A Shot at Redemption – GORUCK Anaconda Light AAR

2019 Mar 18 
Mike V.

If you’ve been following along, you know that exactly two years ago I was fed an entire Humble Pie by Cadre Shredder and Cadre Cleve. The chances to right a personal failure are rare, so when I saw Shredder assigned to moderate this event, I knew I had a chance to right a wrong which has literally kept me up at night. When they talk about “finding your why,” this was it.

At this point, with three events under my belt, I’m the GORUCK Light Sophomore – the Wise Fool. Fully half the class were new folks, and incidentally, very few locals. In fact, more people seemed to know the true identity of Ruck.Beer than knew their way around Roanoke. Shredder has this chill, approachable California demeanor during the Admin phase, which gives a lot of folks a false sense of security. “Fun on a team,” right? This dude could be my cool Uncle Mike. Now how about after I call your name you start doing sprints until some of you are throwing up?

Last month’s event was an integrated Tough/Light, and thus the Welcome Party was fairly trivial since half our number were already on the Struggle Bus. This time, it wasn’t the case. Shredder and Cadre Matt S had us running back and forth across a 100-yard span with the Light version of a Dump Ruck drill. Grab your snacks. Run them over the Matt. Too slow. Burpees go. Run back. Grab your ID. Bring them to me. Too slow. Flutter kicks begin.

This is where I realized I was going to be one of the top performers on the team. I was able to cover the distance faster than most, more often than most. I had my ruck laid out in a way which made the different items easy to grab; it was a trick I’d picked up in a Selection AAR I’d read. Worry less about grabbing every little thing and having it perfect. You can make it how you like it later. Right now, it isn’t important, and on balance, it’s better to be among the first finishers than it is to have your stuff all pretty like you like it.

From here, we were deposited into a frigid Blue Mountains river. We tried to get away with only going waist deep. For this we were “corrected” and reinserted shoulder deep to do the longest Elephant Walk I’ve ever done.

After, we were given a chance to dry off, hydrate, and listen to Shredder tell us the story of Operation Anaconda, this history of the Valley of Kings, and the Battle of Takur Ghar.

Shredder then brought us to his secret stash – a literal truckful of water bladders and sandbags. 61 people had registered as “Going” on Facebook, and only 37 showed up. We despaired immediately as it became clear the 37 (soon to be 36 after a heat casualty) that were going to be carrying 61 people’s worth of crap.

Don’t be a Blue Falcon. If you’re not going, just click “Interested.” Hours of relay races with rucks and 60lb sandbags sucks.

The folks from the Tough event were then instructed to teach us how to form “Chinooks,” the lesson being around how Coalition forces were inserted and extracted from Takur Ghar. These “Chinooks” then moved roughly half a mile up and down hill, a movement which was a disaster. The lesson this time was that while we did this task fairly well in the park, we were absolute trash at longer movements in this configuration. Shredder explained that this is why you train hard – because when things get rough, you will perform down to the level of your training.

We were then aligned for more relay races, this one in view of some locals in the park. As they deviated from the path to avoid our antics, Cadre was displeased that we were not “respecting the local population.”

Low crawls up a steep hill with a time hack was our punishment and a lesson in the importance of respecting local traditions and customs. During the exercise, anyone found without a sufficiently low crawl was treated to a gentle corrective poke on the hip with a stick. Again it was a matter of respect. If the guys in the valley faced withering fire and couldn’t stick their butts in the air to move, neither could we.

Finally, we did casualty carries down and around the hills as our final movement while Shredder and Matt S made sure we knew the names of the fallen. Many of us scraped and bruised from the low crawls, tired from the sprints, and in some cases still damp from the river, we pushed through.

A lesson in ego and sacrifice was our final takeaway. None of this is about you. Do what you can for the team. If you can give more, give more.

As we formed up and loaded the sandbags back into Shredder’s truck, he concluded with perhaps the best summary of GORUCK I’ve ever heard.

“This patch costs what? Maybe a buck fifty if you wanted to have it made? But you will never sell it and no one will ever try buy it. The things in my life I’m most proud of are the little pieces of cloth just like this one. I’ve done a lot of crazy shit for little pieces of cloth, and now you have too.”

Then he issued a challenge to us.

“I’ll see you at one of my Toughs.”


I cannot say enough good things about the GORUCK Simple Hulk Pants. It is like having your legs caressed by a choir of angels. When worn over some UnderArmour Boxerjock grape smugglers (on the suggestion of James Vreeland’s “What to Wear” page) – you have decent leg protection that basically eliminates chafing. I felt almost no extra weight during our stint in a frigid Virginia mountain river, and was dry within 15 minutes of getting out.

Once again I rocked the Rucker 2.0 and 20lb Expert Plate, Source bladder, reflective bands…basically the Welcome to Rucking bundle with a hip belt specifically for Get Up Get Downs (one of Shredder’s favorites and a Ruck.Tranining staple). Aside from that, the loadout was the same as last time.


I continue with my six-day deadlift-focused split, with considerable cardio afterwards. I’m rotating through different GORUCK/SFAS/RASP training programs, if for no other reason than to keep that element of my training fresh.

For February, I ran the ruck.training program and came in extremely well prepared, but this time I mixed it up with some SOFREP Selection Prep workouts. 75ish minutes of barbell/dumbbell work every morning followed by some of these bodyweight exercises and rucks made for some 3+ hour stints in the gym, but when it came time to toe the line, I was among the best prepared and an asset to my team, rather than a liability.

Corrective Steps taken from Last Time

Eating at maintenance for a week prior to the event was much, much more effective. I ended up coming in about 5 pounds lighter, which is a considerable improvement in just four weeks of additional training. With just three weeks until my next event, it’s going to be important to press the advantage in the weight loss department.

Last time I had shied away from being a team leader, and this time I stood up and said, “send me.” I highly suggest you do this when given the opportunity. The feedback alone will immediately make you a more effective human.

In my case, my team appreciated my effective communication of expectations and mission objective, but coached the way I called for volunteers to carry sandbags rather than delegating and assigning tasks. In the end, we made our time hack, and Matt S. pulled me aside to ask “as you always this intense?” I was flattered. When a Recon Marine is admiring my intensity level, I figured I must be doing something right.

Lessons Learned

I’m just not training hard enough. I’m told that Shredder’s events – even the Lights – are notoriously difficult. But I’m told that Cleve‘s are even harder. And again, this was “just a Light.” I can’t expect to continue to coast and be successful.

Lack of Comfort Items were a big miss for me.

In the financial world, when we evaluate an investment, we have the acronym “DYOR,” or “Do Your Own Research.” Reading as many AARs and reviews as I possibly could was extremely helpful, as you never know when a nugget you didn’t even know you knew pops into your mind.

Departure Time.

It makes no sense to show up at the park four hours early. Granted, I had to drive about 150 miles from Raleigh to Roanoke, but leaving at 7am for a 2pm start was just excessive. I was able to snag a nap in the car, but that left me with a stiff neck and back, rather than a rested feeling. If anything, I’m going to take this as a learning opportunity – I will need a different place to crash between events as I progress to Tough-Lights and eventually HTLs.


While my feet were fine thanks to Darn Tough wool socks and Injinji toe socks, all the draining around the Solomons is on the top, so for five hours you’re stepping in sogginess. Ultimately, I’m jazzed about the prospect of some high-top MACV-1s. I may have to retire the Solomons after my next Light.

Year of the GORUCK

Be sure to stay up to date with Mike V as he rucks a ton of miles and works towards his goal of doing an HTL. Follow him at @YearOfTheGORUCK.

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