I’ll never forget that final push of energy when Cadre Cleve said, “Hell yeah… TAKE THAT HILL!” as we finished off the San Diego Memorial Day GORUCK Tough 2022.
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching regarding this dad blog… a lot of soul searching.
When I first started Daddy In The Raw, the idea was to give a glimpse into a specific type of lifestyle surrounding a dad, working at home in a startup / entrepreneurial phase.
The fact is, quite a bit of time has passed since then… and, this site… by both the content frequency and otherwise… seems to be much as other good things must come to… perhaps, its time to end (for now). Much as my professional blog morphed into a merge of one of the companies I founded, I feel that Daddy In The Raw will be transforming into my next “dad project” of sorts… but, for now… I’d like to put an appropriately symbolic punctuation on this blog with 40 lessons I’ve learned as I turn 40 this year.
40 Lessons At 40 — From Father to Son
These lessons are not all original to me, nor should they be. These are lessons, ingots of wisdom, gems of motivation, and the like that I thought back on… reflected upon… and, felt that these would be good to leave here — for my son — for you to read — for anyone seeking some insight to pursue for themselves… taking what is good and helpful to them, while simply appreciating the existence of the rest.
Over “the Hill” starts when you decide to stop climbing. Don’t stop.
Take every opportunity to improve your health.
The sooner you get over yourself, the sooner you begin living the life you’ve always wanted.
Learn to fix things, as many things as possible. To do this, you must be unafraid to break things, to fail… and, by doing so, you learn to ask for help.
Learn to build a fire, cook on that fire, and make coffee from that fire.
Learn to run, learn to ruck, and climb mountains.
To love others, you must first learn to love yourself.
Gain wisdom. Much happiness will be earned, and much unnecessary anguish will be removed from your life.1
Follow the greatest commandment. Dive into its understanding and application, deeply — study all the contents surrounding it… from there, you will learn freedom.2
Follow the second greatest commandment, in the same way.2
Help others, when it is your turn — do no hesitate when that time comes.
Do not wish life was easier, “wish you were better”3 at confronting the struggles before you. Then, train.
“Be the teammate they deserve.”4 It’s not about you. Learn to serve others above and beyond how you would regard yourself.5
Give 100%, all the time. This is especially important in marriage. If you give 100% and your spouse gives 100%; as we are all imperfect people, you each may only give out 90% — but, that means the relationship… the marriage unit… is operating at 180%.
Learn to fight. Whether it is Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Boxing, Kali, Sambo, Judo, Shuai Jiao… you don’t need to be a master. You just need to learn, become good when good is enough. What you will learn is respect for your fellow human… and, what you will gain is humility. What you will become, is dangerous — this is good. Only a dangerous sheepdog can protect the flock from predators.
Learn to make peace.6
Learn how to shoot — sling shot, bow, javelin, pistol, shotgun, rifle… whatever it is, you will learn to appreciate discipline in skill, and safety above all.
Learn how to fish.
Learn how to grow a crop.
Practice discipline, and self-control. You will learn patience.
Respect everyone, especially when you don’t agree with them.
Never tell lies, and never tell half-truths… withholding the truth, many times, becomes worse than a lie.
Pray for your enemies; never wish harm upon others.
Don’t get mad, get even.
The loudest person in the room, is the weakest person in the room.7
Lashing out means you have nothing — only your anger, and your loneliness.
Drink and consume, carefully… and, at your own risk.
Lift heavy things, pet dogs, and drink lots of water.
Learn to take a punch, both figuratively and literally. You will develop thick skin.
Learn to check a kick; learn also hand destructions — sometimes, removing the weapon of the enemy is more effective.
Simple is not easy.
Strengthen your character, before you strengthen your mind. Strengthen your mind, before you strengthen your body.8
Learn to build with wood.
Discover empathy. Use it to learn compassion. However, show evil no mercy.
Protect those who are weaker.
Never be afraid to ask for directions, or to ask for water.
Buy a hot meal for someone in need. Thank them for their time.
Tell the women in your life that you love them. Start with your wife, your mother, your sister… and, so on. Show it through service, and a listening ear.
The lessons above come in no particular order, nor importance. There will be time when one lesson will become more important than another; there will be times when perhaps none shall apply; there will also be times when all apply, all matters, and the stakes are serious.
These are mere 40 lessons that came top of mind as I was writing them down on a piece of paper in the last day of me being 39. Maybe they will be of help to my son. Maybe they will be of help to you. Maybe they will be of help to someone you choose to share them with.
Be well. Be strong. Be true.
References and Quotes:
The book of Proverbs
Cadre JC – 2022 Nov, GORUCK Marine Recon Raider Heavy
Cadre Cleve – 2022 Nov, GORUCK Marine Recon Raider HEAVY
For the weekend of D-Day 2021, I decided to finally sign up for my first GORUCK event.
This is an organization and event host that I’ve been quietly watching since early 2010s. My recollection prior to sign up is that GORUCK’s mission was to bridge the gap between military special operations and the civilian world of experiences for the purpose of growth, team building, and a better appreciation of the sacrifices, operators and military service members all over, make every single day — even after they get out of the military.
Here’s the backdrop:
With pandemic in full force, I had to shift away from gym based pursuits such as Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Having taken up running since about 2017, I finally came to a point where I needed something on top of that; I’m not naturally a runner and prefer resistance training — what better than human’s resisting you via MMA? Well… without any of that available… GORUCK popped up on my radar and I figured… Why Not???
JUNE 2021 — WHAT HAVE I DONE?
I knew this was an overnight even; 12 hours, 15-20 miles, lots of exercise in the form of ruck physical training WODs and other rando (yes, that’s intentional spelling from my engineering coding days…) military movements in the form of crawls, drags, flutter kicks, burpees, and who knows what else.
But, I knew… it was going to suck in the best of ways.
Then, I came across this video and thought: “Yup, I’m in.”
I trained. Got myself a GORUCK Rucker 2.0 and some off-brand 30 pound plate (mistake, by the way… it would fix itself with later gear I acquired… but, this one didn’t help thanks to the mis-fit size within the ruck carrier sleeve) — annnnnd, started doing lots of rucking around the hills I live by.
Then, about two or three weeks before the event, I joined up for a WOD with my local Triton Ruck Club; at which point, helpful advice was given… including “Train SANDBAGS.” Okay….. I’ll do that.
Well, things were going just fine until I re-watched that video… and, it hit me…
WHAT HAVE I DONE?
So, INDEX (where the event begins) was in a familiar location at San Diego’s Mission Bay. NAVY Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpman Cadre JDub would lead the event.
After a dark and stressful admin phase of checking gear, ID, “quitting money,” et al… we had one straggler who put up a bit of a fuss about taking off his watch due to medical concerns, who also happened to not have his ID on him — a packing requirement for all GORUCK events.
After being sternly instructed to run off to his car double time to grab his ID, he slowly sauntered away… causing the group to yell at him to RUN!
“RUUUUUN!!!!” — He barely picked up the pace…
Then it happened, our first punishment. Cadre said: “When one of you fail, all of you fail… GET IN THE WATER!”
Yup, within the first handful of minutes into the D-Day 2021 GORUCK Tough, we were dunked into the nasty and very much WARM, btw… run-off-inland-side Mission Bay water…
Push ups face deep into the water, followed by flutter kicked followed until that one dude came back with his ID.
The message was clear: From now on, you are a team. You will win as a team, you will lose as a team.
Cadre wanted us to keep a 20 minute pace. We tried this a few times. Each failure was rewarded by a water dunk and more ruck physical training (PT, the military kind… not the clinical kind I’m a part of).
Shortly, after failing our 2nd time, that one dude who was lallygagging around quit out. Figured.
Finally, after making pace, we were told to make way toward the Admiral Hartman housing where Cadre stashed COUPONS.
The heck is a “Coupon?”
Coupons are affectionally named in GORUCK circles as the additional weight put upon a team during a challenge event. Now, every event requires an American Flag and a Team Weight — many times that’s something like a small log, a chain, or a sledge hammer — typically, the team weight has to weigh at least 25 pounds.
Coupons are on top of that, which is also already on top of the 30 pound ruck dry (if you weigh >150 lbs, 20 pound ruck dry if you weigh under). This, I wasn’t quite ready for…
We had lots of water jugs, random ammo cans, three sand bags… perceivably a 120, 80, and 60 pounder. We also had an extra rando ruck we had to put on top or in front of the ruck we already had.
The jugs were the worst. It was admittedly and immediately mentally taxing — breaking almost for each time I had to carry it.
We marched out from the Mission Bay Park Welcome Center to Admiral Hartman, down to Crown Point, around all the way into Belmont Park, then back north up the boardwalk all the way into Tourmaline Beach, finally back up Grand back to the starting point which would also serve as our ENDEX.
There were some tough points. Some group PT introductions, veteran story shares (which are a staple aspect of honoring those who served in terms of GORUCK events), and cadre led stories of incredible feats on D-Day. After all, this was a historical honor ruck to D-DAY heroes.
Many times, the thought came to me — scenes from Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers… if they could tough it out through the muck and ACTUAL combat… I can suck it up for 12 hours in some Mission Bay filth.
However, it was around hour 7 or 8 when that thought demon finally came in…
The Thought of Quitting
What happened? Well, we finally got back onto the beach near Belmont Park and had been punished several times for not making pace. Fine and good. It’s part of the experience, right?
It was all great until the Tunnel of Love.
The Tunnel of Love is when all challenge candidates present a tunnel through the push up high hold position while the end of the line crawls through and under like a conveyor belt until everyone gets through.
I struggled. It was horrible. Between the punishment of failing that once and the threat of more punishment of not making a designated time of team completion thereafter… I nearly quit mid-2nd-attempt. Fortunately, we made it.
For some reason, it seemed to be at that magical 7th – 8th hour time block when all those thoughts of creeping doubt really came in.
“It Pays To Be A Winner” — It Pays BETTER to Win AS A TEAM.
Things started to feel better once we got to Tourmaline Beach. This is a place I knew. I grew up surfing the waters near here. After more ruck PT and D-Day/World War 2 veteran shares… we lined up to play the game: It Pays To Be A Winner.
Most folks know this as one of the sayings commonly used by the US Navy SEALs. The game is simple: Line up, sprint to the surf line, get completely wet, sprint back.
The first 5 candidates that arrive are rewarded by sitting out the next round and so on.
I was one of the first give and the rest was WONDERFUL. HOWEVER… Cadre JDub challenged us:
“What type of event is this?”
“A TEAM EVENT, CADRE!”
“Back into the water!”
We finally got the message. Having lost another 4 or 5 people since INDEX, we lined up and linked arms… dunking together in the water, rising up together, and marching back to the starting line before falling on our faces in a push up position in unison. Cadre was proud.
When the sun started coming up around hour 9, there was a palpable improvement — everyone’s morale improved with the light of dawn. From there, we just had to get back to the starting point to finish up and get patched.
It couldn’t come soon enough.
Still, we weren’t done. We failed to make pace during the last leg… so, we ended up doing a mixture of team-arm-linked-lunges and 4-count-flutter-kicks until we summed a total of years between 2021 and D-Day 1945.
76 reps of some given exercise was all that was left between us and finishing. No wait… we failed pace three times.
76 x 3 = 228. We had TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-EIGHT repetitions of exercises to pay for.
Cadre was merciful. We did a combination of lunges and flutter kicks. In the last set, I cramped up in my abs, and BAD… I felt such pressure to get in line to finish with flutter kicks and nearly couldn’t finish.
There were many times when my form was off or I missed a rep — both here, and throughout the event… it was a failing feeling.
It was only through this moment that I realized the purpose wasn’t to be perfect. Pretty much no one has the ability to be perfect throughout a challenge. The purpose was to persevere — to keep moving — to finish.
My first GORUCK Tough was an incredible and challenging experience, as per successful intentions per the name. I had blisters all over my feet due to lack of “complete” training, lack of experience, and not the most ideal choice of footwear for my flat foot anatomy — perhaps a review I will make some other time on boots vs. trail runners. I was sore beyond comparison. I got home, ate, and slept for hours… and, I couldn’t move well for a week.
Fortunately, this wouldn’t be the end of the story…
I had heard about the Marine Recon/Raider Heavy-Tough-Basic (HTB) triple event combo leading up to November of 2021. However, I had opted to try my first 5K race: the Joggin’ for Frogmen 5k at Liberty Station, San Diego.
Unfortunately, due to the loss of a close family friend’s father and this race, I would only be able to participate in the Recon Basic this round.
The good news is my cardio was up and I had been training a lot more with coupons.
Arriving for the Basic, I felt chipper and ready to go. Truth be told, the event was pure fun and I thought I could go at this all day.
This was also bolstered by placing 3rd for the rucking division of the 5k. All said, the weekend events elevated my morale and gave me wonder to if I could try the HTB next year — all while in the midst of loss. As such, the opportunity would come in time… but, for the moment… I would take my win and a winter holiday season much refocused on family and the tapering away of pandemic frenzies.
Around January or February of 2022, I saw the San Diego Memorial Day Tough event and thought to myself: “This is one I REALLY want to do.” I could also use it to gauge my readiness for the Marine Recon/Raider HTB in Fall, should GORUCK decide to host it — the event series for November wasn’t yet announced and there was doubt to if it would even happen. Nevertheless, I kept training.
I trained hard… under 80-104 pound sandbags with a fair amount of ruck PT.
I was making really great pace under heavy loads and felt I was ready.
Then… I got sick. Some weird sinus cold that took me out 2 weeks before the event. Sucked. I couldn’t really train to the finish and my cardio was shot.
Having tested negative and otherwise fully recovered, I decided to face down the event.
The Welcome Party
Cadre Cleve lead the Marine Recon/Raider Basic the year prior and I was excited to have him as our cadre again. What I wasn’t ready for, was the Deck of Cards Welcome Party.
What is the Deck of Cards?
Many are familiar with the idea of shuffling a deck of cards to determine a workout of the day, and typically they are done so as pushups or body weight exercises. WELL, for GORUCK and Cadre Cleve… these are ruck PT exercises.
Spades = Brickyard Man Makers
Ruck on the Ground
Ruck back on the Ground
That’s one rep.
Hearts = 8 Count Body Builders
Beginning in stance… down to squat (1)
Into push up position (2)
Legs wide (3)
Legs narrow (4)
Pushup Down (5)
Pushup High Hold (6)
Back to squat (7)
It’s basically a burpee with an extra leg movement and without the jump, due to wearing a ruck.
Clubs = Ruck Swings
As it sounds, you swing the ruck like you would swing a kettlebell.
Diamonds = 4 Count Flutter Kicks
In supine with ruck pressed overhead…
You cycle your legs out from 6 inch hold like a bicycle kick, except with toes pointed knees straight.
Each cycle is a 1 count, 4 counts = one rep.
We had one or two people drop just around the time of the Welcome Party… mostly due to medical concerns. We then rucked down to Crown Point Mission Bay, grabbed 750 pounds of sandbags and water for water jugs and water bladders… then marched all the way up the hill to the Soledad Mountain Veterans Memorial, where the cross is atop the hill.
Unfortunately, we had some less than savvy team leaders going up the hill on the first leg and we got punished badly… we had a few more drops and we also had a sandbag drop where the flag patch touched the ground.
Consequence: Bear crawls up the nasty weed and dog poop laden hillside around Kate Sessions Park.
That was one of the worst punishments to date and everyone knew it was bad. It didn’t help that the Team Leader and Assistant Team Leader weren’t great communicators at the time… it was a natural process of event evolution… still, the suck factor was high.
The Cramps Are Real
Going up the hill, I started cramping… both quads… it was horrible. I didn’t know what happened. I knew my cardio was down due to lack of training and recovering from a cold. The cramps were just unexpected and it didn’t help that I might have over-electrolyted myself in compensation of earlier cramps.
Honestly, if it wasn’t a switch out of team leads… I wouldn’t have made it. Shoutout to Sam, who I rucked with also for D-Day 2021.
Getting Ahead a Bit: Even post-Heavy, some of the GRTs that completed the 2021 Marine Recon Raider HTB (and, this years! Flipping beasts…) made mention that the San Diego Memorial Day 2022 Tough was EXTRA SUPER tough.
We routed up to the cross, then down the back side of utilities maintenance pathways… sliding down some sketchy *bleep* and “trails” until we finally got to Via Capri. We then moved up the hill back into the village of La Jolla, then to La Jolla Blvd… all the way down Bird Rock into Tourmaline Beach.
Throughout the event, I served as local navigation as someone who lived close and grew up in the area. Good thing, too… we might have exited the sketch into traffic along the 52 onramp from La Jolla Parkway. Yikes.
As mentioned above, Memorial Day Tough was considered to be one of the toughest toughs… even with GRTs (GORUCK challenge finishers) who had completed heavies and HTBs. It was good. Real good. It wasn’t supposed to be easy. It was Memorial Day.
What was harder? The Marine Heavy or the Memorial Day Tough? In short. The Marine Recon Raider HEAVY was harder, the Memorial Day TOUGH sucked more. #EmbraceTheSuck
Marine HTB: The Prep
I had been looking forward to this three part event series since the confirmed it. I was planning and training for getting my “bolts” — all three events finished in one hit… it’s an achievement within the GORUCK community and is roughly 42 hours of “on time” across 50’ish hours.
I had some wins and losses in my prep and training.
Early on, I participated in a hard charger morning session up Bernardo Mountain… it went badly. I don’t train in the mornings… turns out I was dehydrated and under caloric — my heart rate was spiking unreasonably, to the point where I almost stopped entirely. At the time, I also didn’t train for longer sessions (ie. 3-4+ hours) as I should have. Fortunately, I had a couple months to adjust — and, I did in good fashion.
On the positive: I finally got to be able to clean the 120 lb sandbag while rucked up; and, got to 1/2 mile legs on hills before I had to take breaks. I could ruck the 60 lb sandbags pretty much all days, and 80lbs for a mile and change, before I had to break for arm circulation purposes.
I also had the pleasure of doing a night time beach exposure training with the club; and, found a solution for those pesky 20 liter water jugs (which weight about 50lbs) in a modified supination over the shoulder carry in a way where the ruck served as a resting shelf such that it would bear weight like a sandbag.
I tried to do at least 4-5 sets of 10-15 of the deck of cards in cycles, two to three times a week, leading up to the event. It paid off. One of the unexpected aspects of the Memorial Day Tough was how absolutely destroyed we all were post-deck of cards.
I also discovered that the deck of cards essentially is a 200 meter ruck marches x2 (for the Jokers) and 99 reps of each exercise type. If formulated correctly, one could ruck at the end for a quarter mile (400m) and do sets of 15 (aces), 14 (9+5), and 10×7 of the remainder — all potentially making it work within the 1 hour standard. The fastest I could do was 3:45 for a set of 10. All this would pay off during the HEAVY, and I got word later that during the TOUGH, my recommendation of splitting up by exercise sets versus random cards helped out — that way, you wouldn’t get stuck doing a million 8-count-body-builders… which was BOUND to happen if the deck wasn’t stacked strategically.
All said, I led up to the event with progressive recovery oriented training — I wanted not get ill, not get injured, and prevent atrophy… it seemed to have worked.
RECON RAIDER HEAVY — INDEX
The event began on Friday the 4th of November at 1800. We took admin as usual, got introduced to three incredible Cadres — Cleve, JC, and brand new cadre to GORUCK, GB3. All three brought unique styles, challenged the group, and required of us team work, discipline, and intensity.
One phrase stood out as well: Violence of Action.
After admin… as one could otherwise expect, it was time for the Welcome Party.
The Three Hour Welcome Party
The air temperature that chilly weekend was 40s-50s Fahrenheit. The water temperature was maybe 60 in the middle of the night. AND… of course, this being a SoCal event and a MARINE event… we got dunked a whole bunch.
So, the scientific description of the temperature is probably best denoted as: “Freezing your @** OFF!”
What I didn’t know was that the it took three long hours — I thought to myself 2 max. It seemed to have passed by quickly in my mind; and, honestly, I was pretty fresh after.
We did flutter kicks on the water. We did burpees in the water. We low crawled up to the steep berms of the San Clemente sands and performed “sugar cookies” on ourselves and each other. We did this… rinse, wash, and repeat — many times. Some of this was punishment. Some of this was just part of the Welcome Party. It just kept going.
Funny enough for me, the cold usually doesn’t bother me. As a SoCal kid, I grew up in the freezing surf. It was norms to me. The sand, meh… anyone can deal with sand for a while… but, for a long while?? That would add up later, I just didn’t know it, yet.
Then we did the deck of cards. It took us 1:08. Big shoutout to C.J. for leading the exercise in great pace.
Soon after, we got ourselves cleaned up, supplied up on water — and, headed up into Camp Pendleton.
Up The Mountain
I heard about the hills of San Clemente and into Camp Pendleton. You can see them from the freeway. We’ve seen them on fire during the many wildfire outbreaks across SoCal. They are HUGE. They are tall. It’s a flipping mountain range.
AND, with upwards of 4500-5000 ft+ elevation and coupons totaling to 7 water jugs, 2 water bladders; sandbags in the form of (in pounds) 2x 120s, 1x 200, 2x 100s; and, of course… the team weight (log with a metal Recon/Raider emblem) — we were on our way.
It was steep. It difficult. The coupons were heavy. People were cramping. Folks were shivering due to the cold and wind. Coupon swaps were getting difficult due to steepness and terrain. It also didn’t help that we seemed to have distinct height differences for coupon loading, which meant we had to really organize well… some of us shorter dudes really couldn’t help in tandem for “the worm” aka the 200 pounder.
Personally, I also felt discouraged that my grip strength wasn’t holding up. Partially, I needed to train this more. Partially, I’ve always had bad grip strength. Mostly, I felt guilty about this being a mental block and failure to train. It was fine at first, until it wasn’t.
The mountain never seemed to end.
We got up to what looked like the two towers — it was said to be the goal. Except, they were rather far removed from each other. One was still quite a ways from the top; and, the one the top only had a small reprieve in the form of concrete. Still, there was a debt to pay.
Reaching means you should be marching in column formation and within an arms reach of the person in front of you. Every second past a three count you aren’t within reach AS A TEAM… means bad news… in the form of 8-count-body-builders.
So, at the top of the mountain, we had to buy back those missed seconds…. and, there were a lot.
Having paid more dues and gotten some rest at the top; hydration became difficult for many team members. It’s one thing to remember to hydrate in the day or in the heat; when shivering cold at night, you’re burning through your internal hydration and through more electrolytes than typically experienced in regular training. Despite having packed quite a bit of salt tabs, chews, and gels… I was finding myself quickly low in stock, and we hadn’t even reached sunrise yet!
Camp Horno Memorial
Know and understand where you are. This is the place we bring our family home.
After a bunch more marching around, we finally arrived at what one could only describe as a sacred place. You could tell. It was different. It was purposefully made. There were crosses and memorials, silhouetted by what was soon to be the light of day.
Finally, the dawn broke and the Cadre let us pay respects to an indescribable place.
It’s impossible to describe the level of depth from arriving at the Camp Horno memorial site in the midst of a perfect sunrise. Bagpipes playing. No dry eye in the cohort.
The price of freedom is steep… summing at all too many of the best lives America has to offer on that sacred altar of liberty.
I’m struck… by awe, by guilt, by gratitude, by the loss, and by the sacrifice — of those laid to rest, and those who’ve survived combat… living with demons, every single day.
I’ll make mention to this now, but much more later… “Thank you for your service…” just doesn’t seem enough, sometimes.
Shift Change. First Time at ATL
I was pretty wrecked after the Camp Horno memorial — it was more than emotional. It was spiritual.
With a shift change in Team Leader (TL) and Assistant Team Leader (ATL), I was selected as ATL and it was now leadership’s job to get us off the mountain in good order.
This was my first time being ATL… I have to say, I loved it.
Some of the heavy hitters complimented me on my job.
I carried weight and ran up and down the column to help shift weight and what not; despite the customary practice that TLs and ATLs aren’t supposed to necessarily be under coupons. It didn’t matter to me. I knew I could safely help shift weight around and off-load the team who had already been under absolutely crushing weight all the way up this mile high mountain.
Making our way down, became its own drama.
We had to go down sketchy pathways, fire breaks, and thankfully… we were allowed to empty out some sandbags… rolling the rest down, oh along with the sand based kettlebells I forgot to mention where part of our coupon load.
Often, the flag bearer is selected because they are carrying the lightest load and need the break; and, often TLs and ATLs get a bit of a break, as well.
I was determined to not be the type of leader that only delegated. I wanted to make sure I was running up and down the line; getting the column in good order, making sure everyone was sharing weight as best as they could. Obviously, some are stronger than others; some where less mentally focused; others were getting worn down or outright dealing with injuries… together we started, together we would finish.
The Final Stretch
We would finally make it down the mountain and I would be relieved of my duties as ATL. Marching our way back on the paved streets of Camp Pendleton, we arrived as the Recon training facilities where we banged out more exercises as a team; completed carrying challenges as a team — again, I wish I was able to contribute more.
We then marched back toward the main public roads where we arrived on the beach.
More ruck PT ensued; followed by the most epic chorus of the Marine Hymn’s first verse.
After a few more team based games and pacing races with water jugs, we finally got back to the starting point which served as our ENDEX.
Each cadre gave us parting words of wisdom, reflection, encouragement, and congratulations.
40 people stepped off. 1 team returned. All 40 finished. It was incredible. A proud moment.
Admittedly, I signed up for the Marine HTB for all three events. I finished the Heavy. To be honest, I had quit on the Tough before the halfway point of the Heavy — my mind and focus just weren’t there… that’s all on me. My club team understood and no one was to be the shame for it. In fact, 35’ish folks signed up for the HTB, 22 finished… those beasts. Mighty and proud. They earned it.
Many of those who didn’t finish the HTB were hardened GRTs… they mentioned it was one of the hardest Heavies they’ve attempted — it made me feel better about it. If it was difficult for them, then I wasn’t being a wimp.
So… after I got home, I received a message or two: “You doing more challenges?” Answer: Probably, ha! — ’cause I’m a dummy… and, a sucker for punishment.
I’m also thinking about exploring GORUCK’s Tactical Series.
I’ll likely pursue more Toughs; and, if they offer it again… I definitely want to do the Marine Tough for patch collection purposes. Who knows, though… so much of this is mental as much as it is physical. I can clearly recall how bad the Memorial Day Tough wrecked, to the point where I thought I might be done with challenges all together. Of course, a week later… I was looking for signups for this Marine HTB.
I no particular order, some training and outcomes notes I had jotted down or dictated to myself were:
Bring extra water proofing. A wet warming layer sucks.
Revisit toe socks with wool socks. Trail runners are definitely the way for my flat-footed-anatomy; but, I’m still getting weird hot spots.
Find sand-proof areas to store gloves for post-Welcome Party use so they don’t become a handful of sandpaper. This was a failure of past challenges; but, I was wearing a zipper pocket pair of quick dry pants which had a nice cargo area for just this. My gloves remained sand free 95% of the time.
Ruck size matters. This is the 2nd event I’ve used the 33L Long Range Rucker. While I thought the weight and size bloat was worth the upper shoulder shelf for better sandbag carrying… versus my 20L Rucker 2.0, I found that it didn’t pay off as much this round, as much as it did the Memorial Day Tough. The ruck physical training became twice as difficult with the bulky 33L. I’ll need to do more testing with the 2.0 with the molle admin pouch attachments… due to the fact I found the 2.0 to be just a little bit small.
Electrolytes ALL DAY LONG. This is more important than food. You can get away with just two or three snacks for the HEAVY… but, electrolytes will make or break you due to cramps.
Warming layers MATTER, keep them dry if you can. Having a Beanie helps. Bringing a backup hat also was key.
Sun protection was a big deal due to the daytime aspect. Shades and a hat were a lifesaver.
Wear compression material that is slightly loose to allow for sand fall out. My compression shorts weren’t loose enough and the chaff was real.
I keep getting hot spots on my pinky toes… may need to use moleskin or something… maybe those toe socks.
Small water proof vials for salt tabs were HUGE. They fit well in pockets, cargo or otherwise. It’s quick access; helps to dose up as you feel cramps sneak through.
Much of the bars I brought were too heavy; they were also hard as hell due to the cold. Uncrustables were more than enough. Weight reduction is important. Carbs, salt, some protein… more than enough. Pancaking some white bread with high calorie stuff in the middle is the way to go. I may try jam; also maybe ham and cheese. Butter and sugar also come to mind, some a sprinkle of salt. Crazy stuff.
Extra small / micro molle admin pouch attached to the front of the shoulder straps for holding electrolytes and gel packs might also be the way to go. I’ve tried an admin size on my belt, using just the vials — which I had to move around from cargo pocket to tummy pouch on my warming layer.
CLOSING THOUGHTS — “It’s not about YOU.”
Julian: D-Day 2021 — you saved me from that water jug. Being my first event, those coupons really warmed my mind and confidence.
Jorus: D-Day, Memorial Day, Recon Basic, Recon Heavy — you were my first ATL at the 2021 D-Day event; you’re great at checking up on everyone and always share the weight.
Luís: Your experience and willingness to share wisdoms in an approachable fashion has always been welcome. Thank you for always being ready to take on more.
Sam: D-Day, Memorial Day, Recon Basic, Recon Heavy — you’ve routinely kept me in the game in every event; set me up for ATL at the Recon Raider Heavy; encouraged me after.
Nate: Recon Raider Heavy, thanks for the encouragement for when I was ATL; and, for taking the water jugs from me, several time… even when you just got off of one.
Chad: For being a Selection finisher as mass motivator throughout the event, fellow DPT, and many times saving me from grip stuff I just couldn’t carry further during the Recon Raider Heavy.
Jessica: Best club (co)lead and support, ever. Your encouragement and logistical prep got me through; and, many others along with.
There are many more. I’m just horrible and am dropping names. Apologies. An ironic fail going into my next sub-topic… (shame x3 upon me)…
Lessons in Leadership
Since 2019, I’ve been giving a lot of talks, keynotes and otherwise — about leadership theory and applications, employee retention, and organizational excellence.
If anything, GORUCK events are a big lesson in leadership… especially leadership under duress.
“Be the team members your team deserves. Be the team members you want by your side.”
The other thing you learn from these events is trust. You develop that trust through teammates being wiling to step up when you’re crushed, smoked, and demoralized… even when they just had gotten off a coupon and needed a break themselves.
I remember serving that role throughout the Memorial Day Tough as I specifically trained for heavy sandbags for that event; then ruck PT for this Recon Raider Heavy… and, skipping the grip stuff where other teammates ended up stepping up in my stead.
If you have a good team, a team that trusts each other, a team that looks out for each other — you end up with an incredible effect.
Imagine a team of ten.
In that team, 9 people are looking out for you. That’s a real experience of trust, and that trust goes around — with every other person having 9 people looking out after them, because they aren’t being selfish, looking after only for themselves.
This type of selfless, team first focus is rare to the common experience… it’s something I encourage everyone to taste, at least once.
There’s plenty more to say about leadership; nevertheless, this post is getting absolutely huge… so, I’ll leave you with this last bit:
“Thank You For Your Service.”
If you’ve EVER said, “Thank you for your service.” I challenge you to try a Basic or a Light level challenge. They are very much approachable. The resurrected Light level has softer (lighter, ha ha) standards and is only 3 hours. The Basic is a gentler 5 to 6 hour Tough style event.
With nothing else of importance left to say… I’ll let Cadre Cleve finish this post off with this toast given at the endex of the entire event series…
We the willing, lead by the unknowing.
Have done the impossible, for the ungrateful.
We’ve done so much, with so little, for so long.
We’re now capable of doing anything, with nothing.
I used these shorts to train for the GORUCK Marine Recon Raider HEAVY event on November 4th-5th, 2022. It was fun to be able to match dark camo with dark camo.
These shorts are VERY WELL MADE. The material is thick, sturdy, and I’d be surprised if even I could wreck them in training some how.
Pocket depth and quality never left me wanting, nor did they make me feel like I’d run out of space or lose items. The draw string is solid and the locking mechanism was a welcome sight. The zipper pockets were also a great addition at one side pocket and the cargos.
As with all apparel, one considers size and shrinkage — I’m 5’7″ and depending on what I’m training for… will walk around between 175-190 pounds. When the shorts first arrived, they sat just below my knees; after wash, just above — and, just the way I like it.
Overall, it’s a fantastic product and I found myself wearing it… a LOT, admittedly, even when I probably should’ve washed it 😉
The only “bad” I can even point to is the drawstring locking mechanism. It wasn’t as tight as I was hoping. Now, some of this is because I’m a bit bigger boned — so, during squats, the lock would slide out a bit, leaving me with more slack around the waist than originally intended. Ultimately, it’s not a deal breaker by any means; you can always remove it and tie it up.
ME BEING PICKY
This is truly me being picky. First, I would’ve loved to switch the placement of the open pocket vs. the zipper pocket at the hips. This is because of my preference of carrying EDC items in my right pocket; which would make it easier for access and deployment. The second picky thing would be the button down flaps of the cargo shorts. I found they were in excess; the zippers did a great job and I prefer a more minimal profile so things don’t catch on random edges around the training environment.
WHO SHOULD BUY?
This is a great product for anyone that like to wear belt-less training cargo shorts with durable materials and a fashion lean towards military, tactical, combat athlete sports. It’s great for any type of cross training, running, rucking, and lifting. It’s also great for lounging around the house — very comfortable.
It’s hard enough to find good cargo training shorts, much less not for 60-80 dollars. These shorts are currently on sale $35 USD. They size up well post-wash and I can’t imagine myself wearing them through any time soon.
I have a backlog of content I’m polishing up for a mass publish — it’s pretty much a book. The reason I’ve been quiet on this blog has much to do with recentering; particularly as chaos ensued in 2020. I’ve actually been developing quite a bit of philosophical materials on the subject of “Dad,” and hope to release that over time.
This blog was born out of the work-at-home environment. While it was bizarre back in the mid-2010s… thanks to the pandemic, it has definitely become part of the norm. There’s much to discuss on this from both a parenting perspective as well as a working individual’s point of view.