GORUCK Heavy USCG - Miami 8/4/17

Introducing myself
It's been 3 days since the Heavy ended. And I fully understand why it's called a Heavy. Because the event truly was... not only physically, but mentally and even spiritually. I am still sore. Even after a massage, my shoulders and hips ache. My feet retain a few blisters. And my heart is still full of the experience.

The Heavy 

We began the event at South Pointe Park in Miami Beach alongside bikini-clad sun worshippers and laughing children. Ruck "inspection," a warm-up jog, introductions, PT test, even a stop to cool off in the children's water playground. After an hour or so, we were ready to begin. We walked a mile and a half to Station Miami Beach and were treated to a tour onboard the Richard Etheridge, where we learned about the various missions of a USCG cutter. 

Then the 12 mile timed ruck. Just us, our weighted rucks and 12 miles to be covered in 15 minute miles or less. Already my feet, shoulders, and various tendons and muscles in my legs and hips were screaming. It was still early. Cadre Machin led the team with the longest, fastest strides I've seen, encouraging us, sometimes with a hint of exasperation in his voice.

Time nearly stands still in a 24 hour GORUCK, except for during the 15 minutes of rest where we could free ourselves from the burden of the weighted ruck. Those are the times when you're distinctly aware of the ticking of the clock. 

The completion of the timed ruck was a blessing and a curse. I had knowingly lied to myself and everyone who would listen that THAT was the worst of the event. "After this, it will be easier."

We filled sand bags. Four? Maybe 5-- I'm guessing they weighed 40 lbs each-- all but one were added to larger GORUCK sandbags, making 2 mega bags, and 2 regular sized bags. Plus the 50 lb team weight. Our new burdens to bear. We began making our way to USCG Station Ft. Lauderdale where a work project awaited.

At some point we became "sugar cookies"
Our progress was slowed considerably. It was sometime just after midnight, I'd guess. We walked and shuffled our way forward, struggling to meet time hacks. Shifting sandbags. Moving only as fast as the slowest member of our team. The mood had shifted. The honeymoon was over. We had lost 3 members of our team by this point, which is never good. I always wonder if I could've done more to help them finish.

We rested at a 7-eleven. Shoes and socks came off. Blisters were treated. Food and electrolytes consumed. The mood is always light during the break. Spirits rose, only to fall again as we slowly returned to our feet, our rucks and sandbags, enduring the punishment of PT as we invariably moved too sluggishly for Cadre's approval. 

We walked. There were some stumbles, a few falls. I was beginning to become discouraged, beating myself up. The sandbag felt unbearably heavy. I could only carry the lightest one and only for a few moments-- much shorter than the three other females who looked like they could endure for days. Time slogged forward like our feet, and the voice in my head wouldn't quit tearing me down. 

"I can't continue. But I can't quit. It must be 3 am, and no one at my house is coming to pick me up and take me home at this hour." I was losing hope. The usual tricks were starting to fail... "This is the worst part," had lost its magic. And finally, as I looked up toward our next stop, it seemed that the sky was just a little brighter. Suddenly, I realized that it surely must be about the time that I would normally be waking up and taking my meds for my sluggish thyroid. Just as the tears began to leak uncontrollably from my eyes, we came to rest under a rather full-with-coconuts palm tree. I hid from Cadre Nick and everyone else because I knew if someone asked I would completely lose it and probably be done. I swallowed my synthroid and lay back in the grass, staring at the coconut tree and praying that one would fall on my head and require a 911 call to save me.
A stronger moment for me

Thirty minutes later, even back under the weight of my ruck, I felt revived. My energy returned and I could once again smile and joke with my team. The sun was indeed coming up and although I knew the temperature and humidity would climb with it, I was happy to be suffering alongside such a determined group of people. 

At Station Ft. Lauderdale, we had reached our service project and our turn around point. Blisters were increasing by the step, as we all were walking in wet shoes and socks, under weight. The bonus was that we were able to enter the air-conditioned galley area to use the restroom and refill our water bladders. In addition, we were allowed to trade our sandbags for a litter-- a stretcher made of 2 boards and 5 t-shirts. Our first casualty was our lightest female, and we were off, headed back to Miami Beach. 
The teamwork required to carry a litter is unique. One of us suggest that 4 people carry, one on each end of the boards. We counted to 20 and then switched load-bearers. It was a great system and completely tolerable until a member fell due to fatigue and heat. We then had a real casualty. The weight of our load increased. And so had the heat.

We continued forward. Our casualty revived. We made frequent stops to refill water bladders, empty our own, and cool off in the showers. Sometime after noon, it all got really rough. Cadre recognized the tension between our desire to produce work and the extreme heat. (South Florida was under a heat advisory.) Cadre Machin and Nick proved to be experts in pushing us hard enough that we reached the brink of our limits, but not too hard that we all dropped from heat exhaustion. Blisters were abundant. Dehydration a risk. The sun was nearly unbearable. We were allowed to lose our extra weights. First the litter and finally the weight plates as our march had slowed to a crawl.

Working as a team, pushing and pulling
each other along
We all gave our all. As we reached the 24 hour mark, Cadre Nick led us to some shade and had us prepare for another big task. And Cadre Machin pulled out the patches. I'm not sure any of us believed we were finished. Again, tears. And I don't cry.

The Lessons

Teamwork. Sacrifice. Perseverance. 
These are the lessons cemented into the soul by a GORUCK event. There is no I, no me. There's only the team. You are only as strong as your weakest. It's not about can I finish this event. It's about getting the whole team to the end point. There will be times when the load is too much for you to bear and the person next to you will need to shoulder it. And there will be times when your strength is needed to carry someone else's burden. There's no room for ego. There's no room for pride. And those are the lessons learned through miles and sandbags and discomfort that translate into life. 
USCG Heavy Class 200


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