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.


Jayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jayne said...

Go, Jean, Go!