Sunday, September 21, 2014

GORUCK Light After Action Review

I completed my first GORUCK event on 9/13, a Light in Boston. We covered about 8 miles in 5 hours and I was carrying roughly 30 pounds. Overall it met my expectations as a challenging event, although with significantly less focus on calisthenics than I expected. The vast majority of our time was spent rucking around Boston, with minimal time spent doing push-ups, flutter kicks, etc.

My class met at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the center of Boston Common, although we quickly had to move to the garden nearby to avoid a marijuana legalization festival. Our cadre checked everyone in, opened our rucks to check that we had the right amount of weight, and had us form up to listen to a little background on GORUCK. This particular event was special because it was a 9/11 commemorative event, so we spent extra time talking about the events of that day and why the cadre chose to serve in the military. We were informed that this “would not be a normal Light” and to “get ready for a difficult event”. Being that this was my first GORUCK experience, the apprehension started to mount a little bit.

We were taken over to the 9/11 memorial in Boston Garden and one of our cadre talked a bit more about the loss of life that happened on that day, what it meant to the people who were involved, and all of the lives that it touched. It was clear from the outset that this was going to be a serious, reflective event. Overall the class seemed motivated, respectful, and ready to begin. We had a moment of silence at this memorial: each person doing 200 flutter kicks on their back quietly - our first physical challenge.

Our class was large (66 people) so one of the first orders of business was to get a clear count and split us up among the two cadre. Unfortunately our group had a little trouble counting off, and we got a quick lesson in attention to detail. Counting off in a front leaning raise with a 30 pound ruck gets tiring quickly, especially when you have to count 60+ people 5-7 times.

After this we did a few more exercises in the garden, practiced some buddy carries, and split up into two groups of 33 people each. The rest of the event consisted of the two groups racing each other around Boston, visiting various landmarks, statues, and memorials that were relevant to either 9/11, servicemen and women, or the founding of our nation. The loser of each race had to pay some sort of penalty, typically a few burpees or some crab walking. On our first movement my team made the mistake of trying to cross a street when there wasn’t enough time left on the walk signal, and we stranded half of our team on the other side of the street. This was a stupid mistake (that I’m at least partially to blame for), and we paid for it by bear crawling and spending some time sitting in a fountain at our destination. It took this mistake for me to realize how long it takes 33 people with rucks and flags to cross a street (obvious hint: never try to cross when the red hand is already flashing).

Another lesson that we had to learn was how important it is to pick a sustainable pace. We had a wide range of fitness abilities on our team, and this resulted in people in the front breaking into a run, folks in the back yelling for us to slow down, and then other people yelling for us to speed up again. I know that a few of the team leaders got confused during this process, and weren’t sure how to fix the problem. In addition, some of the more experienced members of the group were frustrated that we were pounding the weaker members into the ground with the haphazard pace. My takeaway from this is that it is necessary to circulate among the entire group, make sure that people are okay, and move the slowest members to the front of the column so they can set the pace. This way you can keep up a consistent “GORUCK shuffle” that everyone can sustain for the duration of the movement. It pays to be a winner in these races, but it is more important to make sure that everyone is having a good time and that no one is left behind - especially during a GORUCK Light (the shortest event they offer).

We finished the event where we started, back at the garden and at the 9/11 memorial. After some final words about the people who lost their lives in the attack, we told each other our stories about where we were during it, and how it impacted our lives. This was a powerful reminder of the damage that was done that day, and it was also a good way to connect with the other members of the class. While this was happening, the cadre handed out our patches and then had us form up one final time to say goodbye. I know that a lot of the people who participated in this event will be back for another one, and the experience made me even more excited for the Challenge that I’m doing on Halloween night.

Physically the event was difficult, and I was sore for 3 solid days afterwards (my shoulders were the worst part by far).  That said, I really think that as the website states anyone who can complete a 5K can finish a GORUCK Light. The more you train the less you are going to suffer, but even someone with a really modest level of fitness can gut out a Light and have a great time. If this kind of thing sounds even remotely interesting to you, I highly recommend signing up. You will get way more out of it than your typical road race or obstacle race, and there’s a good chance that you’ll make some new friends.