypassed Under Cover some enough extra nerve that they might have attempted it.

Commando Crawl was memorable because while waiting and watching other people do it, I didn't think I could. There were two logs with a single strand of rope between them. The goal was to go over the first log, crawl along the rope, and go over the second log. If you were able to stay on top of the rope, getting over the second log was pretty much a done deal. If you flipped upside down to be hanging below the rope, well, that was a problem. I knew in theory how the rope should be traversed--one leg with its foot hooked over the rope behind you and the other leg hanging down as a counterbalance. Getting started on the rope was the hard part for me. I'd watched older son do it, getting the one foot hooked on the rope before leaving the "safety" of the first log and then getting the counterbalancing leg in place. Having accomplished that, I actually felt fairly secure. I took it slow and easy and found counterbalancing when I started to shift to one side or the other sort of easy. The trouble came at the very end, when I was going up to the second log. My arms just seemed to lose whatever strength they'd been using, and I flipped over. If I'd thought about it--or not thought about it perhaps--I might have stayed attached to the rope and attempted to right myself. Instead I let go and dropped off. I made it further than I thought I would and actually look forward to trying this again should the opportunity ever present itself. I felt some satisfaction even though I was the only one of the four of us not to make it all the way.

The next obstacle, Tarzan, was another that I'd like to try again, not to mention one I plan to train to do. Like Tarzan, one swung across a series of monkey bars over muddy water. As with Commando Crawl, I was the only one of the four of us not to make it. That said, younger son hit the water the first two times he tried to jump out to the first bar. After that, he came to the side that had a beam on which one could balance to grab the first bar. I had no problem grabbing that first bar; my trouble came from misjudging how far it was to the next bar. When I swung and tried to grab it, oh well, that was all she wrote. I at least managed to remain standing as I hit the water below meaning that I only got wet up to a bit past my knees.

As an intermission from specific obstacles, remember that Nasty was held at a ski resort. Completing the course involved climbing up three different ski slopes. Some had obstacles along the way, but there were many stretches of just putting one foot in front of the other and trying not to look up and see how far we still had to go. Of course, we eventually got high enough to be in the clouds and unable to see far enough in front to know just how far we had to go. It was not so foggy, though, that we did not see the bear that crossed the trail some distance ahead of us. Fortunately, it did not have cubs in tow and it seemed less interested in us than we were in it.

Tough Nut was a series of board fashioned into Xs. I think one was supposed to go from the vertex of one X to the vertex of the next without touching the ground in between. However, given the challenging distance they were away from each other. I simply climbed up and through one and then went on to the next. I didn't necessarily do it the way the designer intended, but I did do it.

"Do it" is more than I can say about the next obstacle, The Wobbler. This was one of the two obstacles that I completely bypassed. I have a very real fear of heights that did come into play on some obstacles. I might have attempted The Wobbler had there been a way to initiate a plan B and duck out or finish it more safely and quickly. Because only three people could start the obstacle at any one time, we were told when we arrived that it would be a 50-minute wait. If we wanted to bypass it and get on with the course, the cost was to do 50 burpees (some people were doing 8-count body builders instead of burpees). After considering the likelihood that I'd end up in a fetal position and crying in the cargo net at the top, I elected to do the 50 burpees. When a team of young men came through and tried to do 50 as a team or between five and ten each, I pointed out that if a 57-year-old housewife could knock off 50 burpees, surely they should each be able to do it, too. That did not convince them, though. They did the 50 as a team and went on their way.

I went to Nasty with the aim of having a good time, and for the most part, I did. The time after I did my 50 burpees was the one period in which I did not have a good time. The 50-minute wait for the others to do The Wobbler grew into somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours. It started to rain, and it was a cold rain. I did not want to continue on the course without my team, so I sat for a while, jogged in place for a while, people watched for a while, chatted with the others for a while, and otherwise tried to amuse myself and stay somewhat warm since staying dry was basically impossible. The others did eventually get to experience The Wobbler, and it was fun to watch them from the security of my burpees. Maybe next time, Wobbler, maybe next time.

The Wobbler was followed by a long downhill stretch that included my other favorite obstacle, Low Wire. Low Wire was exactly as billed. It was a downhill stretch somewhere in the 30 to 50 yard range (I am not good at distances unless I'm pacing them off) crawling beneath barbed wire. How low was the barbed wire? Older son guessed it was nine inches in places based on the fact that the back of his shoes was occasionally snagged. I occasionally had my hat get caught, being a bit luckier than the woman in front of me who got her hair snagged and needed help to get it free. There was a casualty on Low Wire, though. Older son had given me his brand new Batman Under Armour top since I was so cold, and the rocky bed for Low Wire wore holes in it though not in the shirt I was wearing underneath.

Finishing Low Wire put us at the bottom of one ski slope and ready to climb another, the same long, steep one that we did at the end of a GORUCK Light held at Massanutten in June. While this Memory Walk could possibly be considered an obstacle, it was not an official one. Instead, it offered the chance to reflect on the sacrifice others have made so that we can do things like Nasty. We were given small American flags which we were to insert into a pegboard at the top of the mountain. As we climbed, we were asked to think of Master Sgt. George Banner, an August casualty in Afghanistan. He lived in Orange, VA, about a half hour away from where I live and about an hour away from Massanutten. We somewhat split up along the climb, older son in front, me in the middle, and younger son and his girlfriend in the back. The solitary nature of the climb made it easy to reflect. Doing GORUCK events has made me so much more aware of what it takes to serve in the military, and not just the Special Forces side of it. I reached the age at which someone might enlist in the military during the waning days of the Vietnam War, and never considered enlistment. I don't know if I would enlist were I in my late teens or early twenties now. I just know that I have come to value the fact that there are those who are willing to serve and make, if needed, the ultimate sacrifice.

We regrouped at the top of the slope and were told that the walk down on a service road was considered The Mogadishu Mile. We were to stay together as a group, and if we separated we should consider that we had failed to negotiate the obstacle. This was pretty much the only walk during Nasty in which we did stay together as a foursome. Several groups came jogging past us, but we pretty much walked down. Younger son's girlfriend and I have both had our share of knee issues, and we didn't want something to get hurt before we'd had a chance to finish Nasty.

Four of the five obstacles remaining after The Mogadishu Mile contained one or both of my personal nemeses, height and balance. I've always been somewhat afraid of heights. The balance issues may simply be age-related. They may also be due to a hereditary neuro-muscular condition I have a 50 percent chance of having, and which would eventually make it impossible for me to do anything like this. The first obstacle, Easy Balancer, involved walking across three logs, each a bit more wobbly and each a bit higher than the one before. I made it across the first log just fine, but started to falter on the second, longer one. Just as there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is more than one way to cross a log. I simply sat down, legs hanging down at each side, and scooted across. I did the same on the third log. I honestly can't say if I would have felt more of a sense of accomplishment had I tried to walk across and fallen. Had that happened, I might not have been able to walk on. I am already thinking about ways in which I can practice and improve the balance thing before the next time I do something like this.

The Inclining Walls were not an issue given the help I got from the sons. The walls were too high for me to jump and grab the top on my own, so a lift was essential in my being able to get the one foot over the top that is essential to finishing. Next up was The Weaver, and I am not ashamed to say that this is where I lost it. The Weaver was an inverted V shape with multiple boards on each side of the V. To complete the obstacle, one was supposed to go over one board and under the next. I managed to make it under the second board but after I went over the third I looked down and had a moment of panic at the thought of going under the next board, higher up. Falling onto my back was not something I wanted to experience. I started to whimper and then cry. Several people offered to come help me get down, but I didn't want to do that. I wanted to finish The Weaver in some way. I ended up just climbing up and over each board, ladder-like. Of course, when I got to the bottom of the far side, it was a sizable drop to the ground and I froze again even with older son standing there ready to help me. I finally went down on my stomach and got in the same position used for going over something. While I wasn't proud of losing it, I was proud that I'd finished it rather than drop in the middle.

With two obstacles left, the skies opened a bit more, and the rain picked up. The Confidence Climb gave me anything but. It was a huge 12-rung ladder that topped out about 40 feet up. The first four rungs were about a yard apart. The fifth rung was a longer interval up followed by two more about a yard apart. The rest of the rungs were separated by the longer intervals. Having lost it on The Weaver, I did not want to lose it a second time. As I stood in line, I decided that I would climb to the fourth rung up, and come down from there. A man behind me in line admitted to his own fear of heights and said he was doing the same thing. Had The Confidence Climb been earlier or had I been earlier, I might have tried for the seventh rung. But by the time we got there, we had been on the course for almost seven hours. I was also cold and wet and wearing shoes coated in mud. Going over the fourth rung seemed challenging enough. Younger son went all the way to the top and back. I tried not to watch, but I did see him go over the very top rung before again turning away so I couldn't see.

The last obstacle was The Tough One, and involved both height and balance. Climb either a rope or a ladder up about 15 feet. Walk across a grid of boards, keeping your balance. Climb a 20- or 25-foot ladder, go over the log at the top, and come down on a straight cargo net. In all honesty, I did not even consider doing this one. Had it been warm and dry, I might have attempted at least the climb and grid, but the folks in charge might have had to let me do that much and then go back down the ladder to the ground. The two sons went over the entire obstacle, and I was able to watch each the entire way unlike with younger son on The Confidence Climb. I was proud of both of them and glad I was there to watch.

Older son and I then jogged to the finish line and got our Nasty 001 patches just as the tent cover over the patch table tried to blow away in the wind. Younger son and his girlfriend walked down; she had some muscle soreness she didn't want to risk aggravating. Younger son and I had a free beer, after which I got back to the basics of getting dry and warm. At that point, I did wish that I had paid for two nights in the hotel just so we would have had a place to clean up and warm up. Hindsight being 20-20, we opted for changing clothes beside or inside our Element or Forester. I must admit that seeing the bruising that had been hidden by my pants and sleeves was a bit disconcerting. I told the husband that he has to be very, very nice to me for the next little while, because I could probably get him in a lot of trouble were I to claim he was responsible. I have never been this bruised and in so many places. It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to go away and be replaced by the more usual bruises from karate.

A few more thoughts 48 hours out. I had a blast, even with the cold, wet wait for the others to do The Wobbler. I would definitely do it again and hope I get the chance. I have confidence that the GORUCK folks will try to iron out some of the wrinkles of excessive wait times. This might require running the event for two days instead of one. It might require having obstacles set up so that more people can do them at the same time. Have four or five tunnels instead of two. Have four or five monkey bar rows rather than three. In terms of specific suggestions, I would offer to the GORUCK powers that be that there should be more than three water stations and more than one porta-potty station along the route. Older son mentioned that it might have been nice to have an up-to-date diagram of the course and a short description of the preferred method of negotiating each obstacle. On The Wobbler, for example, one was evidently supposed to climb the rope or the ladder and then go over a log into a cargo net. Instead, some people were climbing up and going into the cargo net by going through it. If it had not been so wet and cold, I think there would have been more of a party atmosphere at the finish, but by the time we got there, a lot of people had already left, and I can't say that I blame them.

There has been discussion on various Facebook threads of some people's posting that having done Nasty makes them better than others who did not do it. I don't know who those people might be, but if any are friends of mine, they won't be if I find out. Having finished Nasty in no way makes me better than anyone else. At the same time, my choosing not to do two obstacles and and to do others in what might be a nonstandard way does not make me less than someone who did all the obstacles in their intended fashion. I can, however, say in all sincerity that the Jean who jogged across the finish line was a better Jean than the one who jogged across the start line 7.5 hours earlier. I had fun and grew a bit in the process. I'm not sure it gets better than that on a rainy, cold day in the mountains of the Old Dominion.

Perhaps I'll see some of you at a future Nasty.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Steps along the Way

Tomorrow, older son and I will drive across the Blue Ridge Mountains to Massanutten ski resort where on Saturday, joined by younger son and his girlfriend, we will attempt something called the GORUCK Nasty.  It's an obstacle course up, down, and around the ski slopes. There will be 27 obstacles with names such as Swing Stop & Jump, The Dirty Name, The Belly Buster, The Tunnel Rat, Gorilla Swing, Small Body of Water, Confidence Climb, and, at the end, The Tough One. It is not a race, though I'm sure there will be people there treating it as such. My aim, and that of my compatriots, is to finish and have some fun in the process. We will help each other as needed, just as we will help the other 96 people in our start wave if they need it. Still, it is a bit daunting.

I have wrestled with all sorts of things that probably don't merit wrestling. Should I wear workout clothes or the water-shedding cargo pants I wore in my last three GORUCK events? Should I wear long sleeves or short, a hat or not? I will not be carrying the bricks required in the GORUCK Light or Challenge, but should I carry a pack with a water bladder? Though it is possible I will change my mind between now and Saturday morning at 10:00, when our wave of 100 people will start the course, I have decided to wear the clothes I wore for one GORUCK Challenge and two GORUCK Lights, the water-shedding cargo pants with a water-shedding, hot pink t-shirt. I will have arm sleeves along to wear or loan as needed. Since there will supposedly be water available along the course, I don't plan on carrying any, which will leave my center of gravity where I usually find it, not tilted off-center by the weight of three liters of water. The bursitis in my knees has been acting up lately, so I will wear lightweight knee braces over compression stockings and under neon-bright, lightweight knee socks to hold the braces in place. I did this for the other GORUCK events, and it worked nicely. I will wear the cross-trainers that I wear for morning workouts. I will likely decide against a hat since it usually starts to bother me partway through an event. The key to the car will go in older son's dry box, meaning that the only thing I will carry will be my rescue inhaler which I hope not to need.

Never having done any sort of obstacle course, I am not sure what to expect other than that I will likely be terrified at times, uncertain at other times, and blissful at just a small number of times. I will finish, and I will, overall, pronounce it fun. I will be glad that I did it. Perhaps most important, I will learn a bit more about myself, something I seem to be doing more in late middle age than I did as a teenager. I do like the person I seem to be becoming and wish it had not taken me this long to get there.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I May Be Crazy

I have previously written about having finished a GORUCK Challenge. I have also finished three GORUCK Lights, the first in Washington, DC; the second here in Charlottesville; and the third at Massanutten, the ski resort at which GORUCK will stage something called The Nasty in September. Yeah, I'm signed up for that. It's not a race. It will be a challenge to see what I can do, though I won't be doing it alone; I'll be with the sons and younger son's girlfriend. I'm not embarrassed to say that she and I will only do this if the men with us help.

All that aside, I have begun to contemplate doing a different kind of GORUCK challenge. In both March and May of 2014, there will be a GORUCK Challenge here start starts at 9:00 p.m on a Friday, meaning it will end sometime around 9:00 a.m. of Saturday. Five hours later, a GORUCK Light will start that will finish in the early evening hours, perhaps around 7:00. While it would not be the full 24 hours that a GORUCK Heavy takes, it would be the closest thing to a Heavy without actually being one. And while I have no big desire to do a Heavy--being awake for 24 hours? Really?-- I worry that doing this combo might make me want to do one.

If I were to attempt this, I would need to get in much better shape, especially upper body shape. The hardest thing for me to do in the Challenge I did in May was to get my rucksack off quickly and up over my head. I think I actually got it up above my head fewer than half the times we were told to do it. Not being able to get it off and up was really frustrating and made me feel like something of a failure. Were I to do another Challenge, with or without a Light following it, I would want to be much better at the whole rucksack-lift thing. I would also want to be able to carry my own pack for some of the physical training sessions and not rely so much on Steve's offering to carry my rucksack in addition to his.

STOP THE PRESSES! I just found this draft in my list of posts. When I wrote it, I was pondering doing two GORUCK events in the same 24-hour period. Having finished pondering, I registered to do just that, once in March 2014 and once in May 2014. I am, indeed, certifiably crazy.

What? I should actually post something?

In attempting to verify this blog to Pinterest, I noticed that it had had nine views today. My apologies for making you look at my most recent (ha!) post so many times. It's only 50-plus days old. I spent parts of some of those days thinking about how and why I had not posted. It all comes down to priorities. There is work. There is family. There are friends. There is a house. There are pets. There are lots of things that ask for or demand my attention. Last on the list are those things I do for myself, such as write or make art or try to learn some Vietnamese. These things done purely for myself get kicked to the curb when the things for others whisper and hook an index finger at me. Lately, I have spent or made much free time working on two quilts, a commission from a dear friend of long standing. I delivered those today to someone who will see that they get to the right person safe and sound. This should mean that I can get back to writing, which I love, or Vietnamese, at least some of which I would really like to learn, but no. There is another, smaller, quilting project afoot, followed by a bigger one. Yes, they are for other people who shall remain nameless. Perhaps I am my own worst enemy. I shall ponder this as I clean up my desk and prepare to start proofreading a 23-page document.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Taking What I Can Get

I have recently discovered two things at which I am better than the average bear, as Yogi would say. One is wall squats, in which your back is against a wall while your legs make a right angle in front. Basically, you look like a chair against the wall, an empty chair. We recently did this in SEAL Team PT workout, and when the instructor called stop after two minutes, I was one of the few people still squatting. The other thing at which I am apparently very good is the game of hot hands. If you don't remember this, it's when two people extend both their hands. One person has their hands palm up, while the other has theirs palm down. The person whose hands are at the bottom attempts to whip a hand around and slap the other person's hand. The person whose hands are at the top attempts not to let this happen bu pulling their hands away. If they succeed, they take over on the palm-up-slapping side. We did this in karate recently, and I spent most of the time as the one doing the slapping. We rotated regularly, so I did this with most of the other students there. Older son told me later that when he rotated to work with the black belt with whom I had just "played," that black belt commented, "You mom is really good at this." Wall squats and hot hands. Not as useful as some other things in the big picture called life, but I'll take success where I can find it.

A Challenge of a Different Sort

Older son and I are doing something called the 90 Day Nutrition Challenge. It's sponsored by our workout group, SEAL Team Physical Training. We missed out on the 90 Day Fitness Challenge, in which you work out daily for 90 days, because it started on the same day we started SEAL Team, and we didn't know we could have done it. Instead we're doing the 90 Day Nutrition Challenge which is not, unfortunately, just eating daily for 90 days.

Ninety days covers 13 weeks minus one day. The day after tomorrow, we will start the last two weeks of the challenge period. Up to now, there have been five two-week-long challenges and one one-week-long one. The first two weeks, we could eat anything we wanted to eat, but the only beverage that we could consume was water. Lest you think this meant giving up caffeine cold-turkey, coffee beans are not consumable only in liquid form. Caffeine-deprivation headaches aside, I enjoyed this challenge. I'd often told myself that I should stop drinking diet soda because of the acid on my teeth, and the numerous unrecognizable ingredients, and this was an easy way to do that.

The second two weeks, we were instructed to eat a fresh, colorful salad each day and have fresh fruit with or as one meal each day. Dressing on the salad was optional, though the SEAL Team director doing the challenge told us that he always had his salads dressing-free. Since I work from home and often make a salad for my lunch and already eat fruit multiple times each day, this one was no sweat at all. But wait! Older son suggested that we do the 90 Day Challenge cumulatively, meaning that we would continue to have water be our only beverage while adding the salad and fruit deal. Since it made sense to give up caffeine only once, I agreed, though with the thought of my approaching 57th birthday in the back of my mind.

Yes, a birthday, a day typically marked by the consumption of cake (or in the case of younger won, pie inside cake). The third two-week challenge was to give up refined sugar. We became the people reading the label on everything we picked up at the grocery store.  Sugar or brown sugar? Both are refined. High fructose corn syrup? Obviously bad. Evaporated corn syrup? Equally bad. Malto-dextrose? "Ose" is a bad word. Raw honey has become our go-to sweetener. The bread recipe I use only required one tablespoon of sugar, but honey does fine. In fact, I think I prefer the bread made with honey to that I made with sugar. Morning cereal became Shredded Wheat or the granola I started making in large quantities. Chicken dinner became Shake 'n Bake chicken for the husband and plain, unadulterated chicken for us. No more deli style sandwiches, because most deli meat I looked at contained sugar in some small amount. I discovered that there is sugar in things that you would not expect to contain sugar. Pure vanilla extract, not the artificial kind? Food Lion brand contains sugar; McCormick brand does not. Beef broth? Straight-up fructose rather than the high-corn-syrup kind.

I started to work on reconciling myself to no birthday cake or to one that I would have in August. Younger son had other plans, though. He located a recipe for a refined-sugar-free cake that was also dairy-free and gluten-free. He ordered some of the hard-to-find ingredients such as hazelnut and almond flours, and enlisted the husband to make the cake while the sons and I were doing a GORUCK Light at a ski resort about an hour away. They presented the cake when I came down from the shower, which is why I'm wearing a bathrobe in the photo below.
The cake is chocolate, the frosting is made with coconut milk, and there are strawberries between the layers as well as on top. While older son thought one helping was enough for him, I thought it was actually quite good. I have had vegan cupcakes before, and this tasted so much better. I don't think I'll need another cake in August, though I would not turn one down if someone offered.

As a family, we don't eat out often, with the exception of Friday night after martial arts or working out at the gym. When we hit the no-sugar challenge, we put that on hold. As a result, the next two-week challenge of not eating out (unless absolutely necessary as when traveling or at a business meal) really didn't change anything for us. It did remind us, though, how much we typically do not know about the food we order in terms of what really is in it or how it is prepared. 

When the challenge started, I figured that one of the two-week periods would involve no trans fats, and that prediction came true in the last of the two-week challenges. More ingredient list reading looking for the dirty words "partially" and/or "hydrogenated." Even if the nutrition information label says 0 (zero) for trans fat, that doesn't mean it's not there. It just means that there is less than a specified amount in one serving. With this challenge, I actually discovered how little trans fat we were consuming. With the no-refined-sugar challenge, I found lots of things in the pantry that I could no longer eat. I don't think I found one thing that I couldn't eat because it contained trans fat. 

Last up was the one-week challenge that ends tomorrow night, and this one is having a real effect on my life. It was also another one that I thought would be part of the overall plan: Don't eat in the two hours before you go to bed. I do karate or kendo every weeknight, typically eating a snack before I go and another snack when I get home. Since I don't get home some nights until after 9:30, eating that second snack would mean staying up until 11:30. Going to bed at 11:30 with the alarm set for 5:00 so older son and I could make our 6:00 workout? That would not end well. I've been eating a slightly larger pre-martial-arts snack. Some nights, I go to bed hungry, but it's hunger in a first-world problem sort of way and not at all a real hunger.

Starting the day after tomorrow, the challenge is to do all the one- and two-week challenges at the same time. Since older son and I have been doing the challenge cumulatively, nothing changes for us. We just keep on keeping on for the next two weeks, the same as we've been doing this week. 

A SEAL Team PT member not doing the challenge whether I would go back to my old ways when the challenge ends. Given that a dear friend of long standing (what some people would call an "old friend") wants to take me out to dinner in August as a belated birthday gift, I will certainly be eating out again. However, I expect to be a little more discerning about what I order. I do believe that I will enjoy the bottle of red wine that I was given for Christmas, but I will not start drinking soda again. In all honesty, I've about had my fill of salads and will be looking for other ways to serve vegetables. I've always liked steamed vegetables, for example. I'm going to keep making my bread with honey, and I plan to think twice or thrice about anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. I hope to limit my consumption of sugar to sugar-containing things that are worth it, like good ice cream or pie (I am known in some circles as a "pie diva"). The one that will likely be the most difficult? I love coffee and find that a cup of Joe makes reading the morning paper more palatable. I also find that a cup of hot tea on a cold winter's night really hits the spot. I plan to try to stick to decaf coffee and tea, and, if I can't stick to the decaf varieties, to limit the amount that I consume. 

Am I glad I did the 90 Day Nutrition Challenge? Yes, though I the 90 Day Workout Challenge would have been much easier. There, once you've done the morning workout, you're done. You don't have to think about it until the next day. With the nutrition one, you think about it virtually constantly. You want a snack? You need to figure out what it can be. The challenge is with you all day and every day. I'm not sure if I will do the nutrition challenge again should it be offered next summer, but I know at least some of what I've done this summer will stay with me. After all, didn't someone once say that we are what we eat?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Reflections on the Upcoming Passing of Time

My birthday approaches, and I find myself getting reflective, thinking of what I intended to do this year and whether I accomplished it six months in. Looking back at my post on December 31, 2012, it appears I resolved to do a GORUCK Challenge and to learn some Vietnamese. I have succeeded better on the first of those than on the second. I did successfully finish a GORUCK Challenge in May and today finished my second GORUCK Light. I felt more successful at today's Light than at either of the other two events because I managed this one without having to pass my rucksack off to anyone else so that I could keep up the pace or complete the task. While I wasn't up to helping someone else by taking their pack, I did all I could to encourage them and help them hang in there. While I have yet to register for another GORUCK Challenge, I am doing another Light in a week and one more in November. I'm skipping the July 12 Challenge here but will shadow and shoot photos as older and younger sons do one on their own, without worrying about helping me. There's another Challenge here on September 7, and I'll see how I feel about that as the date nears. I will say that I feel much more comfortable carrying two bricks than four. I was able to get my ruck over my head every time I had to today, a major improvement over the May Challenge.

As for the resolution to learn some Vietnamese, life intervened in March, and Rosetta Stone went untouched from then until about a week ago. I'm working on redoing all the lessons to get to the point at which my progress stopped. I'm not convinced that Rosetta Stone alone will do it, though. I think I might need to augment it with some straight memorization with flash cards and a bit of grammar out of a book. One hard thing is that nouns have different articles attached to them, and it's not as simple as "el" for masculine nouns and "la" for feminine nouns in Spanish. Different types of nouns have different articles. There's one for animals, another for foods, another for articles of clothing, and so on. You may not need to change the verb form to indicate tense or the noun form to indicate a plural, but they make up for it in other ways.

As I ponder passing from my 57th year into my 58th, I am thinking more about what age means any longer. If I am not in the best physical shape I have ever been in, I am certainly approaching it. At the same time, though, I take longer to recover when I do even a bit too much. (That does not explain why, at the current moment, both sons are sound asleep "recovering" from our morning Light, while I've been doing several other things around writing this.) I should be ready to go by the Light next weekend, though I may be taking it easy at SEAL Team workouts for the next several days. I do not know what my impending age of 57 means or even my current on of 56 means. I know there are people who look askance at things I do, like the GORUCK things or the martial arts, thinking I'm too old. I'd prefer to think that while one might be too young for physical things, one is only too old if they think they are. I may not move as fast as the younger people doing something, but I generally figure that as long as I don't quit, it's okay.

Those are muddled thoughts which may or may not clarify themselves in the coming eight days leading up to my birthday. I do like birthdays because they start a new year of your life, of you. Some people like to stress that each day is a new day and while those people are correct, there's something about a new year that grabs me. I expect I shall reflect more on all this, especially on the relevant day. We shall see if I make the time to release such reflection from my mind out into the world.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Being Challenged

As with the GORUCK Light patch shown in a previous post, you cannot buy this patch. Its issuer will never sell it, and I would be shocked--shocked--if anyone who has earned this patch would sell it. I earned one over the weekend, and it was much harder than I had expected, and something I could not have done on my own. From the sons' (especially the younger one) inviting me to try the GORUCK Challenge with them to their (and others') willingness to carry my pack when I was struggling, put a hand on my back to help me run a bit faster up a hill, and just verbally encourage the oldest member of their team, my success was not my own but part of a true team effort.

The Challenge I did was actually short by GORUCK Challenge standards. The Challenge is billed as 8 to 10 hours, 15 to 20 miles, but under the GORUCK philosophy of "under promise, over deliver," most are longer both time- and distance-wise. Ours lasted only 9.5 hours, but those hours started at 1:00 a.m. Using the MapMyRun map editor, I estimate that we covered somewhere around 8 miles. That said, those 8 miles only included our point-to-point travel, not any running, crawling, or other means of locomotion that we did at those points. And the point-to-point travel in most cases required carrying team members, somewhat large rocks, or what would be more appropriately described as a tree than as a branch.

I could not have succeeded at the Challenge without having done the GORUCK Light that I did in March. At the end of that event, Cadre (leader) Devin, said he thought that everyone who had been with him at the Light could finish a Challenge. I repeated that thought to myself often during the Challenge, especially at the outset when it became clear how the different cadre would make the two events even more different than the "Light" and "regular" nature might imply. After the Light, the sons and I estimated that it was about 10 percent physical training (PT), 10 percent carrying stuff (and people), and 80 percent rucking or traveling by foot from point to point carrying our weighted rucksacks. Our Challenge was closer to a third each of those things, and the PT we did was more varied and intense than it had been in the Light.

It became very apparent at the outset how much the tone of an event is due to the individual cadre running it. The Challenge's Cadre Matt was much more intense and loud-spoken than the Light's Cadre Devin was. That made everything we did seem a bit more pressured. When we didn't keep up the pace to Cadre Deivin's satisfaction, he added sandbags for us to carry, and those who were not filling those sandbags did push-ups until the bags were ready to be carried. He didn't yell at us; he simply noted we needed more encouragement. When we didn't keep up the pace to Cadre Matt's satisfaction, which was more often, we did PT typically involving removing our rucksacks from our backs and resting them on our heads (or as close as we could get them to atop our heads) as we did squat after squat after squat, and got yelled at in the process. In the Light, the casualties we had to carry became casualties for a reason. When we let too large a gap form in the middle of our group, that gap caused two members to be wounded or killed, so two team members had to be carried. In the Challenge, we just always had to be carrying a certain number of casualties, but for no apparent reason.

I actually started to write  a detailed summary of what we did and where we did it, but I just deleted that in favor of the highlights version. If you really want to know, ask me and I can tell you. Besides the PT already mentioned, we box-jumped (taking off on both feet and landing on both feet) up steps low and high, low-crawled (infantry style, on our bellies), bear-crawled, crab-walked, lunged, and rolled on the ground. We did push-ups and flutter kicks. We carried our rucksacks on our backs, on our fronts, and without using any straps, like babies. We did PT on the grass, in a river, in sand that was closer to powdered gravel than beach or sandbox sand, and on pavement. More than once I thought I was either going to have to quit or going to die. More than once, I wasn't sure whether the liquid running down my face was sweat, tears, or a combination of the two.

At the same time, more than once another team member or one of the shadows (people following and watching but not actually participating) told me what an inspiration I was. I may have been in last place had we been doing this as a race, but I never quit. I pushed as hard as I could, and I tried as much as I could to encourage my teammates. When someone took my pack so that I could move faster or better, I moved faster or better. When I got angry, I didn't show it but tried to channel the anger into whatever action was needed. (Readers who know me well may be surprised at that statement.) Somewhere between first grade and now, I may actually have learned how to work and play well with others, though as the title of this blog suggests, I do still run with scissors.

There is, of course, a downside to having successfully finished the Challenge. I can no longer say that I'm not capable of doing something because I have demonstrated to myself how much more I am capable of than I thought. When (note that I did not say "if") I get discouraged in karate, well, if I can do a Challenge, I can do karate, right? If someone offers to help me, I should be able to recognize that their offer is not because they think I can't do it but because they want to be helpful and perhaps make it easier to get the job done. Some of those things will be easier to do than others, but I should no longer be making excuses.

Will I do another GORUCK Something? I'm already signed up for the Light here in Charlottesville on June 22; I've even convinced a karate-mate to register to do it and hope to recruit some other bodies as well.  The sons invited me to do the July 12 Challenge here in Charlottesville with them. It seems that younger son worries his finishing the one we just did might have been a fluke. When he said that, I knew that they needed to do a Challenge without having to look out for the Mombat. I told them that I would shadow it and practice my night photography, but they could have the pleasure of not worrying about me. Finally, thanks (or not) to younger son, I have registered to do something called the Nasty in September. This one, I will admit, has me worried. I didn't take the time to watch the video on just what some of the obstacles are before I registered. If I had done so, I probably would not have wanted to register. But hey, I'm GORUCK Tough, so I should be up for this, right? As I said, there is that downside.

Finally, something of a punchline to everything else we did that day. I mentioned that we carried something resembling a huge branch or a medium-sized tree. We left that underneath a local bridge, after which we all filed into the river for a PT session. There was a seemingly homeless man who apparently had slept on a blanket beneath the bridge. He got up and watched as we ditched the log and got into the water. He may have been surprised by us but probably not as surprised as some of us were when he pulled out a camera phone and started taking photos of us.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Be Careful What You Want

The sons first heard about the GORUCK Challenge over a year ago, when the older one asked for a GORUCK bag for Christmas. It sounded intriguing but not something I'd be interested in. A while later, I saw a man at the gym wearing a GORUCK t-shirt. I asked if he'd done a Challenge, and mentioned that my sons were interested in them. He said that he had indeed done a Challenge and that it had been something of a life-changing event. He told me to tell the sons that if they ever had the chance to do one, to jump at it. It sounded even more intriguing, and I admit that I got a wee bit interested at that point.

Fast forward to the Christmas holiday immediately past. It had become clear that younger son would be moving back to the East coast, and they started talking about doing a Challenge in the Washington, DC area. I happened to be online at the time, so I clicked around the GORUCK website and found that there would be a Challenge in Charlottesville on May 18. They immediately planned signing up using the register one, register another for free plan. I felt a pang or two of jealousy.

A couple days later, younger son suggested that I register and do the Challenge with them. I think I said something about not wanting to embarrass them. Younger son said that would only happen if I broke down in tears in the first ten minutes of the Challenge, and he didn't think that would happen. I noted that I was a 56-year-old woman, and the Challenge seemed designed for 20-something men. He suggested I email the GORUCK people and ask them for their opinion. He also noted that while one could always ask why they should do something, sometimes it was better to just say why the hell not do it.

I took younger son's advice and left the following comment on a blog post "The GORUCK Challenge Explained": "My sons, ages 25 and 23, have signed up for a challenge in May. They’re trying to persuade me, their 56-year-old mother, to sign up, too. I do work out regularly including martial arts six days weekly. Is it reasonable to think I could train and do it? It would make for a good challenge for the new year."

Within two days, I had a reply from Jason, GORUCK's founder: "Jean – yeah it’s totally reasonable. The older we get in life, I think that we’re capable of more it just requires a little more recovery time when we’re through with it. The Challenge itself is a team event, so everyone gives what they can. I find that the best classes have a mix of young and old, men and women, etc. Young bucks sometimes like to work harder not smarter. Wiser folks prefer to work smarter not harder."

I signed up that night, and publicly committed to doing it here. I started to actually train for it, as described here. I even discovered a new GORUCK event, the Light, through which the sons and I could get a taste of what might be in store for us in the Challenge. I described the preparation for and nervousness before that event here. Finally, I described the experience here, in a post that has since been reprinted as part of the GORUCK training website.

So here I sit now, the Monday before the Challenge on Saturday. It might be better to say "on Friday night" because the Challenge actually starts at 1:00 a.m. on Saturday. It could be interesting. The starting point is just off the University of Virginia Lawn, which will be the site of graduation ceremonies both Saturday and Sunday. One of our partners in this dose of good livin' is an assistant district attorney here, and he's made sure that the appropriate police departments know that the thirty or so people wearing black rucksacks and running around the local UN World Heritage site (the UVa Lawn) in the wee hours before a major public event have nothing in common with the two young men wearing black backpacks at the Boston Marathon.

Despite having successfully finished the Light, my nerves are starting to tingle. Some of the other people doing this Challenge have prepared by doing 20-mile rucks carrying the bricks they will carry during the Challenge. I have not. Interestingly, when the GORUCK training website went live a week or so ago, I found that their six-week training program to prep for a Light or a Challenge was not all that different from what I've done. I hope it's enough. I'll let you know in a few days if it was.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What I Did this Weekend

You cannot buy this patch. Its issuer will never sell it, nor do I expect that anyone who has one will sell it. You have to earn this patch, and doing that is not all that easy. The short version of earning mine was spending six and a half hours walking and jogging 13 miles through the streets of Washington, DC while carrying 12 pounds of bricks and three liters of water on my back. At various points along that journey, I carried other things including a 15-pound stuffed bulldog, an American flag, and a share of a large log. I never carried another person though I was carried by someone else on more than one occasion.

I earned this patch as a member of Class 002 of an event called GORUCK Light. The people who run the event describe it here. I know. They say four to five hours and seven to ten miles, and I said six and a half hours and 13 miles. It's all relative. Class 001, in New York City the weekend before, lasted seven hours and covered 11 miles. It's whatever time and distance it takes a team to complete the missions devised by its cadre or director. You can read more about cadre here. Ours was Devin. There was another team as part of this Light; Brent was their leader. They finished an hour before we did, which means we had an hour more fun than they did.

The Light was scheduled to begin at 7:00 a.m., but when the sons and I were dropped off at 6:30, there was already a large number of people there. The starting point was the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and not all the people there were going to take part in the Light. With the sun rising behind the Washington Monument at the far end of the Reflecting Pool, the Lincoln Memorial is quite popular with photography buffs. I know I would have had my camera out if I'd had one with me. I didn't, though, because a GORUCK event generally involves getting wet in some way. I also didn't expect to have the opportunity to stop or slow down and do any shooting.

There were 60 of us there for the Light. Some had done other GORUCK events and knew what to expect. The newbies among us had learned a few things from what other people had posted on the web and from the two Facebook groups associated with the DC Light, only one of which could be viewed by the cadre who would be running the event. We started by lining up in four ranks. Roll was checked, and the cadre walked among us checking thatwe  each had the required number of bricks in our pack--two for someone weighing less than 150 pounds and four for someone weighing over 150. After we put the packs back on, we were told that they could not touch the ground until the Light was over. If we were supposed to be lying on our backs, we had to move the packs to our fronts. Someone else could carry our pack if the need arose, but under no circumstances were we to let one touch the ground.

Most GORUCK events start with something called the Welcome Party, which some people find more welcoming than others. We started with pushups with, yes, brick-loaded packs on our backs. Then we bear crawled from the mid-level terrace we'd been on, up the steps to the top level of the Lincoln Memorial. We had to coordinate this, each row moving as a unit, not leaving anyone behind. With 15 people in each row, this wasn't easy. When we'd all reached the top level, each rank turned around and began to crab walk down. I was doing this with the sons, though I was not in the same rank as they were at this point. Older son and I had been training for the Light with the SEAL Team Physical Training program, and we do a lot of bear crawling and crab walking. We talked later about how relatively easy this part was for us, and how looking down our respective rows and seeing many people sitting down gave us some confidence that we were going to do okay at this.

Once we'd crab walked from the top of the Memorial down to the edge of the Reflecting Pool, we did some leg raises and flutter kicks while lying on our backs wearing our packs on our fronts. Again, this was something I was fairly used to except for wearing a pack while doing it. We were then told to arrange ourselves into two equally sized teams. Someone yelled out that the logical way to do that was for the first two ranks to be one team and the second two to be the other. I was determined that I would do this with the sons, so I jumped ship to their team, which was perfect because we ended up with Devin as our cadre. He's finishing up a master's in international security at Georgetown, and the Facebook group had discussed getting him something Georgetowny as a gag present. I bought a stuffed bulldog and replaced the torso stuffing with 15 pounds of lead shot. This made the bulldog count as the 15-pound weight that each team was required to have along with an American flag. I naturally made sure that Devin's team ended up with the bulldog while the other team carried a 15-pound chain.

Because one person on our team had misplaced their ID somewhere on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the other team left well before we did. I have no idea if they did the same thing we did, though we did cross paths with them once during the day. The cadre are all Special Forces veterans, and what the team does is designed like a mission. The cadre appoints a team leader and assistant team leader from the team members, gives them the mission, and then watches how the team carries it out. Our first mission was to get to a certain location; our leadership was chosen from people who claimed to live in DC and know their way around. We moved in buddy pairs, trying to stay about an arm's length behind the pair in front. We also moved in Indian run fashion. The person at the front right carried our American flag. The person at the front left carried the bulldog. As the group moved along, the back two people would move faster around to the front and take over flag and bulldog duties. When they were in position, the new pair at the back would start up.

While the pace we were going at felt like jogging to me, the sons assure me that it was really nothing more than a fast walk. I am not always good at walking fast because I am not always good at lifting my feet up very far. Sure enough, there was a crack in the sidewalk with the far edge jutting up about half an inch above the near one. My toe caught it and despite my best efforts to catch myself or to execute the front fall I know from karate, it didn't work. The weight of the pack on my back made the fall happen super-fast and also pushed my head forward so that the top right corner of my face cracked into the cobblestone sidewalk. I must say that it actually made a nice thwacking sound. Immediately, there was another team member beside me saying that she was an EMT. Cadre Devin was there, too. They told me to roll over onto my back. I refused to, saying that my pack would touch the ground. They took my pack off and handed it off to another team member. The sons appeared and explained who they were and their concern. After I rolled over, the EMT asked me what day it was, exactly the question I'd been expecting and one which I nailed. They eventually let me sit up. They asked me--again--how I felt, and I answered that I felt more embarrassed than anything else. Devin told me that someone usually stumbled, and I had just gotten it out of the way early on. I assured them that I had never lost consciousness and felt fine except for the pain where my head had hit. The waiver one signs for these events includes a clause under which you agree that if the cadre tells you that you cannot continue, you will willingly stop. Fortunately, Devin allowed me to keep going after I guaranteed that I would inform him of any dizziness, blurred vision, whatever, that might indicate some sort of concussion. Someone was given my pack to carry, and my buddy was supposed to keep an extra eye on how I was doing.

It was clear at one point that we weren't moving as quickly as Devin would have liked. He stopped us and told us that since we weren't moving fast enough, he was going to give us more weight to carry. He pulled some empty sandbags from his pack and instructed some team members to run over to a beach volleyball court and fill them with sand. We then had to carry those with us, passing them from team member to member to share the weight. At another point, we let too large of a gap develop between two buddy pairs. We were told that we had suffered two casualties as a result meaning that two bodies had to be carried. This was after I'd fallen, so I didn't have a pack on. A team member (nick)named Bear flung me over his shoulder as if I were a rag doll. Another team member buddy-carried a third team member, and we continued on our way until we were told that the bodies/buddies could be put down.

We arrived at our first destination, one we'd been expecting that we would visit at some point. This was the bottom of the Georgetown staircase made famous by the movie The Exorcist, the staircase down which the priest is thrown. During a short break, which included a chance to use a restroom (there was no mirror so I couldn't see just how bad my head looked), I asked if I could have my pack back. Since it was equipped with a water bladder, I needed it if I wanted to be able to stay hydrated. If I'd thought about it, I might have waited to ask because our next mission was to get all 29 team members up the steps and past cadre Devin within 50 seconds. Someone on the team suggested that the slower people go first, and I specifically asked if I could be in that group. The stairs are in three different sections, and I didn't really feel the pain until the third one. Fortunately, I managed to pick my feet up enough that I didn't do another face plant. Even more fortunately, we all made it up with about a second to spare meaning that we didn't have to go back down and try a second time.

We got new leaders at this point and a new mission, to head to Roosevelt Island. This involved crossing several bridges, one of which we were told was under fire meaning that we had to bear crawl across it, staying below the level of the concrete sides. When we got to the Teddy Roosevelt statue on the island, we were told that the next part of the mission was to retrieve the fuselage of a downed aircraft and move it to a landing zone from which it could be extracted by a helicopter. Our route to the downed fuselage involved a footbridge which we were told we could not use. This meant that, as we had expected, we would be getting wet going through the water instead. Wet and cold. And muddy. I think this was where I most appreciated my teammates. I am not one of those people who can just jump into water no matter the temperature. I'm the one sitting on the side getting my legs wet, then sitting on one of the steps at the shallow end, then walking very slowly out, splashing water higher and higher on my abdomen until finally, when I can put it off no longer, I go all the way in. Mustering every bit of courage I could, I walked into the water up to my ankles, then knees, then thighs. And then the muddy bottom got very suctiony, and I started to slip. The man ahead of me grabbed my hand and held me up. He didn't let go as we went on. At one point, I was afraid I was going to lose at least one shoe to the mud; I could not pull either foot out easily. The person behind me took my other arm, and between the three of us--not to mention other team members offering verbal encouragement--I made it to the other side and up onto dry land.

Once everyone was across, we were shown a rather large log and told it was the fuselage. The path was at this point about three feet above the level of the ground. We were told that we had to lift the fuselage onto the path and then carry it down the path back past the statue we'd started from. Fortunately, we could use the bridge on the way back. The men among us managed to get the log up onto the path without much trouble. Trying to carry it back offered what may have been our biggest teamwork challenge. Several team members had rowed crew and offered guidance in terms of the best way for a group to pick up a very long object. While we tried to put the taller people at the back and the shorter ones at the front, some people ended up with more weight than others. Also, the front of the log was forked, meaning that it was much wider than the rear. This caused problems whenever we had to curve. Finally, we weren't the only people using the path. We had to step aside for runners and dog walkers and anyone else who thought it was a good day to get some fresh air. At one point it came up that not everyone knew exactly what the mission was; pushups were offered as encouragement to stay better informed in the future. Eventually, though, we did manage to get the fuselage to the landing zone, accomplishing that part of the mission.

We then had to cover two miles in 30 minutes, something we didn't do too well at. After multiple times of people calling from the back of the line for the group to slow down, the slower members were put at the front and told to set the pace. At times I had trouble keeping up the pace while wearing my pack, and each time another team member took it from me. Those who know me well know that I don't like asking for help, but I did here.

At one point, we stopped at the World War II Memorial, a place I'd never visited. One of the members was doing the Light as a tribute to a friend who had served in the military and who had died last fall. He gave offered tribute to his friend as we stood in the middle of the memorial. It was quite moving. At some point I'd like to go back and explore the memorial in more detail. There was much more there than we could take in in the little time we had.

When we ended up back at the side of the Lincoln Memorial, we were given the choice of heading up the Mall to the Capitol or over to the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin. The Capitol won, so we headed down the Mall. At one point we slowed enough that cadre Devin informed us that half the team had been killed. This meant buddy carries with the odd person (we were a team of 29) carrying the flag. We did make it to the Capitol end of the Mall, where we posed for a somewhat formal group shot as opposed to all the photos that were snapped of us as we'd moved down the Mall. After an extended rest that included a group availing themselves of the Smithsonian's facilities, we headed back to 14th Street, where we made a right turn to be able to finish at the White House. We did, with the last distance being done as buddy carries again. Cadre Devin congratulated everyone and distributed the patches of the type shown above. He noted that while we had done a GORUCK Light, we had not done a GORUCK Easy. He said that he thought everyone on the team had what it takes to complete a GORUCK Challenge, which is good because that's what the sons and I are trying in May.

Cadre Devin also asked everyone not to dispose of their duct-tape-wrapped bricks in public trash cans around DC, noting that GORUCK would like to maintain good relations with the DC Police. And the DC Police do know whenever there's a GORUCK event. After the group split, many to go for lunch and beer with cadre Devin, the sons and I headed to a Metro station. We walked past a police car only to then hear over its loudspeaker, "Congratulations! We know you did a fine job out there today." That was a nice way to have it all end.

Some random thoughts after a couple days of incubation. The Light may well have been the hardest thing I've done when both the physical and mental aspects are considered. (I have to get the mental side in there, because twelve hours of labor is nothing to sneer at physically.) I feel a real sense of pride that I was able to do it. On a couple of occasions during breaks, male team members told me that when they saw me fall, they were convinced I'd end up stopping or being stopped. They congratulated me on keeping at it and not giving up. That made me feel good. While I saw some people drinking beer from cans during the course of the morning, there was apparently more alcohol consumption going on that I was aware of. No one offered me any, which was good because even one beer would likely have put me under. Finally, when one is wet and cold, merely putting on a dry windbreaker does wonders. It also helps to be wearing wicking fabric that dries quickly, something I appreciate much more now.

Finally, I am aware that this post has but one photo. Our team was actually accompanied by a GORUCK photographer who took over 900 photos, including more than several of my forehead. I expect that some of those will go up on the web, but it may take some time to select which ones. When that happens, I'll add a link from this post to the photos, so you can see some of the fun we had. And, yes, it was fun despite being a bitch in terms of the effort required. The sense of accomplishment I feel comes with a very real appreciation for the teamwork involved. I know that I could not have done what I did Saturday without the help of others. I only hope I was as much of a help to some of them as others were to me.

Breaking news: Photos from the event, including some close-ups of yours truly, can be seen here.