July 11, 2017 by dsutt94
Over fourth of July Weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a GoRuck event in Charlotte, NC with my good friend Mike.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term rucking or GoRuck, I encourage you to learn more by visiting their website.
Mike has already authored an AAR detailing his training, preparation, and experience which can be found here
Unlike my good friend Mike, this was my first GoRuck event and I had literally zero prior experience in any endurance events over a few hours. As friends who have done things like 1,000 burpees or 300 empty barbell thrusters for time, when Mike asked me if I wanted to sign up for the GoRuck Heavy-Tough-Lite (HTL) I said yes without hesitation.
Mike already did a fantastic job of of detailing nearly everything you need to know should you wish to attempt an HTL in the future, so my additions are merely stylistic. It is worth noting that Mike didn’t just finish the HTL, but indeed “crushed” it and was voted “class stud” for the whole weekend. Mike knows what he is talking about, so you’d be wise to listen.
Unfortunately, I did not complete the HTL, and withdrew after completing the heavy. I’m sharing the below to help others avoid some of the mistakes that I made.
Similarly, to Mike, I played collegiate hockey and was introduced to CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting my freshman year in college. I really enjoyed lifting but was never able to achieve maximum strength while concurrently playing hockey. Upon graduating and concluding my hockey career, I started focusing exclusively on competing in Olympic weightlifting. Over the last year, I put over twenty kilos on both my front and back squat and 10 kilos on my snatch and clean and jerk. While excellent for strength gains and my personal goals, Olympic weightlifting doesn’t translate as well to GoRuck as do trail runs, marathons, and Ragnars.
This is an obvious, yet extremely important topic. Why are you willing to spend hundreds of dollars, commit to hours of training, and deal with extreme discomfort? Before you consider doing a GoRuck HTL, you should have a very good idea of what the answer to that question is. For me, it was to push myself to my physical and mental limits, learn about myself, improve my leadership skills, and become a better American.
While I think my “why” was fine, I do not believe it was aggressive enough. In order to finish the HTL, you have to have the killer instinct. Simply completing the HTL should not be the goal. Your goal, like Mike’s, should be to destroy it. In order to do this your fitness levels will have to be incredible.
The experience you gain from completing a GoRuck event is ultimately determined by your level of fitness. If it is poor, you will quickly learn what it feels like to let a team down. If it is good, you will learn what it feels like to be part of a team, but not necessarily a leader. Only when your fitness is superb will you have the energy to take responsibility of others before yourself and lead, which in my opinion, is the most valuable experience you can walk away with.
There are highs and lows, and everyone will experience the above in varying degrees, but where you spend the most time is determined by your fitness.
I think a very underrated piece of the GoRuck process is actually signing up for the event. Careful consideration needs to be given upon several factors.
- Current level of fitness and past experience completing similar events
- Time/work it will take to build required fitness
- Multiply your estimation of how long you think it will take you by a factor of two (shit happens)
I signed up for the GoRuck HTL on February 26th, giving me just over four months to prepare and train. Going from zero endurance baseline to completing an event that is 48 hours long and covers 70 miles in only four months was a fairly ambitious timeline, and of course, shit happened. I ended up spraining the SI joint in my hip which greatly inhibited my ability to train.
GoRuck offers events year round and across the world. I would encourage people, especially those who haven’t done a GoRuck before, to plan well in advance and allocate more time to training than they think they will need. It can only help you.
Surprisingly, some people who signed up for the heavy overlooked gear and were not prepared. You do not want to waste any mental or physical energy thinking about or tinkering with your gear. The people who became flustered with or complained about their gear at the beginning of the heavy were not with the group at the finish.
As a GoRuck noob, I consulted with Mike pretty extensively and used a fairly similar setup to his.
However, I cannot stress how important socks are. Seriously, DO NOT OVERLOOK THESE! Good socks will make your life bearable. Poor socks will make your life a living hell. I used the long Drymaxx socks and my baby feet came away from the heavy relatively unscathed. Superfeet were also a tremendous upgrade from the crappy insoles that come stock with the Rockys. Above all else, make sure you are comfortable in your boots and break them in as much as you can.
As you’ve probably already figured out, all the gear can get fairly expensive pretty quickly. It sucks, but if you can afford it I recommend purchasing once and once only. It will pay for itself in the long run and it is definitely worth the peace of mind during events like GoRuck.
This is something that I completely underestimated and should have given more thought to.
I arrived into Charlotte on time around midnight the night before the heavy started. Booking the last flight of the night to Charlotte was risky, and something completely out of my control such as a weather delay or cancellation could have really thrown a wrench into the weekend.
Additionally, being enclosed in a tube of aluminum with 150 other humans is a great way to share germs and sickness, which I unfortunately fell victim to. During transit I caught a stomach bug that would ultimately snowball effect into heat exhaustion sixteen hours into the heavy.
Proper nutrients, hydration, and rest are a must leading up to the HTL. If you can, travel a day early and get acclimated. You trained really hard and paid good money for the opportunity to do an HTL – don’t let it fall apart at the last minute.
The Cadre in Charlotte were all incredible. Aside from being complete badasses, they were all really good dudes who were extremely knowledgeable. While the Cadre are certainly not your friends during these events, they are also not there for the sole reason to make you suffer and hurt.
Do not be intimidated by them, and do not be afraid to ask questions or for help if you genuinely need it.
When I was dangerously close to blacking out due to heat exhaustion, The Cadre were there to help me get better so I could continue on with the heavy.
The Cadre also shared some amazing lessons, stories, and insights from their combat experience and involvement with GoRuck. Simply listening to the Cadre can provide you with great lessons and insights and is one of the highlights of my experience.
Pull the Trigger
Although I am proud to have finished the heavy, it was extremely difficult to say the words “I quit”, especially since I knew Mike would end up finishing. It is not something you envision yourself having to say.
While I obviously wish I would have finished the HTL, my goal of pushing myself to my physical and mental limits, learning about myself, improving my leadership skills, and becoming a better American was still partially fulfilled.
Participating in a GoRuck event, regardless of the outcome, will make you a better human and I encourage everyone to try one.