All Day Ruckoff Notes
This AAR was written by Zechariah Rogers aka Way of the Blade who has a great Instagram account. He’s one of those people I follow who’s always working out and inspiring me to push myself harder in my workouts. I was really excited when he reached out about hosting the AAR and took the opportunity up immediately.
1 July, 2019 Monday 0730 (Post GORUCK HTL)
I just completed the GORUCK Independence day HTL in Philly yesterday. It was a fantastic weekend with great people as is to be expected whenever I do these kinds of events.
Pre GORUCK HTL
I am constantly training. Whether it is running, swimming, biking, weightlifting, rucking, etc. I am usually working out at least once a day if not two times a day (yes this includes weekends). However, that is not to say that I am constantly wrecking my body. There are rest days sprinkled in, most of my workouts are not high intensity or high volume, and I listen to my body. It is probably more accurate to say that I workout seven times a week on average.
The core of my program is the work that I do in my garage gym. This usually takes the form of lifting with the barbell and adding in other weighted and unweighted exercises. For my ruck training I utilize pathfinder endure for most of my ruck specific training. I do not incorporate many ruck workouts since I think that doing weighted PT is generally a bad idea for my body so I avoid it whenever possible (unless required by pathfinder, a GORUCK challenge, etc.).
Additionally, I have partially torn ligaments in my left foot that have not had enough time to heal. This was diagnosed back in April, but I haven’t taken any time off from training because I was signed up for the 50 Mile Star Course in DC on 19 May and then my training turned to HTL prep after completing that. Honestly, training for the HTL does not change my workout schedule much if at all. I do plenty of weightlifting, calisthenics, and rucking in my normal routine.
Packing list and Clothing:
Starting with my ruck and what was in it. I had my trusty rucker (1.0) that I’ve been using at all my events since April of last year. I used my GR2 at my first ever event in July of 2017 and I will say that the rucker is a big improvement over that. Additionally, I use a chest strap but no hip belt. I also use a molle water bottle holder from Vanquest where I put a 32 oz nalgene bottle. That extra 32 oz bottle is where I put my nuun tablets and powder pedialyte since I don’t like putting anything but water in my hydration bladder. I also added a GR1 padded field pocket to the outside of the rucker a couple of months ago. This is useful since the 20L inside of the rucker can get crowded quickly. Additionally, the morale patches I wore on the rucker were the american flag and my lucky Delaware state flag patch which was placed on the GR1 padded field pocket.
Inside of the GR1 padded field pocket is where I put my medical kit. Usually, the kit consists of some tape, medical scissors, hydration tablets, chapstick, blister kit, etc.
Inside of the rucker I have a couple of chem lights, extra batteries, extra nozzles for my water bladder, a 3L Source hydration bladder, 30 pound ruck plate, snacks, GORUCK challenge windbreaker, extra socks (usually only 1 pair extra, maybe two), headlamp, ID, credit card, cash, cell phone, and sunglasses.
I also wore a fanny pack from Spiritus Systems. It’s not very big, but it is where I’ll put some snacks, gloves, headlamp, and maybe some medical kit (it held body blide during most of the HTL). This covers everything that I had in my kit.
For the heavy I wore the All Day Ruckoff ripstop cotton hat, a USA t-shirt from Marine Layer, GORUCK simple pants, Arcade slim adventure belt, silkies as underwear, Injini midweight hiking socks, and Inov-8 Roclite 275s for shoes.
The clothing items that changed from the heavy to the tough was the shirt, underwear, belt, and socks. I wore an OD green Lululemon shirt, no underwear and Inov-8 speed socks. Wet items from the tough (such as socks, shoes, gloves, etc. were put in the dryer after the heavy).
Then for the light the only items that changed from the heavy were a Team RWB Nike Dri Fit shirt, GORUCK simple shorts, a different pair of silkies, and smartwool hiking socks. Overall I’m very happy with how the clothing performed during the events. I don’t think I would change much other than maybe my selection of underwear. I had some chafing that I will go into detail on later in this AAR.
I am a Captain in the Marines and I am moving this summer. I did my first GORUCK event, a tough, in July of 2017 with Cadre Blackdog. Still one of my favorite (and toughest) GORUCK events. I took a break and eventually did another event in April of 2018 and since then have been doing at least one event per quarter since. This HTL will more than likely be my last east coast event for a long time since I will be moving to San Diego this month (July). As a result, I wanted to do this HTL as my last major GORUCK event before I move.
I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to continue doing events after the move since we will no longer have both sets of grandparents around to help us with watching our boys. Having the support of my wife and family has been a huge factor in why I’ve been able to do these events and be successful. It has been stressful at times to find the time to train and do the events, but their support has been one of the top contributing factors to my ability to complete these events.
Pre HTL start
I can’t remember when I actually signed up for the events, but I’m pretty sure it was during the last big sale that GORUCK did for events several months ago. I didn’t have to take a day off from work Friday since I had a comp day. Also, I didn’t have to travel very far since I only live about 30 minutes east of Philadelphia in Marlton, NJ. Additionally, I didn’t have to get a hotel room for the weekend since my wife has a cousin that lives in south Philly and he let me use the guest bedroom for the weekend. This was especially useful since they only lived about 10 to 15 minutes away from the start points of all three events.
As a result, I was able to get into Philly around 1100 on Friday and get settled in before grabbing a pre heavy meal at the craftsman saloon (only a couple blocks west of the heavy start point). Of course I ate a ridiculous burger and had a massive milkshake for my pre funeral meal. My justification for eating like crap (sorry Cadre DS) was that the extra calories would help keep me alive. I earned my patch so I guess the logic works, but honestly there were certainly better pre heavy meals that I could have eaten.
The conversation about diet and my diet specifically could be a whole different article so I will simply say that normally I count macros for my diet, so really rich food does not agree with me as much as it used to before I was counting macros. I arrived at the start point next to the liberty bell about 35 minutes prior to the start time. Even at my last HTL there isn’t much talking at the start point. Everyone is a bit too nervous. I said hi to some of the people that I knew but that was about it. I was happy to see familiar faces and luckily the admin phase of the heavy was relatively uneventful.
The coupons were in Cadre Cleve’s truck about a mile from the start point over by the Philadelphia Convention Center, which was our first stop. We had four rubber water bags that we filled up and an additional 13 sandbags. I believe all of them were 80 pounds or more. We only had 23 people in the class so this weight was significant given the number of people.
Once we got moving our next stop was Fairmont Water Works which is located on the backside of the Art Museum. However, we made a “quick” hour and a half pit stop at the fountain located in Logan square for some good living. The sun was down by the time we finished and every ruck was submerged in water for significant amounts of time. This time at the fountain combined with the weight that the team was carrying would be a constant contributing factor to the overall difficulty and attrition rate for those seeking their HTL patch.
Once we arrived at Fairmont Water Works we took some time to refill our water bladders, water bags, etc. We then began our 12 mile timed ruck. The route was two laps out and back on the trail that runs parallel with the Schuylkill River on the north side. Little did I know that I would be seeing that trail a lot over the weekend since we took the route during the tough and the light as well. Doing the 12 mile ruck after a significant amount of time in the fountain at Logan Circle contributed to the foot issues, chafing, and general misery that plagued the majority (if not all of) the class during the event and the weekend.
Cadre Cleve went on his rest period as we started the 12 mile timed ruck. At this point Cadre Belman was in charge. Once complete with the 12 mile ruck we began rucking back down the trail. At this point of the event one person had dropped from the event by literally walking off without telling anyone. Thanks a lot for that one Anthony. We then lost another GRT during the movement after the 12 mile timed ruck as a heat casualty. He collapsed under a sand bag and while he was conscious and did not appear to be having a heat stroke, we called 911 and he got an ambulance ride. Better to be safe than sorry when it comes to heat injuries.
During the time waiting for the ambulance I was able to get a nap and Cadre Belman decided that the 13 sandbags we were carrying was a bit too much (which was accurate) and we dumped three sand bags at that point. It cannot be understated that the vast majority of the class was carrying 80+ pound sand bags for most of this event. Even after losing three sandbags ⅔ of the class was carrying a coupon at any given moment since we also had the team weight and four water bags.
We eventually completed the movement from the Schuylkill River trail to Wissahickon Valley Park. Our first stop in the park was near Historic Rittenhouse Town where we got some rest before Cadre Belman went on his rest period and Cadre Cleve then took over. We then rucked to Blue Bell Park where we did a deck of cards. Many thanks to the GRTs that voted on 8 count bodybuilders, brickyards (ruck thruster to two overhead ruck lunges), Little man in the woods, and ruck thrusters via the tough page. Special thanks to 011, since according to Cadre Cleve that is where the idea for the brickyards came from. I’ve never been so fully drenched in my own sweat in my life and I did OCS in Quantico in July.
The heat at this point of the event was oppressive. We lost another GRT as a heat casualty during the deck of cards workout which we think took us about 2 hours to complete. Additionally, I was experiencing some serious chafing between my legs. I abandoned the silkies that I was wearing in favor of going commando and applied as much body glide to the “area” as possible. My silkies had been soaked since Logan square and there was no point to wearing them and allowing the liner of the silkies to continue rubbing my legs raw. Going commando greatly improved my condition and mitigated what could have been a very serious injury. At the risk of giving too much information I will simply say that manscaping prior to events will probably be my best bet for eliminating chafing issues since I normally do not have chafing occur during events.
Our class was now down to 20 people after the deck of cards and we still had the same number of coupons. We then started making our way back toward our start point but still had a very long way to go. We then rucked to Deke’s BBQ at the mouth of the Wissahickon bike trail and we dumped four of the lightest sand bags as a reward for making our time hack. While this was encouraging and boosted morale, we still had to get back on the Schuylkill River Trail and get back to the start point. We rucked down maybe half or three quarters of the Schuylkill river trail before we finally dumped the rest of the sand bags which was again very encouraging. The remainder of the heavy was still very slow moving since at this point we were pretty well spent. Allegedly, there were about five miles left to complete before endex from the point where we emptied out the remainder of the sand bags. The journey to ENDEX involved taking a team photo at the statue of George Washington in front of the art museum, dropping off the coupons at the Aloft hotel in center city, and then finally getting to the end point.
This last portion of the movement was slow moving despite finally getting rid of most of the coupons other than the water bags, team weight, and flag. It is interesting to note that we did not complete the Robbie Miller WOD during the Heavy. Apparently, that has not been written into the Heavy SOP yet. We also did not do a PT test (other than the timed 12 mile ruck). Getting patched was awesome, but stressful since we finished around 1930 and had to get to the tough start at 2200. I cannot stress enough that the Heavy is by far the most difficult portion of the HTL, but once it is done the real fun begins.
I did not waste any time with congratulations or hanging out at ENDEX due to the constricted time frame that we had. My first stop was to CVS to get some medical supplies. I then went back to my Wife’s cousin’s house in south Philly to shower and apply the medical supplies I had bought. I was also able to eat dinner too.
Triple Paste was the primary medical supply that I wanted from CVS. It is a cream for diaper rash, but works really well on any kind of rash and was a life saver for me. I still had a little bit of a rash from chafing during the tough but by the time the light started I was back to normal for the most part and it was time for the Tough.
I am not going to go into every detail of the tough but will only highlight a couple of things that stuck out to me.
First, the admin phase did not go well for the tough class. I was a little late which was fine, but the flag wound up on the ground and then all hell broke loose pretty shortly after that. Cadre Cleve made sure we paid for that transgression immediately. Eventually we finished getting our gear inspected and moved on.
Second, we had pretty much the same coupons as the heavy, but many more people that were fresh.
Third, Cadre Belman had the best use of the pain train I have seen thus far. He had us in baseball field at Fairmont park dragging the pain train, picking it up, and racing against other teams. I think having a class carry the pain train for any stretch of time is dumb and normally ends quickly since the class can barely move at all for obvious reasons. However, it is difficult and uncomfortable so I can understand why I’ve seen the pain train used at many events I’ve participated in.
Otherwise, the tough class followed more or less the same trail and pattern as the heavy (obviously the tough class did not cover as much ground). We also did a deck of cards at the tough but with different movements. The movements were 8 count bodybuilders (as always), ruck swings, flutter kicks, and four count overhead lunges. The tough class also got into the fountain at Logan square early in the event but due to not wearing any underwear for the entire tough (and using the triple paste), my chafing did not get worse during the tough.
Although, I did have to make sure I applied some body glide to my member to avoid some rubbing there. The tough class had some good athletes in the class and it showed. We did lose a few people to dropping on request and another to a wrist injury. However, this was a great class and a great event overall. We ended by dropping off the sandbags at Cadre Cleve’s truck and then moving to Independence hall to be patched (similar to the heavy class).
Finishing this tough was my fourth Heavy/Tough event with both Cadre Cleve and Cadre Belman (Belman only requires three tough/heavy events to rate his patch). As a result, I rated both of their patches. However, Cadre Cleve does not award his patch for HTLers until the end of the light. Honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way anyways.
We finished 20 minutes early which gave me some extra time to get back to where I was staying and shower, eat, take care of my feet, and get ready for the light. I almost missed the light due to falling asleep on the living room floor, but luckily I woke up at 1230 and was able to catch an uber and arrive a few minutes before the light start at 1300.
This light was probably one of my favorite events that I have done. The class was fantastic and jelled together better than pretty much every light class I have participated in. Additionally, Cadre Cleve had his wife and two kids there which was really cool to see. For me as a father of two boys I could really relate to that and it just reminded me of how important family is.
The light class started with a solid welcome party that involved two teams switching off stations. One team did PT while the other hauled around Cadre Belman’s pain train. We then made a movement to the Fairmont Baseball field that we visited with the tough class. Before we went up the hill to the baseball field we took a short rest and took some time to allow team members to talk about what America means to us.
I always enjoy hearing the stories of the various GRTs and this was no different. Once we got to Fairmont Park, we then did a short competition workout on one of the baseball diamonds that involved each team completing thrusters and a bear crawl from one side of the diamond to the other in a follow the leader style. We then made the movement back to the start point and got patched.
Getting patched was a great feeling as always. In addition to the HTL patch, the HTL finishers were also given a patch of George Washington’s standards. George Washington is a hero of mine so I was geeking out to get that patch and I’m sure I’ll be wearing that patch early and often from here on.
I also earned Cadre Belman’s and Cadre Cleve’s patches which were very well earned since this was my second HTL with them. Many of my friends from the area also came out to participate in the events as well and show support. I was sure to grab pictures with them at the end. Once the patching was done I went back to where I was staying in south Philly and cleaned myself up, cleaned up my mess, and drove home to NJ to see my wife and my boys before everyone went to bed.
This HTL was bittersweet for me. I was very happy to have the opportunity to do it, but it will possibly be one of my last HTLs if not my last for a variety of reasons. Taking a weekend away from my family to go do this kind of event just doesn’t seem feasible and honestly it is just really hard on the body. I am not sure that I want to continue doing stupid stuff like this in the future. However, the two HTLs that I have done have been unforgettable experiences that created strong bonds.
We started the weekend with 20 people that were signed up to complete the HTL and only six finished it. Our feet were wet and most of our supplies were wet during the vast majority of the heavy. This was what contributed to most of the class dropping off after the heavy. Shoutout to the GRT that lent me some tape for my toes during the heavy. I don’t know what kind of tape that was, but it basically became like a second skin on my feet and did not come off until this morning (Monday) when I had to cut it off with scissors. In comparison to the HTL I did in NYC I think my body is not as beat up, but this HTL was more difficult. The weights were extremely heavy, we were wet most of the time, and the heat was oppressive throughout (even at night).
All these factors made for a very challenging evolution. Finally, I would like to thank God for blessing me to be able to participate in an event like this, my family for supporting me while I do these events, my fellow GRTs, the cadre, and GORUCK for putting on these events. I sincerely hope to participate in as many GORUCK events as makes sense for my family and I in the future.
Lastly, feel free to follow my adventures on my Instagram page @wayoftheblade and reach out to me there with any questions. I know I did not include every detail in this AAR, but this is about the best I could do considering I’ve only slept for about eight hours over the past three days. So please forgive me if this AAR feels a little haphazard in the execution. I wanted to write this down and get it out while my memories are still fresh. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you at an event sometime.