GORUCK Selection AAR – By Stony Smith

GORUCK Selection 014 Dec 26th 2013, Candidate #10 -AAR of a VW, for what it’s worth…

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For about a year I’d thought about doing Selection one day.  When I first watched 000 go down I only had one challenge under my belt; #191 Toronto, and it trashed me.  I realized after that experience I had really trained for the wrong type of event, but it sure showed me my weaknesses. That realization really made me plan my training for Selection much more carefully.  Being from Canada, I’m a bit removed from the Goruck scene stateside.   Most of my friends up here think I’m whack so I ended up becoming a bit of a recluse while training for Selection. I actually think this worked in my favor mentally.  My training plan started  by reading all the AAR’s I could find, watching as much ‘Surviving the Cut’ as possible, asking questions to fill in the gaps, and observing all of the Selection classes as they went down.  Pictures are worth a thousand words.

I had been doing Crossfit for about 2 years so I figured I have the intensity required. I don’t heal as fast I used to so I needed to plan out a longer steady training plan.  Prior to Crossfit I had done loads of running but I was a bit sketchy with long distances and I only really carried weight during my Goruck challenges. My plan was to put on some size for muscular endurance, run more, ruck more and get my push-up/ sit-up count up.  I started executing my training plan about 4 months out; meaning I clicked the button to confirm my entrance to Selection and actually committed myself –fear is my motivator. I wanted to increase my muscular endurance by increasing my size so I added the Wendler 531 program to my mornings. About this time I also convinced the wife to let me move my squat rack into the living room.  Coincidently this is also about when I sustained my first injury…  too hard too fast and not enough recovery time, I managed to dislocate my back.  Three weeks to feel comfortable squatting again, but I started light and worked through it.  The weather was holding up so I was able to get some good runs and rucks in – shorter during the week and gradually longer duration on the weekends.  Trying to find the time for long rucks was becoming a problem as the days grew shorter so I had to change up my approach.  I increased my ruck weight slowly to give my back a chance to heal and adjust to the load.  The only time I could find during the week was my morning 2km dog walks, so I made them count by carrying 100lbs+. Events like the Runfor1Mil (thanks Mark Webb) also helped my training as it gave me an excuse to try out my body and kit to see how they would perform then train what hurt the most. On weekends I could find the time, so before breakfast I’d do a full PT test and see how my weekly training was paying off. About six weeks out a friend and I decided to do a 12hr ruck.  For me this would be a full dress rehearsal.  It turned out the weight combined with an insole without much arch support led to my second injury and what my chiropractor informed me was “Morton’s Neuroma” – a pinched nerve in my foot.  The treatment you ask?  No more rucking or running until Selection -now only five weeks away.  This is when the paranoia really set in!  I was really concerned that this lack of long distance training would negatively affect me at Selection.  The forced ‘rest’ did give me a chance to increase my push up and sit up counts.  Sit-ups came up fast from a rough 50 to a manageable 75 in 2 minutes, but I could not seem to break through the 65 count for push ups in 2 minutes.   I was pleased with my progress but still not entirely sure I would pass the PT test because of my foot and the hype about proper technique.  Nutrition was something I had no idea about.  I looked everywhere for info and I only confused myself more.  I talked to a couple of nutritionists about what the event was and what it entailed.  They couldn’t plan for a lack of food so I was forced to look elsewhere.  I had heard of Ketosis and how my body could run off of fat stores.  OK sounds good I’ll go with that, I still had no idea what I was doing…  In hindsight, training for Selection and cutting foods to deal with deprivation at the same time was dumb.  I probably missed loads of gains by not feeding my body when it needed it; although this approach did allow me to work out how to get over hunger pains.  During Selection I was really whacked from lack of food although I do like that stage of delirious funniness though. Training for a lack of food and not letting my body eat itself is my plan for October 2014. 

Before I knew it the Big Day had arrived.   All my training had come down to this.  Everyone had their own approach, their kit, their history.  You would think this would have been a good time for me to sit with my own thoughts and mentally prepare for what was to come.  But my brain had other plans.  It decided to compare myself to all the other candidates that showed up.  There was no way I was on par with these guys; these guys looked like animals –super fit.  Once we formed up there was to be no talking from then on and shit got serious.  First would be the kit check and then right into the PT Test.  I didn’t fly all the way here just to fail a PT Test.  I had forgotten to account for adrenalin and I ended up feeling really good during the PT test – and even managed to PR the run and the ruck.  At the start of the ruck march people started running; immediate thought was ‘Crap, do they know something I don’t?’  I knew the pace I needed to keep to arrive on time but I tossed it out the window.  I ran 100 paces, walked 100 paces the whole way.  I found out later on I had completed it in 2:59min, Woot! In a headwind, on sand.  I think I would have been fine if I had stuck to my routine from training but it was very easy to get caught up in what other people were doing and I’m way too competitive.  After the ruck the people who did not pass the sit-up or push-up part of the test were allowed to try it again.  
A lot of what came next was hard and fast.  At least the pictures prove I was there, because I barely remember it!  I do remember thinking this is a welcome party that just keeps going and going…and going. I quickly realised being last was bad, real bad.  Being a winner is obvious but at what point does being a winner outweigh the effort when it leads to failing the next round?  Trying to win suicide races over and over again was really taxing my body, so I tried to stay middle of the pack. Eventually we all ended up in the surf doing PT.  The Cadre were on us checking eyes and numbness and to be sure we didn’t get too cold they kept us moving with lots of PT.  Eventually morning came and the Sand Babies came out to play.  Strangely enough, we had to earn the right to carry our Babies; proper name, fill quantity, correctly tying –any deviation meant start again.  The Sand Babies weighed about 60lbs I would guess.  In hindsight I should have made sure to use dry sand… With Sand Babies loaded, we started another long walk up the beach. My ruck weighed 50lbs plus Baby.  At this point I felt good.  I passed #1 on the beach and had #8 in my sights.  I was nearing the finish point but #8 just kept going.  I headed towards the finish point and confirmed with Cadre that I was in fact in the right place then pointed to #8 up the beach. People just seemed to disappear, 14 People had started but only 3 remained now, I think we lost 5 or 6 just on this ruck.  

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We took care of our feet and then it was time for another PT test. This test was different; dead hang pull ups and crunches. After the PT test we topped up our water and we were off for a Fartlek style ruck run/march towards the intercostal waterway for some “snorkeling”.  By this time I was absolutely starving.  #8 was killing it, #1 and I had to stop to strip gear off which meant we were way behind.

  By this time I was going through another level of deliriousness and was looking everywhere for food; leaves, old cat food tins –anything.  Then #1 shows up with a cookie. WTF!  Turns out he found a McDonald’s bag on the road and found unopened cookies inside.   Yeah I’ll eat it.  Once we arrived at the waterway we knew things were going to get sketchy.  Fortunately Cadre were there to chase off any gators and to keep watch for snakes and other things that could kill us.  The water was cold but nice and helped with sore muscles.  The mud was deep, you had to paw your way though it grabbing clusters of clams to propel yourself forward.  When Cadre caught you it was snorkel time.

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After the water we had another Cadre change and then we rucked up for a hike back to the beach.  I remember we helped push a car along the way. I don’t recall what else we did but I’m sure it involved PT till nap time.  Other than being dark I had no idea what time it was but I can tell you I was so happy for food!  There were three spots beside the fire and some gloriously tasty MREs, a foot inspection, a brief review of our progress and then the big sleep… around 30min.  We were gently roused from our slumber by the siren on the bullhorn. Time for another PT test.  I was sucking by this time, less than half my original counts.  Then on to the beach for a long heavy ruck march, this time with a couple of 80lb sand bags and a slosh tube full of sand which we rotated.  It was dark, no idea what time it was.  When we got back fresh Cadre showed up and now it was getting serious.  The PT dials were up to 11:  Log PT, 1 mile suicides, Log PT in the surf and more Log PT.  When we failed to perform it was back to the surf with snorkels and a log.  #1 was getting PT’d pretty hard at this point, Cadre were working their mind games to get into his head.  We were doing inch worm pushups when I heard #1 VW –crap, he was tough as nails. It just kept coming; log PT, ruck PT.  I was having problems keeping my ruck overhead and the threat of the surf was looming.  I had noticed recently that when I was getting into the surf my arm pits and back would seem to catch on fire, sort of like grinding salt into open wounds…  This was when I had to do my gut re-check.  Time slowed down and I went into deep thought (in between log presses).  This was the time that I had thought about every time I was training, how will my time present itself and how would I know.  For me it turned out to be when the pain outweighed the want. The Cadre will ask you at any sign of weakness if you want to quit, most of the time I just blocked it out… not this time –at 32hrs, I VW’d.   

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I found myself sitting around the fire getting warm, eating some food, trying to figure out what had just happened.  My tongue started to swell up to the point where I was barely intelligible (still don’t know what that was all about).  Once we made it back to the hotel I realised the extent of my chafing, underarms, wherever the ruck touched my back, my nipples were ground off (they don’t grow back all the way).  I don’t normally have a problem with chafing but the sand really helped it along. That was when I also confirmed that I was passing dark blood in my urine (signs of Rhabdomyolysis).  I didn’t have the cognitive ability to do anything about it so I downed some water and passed out.  Upon weighing myself in the morning I had lost 10lbs during the 32hrs.  When I got home I tried for max effort push ups and sit ups and found out I was not as strong as I was 10 days ago.  My body had lost some size and muscle, my nutrition sucked ass.Reflections… Keep the sand out, use diaper rash cream etc –TBD.  Get my nutrition right. No matter how strong you are the Cadre will have more PT than you have muscles.   Your brain is your space –don’t let the Cadre in. And never before have the words “it pays to be a winner”’ meant so much to me.  It’s one thing to hear it; it’s another to live it.
Yeah, I still want it and I’m going back with a notebook full of things to take care of before next year –Woot! 

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4 thoughts on “GORUCK Selection AAR – By Stony Smith

  1. Roger

    Thank you so much for the AAR, very inspiring and scary at the same time. I can only imagine the burn you must have felt with all that chaffing.

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