HH - Land Nav North/Trek
April 25-27, 2019
LAND NAV HEAVY
This custom event was organized by Bryan Singelyn of C.A.R.C. Our start point was Molon Labe Crossfit in Macedonia, Ohio. The cadre had determined prior to the event that he would be our first TL and given him pre-event duties.
As the parking lot filled with GRTs for the noon start, there were greetings between old friends and introductions to new ones or people we previously only knew through social media. We formed up and Bryan called roll for our class of twenty-nine. Soon thereafter, the cadre appeared and we moved into the gym for a high-volume team WOD. During this time, two teammates dropped due to existing injuries; we would lose our fearless leader, Bryan, not too long after for a significant and similar reason. Following the WOD, we completed a two-mile team run.
Our first movement, the 12-miler, required everyone to be tethered to a rope and took us away from the SP to which we wouldn’t return until Saturday night. Around mile ten, one of our team started to struggle. She was pale and unsteady so we unclipped her from the rope. To get moving again, she along with myself and another teammate walked in front of the group, still untethered. This was a costly mistake which I was in part responsible for.
When we reached our destination, all three cadre were waiting and asked why everyone wasn’t on the rope. Our explanation was met with stern reprimands to follow instructions and rightly so. Our punishment? 100m of buddy bear crawls as a team.
During the bear crawls we accumulated penalties of 130 8-count bodybuilders. We paid part of that debt before heading to a shelter for land nav instruction as rain moved in. After learning the basics, we determined our 100m pace count, both rucking and shuffling. It was interesting to note how my count increased under my 42# ruck as opposed to my unweighted ruck in a Navigator Core event two years ago.
The nav instruction couldn’t have been better and soon we had completed several short practice movements in small teams. The night passed quickly with longer and longer movements, both with and without coupons, in ever-increasing slippery, shoe-sucking mud. And more rain.
In the early morning hours, we came upon cases of bottled water for resupply. These were marked with a flashing green chem light. All three teams had ended their individual movements here. We filled our bladders and added bottles to our rucks. We were left with one case. There was talk of taking it and the chem light back with Eric Traynor being the strongest voice to not leave it. Several of us were gathering empty bottles and taking them to a recycling bin and others were behind the tree line. It wasn’t dissension that led to no decision being made but rather ignoble exhaustion, distraction and ambivalence. We left without the water and light.
At the endpoint of this movement, Shredder asked who had his chem light. Clearly, no one did and he was not happy. Our dues included being reminded of the dangers of giving away our location and a miserable PT session including…more 8-counts in those heavy, wet rucks. If Eric said a word in his own defense, I never heard it. In solid GRT style, he took the punishment with us.
Mid-morning, Cadre Will brought the heat with a forced march that included logs, 60# sandbags and instructions that anyone he caught would become a casualty. This penalty would remain in place throughout the 7-mile route. We had multiple TLs who did a great job of managing the ever-increasing workload as each additional casualty meant not only a buddy carry but double ruck carry for someone. This was not insignificant as our rucks were very heavy - 40-55# - due to the 6L water requirement. This evolution was truly brutal for everyone. Tempers flared and poopy faces emerged but we had some bright moments of success too. The team felt the tension but never broke.
This evolution ended with all three cadre following, watching the carnage as every person bore very difficult weight while fighting to keep pace.
After a brief respite, we were told to pick up the coupons and move out as a team in under thirty seconds. Everyone was moving but the unity of the group broke apart and we moved too far in different directions. The price for this was 25 8-count bodybuilders under the direction of Cadre Cleve. We only knew the half of it though…the drainage ditch we did those 8-counts in was full of poison ivy. By Tuesday, we’d be commiserating over our itchy outbreaks.
Smoke session complete, we moved to a nearby parking lot where the coupons were loaded into a pickup and the team into a U-Haul. As Shredder closed us inside, we sang God Bless America at the top of our lungs.
When that door opened again, we were at a Boy Scout camp where we’d stay between events. Endex was announced and we got patched. It was early afternoon on Friday - one down, one to go.
Lav Nav North Heavy Class #305A
The camp had small shelters with bunk beds and a shower house. We had a stellar shadow team who not only took hundreds of photos and transported our between-event go bags to camp but also had a hot meal waiting for us at camp. It was much needed comfort.
The cadre did not divulge the start time for the second Heavy. Instructions were to eat, sleep and be ready when they returned. The only adjustment I made to my prior plan was to set an alarm for earlier than planned - 3pm - to be sure I was awake when they rolled back in.
My strategy was to eat, shower and dress for the second event, repack my ruck, tend to my feet/put on socks, pack up my go bag and then sleep.
In a turn of events befitting the HH, we found that the power was off in the shower house. We left the doors to individual shower rooms cracked for light but the real blow was no hot water. The overnight temps had been in the 40s and it wasn’t much warmer at this point. My desire to be clean ranked far above me caring about water temperature. I was already cold but I had my base layer to wear on top of my clothes and a warm sleeping bag waiting on me back at camp. Bryan was working hard to get the power on and I hadn’t yet showered when I heard the call that it was on. I considered standing there and shivering while waiting for the water to heat but that would only rob me of time to sleep. Under the cold water I went.
Once dressed and packed up, I crashed in my bunk. Simply being off my feet was nearly as wonderful as the bit of sleep I got.
I ended up having two hours between waking and the cadre coming back. Looking back, this was valuable time spent around a campfire talking to other teammates. Not only did the banter and story-telling take my mind off how I felt, it was also a good chance to think through what I had packed in my ruck and make adjustments.
At 6pm, the cadre’s Ford pickup came tearing into camp. Throwing smoke bombs and CS gas, they yelled at us to run to the shower house. Rucks on and running, we responded to the pressure.
We formed up behind the shower house to wait for the cadre. Counting off, our ranks numbered fifteen. We took a moment to introduce ourselves and repeat each other’s names back. It was a positive way to get our minds into team mode again.
Once Shredder, Will and Cleve returned, we were given map coordinates to plot our next movement. In teams of five, we set off. Our task was to find our point and shoot a back azimuth to return to camp, giving 500-ft clearance to any Cub Scouts and their families. I think our running, coughing/crying reaction to the start of the event had understandably freaked a few parents out.
Two more movements in, my team returned to the camp first where we were to wait for the other teams. We were now past nightfall and the forecasted winds were arriving. This was the first time quitting entered my mind. Only because I let my mind get lazy…it was getting colder and sitting just sucked. I found myself thinking of the hot shower and soft bed in my hotel room and thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t that important to me. Why do I want to do this anyway?’
The answer came back, ‘Because you set a goal and you’re able.’
I replaced the ruminating thoughts of comfort with focus on the goal and remembering how my family was picking up the slack for me to make this trip. Before long, it was clear to me that sleep and warmth weren’t needs, just wants. From this point on, I focused on a greater ‘want’ - to give my best for my team.
After a medical lesson from Cadre Will, we were given coordinates and coupons for our next movement. This would take us away from camp for the last time. After my team hit our second point, one team member (an area local) pointed out a trail that would get us to our final point sooner. He regularly ran the trails we were on and knew exactly where the trailhead in town was. Remembering the lessons from Constellation about using locals for intel, I quickly voted for this option. Work smarter, not harder and it pays to be a winner, right? Taking this trail required a bit of stealth as another team had passed us just minutes before. We walked quietly without headlamps down the trail and through the city. I think the hide and seek element of not giving ourselves away lent valuable middle-of-the-night energy and camaraderie.
This evolution ended in a parking lot near a loch and trailhead. The cadre taught us Constellation-style escape techniques which we practiced before being given our next coordinates. The next movement was long distance and would take us past sunrise. It was during this that I began hallucinating. I was the pace-counter throughout the movement and at one point, I looked up to see the bark on the trees glowing with mesmerizing, tiny pin-point lights. I had the urge to point this out to my team but the counting held me back. Lucky for me because, of course, there was no glowing bark. I kept that crazy to myself and enjoyed a little laugh.
Hours later, we covered some steep ground and were left with no choice but to revert to using roads because all other options were through private property. Having been instructed to stay off roads, we were dismayed when the cadre rolled up. To our surprise, we were treated to a ride in the heated truck as we debriefed a bit. We collected the other teams and went to a park where we built shelters from available materials plus an emergency heat blanket given to us by the cadre.
Our next task was a 8-mile evolution with one designated casualty and a 60# sandbag per five-person team. The casualty was to be carried in a makeshift sling of nylon webbing and our time hack was two hours.
Being the smallest on my team, I was deemed the casualty. Serving as a casualty is never fun but my ability to help with the litter was far below that of the four men on my team. Being small and lighter was the best I had to offer them.
I had been carried in a litter like this before but not for very long. The litter was a 25’ loop of 1” webbing with the two sides crossed over to form three ‘sections’. One section crossed under my knees, one at my low back and the top length ran across my shoulders. Because this structure created six ‘handles’, we used a carabiner to hold the middle two sections together across my abdomen. To reduce the demand on their grip, the guys clipped the webbing to their rucks. The act of lifting me required a lot of communication. Not only because they needed to clip in but the lift had to be fairly uniform or the webbing would slip under me and roll me to one side.
For my part, I was constantly fighting that strap under my shoulders. It kept slipping and considering I had to completely relax my neck and let my head hang heavy toward the ground, its placement was critical. If the strap slid down past my shoulder blades, my head would hit the ground. If it slipped up, it would either catch and overload my cervical spine or slip past my head and again, my head would hit the pavement. So for the next 2.5+ hours, my whole focus was that dumb strap.
I elaborate here because this was such a different way to pass time in an event. My concept of time and distance were shot and even thinking back on it now, it’s hard to remember being consistently conscious. I kept thinking about how there’s no way to train for the physical challenge this was quickly becoming. I was in the litter for so long that I could not lift my head on my own. Every time we stopped so the guys could switch positions, I had to reach back and lift my head so I could be laid down flat.
At some point early on, I asked to hold my ruck in an effort to help out more. It wasn’t an issue for a long time but eventually, I went numb from the waist down. When we’d stop, I couldn’t stand. Moving or stopped, I was in the kind of pain that I entertained myself by comparing to natural childbirth. (It was very, very close.) Finally, I asked for a break, not knowing if I needed to cry or throw up. I was so embarrassed to show weakness in being a casualty but I couldn’t deny any longer how much I was hating life.
What happened next changed everything. One, I cried. Just a few tears, a tiny break over the top of the dam but it helped. Then I just said out loud, ‘I’m hurting too much. I can’t take this anymore.’ This was so hard to say and I fully expected to be dressed down by my team. I deserved it, right? I mean, we’re well into the second morning, these men are carrying me and I’m the one complaining?? Ugh.
They were patient and very kind, though. One immediately said, ‘Why don’t we take your ruck back? We had a system of switching that and the sandbag and it was working fine.’ They gave me a moment to collect myself and we set off again. Without the ruck on me, the pressure was lessened and I was in much better shape.
It wasn’t long before our movement ended. The U-Haul pulled up along side us and an escape and evasion scenario followed. [Details withheld to preserve the experience for future classes.]
After two short-distance movements, we were told to use our maps to navigate back to Molon Labe Crossfit, the SP. Although our locals knew how to navigate, we plotted our points. Our team was still complete with all fifteen present. Spirits and conversation were a bit lighter on the three miles back.
I didn’t want to be complacent in thinking this was the end. Staying ready mentally was still important. I thought through what might lie ahead and settled on the best possibility being the Robbie Miller WOD. After all, we were rucking three miles to the SP. It made sense that could be the first three-miler of that. As I thought through how tired I was, how my feet felt, how ready I was to be clean and dry, I pictured myself working through the rounds of pull-ups, getups, burpee squats, mountain climbers and another three-miler. Sheer determination not only made it seem possible but I began to crave that final push.
Upon returning though, we paid more of our 8-count debt. Then, we were given a team tire pull that took our exhausted minds to task. We followed instructions to go to the other side of the building where we did 25 more 8-counts while Shedder wandered among us armed with a hose.
When endex was announced, I felt a moment of sorrow that these events and these teams would now be relegated to the past. There were plenty of moments I wish I had helped more or been stronger but that’s what I’ll carry forward to my next team and event.
GORUCK GR1-curved strap
GORUCK padded hip belt
Source 3L bladders
Quest dry bags
Petzl Actik headlamp
5.11 A.T.A.C. 8” boots
Darn Tough wool socks
Injini toe socks
Squirrel’s Nut Butter
GORUCK Women’s Simple Pants
GORUCK Women’s Windbreaker
Patagonia Capilene base layer
What works for me is processed food for the same reason I don’t eat it in my everyday life…it’s basically pre-digested and the energy boost comes quickly. At every event, I have peanut M&Ms and Pringles. For this event, I also had Honey Stinger gummies, Clif Bar Bloks and for between events, Orgain Nutrition shakes. Electrolytes were Nuun tablets and Salt Sticks.
IF YOU’RE STILL READING, HERE’S THE GOOD STUFF…
My absolute favorite thing about these events was that the two women who completed both are vastly different age-wise but unified in their ‘why’. I am 48 and Sydney is 15. We didn’t work to different standards than the men. We contributed as ourselves just as they did.
If you’re a woman and wondering if you could take on this or any other GORUCK event, sign up right now and train hard. Don’t doubt. Do!