Hey, it was half off events on Cyber Monday. I had to sign up for at least one GRT event. Skid was already committed to the Battle of the Bulge in Nashville so YHC chose 1/18 as my first GRT event. Yes that’s right, this was my first Tough. Last March I attended a Light along with a few others, and for various reasons was not a fan. In October I completed the 50 mile StarCourse in Cincinnati. What I would learn, is the Tough event is an entirely different animal. Which is what I hope to outline in this AAR.
Day of Event
Hot Wheels decides he’s going to tag along after a few months of back and forth for reasons i wont get into, but YHC was EXTREMELY glad to have him tagging along. About 1430 Wheels shows up at my house packed up and ready to go. It felt like as we were loading our gear that we were forgetting something. Checklist are not my strong suit, I almost forgot the ruck flag which I had volunteered to provide for the event. It was at SnowDays house from the Ruck Event the week prior….OOPS. One quick call to SnowDay and we were headed right down the street to avoid what was almost a disaster. SnowDay was home and handed off the flag. We were on our way to pick up Skid. This dudes a machine. He pops right out of his house with what seemed like 3 duffle bags and 2 rucks and folder. Printed out check list and a Wikipedia print out of the history of the Battle of The Bulge. Thankfully one of us was fully prepared.
As we made our way south mumble chatter surrounded our gear and the weather. It was predicted to be warm and wet. In the 50s but looked like rain, nothing said whether it was going to be mist rain or drown you rain. YHC did not have tights on underneath my ruck pants. Thinking I would get much to hot with temps in the 50s and be sweaty down there causing chafing etc. HotWheels convinced me that it would be a good idea to wear tights under ruck pants because i can always shed them but i cant add them if i dont have them. THANK YOU WHEELS!!!! YHC pulled into a Dicks sporting goods just outside of Bellevue YMCA startdex point. We each picked up tights. After our shopping stop it was around 1830 and start time wasnt for another 2.5 hours. GRUB!!!! We hit Logans roadhouse to Carb UP! Thankfully that 1.5 hours we had between dinner and start time allowed our food to settle.
Upon arrival the YMCA Bellevue we were first, which gave us about 45 min. To sit in the car and unfairly judge the rest of the crew that pulled up and got out of their car to stretch and communicate with other arriveing GRTs. Discussed how anyone could smoke cigs and then handle a GRT, as well as trying to figure out what a couple arm stretches are really going to do for you during this event. At 2045 we hopped out grabbed our rucks and were ready to go.
Cadre Mike Rock
Cadre Ricky V
The 2 cadre came over and asked the pack of 35 to form up in 4 ranks. He then asked us to take out everything we had in our rucks that was edible. We were instructed that we were to throw it all in a black sealed bag and that we would have to earn our food over the course of the event. This terrified me, I felt like i was dependent on the calories to replenish my energy and calories i was sure to burn at an alarming rate. Cadre Mike began to tell us the story about the Battle of the Bulge, and how important it was that the Allied forces were able to defeat the Germans.
Then asked who was at their first ever GORUCK event. Being HotWheels first event, he promptly raised his hand. Cadre asked for one volunteer from those whom this is their first event. YHC had never seen this type of split reaction time from HotWHeels, but he beelined to the front not knowing at all what he was volunteering for. HotWheels became overall leader for the first few movements. And let me say before i move along any further HE KILLED IT!!!! Not just because i love him and am extremely biased, but he was BY FAR and away the best leader we had for the entire event.
Wheels split us up in 2 platoons, front 2 ranks were P1, back 2 ranks were P2. Luckily Skid and myself were on P2.
Cadre then instructed us we would compete in a competition right off the bat, and it would be in our best interest to WIN. Everyone holds ruck at chest level, when Cadre yells “UP” raise ruck over head, on “DOWN” ruck comes back to chest level. Continue until failure, when you fail, sit down. The team with the last man or woman standing is the winner. SHEW P2 had a BEAST, this dude never stopped or slowed down and barely beat out another BEAST on P1.
Now the winning team was able to pick their collection of team weights. Only thing we only saw one group of weight. Incuding a few sandbags, couple 5 gallon water jugs, some gallon water jugs. We were given the option of choosing the group of weight we saw to carry, OR take the other group of weight that we could not see. The leaders of the platoon decided to go with the devil we could see. THANK GOD they did. Behind the hidden door was the fate that awaited Platoon 1, coined “The Snake” was 4 sandbags each weighing between 60 and 100 lbs all linked together by caribeeners. WOOF! Along with a square concrete paver, the provided team weight, some more water and a couple more sandbags. Basically ensuring the every member of Platoon1 would be carrying some sort of coupon at all times.
Wheels chose 2 navigators, one from each Platoon. They were given a few seconds to look at an map and told to avoid the Germans which were marked by X’s on the map. Causing us to take our first route through a neighborhood, which made it difficult to communicate because we were instructed to keep our voices down and that if we woke up a dog or a neighbor we would pay. Platoon 1 was REALLY struggling with all of the weight, particularly the “Snake”. People were switching off to get a breather left and right, which is good, only thing is it takes time to switch and the entire group has to stop. All this on the first movement caused us to miss our time hack of 50 minutes by a measly 1 minute.
Thus upon arrival at our stopping point we were punished by having to complete 60 “little man in the woods” in a 4 ct. cadence. F3 calls these “smurf Jacks” basically a SSH in squat position. Only these were done with ruck on. Talk about leg screamers!!!! Woof!
After a quick bathroom break, Cadre Mike again gave us another history lesson about the Battle of the Bulge, this movement we would be traveling to the town of Nouville. I’m not sure why but that’s where we were going.
Again Wheels and the navigators were given a few minutes to look over a map, being told to avoid the Germans. They determined a route and off we went.
This movement took us into a park, along a concrete path similar in width to the sidewalks at Posh. P1 was still obviously struggling with the “Snake” while YHC relished in carrying a 5 gallon water jug. This was not a Jerry can water jug, its one of the collapsible camping jugs that you can squeeze like a pillow. I was extremely content to hold onto my comfy water jug.
Some mile or so into the park we came to a split in the road where there seemed to be some confusion around which way to go. Navigators were saying to take the fork in the road to the right, which led us down a path that was completely covered by mud. 2 locals recommended we take the path to the left to hit the destination. Unbeknownst to me, the “shadow” (a non ruck participant along with the pack to take pictures for GORUCK) told HotWheels and the leaders to take the muddy path to the destination. Saying that the Cadre told him to tell them. So, we headed that way.
The mud was slippery, a couple of GRTs with heavy sandbags lost footing and landed awkwardly in the mud. About this time i noticed 2 GRTs not on the mud path but on the dryer grass directly off the mud path. Cadre yelled, “You two just stepped on land mines and are now casualties”. “You all have 30 seconds to figure out how to transport these casualties to the destination for safety or there will be more casualties”. Panic sets in immediately. I got on my knees to help one of them take his ruck off, I gave my ruck to skid and picked him up in fireman carry. This guy was easily 175 lbs of uneven weight on my back.
Cadre Ricky stepped in and informed us that in the battle of the bulge The Germans would train their English speaking Germans to infiltrate the Allied forces and communicate false information to cause confusion amongst the Allieds. Turns out the “shadow” was a trador and gave false information to HotWheels about the direction we were supposed to be heading. Because of this we now had 2 casualties and risked many more because of the tough terrain.
We successfully made the movement to the next destination, miserable and all. I carried that dude for about 1/4 mile before i got some relief from that strong ass dude that lifted his ruck over his head 500 times at the beginning of the night. There were a few super men in this group. I remember one guy probably about 40 years old, 6’3” 250 ripped with a sweet fu-man-chu mustache. Man did he perform like a dude with a sweet mustache. This cat picked up a casualty along with his own ruck and the ruck of the casualty. Didn’t grimace once or complain about having to do the work. He continued to perform at a high level the entire night. I believe his name was Brandon.
We got a 5 minute break to relieve ourselves and of course I didn’t need to relieve myself until Cadre Mike began the 30 second countdown, then all the sudden I had to go. Cadre gave us a lesson on turnakets and the importance of knowing how to properly deploy one in a crisis situation. Reminding us that its a CRAZY world out there, TRUTH.
The current leadership, including HotWheels were fired, and a new leadership was selected. 2 more navigators and we were ready to move out.
Cadre Mike decided that P1 was still being punished for losing at the beginning of the night and stuck them again with the “snake” and most of the heavy weight.
Cadre Ricky V informed us that this movement was to be made in silence. Using hand signals to communicate on direction and relief on sandbags. If he heard so much of a word there would be casualties. Explaining that when he was deployed to Iraq and they were going house to house under the cover of darkness, they were unable to even whisper.
Movemet 3 started the rain that never ended. You see up until this point, everything seemed pretty simple and easy. Yes we carried some uncomfortable coupons, did some stupid SSH but nothing was unbearable yet.
The new leadership and navigators made a mistake and took us off road when we didn’t need to go off road. We backtracked but the whole silent treatment made it really difficult to understand exactly what was going on and why we made such a mistake to walk through a field of cell phone towers and tall grass that ended about 200 yards off the road at a lake that we couldn’t get around. Still dont know how that happened, but we back tracked and ended up back on the park side walk heading towards our next destination.
A couple miles into this movement, the group was having a hard time sticking together because we werent communicating. No one could scream “FLAG, SLOW DOWN” there fore we got strung out and Cadre does not like it when you get strung out. Finally he called 3 casualties in the back of the pack. Saying that they were picked off by sniper fire or something because they were left alone.
He gave us 30 seconds to decide who the casualties were and how we were going to move them. Panic again!!!! Immediately girls need to be casualties because they are easier to carry. But we had one female with a hurt ankle from earlier in the night and understandably she didn’t want to be carried in fear of further injuring her ankle. So…..30 seconds had passed and Cadre called for 2 more casualties. At this point i saw HotWheels pick up a LARGE man hoist him up farmer carry and said lets move out. OK then. Luckily YHC was carrying a rather small female, and we made it the rest of the way to the destination with out anymore casualties. Whew!
Side note, for me this was probably the most difficult time of the event. My back was absolutely screaming from the farmer carry earlier and now with a second one my back was smoked. Along with the stress of feeling like the group was really reeling mentally and physically. It seemed like it would never end.
Alast we arrived to a gazebo. Which was an extremely welcome site, because the rain was REALLY coming down at this point. Water was flowing through ditches and a flash flood seemed imminent. This was rain like I’d never seen before. FAT rain that was relentless in amount.
Welp, here it comes.
I thought “welcome party” meant it was to “welcome” you to the event. Well, apparently that’s not how Cadre Mike likes to run his events. He doesn’t care how you can perform when fresh. He wants to see how you can perform when you’re fatigued, hungry, and wet apparently.
I was actually looking forward to this part of the night. Something i could excel at is a beefed up F3 workout. Bearcrawls and the like. First thing he had us do was to bearcrawls up a large hill and then crawl bear back down. I’m thinking this sucks, but its my comfort zone. I’d much rather be doing this than carrying heavy stuff and well, people.
He had Cadre Ricky set up under the gazebo and he would tap on our shoulder during the welcome party and we were to run to Ricky and deploy a turnaket to his arm. Simulate doing this exercise in a stressful situation. Only thing is by the time my shoulder was tapped i was relieved to get a break from all the action and tie a turnaket around Ricky’s arm.
Welcome party consisted best i can remember of these exercises.
Burpees, push ups, flutter kicks, squats, star jumps, smurf jacks.
Along with an army crawl through that ditch that had the running water and MUD, a lot of mud. An army crawl up the top of that hill where he then had us barrel roll right and left. Ending with a steady barrage of cadence counted smurf jacks that i literally thought would never end. You see, i was directly infront of him because i had to be the first to the top of the hill from the army crawl. I felt like he kept going because i kept needing to stop. I coulnt look the dude in the eye so i had no idea why he kept going but i told myself to suck it up and keep going so he will stop. Soon enough he did.
This ended the welcome party and granted us our first 10 minute break. I thought FOR SURE they will give out our food, I was desperate for a GU. NOPE no food.
Prior to this movement i cheated a little bit, I opened my dry box which included my watch and peaked at the time. It was 0315. WOOF!!! It’s never going to end!
Before we took off Cadre Ricky asked for the 4 strongest guys to step forward. Knowing that 100% was not me I decided not to step forward. Well, HotWheels apparently thought he was strong and again volunteered himself. For what he was volunteering he had no idea, but he did. Along with the dude that could lift his ruck above his head a million times and Brandon the dude with the sweet Fu man chu.
This is when we were introduced to Big dead Fred. He was 5 sand bags linked together in awkward ways weighing in somewhere between 450-500 lbs. These 4 strong humans were tasked with carrying Fred for as long as they could. The cadre told them that all the other GRT events that night were carrying Fred, and they were going to be competing with them to see who could carry him the furthest. I myself at the onset of this really couldn’t have cared less what they were grunting about up in the front. I had a sandbag of my own, was disheveled because I didn’t get my food (fat kid probs) and I was as cold as I’d been in my entire life. Soaked from head to toe, and mud on my face. It was about this time that I realized I hadn’t seen Skid in a while. I was on “snake” and i thought it was skid that switched out for the sand bag attached directly next to mine. Well, I started talking to him and he wasn’t responding. I was like “Kyle, is something wrong? Are you ok?” Guy looks over at me and it definitely wasnt Skid (Kyle). He told me his name and we chatted for a minute. This silly interaction lifted my spirits.
This is me looking all sad. Cadre mike took this picture, I remember when he snapped it thinking “bro, why are you taking a picture of me”
The Hulks had finished their carry of Fred and HotWheels was HYPED. This dude BEASTED this thing and i was proud of him for it. Fred was unhooked and separated again into 5 sandbags. For the remainder of this movement Skid, HotWheels and myself stuck together and had a system in place with a water can, the flag, and a sandbag. We rotated as we got smoked on the sandbag. Still wet, still cold. We made it to the destination.
It was a covered tunnel that was lit up. A welcome site for all. 15 minute break. Our longest of the night. Enough time to change clothes and socks. And finally EAT!!!!!!!!
Almost immediately everyone’s morale was lifted. Cadre Mike told some more stories about the battle of the bulge and one of the GRTs, Emily told about the man we were honoring with our donation to the Safe haven. WWII and battle of the bulge veteran Mr. George Mills. Emily had spoken to the 93 year old Mr. Mills and being selfless asked that we give our donation in his honor to a homeless shelter that helps children “Safe Haven”.
Energy renewed and a light at the end of the tunnel. On to the next destination.
Notice how intense HotWheels looks in this picture. This was him the ENTIRE night. Man on a mission. He was built for this stuff.
Little did we know at the time this would be our last movement. The rain intensified and lightening broke out across the sky in Nashville. About a mile into this movement Cadre told everyone with a sandbag to dump out half their sand into the ditch. I thought it was a trick, nope it wasnt. The bag that Skid and i were passing back and forth was heavy and we probably dumped out 75% of it.
remeber when I said Cadre Ricky told HotWhees that they were competing with other classes to see who could carry Big dead Fred the furthest. Well, wheels asked cadre Ricky if he’d heard from any of the other cadre on how our class stacked up against the rest. “Ah, shit dude, I was just f.ing with you” “did it motivate you?”
Hahahhaha it sure did motivate him.
I think the cadre were done with the rain just as much as we were. It was flood like rain, and freezing cold on top of it. It was as if we were rucking while taking a cold shower. My new clothes helped for about 30 minutes then they were soaked too.
We made it all the way back to the YMCA at around 0730 for completion of a 10.5 hour GORUCK tough.
15.6 miles covered
Cadre Mike and Ricky V talked about the strength and determination of the GRTs. That they were very surprised that no one from the group quit. They compared the weight we carried to that of a GORUCK Heavy and commended us all on a job well done. We received a patch and a beer and that was that.
There were times during this event when i questioned my sanity. Times when i had to dig deep to find a happy place during a dark time. When we were in that tunnel and finally were able to eat, I gave skid a big hug and told him i loved him. At that point i needed some LOVE. I found that in times of real struggle and strife that its LOVE that we look for the most. My happy place I’d go to was the moment i get home from work and my kids all come running to me and scream “DADDY!!!!” This experience is something i will never ever forget and i cant wait for the next GORUCK event!!!!