GORUCK Normandy HTL, Part 5
It’s over a month later and I’m still in pretty bad shape. I’m typing this on an airplane with my back aching so bad that the pain has wrapped around my ribs to the front of my body, making it hurt to breathe at times. I know. I sound like a whiny little bitch, but I want to be honest so that you can learn from what I did right and what I did wrong.
I’ve put my body through more in the past year than I’ve put it through in my entire life. Lots of GORUCK events, a marathon, a few half marathons, an ultra-marathon relay, a 200-mile relay in the mountains. It’s been a real adventure and nothing meant as much to me as finishing the Normandy HTL. I will cherish this so much that I’ve even considered getting my first tattoo as the three HTL lightening bolts. I can’t recommend this event more.
With all this adventure, I have put my body through hell. The biggest thing I’ve done wrong is jump from event to event without letting my body heal. For some reason I’m not learning from my own mistakes because I have another Tough/Light in two days and right now it hurts to breathe. I have to slow down and let my body catch up.
Earlier this year I caught a lot of hell from my F3 “brothers” because a ton of them dropped from a custom HTL. Someone tweeted that the cadre was too hard and I argued that’s their job. They’re supposed to be hard and crying about it isn’t an option. It’s on us to train. So of course that means I have no empathy for my brothers and that resulted in a lot of mean comments to me like “you’re bad for the F3 and GORUCK community.” If I’m going to bust balls for not training, I sure as hell better train hard. So that’s what I did.
Jumping from running to rucking and back to running has been tough. You can read a lot more about that here. I have a runner’s body, not a pack mule’s, so GORUCK events are always pretty tough for me and they take a bigger toll on my body than I’ve seen for my brothers. Slimming down for a marathon and then bulking up for the HTL was real tough. But I definitely believe that going from a mostly vegan diet to eating a lot of meat and adding three weight lifting days a week helped me tremendously during the HTL.
Going in, my weekly schedule looked something like this for four months:
Lift x 3
Bootcamp w/ ruck x 3
Ruck 20 miles
Lifting and bootcamps were the right call. Stopping running for four months was the wrong call because I lost a lot of my endurance, even with the bootcamps. If I had to do it over again, I would add in at least two, maybe three, good runs each week. I didn’t ruck nearly enough miles, evident by the fact that my biggest problems were with my feet and legs. I should have gotten closer to 35 or 40 each week. But shit, who has that much time? I should have sacrificed some of that bootcamp time for long rucks.
I did a lot of mental training. I meditated, did the Wim Hoff (breathing) method, did pain- coping training, watched a lot of WW2 movies and TV shows and read a few books about Normandy. They say that these events are more mental than physical and, mentally, I was friggin’ ready. I think this is the primary aspect people neglect. Scratch that. I don’t think it. I know it. So I’ll write a lot more about this in the future.
Having Hotspot by my side made all the difference. Having a buddy to train with, to travel with and to endure pain with got me through it and, honestly, I don’t know if I would have shown back up to the Tough without Hotspot. He pushed me and I pushed him. I was determined not to let my brother down in any way. He was going to finish this thing come hell or high water and he treated me the same exact way. It’s amazing what you can do with a brother or sister by your side. Have one.
Having brothers back home cheering me on gave me so much joy and strength. I saw Elizabeth after finishing the Heavy and one of the first things she said was “everyone is texting and Facebooking me.” She showed me so many messages that put fuel in my empty tank. Build your cheering section.
As for packing, I packed a bit too much food but it didn’t make a ton of difference. A full bottle of ibuprofen and a full bottle of Tylenol were everything I needed. Read more about that here. I should have broken in my new Nike boots more. Allin all, my packing and clothing choices were pretty spot on.
Now that a month has passed, I feel I can judge myself objectively (no one is a harsher judge of me than me). I believe I did very well. I was a good teammate. I carried my load and was always one of the first people to jump up when someone cried out for help. I absolutely crushed the Heavy. I did let myself down during the Tough. I “grey-manned” a lot of it while hurting bad. I tried not to bitch too much but the pain showed on my face. I barely made it through. However, I redeemed myself during the Light and went at it with every ounce of energy left in my body. The setbacks during the Tough stop me from getting an A or even a B+, but I give myself a solid B for performance.
I don’t think any HTL is easy and this was certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. However, I do believe the historical aspect gave us a lot more to think about rather than just the pain. And because these things are as much mental as physical, that made the event easier than what I imagine a lot of HTLs are.
Lastly, let me brag on my wife. She was our savior. She got us from point A to point B, got us fed, washed our clothes, yelled at us and made us get out of bed, took care of my feet and much more, all while dragging along a two-year-old in France with no clue where she was. My wife is such a badass. Be sure to find yourself an Elizabeth for your HTL.
Thanks for reading these five blog posts. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime if I can help you crush your GORUCK event. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully I’ll see you soon under something heavy.