Public Service Announcement: Don’t be a Buddy F**ker

Last year, I attended a training event with the GORUCK cadre. They constantly reminded us to look after our fellow trainees and look after the group above looking out for ourselves. The most common mistake on this was at meal times, going back for seconds before everyone had gone through the first time. 

This offense was met with a cadre yelling across the dining tent, “BUDDY F**KER!!!! HOLD UP YOUR SAMMICH!!!” and having to hold your food high over your head until everyone had been through the line.

I have been seeing a few things at recent races that remind me of this.

When I was doing my volunteer time in Quebec, a young man approached me for help, having injured himself on the Hercules Hoist. The rope had slipped and ripped a good portion of the skin off of his hands. I couldn’t quite visualize how this had gone wrong, until I came to the same obstacle at Utah. The first ten feet of rope were coated and infused with mud. Everything at a Spartan race gets muddy, but this was mud so ground in that it was almost as if the rope had been greased. It took all I had to keep a grip and get it off the ground, and to keep it from rope burning my hands when I got back to the greased section of rope.

I couldn’t figure out what was causing this, until I saw one of my fellow racers lowering the weight by standing on the rope, grinding all the mud from her shoes onto and into the rope. I admit that this caused me to say a few things out loud that politeness would tell me to keep inside my head.

Racing is an individual sport, but think of the people on the course with you. We all find the methods that work best to get us through, but also think of what you are doing to the racer behind you. Don’t screw over your buddy for your own advantage.

This shows most in the little details. Do you step out of the way when you hear a faster runner coming behind you? Do you continue standing at the water table, or grab your drink and step out of the way? 

Do you encourage your fellow athletes to be their best, or just encourage them to think that YOU are awesome?

There is another disturbing trend that I have seen increasing of late, and it does no one any good. There are always different schools of thought for any endeavor, but lately it has descended into tribal warfare.

Anyone who does not work out as hard as you is a wimp. If they work out harder than you, they’re a meathead. Marathoners are elitist snobs. Obstacle racers are half-assed weekend warriors just doing it for the beer. Bodybuilders only want their muscles for decoration. MMA fighters are brutish neanderthals. People who encourage their comrades on with jeers of, “Don’t be a pussy!” are sexist jerks. Those who are offended by such jeers are, well, pussies.

We are each on our own path. If the person next to you is on the path that helps them be the best that they can be, encourage that. Even if it does not coincide with your path. Because their path may not be right for you, and yours may not be right for them. If they are doing good work, acknowledge that it is good work.

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There is a particular instance of this that I need to give further attention.

“If you have not trained for it (as much as the speaker has) then you shouldn’t be there.”

“If you don’t have what it takes, don’t bother showing up.”

“If your marathon time is over 5 hours, you didn’t REALLY run it.”

If you have never, ever shown up for an event under-trained, your goals are too easy. Yes, you should pick a goal and train for it with all you have. But life gets in the way. We have to take time off for injuries. We don’t improve as quickly as we had hoped.

If you’ve paid for an event, gotten the time off work, trained as well as you could, and you’re not sure you can do it…Don’t you at least want to see it? See what you can and can’t do? See first hand what you are up against, so you can better plan to kick its ass next time?

If you stumble through and barely finish, hold your head high. A finish is a finish, and the ones you barely complete are the ones you learn the most from.

If you try and fail, that’s fine. Get up, dust yourself off, adjust your training, and go after it again. 

And if you finish well, good for you. I’ll raise my glass to your accomplishment. But don’t you dare belittle those behind you, those that are still in the field as you finish your victory beer. Anyone who has the nerve to step up and give all they’ve got is worthy of your respect. We’re all in this together.

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Souviens-toi: GRC Normandy, Class 1046

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I jumped on this event the moment I learned of it. A GORUCK challenge on Omaha Beach, on the 70th anniversary of the landings. There was no way I could not do this.

We started at the Omaha Beach D Day monument, and were quickly shuffled out onto the beach to get us organized.

 

 

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We had the usual starting procedures, roll call, gear check, etc. It went a little long with there being so many of us.

The one point of procedure that was not done at previous events: At the end of each set of PT, in honor of the Rangers that had given so much on this beach, we were to call out, “One for the Airborne Ranger in the sky!” and do one last rep. We were immediately given a set of pushups to start out with.

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Every challenge, I have that one little point where my confidence is not quite where it should be. This time it was everyone talking about how cold the water was likely to be. Figuring for June weather, I had left my cold weather gear at home. As if on cue, at the end of that first set of pushups we were told to form one line at water’s edge and link arms.

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Duck unders, followed by what I can only describe as burpees in 4 feet of water. The waves breaking over us also made this interesting. Cadre called out that some people were not fully submerging and that we would keep doing it until everyone got it right. I didn’t think I was the problem, but to be certain I did the next two chest-to-ground under the water.

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We next stormed the beaches…

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And split into four platoons. I ended up with first platoon. We then went through a quick training drill with each of the Cadre, covering individual movement, team movement, reaction to contact, and assaulting a bunker. One of my favorite memories from this:

Cadre: Get on line and put fire on the enemy!

Female teammate: PEW PEW PEW!!!!!

Cadre: What? There is no “pew pew” here! It is “bang bang”!

Me: BUDDAH BUDDAH BUDDAH!!!

Cadre: *facepalm*

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We then moved out in formation, leaned the difference between rank and column formation, learned how to move in wedge formation, and checked out one of the remaining bunkers built into the side of a hill. Back to the beach, moving in wedge formation in the dark, responding to contact from various directions, usually doing it wrong, but getting better each time.

We moved down the beach to the memorials at two of the massive artillery bunkers.

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We passed what remains of the American Mulberry Harbor.

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And ran into this gentleman who gave us some additional history of what had happened here.

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Moving toward Pointe Du Hoc, we came to a locked privacy fence that we were immediately ordered to go over. A local man with the combination happened by and opened it for us.

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We then rucked a long way through narrow trails in wheat fields, through a reasonably intense storm with some of the brightest lightning I have ever seen.

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Just as dawn broke, we reached Pointe Du Hoc, and then went down to the next protruding cliff to get a better view of exactly what scaling those cliffs required.

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70 years later, the terrain still bears the marks of what happened here. We walked past numerous shell craters that you could fit a small house into.

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We then moved back to a monument just inland and were given 10 minutes to tend to our feet. Then back in formation, feet up on the retaining wall, and crank out 25 pushups.

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Down. 24. Down. 25. One for the boys at Pointe Du Hoc! One for the boys at Pointe Du Hoc! Down! One!

Moving back towards the beach using surface roads, moving to the side when cars approached. We covered part of the distance walking in the ditches where there was not a lot of room at roadside. It seemed appropriate, as these same ditches were likely used for cover as our forces moved inland.

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We then cam to a historical camp/vehicle area at Omaha Beach, Dog Green Sector, where the phrase “Rangers lead the way” was born. Cadre pulled out a Willie’s Jeep, turned it off, and told us that we were pushing it around the camp.

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25 rucktard power is an impressive amount of force. We got it up to speed, well ahead of our time hack, and Cadre hit the brakes, stopping it in the middle of a big mud puddle. Those in front pushing the jeep, those behind pushing those in front, back up to speed.

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We moved in formation back to our start point, and were given one last challenge: Before 2nd platoon arrives, someone in this group must be able to name all the rest. Julie volunteers, we spend a few minutes running through roll call, and she absolutely nails it. Cadre then points at me and tells me to do the same.

Merde.

My hit rate was on the order of 25%, but the effort was accepted, and we were finished.

But there is one final task that I needed to complete. 70 years ago, my great uncle, Joe Ryan, assaulted Omaha Beach and was killed some time later in the hedgerows. And a little bit of this event needed to be brought back to him.

We’d had challenge coins made for the occasion, that I carried with me though the Challenge before distributing them to the team. I found Joe’s tombstone, wiped off a touch of dirt from the base, and put down the coin.

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A wave of emotion hit me, and I was tearing up as I stood and gave a quick salute.

Rest in peace, Joe. We remember.

An American Rucktard in Paris

I usually confine my write-ups to the event, and the notes of getting there are for me only. The trip to Normandy was fun enough that I felt the need to share.

I flew into Paris, was able to speak just enough French to get directions, and found the rental car place where I was to meet the rest of the team. We learned that foreign car rentals are a point where you really and truly must do your homework, as we hit a snag regarding what documents we had with us, who was covered under the insurance that had been paid for, etc. A few hours later we got that sorted out and headed to the parking garage to find the van.

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It had been listed as 7 passengers, 5 large suitcases. We soon realized that this was a typo. It should have said 7 passengers OR 5 large suitcases, not both.

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One of the team went back in to inquire about adding a second vehicle to take 2 people and create room in the van. She returned shortly and curtly said, “Everybody get your sh*t in the van. 500 euros for a Smartcar.”

We played human tetris and managed to pack everyone in.

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Off through the streets of Paris!

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We stopped as needed to get out and stretch, usually at gas stations. In one section where we couldn’t find a place to stop, we found signs indicating a picnic table and a tree…

And that was about all that was there. But it was a place we could park, and trees provided needed cover and concealment.

As we got loaded up, someone called for a clown car selfie:

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The discomfort was made a little better by the countryside we were driving past, many points of which I want to explore on a future trip.

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When we reached the team house, while we were a little crushed by the lack of wifi, we were overall impressed by the house. The main structure had been standing since sometime in the 1600s and was furnished to give a very rustic but still comfortable feel. It was nice.

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The details of the Challenge and the visit to Omaha Beach will be covered in the next blog post. Skipping ahead to the laundry situation created by a house full of 16 rucktards after a challenge:

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The insane clown car posse that I had ridden out with were happy that I was to leave a day early and create a little more room in the car. I and one of my teammates were able to find a train from the small town we were near to Caen and then on to Paris.

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The original plan had been to walk it to the Eiffel Tower and the Arch of Triumph from the train station. At this point I was tired, feet in terrible shape, and walking like a penguin due to chafing. I threw away the steel plates that I had used for weight for the challenge, and we decided to just say screw it and find the hotel.

We took the trains to the airport and found a cab. Paris cabbies do not deserve the grumpy reputation. Of all the places I have been, I have never had a cabbie offer me donuts before this.

A few hours sleep, catch the hotel shuttle back to the airport, and wish my teammate farewell as we split up to find our flights. First flight was a short hop to Dublin. I love Dublin’s airport. Free unlimited wifi, this place:

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to plug in your electronics and keep you connected with home, and a truly awesome little breakfast place.

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The down side is the redundant security checkpoints, as the EU, the rest of the EU, and the Americans can’t agree on standards. French security, on the plane, off the plane, Irish Security, walk 5 feet, American Security and Customs. A bright spot at Customs. I mentioned that the purpose of the trip had been for a D Day anniversary event. My customs official was former military and understood the significance of it. He looked at my declaration form and said wistfully, “Oh, you picked up some patches…”

I had them strapped to my hip along with my passport, so I got them out to share.

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He smiled and simply said, “Treasure those!”

The long flight back to Chicago. Part of the El train was shut down for repairs, so from the airport I took a train that dropped me at a bus, which took me to another train, which took me to the bus station to get back home.

My apartment only has on-street parking, so I had made arrangements to park my car at my gym while I was out of country. Being dropped off at the Greyhound station at 4 AM, carry 40 pounds of gear the half mile back to my apartment, then a 4 mile penguin shuffle to go get the car. I was actually impressed that I was able to keep steady 16 minute miles in that condition.

Failure, to organization, to a bucket list…

I have fought for years to not have a bucket list. I see them all the time, places where people send their dreams to die. Write it down to do, then never get to it.

But two events have caused me to change this.

I recently failed in my quest to run 1000 miles in one year, and had to restart. Poor organisation from the start, not keeping up with it and letting it get away from me. I restarted with better organisation and am already significantly ahead of schedule.

A long-term goal presented itself, something audacious and awesome enough that I really have no choice but to go after it. I learned of the Spartathlon, the annual race tracing the route of Phidippides from Athens to Sparta, 250 km, 155 miles, ending at the big statue of King Leonidas. In 6 years, it will be the 2500th anniversary of Leonidas’ death. If I was looking for a date to do it, I’ve found my date.

A goal this big, with qualifying races, requires a plan to keep on track, to not let the time get away from you.

This list will doubtless require additions and rework as time passes (so this post will be edited a lot), but here it goes:

2014:

In addition to all the things already on my docket, complete a 50M race and qualify for a GR Heavy.

2015:

Complete a 100M.

2016:

Complete a GR Heavy

Complete a 100K at Spartathlon-limit pace.

Complete all four DWD ultras.

Snow Drop 55 hour.

2017:

Complete a 200K

100th anniversary of US entry into WWI. Do Tough Guy in WWI gear.

2018: Complete a 200K at pace

2019: Complete 280K in under 48 hours

2020: SPARTA!!!!!

Ambitious? Audacious? Definately.

Silly to even consider based on where I am at now? Perhaps.

But no one grows by staying comfortable. We need goals that we can’t achieve. They force us to grow into someone who can.

Post script: Bucket list items that I have not yet assigned a date:

Complete the SISU 1000 and SISU Wow challenge- May do during my race-free time late this year.

Learn to ride a horse.

Complete a Civilian-Military-Combine event.

Complete the Ultimate Suck.

Earn the Goruck 1000/1250 club patches.

Achieve and maintain 220 AQT score.