This past Saturday I completed my first GORUCK Light. Although I “knew” what to expect from talking to others and stalking the internet, I didn’t really “know” what to expect. It’s safe to say that no one does, regardless of what kind of background you have. You don’t know what to expect until you’re actually in it. I had a hard time finding a blog for a newbie, like me (especially for a Light). Hopefully, this helps a bit.
Who and Why
“Who does these things?” is a common question I’ve encountered. Well, anyone does them.. I highly recommend that you’re in shape, can run/walk a good 6-10 miles, carry a decent amount of weight and you’re a team player. “Why?” is a more difficult question to answer. I can’t really say “why” other than “because.” This is a challenge – it’s a bit of a physical challenge but it’s more of a mental challenge. It’s also a team challenge – can you take one for the team? Can you take several for the team?
This particular GORUCK event was a fundraiser for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, which serves to help families tackle childhood cancer by providing comprehensive financial, emotional and practical support. It’s an incredible organization and I am proud that we were able to contribute to the cause.
I can’t say I did any extra preparation for this. My regular weekly schedule of Timed Exercise, running and swimming was plenty. The only “extra” I did was a walk or two with my rucksack – mostly so that I could adjust straps and weight and figure out whether I could get away with a sleeveless shirt.
You need: a rucksack (preferably a GORUCK), a hydration system (no, not water bottles.. an actual hydration system like a camelbak), bricks (2 or 4; you must wrap your bricks completely in duct tape to protect the inside of your ruck… google videos), your ID and emergency cash. That’s really all you need for this event. Optional would be snacks and a waterproof case for your phone/keys.
As girly as this sounds, I struggled with what to wear: capris or shorts? I went back and forth on this for days and tried to google what other women have worn… I came up with nothing. Here’s some help for future GORUCK newbies: it doesn’t really matter. I went with shorts because the idea of wet capris/pants made me cringe. A few other girls wore shorts, a few wore capris and two word ankle-length tights (tucked into socks, which apparently helped keep sand out of socks). My shorts left me with some raw knees from crawling in the sand, but otherwise, I was very happy in them. Obviously, it was a warm day.. I can’t speak for cold events. I opted for a short-sleeve shirt (yellow in all the pics) to protect my shoulders from my rucksack. I quickly learned that nothing will protect your shoulders, FYI. Some girls ended up in just sports bras, some girls wore long-sleeves for protection from the sun.
We met at the roundabout at One Ocean in Neptune Beach, Florida at 12:00pm. Everyone stood around for a bit, getting to know each other before Jason, our Cadre, came to spread his Peace and Love. We had our rucksack check and were reminded of a few life lessons. Our main theme for this event was: It could always be worse. This was in honor of our fundraiser. The struggle families go through when a child is diagnosed with cancer is far worse than anything I have ever had to endure. No matter what you or I might experience in life, it could always be worse.
And then we got wet.
Actually, let me point out that originally, we entered the water as a giant, clustered mess; we were quickly lectured on teamwork and punished with heart-shape inchworm push-ups:
After about 20 rounds, we were sent back into the water, where we entered as a team… for sure. A few flutter kick later, we exited the water and began the true torture of the day: singing.
I’m Walkin’ on Sunshine
Just typing the words makes me shudder. Every time I hear a tune from a car driving by, I think it’s THAT SONG. This song was chosen via vote on our FB page… it sounded like a good choice at the time. I hate this song. Everyone hates this song. So. Annoying. We lined up in our two “army thingies” (rows) and began singing. We were awful. Everyone was off beat, half of us got the words wrong even though someone had printed out laminated lyric sheets (brilliant) and we were barely audible. I’d like to say that all changed pretty quickly, but it took us a long time to get it right. We sang it over and over and over again… and our cadre was unimpressed over and over and over again. Eventually, a bunch of tweaks earned us the opportunity to move along. We sang this song hundreds of times throughout the day.. in front of Poe’s Tavern, in the courtyard near Lilly’s, in front of beach goers, life guards, Joe’s Crab Shack, Lynch’s , various homes up and down 1st Street, and finally at the Team House.
Casualties, Sandbags and a Couch
Throughout the day we carried each other, we carried sand bags and we carried our rucks. We carried our rucks without straps. We carried each others’ rucks. We also carried a couch. Yes, a couch. A few classes back a discarded couch (throne) was picked up and carried by the team and an ambassador was chosen to sit on the couch… while it was carried. It’s not unusual for a class to come across random, heavy things to carry. I knew this; I saw the pictures. I did not know, however, that Jason had held onto said couch and kept it in his backyard. Halfway through our walk, when we picked up 5 sandbags and 2 water jugs; we also picked up the couch.
When It’s All Said and Done
I had a good time. Obviously there were a few parts that sucked and by the time 5 hours passed (total time was 6.5) I was ready to go home, but I had a good time. I’m sore (very sore) and bruised (very bruised) and pretty tired.. but I would do it again. I’m proud of myself not because of the physical parts but the mental parts. When someone needed to be carried, I carried them. When someone needed me to take weight, I took weight. I think I handled my turn as Team Leader rather well. I kept my mouth shut and didn’t complain and encouraged others to do the same. We all got along really well and no one argued; it was refreshing, actually, considering what I observe at work on a daily basis. These are people who work hard. These are people who don’t complain. These are people who acknowledge that it could always be worse.
Pro Tips & Things to Remember
*Join the FB event page so that you know important information beforehand
*Pack what you’re supposed to pack, but remember that your rucksack will be passed around and carried by others; if you pack extra, your team carries extra (i.e. I ended up with an 8 brick rucksack)
*It says bring a hydration system, so bring a hydration system. Water bottles are not a hydration system.
*Follow directions, people. Wrap your bricks!
*Don’t plan on anything the rest of the day. You have no idea how long your event will last. Your Cadre can keep you until he decides you’re done.
*Just suck it up. It could always be worse. Be a team player.
*Light does not mean easy. They say it on the website and they mean it. Light just means less hours… it in no way means easy.
We were lucky enough to have Frank join us for this event. Frank’s 6 year-old daughter has been in remission for a year and a half. Frank’s family has benefitted from the amazing Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, so he decided to ruck with us. Shortly into PT, Frank had a hard time keeping up. H’s a boxer and teaches kids to box every week.. but this was a different kind of conditioning for him. He pushed hard through the Tunnel of Love with cheers from our team and then found himself short of breath and I think a bit panicked. But Frank was reminded that quitting is not an option. Our Cadre reminded Frank that there are people in this world who deal with much more difficult things in life and they aren’t able to just up and quit. “Like my daughter,” was Frank’s response. Frank, like his daughter, is an inspiration. Frank stood up. Frank got in line. Frank finished the challenge. Frank earned his patch. Thanks for joining us Frank!
Please take the time to donate a monetary gift, frequent flyer miles or give the gift of volunteered time to this important organization: More information here
*Pictures courtesy of Jo, who shadowed our class (public album on FB) – thanks Jo