What does AAR mean? After Action Review/Report (yeah I know some of you were trying to figure out what that means… don’t worry it took me a while to figure out what that acronym means LOL)
Ruck. Train. Eat. Sleep. Repeat
That was my method to getting ready for the HHH.
No, I did not wake up 7 days a week at 4 AM to do “x” miles of rucks (or runs).
No, I did not train 7 days a week.
No, I did not restrict or cut calories (I actually added calories and I am happy I did!)
No, I did not deprive myself from sleep (other than the usual hectic work week sleep deprecation or the sleep that was surrendered while doing other GORUCK EVENTS)
What I did do: make a plan. I am a personal trainer so creating training plans is something that is second nature for me. I live in a small rural town. If I had time I loaded up my ruck/sand bag and I walked to work (and back home). Nice days = a date with my pup, ruck, and sand bag on the trails for trail rucks. If there was a day that was super busy ( most days I have clients staring at 4 am and don’t make it home until 9 pm) and I did not have the time nor energy to fit in a workout I didn’t. AND I didn’t feel guilty about it. I did not want my training for this event to add more stress to my life. I wanted training to parallel with the other things I had going on in my life. I wanted to create a positive and healthy method of preparing for this event (as I do with all events I do). I did not want to set myself up to get hurt or to get burned out. I also used HCLs (GORUCK Heavy, Challenge, and Light events… 48 ish hours of Consecutive GORUCK events in one weekend) as a resource to get in heavy miles, cadre lead PT, log carries, and unpredictable obstacles to help get ready for the event. I immediately found HCLs that would fit into my schedule (and budget) and tried to spread them out over the months leading up to the HHH.
Why I did so many HCL’s:
With the first HCL of 2016 I nailed down exactly what I HAD TO HAVE in my ruck. The less you need the less you have to carry (other than the required weight). My ruck handle was also adopted along with a few other GORUCK hacks that helped me be more efficient and organized.
- My Ruck handle can be found ————>CLICK HERE
- My typical event packing list ——->CLICK HERE
- All of the contents of my ruck were separated into separate dry bags (food in one small dry bag, first aid/foot care kit in one bag, jacket and other clothes in another bigger bag). This made it easy to know what to grab when I needed it AND kept everything organized, separated, and dry.
- Food was all prepackaged food. This make it easy to grab and eat on the go, if for some reason my dry bag leaked water my food would not get wet.
I also used the HCL’s to mentally get ready for the HHH. Not getting upset or annoyed when I got tired, cold, and hungry. Figuring out my own strengths and weaknesses. Figuring out what I can do to help my team more. Learning how to communicate with new/different people to help bridge the gap between trying to understand and respect how different people understand and perceive obstacle that arise during events.
- Getting mentally ready is by far just as important as physically training for this event. It is VERY easy to get discouraged and want to quit. Your will power to continue has to be as strong (if not stronger) than your body.
- Getting mentally ready is something that YOU have to figure out how to do. My methods are something that I use to get me through all events.
- You may frequently hear “Find your WHY”. Your “WHY” is your reason you signed up for the event. Your “WHY” is what gets you out and training for this kind of event. Your “WHY” can help to push you through the hard, cold, and hungry times. Your ‘WHY” is what helps you complete the event.
Not really changing socks/shoes to gauge how my feet would hold up with the abuse and miles that happen during events. Figuring out how far I can push myself until my body NEEDED food and what food was nourishing and delicious.
Gear Check: ***MY METHODS OR CLOTHING/SHOES CHOICES MAY NOT WORK FOR EVERYONE***
- Footwear… the number one question that I get asked. To be honest I trained in my Nike Frees (running shoes) OR my converse. For the HHH I had both my Nike Frees and Merrell hiking shoes. I have done ALL of my events in my Nike Frees. When it comes to footwear try different types of shoes. Figure out what will work best for you and your body.
- I wore Injinji socks ( I had one extra pair packed in my ruck but I am pretty sure I wore the same pair for the entire HHH). I found this helped TREMENDOUSLY with limiting the friction from my toes rubbing together and helped to limit hot spots and blisters.
- Clothing: I wore GORUCK pants (check out my product review for the pants by CLICKING HERE) and a plain t-shirt. I did have on compression shorts under the pants (to help limit chafing) .
Getting ready for the event as a team:
As a team we were allowed to have drop bags. We all figured out how to equally split things up in those drop bags and what all was needed. We figured out what would be important to have (such as extra bladders, rucks, and other miscellaneous items) and things that would be a nice luxury to have (candy, caffeine, etc).
Confession: I DISLIKE THE GORUCK EVENT PAGES ON FACEBOOK
People’s fears and insecurities seemed to creep into my own subconsciousness and that was causing me to take progressive steps backwards instead of forward. When I was super active on those pages, I realized that I spending more time trying to get mentally balanced instead of focusing on the important things for the event. I have my own training method. I have my own way to get ready for events. Such as most athletes have pregame rituals, I have preruck rituals and adapted those rituals to help me mentally get “in the game and ready to play”. I purposely told several people that I was in the group but muted the group notifications. If there was something that needed my input to tag me or have someone text/message me to tell me to check the group. Don’t get me wrong, I would periodically scroll through the group but I was not apart of the regular group banter.
The HHH: 24 started, 8 finished
Heavy #1: 24 started, 18 finished
We all arrive and instantly clicked. We all have been communicating about the event for months and most of us had already done several events together over the year(s). We checked drop bags, stretched, mentally checked in with each other and got ready. Cadre show up and immediately start the torture. Ruck run… Fast paced… In the dead of the heat… For a undisclosed distance. AWESOME! Heat immediately announced itself as the primary obstacle for this portion of the event. After the initial evolution we had the traditional Heavy 12 miler (around Fiesta Island)… More PT fun… More miles and less smiles.
Oh yeah cadre are not your friends. I have done countless events with both Danny and Flash. My typical event banter and jokes awarded myself and the team extra PT.
I would say that the heat was the main mental factor to start off Heavy #1. It was a stagnant heat that made it difficult to ignore. The first Heavy included A LOT of miles. It was for sure not a easy Heavy and the Cadre showed no mercy (not only for the 1st Heavy but for any of the Heavies).
Upon conclusion of heavy #1 no one was allowed to leave. As a team we had to rest and repair ourselves to get ready for heavy #2. If you wanted to drop out of the events it had to be done at the start of heavy #2.
Heavy #2: 18 started, 15 finished
Welcome party was a wicked WOD in honor of Kirk Deligiannis. I finished 5th overall and I was the 2nd female to finish.
I am not a Cross Fit person (as in I do not regularly do Cross Fit, but I have done it a few times with friends when I travel). The WOD was DIFFICULT and constantly challenged you. It was a great Welcome Party/PT test to start off the 2nd Heavy.
My only thoughts during the WOD: It pays to be a winner. Put more effort into getting done as fast as you can. Not only to get the additional rest, but I know that pushing 100% is something Kirk would do. For this WOD I did not want to be mediocre and complete the WOD just to finish it. I wanted to put all of my efforts into making sure that every rep, every step, and every second was done to my fullest effort.
I finished the first WOD with full effort only to complete it and realize that we had ANOTHER WOD to do. Yeah… two WODs back to back, after doing a full heavy. But, in reality I compared it to other things they could have us do. So I did not complain, I tightened my shoes laces, and I kept going.
After both WODs we of course had more miles, less smiles, and endured some great GORUCK good living. At this point, people were starting to drop or get dropped from the event due to medical/health reasons. Cadre made it VERY clear that our health was a priority. It was not worth risking life long health problems to earn a patch. Bleeding and draining foot blisters, wicked ruck rash (and rub rashes in other disclosed areas), cramping and dehydration were a huge factor on the team. When this started happening it was clear and evident of the importance of the medical support staff that followed us. They were very diligent about making sure we stayed hydrated and did not push ourselves past our health limits.
I remember mostly having guest cadre (Shredder, Brett & Patrick), sprints and low crawls on the beach, water PT, meeting up with the challenge classes, chasing the challenge class because they stole our supplies, and sleep deprivation finally getting the best of some of our team mates. Trying to get them to understand directions and quickly execute cadre orders (because at this point I was TL) was a challenging task. Being the TL 36ish hours into this event was one of the hardest things for me (personally). I HATE BEING THE TL. No matter what kind of event I am doing. I would much rather be enduring the pain with my team than running around trying to tell them what to do.
***TL = Team Leader***
Being TL at this point was hard because it was dark, the challenge class stole our supplies, we had to do bounding movements while catching them. And, if we got caught by the challenge classes “we would get in trouble”. The plan that I had issued to the team was given to me by the cadre. But, my team felt as if we should do something else. Sleep deprivation and hallucinations started setting in. This made it hard to focus AND successfully complete the mission. Yes, we eventually caught up to the challenge class and unsuccessfully infiltrated their class to steal our supplies back. Of course we paid for this but earned another break/med check. One awesome aspect of the 2nd heavy was being able to learn the depths and details of Mogadishu from a veteran and a survivor who was actually there and apart of Mogadishu.
Upon conclusion of heavy #2 we lost more team mates but they were able to leave at the conclusion of heavy #2. Heavy #3 required us to drive really far into the desert so if you committed to start Heavy #3 you were all in.
Heavy #2 was hard because your body was already tired, but your mind was even more tired. At this point you were fighting a lot of physical and mental barriers. For those that have done an HCL, imagine how you feel after completing an HCL and double that feeling. Getting rest and repairing your body (both physically and mentally) was mandatory for those who wanted to attempt the 3rd heavy.
Heavy #3: 12 started, 8 finished
The desert. We got some rest, had time to heal our wounds, and had time to get some food/fluids into our systems. We started this event in chaos. Car horns blaring, lights flashing, cadre yelling, and a dead ruck sprint up a trail (yes we were going up a steady inclined hill = more difficult) for over a mile. We stopped to take a SHORT breather (as a few team mates at this time were also dropped from the event from failing to keep up with the group)and then we continued a speedy ruck march up that same trail for miles into the darkness, mountains and dessert. At the conclusion of this movement we did another med check and we also got IV’s which were a LIFE SAVER! During this break we got some more fluid, ate some grub, checked in with the remaining teammates that were left, and started the next evolution. At this time we were then given a decent size log with only 8 people to continue the 3rd heavy. The final 8. Super Ocho.
We rotated off/on the log for a distance and crushed the time hack. Traveled more miles into the darkness (and even had the chance to step onto the Pacific Coast Trail per my request since it was something I had dreamed of doing). Day broke and we headed to another location to survey, map, and infiltrate a park.
Onto the next evolution, more weight was added to our team and at last the final log. Oddly shaped, heavy, and small numbers to carry it along with everything else we had. By this time thinking clearly was DIFFICULT. Just grasping and understanding what was going on took a few seconds longer than usual. Hallucination were a regular thing that was happening, and the smell that we had created over three days was pretty unbearable at this point. Cadre purposely misinformed the current TL of our extraction point. It was at this point our team somewhat got divided and started to unravel. But, our team did a great job at stepping up and correcting the troubling situation allowing us to move forward. Flag brushed the ground = PT smoke session. When this happened my heart stopped. We were already tired, and in my mind I had lost track of time so I assumed we had A LOT of time until we were close to being done. At this point doing almost anything is not an easy task. It takes more effort (and caution to avoid a careless/tired injury) to do anything. But, we embraced our punishment, came together as a team, and completed the assigned PT. We have made it this far, why would we give up?
Cadre then made us evaluate each member on the team. We had to rank each team mate and write a brief description about their performance during the HHH. This was indeed one of the best things we could have done at that point in the event. I was ranked #3 on my team of 8. Got some great feed back as to my progress and performance during the HHH from both the team AND the cadre. This was very valuable information because it allowed you to realize and understand how our teammates really appreciated (or did not appreciate) things we did during the events. Being peer evaluated helped to allow a better understanding of what more you can do as a teammate in future events as well as in life.
We race to our next extraction point, which was unknown to us as being our end point. In my mind I thought we had several hours and miles left before we would be done. But, we turned the corner and beneath the USS Midway we saw and heard a crowd of familiar faces, beer, and food. It was at that moment I knew I had done it. I knew that WE HAD DONE IT. With tears streaming down my face I collected my patches, hugged my team mates, and cracked open a bud heavy. HHH… My 2016 goal was complete.
What I learned…My final thoughts:
Who is on your team is so important. It allows you to know the strengthens and weaknesses of those that are around you. Like I said before, I had done a lot of events with most of the people on my team. So working together came naturally. It is comforting to be able to look over and see your friends and teammates there to help you. Your team can see if you were being pushed to your limit and were able to let you rest or ask for more help because they knew what you were capable of doing. The screening process at that point was GREATLY appreciated. Having a team of HCL finishers helps to know that the people that have showed up are prepared and know what it takes to attempt to make it to the next event. I was happy I packed such a variety of food for the event. Having done HCL’s I knew that I would get sick of just one type of snack, protein bar, candy if that was all I had to eat for a few days. The SUPPORT CREW WERE LIFE SAVERS! Without them we would not have safely made it to the end of the event.
Would I do it again? I will not say yes and I will not say no. But looking back I embraced and enjoyed every painful moment and I am happy I did it.