F3 NORTHWIND GORUCK SUA SPONTE CUSTOM TOUGH AFTER ACTION REPORT
Foreword: Even though I was not omniscient or taking notes while spending the majority of the night in the front of the ruck march, you know I’m verbose, so this breaks all rules of all thumbs. Bear (crawl) in mind that the writer of this report is human, and this is NOT the World Cup.
“This is different than I thought.” — Titanium, June 3, 2018
Top five quotes, in no particular order, that were candidates to replace my ever-present Titanium AAR-leading quote:
Cadre Belman: “I’ve got so many army stories I could share …”
Atticus: “How about just your top 35?”
Spur: “Assault Team doesn’t pee until after the mission!”
*pees two minutes later while Crown Point cops are running a visiting former Ranger’s driver’s license*
911 dispatcher: “What’s your emergency?”
Lights Out: “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
Kato: “Can we just stop talking about China and do, like, 100,000 burpees or something?”
Me: *Shares Quest protein cookie w/Atticus, Oiler and Blue after all the midnight Wheeler games*
Cadre Belman: “Whatcha got there, GRT?”
Me: “Protein cookie. Want some?”
Belman: “No thanks.”
Me: [internally: “Whoa, just got called GRT in public by the cadre. It’s legit!”]
Event Type: GORUCK Custom Tough
Date: Oct. 26-27, 2018.
Special Event: F3 NorthWind Sua Sponte Tough. Sua sponte is basically Latin for “of its own accord” as in, we didn’t need no stinkin’ event calendar to make our OWN Tough happen.
GoRuck Class Number (some people are really into this stat): 2848.
Location: Crown Point, IN. Basically we’ve rucked to all these places on our regular Wednesdays besides the gravel “field” south of the fairgrounds and the isolated field catty corner from the landscaping supply company on Indiana Avenue. Colonel Wheeler Middle School was Endex and site of some humbling team-building games.
Time: 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. (12 hours)
Cadre/QIC: John Belman, former Army Ranger, F3 name Slippery Root (Marchers at a GrowRuck were calling out potholes and slippery roots, and he said, “I’ve got a slippery root for you!”). The guy does this well. If you are new to reading this, he was in the air and eventually on the ground 25 years ago in Mogadishu, Somalia, as the U.S. lost 18 soldiers in an all-day firefight with rebel clans in which five of eight Black Hawk helicopters were disabled and crashed either in the city or back at base. The book and subsequent movie “Black Hawk Down” tells the story. The book “The Day of the Rangers” also gives a more thorough report on it. It was the bloodiest battle involving American troops in the decades between Vietnam and Afghanistan. Belman escaped unscathed while close friends lost lives. He gave a talk on it at a local country club the morning of the event. Very descriptive and enlightening. At age 51, he’s a wise, stern, experienced man who’s seen some things and learned a lot but can still beat you down at the drop of a coupon. He can talk politics, leadership, and technical jargon but also design torturous routines from the one-hour to 12-hour varieties. He did an amazing job on this challenge by making it very difficult but also pretty fun, informative and uplifting. We learned a ton about military life and decision making and politics as well as many many details about the events in Mogadishu. He’s one of the best for a reason. Rangers Lead the Way.
PAX: 28, broken down thusly
Total FNGs to F3: 2 — The Mask (Jacob D, EH’d by me at a Constellation event); Barry Pepper (Steve P, EH’d by Barricade at a Constellation event). Both had done Toughs previously.
Total GRVs (GoRuck Virgins, not sure this is a standard acronym but ok): 8 — Atticus, Bert, Blue, Campbells, Muck, Tackleberry, Dirty Bird (I think?), Mufasa.
Newly Minted GRTs (Tough finishers who had done a GoRuck event, just not a Tough) aside from aforementioned GRVs: 11 — Archive, Coors, Denari, Editor, Oilermaker, HHH, Spur, Peyton, Homer (I think?), Kato, Lights Out.
Senior GRTs (old pros): 7 — Aquaman, Barricade, Fonzie, LaLoyd, The Mick, Scarecrow, Stamp (I think?).
Shadows: Aquaman’s wife, Amelia (entire time) plus Titanium and Optimus
Discounted beatdown recipients who came for a taste at 7 a.m.: Mayhem, Skymall, Falcon, Falcon’s two minions (but not *Minion* minion). On the way out, Falcon’s brethren said, “We have backpacks. We should try this next time.” Hope you guys enjoyed the workout with a Special Forces cadre alongside 28 zombies!
No-shows: None. This was my fifth cadre-led GoRuck event, and that was a first. We even had double-registrants. That’s how locked in and determined we were.
Infractions during gear check: ZERO. Another personal first witnessed. This was so cool to see. It really made me proud of the F3 brand and the care and attention to detail of our brothers when the cadre just assumed we all had our packing list items completely together because most of us did. It was a relief to not have to wiggle that 30-pound plate out of the Rucker 2.0 because I never beveled. Obviously this is a good time to say it was really cool knowing just about everyone at the event since that’s really only possible at a Custom.
Funkiest “rucksacks”: Tie between Campbells’ indescribable IKEA bag and Tackleberry’s one-stop camping bag and seat-may-be-used-as-flotation-device ensemble.
Funkiest “hip belt”: Kato’s fish tank oxygen bubble lines.
Team weight: At the start it was a noisemaking, well-lit barbell through four lit plastic skulls and a trick or treat basket filled with cement, a steel plate that resembled a headstone, and three “rats” for the Region Rats participating in a Region GoRuck F3 custom tough. It took a beating throughout the night because it was meant to be unwieldy and a bit of a nuisance to carry (by far not the worst thing to carry, we all know now), but luckily Optimus got a shot of Barricade holding it that made the GoRuck public FB page “What did you do this Rucking Weekend?” slideshow. It was Halloween weekend. We needed a dab of Halloween fun.
Weather: 46 degrees as we embarked.
Distance: Something like 14.3 miles. On the short side for a Tough, but the miles were heavily weighted by coupons.
GRTs who peed out in public: 28/28.
GRTs who pooped out in the open: None. It takes a truly sick person to do such a thing.
GRTs who launched well-timed sick farts much more than they talked about the USA v China: 1. Thank you, Kato.
Times we were mistaken for the migrant herd and told to go back to Mexico by passing cars: 1.
Pax who saw HHH’s family waving to us on the Square as we began our march: Several, but not HHH.
Crown Point Police officers NOT on the take from HHH: At least 2.
Alcoholic beverages consumed mid-event: None that I know. I am now 2-for-5 in this category for cadre-led GoRuck events.
GRTs who celebrated Endex with some 8:05 a.m. bourbon shots in a middle school football field parking lot: 5, confirmed, unnamed.
F-bombs dropped: Several … hundred. Burpee rule was waived, though we atoned in our own ways.
Times we sang “Kumbaya” to really elevate the team dynamic: 0.
Times we sang “Tiny Dancer” to cut all the group tension: 0.
Times Bert talked out loud: 0. Embrace the Bert Effect. It’s a patch. Let’s get a bulk order.
Percentage of the 450 pounds of imported Somali sand that we donated to the Erie-Lackawanna Trail relief effort impromptu service project: 98.2, the rest having been sprinkled out of that annoying half-full plastic bag on “accident” during “bumps in the road.”
Exercises we did: Seemingly ALL of them, minus crab crawls and monkey-humpers, which have a different name in GoRuck world.
Fire trucks washed: 3.
Times we failed to put the lotion in the basket and got the hose(s): 1.
Times I started and stopped doing this AAR: 42.
GEAR MUSINGS (briefly)
In two previous AARs and several hundred PacRat reminders, we’ve hammered what we all already know thanks to our senior GRTs: Cotton kills, and foot care is key. I think everyone who cared listened and survived with minimal blisters or hypothermia or rashes. There were just a few new takeaways.
*Roxanne, you DO have to turn on the red light. I never knew that the white light could get so annoying and actually kill conversations with the cadre from how blinding the light is. Note to self, buy or borrow a head lamp with the option to go red.
*Layers are still good, layers that fit are even better, and Midwesterners don’t need windbreakers. My windbreaker was simply added weight at the bottom of my ruck. When stuff gets wet, it sags. When you wear too much polyester, things sag. Wishing you had drilled another hole in your belt while an 80-pound sandbag sits atop your collarbone is pretty vexing.
SO, WHAT DID Y’ALL DO?
*Pregame locker room: Again, I always love this part. The giddiness, the togetherness. I’ve ruminated on it in previous AARs though. This time since we were all so close to home (I even doubled back when I realized I left my Pelican box in the garage) we were split between a few folks at Safehouse, several in the courthouse area avoiding haunted house and Pokemon hunting aficionados, and the hilarious “We should go now” evergrowing tailgate at the Wheeler football field parking lot. People got there and we had 2nd F for a while. We thought we saw the cadre on his phone in a white truck we assumed was Barricade’s, but it turned out to be some creep. Cadre rolled up in a rented sedan, and then Oilermaker almost ran him over, but we all walked to the start point together. Praying beforehand was an outstanding, uplifting experience. It set the mood and put the Lord in our minds before the journey. It was inspiring. There’s a Facebook page called GoRuck Jesus Freaks for anyone interested. Group prayer does not typically precede GoRuck events though.
*Enter Sandman: After gear check and administrative stuff, we were introduced to our burden for the night: 450 pounds of sand to be distributed among many sandbags as coupons, not to mention burdensome logs, jerry cans and the team weight, all things that made the marching difficult and often killed either your spine or your grip. THIS, I quickly realized, is one of the things that makes the Tough different from a Light. Not to to digress, but at a Light, once you get to the march, you are fine unless there are casualty carries. At a Tough, having 22 implements to be distributed among 28 men, there isn’t a lot of time where you just have a ruck and free hands and can talk about which characters from The Simpsons Coors and Spur might be. This ain’t no Wednesday night at the Fairgrounds.
*Service project, aka, We Didn’t Start the Fire: A few blocks into our journey we stopped for the pre-arranged service project. As a former Cub scout and a guy whose high school required 8 hours of community service, I was dismayed at my first Light when the service project was lip service and no actual project. In two ensuing Lights with service projects, we gave our quitter cash to a charity at Endex. This was so nice just to do something as a team and feel a modicum of giving back to the community and our first responders. Our “reward” was pretty funny as we kept with the GoRuck tradition of getting wet (and not in the “Training Day” way). Guys, if you know the rep counts of much of what we did, you are a master backblaster. I wasn’t taking notes, so I just know we did something like 50 4ct low flutters, 50 4ct mountain climbers, 50 pushups, 50 something else? Sorry for anyone who wanted to drill down on all the numbers, but over 12 hours, we did 1,000s of reps. The start of the spraying was on the GoRuck members-only Tough page live and got tons of comments, so we had five minutes of fame. One of the hoses was warm, the other two were cold. Some of us did 90 days of nothing but cold showers this spring (Choose the Harder Thing). It was nice to know we were mentally ready for that on a 45-degree Friday night.
*Let the Games Begin: Some GoRuck cadre like to have you repeat that “GoRuck events are a team-based endurance challenge led by Special Forces Cadre.” After the fire station we headed to the home of the Monday Run, for those of you who have never been, but it was for some team games. It pays to be a winner and sucks to lose. Colonel Wheeler Middle School’s football field was the site of our version of “The Longest Yard.” The brutal games in front of empty bleachers. We had to practice casualty carries, but we didn’t do traditional one-man fireman carries or two- or three-man carries. We did two-man casualty drags. The games went thusly: We broke into four seven-man teams by counting off. Two teams did a low crawl race dragging a pair of sandbags totaling 140 pounds while other team members crawled alongside. The other teams raced with a “casualty” or two being dragged while other team members lunged. Both races were 40 yards, if I recall correctly. The worst part was that you could not get on your mark or get set or go past the start line until you did 20 burpees (our rucks were on, of course), not as a team but EACH. My team lost a few times. Losers had to do 20 ruck thrusters as punishment. Things got ugly here. The measure of an event or workout to me is how many times your “redline” or, as I say, hear your heartbeat in your ears. Low crawling with still-wet socks sliding around in my increasingly worn soles caused me foot cramps, and I was generally slow from improper rest during the week. Our team (me, Lights Out, Fonzie, Blue, Stamp, Homer and Peyton) was in the losers bowl after losing both attempts at the bag drag and the casualty drag. We tied the team that had Kato, Oilermaker and I can’t recall who else, so we had to fight for third place with a 20-yard inchworm race. Get 20 yards forward on your belly without rolling or using your arms. It was rough. We barely won that. Oilermaker has powerful hips, so he crossed the line first, but it was a team event. The team that crushed most races if not ALL the burpees (though, who did?) was composed of Barricade, Spur, HHH, Dirty Bird, LaLoyd, Denari and Scarecrow. Lots of firepower in that group.
*Lake County FAIL-grounds: So we thought we had something accomplished with the water torture part, but the closest thing we had to a Welcome Party in the first 11 hours was just about to be inflicted upon us. We had some sort of plan to infiltrate the Fairgrounds for some kind of cool mission or maybe even some more water PT. However, the Fairgrounds were closed, and too many coupon transfer stops totally blew our time hack. This resulted in a quick break and then being brought to a “field” that was much more gravel than grass and getting a pretty treacherous punishment. We learned the not-so-fun “On Your Bellies, On Your Backs, On Your Feet” game. They did not teach this one in kindergarten. It was brutal, breathtaking PT. Redlined. At least we got a decent break for a few moments after it as we did a Q&A with the cadre. I was dismayed by the performance at Wheeler and crushed by this round of PT. I thank guys like Spur, Atticus, Fonzie and Scarecrow for checking in on me. It helped turn the night in the right direction for me. I don’t know about everyone else, but this was the turning point in the night from pure beatdown to educational GoRuck fun. Thinking back I was in my head for a few hours but rucked up and bucked up.
*A taste of Constellation under the Constellations:, aka The Eye of Sauerman … Called the Cops We rucked through my neighborhood and near some other Pax’s domiciles, and we went to one of our old haunts, Sauerman Woods, which we geekily call “Sauron’s Woods” quite often for the Lord of the Rings references. It was here that we had our first really deep snack and drink break and actually sat down. This was a surprise and quite a delight. We laughed at the miniature soccer fields and the giant disclaimer that the coaches and refs are humans, etc. As soon as we started hearing the words “Cover and Concealment” those of us who have done a GoRuck Constellation event hear some familiar terms. If you haven’t done a Constellation event, I highly recommend it. Almost no PT, no required weight in your ruck, highly educational and basically adults playing GI Joes. They also call it Adult Hide and Seek. Constellation is cool, and those of you that never do another event at least got to see a little bit of what it is. Our run at this was pretty cool as we learned a lot about raids and ambushes and defense and running a little and then dropping down and all the approaches. We broke into Scout Team (I think?) and Assault Team. One did “recon” which included being hassled by cops, who had some reason to be alarmed by 30 grown men playing at a children’s playground wearing red head lamps and using logs as fake guns at an ungodly hour of the night. HHH had forgotten to give these guys their envelopes of hush money, but they left without incident. We “ambushed” a gazebo by sneaking around the trail where we did our GoRuck club callout for the Trail Ruck last spring. It was pretty fun, pretty lit, and pretty informational and easy.
*Chinese Democracy: Next we began a super long march from Sauerman Woods to a vacant lot around Summit and Indiana. It was there that we had a long talk about China and random other odds and ends and also did another buttload of PT but also had a very solid snack and sit break. At this point I began to crave movement because my eyes were getting heavy during the sit-down talks. Going forward and considering more Toughs, though, it’s nice to know you can sit for a spell here and there and change socks or something if you need it. Brother Barricade, who obviously gets TONS of props for being at the tip of the spear for organizing this event, led this PT session after the redirections from Cadre Belman. Exercises included squats and more 8-count bodybuilders (burpees with plank jacks and pushups) and 4-count flutter kicks where we all faced one way and Atticus faced the other. At this point the comedy competition was fierce between Atticus and Kato. However, Kato was irritated by the symposium on China, and Atticus had one of the best gems of the night when the cadre said he could tell so many stories, and Atticus, not ashamed to try to stall with questions to get the leader talking, a tactic he honed at our common alma mater Our Lady of Knock in Calumet City, said something like, “Well, how about just your top 35?” Also of note, if you ruck around here enough, you ruck every square inch of Crown Point. This random vacant field and the gravel field just south of the fairgrounds were the only two spots where I had never previously rucked. This field, which I often pass driving home from work, was the hazy part of the night, the part where Toughs are not quite done but are more than half gone. It’s eerily quiet at night, and you must have positive self-talk to stay afloat.
*The Long March Home: Most of us had no idea what time it was at this point, but we knew it was way into the wee hours and we might be close to done with brutal PT until the Endex party. We were right. We just had to go like six miles with all the coupons continuing to crush us. The route was again familiar. During the 20-mile Overnight Ruck Challenge that I’m so happy we did two weeks before the event, we all agreed that the most depressing stretch was 93rd Avenue. Then we of course found ourselves marching there spent, tired, toting coupons and sporting attitudes during this event. We turned down our familiar Erie-Lackawanna Trail and headed south toward Wheeler. When you run the trail and come back and can see the water tower, you know you’re near the end. It was the same on this night. I was going to make a list of top-five moments, but all five were this: Cadre Belman said we could dump all the sand. I repeat. He said we could dump all the sand. Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream, indeed! We gleefully skipped home to Wheeler.
*Endex at Wheeler: You know when you have a tube of toothpaste that’s almost gone, but you press every corner and roll it tighter than any of Lights Out’s funny cigarettes from high school just to get that last brush-full out? That was our Endex. That was our remaining energy being squeezed out from every corner of every muscle fiber. For starters, the sun was coming up and we were all basically on the verge of collapse. It was nice to see five new Pax join us and have some M’s show up to view the final stretch of carnage. Still, bear crawl merkin suicides on the football field were straight cray. Bad. Then we lunge-walked around the entire track with an Indian run sprint. That was a comparative warmup. We then did every iteration of ruck PT you could possibly imagine until Oilermaker flippantly asked for a reprieve and for a moment got us a few 8-count bodybuilders SANS ruck. It was nice. Being in a huge circle was fun, and it would have been better if we could all see straight. That killed all of us, as did sprinting to the end zone and back every so often. Somehow, some way we all made it. I don’t remember there being too many poignant words during the patching ceremony, but the patch design our master designer Fonzie was super exquisite and uplifting. Cadre was not much for congratulations, individual kudos, or the standard cadre hard hand slap of the patch that turns into a one-arm bro hug, and that is his wont. Regardless, we finished, we took a picture, we gathered at midfield to name two new Pax and have one of our larger, more exhausted Circles of Trust ever. It’s OK that we didn’t shoot video of it. We were in various states of decay.
Like I’ve said, I don’t know how to feel or what else I missed being up front so much. We had 28 strong Brothers well-prepared for an extremely daunting task, and we all finished. THAT being said, we use the term “crushed it” probably a little too often. Buzzwords are contagious. Who crushed this Tough? I don’t know. Ask yourself or promote your own version of the truth. This is no shot at any of you. I just think about the guy with the 26.2 tattoo who couldn’t handle two dozen flights of stairs at the 9/11 Light and then was the first to take a picture with the Cadre and tell the world he “crushed it.” All he crushed was my spirit when I saw that bull.
So I can’t say anyone crushed it because only God can judge. People who killed it probably know it, and those who didn’t are probably self-aware enough to question themselves or humbly admit they survived via the team and sheer will power. We had a lot of grit and muscle and fitness behind us. The Mick said it a few weeks beforehand, but posting consistently with F3 helps mitigate some of the terror non-F3 GRVs might experience at such an event. I’ll also add that Pathfinder Ruck Training has been a huge extra boost for me, especially with its list of challenges and workouts you can do on your own or in a smaller group. Barricade and Fonzie and HHH are about the only names I’ll drop right here because they took on a lot of organizational duties with making this all happen, and this certainly was a monumental task they totally crushed. Having everyone with the same patch on their ruck was beautiful. It’s certainly an undertaking to organize this, and we are all in your debt and blessed to have you as part of F3 NorthWind. I wasn’t part of the inside crew, which is cool since I like surprises, so big T-claps to anyone else who played a huge role behind the scenes. Anyway, for the physical performance, the compromise is this: If you were pushed well out of your comfort zone, felt like quitting or felt like you would have quit if you didn’t know 95 percent of the people there already, and then persevered, shouts to you. The usual positive feedback loop that is so integral to F3 definitely dissipated at times in the middle of the night, and we dealt with our less pleasant selves and emotions, including anger, frustration and self-doubt. That is at least humbling and eye-opening. GoRuck stuff does that to you. It’s more raw, and there isn’t as much “Leave no man behind, but never leave him where you found him” philosophy emphasized as strongly as we do at F3. They have certain percentages of finishers at events, and other sadistic cadres delight in a “black class” where no one finishes. No mercy, no shortcuts, no smoke blown in any bowels, that’s what you get when you are out on the edge. I’m reminded of the Hunter S. Thompson quote (I said I didn’t have pithy observations, but the pretentious literary references I do): “The Edge…There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others — the living — are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later.” That’s a lot like a Tough. You want to get hurt or blown out? No good. You push right up to that point and pull back? That’s Good Livin’ right there. Nonetheless, you all finished an exhausting physical challenge, the likes of which most of us had never before experienced. That is proof that you chose the harder thing and didn’t friggin’ quit. It’s like Don said to Peggy at the Mad Men Selection Endex in the Season Four episode titled “The Ruckcase” after she admonished Don for never saying “thank you” and he replied: “That’s what the patch is for!” Wear that thing with pride, boys. You know what you did, sua sponte, to earn it.