50 Mile GoRuck Star course: After Action Report (AAR) - Advice on how to train, complete and get after it

ruck1.jpg

Whether you have ever heard the term GoRuck or not, you have to at least hear the challenge that was issued by one of the greatest presidents and men of this great nation. His name is Teddy Roosevelt.

In 1908, Teddy Roosevelt issued an executive order to members of the military, later echoed by JFK: “Do 50 miles in under 20 hours.”

Why was this challenge issued?

It was issued because the military officers at the time were complaining abut the lack of physical prowess their men had. It is a shame to be in the military and not be physically prepared to do your job.

You can never train to hard for a job that can kill you.

Then in the early 60’s JFK brought back the 50 mile ruck challenge and told everyone to complete 50 miles in 20 hours.

Guess what. JFK’s brother did it in a little over 17 hours in his leather dress shoes.

Then it became a national craze and everyone started attempting it.

Here we are now, a little over 50 years later and I believe we are in the same state that were were 100 years ago.

In fact, the US Army recognized it and has since revamped their AFPT to include much more of what a soldier might see in the military.

When I was in the Navy we had to be able to squeeze through hatches on the ship, there were people too overweight and large to do that. You shouldn’t be on a ship if you can’t escape through a hatch.

It’s time for us to live the strenuous life, get back to doing hard things, for the sake of improving our character.

Sure, some things have made life better, like refrigerators or stoves, and even running water and light. However, some things have also made us brain-dead and handicap.

Thinks like candy-crush on the phone or iPad, Facebook and video game addictions. Having a phone constantly attached to our hand or in our pocket has hindered us.

Yes, there are good things, but the vast majority of people have become slaves to their devices.

Which leads me to the 50 mile ruck.

ruck 2.jpg

I hadn’t done anything hard in a while, and instead felt like a caged hamster doing the same things over and over every day.

Then some friends asked me to do this 50 Mile GoRuck Star course in Cincinnatti, Ohio on October 5th 2018.

For those of you who are not familiar with what a Star course is, it is by definition the culminating rucking exercise of Special Forces Selection. You show up with your ruck and you get a list of waypoints. You plot your route, then you start rucking: point to point, mile after mile.

For a lot of miles.

Most Special forces candidates don’t make selection. Not because they aren’t tough or didn’t quit, but because it is just a highly challenging, rigorous endeavor. Anyone who even attempts Selction is a badass in my mind. They are following their dreams and at least take a shot at them. 99% of the population wouldn’t even try.

Now knowing what the Star Course is, which by the way, I had no idea of when signing up for this event. I only signed up because some of my buddies were doing it and asked me to go along with them. I’m known for doing pretty crazy stuff and I am always down for a challenge.

I knew I had to ruck 50 miles with a minimum of 20# on my back, and with a water bladder i was looking at around 30#. I wasn’t necessarily concerned about the weight, it was mainly my feet that I was worried about. If you have ever spent a significant time on your feet walking you know that your feet get wet and soft which is a great habitat for blisters.

Not only that, but a simple rub on a part of the shoe over time can result in a nasty blister.

I experienced all of the above.


Training

Everyone trained differently. A couple of the guys did rucks of 3-5 miles everyday of the week leading up to it. Some guys did nothing, and a couple guys did a 25 mile ruck before. One guy only trained once, he did a 3 mile run, a 5 mile ruck, and then a 3 mile run consecutively, 1 week before the 50 miler.

Training for me was pretty simple. I wanted to do a pyramid scheme, where I built up and then came back down.

  • Week 1: 3 mile ruck - 35-40#

  • Week 2: 5 mile ruck - 35-40#

  • Week 3: 8 mile ruck - 35-40#

  • Week 4: 25 mile ruck - Exactly what I would be taking on the 50 miler

  • Week 5: 8 mile ruck - 35-40#

  • Week 6: 5 mile ruck - 35-40#

  • Week 7: 3 mile ruck - Exactly what I would be taking on the 50 miler

  • Week 8 - 50 Miler

However, in addition to this, I do CrossFit at home in my gym and then once a week at Crossfit Toledo.

You know you’re own body though and know how much training you will need. I am a very active person, and try and always keep myself ready for anything.

I have a standard that I hold myself too. If you would like that standard, this is it:

  • 100 push-ups in 2 minutes

  • 100 sit-ups in 2 minutes

  • Run a 6:30 mile

  • Be able to run a half marathon in under 2 hours.

  • 20 pull-ups in a row (Strict)

  • Front Squat 1.5x Bodyweight

  • Deadlift 2x Bodyweight

  • Bench 1.25x Bodyweight

  • Push Press 1.25x Bodyweight

  • Swim 500m Combat Swimmer Stroke in under 12 minutes

The start:

We had two teams of 5 guys (Nicknames included):

We left for Cincinnati at noon on Friday, and it was about a 4 hour drive for us to get there. We stopped at a restaurant and got some dinner. I had a huge burger with fries and 2 slices of pizza. I knew that I wasn’t going to get to eat a good meal for at least 2 days.

42002540_245638756118875_2926008393123715598_n.jpg

After we ate we drove to Eden park downtown where we were supposed to make our start at 9pm. We had a couple hours to kill, and most of that was spent with our shoes off and resting, going to the bathroom and mainly just staying off of the feet.

Everybody was getting their gear ready and taking inventory of everything that we had. My ruck weighed around 33-35#. I think my scale was wrong at home.

list of what was in my ruck:

42611092_1308972019240277_4856611931076299227_n.jpg

I was wearing darn tough socks with a pair of Rocky C4T boots when I first started. At 8:30 pm we headed over to the starting point and then laid down and rested some more until the cadre arrived and gave us instructions.

It was already dark out and there were about 90 people or 30 teams awaiting the cadres arrival. When they got there they gave a little welcome speech then they checked our rucks for the proper stuff, weights, cash and ID’s.

After everyone’s rucks had been checked they reminded everyone of the rules and the way to drop or get in contact with them if we needed anything.

At around 9pm we recieved the command to go. At that point we all circled up, I communicated the points to our navigator (Qbert), and we then verified them through the app we were using called inroute, which was being kind of funny. When we first optimized the routes it said we would be going 63 miles, and it had us going way out of our way at one point.

We made a decision to cut through an area where it said we couldn’t go. Best decision we made, it shaved off 15 miles, so we were down to 48. That sounded more reasonable.

Once we had verified with Team Alpha we set off on our way to Coney Island which was 8 miles out. It was a pretty quick 8 miles, going at about a 16-17 mph pace. I started to get some stuff going on in my boots and my feet were sliding back and forth. By the time we got to Coney Island I had already acquired a small rubbing blister between my big toe and 2nd toe on the left foot.

I made the executive decision to switch to my Hoka’s at that point. Best decision I made. I wore the Hoka’s the remaining 40 miles.

2nd Leg: From Coney Island to Everyone’s Tree House.

We had a new checkpoint in mind, it was Everyone’s tree-house which was a little over halfway through the 50 miler. It would put us around a marathon distance of 26.2 miles by the time we got there, and there were only two other checkpoints along the way.

As we started towards the Tree-house, we had one of our teammates (JD), hurt his knee. He was unable to carry his ruck or his weights for the next 20 miles or so. We transferred his weights between us, while Cousteau carried his ruck by hanging it on a carabiner from his ruck. Cousteau is a Clydesdale, and without him we would have fallen apart. Enough can’t be said about this man.

We were getting slowly behind in our time and were getting slower and slower as we approached the tree-house. The long climb up to the checkpoint was grueling, it was a 5 mile uphill hike, and by the time we got to the tree-house we were all wiped out.

The cadre were there with bananas and Gatorade though for those who were fortunate to make it before they left.

Alpha Team lost Lohan, he dropped and got a ride back to the start by Cadre Mocha Mike. JD started carrying his ruck with 10# in it and Cousteau carried the other 10# in his ruck, putting his total ruck weight around 50#.

A couple guys took a nap while others did foot triage. I wrapped my feet in electrical tape and slapped a moleskin on the outer side of my right foot by the pinky toe to prevent some rubbing that was going on. For the most part though , my feet were good.

This was the darkest part of the night, and the darkest moment in everyone’s journey.



I don’t know if it was the drowsiness, the exhaustion, hunger, or mood, but everyone was really hurting at the tree-house. We had given ourselves 10 minutes to get in order and then we were heading out.

Once we started again it was all downhill for 5 miles or so, and that actually lifted everyone’s spirits, and once we got to the bottom the sun was coming up. It got warmer and we stopped at “United Dairy Farmers” to pick up some water. In fact every-time we stopped we got a couple of gallons of water from the store and filled everyone’s bladders.

Leg 3: Downtown Cincinnati to Newport and Covington

We made it to the new train station and then hit a bunch of checkpoints downtown. It was starting to get muggy at 86 degrees and we just kept chugging along.

We stopped at the Cincinnati Reds baseball stadium before heading over the bridge to see the murals and then over to the amphitheater in Newport.

Hiking up to the amphitheater was like a kick in the gonads. It was a 2 mile hike straight up, and we couldn’t find the actual checkpoint. We stopped an elderly lady to get directions.

By this time we were broken down. ready for it to be over, but we still had 6 miles left until we finished. We headed back down town then to the Daniel Beard Monument, and the Newport Gear Sign.

We only had a couple stops left. A couple of the guys feet were trashed and JD’s knee was really hurting him. His face was contorted and he grimaced with every single step.

We made it across the bridge to the Cincinattus Monument then hiked all the way up the most grueling hill we ever climbed up to the William Howard Taft House.

Cousteau carried another guys ruck up this hill as well, so he was carrying 80+# at this point. What a beast. Make sure if you do one of these 50 milers that you have a Beast go with you who can carry equipment for miles on end without complaining.

Once we reached this checkpoint we took 5 minutes to lay in the grass while it started to rain.

Leg 4: The Journey Home

42731702_908452369542905_2189010636287674699_n.jpg

We only had 1 mile to the next checkpoint, and it was all downhill. We did it in no time. However, when we got there, I noticed Thumper was hurting, and his eyes were pretty much going into the back of his head. It was time to be done.

I patted him on the back and told him just a half mile left, just a half mile. He nodded and said “Let’s go, just a half mile.”

As we set off, Alpha team was about 2 minutes ahead of us, JD and Cousteau were falling back, and JD was a little ahead of Rooster and I. We waited and grouped up, then walked into the finish line with a time of 17:04:55.

As we finished the cadre checked our weight and rucks again, got some photos and then gave us the coveted 50 mile patch.

There were Jimmy Johns Sub sandwiches and Gatorade for us to eat and a gazebo for us to hang out under. I ate 8 Jimmy Johns Sandwiches, about 2 gallons of Gatorade, and a gallon of water.

I was still hungry. My feet were killing me and when I made it back to the truck, I took off my shoes and realized my feet were blown up. I had a million blisters, the electrical tape had rubbed my feet raw.

I immediately lanced the blisters and put on my sandals. It was finished.

On the way home Rooster was driving but didn’t make it 10 minutes without head bobbing. We stopped. I chugged some coffee and then I drove us home the rest of the way.


Ending Notes:

Doing a 50 miler was one of the hardest and rewarding things I have ever done. If you are looking for a challenge and want to do it with a team I would highly suggest the Star Course.

I will most likely do another one if the chance arises. In all honesty, it was one of the best ways to see the city, and I hear GoRuck is offering city site seeing tours at around $100 a pop.

A couple lessons learned:

  • Wear Injini Toe socks with the Darn Tough Socks

  • Don’t use electrical Tape

  • Drink more Gatorade

If you plan on doing a 50 miler let me know.

Stephen


blog bio2.PNG