There is no training advice here. It should be obvious to everyone that months or years of consistent training is of the utmost importance to getting your bolts. This article is something to be read a couple weeks before your HTB (Heavy, Tough, Basic) and then again directly before. It’s little tidbits of advice that will help you push through when things get tough.
While I’ve only completed 2 HTLs, I have only attempted 2. I know that detailed planning and keeping the right mindset is key to surviving and excelling.
Before we get into the steps, here’s the main piece of advice: Quitting should never be an option, not showing up to the next event should never be an option. Don’t even let it even cross your mind. Now that’s been said, let’s get down to it.
Push through pain, some may even say #seekpain…. Pain is quite easily the biggest justification in quitting.
“I don’t want to be useless at work or at home, so I’m going to quit now before this gets serious”.
That’s a completely legitimate concern, but odds are once you rest for a day or two, or even an hour or two, you will be fully functioning yet again. The severity of pain can be exaggerated in your mind in the moment to make it easier to justify quitting.
So when that pain comes (and it will), truly and fairly evaluate it before you make a decision on your event outcome. Ask yourself if you think in a couple days or immediately post-event, am I going to feel like I could have kept going? Guess what, the answer is almost always yes.
Control what you can control. Plan out your gear to a T. Triple check your gear before you leave the house. Check it again before the event. Know where everything is in your ruck. Be prepared for a ruck dump, it’s not just a Selection/Team Assessment thing.
Make sure your between-event gear is laid out and organized, especially if you don’t have a support crew.
Set multiple alarms if you take a nap. I don’t recommend sleep between a Heavy and a Tough. There are much higher priorities: food, stretch, shower, foot care. Use adrenaline to keep you going once you get to the Tough, because all a nap is going to do is make you not want to show up.
Check the weather. Sounds like basic advice, but I need to say it because a friend didn’t make it to the Tough where there was a 100% chance of 45° rain with 40mph winds and didn’t have a rain jacket. You might be great at rucking, but this sort of thing can crush you. Get your layers right. Once you’re wet and the sun goes down, you will get cold, even if you don’t think the air temp is that bad on paper. (Here’s my article on gear for cold and wet events.)
Have backups of vital gear at your disposal for between events, think things that can easily break, but you definitely need (bladder, shoes, headlamp etc). If your bladder busts and you only bring one, you’re SOL. If the sole of your shoe starts to peel off during the Heavy, you’re going to have a hell of a Tough and Basic. If you lose your headlamp during the Heavy and you don’t have a backup, your team will be punished when they gear check you at the Tough. Two is one. One is none.
Have a plan for how often you will consume calories, don’t just wing it. (Unless the Cadre take your food, then they will plan it for you).
A lot of people are used to not eating a lot for a Tough, so they skimp on the calories for the first half of the Heavy, then they get depleted and can’t catch up during the 2nd half.
Drink your calories while you’re rucking, Tailwind is a great option for that. Make sure you balance regular old water with your electrolytes. It’s definitely a balancing act and too many or too little electrolytes can take you out of the game.
Have nutrient dense foods, like PBJ on whole wheat, nuts, jerky, dried fruit, but also have some feel-good favorite snacks. Never try a new food or supplement the day of an event!
4. Team bonding:
If you go to an HTB alone, this may be the most important thing. Establish bonds with your teammates. The closer you are to people and the closer they are to you will make a significant difference in your event.
I’ve never done a scientific study, but I’m willing to bet coupons are more readily shared between people who know each other vs people who don’t. It’s not just about the coupons though, having bonds with your teammates will make it harder to quit. They will help keep you distracted when you’re starting to get that miserable internal dialogue and if you mention wanting to drop to someone who knows how important this is to you, you may just very well get talked into staying.
It’s not just about you though, ask your teammates how they are doing. Sometimes focusing on someone else’s pain and struggle will distract you from your own, so in the end, it benefits you anyways.
5. Contribute, but pace yourself:
This is a team event. You don’t deserve to be there just because you want the glory of “the patch”. Carry coupons. Take the heavier items, even if it’s just for a short time. This is the most obvious piece of advice, but we all see it at all levels of events. People skate by without contributing. They never take the heavier coupons, they stick to the flag, or literally hide in the back.
If you hear someone call you a gray man, you better step it up. If you’re taking on an HTB you need to be at a level where you are in rotation for the heavy coupons at a Tough/Basic weekend. If you’re not, save your money and save your teammates the headache of carrying your weight. Sounds harsh? Well, it’s true.
On the other hand, don’t come to the Heavy and try to be the MVP. You have an entire weekend of events to survive. I say this after I witnessed a team member dominate the first 12 hours of a Heavy and have an ambulance called for him at hour 13. You don’t need to be the hero, you just need to contribute and help your team.
Find your why. It’s probably the most popular piece of advice given to people who are attempting to achieve something big. It becomes even more important when that big thing also causes you to be in both physical and mental pain.
Some people’s why are very powerful, while others can barely find a reason they do this stuff. Before coming to the event, you need to know it.
So if it’s not immediately apparent, do some thinking. Did it take you months to save up for these events? Did you have to convince your spouse or boss to let you take the time off to come to the event? Do you have people at home supporting you, waiting for you to send a picture of that patch? Or reversely, will your co-workers or friends tease you if you come home and you didn’t finish?
Your why doesn’t have to be anything incredibly inspirational. It just has to be something that will keep you going when your mind wants to quit.
These will be memories you will keep with you for the rest of your life (at least the parts you didn’t black out while you were sleep walking). Very few people in the world take on something this challenging. Be proud. You paid for this. You trained for this. No one is making you be there. You did this to you. No crying, no whining. Make the most of it. Keep a good attitude. Bite your tongue when you want to snap at a teammate. Build people up. Make it a positive experience for yourself and others. People remember the teammates who make events enjoyable. Be that person.
Those are my non-training tips to surviving a GORUCK HTB. The only other piece of advice I have to give is to immediately go to a tattoo parlor to get your bolts inked on you forever!