Before we get going on this I just wanted to give a huge THANK YOU to Ben for sending this AAR over and entrusting it with us. He spent a ton of time on writing this and I’m honored that he reached out and asked if it could be posted on All Day Ruckoff. This is truly an awesome AAR and he definitely has his own unique writing style. Thank you again Ben!
-Brian, All Day Ruckoff Founder
Thank You & Shout Outs
Biggest thanks to Cadre Mickey and Cadre Heath, who brought historical context and pain in equal measure. Loved it. You’re ambitious bastards. Awesome to cross nearly (WHYYOUNOPEGASUSBRIDGE) the entire DDAY invasion AO in a single weekend. Your lessons brought home the scale and gravity of what happened on those sacred sands. Glad we met your standards and I’d gladly sign up for more with you any day. And to Jason, who I’ve never met, for building this great GR machine.
Huge thanks to Horse, his girlfriend (who makes the best rice-avacado-coconutoil mush fuel ever) and our French conscript who ran base camp and killed the Light. We are despicable monsters sober and rested.. and you tolerated our descent into madness with aplomb.
Special nod to the Filthy Five who finished the HTLS (Horse, Jason, Doug, & Brian), as well as those who finished the Heavy and our EPIC heavy shadow other-Brian who did the entire Heavy, with a WEIGHTED ruck, for fun and fotos… and a thank you to everyone else who participated who I met after the Heavy in the Tough and the Light and the Scav… you are a blur of nameless faces, because Heavy, but you gave off amazing energy the entire time and I don’t know if we would have made it without you. It was a delirious emotional physical experience and I may just see you next year. Do this event. Now…. AAR…
WHAT I DID: Train for and complete the GR HTLS in Normandy & Paris, France in June 2017.
EVENT SUMMARY: Heavy started at Queen Red, Sword Beach and finished at Point du Hoc, stopping at numerous locations of strategic importance to the DDAY battlespace. The SP/EP locations are apprx 60km, or 37 miles, apart. We walked more than 30km of that distance on the nice sandy beach. Tough started at Utah beach and traced through towns where Allied paratroopers landed, including St. Marie du Mont, Point du Chef, a wrong turn, and endexed at St. Mere Eglise. The Light crossed Omaha beach to the cemetery, enjoyed the beach, and endexed back at the Omaha monument. The Scavenger took place in and around the Eiffel Tower.
- Motivations and mindset
- Dedication to Training and Preparation (Physical, Mental, Logistical)
- Attitude before & during the event (singular. For me this was an ‘HTL’ from signup. Not a H + illseehowifeel T + amireallygoingtokeepgoing L. I cannot recommend this mindset more)
- Rucking and cardio were on point, could have allocated more time to a few specific PT movements where I felt I came up short or where I burned out sooner than I wanted to. Next time.
- Footwear. Murphy shat all over me here and in hindsight there wasn’t much I could have done differently pre-event, I just had to suck it up. Will go into this below, but for now it’s just a giant Improve.
- Attitude towards some Heavy Team members. GR breaks the individual and builds them up. I knew this going in. I should have dwelt on it at Heavy mile 35 more.
There! Done. AAR. AAR Complete. That’s how you do it. And then you go improve.…
But I realize people want a bit more, especially on ADR so I’ll bite. Because GRT AAR’s for all their lack of AAR-iness helped me prep. But I’m an ENTJ so we’re doing this in quick and dirty sentences without emotions. But I’m also an English major so we may go on some poetical tangents along the way. And maybe you can glean enough from this to go to the GR page and sign up for an HTL.
For the record, I am not Senior GRT. I have only ever done 1 GR event and this is that story. I did not work up to this. I did not do a Tough to see how it went and then a Heavy. I did not build up to an HTL. I just did an HTL.
Pro Tip: Don’t be like me.
This is where you all usually summarize what a GR event is for the uninitiated. I’m sending this to ADR to post ‘cause you’re already initiated. And if you aren’t, go here and drink from the Source (GET IT! AHAHAHAHAHA. K Ill stop.) I’m not regurgitating when you’re just a few clicks away from first-hand information.
BACKGROUND (or ‘Why would you do this to yourself’)
I’m American. I grew up in upstate New York. No, even more upstate. Keep going. French Canada? Ok, take one step back and turn around. Those are the Adirondacks. Have fun.
I enjoy mountains and the suck. What GR calls Good Living or Embracing the Suck, my dad called ‘Character Building.’ It included things like winter camping. Without a tent. Because tents are heavy. You know what isn’t heavy? Tarps. Winter Tarping. Don’t do it. Really. Ever. You have nothing to prove to yourself that would ever require Winter Tarping as a skill. But when your dad’s hero is Ernest Shackleton, making do with nothing in the cold becomes like a hobby. A shitty, sick, twisted, zero-dark-thirty-start-pretty-sure-any-more-Character-Building-will-fucking-kill-me-remember-how-we-fell-through-the-ice-ten-miles-in-like-last-weekend-why-are-we-going-again-FML hobby. Cadre be like, ‘His dad sounds alright.’ But enough about me. I sometimes do difficult shit outside and this seemed up my alley. Moving on.
SIGNUP (or ‘Set a Goal’)
I know this guy in the GR community named Horse. From this band of degenerates known as Team Farm. They are sick. They should be stopped. And institutionalized. But that’s on you, because I live in Europe. I had to watch Horse do all this fun-stupid-but-funner GR shit from afar. I got jealous. I got more curious about GR. I saw the Normandy events. I talked to Horse about the HTL. It was a long conversation. It went something like:
‘Hey, there’s this thing, you wanna…’
‘Okay, I’m clicking buy’
‘Okay, see you there’
Pro Tip: If you’re like me and you have a house and a wife and bills, you can be smart and signup on Cyber Monday. You can do that even if you don’t have those things and are an idiot. Don’t get me wrong, I love GR and they deserve the money for the quality gear and experience they provide. But HTL in another country is a financial undertaking, so if they are doing a sale, go for it. I’m a frugal guy. I bought a GR2 on Black Friday and the HTLS on Cyber Monday and put a knife in my calendar for June. Not a pin. Not a little Post It note. A big nasty pirate knife pinning June to the wall (I didn’t do that physically, my Italian wife would castrate me. I did it mentally. Visualization, people.) So now I had a Goal.
Nov 1 2016 I was signed up. I had the GR2 shipped to my parents because they were coming to Italy for Xmas and could use it as a travel bag. And they did. And it worked awesome for them. Because it’s a GR2. And if you don’t have one, you. ARE. WRONG. Or you are short. And that’s cool. Short people are people too.
But Ben, why would you do an event with a GR2, it’s so big!
Because I wanted the GR2 for other things in life as well. It is the best travel carryon bag I have ever owned. In less than a year it has been to Germany, Dubai, Indonesia, South Africa, Sweden, 4 weddings, a bachelor party, EU’s largest paintball game, hiking, skiing the Sellaronda, the top of the Rinjani volcano, my MBA class (laptop ftw!), my job/EDC, and more, in addition to the HTLS. It rocks.
But it is heavier/bigger than a GR-whatever other size!
And to you I say… this.
PREP (Get your mind right. And everything else)
I don’t know if you are in any way tied, married, chained to, friends with, acquainted or whatevered with any family unit from the Mediterranean regions, but Christmas is NOT. THE. TIME. to be starting a training schedule/diet. Because Grandma is going stuff your face 8 times and be offended if you don’t ask for more.
THANK YOU NONNA MAY I HAVE ANOTHER.
So Nov-Dec was minimal training and dedicated to research. I consumed AARs.
If your Goal is to do an HTL, you should do this, to a point. Eventually you need to make a training plan and get off your ass. And that ‘eventually’ should be today. But some research is still good. It’s intelligence gathering. You will have to sort through a lot of useless information (like soooo much), but you will get nuggets of truth. And that’s what you need. Nuggets. Heavy write ups. Cadre write-ups. Selection write ups. And Bee Yang’s blog and you’ll be like ahhhhhhh… profit. I ate all the food, read all the things and I made a training plan. An ambitious one. One that I could fail at 25% of the time and still come in okay. I perform best when I have a training rhythm, but I have to travel for work randomly/at short notice and that can throw off any plan. I have other things in my life to do because I’m human and this isn’t Selection.
In the end, it looked like this*, with the targets and what was actually performed.
|5 Mos TRAINING
*Some notes on this.
- PT sessions does not include doing at least 3 sets of pushups every morning. For me I did a max, which was about 35 non stop to standard. I’d do three sets. The next morning I would do three sets of 36. Then 37. 3×38. Etc etc. And you keep that progression up for a few months and you’ll be on point. Easy peasy. Just do it and don’t think.
- Rucking included a ruck + kettle bell or carrying the ruck (baby, overhead, farmer) or hitting an outdoor gym or going in the mountains. I tried to spice things up however possible.
- Rucking was separate from the EDC kilometers.
- 87% is a B+, which is about the same score I would give myself on the HTLS.
Pro Tip. if you are prepping for HTL, read about Heavies, read about HTLs, read about Selection. This is the kind of physical and time commitment you’re going to need. I can’t tell you how to prepare for a Heavy. I didn’t prepare for a Heavy. I didn’t go into this thinking ‘I’ll do the Heavy and see how I feel.’ I paid for all 4 events more than six months in advance and I saw them as a single continuous movement with dangerously tempting blocks of downtime where my willpower to get back in the car and show up would be sorely tested. This was one event in my mind from day 1. If you give yourself room, your tired broken ass self will wiggle out of it. Saw it happen. Don’t leave margin for compromises. It also helped that Horse’s GF was there to do the TL and another friend to do the L… so there was at least one fresh person jonesing for the fix at each iteration to keep the fire burning.
I generally stay decently fit, but from January onward I was HTLS training. This involved a mix of Running, PT, Rucking and EDC. Horse and I had a long conversation about this too. It went something like…
Hey, for the thing, wha-
Lift Heavy and Ruck More.
RUNNING: I used the Selection standard 5 miles as my benchmark. Because I loathe running long distances. And 2 miles is too short to engage your hate muscles. But I have a job and a wife and a life so over 5 miles a day during the week would have been an excessive allocation of my time. 5 fast miles is a perfect dose of god why am I doing this suck. You can bang it out quickly. You can improve. I did it at night. I did it when it rained. I did it when it was cold. I got my 5 miles under 35m. I learned that pace and maintained it. Done.
RUCKING: Carrying heavy shit is my thing. Nice job with your bicycle or your marathon. I walk places quickly with weight. For fun. Thanks, Dad. So I just did that whenever I could. In the mountains when possible. A few times on beach because… Normandy. Sometimes I carried a kettle bell or did a mile of lunges or baby carrying or farmers walking or I did pullups and pushups or basically whatever made rucking, which is something I love, suck more. I tested myself against the Selection 12mile standard. I bagged 19km in the mountains with 40# in 3 hours. I was fine. Done.
PT: I have a gym at home. I lifted. I focused more on high reps (after reading all the AARs) than heavy weight. Your gym program needs to be yours. You need to own it and it needs to be something you commit to. What you actually do is probably less important than committing to doing something (That’s probably a nugget). I could have done more here. If(when) I do another GR event, I’ll put more time in lifting. The rucking I’m solid on and always have been. I’m a tall gangly fuck and could use more heavy lifting.
EDC: Some people say don’t ruck every day. Yes. Fine. Correct. Don’t. But I have to walk about a mile and a half every morning to the metro and another 600m from the metro to work. And then get home at night. That gives me just over 3 miles of walking I have to do per day anyway. So I loaded up the GR2 as an EDC. I started with 15lbs and worked up. By the time I went into Taper, I was carrying 45-50 lbs daily for 3+ miles. That’s 15+ miles/week on top of the rucking and running (see table).
In total, I would typically do 2×5 mile runs, 1×5 mile spicy ruck and 2-3 PT’s during the week and then something longer on the weekends (ruck or run or both).
SWIMMING: I love to swim, but not much swimming at the HTL. Water, yes, swim, no. I probably could have just to change things up for my muscles. Unfortunately, I don’t suffer so much in the pool. I get in the zone and can go for hours. One time I swam 9km in a 25m pool. Back and forth, mind totally numb. Took forever. Smoked the shit out of myself. Was aiming to do 10km but they closed the pool. But I didn’t suffer mentally, just got smoked. So I cut out swimming. I wouldn’t have found anything in the pool to help me during the HTLS. Find something you hate about the HTL and do more of that.
FOREVERALONE: All this training I did alone. I don’t have anyone who would do this with me living in Italy. You should have seen my wife’s face when I asked her. Or anyone else. I was accountable only to me. No music. No chit chat. Silence and work. My confidence and my doubts were my own. Might have been cool to have a training buddy, but I don’t mind being accountable to myself.
INCONVENIENCE TF OUT OF YOURSELF: I thought about digressing here, about talking about how you are all human and the top of the food change and evolved into perfect killing dominating machines thanks to surviving millennia of inconvenience and hardship and how modernity is just trying to make you into a soft tired shit who goes home and watches TV on a softer couch and how this is counter-evolutionary and its ironic how we have to go out of our way to find challenges… but I won’t. I won’t talk about that.
Are you taking cold showers?
Don’t be a bitch
I take cold baths.
Bottom line is you need to inconvenience yourself. Read the Selection finishers, the cadre testimonials. Yes, they worked out physically. A lot of them talk about over training, in fact. But they all emphasize to train your mind. Do things that piss you off. Micro-aggressions as the kids are calling them. I could take a bus the 1 mile to the metro stop in the morning. I walked it. When it rained. Especially when it rained. The metro has escalators. I can tell you exactly how many escalators I used between November and June 2017. Fucking Zero. Even when I had luggage, especially when I had luggage. I worked out early in the morning. I worked out late at night. Mostly because my job doesn’t let me work out midday, but also because those times suck. Either way you’re tired. I always worked out on an empty stomach. Everything needed to be not optimal. And I did take cold baths after lifting. Because they suck. And are cold. Way colder than Normandy was. part I took the stairs at work. Not all the time. I should have. But I’m weak minded. And I sweat like a pig. So doing 7 flights with my EDC would have been bad for my coworkers. That’s my excuse. See. No one is perfect. I should have done more stairs. Fuck me. I could have done more to inconvenience myself. I should have. But I was cognizant of my own desire/need to seek out even tiny, daily little things that would suck, and do those things. You should too. I absolutely could have done more, but I absolutely also did enough to pass the HTLS. Which is like two days of minor easy totally achievable inconvenience. Done.
PLAN (or make one)
I have to make travel and event plans as part of my job. I’m decent at it. I like to do it. A lot of people might say I over planned. But I wasn’t living in fantasy land while planning. I put in the work too. If you just make a beautiful plan, as soon as it cocks up (and it will), you’re done. If you do the work, if you have a goal, you might as well give it direction with a plan, so that when you’re tired, or smoked, or things go sideways, there’s some kind of thread, some track, some direction you were headed in, to fight to get back to. Even better, read about PACE and set that up. Once Cadre Mickey posted the SP/Eps, I really got to work. I was a huge WWII nerd in high school. I’ve read all the Ambrose books. But I’ve never been to Normandy. I was hungry for this thing. I combined the penchant for planning with my rabid DDAY fanboydom into the most beautiful prep document Horse has ever scoffed at. Here’s a screenshot:
Go ahead, laugh. You don’t have to do this… but it helps
Now, if you’re just doing an HTL in Whereverville, USA, you probably won’t have the same historical framework to plan with, because who knows where you will go because all that matters is the Good Living. Part of the GR Normandy experience is seeing the battlefield, hearing the stories, having the cadre layout what happened. The sheer scale is staggering. If you’re a history-o-phile, you can use what you know of the battle, where shit went down etc, what you know about GR and past events, and some good guesswork to make an overlay/possible routes map. Was it more work than was needed, maybe, but during the HTL, I knew the approximate distances between every town (Pro Tip: Basically everything on the Normandy coast is 10km away from the next thing. Everything inland is 4-5). I generally knew where we were and what was around at all times. Did this help the team, not really. Did it help me contextualize things for me. Yes. And that helped me stay in it mentally.
My big fuckup was when we were on Omaha during the Heavy and saw the headland where Point Du Hoc is located and my brain shorted and was like ‘Yea! PdH is right there! We are almost done!’ when in fact PdH is way down around the corner and we had 10km of goddamn miserable mind shattering fields to cross. Now I was shit smoked at that moment, but as the miles dawned on me, it put me in the hole mentally a bit deeper than I would have gone if I’d been accurate. C’est la vie. No plan is perfect. On the other hand, when I was TL at St. Marie du Mont and Cadre Heath said ‘you’re moving them to Chef du Pont,’ I knew CdP was 9 klicks from St. M, so consequently I had an immediate idea of the time, energy and geospatial consequences. I could communicate this to the team with confidence. Below is the chart. All of those locations were of historical significance on DDAY.
Do you have to do all this planning? No.
Did it help me? Yes.
Would it be a useful exercise on an HTL somewhere less historic? Probably not.
What else did we do in terms of planning that could be useful to think about.
ACCOUNTABILITY AND TEAMWORK: I didn’t go alone. I went with Horse and his girlfriend (who did the TL) and another friend (who did the L). We planned the transitions, prepped food and staged everything. The girlfriend picked us up immediately at the end of the Heavy. We ate in the car on the drive to the house. We refitted and rekitted. Then and only then did we nap. Then we rolled out again. At the end of the T, the friend picked us up and we repeated the process. Priorities of work, then careful napping.
DEMONS? I PAID FOR THIS SHIT: People talk about having demons when you have to wake up. I didn’t experience that. I think this is because I saw it as a complete event. A singular exertion with pauses. I was not getting ready for the Tough, I was continuing the HTL. I expected to be tired and sore and miserable and so when I was those things, I accepted them and moved on to tying my boots and getting in the car. No negotiations to be made mentally. Having Horse there was also amazing. He is awesome. Inspiring. And merciless. And experienced. Go with someone. It’s a team event. Bring a wing-genderneutralpronoun.
BRING ALL THE THINGS? Don’t over pack. Horse checked my shit and we whittled it down even more before the event. Find an experienced GRT
and take a picture of them from behind and post it on the GR page and ask them. You really, really don’t need much. You are not invading France. You’re walking across it. For a day or two. As Horse repeated like a mantra ‘ounces over miles are pounds’ Wise words. The cadre very ambitiously put the Heavy SP/EP suuuuuuper fucking far from each other. Pounds over enough miles are tons. Sure, you can imagine a scenario where you need your rope and your Kbar and the flare gun… but those scenarios aren’t going to happen. You’re going to be carrying heavy shit for miles. Done.
KNOW ALL THE THINGS? Research the weather (Almanac) and sunrise/sunset. You’re not supposed to have a watch, but if you know sunrise is at XX and sunset and XX, at least you have some pegs to hang your hope and sorrow on (nugget). I went a bit further and researched elevation changes, water sources and historical points of interest, but I have problems. Serious problems.
THE EVENT (Gonzo style)
A lot of people break this down, movement by movement, emotion by emotion. That’s cool. I don’t think it will help you. GR events are all different and all the same. Prepare accordingly. The Heavy started with 12, including 3 Germans (interesting, given the context) then a late show who came running down the beach, super fit, wearing a captain America Tshirt, named Steve. Can’t make this up. So we were 13. Fortuitous, INDEED.
We had an adapted PT test so all my training to be ready for the Heavy PT test was… useful. But not directly tested. Because as Cadre made understatedly clear, we had all the miles to cover. Test was Water, beach landing. Low crawling until forever. Assorted flavors of buddy carries and PT exercises. Then our first history lesson and we moved out (The improvement in Cadre Mickey’s sand tables over the weekend was amazing).
We had 3 flags and a 50lb team weight. As long as we moved with purpose, Cadre said they wouldn’t weigh us down with more. Because we had ALL THE MILES to cover. Like 60 km in straight line. In 24 hours. Cadre Heath told us it would feel easy, and then it wouldn’t. So we moved out with purpose. And it was awesome. Until it wasn’t. But they knew it was coming and had told us as such. Smiles and easy miles the first 12 hours quickly turned into poopy faces. This write up will capture that descent.
Cadre were well informed about all the different points along the beach and really contextualized the experience. We would do a movement and have a 10-15m break to discuss the battle and visit the fortifications, and then we would move out again. Repeat all evening and all night with a hill climb in the middle. Cool bunkers, poignant monuments, plaques and information posters. I learned a lot. You should do this event. Dawn found us at about the half way point geographically (because memorize the towns).
Dawn is amazing, as every GRT knows. Beautiful pink purple coming up out of the sea. Silence. Silence broken only by the sound of Captain America vomiting. We tried. We couldn’t bring him back. He lost too much fluids. Puking is the worst. You’re already dehydrated and it puts you way behind the curve. He was this colossus. This great legendary thing. The 13th Warrior. And we lost him. We were crushed. Poopy faces. Disappointment. Evac’d him at the Cadre changeover. Down to 12. RIP Steve, we barely knew ye and thank you for putting out.
Cadre Mickey takes over. Hills. Fields. Cliffs. Dutch military exercise. Flowers. Lovely. Reached the Battery at Longues Sur Mer. Epic location. One of the huge guns got totally KO’d by naval artillery. Hulk smashed. Impressive. Do this Event. Unfortunately, we had two more VWs. One for leg cramping that couldn’t be recovered (hydrate people. Pee. Pee all the time. Drink until you are peeing all the time) and the other for severe allergies. Down to 10. Onward.
More hills. More bunkers. Heat. Miles. Hills. Heat. Miles. Hills. Omaha Beach… Awesome history lesson from Cadre Mickey. Assaulting the beach sans ruck. Nice. Cool stories from a veteran of the battle. Nicer. One of the GR’s confessed that his grandfather’s brother died on that beach. Deep moments. DC10’s buzzing the beach. Beautiful. Rucks back on. Not Nice. Hill. RLTW. Hope. Almost done. Fields. Almost done. But not. Fields. Fields. Fields. And then the SNAP. The darkness. The fields of rage fuck anger rage can’t quit because if I do I’m still in the EFFFFING middle of these goddamn hellish FREAKIN fields and have to self-extract to wherever so fuck it keep going. Horse in a livid state. Field, hedgerow-hoping-to-see-Point-du-Hoc-on-the-other-side-maybeyes?-Nope, disappointment, Field, hedgerow, repeat. 32 fields. 32. 10km of fields. 32 hedgerows of hope smashing fuck everything everywhere and go die France. Could have been a better team player – some of the guys were injured/tired/underprepared and camping the flags or not contributing to the team weight while the other 7 of us rotated under the Team Weight. Got angry. Probably should have fostered more team spirit. We were in it together. Festered in hatred instead. Will work on that. Especially given the help I needed on the Tough. Humility people. Instead raging in the wheat. RAGE rage RAWR. FUCK WHEAT. AND WHAT IS THIS, GODDAMN ALFALFA? But some Hate is good. You can walk on hate. You can fuel off of it. Hi Cadre Heath! Good. Both cadre. End in sight! Cool rappelling exercise. What the rangers did at PdH is a feat of grit and death and sacrifice. Finish proud. Patched. Endex.
Hurray! Half done the HTLS. There is no Heavy. There is only the HTLS. Huge craters, need to go back to PdH sometime to explore the badassery, but we get in the car for transition. Feet, Eat, Nap. Wake. Curse. Boots back on. Drive to Utah.
Only 6 of the 13 are back for the Tough. Others ghosted. New people. I think we were around 30 total. Nobody quit. SP briefing. What the fuckity fuck am I doing here seriously why why why Ooooopurty Sunset is nice. Cadre Mickey saying the standard will be upheld ESPECIALLY on the HTL people. We will lead by example or perish. No luv. No mercy. Good. Luv and mercy are for the weak. Ok it started. History lesson. Sand table is noticeably more detailed. It’s getting dark. Are they going to put us in the water? Where is the water? It’s waaaaay out there… Man. Like 600m out. How is that even POSSIBLE! Like SCIENTIFICALLY. We’re here on the beach and the water is waaaaay over there!! RIDICULOUS. I can’t wait to be out there and pee all over everyone. Seriously. I’m going to goldenshower TF out of my landing party. For good luck. They have to put us in there don’t they. This is the only serious water obstacle available on the Tough to do the landing craft exercise. Literally they have to. But will they? It’s really dark and late and cold and far away and FUCK YEA WE IN DA WATA ANNND PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESorrynotsorryjustletithappenbabyyesssss!
Welcome Party. Sucked balls. with a false finish and the tide is out… soooo far out. Not going to ruin the surprise. Do this event.
Sand everywhere. Sand trapped in time and space to appear weeks later. All the sand. Happy I read some cadre post and didn’t wear underwear. Commando motherfucker. Ask yourself, would you put your dick (or your lady parts) in sandpaper and DJ your jollies? No. No you would not. Team Farm might, but you wouldn’t. So leave your skivvies at home. DRAIN YOU BEAUTIFUL BITCHES DRAIN. Then walking. All the walking. Danish war memorial. Team introductions. Walking. Capt. Winters monument. Super cool. Man myth legend. More walking. Hallucinating. Saw a clown. Weird. Not even afraid of clowns. But there you are, you weird fucking ass clown. Do you see the clown? No. K. Just me then. Someone else saw numbers. Someone else saw rocks moving. Heavy people were having a good time. Sorry to people I talked to. I don’t remember you. I want to. But I couldn’t. Took over as TL at St. M to stay conscious. Still peeing at regular intervals. Good sign. All kinds of cool Paratrooper sites. These dudes were hitters. Hitters in a bad clusterfuck of a situation who kept hitting. Won’t ruin it for you. Do this event.
Hedgerow. Pricker bushes. Six-strand barbwire goddamnit. Who makes barbwire fences with six strands? That’s excessive. History lesson about the murderous hell that is hedgerow country. Cadre Heath laid it out. Then ordered us through one. Nasty. I grew up in the woods. But this is some next level nasty. Quote of the night from someone fresh: ‘There’s barbwire, do we still have to go through the hedgerow?’ ‘Oh, barb wire? Is it six strand? Well come back then!’ ‘Really Cadre?’ ‘FREAKIN NO! KEEP GOING’
lols. Go back. HAaaaaaaaa. Ow. Blood. Barbwire. Awesome. Hedgerows blow. Do this event.
Cadre switch. Mickey back. Charm the snake with some tobacco. Keep walking. Keep peeing. By morning am a zombie. Change socks. Feet not cool. Blow up some bridges. PEW PEW! Start to fade out. Someone takes my ruck. Takes Horse’s ruck. Horse gone deep down inside himself. Never seen him this way. He walking okay but his brain gone. Am I gone too? Do I look like that? Protest and try to get ruck back. They won’t give it to me. Try to get it back again. They won’t. They carry it for like at least an evolution. I feel guilt AF but am on screensaver. They take care of us ‘cause we are gone and they can see it. Sorry/thanks to all the cool people on the Tough for that. You knew what we couldn’t recognize. Team effort. Horse and I come back from Coma-town and get back in it. MoH sites. Bamfs. Wrong turn by TL. Really. Like 2 big hills and 4 km kind of wrong turn. FML. Go back. 2 big hills and kilometers. Assault a bridge. PEW PEW PEW. 82nd Airborne monument. Moving. Powerful. C130s buzzing the landscape. Epic. Do this Event. St. Mere Eglise. Finally. Awesome. Finish strong. Patched. ENDEX. Transition time.
Taking off boots is like sex. Is orgasmic. Lasts longer than male orgasm. Less cleanup. Brain cannot even. Is top 5 life experience. Where can I buy some? But feet are FUCKED in all the ways. Horrible. Unspeakable never before seen ways. I should stop kind of ways. OMG is that a skin pocket, I think it is!- kind of ways? I could store things in there. I could keep my ID in there. Fuck it. KFG. Priorities of work. Drain them. Dry them. Tape them. Eat. Hydrate. Rest. Drive back to Omaha Beach. 5 of original 13 are left (noooo Krisssss!!!) Again new people. Around 30. Almost over. Let’s do it. Shuffle down beach. Visit Cemetery. Best part of the entire experience. Do this event. Just for the cemetery, but especially for the cemetery after you’ve done all the other things. Drives home like a nail through your heart. Think about everyone I know who didn’t come home the last 10 years. Cry. Man tears. Respectful fat hydrated man tears in the middle of the endless rows of people who didn’t go home. Cathartic. I got this. Let’s do this. Someone VW’d at the Cemetery. Peculiar. Do this event. Take over as TL. Game on.
Back to the beach. History lessons. HTLers have to make the map this time. We succeed. Kind of. Sorry English geography. Assault the beach and berm. Hand over TL duties to ATL because she was awesome and deserved it. Cling to one of the other heavies. Thank you, you beautiful beast. Stomp back down the beach, having a heart to heart with feet. Endex. Shock. Beer. Awesome. DO THIS EVENT.
Feet done, so done. Eat all the things. Go home. Fall asleep mid-sentence while text wife… six times. Never sent the text. Just powered off. Wake up. Clean. Sand everywhere. Check out. Train. Paris. Drop gear. Hobble like a feeble old man to the Scavenger. Commit to winning the Scavenger because fuck it, I want a Gold patch. DESTROY THE SCAVENGER. DRINK ALL THE BEER. MORE DESTRUCTION. Endex. GOLD Patch bitches! Team CharlieHorse FTW. HTLS Patch. Wow. Did it. Awesome. Destroyed. Need sleep. Instead Afterparty. Ok, ok, but just one beer. LOLOLOL. Afterafterparty. Redacted for OPSEC. SOFIA. Somehow got Horse and gf to airport. Somehow got self to airport. Somehow stayed awake long enough to make it on plane. Slept all the days. Feet grow back new and pink like a baby after a month.
Do this event. Done.
Full Disclosure on all the little details you think you need but won’t help you: I ate some stuff, drank some water and wore boots. Figure that shit out on your own. You’re an adult.
On DFQ & Setbacks (Or Keep EFFFING GOING!)
All that inconveniencing you do in preparation is like depositing money in the bank. Then when Murphy starts to rain all over your parade, you can reach into that bank and think about all of your hard-earned Inconvenience Cash. All the shit you already paid to be where you are. And like some Scrooge McDuck, your inner eyes will glitter over all of the shit you’ve already eaten and you’ll not make excuses, you’ll just Keep Fucking Going. I like KFG better than DFQ. I found it in my search for intel. Nice nugget. Keeps the Q word out of your mind. There were some opportunities to quit. Like just hit snooze and don’t show up to the T. They happen. Be aware of that. Be ready for them. Don’t use them. They aren’t stronger than you. KFG.
I trained as I planned to fight for 5 months. Same setup + more weight than I would have on the Heavy. Same boots. Same pants, socks, same same same everything. Everything worked great for 5 months. Until it didn’t. The LAST long ruck I did, 2 weeks before the event, so just before Taper time…. essentially the ‘Wednesday’ before when you’re dealing with boots, I got huge massive awful blisters under both of my feet as I have never had before. I get blisters on my heels sometimes. Big deal. KFG. Blisters on underside of feet some new weird disaster. I had no time to break in new boots or experiment. Tough call time… Change boots or not. I had trained almost 300km in those boots for this event, plus using them for other activities. I had never had a problem. Never. Zero. They were my girls. So I chose to treat the last training ruck as a statistical outlier. 2 weeks from DDAY is no time to be changing/breaking in new boots or fucking around with your setup, a setup that has worked superbly for 5 months. So I went to Normandy with the same setup. It was a calculated risk I chose to take. And I got huge blisters on the bottoms of my feet… because sometimes Murphy just owns your ass. KFG. I walked them ‘til they burst and lanced the remains whenever I could… and then I got blisters under those blisters and walked through those too and basically turned the bottoms of my feet into pale skin pockets big enough to store loose change in and couldn’t do anything for 2 weeks after the event. But KFG. I didn’t sign up to quit because of blisters. And the boys who died on that beach didn’t quit even after they got shot. So perspective.
There were other inconveniences. Like arriving to Paris at midnight on the Wednesday instead of 10pm because flight delay.
Get a good night’s sleep. It is critical.
Going to sleep in the hostel, being woken up at 330am by a drunk angry asshole who said I was in his bed. Arguing with him. Going down to reception, being told they fucked up when they gave me the room and it WAS his bed. Awesome. MERCI! Repacking my shit while he smugly watched me. Going upstairs to my room. Skirting brown projectile vomit that someone forgot in the hallway. Hate France. Hate hostels. Hate. Waking up 2 hours later to pack and leave. Realizing there was a totally hot completely ass naked chick Scouts-Honor in the bunk above me, watching me smugly at me as I packed my shit because it was too hot for sheets on the top floor and the universe owed me one. Love France. Love hostels. But made good life decisions and went to the train. Met Horse who said ‘I hope you had a good sleep last night.’ Nope. Doesn’t matter. Trained for less than optimal. Sleep is crutch. Got to see boobs. The universe is balanced. We good. KFG.
Horse and his gf lost all their gear in the British Airways meltdown on their way over. Everything but their rucks. We had to cobble stuff together for them at the last minute. They could have quit. Or not started. Everyone would have said, oh it sucks you lost your gear I understand. Instead he did the HTLS and she did the TLS. Because KFG.
My final piece of advice is Burn your Ships. What do I mean by that. I mean read The Aeneid. Because it is awesome. And get on my reference level. Or read about Cortes, who was kind of a dick and less awesome, but used the same philosophy. And then burn your own ships. Mentally, physically, logistically. Make it hard to quit. Making quitting a shittier option than going forward.
I spent a lot of money on the event. I bought plane tickets. I paid for rooms. I invested in gear. I flew to a different country. I took vacation from work. I invested my precious time in training. That was not to cast aside. Burn your ships.
I only told my wife and a few other important people I was doing this. Why? So that when I failed, I would have to tell my wife and a few important people I failed and feel their judgement. If you tell the whole world of people who don’t really know you that you’re doing something tough, and then fail, they’ll treat you the way the world treats you, ‘Great job, good effort, we support you anyway.’ You can lay your failure on them and crowdsurf it. Fuck that. If I quit I would have to tell just my bros and bear the shame. That wasn’t acceptable. Burn your ships.
Our Heavy SP was 37 miles from the EP. Our house was 50km from SP and 20km from the EP. Getting back to the house was a difficult option. Better to keep going, no? Burn the ships.
I didn’t have a phone. It’s France. They are antisocial towards strangers and don’t speak English. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Walk out to a road? Find a taxi? On the weekend? In rural France? Alone? Or ask Horse to quit with me? As if. Quitting was a shitty option. It opened up a ton of logistical, emotional and physical problems, rather than solving them. Burn your ships.
I carried a flask of whiskey the entire time with the names of every friend and WP classmate who has been killed in action since the GWOT began. When things got dark I dwelt on their deaths. I carried my grandfather’s combat patch from WWII. When I started to flag I thought about his stories, dysentery, combat in the Pacific, losing his brother. I drank some of the whiskey at the end and poured the rest out onto Omaha beach and put my ghosts to bed. I’ll have to find another reason to do an HTL ‘cause I used that as pure rocket fuel and now it’s calm and cold. But you can find something. You will if you’re going to do this. Burn your ships. Burn them and smile at the flames so that when the Heavy starts you’re focused on this moment and the next and know that after all the moments, the only way out is through.
At the end of the day, whatever condition you’re in right now, you can do a Light. With probably about 3 months of training you could do a Tough. And with six months you could likely do a Heavy, if you committed. If you’re already in shape, just slide that scale up to HTL. You. Can. Do. IT. Stop thinking about it and Just. Do. It. Do this event. Done.
So that’s my AAR/summary. Normandy was a special kind of event. Heavy emotional. Enlightening historically. Everything you need physically. If you get the chance you should do it. I might do it again. If you’re thinking about doing a GR combo or upping your game, I hope you can learn from my learnings.
Then go to the GR page.
Find an HTL that is 6-9 months out.
Get out your credit card
… and burn your ships.