Ruck BEAST Squad features interviews with members of the community to highlight their lives, training, gear, and insight. Hopefully as you read through this you’ll be able to take away advice that will help you train better and perform better that upcoming events. In this addition of Ruck BEAST we’ll get to know Caitlin Eiben from the Steel City Ruck Club.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself to get us started.
A: My name is Caitlin. I’m 33 years old, born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. I have a husband of 6 years and two dogs that I’m slightly obsessed with. Hobbies include rucking, OCR, and indoor rock climbing. I’m also very passionate about craft beer….just drinking it, not making it.
Q: Where did your GORUCK journey start? What was your first event? What stands out from that event?
A: My workout journey started in 2014. I just wanted to get in better shape. Everyone warns you that your metabolism slows down as you age, and they were right. I had no goals of achieving anything specific except weight loss. In 2015, my friends asked me to “run” a Spartan Race. I say “run” because I don’t run. Anyone who has witnessed me try knows it’s a weird, sort of gimpy trot. I have a congenitally deformed, chronically dislocating knee. I had it reconstructed when I was 14 years old, but after an 8 hour surgery, nothing was fixed. I avoided working out or doing anything active in front of anyone because I didn’t like that I couldn’t do things that others could do. So doing a Spartan Race with the promise that my friends would stick with me was definitely a huge step out of my comfort zone. I did the race and loved the obstacles and got hooked. That led me to meeting Kristi Devenyi in our local OCR group. We were at a workout/picnic and she told me about GORUCK. She said it’s basically no running and it’s a team event where we go at the slowest person’s pace. I came to terms that I would be the slowest person and everyone would just have to deal with me. I immediately bought an Echo and the plate bundle. My first ruck was a 14 mile ruck with 30# and I about died (on the inside). I may have been a bit too ambitious. My first event was a Light in April 2017 with Cadre Belman. It was a good workout, but I needed more. I signed up for the Mog Mile Tough/Light in September. As soon as that was over, I was researching HTLs. I was hooked.
Q: What was your most recent event or events. What would you like to tell us about it / them?
A: In 2019 I completed 21 events, ranging from a Scavenger to a 50 (58) mile Star Course, to another HTL.
The most memorable was by far the 58 mile DC Star Course. My team was awesome. We completed the Pittsburgh HTL together in 2018. We knew we could ruck the miles. We kept a good pace overnight on the C&O Canal trail and had fun hitting all the memorials during the day. We were 1.5 miles from finishing when we realized we went to the wrong address for the Titanic Memorial. We had 2.5 hours to retrace our steps, adding in an additional 6 miles. We moved faster than we did all day, until one of our teammates started suffering from heat exhaustion. He was out for almost a half hour, while we cooled him off, hydrated, and made him eat. Another teammate took his plate until the last waypoint. Then we hit the 0.1 miles to the final point and finished together. We had 15 minutes to spare. I’ll remember that event forever.
Q: Favorite Ruck?
To train: 20L Rucker
For events: 25L Rucker
Q: Proudest accomplishment as a GRT?
Starting. Like I mentioned before, I didn’t like working out with other people. I’m so glad I just decided to start not caring about what others may think. I’ve embraced my wonky knee and it even got me the nickname DisloCaitlin. I feel like I missed out on a lot in my past due to having a bad mindset, so I’m glad I got over it and I’m super thankful to the people who helped me step out of my comfort zone.
I’m also proud of completing my first HTL 6 weeks after having surgery for a broken finger. I was cleared for full activity a couple days before the Heavy. I’m not sure my surgeon understood what full activity meant to me.
Q: How many events have you done? What’s your favorite event or type of event? Why?
A: I’m at 32 events since 2017. While DC Star Course is my most memorable, my favorite might have to be Tun Tavern. Since I started in 2017, I’m in the era of hearing from the OGs that “GORUCK isn’t as hard as it was before”. While that may be true, I can’t help that I didn’t know what GORUCK was back then. After completing Tun Tavern, I feel like I did an event worthy of an OGs respect. And yes, I know it doesn’t matter what other people think, but it’s still nice knowing you survived a historically epic beatdown.
I also have to give a shout out to Cleveland Scavenger. I’ve never had more fun at an event . We had matching “Make America Ruck Again” shirts with Cadre Clay’s face on it, complete with American Flag silkies. We visited multiple local breweries, acted like fools to complete the challenges, and ended up winning.
Q: Why do you continue to do events? What keeps you coming back?
A: That’s easy. The people. It sure isn’t because of the way it makes my joints feel.
I’ve met so many awesome people because of rucking. Our Steel City Ruck Club is basically my social life now. We have so much fun together, but also push each other to improve. They are a second family.
Q: How do you train for events?
A: I train at home and I do whatever I feel like doing that day. Don’t ask me for workout plans because half the time I make things up as I go along. I don’t know, but it seems to be working. I do lots of sandbag workouts, ruck workouts, body weight exercises, and general rucking. I love doing hill repeats and when I go to the gym I can often be found on the stair stepper for way too long.
Q: Best Rucking and / or GORUCK event advice you have gotten?
A: DFQ. It’s simple, but just don’t get in your own head. Whatever sucky thing you are doing will end at some point. You will be in a hot shower with a cold beer in hand or sleeping in a warm bed soon enough. Just do what you set out to do and keep going.
Q: Other than packing list items, what is a must have in your ruck for events?
A: Whiskey. Noooo, I’m not a rule breaker 😉
My weird serious answer is one of those disposable toothbrushes. Call me crazy, but when it’s 3am and you have minty fresh breath you just feel rejuvenated, like you could ruck forever. Ok maybe not that great, but it does feel awesome.
Q: What’s the best purchase under $100 you’ve made in the past 12 months.
A: External Nalgene holder for my event ruck. Frees up a lot of extra space.
Also a belt for my Simple Pants, they get loose as events go on, and no one wants their pants falling down during low crawls.
Q: How has rucking changed or improved your life?
A: It gave me an outlet to workout and socialize at the same time. I’ve met some of my best friends through rucking. It’s great when you can stay in shape and have fun at the same time.
Q: How do you recruit new people to ruck, or do events with you?
A: Not to sound cocky, but it comes naturally. I’m an admin for Steel City Ruck Club. We don’t do flyers or try to recruit at races. Our members are all very friendly and welcoming, so I think people who see us aren’t intimidated by what we are doing. We constantly have events with varying levels of difficulty so we cater to everyone. I think the fact that we are so excited about rucking just draws in new faces.
Q: Best Beer to drink after a ruck?
A: Ohhh now this is my kind of question….because half of my rucks are revolved around rucking to breweries. I’m going to go with a juicy New England IPA. If you want specifics, Hitchhiker Urban Evidence DIPA
Q: Advice you would give to someone before their 1st Light?
A: Challenge yourself. Don’t hide in the back. Carry something you don’t think you can carry, at least for a little. I surprise myself at most events with carrying something at the end of an event that I didn’t think I could at the beginning.
Q: Advice you’d give to someone before their 1st Tough?
A: Get some long rucks under your feet. Foot care is very important and it’s not something you want to have to try to figure out mid-event.
Q: If you get overwhelmed during an event how do you refocus on the task at hand?
A: I swear at myself and tell myself to stop being a whiny baby. It works.
Q: What’s the next event or events on your calendar?
A: Pittsburgh A Shau Valley Tough/Light with Chris “Soul Crusher” Sanchez (Author’s Note, this was written a while back and then life happened. She crushed it, I’m sure of it)
Q: Any parting shots? Things the community needs to know?
A: GORUCK has changed my life. Don’t be afraid to try something new. 99% of the people are awesome and supportive. While you still should make sure you’re training appropriately for events, don’t think you need to be some sort of athletic superstar to do more than a Light. You need the right attitude and a good support system. If you’re ever in Pittsburgh, reach out to Steel City Ruck Club and we will be happy to host a rucking event during your stay!
Want to learn more about other members of the rucking community? Check out the full list of Ruck BEAST Squad posts!