My First GORUCK – Battle of the Bulge AAR
Battle of the Bulge GORUCK Light
San Jose California
January 19, 2019
Submitted by Cas Bass
My first GORUCK Light is in the bags. I wanted to share this AAR with the community/ www because I’m not your typical endurance athlete.
I’m a short (5’3”), morbidly obese (220) female.
I was scared signing up.
I was scared showing up.
I found GORUCK after a period of minimal activity and severe postpartum depression. After many days of reading AARs, every page of the goruck.com, and secretly scouting out the Reddit sub, I decided GORUCK was the event company for me.
I’ll be honest, I did not do a whole lot of prep before the event. I wish I would have, but who doesn’t wish they were in better shape before an event?
I hiked up a mountain, 4ish miles. Honestly, I think that was harder work than the light, but the light was more challenging because of the length and type of endurance needed.
I did one other hike with weight on a Taco Tuesday which was probably less than 3 miles.
However, I do run after my two children, both under two, all day long, and go to a personal training class for 30 minutes twice a week. So I already had a baseline level of strength (but not speed. Man am I slow.).
Lead-up to the event:
I wasn’t going to show up.
I had decided that I wasn’t ready and didn’t really want to do the Light (I did, but when something appears hard I lie to myself and convince myself I never really wanted it to begin with).
However, I had borrowed a ruck from this really encouraging, team leader type of guy. I couldn’t figure out a way to tell him I wasn’t showing up. I knew that after only training with him twice he wasn’t going to let me off that easily.
I had so many excuses. I hadn’t trained enough. It was shark week. My babies needed me at home, and on and on it went.
But I showed up to the start anyway.
Apparently, this isn’t normal. I’m not an expert, so don’t ask me.
The cadre we had for the event is known as Hot Mike, mainly to do with his physique, but also because he comes on hot and quick from the beginning.
We started with the obligatory gear check, safety briefing, and quick introduction followed by the hardest part of the event- the welcome party.
Cadre explained that what we were about to do was meant to get our heart rate up quickly and to evaluate where we were physically.
I, of course, was one of the ones he needed to assess, being the biggest lady there by far, and close to one of the biggest people there, period. I kept up with the strength exercises easily, but for the cardio I quickly fell behind. And those stupid eight counts (squat, jump back to plank, push-up, ground jumping jack, back to squat, stand up) kill me. I move slow, and to get back to the squat before the stand up, takes like five movements due to lack of flexibility.
However, I rocked the shoulder presses. A 30ish pound ruck is nothing compared to playing with and throwing around two toddlers every day. This is where I excelled.
Throughout the event we were briefed on different aspects of WWII and the events leading up to and during the Battle of the Bulge.
The biggest take away from the information I gleaned is “Nuts.” Research the story about that for yourself and thank me later.
From there we low crawled approximately 30-50 yards. I’m also good at low crawling (it has something to do about those babies), the trick is to use your hips, thighs and feet to push yourself. However, I lost stamina and needed to catch my breath after only about 10 yards in. I went from being up front, to near the last one to finish.
It was here I expected to get yelled at to move quicker, and for cadre to be in my face. I guess I have watched too many hours of selection, because this never happened.
While Cadre Mike did encourage us to move faster, and pushed us further than we may have gone on our own, he never out right yelled at someone (to the best of my knowledge).
We had our first bio break and moved onto the first ruck march of the day. I have no idea how far it was, but it was the longest movement of the day, probably around 2 to 2.5 miles. Purely guessing.
Our fireteam struggled with the heavy gun (120lb sandbag to resemble the gear used during WWII) and radio control gear (60 lbs).
The light class was encouraged to pull extra weight as the tough had already been at this for 6 hours. I wish I could have helped more with the heavy gear, but I would carry the smaller team weights (the 35 pound, 3 foot long pipe wrench was the worse, but I secretly loved it and carried it like a sling bag).
We then learned different methods of low crawling, while Cadre tied it back to the BOTB (Battle of the Bulge). We were at this for what I’m guessing was an hour before we moved out again.
Shorter distance, probably a mile long.
At this time we had some inexperienced team leads and men who were needing to change out from under the weights more frequently. During this chaos we earned some penalty points which were made up at the next park. The punishment to justify walking across the street after the stop signal was 10 reps of different exercises for each individual who didn’t make it across (6). At this time people were more tired and it took a few recounts to get everybody moving at the same time. This was the second worse part, a PT session that took a significant amount of time.
Next up were buddy extractions.
Unfortunately, this was the lowest part of the event for me. Nobody wanted me as part of the group (remember I’m huge) and I didn’t really want to be on anybody’s team because of it. However, I had to, so I joined a pair of studly women.
It gets worse, however.
On the cross arm carry I ran into the group in front of us, and tripped, dropping the casualty. Purely my fault. That ticked off the ladies I was working with, righteously so.
Man did I feel bad.
Next up, it was my turn to be dragged. Cadre felt bad for us/wanted to help so allowed me to crab crawl with my legs as the girls supported me.
Lastly, we did a stretcher type carry without the stretcher. We couldn’t get this down and switched positions a few times. Finally, I turned around and faced where I was going and made it a lot further. Technique is everything on these evolutions. I thought we were finished with this nightmare, but lo and behold Cadre told us to break up from our groups of three and form pairs for the fireman carry.
I was obviously the third man, and was out to find another partner. Luckily there was another bigger gal who I had instantly bonded with, because we were the weakest links and knew it.
After being instructed on how to carry, Cadre challenged us to do it with our rucks on simulating what our soldiers had to go through if a casualty happened in the trenches of the war. He also encouraged us to be safe.
I stepped up to carry first, and the pair of men who were to help us get the technique/spot for us looked at me and said “why don’t you take off your ruck, to be safe for your first time?” So I begrudgingly took off my ruck, but I think my partner was relieved. It’s a team effort.
Anyway, my partner got up without a hitch and I was off to the other end. I soon realized that I was the only one carrying my buddy. I don’t know if it was because I jumped the gun or because all the other teams were waiting for someone else to go. All I know is that I felt good for being the first one across the finish line. I did get about 80% there and wanted to take a break, but asked my partner what her favorite song was to distract myself. She humorously replied with “I’m so happy.” Like that isn’t even a song, but it made us laugh and got me to the finish.
Then it was my turn to be carried. My biggest regret of the day was not keeping our rucks on. Next time it will be different. Enough said.
During this time night had fallen and we all knew the end was near. Neighbors were also at the park barbecuing which made many people hungry and upset they had to smell the good food. I was just repulsed. Who in the world can be hungry and think about food at these events? I have no idea and think it’s gross. But I think I’m an oddball in this regard.
We were on our last march back and I decided to be the flag bearer. For those of you who don’t know, you MUST not let the flag touch the ground at all costs. My teammates behind me got, let’s say, a little overzealous any time the flag touched a branch or otherwise moved an inch down. But for good reason, flag infractions have been known to make events go an extra two hours (or so I was told). It’s just a part of what GORUCK is, with special forces cadre, and the military background.
At one point I had to gather the flag and lower it to go under some Christmas decorations (in the middle of January!) and some sort of cable bar that was low and I was loudly reminded by the guys behind me to “NOT LET THE FLAG TOUCH THE GROUND!” I also loudly replied, “THERE’S A POLE!”. “You didn’t need to yell” was quickly retorted, followed by a “likewise” from me. Then the front of our pack laughed and bonded over the tired interaction that had just occurred.
I mentioned something about how I would fall under the flag before it touched on my scouts honor. After that, we were all good as a team on the flag front.
Once we got back to the starting point we were patched. I did it.
I expected some long speech about how much we all accomplished and such forth. Cadre didn’t say anything like that. But what he did say was this his first combined event and that as a light class we should know today wasn’t a normal light with “karaoke, singing and shit” and that we were all ready for a tough.
Later I learned from other seasoned Goruckers that wasn’t a normal light, and I’m glad it wasn’t. I was also expecting Cadre to say something about how proud he was of me when he patched me, but he didn’t.
I learned a lot in those few seconds as he shook my hand and gave me the patch I had earned. I knew at that moment that I could do more and that I would be back for longer, tougher events.
While I’m glad I finished my first light, I wish I would have given more. I still had some gas in the tank. Those few counts of exercises where I shorted the movement, yep, I wished I would have pushed through the pain/lack of mobility and executed the exercise as prescribed. The couple of times where I high crawled instead of low crawled because I was told by a very experienced GRT to cheat when cadre wasn’t looking, I wish I didn’t. I cheated myself and wished I hadn’t. Lesson learned.
The after party pizza and beers were shortened by the park ranger who himself wanted to go home and enjoy the rest of his Saturday night.
Today as I write this, I am sore. Mainly in my hip flexors and sternum/upper lungs chest area. I can feel it when I breathe with my belly. Quads, glutes, calves and arms all feel fine. I do have two identical blisters on each foot on the inside top of my big toes. I will need to investigate that.
Most AARs I have read have a gear section. I used a 5.11 bag I borrowed from the awesome P and wore clothes. Carried some water.
I’m not going to comment about the gear as I haven’t tried any other gear out and frankly, don’t really know what gear I had.
The only positive I’m going to say in regard to gear is that I was shockingly surprised by my Brooks (no idea the style). With the dewy grass and mud my feet never got wet.
Thanks, Cadre Mike. It was well worth the experience.
Thanks to P for loaning me your ruck and teaching me the ins and outs about GORUCK.
Lastly, thanks to the random redditor who told me to STFU and just do the event when I asked on the sub if I was light ready. I think you were the main reason why I even gave it a shot.
Photos courtesy of Grace C.